Below, find the Spanish translation of this month’s cover story in The Dominion, published by SubVersiones out of Mexico City.
El papel de Ottawa en la guerra permanente contra el pueblo de México
Ciudad Juárez, México. La música es fuerte y el bar está bien abastecido. Me siento tímidamente con una lata de cerveza, mis ojos en la entrada. Esta solía ser una concurrida discoteca antes de que Juárez se transformara en una zona de guerra. Mi compañero, Julián Cardona, quien solía tomar fotografías para las páginas sociales de un periódico local, describe cómo solía ser aquí: Hummers estacionados en triple-línea en la acera, propinas de cien dólares, tejanos bien vestidos esperando detrás de cuerdas de terciopelo para entrar. Ya no es así. La noche que visité el lugar estaba casi vacío, meseras ocupadas con sus iPhones, un vendedor ambulante de cigarrillos gritando para vender.
La idea de ir a la discoteca fue de Cardona, él dijo que me ayudaría a entender mejor la ciudad. Su carrera ha tomado un giro inesperado debido a la violencia: actualmente, en lugar de tomar fotografías para las páginas sociales, toma escenas del crimen en una de las ciudades más violentas del mundo. Ciudad Juárez, una ciudad que floreció con la introducción de las maquiladoras, ha sido durante mucho tiempo una ciudad con altos niveles de violencia. Los asesinatos de mujeres a través de la década de 1990 captó la atención internacional. Por cada mujer muerta, había nueve hombres asesinados.
Pero cuando Juárez se transformó en el punto focal de la guerra de México contra los narcotraficantes, las cosas en la ciudad comenzaron a cambiar más allá del reconocimiento. El presidente Felipe Calderón lanzó una guerra militarizada contra los narcotraficantes al inicio de su mandato en diciembre de 2006. A finales de marzo de 2008, miles de soldados y policías federales llegaron a Ciudad Juárez como parte de una oleada contra los narcotraficantes. Después de que los policías y soldados llegaron, la tasa de homicidios se disparó, incrementó de la violencia, y aumentaron los secuestros. Ciudad Juárez se convirtió en sinónimo de todo lo que está mal en México. (more…)
Have a read of this month’s cover story in The Dominion, which looks at Canada’s role in training police in Mexico. I wrote it with help from The Dominion’s fund for investigative journalism.
Canada Boosts Police Power in Mexico
CIUDAD JUAREZ, MEXICO—The music is loud and the bar is well stocked. I sit timidly with a can of beer, eyes on the entrance. This was a happening nightclub before Juarez was transformed into a war zone. My companion, Julian Cardona, who used to shoot photos for the society pages of a local newspaper, describes what it used to be like here: Hummers triple-parked on the sidewalk, hundred-dollar tips, well-dressed Texans waiting behind velvet ropes to get in. Not anymore. The night I visited, the place was near empty, waitresses busy with their iPhones, a wandering cigarette vendor calling out to make a sale.
It was Cardona’s idea to go to the nightclub; he said it would help me understand the city better. His career has taken an unexpected turn because of the violence: these days, instead of shooting for the society pages, he shoots crime scenes in one of the world’s most violent cities.
Ciudad Juarez, a city that boomed with the introduction ofmaquiladoras, has long been a city with high levels of violence. The murders of women through the 1990s gained international attention. For each dead woman, there were nine murdered men.
But when Juarez transformed into the focal point of Mexico’s war against drug traffickers, things in the city began to change beyond recognition. President Felipe Calderon launched a militarized war on drug traffickers at the beginning of his term in December 2006. At the end of March 2008, thousands of soldiers and federal police officers arrived in Ciudad Juarez as part of a surge against drug traffickers. After the police and troops arrived, the murder rate skyrocketed, violence increased, and kidnappings spiked. Ciudad Juarez became synonymous with everything that is wrong in Mexico. (more…)
Dawn Paley probes beneath the surface of the drug war in Colombia and Mexico. She explores the mechanisms employed, reports on the economic and human devastation, analyzes the possible reasons for continuing the war and suggests further areas of inquiry. PDF of an extended edition for the web.
In both the United States and Canada there have been sustained grassroots efforts to spotlight the unjust mass incarceration and criminalization of poor people, and especially poor people of color, for drug-related arrests. But there has been too little analysis about the reasons behind and mechanisms of this war, and its economic impact on Mexico and beyond.
Even before a withdrawal from Iraq or Afghanistan has been achieved, the United States has become involved in a series of intensifying conflicts taking place from Mexico’s north border through Peru. Governments and mainstream media label it a “war on drugs.” It is important to examine how the expanding “war on drugs” connects to the expansion of transnational corporate control over markets, labor and natural resources.
In Honduras, four Indigenous people were shot and killed in May, when Honduran forces opened fire from a U.S. State Department helicopter, all under the supervision of uniformed U.S. agents. In Mexico — under the guidance of the United States, Canada, Israel and Colombia — the police and army are being transformed.
In Colombia, the war has gone on for decades and involved billions of U.S. dollars, but is being rebranded as a fight against crime. Through the 1980s, the Colombian state became increasingly paramilitarized, a process which “manifested itself as threats, bombings, and selective assassinations or collective massacres of government officials (principally but not exclusively from the left), and of popular political leaders, workers, peasants, professors, human rights activists, and members of nongovernmental organziations.”
U.S. assistance to Colombia in the form of anti-narcotics program funding resulted in the strengthening of paramilitary and unofficial police groups, reported to have patrolled alongside the Colombian Army and involved in the vast majority of massacres and forced displacements in the country.
“Saying that the drug war has failed is to not understand something,” remarked Noam Chomsky in a speech this May. “One must ask oneself what is it that the planners have in mind given the amount of evidence that what they are trying to achieve doesn’t work. What are the probable intentions?”(1)
Chomsky’s comments point to an urgent area of research for activists and journalists wishing to understand today’s drug wars. It is increasingly clear that there is more work to be done in order to properly piece together the reasons for U.S.-led militarization in the Americas. (more…)
Been working on a fair bit of oil and gas related stuff recently, at this link you can download a piece I did for Watershed Sentinel on Canadian oil companies in Latin America, and below, a piece on fracking in south Texas. What brought me on to the gas-in-Texas story is that I wanted to understand first hand a little more about fracking, which I hadn’t written about before. In addition, this shale play crosses the border into Mexico, so it was a way of getting my hands dirty a little on a story I plan to pursue.
Finally, it’s been one week since Bernardo Vásquez Sánchez was killed in Oaxaca. I wrote a short piece that night, which you can read here. Protests against his assassination and Canadian mining companies in Oaxaca took place yesterday in various locations in Oaxaca and also at the Canadian Embassy in Mexico City.
Report from the Texas Energy Boom
The Tyee, March 19, 2012
British Columbia isn’t the only place where government and industry have ambitious plans to build pipelines to exploit shale gas reserves for the lucrative export market. Texas is booming again, and it’s setting its sights on Asia.
Yet while U.S. politicians and oil executives talk about ensuring energy self-sufficiency with cheap natural gas from shale, their long-term plans suggest a future where natural gas prices might soar — to the benefit of oil and gas companies rather than the domestic American economy.
Deborah Rogers, a financial analyst and advisory committee member at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, reckons that today’s natural gas boom may become tomorrow’s consumer squeeze. While high-profile industry players push the Pickens Plan, which proposes mass conversion of U.S. power plants and truck fleets to natural gas, the industry’s move to export natural gas will eventually drive up domestic prices. (more…)
Published by Upside Down World, February 25, 2012.
The U.S. is about to get a whole lot more involved in extracting Mexican oil, according to an agreement which promises to open up offshore oil and gas drilling in the Gulf Coast, signed Monday by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her Mexican counterpart Patricia Espinosa.
On top of pushing more underwater drilling into an area still recovering from the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster, the deal foreshadows an even closer relationship between foreign oil companies and Mexico’s state owned oil company, Pemex. Though the tone of Monday’s meeting was rosy, the agreement signals increased U.S. involvement in the oil sector of a country at war.
“The government lacks the territorial control to guarantee security, as has been demonstrated in the gas deposits in the Burgos basin, and if federal authorities don’t have the capacity to provide security tocompanies on land, they will be far less able to do so in the high seas,” wrote Oscar Contreras Nava in the Gaceta, an online paper published out of Ciudad Victoria, Tamaulipas. (more…)
I recently had the chance to visit beautiful Oaxaca City and a few towns in the surrounding area.
One sunny Friday I teamed up with super-journalist Shannon Young, and we headed out to the market at Ocotlan, and from there to San José del Progreso, to look into a conflict involving Vancouver based Fortuna Silver. When we went down to check out the local water supply, some folks rowed in with their catch, and offered to give us some fish for the road!
Anyhow, this story is complex, so in addition to the piece I did for the Vancouver Media Co-op (which is posted below, and also ran in this month’s Dominion), I wrote up a reporter’s notebook with some additional background info, and there’s still more to tell.
Tensions Flare over Vancouver-owned Mine in Oaxaca
Vancouver Media Co-op, February 13, 2012.
It’s been almost three years since hundreds of Zapotec community members took direct action to temporarily shut down Vancouver-based Fortuna Silver’s gold and silver mine just south of Oaxaca City, Mexico.
The blockade ended with a massive police raid, during which demonstrators were beaten and 23 people were taken by police and jailed, some for up to three months. Since then, the neighbouring community of San José del Progreso has been deeply divided, and residents have faced a series of difficult and sometimes deadly confrontations.
Three people have been killed since then, most recently Bernardo Méndez Vásquez, who was shot seven times on January 18, 2012, by a municipal police officer. Locals say municipal authorities ordered the police to attack residents, who were refusing to allow a new water system to be installed on their land because they felt it would be used to supply the mine with water.
“Yes there’s problems in the municipality,” admits Bernardo Vásquez Sánchez, who lives in San José and works with the Coordinating Committee of the United Villages of the Ocotlan Valley. “But it’s not unconnected, because they started in 2008 and they’re because of the mine, if the company leaves, the municipal problems will be solved,” he said in an interview with the Vancouver Media Co-op. (more…)
You can download the piece at this link!
Here’s a piece I did recently for The Dominion.
MADERA, MEXICO—On an August afternoon in 2008, Dante Valdez Jiminez was giving a teacher training class in an elementary school in Madera, a small town in the northern Mexican state of Chihuahua. But before he got through his lecture, he was interrupted by a group of 30 men, some of them armed.
In the minutes that followed, Valdez was savagely beaten in front of his students. While they beat him, his attackers yelled that he should keep his nose out of other people’s business. Valdez was lucky to escape with his life.
Five days later, Amnesty International put out an alert expressing concern for the safety of Valdez, as well as members of a nearby community. The attack was political: Valdez is known for his work against Minefinders, a Vancouver-based company that operates an open-pit gold mine near Madera. Amnesty indicated that among the attackers were employees of the mining company.
“There isn’t a single authority in any of the three levels of government that is looking out for the people who are displaced, for people who have been mistreated or beaten,” said Valdez, his voice quiet and low. He pointed out that there was a classroom full of witnesses to the incident, but there was never an investigation.
The attack on Valdez wasn’t an isolated event, but a brazen reminder of the repression meted out to those who organized against Minefinders, which began operating in Mexico in 1994 on the heels of the North American Free Trade Agreement. The company started construction on a low-grade, cyanide-leaching gold and silver mine near Madera in 2007. (more…)
Here’s a piece I did recently looking at U.S. backed changes to the legal system in Mexico for Upside Down World.
CHIHUAHUA, MEXICO–It’s not without reason that media coverage of the drug war is dominated by blood and horror: by some estimates, as many as 80,000 Mexicans have been killed since the war began in earnest five years ago. American critics of the atrocities taking place under the banner of the “war on drugs” often aim their sights at the Merida Initiative, a U.S.-Mexico plan which encouraged the militarization of the transportation and distribution of illicit drugs to, from, and within Mexico.
Originally conceived as a three year plan slated to end in 2010, the Merida Initiative has since expanded to mean much more than the deployment of U.S. helicopters, drug sniffing dogs and inspection equipment in Mexico.
In October, U.S. anti-drug czar and former ambassador to Colombia William Brownfield testified about what he called “Merida Part II,” before the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere. Brownfield highlighted strengthening Mexican institutions and the “rule of law” as well as promoting civil society participation in anti-crime initiatives as key areas of U.S. Mexico cooperation. Together, these activities have also been denominated “democracy promotion,” though that exact language is not officially used to describe Merida II.
Legal reform is one of the focal points of the second phase of the Merida Initiative, which takes the form of “implementation of comprehensive justice sector reforms through the training of justice sector personnel including police, prosecutors, and defenders, correction systems development, judicial exchanges, and partnerships between Mexican and U.S. law schools,” according to the State Department. (more…)
Here’s a piece I did recently for the wonderful Upside Down World. I changed the title here. I’m reading Bowden right now, what can I say.
Mexico: Police Beatings, Jail Time and Threats Won’t Deter Indignadxs de Juarez Activists
Published Friday, 18 November 2011
CIUDAD JUAREZ – On October 15th, people all over the world responded to a call from Occupy Wall Street to join and become part of the movement. Folks from all walks of life who identify as part of the now famous 99 per cent responded to the call, setting up tent villages and holding actions in public (and private) spaces around the globe.
In Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, a group of activists from various organizations, collectives and political persuasions got together and decided that they too would organize in response to the call, under the name Indignadxs de Juarez. They held two events to coincide with the call on October 15th, but were unable to set up a permanent, occupy-style camp.
“Here in Juarez, demonstrating is dangerous, the conditions don’t exist [to occupy],” said Gero Fong, a local activist and Indignado. “One of our intentions was to set up a permanent camp, but given our numbers it wasn’t possible.”
Instead of camping out, Juarez’s Indignadxs called for a series of actions. On November 1st, they gathered again for a demonstration that was to include street theater and the symbolic wheat pasting of 9,000 paper crosses around the city, in memory of the over 9,000 people murdered here since 2008.
The police response to the November 1st demonstration quickly transformed into a national scandal. Police beat and arrested 29 people, among them activists, their supporters, and journalists.
“They threw me on the ground and between 10 and 15 officers started to beat me,” said Gerardo Solís, a secondary school teacher who was arrested in front of the police station while demanding the names of the detained. He was jailed overnight with the others. “They jailed me with the rest of the compañeros, and inside [the police] told me they were going to disappear me, that they have assassins working for them, that they’re going to disappear me, that they already knew that I’m a teacher and where I work, and that they would go after me,” he said. (more…)