The government of Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto has proposed changing a key transparency law that would allow the state to keep key information secret over controversial energy reform plans.
According to a document presented before the Congress by the ruling party PRI and its ally the Ecological Green Party of Mexico (PVEM), there would be 82 changes to the Federal Law of Transparency and Access to Public Government Information.
The recommendations made by the legal adviser to the Presidency of the Republic propose removing the requirement to disclose contracts, permits, alliances and partnerships that the State signed with national and foreign companies on oil exploration.
Last year President Enrique Peña Nieto signed a package of so-called secondary laws to the country’s controversial energy reform approved in 2013. The reform opens Mexico’s public energy sector to private competition for the first time in 76 years after the former populist president, Lazaro Cardenas, nationalized the sector in 1938.
Opposition senators Dolores Padierna and Alejandro Encinas, from the Revolutionary Democratic Party (PRD), rejected the proposal saying Mexicans deserve to know what will happen with hydrocarbons, a key economic sector, especially as the reforms will see profits going to foreign oil companies.
Padierna added that the energy sector should be forced to provide information about its operation and activity, and that decisions taken during the process of liberalization and privatization should respond to the transparency law.
Over 150 people have been reported disappeared in the small city of Piedras Negras in the northern border Mexican state of Coahuila in the last 18 months, of which at least 60 have been attributed to elite police forces, according to a lawyer overseeing the cases.
Families of victims and their lawyers accused state government of creating special forces that have carried out arbitrary detentions, tortures and enforced disappearances across Coahuila during the last six years.
The creation of elite police forces, which in the past have been sent to the U.S. for special training by the FBI, is not new in Mexico. These types of forces have been accused of acting as death squads for the government and have sometimes carried out assassinations ordered by organized crime gangs.
“Special units of the army and navy, assassins trained by armed forces deserters and civilians trained by foreign security forces operate in Mexico as death squad,” Proceso published in June of 2013. The Mexican magazine based this assertion on a book published by 0federal lawmaker Ricardo Monreal Avila, which was edited by the congress’ lower house.
Influential newspaper Excelsior in November of last year wrote that, “The special forces created in the states (of Mexico) are under scrutiny due to human rights issues.”
The daily based in Mexico City added that, “these elite police groups have been accused of carrying out enforced disappearances, kidnappings, extortion and torture.”
Excelsior said that “it should be noted that in spite of the negative reputation of these forces in various states, which sometimes receive special training by U.S., Colombian or Israeli elite groups, more states and Mexico City are in the process of integrating elite groups to (allegedly) fight organized crime.”
The newspaper went on to say that the United Nations has questioned the work of special intelligence units in Baja California and Tamaulipas, due to the high number of crimes they have committed against innocent people.
On Friday, the La Jornada newspaper reported that attorney Denise Garcia told reporters that the non-governmental organization United Families has documented 150 cases of disappearances in the last 18 months in Piedras Negras alone.
“In at least 60 of those cases there is evidence that the Special Arms and Tactics Group (GATE) participated in them, as well as other similar types police units that were created by the former Governor Humberto Moreira and which still exist today under the governorship of his brother Ruben,” she said.
Garcia said the 51 people that were disappeared by GATE were later found alive, but all of them, she added, were tortured to confess crimes they did not commit, including drug trafficking, and today they remain jailed under false charges.
These groups have no accountability, Garcia explained, and they don’t report their operations nor their arrests, which is a clear violation of human rights.
“GATE and other special police units work under the recognition and support of the government, despite that many of them are [not] even legally constituted,” she said.
García said they act as illegal death squads, they travel in unmarked vehicles with no license plates, they are masked and commit many other irregularities.
The worst thing, she added, is that “we have denounced these issues to the federal government and the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH), which respond with indifference.”
According to a new study released by the National Commission on Human Rights (CNDH) Wednesday, 97 journalists have been killed in Mexico in connection with their work since 2010.
The new research also revealed 22 cases of disappearances and 433 attacks against journalists and media offices since 2005. Investigations into the crimes have been carried out in very few cases.
The CNHD has criticized the Mexican government for their lack of action regarding violence against journalists in the country. It also emphasized the importance of guaranteeing freedom of expression in the country to ensure the free flow of news and information, which means guaranteeing the right of journalists to work in a safe environment.
“The state is first required to become a guarantor of freedom of expression, since the institutions must assume their primary responsibility and give validity to democracy in our country,” said the organization.
Mexican photojournalist and social activist, Moises Sanchez Cerezo, was reportedly kidnapped by an armed group at his home in the community of Medellin de Bravo in the turbulent state of Veracruz on Friday.
According to local media reports, Cerezo was taken at gunpoint along with his computer, camera and cell phone. Neighbor testimony outlined that the incident took place at 7:30 in the evening. They affirmed that three cars arrived with several armed men who entered the home of Cerezo then drove off with him in their custody.
Although the neighbors notified police, law enforcement showed up hours later.
Cerezo contributes to the local weekly La Union as well as participated in neighborhood security and watch groups to try to confront the widespread insecurity resulting from the presence of organized crime and corrupt local police officials.
Media rights watchdog groups have raised alarm over the number of journalists and media workers killed or targeted during the current administration of Enrique Peña Nieto. According to the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ), 13 journalists have been killed in Mexico in the past two years.
Mexico remains one of the most dangerous places in the world to practice journalism. Nearly 100 media workers have lost their lives or gone missing since the year 2000, and most of these cases are still unsolved, insufficiently probed, and few perpetrators arrested or convicted, according to the PEN American Center.
The Committee to Protect Journalists reported that since 1992, 73 percent of journalists killings in Mexico involved criminal groups with 8 percent involving the military.
Learning from Ferguson
In two previous essay, I discussed the role of the Left in protecting the police through cautious reformism, and the effectiveness of a pacified, falsified—in a word disarmed—history of the Civil Rights movement to prevent us from learning from previous struggles and achieving a meaningful change in society.
The police are a racist, authoritarian institution that exists to protect the powerful in an unequal system. Past and present efforts to reform them have demonstrated that reformism can’t solve the problem, though it does serve to squander popular protests and advance the careers of professional activists. Faced with this situation, in which Left and Right unwittingly collude to prolong the problem, the extralegal path of rioting, seizing space, and fighting back against the police makes perfect sense. In fact, this phenomenon, denounced as “violence” by the media, the police, and many activists in unison, was not only the most significant feature of the Ferguson rebellion and the solidarity protests organized in hundreds of other cities, it was also the vital element that made everything else possible, that distinguished the killing of Michael Brown from a hundred other police murders. What’s more, self-defense against state violence (whether excercized by police or by tolerated paramilitaries like the Klan) is not an exceptional occurrence in a long historical perspective, but a tried and true form of resistance, and one of the only that has brought results, in the Civil Rights movement and earlier.
What remains is to speak about possibilities that are radically external to the self-regulating cycle of tragedy and reform. What remains is to speak loudly and clearly about a world without police.
We don’t want better police. We don’t want to fix the police. On the contrary, we understand that the police work quite well; they simply do not work for us and they never have. We want to get rid of the police entirely, and we want to live in a world where police are not necessary.
Far from being a naïve position, I believe it is the only one that can withstand serious scrutiny, whether in the form of a comprehensive historical analysis of the role and evolution of police and the effectiveness of reform movements, or of an examination of the breadth of possibility that human societies have already demonstrated.
No one can effectively argue that the police are necessary in an absolute sense. They are a relatively recent invention, as far as institutions go. The only question is what kind of society needs police, and whether that kind of society makes the systematic murders, torture, beatings, and surveillance worth it.
Dennis Sullivan and Larry Tifft have compiled a great deal of information on societies that use various forms of conflict resolution in which an organization such as the police has no place. From the Diné (Navajo) to the Semai, there are dozens of societies—all of them impacted to varying degrees by Western colonialism—that have practiced restorative or transformative justice, dealing with cases of conflict or social harm without ever having to be so brutal as to lock people up in cages or create an elite body designed to surveille people or mobilize organized violence against those who transgress set laws. They compare neighboring societies that face similar socio-economic conditions but use different strategies for dealing with harm, as well as Western societies that make minimal usage of policing and judicial apparatuses.
A pattern that becomes immediately evident is that police and prisons are only necessary in societies that are based on exploitation and inequality. The police are not an instrument fit to protect a society; on the contrary they are an instrument fit to protect an elite, parasitical class from society. Any society with a minimal practice of cooperation and solidarity can protect itself from individuals who would harm others. A hierarchical, militarized force such as the police, or an institution like the prison designed to remove conflict and transgression from the social sphere, only makes sense where there is a parasitical social class that exists in antagonism with the rest of society, and needs to manage social norms of right and wrong and monopolize violent force in order to preserve its power. Such a class also needs a justice mechanism, such as courts and a legislative body, to formalize its conception of right and wrong, and a propaganda mechanism, whether a state religion or mass media, to ensure that the exploited majority identify with their masters and reproduce the norms of the elite. When a normal person speaks out against throwing rocks at the police or destroying businesses, they are expressing values that originate at the top of the social pyramid.
Of course it gets more complicated when you realize that interests are always subjective, and people often get more out of identifying with a larger community, no matter how fictitious, than they do out of having food to eat or a roof over their heads. In the end, everyone from the CEO to the news anchor to the taxi driver or homebum with conventional ideas all participate in reproducing the same system, and they probably all sincerely believe in the positions they espouse, but some clearly have more influence than others, and can be identified as originators of certain aspects of the present system.
Therefore, we are not speaking for the masses when we assert that the police and the prisons exist to control them, but we should also not shy away from espousing a radical position just because it will be unpopular. We need to have faith that a great many people might eventually come to support radical positions regarding the police. Many people already support parts of these positions intuitively or implicitly, and the reason that more people don’t, at least not expressly, is that so few people currently dare to declare the police an intractable enemy of freedom or to openly advocate a world without police. At this juncture, the last thing that we need is for more people to espouse tepid, inane suggestions for reform that are completely untenable and unrealistic. But as long as proposals for meager reform are taken seriously, that’s what we’ll get.
We can’t get rid of police brutality without getting rid of the police, and we can’t get rid of the police without getting rid of an entire system based on exploitation, oppression, and hierarchy. There is no easy, band-aid solution to this problem, and bandying them about only perpetuates the problem. Foregrounding difficult, far-reaching changes does not mean, however, fixating an abstract gaze on a pre-designed future and blinding ourselves to immediate problems. On the contrary, we need to focus on how we fight now for a better world, and part of that means avoiding forms of action that make real changes even more improbable.
As I argued in Part II, most of what was achieved in the Civil Rights movement in terms of short-term changes was achieved when people armed themselves, took over their streets, and fought back without worrying about ruling class taboos against lower class violence. If we fight for total social transformation without proposing naïve reforms, those in power will trip over themselves trying to buy us off with quick fixes and opportunities to participate in the system.
This in fact is how most social movements in history have gone down. Whatever improvements have been won were actually won by those who fought for radical positions, using uncompromising methods and aggressive tactics, though the victories were claimed by the reformers, who tend to be a combination of dissident members of the ruling structures, opportunists who wish to climb the social ladder, and sincere people who have been duped by a discourse of pragmatism. Their own methods are too sedate to shake things up and force a change, in fact their timidity demonstrates to authority that they are ultimately a loyal opposition undeserving of repression. They must ride the coattails of the radicals in order to be in position when the rulers realize that some change is necessary in order to avoid an actual revolution. The reason that these movements always stop after an incomplete reform, and that the most ineffective sectors of these movements tend to get the credit, is because the reformers have a tendency to throw the radicals under the bus, helping the State eliminate them in exchange for access to power in its newly reformed configuration. After all, who better to discern what reform will best fool the people on bottom than someone who has recently come up from the bottom?
I previously mentioned that a police apparatus cannot exist without a hierarchical society, a prison system, a justice system, and some kind of culture industry, whether religious or mediatic. All of these institutions defend a ruling structure against the conflicts generated by its antagonistic position towards society. Modern democracies go a step further, however; if conflict with society is inevitable, why not manage it rather than trying to suppress it?
In Ferguson, the managers of social conflict were in large part those activists who preached nonviolence and denounced the rioters, as I mentioned in Part I. But there is an important kind of management I neglected to mention.
Those of us who are critical of the mass media may have a hard time explaining the sympathetic position that Time Magazine or Rolling Stone occasionally took with the rioters. Of course, a couple articles hardly make up for thousands of syndicated columns objectively refering to rioters as some kind of pathological parasite, radio hosts calling looters “idiots” and worse, TV spots spreading fear about savage hordes of demons and outside agitators, days long NPR marathons urging peaceful protest, and so on. Nonetheless, the phenomenon is curious as well as significant. In the case of Rolling Stone, we could suppose that this old establishment rag is afraid of all the ground it has lost in the risqué news niche to dynamic newcomers like Vice ; however the explanation would be insufficient.
The seemingly subversive behavior of a few outliers is hardly unprecedented. In the recent insurrection in Greece, a large part of the media expressed sympathy with the rioters, albeit in a very formulaic way. In the media lens, young students were justifiably protesting in the streets after the police murder of 15-year-old Alexis Grigoropoulos, anarchists were hijacking the event to burn police stations, and immigrants were taking advantage of the situation to loot stores. None of these characterizations are based on fact. Millions of young people and old, Greeks and immigrants, participated in the uprising, in a variety of ways. Many students looted, many immigrants walked along with protests. A frequently expressed sentiment was that participation in the insurrection blurred all of these pre-established identities, in which case the media operation clearly intended to reassert them. With all three subjects, the media caricature refers to a prefabricated figure that the entire population was already familiar with—the socially concerned student, the pyromaniac anarchist, the criminal immigrant—that only ever existed on the glowing screen, because it was the media themselves that created it. That’s the brilliance of the media: they rarely have to verify their claims, because they operate within a virtual universe that they themselves have created.
In the Greek example, it is obvious why the media would sympathize with student rioting: to discourage non-students from participating or identifying with the uprising; and to establish a limit of acceptable tactics, implicitly criminalizing the looting and the attacks on police stations. After all, the intensity of street fighting over three uninterrupted weeks was forcing the government to consider calling in the military. They were willing to tolerate burning barricades and illegal protests if things didn’t go further.
Likewise, when people start to bring guns to protests as in Ferguson, there will be those among the forces of law and order who begin to see the wisdom in tolerating the smashing of banks. It’s noteworthy that the media only begin to stomach property destruction when talk of shooting back begins to resonate throughout society. And though within the confines of American dialogue, it feels like a breath of fresh air that Time Magazine would sympathize with rioters, it is a more or less calculated move that functions to limit the growth of resistance. Even if the editors of a magazine are not scheming consciously and explicitly about how to maintain social control, they are still individuals with a vested interest in the current system. People fighting fiercely for their freedom, unlike those who compulsively walk in circles or stage die-ins, often force a recognition of their humanity and win a limited sympathy from their enemies. They also make the existence of a social conflict undeniable. In such a case, people in power may come to accept tactics that they had previously condemned, to acknowledge errors they had previously denied, but their condemnation of forms of rebellion that are irreversibly destabilizing will only crystalize. People can be permitted to blow off steam, even in illegal ways, but they cannot be permitted to blunt or sabotage the instruments of the State. And when the police confront an armed population, they are suddenly much less effective.
Another way that exceptional dissent might manifest is in the realm of discourse and research. I am by no means the first person to express the idea that the police should be abolished, nor is this idea entirely strange in acceptable discourse among people who are much better dressed than I am. However the elaboration of these discourses must be couched in certain ways to signal their usefulness to the State, and their separation from communities in struggle.
If we assert that it is not permitted to speak of a world without police, this is only true if we understand the police as one function in an interlocking system of domination, and the abolition of the police means the abolition of that entire system. Otherwise, there is a great deal of research and debate that maps out the possibilities of prison abolition or an end to policing as we know it. But what is the actual meaning and effect of this discourse?
I would start by arguing that the vast majority of those who conduct this theoretical labor have good intentions. But we also know what they say about good intentions, and the paving stones on the road to hell are not nearly as substantial as the ones being thrown at cops in Ferguson and elsewhere. With this facile figure of speech, I actually mean to suggest a different criterion for evaluating our actions.
I gladly admit that the information produced by academics or activists who theorize about prison abolition or a world without police is thought-provoking and useful. I have cited a few examples of it in this essay. But just as we must ask why Time Magazine would sympathize with rioters, we should ask why there exist paid positions for people to study prison abolition. Either capitalism isn’t a totality, or the prisons and the police are not an integral part of power, or power benefits somehow by studying its own abolition.
I believe the answer lies between the second and the third possibilities. Even though the abolition of prisons is not a likely future, from the present vantage, democratic capitalism increases its chances for survival by exploring contingency plans for extreme cases, and by giving opponents employment opportunities. The advantage is increased if “prisons” or “police” can be discursively transformed from an integral element of a whole system into a particular appendage that can be discarded or modified. And there are few methods of discourse more suited to carrying out this transformation than the academic—which favors specificity and an analysis of parts over wholes—and the activist—which tends towards single-issue messaging that favors the myopic over the radical.
Someone in the academy or in the world of professional activism can study the police for all the right reasons, personally holding a global analysis of the integral role of police within a greater whole, but the institutional formulae of applying for grants, publishing articles, and claiming concrete improvements all modulate those individuals’ activity to favor a piecemeal worldview and to direct discourse at other power-holders.
It may sound like a platitude but I believe experience in struggle bears it out: you cannot abolish that with which you dialogue. State authority above all thrives on being present in every social conversation. A conversation with employers, legislators, grant-writers, or experts about the abolition of the police necessarily assumes the replacement of one form of policing with another.
The modern prison was born out of the abolition of the scaffold. Community policing was a survival mechanism after the defeats and the unpopularity of the police caused by the struggles of the ’60s. The danger is real.
Even without a far-reaching reform that allows the powerful to regenerate their methods for accumulating power, radical discourses in professional channels present other problems. One I have already hinted at can be thought of as misdirection.
Let’s imagine an organization that focuses on prison abolition. Their employees are sincere, dedicated activists, some of them proven veterans of past struggles. Nearly all of them are college graduates, and some might be academics; otherwise they stay in close contact with the experts who produce facts that make it easier to argue for prison abolition in polite circles. They produce many valuable materials that can be useful for supporting prisoners or changing people’s opinions about the prison system, and they may even have a pilot project on a couple blocks in a specific neighborhood, designed to decrease reliance on the prison industrial complex.
Taken individually, all of these things are great. We need more people who are talking about a world without prisons. But the ideas that this hypothetical organization spreads, how do they direct people’s attentions, particularly in a moment of social rebellion?
When such an organization, with paid staff, non-profit status, cred, but also rules to play by and bills to pay, proclaims that “We need to abolish the police and the prisons,” what is the practical implication? “Therefore this organization should receive more grants and this law should not be passed,” or “therefore these people who took up arms against the police deserve our support”? Clearly, it’s not the latter.
A professional approach to tackling the social problems underscored by Ferguson rarely returns people’s energies and attentions to the streets, where real change is created. True, most of the time, we don’t have something like Ferguson going on, so a patient, gradualist method seems to make sense. However, the conservatism of the professional approach often leads activists to play a pacifying role when a moment of intense struggle arises, as we abundantly witnessed this August and again in November. All across the country, even where they refrained from denouncing rioters, activist organizations called for vigils and speak-outs, when it was clear that the time for mere words had passed. Directly or indirectly, these mobilizations allowed a middle-class constituency to monopolize the social response and prevent rioting, at a time when an unprecedented number of people were ready to fight back.
What’s more, the assumptions are all wrong. Ferguson is only exceptional in its extension, not in its spirit. Not a month goes by when someone does not shoot back at the police in America. Most of the time, however, they are a lone shooter, they often kill themselves or die in the act, and the media always publish unsavory details about their personal lives, true or invented. They also portray the cops as heroes, no matter what kind of people they actually were, and they never entertain the possibility that the shooters were justified, as they always do when it’s cops doing the murdering (actually, this is too charitable a description; many media outlets assert from the beginning that the killing was justified, not even allowing a debate). The recent shooting of the two cops in NYC fits the pattern perfectly, but earlier cases like that of Christopher Monfort in Seattle, Eric Frein in Pennsylvania, or Christopher Dorner in LA also apply. None of this should be surprising. There is a certain schizophrenia in a society that glorifies the police and suppresses or distorts any honest conversation about what people actually experience at the hands of police and what sort of countermeasures are adequate or justified. If large numbers of alienated people feel entirely alone in their brutalization and dehumanization by police, collective resistance becomes impossible. The only people to express an active negation of the police will be individuals who reach a certain limit and then snap. By the very nature of the problem they are not going to be the stable ones, especially if mental health is defined as an infinite capacity to accommodate misery.
In Ferguson, rioters spray-painted the QT with the phrase, “free Kevin Johnson”, referring to a black man from an aggressively gentrifying St. Louis suburb who is on death row since 2008. Johnson shot to death an infamous bully of a cop who refused to help his kid brother as he lay dying from a heart condition. There is a direct connection between what are portrayed as isolated outbursts of senseless violence, and the massive rebellions that force society to at least stop and pay attention. I don’t, however, see the professionals making this connection. Typically they are either silent or help pathologize the lone wolves. The tragedy is, such incidents are only isolated as long as people in power AND people in social movements continue to actively isolate them.
Recognizing the basic legitimacy of these acts isn’t to glorify the shooters as heroes. There is something sad in any death, no matter who the victim is, and we’re in dire straits when the only available means of resistance that people think they have are directly suicidal. The point is, there is a direct connection between the systematic brutality of police and the appearance of people who shoot back. Denying it only maintains the schizophrenic condition that forces us to pathologize a sensible human response to systematic abuse, preserves our psychological loyalty to a system that treats us like fodder, and prevents the development of collective measures.
There have been attempts in the US to develop and spread methods of resistance to police that are collective, that brook no compromise, and that are less dangerous, less suicidal, than the method of the lone gunmen. The best known is probably the “black bloc.” And though it is clearly an imperfect tool, the bloc typically faces blanket denunciations by people who make no attempts to propose alternatives. In NGO-land, the trope that has been circulated is that the black bloc is the domain of young white men. Never mind that there are many testimonials by women, queer, and trans people attempting to counter this lie (and at great personal risk, since it requires speaking about personal involvement in an illegal activity); never mind that American anarchists have learned about the tactic not only in Europe but also in Latin America, where it is widely popular. The denunciations cannot be taken seriously as criticisms because they do not rely on realistic portrayals of the black bloc, they are formulated to silence rather than to engage, and they do not propose any alternatives for seizing space or collectively fighting back against police.
The extent to which this trope has been circulated by the corporate media reveals just how liberatory the thinking behind it truly is.
But the black bloc is just one possibility among many, and while it helps demonstrators protect themselves in rowdy street confrontations, it does not suggest to most people the vision of another world. Talking about a world without police in the here and now, without paving the way for our own co-optation is a big order to fill. Fortunately, the conversation is already ongoing.
We have the examples of societies that thrived without police, which I mentioned towards the beginning of the essay. Those stories belong to other cultures. I don’t think Westerners should use them as models or as ideological capital, but I think we should recognize their existence, to break the stranglehold that Western civilization has over definitions of human nature and human possibility, and we should also recognize that those other forms of being were violently interrupted by processes of colonization that are still ongoing. They are not marginal, idyllic stories of “primitive” societies with no bearing on modern reality, they are histories of peoples who are still struggling for survival. If, in the worlds we dream of, there is no room for them to reassert themselves independent of our designs, then whatever we create will only be a continuation of the thing we are fighting against.
More appropriate as inspiration for our own action are a number of stories of struggle in Western or westernized countries in which people created police-free zones on the ground. After all, a holistic critique of the police means that by the very nature of the problem, we cannot ask government to institute the needed changes. Real steps towards a world without police can be found in the riots in Ferguson and other cities around the country where people surpassed their self-appointed leaders and actually fought back, rather than just manufacturing yet another spectacle of symbolic dissent. The riots in Ferguson were not only important in an instrumental way, forcing all of society to consider the problem; they also suggested the beginnings of a solution as neighbors came together in solidarity, building new relations amongst themselves, and forcefully ejecting police from the neighborhoods they patrol.
Christiania is an autonomous neighborhood of Copenhagen that has been squatted since 1971. The area, with nearly a thousand inhabitants, organizes itself in assemblies, maintains its own economy and infrastructure, cleans up its trash, produces bicycles and other items in collective workshops, and runs a number of communal spaces. They also resolve their own conflicts, and with the exception of some aggressive incursions and raids, Christiania has been a police-free zone for most of its existence. Initially, the Danish government opted for a soft strategy, hoping that Christiania would eventually fall apart on its own. In the same era, the autonomous movement in the Netherlands and Germany was fighting major battles to defend their squatted spaces, sometimes defeating the police in the streets or burning down shopping malls in retribution for evictions. In context, the Danish approach made sense. However, Christiania thrived. Some suspect that the government was behind the crisis that threatened the autonomous neighborhood’s existence in 1984 when a motorcycle gang moved into the police-free zone to begin selling hard drugs (soft drugs have always been widely used in Christinia, while addictive drugs are vehemently discouraged).
Earlier in Christiania’s history, there had been a fierce debate about how to deal with the problem of drugs. Over intense opposition, a part of the neighborhood decided to request police assistance, but they soon found that the cops were arresting the users of non-addictive drugs and ignoring or even protecting the proliferation of hard drugs. After that, Christiania decided to keep the police out, and their autonomy was well established by the time the motorcycle gang moved in. The gangsters thought they had picked an easy target: a neighborhood of hippies who not only disavowed making use of the police, they actively kept the police out. These drug-pushers, however, had fallen for capitalist mythology, which presents us all as isolated individuals, vulnerable to organized delinquents, and therefore in need of the greatest protection racket of them all, the State. Christiania residents banded together, exercising the same principle of solidarity that was at work in all the other aspects of their lives, fought back, and kicked the motorcycle gang out, using a combination of sabotage, public meetings, pressure, and direct confrontation.
It is no coincidence that the same tools and capacities that allow us to fight back and free ourselves from policing are also the ones we need to protect ourselves from the forms of harm that capitalist democracies prosecute under the rubric of “crime”. Crime and police are two sides of the same coin. They perpetuate each other, and they each rely on a vulnerable, atomized society. A healthy society would have no need for police, no more than it would lock people in cages and hide its problems out of sight rather than deal with the conflicts and deficiencies that led to an act of harm being committed in the first place.
The mutual relationship between police and crime was exquisitely revealed during the popular uprising in Oaxaca in 2006. In June of that year, police viciously attacked the massive encampment staged annually by striking teachers. But the teachers fought back tooth and nail, quickly joined by many neighbors. They pushed police out of Oaxaca City, which remained autonomous for five months along with large parts of the countryside. People built barricades, which became an important space for socialization as well as self-defense, and they organized topiles, an indigenous tradition that provided volunteers to fight back against police and paramilitaries as well as to look out for fires, acts of robbery, or assault.
The defenders of Oaxaca soon learned that the police were releasing people from their prisons on the condition that they go into the city to commit crimes. In protecting their neighborhoods against these acts, the topiles did not function like Western police forces. They patrolled unarmed, they were volunteers, and they did not have a prerogative to arrest people or impose their will, the way cops do. Upon coming across a robbery, arson, or assault, their function was not only that of first responders, but also to call on the neighbors so everyone could respond collectively. With such a structure, it would be impossible to enforce a legal code against an activity with popular participation. In other words, the topiles could stop a stranger who was robbing the store of a local, working class person (as were many of the neighborhood stores in Oaxaca), but they couldn’t have stopped the neighbors themselves from looting a store they already had an antagonistic, classist relationship with, as was the case in Ferguson.
People in Oaxaca also had to defend themselves from police and paramilitaries, and they did so for five months. The topiles and many others were unarmed. They had to fight back with rocks, fireworks, and molotov cocktails, many of them getting shot in the process. Their bravery allowed hundreds of thousands of people to live in freedom for five months, in a police-free, government-free zone, experimenting with the self-organization of their lives on social, economic, and cultural levels. All the beautiful aspects of the Oaxaca commune are inseperable from their violent struggle against police, involving barricades, slingshots, molotov cocktails, and thousands of people who faced down armed opponents, over a dozen of them giving their lives in the process. In the end, the Mexican state had to send in the military as the only way to crush this flourishing pocket of autonomy.
If we learn from examples like Christiania, Oaxaca, and Ferguson itself, we can fight for a world without police and everything they represent, beginning here and now by creating blocks, neighborhoods, or even entire cities that are at least temporarily police-free zones. Within these spaces we can finally experiment and practice with solutions to all the other interrelated forms of oppression that plague us.
There is something beautiful about people finding the courage to fight back against a more powerful enemy, and people also flourish in surprising ways when they liberate space and take the power to organize their own lives. Neither of these things can be overemphasized. But neither should we romanticize. In the streets of Ferguson and other liberated spaces, much of the ugliness that infuses our society rears its head. But dealing with what had previously been invisible or normalized is an inevitable part of any healing process, and our society is nothing if not sick. Calamities like uprisings and riots can be important catalysts in processes of social healing, and liberated spaces, by forcefully casting aside the previous regime’s norms and relationships, that only functioned to reproduce and invisibilize all the ongoing forms of harm, can give us the opportunity to create new, healthier patterns, and engage in conversations that previously had been impossible. Empowering ourselves to fight back against those who have traumatized us, like the police, can be an important step in upsetting oppressive relations, healing from trauma, and restoring healthy social relations.
This is, however, a dangerous proposition. Fighting back against the police, especially shooting back at them, as was happening in Ferguson, is not a safe activity. Change is never safe. And if we can successfully overcome the police to create a liberated zone, the State will eventually send in the military. Are the soldiers still loyal enough, after these last wars, to open fire on us? Has enough been done to encourage dissension in the ranks, or is the government firmly in control? There is only one way to find out.
It is understandable that many people would not want to face the extreme risks involved with uprooting the oppressions that grip our society. There is nothing wrong with being afraid, so long as you have the courage to admit it. Some people, however, do a great disservice by muddying the waters with myopic proposals that have no hope of making an actual difference.
In the streets, we need to learn how to seize space, to make sure that those who fight back are never isolated, to make collective responses possible so no one has to react in an individual, suicidal way again, and to build a struggle that has room for young and old, for the peaceful and the bellicose, for those who know how to fight and those who know how to heal. It will be a long process, and in the meantime, there is a great need to speak loud and clear about a world without police, so everyone will know there is another way, beyond the false alternatives of obedience or ineffectual reform.
Peter Gelderloos has participated in various initiatives to support prisoners and push the police out of our neighborhoods. He is the author of several books, including Anarchy Works and The Failure of Nonviolence.
Explosive allegations were published in Proceso, one of Mexico’s leading news weeklies, this past Sunday, revealing strong evidence pointing to direct participation by federal authorities in the presumed killings of dozens of education students from the drug war-torn state of Guerrero.
The investigation also revealed that Mexican federal, state and municipal authorities were tracking the exact movements of the students on the same night of the massacre in question this past September 26 and that according to the government’s own documents, and in at least five clear instances, key testimony obtained by officials to sustain their version of the events was actually induced via illegal interrogation techniques that amounted to torture, which included electric shocks to testicles and extreme beatings.
The investigation’s revelations are not only a stark contrast with what has been officially maintained by the Peña Nieto administration, but also contradict most of what most mainstream news has reported from Mexico and beyond.
The Official Version
The official version of what happened on September 26, the night of the disappearance , largely emanates from a press conference that has by now become widely known and has even served as a reference point for a nation-wide movement that has been ongoing since soon after the presumed massacre occurred. That is because the Attorney General leading the press conference, Jesus Murillo Karam, mentioned that he was “tired” at the end of the hour-long conference. The #YaMeCanse Twitter hashtag arose almost as soon as the conference itself ended, and has actually served as the battle-cry for a nation-wide movement that has attracted international support and attention, including a day of protests which featured over 200 actions across the globe and cross-border protests, as previously reported by teleSUR English.
During the press conference, and reiterated through a variety of official accounts since that time, authorities have claimed that Iguala Mayor José Luis Abarca and his wife ordered local municipal police to attack several buses of the “normalistas” (students training to become teachers) on several occasions. The attacks wound up killing at least three people and disappearing 43 students. The Guerreros Unidos (Warriors United) drug gang was then given the 43 kidnapped students which went on to brutally assassinate, dismember, torture and burn the victims to death, again, according to official accounts, but disputed by the parents.
The ex-Mayor and his wife have since been detained in connection to the presumed massacre. Acting on a tip from the couple’s landlord in Itzapalapa, the “imperial couple,” as local media dubbed them, were considered by federal officials to be the main culprits behind the crime. The official allegation was that the couple acted in cahoots with a gang that had long suspected, close ties to the Mayor and his wife.
State Version Undermined
The investigation, which was penned by acclaimed Mexican investigative journalist Anabel Hernandez and the University of California at Berkeley-based journalist Steve Fisher, blows the lid off of official accounting in a number of ways, in alleging that: federal, state and local officials closely tracked, monitored and were quite aware of the whereabouts of both the killed, disappeared and presumably murdered education students; key testimonies obtained by officials were garnered through illegal torture techniques; federal police and soldiers from the military were present at the scene of the killings; the government has deliberately withheld this information in an attempt to maintain their own official accounting of the events in question.
The allegations also come during a time in which the government’s version of the events was already being questioned by other sources. A research team headed by a group of scientists from the National Autonomous University of Mexico, argued that the government claims that the Guerreros Unidos gang incinerated to death all 43 students lacked any “scientific explanation.”
In an extended interview via a three-way telephone call with the authors of the investigation with teleSUR English, Anabel Hernandez and Steve Fisher discussed and detailed their findings.
Journalists Discuss Disturbing Findings
The ever-passionate and expressive Hernandez is no stranger to explosive investigations and allegations, so much so that her home was raided by official authorities late last year. The award-winning and internationally acclaimed journalist has also been subjected to harrowing threatening acts, such as having found animal body parts at the doorstep of her home. In her latest investigation, however, Hernandez made the case that her co-authored findings starkly revealed that governmental responsibility for the presumed massacre is much higher than what has been previously admitted.
“The point is that we know that the federal police were there, we know that they knew when the students [were] abducted and we know that many of the testimonies that the PGR [Mexico’s Attorney General’s office] were obtained and acquired through torture techniques. But in Mexico, evidence obtained through torture is illegal,” Hernandez told teleSUR.
In contrast to the official version, which maintains that the federal government was unaware of the massacre, Hernandez and Fisher allege that federal police and military soldiers directly participated in the presumed massacre itself and were one of three levels of government closely monitoring the students whereabouts throughout the night of the presumed massacre.
According to Hernandez and Fisher’s accounting of the unedited Guerrero state report they obtained, which was drawn up for the Interior Ministry (SEGOB) and obtained by the magazine about a month and a half ago, students were monitored as soon as they left their school grounds at 5:59pm. Both federal and state police were monitoring the students while they traveled from the Chilpancingo-based Control, Computational and Communications Center (C4).
The article goes into further detail, noting that at 8pm, the federal and state police arrived to the highway where the students were fielding donations; at 9:21pm, a federal police chief – Luis Antonio Dorantes – was advised of the student’s arrival; and at 9:40pm the C4 center reported the first gunshots.
The report was also based on 12 videos recorded by surviving students on their cell phones, whereby one now publicly released video has audio clearly noting a surviving student yelling in distress: “The police are now coming, the federales are staying and they are going to want to screw us over!”
In sum, various levels of government were much more aware of the students and more present at key points throughout the evening in question, than what has been previously admitted.
Hernandez made it clear to teleSUR, however, that their investigation didn’t reveal whether or not the United Warriors gang were involved with the massacre. Fisher elaborated on this point: “We cannot say whether or not Guerreros Unidos was ultimately involved with this, or not, but we can say that the evidence we have acquired was that they were tortured [before their testimonies were given]. It is thus suspect that they could actually get proper testimonies considering the fact that they were tortured brutally, including electric shocks to testicles and extreme beatings.”
Hernandez added that other telltale signs of torture were uncovered in their investigation, including bruised ribs, blackened eyes and black-and-blue marks on the neck. Such findings were especially damning, Hernandez pointed out, considering that, “the attorney general’s version was based solely on testimony by presumed drug traffickers.”
Fisher spoke to this point, telling teleSUR that, “I would say that in any case where there is torture involved, it brings into question the entire investigation. It would be interesting to know why the PGR would base this very important investigation on, according to their own documents, information obtained through people that were brutally beaten and tortured.”
Hernandez and Fisher wrote that the Peña Nieto administration has withheld the information they reported on.
Soon after the disappearance of the education students, the Guerrero Attorney General’s office requested that the Mexican Federal Police, their investigation notes, hand over extensive documentation related to the potential participation of federal police agents, including the exact registries of when agents clocked in and out while on the job the night of the attack. However, the investigation added that since the Peña Nieto administration took over the investigation this past October 4, the requested documentation was never handed over to the Guerrero office.
“It is clear that the PGR has been manipulating the case, that the federal government has been manipulating the case, and that now, the official version of the case has been shown to not be trustworthy,” Hernandez passionately asserted during the extensive interview, adding that in subsequent conversations with government officials, none of their allegations were officially denied to either of the reporters.
Investigation Points to a Number of Implications
Considering the many contradictions between the investigation and official accounts , many questions can be asked. Since Mexican officials have long claimed that Warriors United was the group which took custody of the students from local police authorities who had initially detained them, have there been any false arrests among the 74-some people that have been rounded up since September 26?
The accused leader of Warriors United, Sidronio Casarrubias, is among the many detained, which include an array of local law enforcement officials. Casarrubias has since revealed to officials the kind of relationship he had with Abarca while he was mayor, but it is not clear whether or not he was among the five people tortured in Herandez and Fisher’s account.
“Warriors United has sewn a web of complicity with several mayors and above all with security officials,” Murillo previously told the press. “In Iguala, the complicity was between the authorities, the local police and the Warriors United,” Murillo added.
If there is one official acknowledgment which Hernandez and Fisher do not dispute, it is the systematic relationship that exists between drug cartels and the Mexican state. It is that very relationship which has served as a spark plug to a nation that has undertaken a significant amount of resistance since September 26.
Nation-wide Movement Continues to Wage Protest
The revelations by Herandez and Fisher come at a time that the nation’s ire was already raised to a feverish boiling point. In one of the largest countries and economies of Latin America. Mexico has witnessed near daily and nation-wide actions of resistance.
Since the disappearance of the “normalistas” on September 26, the country has been brimming with mass marches, candle-light vigils, university-campus and labor-union-led strikes, occupations of official and university buildings, riot police-led arrests of demonstrators, property destruction of official buildings, sit-ins, panels ruminating over the ills of narco-state violence and international bridge closings.
Most recently, at least 22 people were injured this past Sunday during protests in Chilpancingo, Guerrero which featured police opening fire on demonstrators. TeleSUR English reported that three parents of the forcibly disappeared, a journalist, a student from the National Autonomous University of Mexico, and a member of an education union were among those injured.
The violent law enforcement response to the protests, specifically that of Sunday’s occurrences, prompted the National Human rights Commission to demand that authorities conduct themselves within the law.
The disappearance clearly served as the catalyst for the movement’s inception, much of the country has long been weary of the systematic problem of disappearances and the eerie official impunity which has often surrounded them. Nothing less than some 22,000 disappearances, over the course of the last three years alone, account for official estimates. Other analysts estimate the actual total as being higher than that.
Mass Graves Point to Narco-State Crimes
The disappearances of the normalistas are emblematic of a long-running problem in Mexico: thousands upon thousands of cases of disappearances, many of whose investigations were found ‘inconclusive’ and long ago closed, exist throughout the country. Some estimates range as high as 24,000 disappearances having occurred since 2011 alone, the overwhelming amount of which were “unsolved” and/or “closed” cases.
In another case of official law enforcement involvement in a crime, 22 alleged kidnappers were summarily executed by Mexican soldiers in Tlatlaya in June 2014. A federal judge recently charged three soldiers with murder and four others with abuse of authority and other charges in relation to the massacre.
At least a dozen mass grave sites have been discovered since the time of the Ayatzinapa disappearances. Meanwhile, movement activists and organizers alike have alleged that many more mass grave sites exist than what has been officially acknowledged.
Regardless of the actual total of mass grave sites, their undisputed existence still point to a problem more familiar to locals and residents of the area: Guerrero is not only a drug war-torn state, but a complex nexus of corruption and corroboration between local, regional and state authorities and their allies in street gangs and powerful drug cartels. Even federal officials have since admitted that the disappeared students pointed to a larger, narco-state reality.
While the troubles of living under a narco-state is one which local residents of Guerrero have long been familiar, in the wake of what seemingly is a never-ending case of the disappearances of the Guerrero students, it has now become a reality with which the whole nation of Mexico, and well beyond, are becoming familiar with as well.
But now, in light of the explosive allegations revealed by Hernandez and Fisher, it will become yet a more complex reality with which the nation will have to come to grips and to which the government may have to provide yet more answers during tiring press conferences.
DoD Officials Claim Training is Part of the Solution, Not the Problem
The U.S. government has spent more than $62 million since fiscal year 2010 providing highly specialized training to Mexican security forces, including some $16.3 million in fiscal 2013, as part of an effort to help Mexico better prosecute its war on drugs, records made public under the U.S. Foreign Assistance Act show.
The spending has continued even as Mexico’s military and police forces continue to face accusations of pervasive human-rights abuses committed against Mexican citizens, leading some experts to question whether the U.S.-funded training is resulting in some deadly unintended consequences.
The news of the disappearance in late September of 43 students who attended a rural teachers college in Ayotzinapa, located in the southern Mexican state of Guerrero, has sparked massive protests in Mexico. The students were allegedly turned over to a criminal gang after being abducted by Mexican police and they remain missing. The police fired on the three buses transporting the students along a stretch of road near Iguala, about 130 kilometers north of Ayotiznapa, and the abduction was carried out near a Mexican military base, according to Human Rights Watch.
The Ayotzinapa incident was preceded by a lesser-known attack this past June during which Mexican soldiers killed 22 people inside a warehouse in Tlatlaya, 238 kilometers southwest of Mexico City. At least 12 of those homicides were deemed extrajudicial executions, according to Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission [CNDH in its Spanish initials].
Last year, the Mexican government conceded that at least 26,000 people had gone missing, or been disappeared, in Mexico since 2006 — the year the war on the “cartels” in that nation was launched. Over that same period, INEGI (the Mexican State Statistics Agency) reports, there were some 155,000 homicides in Mexico, most with a nexus to the drug war.
The U.S. Department of Defense insists that the relationship it has with Mexican security forces is based on “trust and confidence and mutual respect” and is critical to helping to reduce the violence sparked by criminal organizations in Mexico.
The U.S. training, funded through the DoD and to a lesser extent the U.S. Department of State, encompasses a wide range of military strategy and tactics and is carried out at locations in the United States and inside Mexico. Among the course topics on the menu are asymmetrical conflict, counter intelligence, international counterterrorism, psychological operations, counter-drug operations and urban operations. The training is being provided to a broad spectrum of Mexican security forces, including the Army, Navy and the federal police, according to data provided to Congress under the requirements of the Foreign Assistance Act and is current through fiscal year 2013.
Adam Isacson, senior associate for regional security policy with the Washington Office on Latin America, a nongovernmental organization promoting human rights and democracy in Latin America, says there is a lack of reliable public data on the fate of Mexican security forces after they receive U.S. military training.
“What happens to these trainees a year or two down the road after they are placed in areas dominated by organized crime?” Isacson asks. “We simply don’t have good after-training tracking of these people, and the amount they are paid can’t compete with the drug money. Plus, the risk of getting caught is small. The biggest risk for them isn’t jail, but rather running afoul of the drug organizations.”
From fiscal 2010 through 2013, U.S. military training was provided to some 8,300 members of Mexico’s security forces, according to Foreign Assistance Act data. That training is overseen by U.S Northern Command (Northcom), a Department of Defense branch created in 2002 that is responsible for U.S. homeland defense as well as security cooperation efforts with the Bahamas, Canada and Mexico.
Northcom officials contend that all Mexican security forces receiving U.S. training are well vetted and that data is maintained on all participants. The training is designed to compliment Mexico’s existing efforts to maintain security and stability in the country.
“We do not believe that U.S. military training enables corruption and human rights violations,” Air Force Master Sgt. Chuck Marsh, spokesman for Northcom, says. “On the contrary, U.S. military members who provide training serve as positive role models, displaying professional values for foreign security forces to emulate. They conduct this training in strict accordance with the Leahy Law, which requires us to ensure individuals and units with whom we work are not involved in human rights violations.”
Still, in a country where fewer than 13 percent of crimes are even reported, according to a recent Congressional Research Service report, and where tens of thousands of murders and cases of disappeared individuals remain unresolved, it’s difficult to accept with certainty that the data maintained on U.S.-trained Mexican security forces is of much use in monitoring corruption. If human-rights abuses are not reported, much less investigated, then there’s nothing to track.
And even when abuses are probed, the conviction rates are anemic.
Mexico’s Military Prosecutor’s Office between 2007 and mid-2013 opened 5,600 cases into alleged human-rights abuses by soldiers, Human Rights Watch reports. Yet, as of October 2012, only 38 cases had resulted in convictions and sentences from military judges.
Mexico’s CNDH reported last year that Mexican security forces were suspected of playing a role in at least 2,443 cases in which people were disappeared. Human Rights Watch, in a study released last year, said it “found evidence that members of all branches of the [Mexican] security forces carried out enforced disappearances.”
“Virtually none of the victims have been found or those responsible brought to justice,” Human Rights Watch reports.
WOLA’s Isacson says there is no evidence at this point directly linking human-rights abuses by Mexican security-forces to U.S. military training, but adds that “the risk is huge.”
“Congress a few years ago required DoD to keep more records on trainees, but that information is classified,” he adds.
What’s lacking is quantifiable public data that can be used to assess the effectiveness of U.S. training of Mexico’s security forces or the human-rights track record of trainees after the training is finished. “That evaluation has to now be based mostly on blind faith,” Isacson says.
And in yet another wrinkle to the military-training issue, Isacson points out that the U.S. military is helping to fund Colombia’s export of military training to other nations as part of its security coordination with the South American nation. Colombia provided military and police training to more than 10,310 members of Mexico’s security forces between 2009 and 2013, according to a recent WOLA report that uses figures provided by the Colombian National Police.
“Some of this training was U.S. funded, although Colombia carried out many activities using its own resources, or that of other donors such as Canada,” the WOLA report states.“… Beyond official advertisements of the strategy and occasional, anecdotal press reports, little information is available about the extent and nature of Colombia’s training.
“While foreign aid law requires the United States to report to Congress in some detail about its own overseas training, these reports include no mention of U.S.-funded activities carried out by Colombian forces.”
The nature and sources of funding for Colombia’s exported military training may be opaque. But what is clear is that U.S. military training was provided to 4,486 members of Colombia’s security forces in fiscal 2013 at a cost to taxpayers of $32.9 million, according to the most recently available Foreign Assistance Act data. A good share of that training was in areas consistent with regional security operations, including courses in international counter-terrorism, advanced security cooperation, joint operations and international tactical communications.
The Colombian military and police training provided to Mexico’s security forces, Isacson says, is essentially a proxy arrangement, given the United States’ role in helping to fund and coordinate that training.
“Colombians trained 10,000 Mexicans with the help of U.S. money,” he adds. “Our main concern is the lack of transparency and controls.”
HRW statements about Ecuador’s policing are out of proportion compared to their statements about the disappeared students in Mexico.
The following two headlines are from news releases by Human Rights Watch (HRW) about two incidents that took place in September:
The headlines suggest very similar events are described, but that’s not the case at all.
In Mexico, police fired on student protesters, killing three, and then disappeared 43 others by handing them over to a gang. Those basic facts are not disputed by anyone. In Ecuador, the allegations are vastly less serious and far more contested. There were no deaths, but police are accused of beating protesters, some of whom HRW concedes were violent.
Mexico is a close US ally, so HRW instinctively pulled its punches with the national government, which HRW accuses of actions that only “mar” – i.e. impair the quality of– its response to the atrocity. But the government’s failure to produce the missing students (alive or dead) over a month after their “arrest” does not simply “mar” the response. It has raised reasonable suspicions that the entire Mexican establishment is complicit in the crime. As Spanish singer-songwriter Joan Manuel Serrat put it, “They need to demonstrate that they are not accomplices of this barbarism, and of other barbaric acts the country has been enduring; this is a great opportunity for Peña Nieto to show it.” The atrocity has sparked protests all over Mexico and a great deal of international attention.
Ecuador’s left wing government, under Rafael Correa, is a member of ALBA, an alliance of left of center governments that includes, among others, Venezuela and Cuba. HRW’s statement about the much less serious allegations against Ecuador’s police was four times longer than the statement about disappeared students in Mexico, who, according to state-directed gang members’ admissions, were killed and incinerated. HRW officials rushed to Ecuador in September, immediately after the protests, to carry out a “fact-finding mission”. In addition to describing claims made by several alleged victims, HRW accused Correa’s government of “harassing” the private media in ways that foster impunity for police brutality. HRW’s evidence for this last allegation is very weak. For example, a private TV station was obliged to broadcast a seven-minute government rebuttal to a show about the protests that had aired the previous day.
HRW’s statement about the atrocities in Mexico, in contrast, says absolutely nothing about the government’s media policies. Even a very lengthy report (from last year) that HRW cited in their statement said nothing about the Mexican media. However, HRW’s 2014 World Report summary for Mexico does, very briefly, list some facts that show why the media is an important part of Mexico’s human rights disaster: “At least 85 journalists were killed between 2000 and August 2013, and 20 more were disappeared between 2005 and April 2013… ”. HRW said that “Journalists are often driven to self-censorship by attacks carried out both by government officials and by criminal groups, while under-regulation of state advertising can also limit media freedom by giving the government disproportionate financial influence over media outlets.”
State advertising? What about private sector elites who own the Mexican media as well as advertise in it, who are closely allied with the state, and who may have a vested interest in maintaining the blood-drenched status quo? Alice Driver wrote in Aljazeera.
“When I interviewed Juarez journalist Julian Cardona in 2013 for a film about violence in the Mexican media, he argued: ‘The media can be understood as a company that makes tacit or under the table agreements with governments to control how newspapers cover such government entities. You don’t know who is behind the violence.’”
[Mexican President] Peña Nieto’s close ties with Televisa, the largest media company in Latin America, have been widely documented and even earned him the nickname the ‘Televisa candidate’ during the elections.”
Televisa alone has about 70 percent of the broadcast TV market. Almost all the rest of the market is held by TV Azteca. A study, done by researchers with the University of Texas, of Mexican TV coverage during the 2006 presidential election found significant bias in favor of two of the three major parties that lean farthest to the right – one of which is the PRI, the party of current President Peña Nieto. The study concluded “both Televisa and TV Azteca gave significantly more coverage to the winning candidate, Felipe Calderón [of PAN], than to his main rivals, Andrés Manuel López Obrador [formerly of PRD] and Roberto Madrazo [of PRI] . Also, the tone of the news coverage was clearly favorable for Calderón and Madrazo and markedly unfavorable for López Obrador.” In US Embassy cables published by Wikileaks, US officials privately stated in 2009 that “Analysts and PRI party leaders alike“ were telling them that (then candidate) Peña Nieto was “paying media outlets under the table for favorable news coverage.”
Alice Driver has claimed that
“To create confusion, the Pena Nieto administration has pursued the strategy of making splashy high profile narco arrests, and of blaming all criminal activity, including murders and disappearances, on the fact that everyone involved was part of the drug trafficking business. This approach makes victims responsible for the violence they suffer, and it is promoted in the media in a way that makes all victims become suspects.”
Driver’s claim appears quite plausible and well worth HRW’s time to investigate. At the very least, there are extremely good reasons to doubt that Mexico’s private media can be relied on to expose the national government’s complicity with atrocities.
HRW’s 2014 World Report summary about Ecuador offers no evidence that Ecuadorian journalists are being murdered or disappeared under Correa (who has been in office since 2007) as their Mexican counterparts have been over the same period. But HRW nevertheless goes on at much greater length in critiquing Correa’s media policies. HRW’s critique is based on the assumption that private-sector elites pose no threat to freedom of expression or political diversity in the media. Any measure by a government – and especially left of center government like Correa’s – that clips the wings of private media barons is deplored. No positive suggestion is ever made by HRW for blunting the power of private media elites no matter how grave the human rights implications. It is this double standard that provides the basis of HRW executive director Ken Roth’s outrageous assertion that Ecuador and its ALBA partners—not U.S. allies such as Colombia, Honduras or Mexico—are “the most abusive” governments in Latin America.
In the case of the United States, HRW’s inability or unwillingness to identify the private media as major contributor, arguably the most important contributor, to its abysmal human rights record is truly farcical. There are striking examples, quite readily available as I mentioned here, of how the private media promotes a stunning level of ignorance about the scale of US government crimes, but HRW’s 2014 summary for the USA breezily asserts that the “United States has a vibrant civil society and media that enjoy strong constitutional protections”.
Then again, HRW is unwilling to even close its revolving door with US government officials, so the inability to challenge the way public and private power collude to stifle public debate in the USA, and in Mexico, is very unsurprising.
Perhaps you thought that the security at the Atlanta or Newark, or Dallas airports is bad, obnoxious, the worst in the world… Think twice… Of course it all began there, in the United States, from the first glory days of that hypocritical and deranged “War On Terror”: the humiliation of people, especially Arabs, especially Muslims, especially all those who are not white, but eventually everybody, at least to some degree.
But it did not just stay there. The allies joined in almost immediately, and then the ‘client’ states jumped on the bandwagon, competing in tactics and strategies of how most to humiliate those confused and helpless passengers, by censoring internet sites, digging into emails, monitoring mobile phone communications, and relentlessly spying on both citizens and foreigners.
I have travelled all over the world, to some of the most imaginable and unimaginable places. All the while being monitored and harassed, threatened and periodically attacked, even physically, I have also spread many counter-punches: I have observed, recorded, and published, who does what to whom, who is the most diligent, methodical, and ruthless bully?
Unsurprisingly, the toughest surveillance comes from Western allies and ‘client’ states, all over the world – from places that Washington, London and Paris routinely call ‘thriving democracies’.
Countries that have collapsed socially strive to impress their Western neo-colonial masters, by imposing increasingly harsh security and surveillance measures against their own people. At the same time, they are full-heartedly and enthusiastically signing up to the bizarre, ‘War on Terror’. It gives the local rulers many privileges. If they play it right, their gross human rights violations, and even their killing of the opposition, is not scrutinized.
When I recently worked in South Africa, I was told that the country is now one of the freest on earth. It has nothing to hide and it is not particularly afraid of scrutiny.
“You can photograph here, whatever you want, and nobody will tell you anything”, many of my South African friends explained to me, in Cape Town, Pretoria, Johannesburg, as well as by those living abroad.
It is true. In fact, after few days there, you can easily forget that there are any restrictions, like a ban on filming or photographing police stations or navy ships. Nobody would ever stop you from taping, for instance, battleships at the Simon’s Town base.
South Africa is a proud BRICS country, a left-wing beacon on the African continent and, together with neighboring Zimbabwe, a target of an aggressive negative Western propaganda campaign.
Just as in South Africa, not once was I stopped from filming or photographing in Zimbabwe. And not once was I intimidated, harassed or humiliated by their immigration or customs at the airports.
That is in stark contrast with the West’s allies on the continent – Rwanda, Uganda, Djibouti, Kenya, Ivory Coast or Senegal, to name just a few.
It is not just that ‘everything is forbidden’ there, but ‘violators’ can easily be arrested, harassed, even ‘disappeared’.
When making my film, “Rwanda Gambit”, about Paul Kagame’s monstrous regime, and about the genocide it had been committing (on behalf of the Western powers) in the Democratic Republic of Congo, I tried to film with a small Leica, at the border between Rwanda and DR Congo, at the Gisenyi/Goma crossing. Within a few seconds later, an enormous Congolese soldier grabbed me and began pulling me towards the border post. I have been arrested in Goma once before, and I knew what it amounts to – what it is to rot in the underground intelligence bunker cut off from the outside world.
I was almost certain that, that time, I would not make it out alive. And so I screamed for help in the direction of the Rwandese soldiers who were watching the scene from the other side of the borderline. It is not that they were really eager to help, but the disappearance of a US citizen, an investigative journalist at that, would be an extra, and unnecessary ‘annoyance’. And so they went to work, grabbing my free hand and pulling me back towards Rwanda. The enormous Congolese man in the end lost, and I survived.
All of this over just a few shots! Nobody would ever even think about preventing me from filming on, say the border between Argentina and Chile, or Vietnam and China!
In Rwanda itself, absolutely everything is forbidden, and everybody snitches on everybody. It is forbidden to photograph the streets, the hospitals, and museums, even the genocide memorial! It is strictly banned to photograph or to film their villages, In order to film military installations or prisons, I had to attach a Drift camera to the undercarriage of my car.
In Rwanda and Uganda, everything is under the surveillance. Walls have ears and eyes, so to speak. It is not like surveillance in London, done with high-tech cameras (although these are also beginning to appear); people simply spy on each other, at an unimaginable rate, and the security apparatus appears to be present absolutely everywhere, omnipresent.
But for the West, that is all fine. Both Rwanda and Uganda are plundering DR Congo of Coltan and uranium. The 10 million lives lost there, appears to be just a token price, and the horrors that are occurring in these countries are just some tiny inconvenient episodes not even worth mentioning in the mainstream press.
Security is ‘needed’, in order to maintain ‘order’ – our order.
The humiliation of travellers at Kigali, Kampala or Nairobi airports is indescribable. It is not about security at all, but about a power game, and plain sadism. In Kigali, there are at least 8 ‘security checks’, in Nairobi 6 to 7, depending on the ‘mood’ at the airport.
Three years ago, on behalf of the West (mainly US, UK and Israel), Kenya attacked the oil-rich part of Somalia, where it is now committing atrocities. Its state apparatus also perpetrated several attacks against its own civilian targets, blaming all of them on the al-Qaida linked movement, al-Shabaab. It was done in order to justify the ‘security measures’.
Now there are metal detectors in front of every department store, hotel or office-building in Nairobi. When I, earlier this year, photographed the entrance to a prison, I was literally kidnapped, thrown into the jail and informed: “We will treat you as a terrorist, as an al-Shabaab member, unless you prove that you are not.”
The slightest argument with the Kenyan military forces, or with the corrupt and outrageously arrogant police, leads to detention. And there are cases of people being harassed, sexually molested, even tortured and killed in detention.
The security forces in East Africa cooperate, as the security forces cooperated in the dark years of the fascist military dictatorships in South America.
As I was walking with my friends through Kampala, a huge lone figure slowly walked towards us.
“That is one of the butchers and he comes from Kenya”, I was told. “He tortures and kills people that pose a danger to this regime… He does things no local person would dare to do. Our countries exchange the most sadistic interrogators; ours go to Kenya, Kenyans come here.”
I recalled that even Paul Kagame, now the President of Rwanda, used to serve as the Chief of the Military Intelligence in Uganda.
Yes, the Newark and Houston airport security is bad, and the surveillance in the West is outrageous, but it is being taken to insane extremes in the ‘colonies’.
In Djibouti, which is basically a military enclave of the French Legionnaires, the US air force and other European armed forces (Somalia, Yemen, Eritrea and Ethiopia are all just a stone-throw away), I once complained at the airport that my passport was being checked twice within a distance of 10 feet. As a result, a huge soldier grabbed me, tore my shirt, threw me against the wall, and then smashed my professional camera against a concrete wall. All this happened in front of the horrified passengers of Kenya Airways. That, I found somehow intolerable. It pissed me off so much that I got up, ready to confront the soldier, no matter what. But the horrified voice of a Kenya Airways’ manager stopped me: “Sir, please leave it at this… They can just kill you, and nothing will happen to them. They can do anything they want!”
In Ivory Coast (Côte d’Ivoire), which is yet another French military dependency, and generally a loyal servant to Western interests in West Africa, ‘security’ is the main excuse for keeping undesirable elements, like myself, away from the country. Earlier this year I embarked on a journey there to investigate the chocolate empire activities of the Ukrainian President Poroshenko. Ivory Coast is the biggest producer of cocoa in the world, and ‘the Chocolate King’ is apparently involved in many unsavory practices there.
The authorities were tipped off in advance that I was coming, and the charade began from the moment I landed. I was ordered to produce my yellow fever certificate, which was inside my bag. As I began searching for it, I was roughly ushered into a small room full of sick people quarantine – and informed that I was to be vaccinated again. I found the certificate just a few seconds later, and went out to present it to the authorities. “Back!” they shouted at me. Wait inside for your turn, and tell the doctor that you have found it. The wait turned out to be 2 hours long. Later, I was told that a visa on arrival is no longer available. For days I had to go to the immigration office, from morning to the evening. For days I was fingerprinted and photographed. I clearly saw that wires were disconnected from their computer, every time my turn came round. “Your fingers are not good for fingerprinting! Go to the hospital and bring a certificate that they are not good!” Going there costs US$100 a time, and another wasted day in Abidjan. The hospital said that my fingers were just fine. I had to bribe them to write that they were not.
The US embassy was clearly aware of what was happening. They even sent an officer to ‘assist me’. I showed him that the wires had been pulled out from the computer. “We cannot interfere in other country’s internal affairs”, he explained.
Then, on the last day, when my visa was finally issued, a lady from the US embassy whispered into the phone: “Well, if you write what you do, you must be ready for the consequences”. ‘Honest person’, I thought.
I am almost ‘embarrassed’ to write this, but I have driven on many occasions, all over China (PRC), around at least 8,000 kilometers, but have never been prevented from photographing or filming anything. I have hours and hours of footage and thousands of photographs from many corners of the nation.
A stark, almost grotesque contrast is India, the ‘largest democracy on earth’, according to the Western assessment.
There, nothing is allowed. Forget about filming the battleships near Mumbai (even the Soviet Union does not care – they would put their battleships on the Neva river in Leningrad during celebrations, for everyone to admire and to photograph them, which I did, as a child, when visiting my grandmother). You cannot even photograph that idiot Clive, inside the Victoria Monument in Calcutta.
In India, surveillance is everywhere. It is the perfect police state.
You need a local SIM card in Beijing? Even in the middle of the night, you just go to any kiosk and buy one, no questions asked, no paperwork.
In India, to get a SIM card is one tremendous saga, monstrous bureaucracy, spiced by demands for all sorts of documents and information.
You want to use the internet at New Delhi airport? You have to provide your name, your telephone number, and your email address! I invent names, like Antonio Mierdez or Amorsita Lopez; sometimes it works, sometimes not. In China, you just stick the front page of a passport onto a scanner, and get password within ten seconds. In South Africa, there is not even need for that – the internet is open and free.
And then, those legendary, those epic security checks in India!
The Indian state appears to be thoroughly paranoid, scared of anyone trying to document the reality.
It has developed an allergy to writers, investigative journalists, film-makers and photographers, especially those that happen to be ‘independent’, therefore ‘unpredictable’ and potentially capable of challenging the clichés fabricated in Washington, London and New Delhi, that depict the country as the ‘largest democracy on earth’.
To fight against such threatening elements, the Indian regime, which consists of the moneyed elites, feudal lords, religious fanatics and the military brass, have become pathologically obsessed with security, with surveillance, with relentless checking on things, and people. I have never witnessed such security zeal, even in countries that are under a direct threat from the West: such as Cuba or China.
Even domestic flights in India, from smaller cities like Varanasi or Jaipur, require an entire chain of security steps. Your passport or ID is checked on at least 10 occasions. As you enter the airport, a few steps later, before you are allowed to check in, when you are checking in, as you are entering the departure area, when you are in the departure area (that one is grand – you are forced to step on a platform and everything is checked), when you are entering the departure gate and when you are leaving it for the plane door. Sometimes there are additional checks. It is all, mostly, very rude.
In Turkey, everything is censored. From my official website to ‘Sitemeter’, even the Hong Kong MTR and Beijing and Shenzhen subway maps (maybe just in case someone wants to compare those pathetic subway developments in Istanbul and Ankara, to those in China).
When I called the guest relations supervisor at the four star ‘Kalyon Hotel’ in Istanbul, where I was staying in November 2014, I was told that she “does not know what internet provider is used by the hotel”, but that censorship is actually part of a “security program”, which in turn is part of “the hotel policy”, or vice versa.
She actually kindly suggested that I bring my Mac ‘downstairs’, so the IT manager could “do something with it”. I very politely, declined, remembering an experience two years earlier, at the Sheraton in Istanbul, where the ‘IT manager’ actually installed some spy wear, which totally and immediately corrupted my computer, my email addresses, turning my operating system into something that has since been insisting on functioning almost exclusively in the Turkish language. When I complained over the phone, he, the IT manager, went upstairs, kicked my door, rolled up his sleeves and he let me know that this matter could be settled most effectively, outside the hotel, most likely in the street.
It may sound bizarre, but in the countries literally besieged by hostility from the Empire, like Cuba or even North Korea, security appears to be much more lax than in the nations where the elites are terrified of their own poor majority.
I don’t remember going through any security, in order to enter a theatre or a hotel in Havana. In Pyongyang, North Korea, there are no metal detectors at entrances to shopping centers, or subway stations.
It goes without saying that one is monitored more closely by the security cameras and armies of cops in London or New York, than in Hanoi or Beijing.
The most common mode of modern communication – the mobile phone – is regulated much less or monitored in Vietnam, China or Venezuela, than in India, Japan, or Europe. In fact, Japan recently even discontinued the sale of pre-paid SIM cards; every number has to be meticulously registered and issued only after signing an elaborate contract.
As I keep reporting, the world is full of stereotypes and clichés. Countries are not judged by rational analyses and comparisons, but by chimeras created by commercial mass media, especially those in the West.
Three countries in Latin America are still living the nightmare of the ‘Monroe Doctrine’: Honduras, Paraguay and Colombia. In Paraguay and Honduras, the West basically managed to overthrow progressive governments and installed fascist regimes, not unlike those that reigned all over the continent during Ronald Reagan and Otto Reich’s days. Colombia has been, for decades, a US ‘client’ state.
Surveillance in all three countries is monstrous, and so are gangs and death-squads.
But you would not guess it. If you read Western reports, including those produced by Reporters Without Borders, you would think that the true villains are actually countries like Venezuela and Cuba. But then, you look closely, and see who organizations like Reporters Without Borders are playing with… And surprise-surprise: you will discover names like Otto Reich among them!
When Thailand, another staunch ally of the West and a shamelessly servile state, began photographing people at the airports and borders, I asked an immigration officer in Bangkok, where all the data goes. She answered, without any hesitation: “To your country!” That is, to the United States.
Malaysia and its immigration used to be quite different – relaxed and easy. But then, earlier this year, Obama came aboard his diplomatic tank. I landed in Kuala Lumpur just an hour after his Air Force One had touched town. What did I encounter? A fingerprinting machine at KLIA! Obama left, but the machines are still there. To spy on people, to fingerprint and photograph them, is apparently one of the conditions of being a good friend of the West. That would never have happened in the era of Dr. M!
Even Japan now photographs and fingerprints people arriving from abroad! Japan where one can even easily and freely photograph combat air force bases (some of them, including those in Okinawa, have viewing terraces for tourists, all around them) is now also spying on people! That is, obviously, one of the rules laid down by the gang that is ruling the world.
Of course the Western allies of the United States are not much better.
Do you still remember how Europeans were bitching about having to take of their shoes at US airports? What has happened now? They do it, without protesting, at their own airports, in London, Paris, Munich, everywhere.
In fact, the most repulsive security I have ever encountered in the West was at CDG, in Paris. I was taking a night flight on Asiana Airlines, from Paris to Seoul. The flight was full of Korean tourists in their seventies and eighties. The tables were set up, sadistically, far away from the X-ray machines, so the poor old people had to carry their bags and belongings quite a long distance. Security personnel were yelling at them, insulting them. I protested, on behalf of the Koreans. A tough French dude came up to me and began insulting me. I asked for his name. He turned around and mooned me, in public. He took down his pants and showed me his hairy ass. “My name is Nicolas Sarkozy”, he said. In a way he was right…
Once I arrived very early in the morning, in Darwin, Australia, after working in East Timor. My electronic travel authorization was for ‘tourism’. The unfriendly immigration officer was clearly on her power trip: “What are you going to do in Australia?” I told her I would be meeting some of my academic friends in Sydney.” “That is work, academic exchange!” she barked at me. “You requested a tourist permit.” I explained that we would just have dinner together, perhaps get pissed”. That was the typical Aussie-type of tourism, I thought. The interrogation began and went on for 2 hours. As the sun was rising, I had had enough: “Then deport me!” Of course she did not. Humiliating people was simply a form of entertainment, or how to kill a couple of boring hours. Or how to show people where they really belong!
How free and proud one should feel entering that great world of Western democracies!
One has to lie, of course. Once I was held for 4 hours by the Canadian immigration services, entering from the US by car. Why? I told the truth, that I was coming to interview Roma (Gypsy) people fleeing from persecution in the Czech Republic (a staunch ally of the West).
Leaving Israel is beyond anything that I have ever experienced elsewhere in the world. Especially once Mossad realized that I had come to trash Israel for its treatment of Palestinian people, and for its foreign policy.
We commonly end up discussing my grandparents, my books, and my films. I have already commented: no woman in my life, not even my own mother, wanted to know so much about all the details of my existence, as Mossad agents at the airport! And none of them has ever listened so attentively!
I am totally exhausted from all that freedom given to me by the West and its allies.
My email addresses are corrupted and I don’t even know which publication or television network is actually receiving my stuff. There is absolutely no way to tell. I have no idea which immigration service will screw me next, and how.
I have already got buggered about by the security in Colombia, Canada, Indonesia, Kenya, Djibouti, Ivory Coast, DR Congo, Kenya, the US (entering from Mexico), Bahrain and Australia… I can hardly remember, there is much more…
It is all turning into a game of Russian roulette.
My African, Indian, Arab and Latin American friends and colleagues are, of course, going through much deeper shit.
The question that I keep asking myself is very simple: “What are they all so afraid of?” I don’t mean the US and Europe – those are control freaks and they simply don’t want to lose their control of the world… There, it is all transparent and clear.
But it is not as clear elsewhere: what about those regimes in India and Turkey, in Honduras and Kenya, in Indonesia (you have to show your passport or the national ID, even to board a long distance train!) and Bahrain?
What are they fighting for or against? Who is their enemy?
They are fighting against their own people, aren’t they?
Their ‘War on Terror’ is their war against the majority. The majority are the terror. The West is the guarantee of the status quo.
They – the elites and their masters in the West – watch in panic that in many parts of the world, the people are actually winning.
That is why the security in the West’s ‘client’ states is on the increase. The war against the people goes on. This war is one of the last and brutal spasms of feudalism and imperialism.
Check everything and spy on everybody, so nothing changes, nothing moves. But things are moving, and fast! And all those lies, and surveillance cameras, fingerprints and the ‘disappearing’ of people will not be able to prevent progress. They will never manage to smash the people’s dreams of living in societies free of fear!
Where is the American corporate media at on the disappearance of 43 normalistas from a rural teachers college in Iguala, Guerrero, Mexico? Where is the wall to wall coverage? Where are the calls for Enrique Peña Nieto to resign? Or, at least, where are the calls for Aguirre’s resignation, the governor of Guerrero? Where are the pundits oversimplifying and labeling the Mexican government whatever they want, regardless if it has a basis in fact? The corporate media is eerily silent.
Let us contrast this silence with their coverage of Venezuela not so many months ago. 43 people from all sides of the conflict were killed over a couple of months of violent conflict between the opposition, chavismo supporters and state security forces. The coverage was almost 24/7. The pundits were labeling Maduro a dictator and calling for his head. The coverage was oversimplified and made to push the US government’s position that chavismo must go, without any mention of Maduro or the PSUV being elected, or that this should be decided by referendum and not just by protest.
The difference in coverage of the two cases represents a clear example of imperial priorities in the corporate media. The Mexican students are “unworthy victims” for the US corporate media. The students do not fit neatly into a narrative that supports imperialist ambitions. Actually, because the rural teachers college is a “leftist” school, the students are probably considered deviant by much of the US corporate media, and therefore “legitimate” targets of the Mexican state. So, the coverage, as it was of El Salvadorian Archbishop Oscar Romero’s death in the 1980s, is minimal and passive.
Whereas, in contrast, Venezuela became the cause célèbre of every major media outlet, even though there was no execution/kidnapping of civilians by the state in collusion with vicious drug cartels, but instead a drawn-out conflict begun by a very hostile opposition that is part of a decade long campaign to oust the PSUV from power that already had the 2002 coup attempt under its belt.
For the US corporate media the Venezuelan opposition are “worthy victims” whose narrative fits neatly into the framework of US imperial ambitions as it attempts to make Latin America its backyard once more. They are also “worthy” because they are mostly whiter, more middle and upper class and vacation in Miami. This is unlike the normalistas, who are predominantly indigenous campesinos, a group who only gets paternalistic coverage, if any.
So, let us weigh these two cases.
The case in Mexico is blatantly a state crime against its citizens, with local and state authorities having connections to drug cartels and the police and military implicated. It was carried out against peaceful students who had no weapons, although they did commandeer a bus, which is nothing new for them and has never led to physical harm. One of the students was left in the street with a flayed face and eyes gouged out. So far, the Mexican government has said the kidnapped/murdered students harm foreign investment and gave their “sincerest” condolences.
The case in Venezuela was a conflict between competing political groups representing different class and ethnic/racial interests in which people from all sides died over the course of the conflict and all most likely committed crimes. Those protests continued over a couple of months, even though the Venezuelan government was considered to be absolutely authoritarian in handling the protests by the US corporate media. So far, the Venezuelan government had an open dialogue with all opposition members who wanted to talk with them and made policy concessions.
The former is a much more grievous crime than the latter. Also, the government reaction in the former is callous, compared to the reconciliation proffered by the Venezuelan government. Yet the former receives scant, if any, attention, while the latter was unavoidable during its peak. Only so many conclusions can be drawn from this.
So, please, tell me again how objective the media is. Or maybe at another award celebration the pundits from the US corporate media can tell us how principled they are.
This is not new; acrobatics are normally done in order to make Enrique Peña Nieto seem as if he is trying to stop the bloodshed. This is scandalous seeing as EPN is implicated in the violent police repression in San Salvador Atenco, Mexico State, Mexico that happened while Peña Nieto was Governor. That repression led to two deaths and 207 incidences of cruel treatment, including 26 cases of sexual assault against women. The Nation Human Rights Commission said that preference was given to force by the government, instead of diplomacy, leading to the human rights violations. The New York Times dedicated one paragraph to the heinous act which doesn’t mention Enrique Peña Nieto even once.