Goldman Sachs is set to invest in Mexico’s newly opened energy sector, Reuters reported Tuesday.
The company’s private equity arm has teamed up with Ainda, a Mexican consulting firm, to invest in energy and infrastructure, signing a deal to “identify, pursue, evaluate and make investments jointly,” according to a filing seen by Reuters.
Ainda would invest up to US$1.15 billion in projects with Goldman’s Merchant Banking Division, with the latter putting up at least 50 percent of the total equity amount in joint projects, a source told Reuters.
The Mexican government approved a comprehensive, neoliberal reform of its energy policies in August, 2014.
The energy reform allows private companies to participate in the oil and gas industries for the first time since 1938, when President Alvaro Obregon nationalized the oil industry.
The decline in the price of oil has also negatively affected the income of the state-oil company, Pemex, reducing its capability of investing in production, leading government to pursue private investment even more vigorously.
As such, in September Mexico’s finance ministry unveiled a new vehicle in September similar to a real estate investment trust called a Fibra E.
Reuters reported in November that Ainda plans to raise US$1.15 billion through a public offering of certificates for an infrastructure energy investment vehicle, and that vehicle can subsequently be converted into a Fibra E.
The filing specifying the joint investment between Goldman and Ainda is expected to be submitted to the Mexican stock exchange shortly.
U.S. Alliance for Prosperity plan aims to stem Central American migration, but critics say the plan falls far short of addressing underlying causes
The United States’ plan to more than double its aid package to Central America in the name of increasing security and boosting development is likely to open up the region to U.S. corporate interests without tackling underlying problems of poverty and inequality, CISPES Executive Director Alexis Stoumbelis told teleSUR on Wednesday.
U.S. Congress approved over US$750 million at the end of December to roll out President Barack Obama’s strategy for Central America. The package supports the controversial Alliance for Prosperity, a plan touted as a strategy to stem the massive wave of undocumented migrants from the Northern Triangle of Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador, but slammed by critics for exacerbating key drivers of the crisis.
According to Stoumbelis, the new increased funding plan continues the same development model based on White House priorities of free trade and foreign direct investment that the U.S. has long promoted in the region.
“The U.S. has had an aggressive neoliberal agenda in Central America for the last 20 years, so this doesn’t really come as a surprise,” Stoumbelis told teleSUR by phone, citing the Central America Free Trade Agreement as an example of the U.S.-backed free trade model that has proven to worsen insecurity and inequality in Central American countries.
“The plan continues to push an agenda much more in line with neoliberal economics than programs proven to improve quality of life,” said Stoumbelis.
While the new aid package has been promoted as a bid to address longstanding issues of poverty, insecurity, and violence, the main pillars of the plan pave the way for increased foreign investment, natural resource extraction, privatization, and militarization while raising serious concerns about human rights and inequality, Stoumbelis added.
“The funding provides backing for governments that have proven time and time against putting human rights at the top of the agenda,” said Stoumbelis, adding that the plan ignores calls from many social movements and advocacy groups to cut security aid to the region instead of rewarding human rights-abusing administrations with more funding.
Although the U.S. funding for Central America includes conditions aimed at addressing human rights concerns raised by social movements and advocates, many remain skeptical that the measures will do enough to counteract dismal human rights records and rampant corruption, especially in Honduras and Guatemala.
“It was a victory to condition the aid … and to convince (U.S.) Congress that its support for human rights-abusing governments needs to be addressed,” said Stoumbelis. He went on to say that even if the aid is subject to human rights guarantees, it is ultimately up to the State Department to sign off on whether Central American countries fulfill the conditions.
Many expect that the new plan will uphold the State Department’s historically inadequate standard on human rights, which in the past has seen human rights approval issued despite evidence of systematic and chronic human rights abuses on the ground in Central America.
The US$750-million aid package will spike funding levels from US$120 million to US$300 million for development, from US$160 million to US$405 million for security, and from US$33 million to over US$66 million for the war on drugs. Funds will be administered by the State Department and by USAID, which have proven to support privatization and the interests of U.S. corporations in the region.
The security funding includes doubling the budget for the Central American Security Initiative, a regional plan that has dramatically increased militarization of security forces in the region and in turn raised concerns about increasing human rights abuses, impunity, and corruption without fulfilling its state’s objectives of tackling insecurity.
According to Stoumbelis, militarization in the name of the war on drugs has largely been a “war on the people,” as poor people are the most vulnerable in the face of insecurity and have largely been the victims of rising levels of violence under CARSI and the security initiative for Mexico, Plan Merida.
The plan is expected to pave the way for increased militarization in the name of “stabilization” and border security, which critics fear will result in increased human rights violations and exacerbate the problems underlying social and economic inequality.
Militarization also tends to result in criminalization of protest movements against neoliberal mega-projects that displace communities, rob indigenous peoples of land, destroy the environment, and undermine food security—a development strategy only set to ramp up under the new regional aid plan.
Despite the challenges, Stoumbelis predicts that such resistance movements will redouble their fight against the model the U.S. aid package proposes to push harder.
“There has been a tremendous challenge to the model,” said Stoumbelis, emphasizing the role of cross-border resistance in the region and the importance of international solidarity.
For Stoumbelis, in the face of increased U.S. aid, solidarity with Central American movements is now more than ever key to resisting the “U.S.-backed corporate onslaught in the region.”
At the UN General assembly last fall there was an essential vote on the future of mankind. Resolution number A/RES/70/33 calling for the international society to take forward multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations had been submitted by Austria, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Georgia, Ghana, Guatemala, Ireland, Kenya, Lichtenstein, Malta, Marshall Islands, Mexico, Nigeria, Panama, Peru, Philippines, South Africa, Trinidad and Tobago, Uruguay and Venezuela. For that, these countries deserve our deep respect and gratitude. The resolution reminds us that all the peoples of the world have a vital interest in the success of nuclear disarmament negotiations, that all states have the right to participate in disarmament negotiations, and, at the same time, declares support for the UN Secretary – General’s five-point proposal on nuclear disarmament.
The resolution reiterates the universal objective that remains the achievement and maintenance of a world without nuclear weapons, and emphasizes the importance of addressing issues related to nuclear weapons in a comprehensive, inclusive, interactive and constructive manner, for the advancement of multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations. The resolution calls on the UN to establish an Open-ended Working Group (OEWG) of willing and responsible states to bring the negotiations on nuclear disarmament forward in this spirit.
When voted upon at the UNGA a month ago, on December 7, 2015, there was a huge majority of states (75 %) that supported the resolution, namely 138 of the 184 member states that were present. Most of them are from the global south, with majorities in Latin-America, Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and the Pacific. After having shown such courage and wisdom, they all deserve to be named among the states of hope, states that want to sustain mankind on earth.
Only 12 states voted against the resolution. Guess who they are: China, Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Hungary, Israel, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Russian Federation, United Kingdom, and the United States. What is wrong with them? Well, they are either nuclear-armed states or among the new NATO member states. They are the states of concern in today’s world. It is hypocritical that states that claim to be the protectors of freedom, democracy, and humanity constitute a small minority that refuse to enter into multilateral, inclusive, interactive and constructive negotiations to free the world from nuclear weapons. Among the three other nuclear-armed states, India and Pakistan had the civility to abstain, while the DPRK was the only one to vote “yes.”
Despite the reactionary, dangerous, and irresponsible position of the 12 states of concern and the tepid attitude of the abstainers, the OEWG was established by an overwhelming majority of the UNGA. The OEWG will convene in Geneva for 15 working days during the first half of 2016. The OEWG has no mandate to negotiate treaties to free the world of the inhuman nuclear weapons, but has clearly been asked to discuss and show how it can be achieved. Surely, the nations of hope that voted in favor of the OEWG will take part in the work. We can hope that at least some of the states of concern and some of the abstainers come to their senses and take part in this essential work for the future of mankind.
Participation in the OEWG is open for everyone and blockable by none. No matter what the states of concern do or don’t do, there is good reason to trust that the vast majority of nations of hope together with civil society from all over in the fall will present an outcome to the UNGA that will turn our common dream of a world free of nuclear weapons into a reality—perhaps sooner that we dare to believe.
Nearly 100 mayors and over 1,000 municipal officials in Mexico were targets of assassination attempts over the past decade, according to an association that represents local governments.
The group, the Association of Local Authorities of Mexico, demanded an end to the impunity of the criminal organizations which it said have not been held accountable for any of the assassination attempts.
The association reported its findings following the murder on Saturday of the mayor of Temixco, one of the most violent municipalities in Morelos, just south of Mexico City. Gisela Raquel Mota was in office for just one day before the shooting.
Police arrested three suspects—including a minor and a 32-year-old woman—and two others were killed in a shootout with law enforcement. The purported assassins were allegedly paid US$30,000 and were reported by El Universal to belong to the Los Rojos cartel.
Mota, 33, was part of the center-left Partido de la Revolucion Democratica (PRD) and had earlier announced she would ratify the Mando Unico, or single command, allowing state police into the municipality.
Half of the 33 municipalities in Morelos oppose the police command, fearing retribution like assassination of Mota, but the state governor Graco Ramirez said in a press conference on Sunday that all would be subject to the security protocol.
According to the local government association, mayors are by far the most targeted local officials: even if they choose to cooperate with a criminal gang, they invite revenge from a rival group. Even lower officials are affected, with AFP reporting that over 100,000 local council members killed since 2006 amid a militarized crackdown on narcotrafficking.
A drawing of Mayan journalist Pedro Canche Herrera, jailed in 2014 in the state of Quintana Roo for taking photos of a protest. | Photo: Twitter
The United Nations has urged Mexican officials in the south-eastern state of Quintana Roo to compensate a Mayan journalist who was jailed for more than nine months for taking photos of a protest, local media reported on Sunday.
Accused of the felony of sabotage against the government of Quintana Roo, Mayan journalist Pedro Canche Herrera was arrested on Aug. 30, 2014, and spent more than nine months in prison without bail or the right to request legal protections, the Mexican daily La Jornada reported.
Canche’s case will be submitted this week to Mexico’s Executive Commission for Victim’s Care under the Istanbul Protocol, the international U.N. guidelines regarding the documentation of torture, to rule on whether the journalist was subjected cruel and inhumane treatment.
The U.N. called on Quintana Roo Governor Roberto Borge Angulo to apologize to Canche and pay him reparations.
Canche was released from prison on May 30, 2015 after Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission and the U.N. working group on arbitrary detentions both urged Quintana Roo authorities to stop all harassment and threats aimed at the journalist and let him go free, according to El Universal.
Mexico has the highest murder rate of journalists and media workers in Latin America and the Caribbean region.
One in every three murders of media and communication workers in Latin America happens in Mexico, making the country one of the most dangerous places in the world for journalists, according to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
Canche has worked as an independent journalist for over two decades, focusing on communicating the demands on Mayan communities.
According to Mexico’s El Universal, Canche hopes his case can set a precedent so that other Mexican journalist and human rights defenders are not persecuted in the same way.
Mexican marines raided a small community in the northern state of Durango and opened fired on homes with no known reason, while two young males were forcibly disappeared, neighbors told Sinaloan newspaper RioDoce.
“The troops of the Ministry of the Navy arrived in the community of El Verano and began firing at houses,” the witness said, according to RioDoce.
The newspaper said the El Verano inhabitant told them that about 15 families live in the community, still “besieged” by the marines.
The unidentified person that spoke with RioDoce said they were unaware if there were any victims, but said they saw a funeral home hearse driving through the small community.
Those forcibly disappeared were identified as Jesus Felix and his cousin Octavio Almodovar.
RioDoce said there were unconfirmed reports that a naval helicopter had been gunned down near El Verano.
A witness, identified as Lorena Silvas, said, “There are many complaints by people of other small communities near the municipality of Tamazula near El Verano, and they say there too many abuses being committed by the marines.”
Silvas said there are reports of marines carrying out raids on homes without search warrants, where they “take with them everything they find.”
The U.N.’s high commissioner for human rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein, called on the Mexican government Wednesday to remove all military forces from public safety operations.
Al-Hussein said that impunity in Mexico is extremely commonplace, with 98 percent of reported crimes never resolved and in most cases not even investigated. He also said that 151,233 people have been murdered in Mexico from December 2006 to August 2015, while over 27,000 remain disappeared.
In June, various news outlets reported that marines had fired on civilians — including minors — in Tamazula.
Cadena Cinco reported that marines attacked a family traveling in a vehicle during which at least two people died, according to local officials. The president of the Commission for the Defense of Human Rights of Sinaloa, Leonel Aguirre, explained then that marines planted guns on various young males to justify the attack and deaths.
U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Earl Anthony Wayne said that “evidence of heavy-handed police tactics” was “strong and disconcerting” after a 2011 clash with student protestors from Ayotzinapa normal school left two youths and a gas station employee dead and several others wounded, according to a declassified cable from the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City.
Authorities in the Mexican state of Guerrero “reacted defensively and insensitively by blaming the victims and denying any responsibility” for their part in what the Embassy cable called a “chaotic student protest” in which “both police and protestors resorted to violent tactics.”
The newly-declassified cable was obtained by the National Security Archive under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act and was the focus of an article published today by the award-winning team of investigative journalists at Mexico’s Aristegui Noticias.
The deadly 2011 incident against students from the Raúl Isidro Burgos Normal School in Ayotzinapa came less than three years before 43 students from the university were disappeared and six others were killed after being detained by police forces in Iguala, Guerrero on the night of September 25-26, 2014. More than a year later, the federal government’s theory about what happened that night lies in ruins, and the families of the victims are no closer to knowing the fates of their loved ones.
Last month, a group of independent investigators invited by the Mexican government and appointed by the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights of the Organization of American States rejected the government’s version of the 2014 case, which held that a cabal of local politicians, municipal police forces and members of a drug gang had kidnapped and killed the students before burning the bodies at a garbage dump. The group of experts said the government lacked physical evidence connecting the alleged perpetrators to the case, that security forces had tortured many of the witnesses, and that a fire in which the government claims the bodies were burned could not have happened.
The 2011 Embassy document describes how “about 500” students from Ayotzinapa and allied organizations blocked a tollbooth along a federal highway near the city of Chilpancingo and demanded a meeting with Guerrero governor Ángel Aguirre Rivero to discuss deteriorating conditions at the state-funded school. Both state and federal police participated in the ensuing confrontation.
State and Federal authorities were “pointing fingers,” said Wayne, with both sides accusing the other of firing the shots the killed the two students. “Regardless of who is responsible for the deaths, the evidence of heavy-handed police tactics is strong and disconcerting,” Ambassador Wayne said in his comments.
Governor Aguirre, who later resigned in the wake of the 2014 student disappearances, was taking steps “to control the political damage,” according to Wayne. “The case is being investigated by state and federal authorities and Aguirre and his collaborators will be under immense pressure to conduct a thorough investigation, though results are not expected anytime soon.”
In 2012, Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) found that government agents were responsible for numerous human rights violations in the 2011 incident, including arbitrary detentions, torture, cruel treatment and beatings.
Two Guerrero state agents were later investigated for the shootings but were released after 16 months in detention when a judge found the evidence against them insufficient. The then-prosecutor of Guerrero, Alberto López Rosas, who was accused by CNDH of covering up the crime, was exonerated in 2013 and went back to work for Governor Aguirre. The head of the federal police at that time, Facundo Rosas Rosas, who was also accused of abuses during the 2011 confrontation, was later removed from his post but continued as Secretary of Public Security in the state of Pueblo before it was announced that he was under investigation for leading a criminal group that had systematically stolen fuel from the state oil company, Pemex.
Mexico’s Defense Secretary said Monday night that he will not let the nation’s soldiers be questioned by international investigators over the apparent abduction and massacre of 43 students in Ayotzinapa last year.
“I can’t permit them to interrogate my soldiers, who at this point haven’t committed a single crime,” said Gen. Salvador Cienfuegos in an interview with the Televisa network. He said the soldiers only answer to Mexican authorities.
His comments came after two separate reports, published last month, contradicted government claims that soldiers were not in the area when, a little over a year ago, dozens of students at Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers’ College in the state of Guerrero went missing. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, or IACHR, an autonomous arm of the Organization of American States, and the Mexican magazine Proceso conducted separate investigations that both found soldiers were in fact present at the time of the incident.
IACHR investigators have criticized the government’s investigation of the disappearance and have sought to interview the soldiers who they say were present. Meanwhile, a report from the magazine Proceso revealed that bullet casings from weapons carried by the Mexican army were found at the crime scene.
“We received the order from [name redacted]: ‘arm yourselves, we’re going out,’” one soldier said in a deposition with Mexican prosecutors that was obtained by the magazine. “He told us, ‘get [expletive] ready because there’s armed personnel that are going around killing people.”
The Mexican government has already conceded a state role in the incident, accusing Jose Luis Abarca, mayor of the town of Iguala, of ordering local police to kidnap the students and hand them over to a local gang to be killed. Tomás Zerón de Lucio, head of Mexico’s Criminal Investigations Agency, has claimed the students were mistakenly identified as members of a rival criminal organization. “That was the reason why they were deprived of their freedom, initially, and then of their lives,” he said in January.
The IAHCR report accuses the army of having witnessed the events as they unfolded and failing to intervene. The report in Proceso suggests soldiers actually fired on the students, perhaps mistaking them for criminals.
The Mexican government’s refusal to allow members of its military to be interviewed by international investigators comes just days after Mexicans marked the anniversary of the 1968 Tlatelolco square massacre, when soldiers and police fired into a crowded of unarmed protesters in Mexico City days before the start of the Olympic Games. Witnesses reported seeing dozens of dead bodies. Hundreds of people were arrested, many never to be seen again.
After decades of denying any wrongdoing, the Mexican government conceded there was a systemic cover-up and in 2006 accused former President Luis Echeverría, the interior secretary, of having organized the massacre, charging him with genocide. He was found not guilty.
Journalist John Gibler investigates the disappearance of the 43 students at Ayotzinapa.
A year has passed and we still do not know the fate of the 43 rural college students from Ayotzinapa forcibly disappeared on Sept. 26, 2014 in Iguala, Mexico.
We do know now, however, more than we did last year. We know that the police attacks against the students lasted more than three hours, took place at nine different locations in and around Iguala, involved officers from municipal, state and federal police corps, resulted in six people murdered, 40 wounded—one of whom remains in a coma—, and 43 disappeared.
We also know that the government has amassed a case file totaling 115 volumes and accused 82 people, but mostly based their investigation on three mutually contradicting confessions.
A recent report by an independent group of experts appointed by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights—the group is known in Mexico as the GIEI for their Spanish initials—debunked the government’s conclusion that gangsters confused the students for members of a rival drug trafficking gang, sent the Iguala police to capture and hand them over, and then drove them out to an isolated trash dump in near-by Cocula, killed them and incinerated their bodies on a trash and wood pyre that burned until 5 pm local time the following day.
The GIEI’s fire expert, José Torero, a Peruvian with a Ph.D. from UC Berkeley, concluded that to generate the heat necessary to incinerate 43 human bodies at the Cocula trash dump, the fire would have needed 30,000kg of wood, 60 hours to burn and would have raged so high as to have set the entire dump and surrounding forest aflame creating a plume of smoke 300 meters in the air and radiated such intense heat that anyone who approached close enough to throw more fuel on the fire—as the confessed witnesses claim they did—would themselves have been singed beyond recognition.
I traveled to the Cocula dump several times over the past year. Twice I spoke with Cocula municipal trash workers. The two men who worked on Saturday, Sept. 27 last year both told me that they went to the dump around one in the afternoon—when the killers’ fire would have still been blazing—and deposited the trash there without incident. There was no fire. No one was there, they said, and the area was still wet from the previous night’s rain.
After Marcela Turati published in Proceso magazine in October 2014 that the dump was still in use after Sept. 26, the workers told me that federal agents went to their homes, took them to Mexico City and threatened to send them to maximum security prison if they didn’t “stop telling lies.” One of the workers said that he clearly told the federal agents he is unable to read or write and still was forced to put his thumb print on “countless sheets of paper.”
The GIEI’s conclusion that the 43 students were not incinerated at the Cocula trash dump on Sept. 27, 2014 is thus supported not only by forensic analysis, but by two eyewitnesses (not to mention hundreds of Cocula residents who could not recall seeing high plumes of smoke in late September). Yet the government insists on pushing the Cocula theory, twisting and ignoring evidence, as in Attorney General Arely Gómez’s recent false claim that a second student’s remains had been positively identified.
This insistence on the trash dump scenario has diverted attention from witness testimony and documentary evidence of Guerrero state and Mexican federal police participation in the attacks against the students. Over the past year, I interviewed more than 30 survivors of the attacks in Iguala. Several witnesses identified state and federal police participating in the attacks at four distinct locations over a period of several hours.
The GIEI report confirmed these testimonies, though that confirmation has largely been unreported, overshadowed by the debate over the trash dump.
The GIEI report goes further, citing testimony from the case file by two civilian-dressed military intelligence officers who told state officials that they observed the attacks at the two locations from which the 43 were disappeared. These facts alone—state and federal police participation in and military observation of the attacks—undermine the federal prosecutor’s story of gangsters confusing the students for a rival gang.
The GIEI report also revealed major flaws in the government’s investigation: crime scenes that were never analyzed; suspects that were very likely tortured; essential witnesses never interviewed; security camera footage of one of the sites of the forced disappearance that was retrieved and destroyed by an unidentified official; clothing found at the crimes scenes that was never analyzed; and, perhaps most astoundingly, a missing bus.
For months both the Mexican government and the press reported that police attacked the students aboard four commandeered buses. That is incorrect: the students travelled aboard five commandeered buses that night. This fact is of fundamental importance first, because police took the 43 disappeared students from two buses (not one, as originally reported) at two distinct locations in Iguala.
At one of those locations—beneath an overpass, just in front of the Iguala office of the Guerrero state prosecutors—numerous witnesses identified federal police participating in the disappearances.
The location of the bus from which the police took them is visible from the very security camera from which the footage of that night was mysteriously retrieved and destroyed. It is also important because the GIEI report revealed that the other bus at that location, what they call the fifth bus, about 100 meters away from the overpass, is missing.
When the experts asked to see that bus, they were led to an entirely different one, made up to look like it had been attacked. The problem, though, is that that particular bus was not attacked: federal police aiming their weapons at them confronted the students, who then got off the bus and escaped into the surrounding hills. When the GIEI proved that the other bus was not the one they were looking for, federal officials were unable to produce the now famous “fifth bus.”
This conspicuous absence both in the case file and in real life led the GIEI to propose a possible motive to explain the complexity of the attacks and the overwhelmingly disproportionate use of violence against the students that night: the sandal and t- shirt-clad young men from some of Mexico’s most destitute regions had unwittingly commandeered a bus carrying a major heroin shipment en route to the United States.
If this hypothesis were to be proved true, it would be a searing indictment of both Mexico and the United State’s so-called war on drugs. For here we would have a case showing that when a major drug load is placed at risk, whom do its caretakers call to save it? The State. Not just the local “corrupt” cops, but also the state and federal police all acting in coordination and with military intelligence watching on. This would give new meaning to the Ayotzinapa protesters’ constant chant: Fue el estado, (The State did it).
John Gibler is the author of Mexico: Unconquered: Chronicles of Power and Revolt.
teleSUR report ends
Science Repudiates Mass Cremation Stories
A protester at a rally against the disappearance of 43 students in the southwestern Mexican state of Guerrero holds a sign that reads: ‘We Are Ayotzinapa. We Demand Justice.’
Credit: Montecruz Foto/CC-BY-SA-2.0
A group of independent investigators has roundly dismissed the Mexican government’s claims that the 43 students who went missing in the southwestern city of Iguala last fall were burned to ashes in a garbage dump, reigniting an international outcry against the disappearance and heaping pressure on the government to provide answers to families of the victims.
The 500-page report released this past weekend by an expert group appointed by the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights (IACHR) refutes key aspects of the government’s official story, concluding in no uncertain terms that there is “no evidence” to support the Attorney General’s findings that the college students were executed and burned by a drug gang.
“This report provides an utterly damning indictment of Mexico’s handling of the worst human rights atrocity in recent memory,” José Miguel Vivanco, Americas Director at Human Rights Watch (HRW), said in a Sep. 6 statement.
“Even with the world watching and with substantial resources at hand, the authorities proved unable or unwilling to conduct a serious investigation,” he added.
HRW is calling on the government to urgently address its own flawed investigation, which was declared ‘closed’ this past January, and bring those responsible to justice.
The students, all members of the Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers’ College in Mexico’s southern Guerrero state, disappeared on Sep. 26, 2014.
Amid massive protests across the country and around the world, the government concluded that the students had commandeered several buses and traveled in them to a protest in Iguala. Following clashes with local police, the students were allegedly detained and then handed over to a criminal gang, who presumably executed them before burning their bodies in a municipal dump.
But the IACHR investigators say those “conclusions hinge on allegedly coerced witness testimony that is contradicted by physical evidence,” HRW said Sunday.
Negligence, mishandling of evidence and long delays marked the government’s official investigation, the expert panel found, adding that federal prosecutors failed to review footage from security cameras or interview key eyewitnesses.
HRW points out that “crucial pieces of evidence, such as blood and hair” were vulnerable to contamination and manipulation during the investigation, and “in July 2015, more than nine months into the investigation, the group discovered that multiple articles of clothing belonging to the victims had been collected but never examined.”
Perhaps the most damning revelation involves the government’s claim that the drug gang responsible for the students’ deaths built a pyre and fed it over a 16-hour period with scrap material like wood and tires, as well as small amounts of fuel.
Quoting the IACHR study, the Guardian reported Sunday: “It would have required 30,000 kg of wood or 13,330 kg of rubber tyres and burned for 60 hours in order to consume the bodies. [The report] adds that feeding the pyre would have been impossible, and that a conflagration of those dimensions would have left obvious evidence in the surrounding area, which an inspection of the site failed to find.”
Other major flaws in the government’s official version of events include so-called ‘confessions’ extracted from suspects under conditions likely amounting to torture and authorities’ failure to inspect the offices of members of municipal police identified by eyewitnesses.
The expert panel spent six months on the investigation, reviewing existing government evidence, conducting in-depth inspections of the crime scene and interviewing surviving witnesses and family members of the deceased.
Earlier this year, the United Nations Committee on Enforced Disappearance highlighted shortcomings in the government’s investigation of the Ayotzinapa case, and called on the government to do more to tackle impunity.
HRW estimates that there are currently 300 open investigations relating to enforced disappearances in Iguala alone, and over 25,000 people reported as ‘missing’ nationwide.
“As of April 2014, no one had been convicted of an enforced disappearance committed after 2006, according to official statistics,” the rights group concluded.
Holocaust Hoax: Science Repudiates Mass Cremation Stories
From Regional War, “Regime Change” to Global Warfare
2015 has become a year of living dangerously.
Wars are spreading across the globe.
Wars are escalating as new countries are bombed and the old are ravaged with ever greater intensity.
Countries, where relatively peaceful changes had taken place through recent elections, are now on the verge of civil wars.
These are wars without victors, but plenty of losers; wars that don’t end; wars where imperial occupations are faced with prolonged resistance.
There are never-ending torrents of war refugees flooding across borders. Desperate people are detained, degraded and criminalized for being the survivors and victims of imperial invasions.
Now major nuclear powers face off in Europe and Asia: NATO versus Russia, US-Japan versus China. Will these streams of blood and wars converge into one radiated wilderness drained of its precious life blood?
Living Dangerously: The Rising Tide of Violent Conflicts
There is no question that wars and military threats have replaced diplomacy, negotiations and democratic elections as the principal means of resolving political conflicts. Throughout the present year (2015) wars have spread across borders and escalated in intensity.
The NATO allies, US, Turkey and the EU have openly attacked Syria with air strikes and ground troops. There are plans to occupy the northern sector of that ravaged country, creating what the Erdogan regime dubs a ‘buffer zone’ cleansed of its people and villages.
Under the pretext of ‘fighting ISIS’, the Turkish government is bombing Kurds (civilians and resistance fighters) and their Syrian allies. On Syria’s southern border, US Special Forces have accelerated and expanded operations from their bases in Jordan on behalf of the mercenary terrorists – funded by the monarchist Gulf States.
Over 4 million Syrians have fled their homes as refugees and over 200,000 have been killed since the US-EU-Turkey-Saudi-sponsored war against the secular Syrian government was launched four years ago.
Dozens of terrorist, mercenary and sectarian groups have carved up Syria into rival fiefdoms, pillaged its economic and cultural resources and reduced the economy by over ninety percent.
The US-EU-Turkish military intervention extends the war into Iraq, Lebanon and…. Turkey – attacking secular governments, ethnic minority groups and secular civil society.
The feudal, monarchist Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have invaded Yemen with tanks, launching air strikes against a country without any air defenses. Major cities and towns are devastated. Saudi ground troops and armored carriers are killing and wounding thousands – mostly civilians. The brutal Saudi air and sea blockade of Yemen’s ports have led to a humanitarian crisis, as ten million Yemenis face starvation deliberately imposed by a grotesque and obscenely rich monarchy.
The Yemeni resistance fighters, driven out of the major cities, are preparing for prolonged guerrilla warfare against the Saudi monsters and their puppets. Their resistance has already spread across the frontiers of the absolutist Saudi dictatorship.
The brutal Israeli occupation troops, in collaboration with armed ‘settler’ colonists, have accelerated their violent seizure of Palestinian lands. They have stepped up the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, Bedouins, Druze and Christian inhabitants replacing their communities with racist ‘Jews-only’ colonial settlements.
Daily assaults against the huge ‘concentration camps’ of Gaza accompany an armed blockade of land, air and water, preventing the reconstruction of the tens of thousands of homes, schools, hospital, factories and infrastructure, destroyed by last year’s Israeli blitzkrieg.
Israel’s continued annexation and ethnic cleansing of Palestinian territory precludes any diplomatic process; colonial wars have been and continue to be Israel’s policy of choice in dealing with its Arab neighbors and captive populations.
Africa’s wars, resulting from earlier US-EU interventions, continue to ravage-the Continent. Somalia, Sudan, Kenya, Libya are riven by bloody conflicts between US-EU backed regimes and armed Islamic and nationalist resistance movements.
Throughout North and Sub-Sahara Africa, US-EU backed regimes have provoked armed upheavals in Libya, Nigeria (Boko Harem), Egypt (ISIS, Moslem Brotherhood et al), Chad, Niger, South Sudan, Somalia and elsewhere.
Imperial client Egyptian and Ethiopian dictators rule with iron fists – financed and armed by their EU and US sponsors.
Imperial wars rage throughout the Middle East and South Asia. Hundreds of experienced Baathist Iraqi military officers, who had been expelled or jailed and tortured by the US Occupation army, have now made common cause with Islamist fighters to form ISIS and effectively occupy a third of Iraq and a strategic swath of Syria.
There are daily bombings in Baghdad undermining its US client. Strategic advances by ISIS are forcing the US to resume and escalate its direct combat role
The US-Baghdad retreat and the defeat of the US-trained Iraqi military in the face of the Baathist-Islamist offensive is the opening salvo of a long-term, large-scale war in Iraq and Syria. The Turkish air-war against the Kurds in Iraq will escalate the war in Northern Iraq and extend it into southeast Turkey.
Closer to ‘home’, the EU-US-backed coup (‘regime change’) in Kiev and the attempt to impose dictatorial-pro-West oligarchic rule in Ukraine have detonated a prolonged civil-national war devastating the country and pitting NATO’s proxies against Russian-backed allies in the Donbas.
US, England, Poland and other NATO powers are deeply committed to pushing war right up to Russia’s borders.
There is a new Cold War, with the imposition of wide-ranging US-EU economic sanctions against Russia and the organizing of major NATO military exercises on Russia’s doorsteps. It is no surprise that these provocations are met with a major counter-response – the Russian military build-up. The NATO power grab in Ukraine, which first led to a local ethnic war, now escalates to a global confrontation and may move toward a nuclear confrontation as Russia absorbs hundreds of thousands of refugees from the slaughter in Ukraine.
The US puppet regime in Afghanistan has faced a major advance of the Taliban in all regions, including the capital, Kabul.
The Afghan war is intensifying and the US-backed Kabul regime is in retreat. US troops can scarcely advance beyond their bunkers.
As the Taliban military advances, its leaders demand total surrender of the Kabul puppets and the withdrawal of US troops. The US response will be a prolonged escalation of war.
Pakistan, bristling with US arms, faces a major conflict along its borders with India and permanent war in its semi-autonomous Northwest frontier states with Islamist and ethnic Pashtu guerrilla movements backed by mass regional political parties. These parties exercise de facto control over the Northwest region providing sanctuary and arms for Taliban militants operating in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Armed ethno-religious conflicts persist in western China, Myanmar and northern India. There are large-scale popular resistance movements in the militant northeast Thailand opposed to the current military-monarchist dictatorship in Bangkok.
In the 21st century, in South and Southeast Asia, as in the rest of the world, war and armed conflicts have become central in resolving ethnic, social, tribal and regional differences with central states: diplomacy and democratic elections have been rendered obsolete and inefficient.
Latin America – On the Verge
Burgeoning violent extra-parliamentary right-wing movements, intent on overthrowing or ‘impeaching’ elected center-left Latin American governments face major confrontations with the state and its mass supporters.
In Ecuador, Venezuela and Brazil, US-backed opposition groups are engaged in violent demonstrations, directed toward ousting the elected regimes. In the case of Ecuador, ‘popular sectors’, including some indigenous leaders and sectors of the trade union movement, have called for an ‘uprising’ to oust President Correa. They seem oblivious of the fact that the hard-right oligarchs who now control key offices in the three principal cities (Guayaquil, Quito and Cuenca) will be the real beneficiaries of their ‘uprisings’.
The resurgent Right envisions violent ‘regime change’ as the first step toward ‘wiping the slate clean’ of a decade of social reforms, independent regional organizations and independent foreign policies.
‘Civil war’ may be too strong a word for the situation in Latin America at this time – but this is the direction which the US-backed opposition is heading. Faced with the mess and difficulty of dislodging incumbent regimes via elections, the US and its local proxies have opted for the choreography of street violence, sabotage, martial law and coups – to be followed by sanitized elections – with US-vetted candidates.
War and violence run rampant through Mexico and most of Central America. A US-backed military coup ousted the popularly elected, independent President Zelaya in Honduras. The ensuing US-proxy regime has murdered and jailed hundreds of pro-democracy dissidents and driven thousands to flee the violence.
The 1990’s US-brokered ‘Peace Accords’ in El Salvador and Guatemala effectively blocked any agrarian reform and income redistribution that might have led to the rebuilding of their civil societies. This has led to over two decades of mass disaffection, the rise of armed ‘gangs’ numbering over 100,000 members and an average of six to ten thousand homicides a year with El Salvador becoming the ‘murder capital of the hemisphere’ on a per capita basis. The annual murder toll under the US-brokered ‘Peace Accords’ now exceeds those killed each year during the civil war.
The real ‘carnage capital’ of the hemisphere is Mexico. Over 100,000 people have been murdered during the decade-long, US-backed ‘war on drugs’ – a war which has become a state-sponsored war on the Mexican people.
The internal war has allowed the Mexican government to privatize and sell the crown jewels of the national economy – the petroleum industry. While thousands of Mexicans are terrorized and slaughtered, the US and EU oil companies are curiously shielded from the drug lords. The same Mexican government, its police, officials and military, who collaborate with the drug lords in dividing up the billions of drug dollars, protect foreign oil companies and their executives. After all, narco-dollars are laundered by banks in New York, Miami, Los Angeles and London to help fuel the speculation!
From Regional to Nuclear Wars
Regional and local wars spread under the shadow of a looming world war. The US moves its arms, planes, bases and operations to the Russian and Chinese borders.
Never have so many US troops and war planes been placed in so many strategic locations, often less than an hour drive from major Russian cities.
Not even during the height of the Cold War, did the US impose so many economic sanctions against Russian enterprises.
In Asia, Washington is organizing major trade, military and diplomatic treaties designed to exclude and undermine China’s growth as a trade competitor. It is engaged in provocative activities comparable to the boycott and blockade of Japan which led to the Second World War in Asia.
Open ‘warfare by proxy’ in Ukraine is perhaps the first salvo of the Third World War in Europe. The US-EU-sponsored coup in Kiev has led to the annexation of Western Ukraine. In response to the threat of violence toward the ethnic Russian majority in Crimea and the loss of its strategic naval base on the Black Sea, Russia annexed Crimea.
In the lead-up to the Second World War, Germany annexed Austria. In a similar manner the US-EU installed a puppet regime in Kiev by violent putsch as its own initial steps toward major power grabs in Central Asia. The military build-up includes the placement of major, forward offensive military bases in Poland.
Warsaw’s newly elected hard-right regime of President Andrzej Duda has demanded that Poland become NATO’s central military base of operation and the front line in a war against Russia.
Wars and More Wars and the Never-ending Torrents of Refugees
The US and EU imperial wars have devastated the lives and livelihoods of scores of millions of people in South Asia, North and Sub-Sahara Africa, Central America, Mexico, the Balkans and now Ukraine.
Four million Syrian refugees have joined millions of Afghan, Pakistani, Iraqi, Yemeni, Somali, Libyan, Palestinian and Sudanese refugees fleeing US-EU bombs, drones and proxy mercenaries ravaging their countries.
Millions of war refugees escape toward safety in Western Europe, joining the millions of economic refugees who have fled free market destitution in Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Bulgaria, Romania, Poland, the Balkans and other EU satellites.
Panic among the civilian population of Western Europe sets in as hundreds of thousands cross the Mediterranean, the Aegean and the Balkans.
Droves of refugees perish each day. Tens of thousands crowd detention centers. Local labor markets are saturated. Social services are overwhelmed.
The US builds walls and detention camps for the millions trying to escape the harsh consequences of imperial-centered free markets in Mexico, narco-terror and the fraudulent ‘peace accord’-induced violence in Central America.
As Western wars advance, the desperate refugees multiply. The poor and destitute clamber at the gates of the imperial heartland crying: ‘Your bombs and your destruction of our homelands have driven us here, now you must deal with us in your homeland’.
Fomenting class war between the refugees and ‘natives’ of the imperial West – may not be on the agenda . . . for now, but the future for ‘civil’ society in Europe and the US is bleak.
Meanwhile, more and even bigger wars are on the horizon and additional millions of civilians will be uprooted and face the choice of starving, fleeing with their families or fighting the empire. The ranks of seasoned and infuriated resistance fighters are swelling in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Ukraine and elsewhere.
The US and EU are becoming armed fortresses. US police deal with the marginalized citizenry as an occupying army, assaulting African-Americans, immigrants and dissidents – while looting poor communities . . . and protecting the rich…
War is everywhere and expanding: No continent or region, big or small, is free from the contagion of war.
Imperial wars have spawn local wars . . . igniting mass flights in a never-ending cycle. There are no real diplomatic success stories! There are no enduring, viable peace accords!
Some pundits may protest this analysis: They point to the recent US – Cuba rapprochement as a ‘success’. They conveniently forget that the US is still subverting Cuba’s biggest trading partner, Venezuela; that Washington’s major regional proxies are demanding regime change among Cuba’s allies in Ecuador, Brazil and Bolivia and that Washington is increasingly threatening Cuba’s alternative markets in Russia and China. The vision of the US flag flapping in the breeze outside its embassy in Havana does little to cover Washington’s iron fist threatening Cuba’s allies.
Others cite the US – Iran peace accord as a major ‘success’. They ignore that the US is backing the bloody Saudi invasion of neighboring Yemen and the massacre of Shiite communities; that the US has provided Israel with a road map detailing Iran’s entire defense system and that the US [Israel] and EU are bombing Iran’s Syrian ally without mercy.
As for the US – Cuba and Iranian agreements– are they enduring and strategic or just tactical imperial moves preparing for even greater assaults?
The war epidemic is not receding.
War refugees are still fleeing; they have no homes or communities left.
Disorder and destruction are increasing, not decreasing; there is no rebuilding the shattered societies, not in Gaza, not in Fallujah, not in the Donbas, not in Guerrero, not in Aleppo.
Europe feels the tremors of a major conflagration.
Americans still believe that the two oceans will protect them. They are told that placing NATO missiles on Russia’s borders and stationing warships off China’s shores and building electrified walls and laying barbed wire along the Rio Grande will protect them. Such is their faith in their political leaders and propagandists.
What a packet of lies! Inter-continental missiles can ‘rain down’ on New York, Washington and Los Angeles.
It is time to wake up!
It is time to stop the US – EU headlong race to World War III!
Where to start? Libya has been irrevocably destroyed; it is too late there! Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan are aflame. We are being plunged deeper into war while being told we are withdrawing! Ukraine sucks in more guns and more troops!
Can we really have peace with Iran if we cannot control our own government as it dances to the Israelis tune? And Israel insists on war – our waging war for them! As the Israeli war criminal General and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon once told some worried American Zionists: “Trouble with the US? We lead them by the nose…!”
Just look at the terrified families fleeing carnage in the Middle East or Mexico.
What is to be done?
When will we cut our losses and shake off the bonds of these war makers – foreign and domestic?
Earlier this summer, Ruben Espinosa fled Mexico’s Gulf coast state of Veracruz after receiving death threats. His work as a photojournalist there had made him an enemy of the state’s governor, who presides over one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a reporter.
On July 31, Espinosa was found beaten and shot dead in a Mexico City apartment.
Eight months ago, Nadia Vera, a student activist and cultural worker, looked boldly into a camera lens and told an interviewer that if anything happened to her, Veracruz governor Javier Duarte and his cabinet should be held responsible. She also fled Veracruz to the nation’s capital after suffering attacks.
On July 31, Nadia Vera was found sexually tortured and murdered, shot point-blank in the same apartment.
Three more women were assassinated in the normally tranquil, upper-middle class neighborhood that afternoon — an 18 year-old Mexican named Yesenia Quiroz, a Colombian identified only as “Nicole,” and a 40 year-old domestic worker named Alejandra. The press generally refers to the case as “the murder of Ruben Espinosa and four women,” relegating the women victims to anonymity even in death.
At a recent demonstration of journalists and human rights defenders, the sense of dread was palpable. As communicators in Mexico, we’re angry and intensely frustrated at how so many of our ranks have been killed, disappeared, displaced, or censored with no repercussions.
For many, including me, this crime especially hit home. For a long time, whenever I was asked if I was afraid to speak out critically in Mexico, I answered that fortunately Mexico City was relatively safe. Drug cartels and their allies in government only kept close tabs on reporters in more disputed areas.
The quintuple homicide in a quiet corner of the city shattered that myth — and with it what was left of our complacency. Several days before his murder, Espinosa told friends that a man had approached him to ask if he was the photographer who fled Veracruz. When he said yes, the man replied, “You should know that we’re here.”
Once considered a haven, Mexico City has become a hunting ground in a country where, too often, journalists end up reporting on the brutal assassinations of their colleagues — and wondering who will be next.
Ruben Espinosa had photographed social movements in the state of Veracruz for the past eight years, including journalists’ protests over the murder of Regina Martinez in 2012, a journalist and colleague of Espinosa at Proceso magazine. He covered the protests against the disappearance of the 43 students of Ayotzinapa by local police in Guerrero and acts of repression by the Veracruz state government.
Espinosa captured a front-page photo of Governor Duarte, big-bellied and wearing a police cap, which appeared on the cover of Proceso alongside the title: “Veracruz, a Lawless State.” Espinosa noted that the governor was so enraged by the photo he had his agents obtain and destroy as many copies of the magazine as they could get their hands on. He reported that while he was taking pictures of the eviction of protesters, a government agent told him, “You better stop taking pictures or you´ll end up like Regina.”
The Mexican Special Prosecutor’s Office for Crimes Against Freedom of Expression recognizes 102 journalists murdered from 2000 to 2014.
Yet the Mexico City prosecutor didn’t even mention the threats and attacks against Nadia Vera, an activist and a member of the student organization YoSoy132, as a line of investigation in her murder. The UN High Commission on Human Rights in Mexico stated that Vera and the other female victims found with Espinosa showed signs of sexual torture. Mexico City investigators announced that they were applying investigative protocols for possible femicides, but didn’t say why or confirm the reports of rape and sexual torture.
The invisibility of the women victims in the press and the official statements has been partially compensated for by social media. In social networks, millions of posts and tweets have brought to light the lives of the women, and especially Nadia’s more public and activist past, in an impromptu campaign that insists that women’s lives also matter.
Signs of a Cover-Up?
Now, just days into the investigation, with the nation — and especially journalists — reeling from the news, there are already signs of a cover-up.
On August 2, Mexico City Attorney General Rodolfo Rios gave a press conference reporting on advances in the case. Although Rios promised to pursue all lines of investigation, he downplayed the possibility that this could be a political crime against freedom of expression, claiming that Espinosa was not currently employed.
Rios also stated that the photojournalist came to Mexico City to look for work — a thinly veiled attempt to pre-empt the dead journalist’s own version of the facts that he was forced to leave Veracruz due to ongoing persecution. The city attorney’s office has put forth robbery as the principal motive of the crime, despite the execution-style torture and killings, and hasn’t called on anyone from the Veracruz government to provide testimony.
These are signs that the city government may be trying to railroad the investigation, and they’ve outraged the public, especially journalists. The attorney general’s absurd claim that Espinosa was unemployed at the time of his murder, seemingly suggesting that his journalistic work wasn’t a motive, caused particular indignation.
On August 5, investigators announced that they’d arrested and were questioning a suspect based on a match with a fingerprint found in the apartment. Despite apparent advances, there’s a growing fear that the government has no intention of really investigating a crime that could lead straight to a powerful member of the president’s own party.
The U.S. Role
The involvement of the Mexican government in the crime itself, or at least in creating the climate that led to the crime and failing to prevent it, raises serious questions for U.S. policymakers as well. The watchdog organization Article 19 reports that nearly half of the aggressions against journalists registered were carried out by state agents.
Since 2008, the U.S. government — through the Merida Initiative and other sources — has provided some $3 billion to the Mexican government for the war on drugs. This is a period when attacks on human rights defenders and journalists have skyrocketed, and more than 100,000 people have been killed by criminals and security forces alike.
A fraction of that money has gone to mechanisms for protection that have so far proved worthless. Rather than helping, this serves to support the false idea that the Mexican state is the good guy in a war on organized crime. The cases of corruption, complicity, and abuse that pile up week by week have demolished this premise.
Supporting abusive governments and security forces while claiming to support the journalists and human rights defenders being attacked by them is like pretending to help the fox while arming the hunter — it just prolongs the hunt. Mexican citizens who speak up are being hunted, too often by their own government. It’s time the U.S. government came to grips with that and immediately suspended the Merida Initiative.
Until there is accountability and justice — and an end to the murder of those who tell the truth about what’s happening here — sending U.S. taxpayer money to Mexican security forces is a vile betrayal of Mexicans’ friendship and of the highest principles of U.S. foreign policy.
Laura Carlsen is the director of the Americas Program in Mexico City and advisor to Just Associates (JASS).