Dawn Paley

NACLA Roundtable on Drug War Capitalism

Posted in Guatemala, Mexico by dawn on 22/07/2016

Dear readers,

This month, NACLA Report on the Americas has dedicated a chunk of the issue “Currency of Death” to my book Drug War Capitalism. Here’s a snippet from the editorial:

Few texts have more powerfully unraveled the political economy of the drug wars than Dawn Paley’s 2014 tour de force, Drug War CapitalismWith unrelenting clarity Paley reveals just how extensively the war on drugs permeates Latin American politics and society —from Mexico to the Andes—resulting in ever more intrusive and exploitative forms of capitalist accumulation and dispossession. Paley’s argumentswhich she elaborates in conversation with sociologist William I. Robinson, journalist John Gibler, and Maya-K’iche’ scholar Gladys Tzul Tzul in the Report—are the centerpiece of this issue.

I invite you to take a look at the entire roundtable, which you can do by clicking here. WhatScreen Shot 2016-07-20 at 5.19.28 PM follows is my response to the texts written by Dr. William Robinson, journalist John Gibler and Dr. Gladys Tzul.

Response: Fear and Terror as Tools of Capital

On March 24, 2016, thousands of Argentines gathered in the Plaza de Mayo to remember the 40th anniversary of the 1976 military coup that ushered in a dictatorship of terror and torture. At the gathering, a statement written by organizations of family members of some of the 30,000 people who were disappeared in that period was read. The Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo, the Founding Group of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, the Family Members of People Detained and Disappeared for Political Reasons, and HIJOS-Buenos Aires wrote with unflinching political clarity about the true aims of the war in Argentina. “With systematic terror as its method, [the military] tried to impose an economic, political, social, and cultural plan of hunger and exclusion, using a recipe written by economic groups, the government of the United States, the upper echelon of the church, and the participation of the judiciary,” the statement reads.

The groups recalled their disappeared loved ones as parents, children, sisters, brothers, but also as activists working towards a country that was “great, just, and free.” Experiences of terror and disappearance in Argentina are understood to have been political, connected to the spread of authoritarian neoliberalism.

Less than two months later, on Mother’s Day, thousands of family members of the disappeared in Mexico marched for the fifth year in a row in the capital of Mexico City, displaying the names of some of the 27,000 people who have been officially recorded as disappeared since 2006. In Mexico, especially since the 2014 disappearance of 43 students from the Ayotzinapa Normal School in Guerrero, slogans at marches implicate the state in disappearances and call for loved ones to be returned alive: ¡Fue el estado! ¡Vivos se los llevaron, vivos los queremos! (It was the state! They were taken alive, we want them back alive!).

But unlike in Argentina, relatively few of the disappeared in Mexico were politically active or belonged to political organizations. Unlike in Argentina, there was no coup d’état, nor is there a military junta. Rather, in Mexico, there is a war on drugs. In the cities and rural areas that have been affected by this war, the impacts have been intense. But the political and economic interests behind the violence have largely been ignored, masked by drug war discourses, and because of the scale of the social emergency generated through state-directed terror. According to the International Institute for Strategic Studies, in 2014 Mexico had the third highest number of fatalities in armed conflict in the world, after Syria and Iraq, and a recent study found life expectancy in Mexico has fallen due to rising homicide rates.

(more…)

Advertisements

Obama’s Central American Rescue Plan Will Only Make Life There Worse

Posted in Guatemala, Honduras by dawn on 06/02/2015

This piece is a short explainer and critique on the recently announced Alliance for Prosperity in Central America, published yesterday with The New Republic.

February 5, 2015

When Americans began noticing a deluge of unaccompanied migrant children flooding to the U.S.-Mexico border, the immediate U.S. response was a stopgap. Youth were placed in shelters by the thousands, sometimes set up on military bases, which critics likened to detention centers and emergency hurricane shelters. Later, kids were placed with sponsors while their cases were processed.

Now, a longer-term response is taking shape. The Obama administration has recently jumped on board with the Alliance for Prosperity, a plan that touts development and peace for Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. It promises to address the violence that’s forcing children to flee in such Biblical numbers. Vice President Joe Biden’s op-ed in the New York Times last week confirmed that President Obama would ask Congress for $1 billion to fund the Alliance For Prosperity, a name that recalls JFK’s controversial Alliance for Progress. “Confronting these challenges,” Biden wrote, “requires nothing less than systemic change …”

But the essence of what the Alliance for Prosperity promises is that more of the samemore local spending on infrastructure to facilitate foreign investment, more corporate tax breaks and free trade zones and more regulatory harmonizationwill allow Central America to pull itself up by its bootstraps. And, yes, that outcome is as unlikely as it sounds. (more…)

Drug War Capitalism in 3 Minutes

Posted in Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico by dawn on 07/12/2014

Couple of updates linked to some media coverage of Drug War Capitalism. Screen Shot 2014-12-05 at 6.52.44 PM

The talented folks at AJ+ just put out a short video interview with me about recent events.

I can’t get it to embed here, but you can watch it on YouTube by clicking here.

I also did a Q&A with the folks at the UBC School of Journalism, where I studied before embarking on the book project.

Next week I go on tour on the east coast… Check here for details.

Recuerdos represivos: terror, insurgencia y la guerra del narco

Posted in Colombia, En español, Guatemala, Mexico by dawn on 14/01/2014

Aquí la traducción de un articulo que escribi por Occupied London el año pasado. Para ver más fotos, visita  la página de SubVersiones. Por Dawn Paley. Traducción: Nicolás Olucha Sánchez. Fotografías: Heriberto Paredes.

En 2010 y en 2011 varias granadas de mano explotaron en los ayuntamientos de Reynosa, Matamoros, Nuevo Laredo y Ciudad Victoria, cuatro localidades fronterizas mexicanas en el estado de Tamaulipas.

Autodefensas michoacanas. Fotografía: Heriberto Paredes Coronel

Autodefensas michoacanas. Fotografía: Heriberto Paredes Coronel

Se señaló al crimen organizado como autor de las explosiones, concretamente a miembros de los Zetas o del Cártel del Golfo. Visité la zona a comienzos de 2011, intentando averiguar qué podría estar conduciendo a grupos de delincuentes a enfrentarse a los gobiernos locales que, a efectos, están bajo su control.

Las piezas no comenzaron a encajar hasta que conocí a Francisco Chavira Martínez en 2011. La primera vez que quedamos propuso que fuéramos a comer a un restaurante de Reynosa conocido por sus huéspedes de altos vuelos. Camareros con esmoquin a lo pingüino iban y venían con bandejas mientras las demás mesas estaban, en su mayoría, ocupadas por hombres mayores. Chavira hablaba en voz alta y sin miedo. Entrevisté al menos a doce personas más, pero Chavira fue el único de todos los entrevistados que permitió que su nombre real fuera utilizado.

Los gobiernos locales “utilizan lo que es los roba-carros para todo aquel que esta en contra de ellos, les mandan a robar su carro, los ladrones de casa, los ladrones domiciliarios que le llaman, entran a robar tu casa para espantarte, los narcotraficantes, que los utilizan ellos como una forma de que la gente tenga miedo, para que no participes, para que no alces la voz, para que no estés en contra del gobierno, incluso se mandan ellos mismos a tirar granadas a las presidencias municipales”, relató Chavira.[1]

Quizá vio mi incredulidad reflejada en el rostro. Todavía no había captado la mecánica del terror y los intereses a los que sirve. “¿Por qué?” Se preguntó a sí mismo, para hacer una pausa acto seguido. “Para que la gente se asuste y no vaya a exigir a la presidencia, ni exijas transparencia de las cuentas publicas, en qué se gastan el dinero, por que si no, si lo hago, me van a matar, me van a meter una granada.” Meses después de nuestra entrevista, Chavira, candidato del Partido Revolucionario Democrático (RPD), presuntamente de carácter izquierdista, fue arrestado bajo falsas acusaciones y encarcelado hasta que pasaron las elecciones, un episodio que él describió como un “secuestro legalizado” por parte del Estado.

La segunda vez que me reuní con Chavira fue dos años después, en 2013. Nos encontramos casualmente frente a la puerta de la embajada estadounidense en México D. F. en una manifestación organizada por familiares y amigos de migrantes que trabajan en los Estados Unidos sin papeles. Nos dirigimos a una cafetería cercana y le hice una pequeña entrevista. Mientras íbamos de camino se maravillaba de poder caminar tranquilamente por la calle sin miedo, algo impensable en su ciudad de origen.

Las palabras que Chavira me brindó en aquel encuentro requieren una pequeña introducción. La versión oficial de la guerra del narco o guerra contra las drogas, la cual, los gobiernos y los medios de comunicación no paran de repetir una y otra vez, es que la guerra que hay en México es entre los malos (los traficantes de drogas) y los buenos (la policía y el ejército, que cuentan con el apoyo de Estados Unidos, Canadá y países de la Unión Europea). Según esta versión de los hechos, los “malos” siguen la siguiente estructura jerárquica: en lo alto de la pirámide están los capos o señores de la droga, luego vienen los generales o jefes de seguridad, los cuales protegen al jefe y sus zonas; después vienen los jefes de plaza, jefes locales que se encargan de una zona fronteriza en particular o de una zona de distribución concreta.

Esta versión (que es la principal) es lo que yo llamo el discurso sobre la guerra entre cárteles. Este discurso posee unos rasgos reseñables: confianza casi exclusiva en las fuentes de información gubernamentales y/o estatales, creencia en que todos son culpables hasta que se demuestre lo contrario y que hay víctimas que se ven envueltas en tráfico de drogas y una amplia percepción de que los policías implicados en actividades delictivas son la excepción y no la norma, y que más presencia policial aumenta la seguridad.[2]

Hace algo más de dos años que comencé a informar e investigar sobre las diferentes facetas de la transformación que vive México, que en mi opinión es una especie de contrarrevolución y una prolongación del Tratado de Libre Comercio de América del Norte que se lleva a cabo mediante un intenso proceso de militarización. Una vez que uno analiza las consecuencias sociales y económicas de la “guerra del narco”, las versiones oficiales de lo que sucede dejan de tener sentido casi por completo. Dichas versiones tratan de oscurecer la dinámica real en lugar de arrojar luz. Lo que aprendo de gente como Chavira es lo que me permite conocer lo que realmente sucede en este México en guerra. (more…)

Genocide on Trial

Posted in Guatemala by dawn on 07/12/2013

Here’s a piece I co-wrote this summer with my dear friend and super talented researcher and journalist Sandra Cuffe. It is in the November/December issue of Canadian Dimension magazine. Image by James Rodríguez.

People began lining up even before the sun rose over the mountain ridge, quietly waiting their turn at a makeshift desk outside a home of wood and earth. One by one, relatives of the dead come forward.Image by James Rodríguez.

Brother. Uncle. Father. Nephew. Grandfather. Cousin. Son. Do you know where their bodies are? Estrella Polar. North Star. All the men were rounded up in the church, executed, and dumped in a mass grave in the plantation.

Ten years ago, representatives from the National Coordination of Widows of Guatemala (CONAVIGUA) visited the Communities of Population in Resistance (CPR) of the Sierra, gathering information from family members of Indigenous civilians killed by military and paramilitary forces in the 1980s. It’s seven hours of bus and pick-up rides from Guatemala City to the end of the road in the municipality of San Gaspar Chajul, department of El Quiché, and an even longer hike to CPR communities further up into the Cuchumatanes, leaving the shrill hum of insects behind.

Three years after CONAVIGUA collected testimonies in the community, the remains of 86 people were exhumed from a mass grave in the Estrella Polar plantation. The massacre took place on March 24, 1982, one day after the coup d’état that began Efraín Ríos Montt’s brutal regime in Guatemala.

Two hundred thousand people were murdered in Guatemala during a 36-year war that ended in 1996. For the first time in the Americas, this spring the domestic court system and national legislation were used to try former state officials for war crimes. But Guatemala is far from the only place in the Americas where Indigenous people have endured and survived genocide. In Canada, too, Indigenous people continue to battle state policies which strip them of their land, decimate their traditional leadership and attempt to destroy their languages and identities. This article offers a preliminary look at a question the Canadian media has carefully ignored: could Guatemala’s trial open new possibilities for Indigenous peoples to seek justice in Canada? (more…)

Repressive Memories: terror, insurgency, and the drug war

Posted in Colombia, Guatemala, Mexico by dawn on 27/10/2013

Here’s a short essay I wrote for Occupied London’s fifth issue

Repressive Memories: terror, insurgency, and the drug warpolicebrutality

Published October 24, 2013

In 2010 and 2011, grenades exploded at city hall buildings in Reynosa, Matamoros, Nuevo Laredo and Ciudad Victoria, four cities in the Mexican border state of Tamaulipas.

Organized crime was blamed for the explosions, particularly members of the Zetas or of the Gulf Cartel. I visited the region in early 2011, at a loss for what could be driving criminal groups to fight against local governments that are, for all intents and purposes, under their control.

It wasn’t until I met Francisco Chavira Martínez in early 2011 that things began to become clear. The first time we met, he suggested we eat together at the back of a Reynosa restaurant that caters to well-heeled locals. Waiters dressed like penguins bowed in and out, while other tables were occupied mostly by older men. Chavira spoke loudly, unafraid. He was the only person out of over a dozen I interviewed in the city who agreed to let me use his real name.

Local governments “use car thieves to steal the cars of anyone who opposes them; house thieves who will rob your house to frighten you; narcotraffickers, who they use as a way to create fear in the people, so that you don’t participate, so that you don’t raise your voice or go against the government; they even send their own to throw grenades at city halls,” Chavira explained.1

Maybe he noticed the quizzical look on my face. I didn’t yet grasp how terror works, and the purposes it serves. “Why?” he asked himself, pausing for a moment. “So that the people are scared and don’t go to City Hall to make demands; they won’t go and demand that public accounts be transparent, or [ask] what the money is being spent on.” Months after our interview, Chavira, a candidate for the left-leaning Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD), was arrested on trumped up charges and held in jail until after the elections, in what he referred to as a “legalised kidnapping” by the state.

The second time I met with Chavira was two years later, in early 2013. We ran into each other in front of the US embassy in Mexico City at a demonstration organized by families and friends of people who are working without papers in the US. I took him to a nearby café where we did a short interview. While we walked he marveled at how wonderful it felt to be able to walk down the street without fear, something no longer possible in his hometown.

Chavira’s comments to me that afternoon need some introduction. (more…)

Report Dubs Mexico “A Graveyard for Migrants”

Posted in Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico by dawn on 04/06/2013

I had the chance to participate in an Observation Mission looking at the situation for Central American migrants traveling through southeast Mexico during the last week in May. I’ve written two pieces from the trip, the first, titled “Mexico: Risking Everything to Migrate North” is a look at an attack on migrants that took place in Veracruz on May 1st of this year. The second is below. More soon…

Dawn

Report Dubs Mexico “A Graveyard for Migrants”

A young man climbs back on the train after stocking up on water and soda. Tancochapa Station, Las Choapas, Veracruz. Photo by Dawn Paley.

A young man climbs back on the train after stocking up on water and soda. Tancochapa Station, Las Choapas, Veracruz. Photo by Dawn Paley.

CIP Americas Program, May 4, 2013

One of the women lay face up, her torso cutting a diagonal line across the railway track. The other lay face down, her right leg splayed over the same track at the thigh. Both wore reddish tank tops and pants that went down just below the knee. A police officer with an automatic weapon watched over the bodies.

It was far too late to do anything to help. Little yellow numbers, from one to six, were placed on each piece of ballistic evidence, grim reminders of how Mexico is refashioning its police after the US model.

According to local media, the women were murdered by stab and bullet wounds in the late afternoon on May 30. A preliminary report suggests they refused to pay the quota charged by a criminal group after climbing up on the train. Their bodies were found later that same day just north of the Mexican tourist town of Palenque, in Chiapas.

Both women were from Honduras–Mexicans don’t risk traveling on cargo trains when they migrate through their country toward the United States. Most Central Americans traveling through Mexico do so as undocumented migrants. This means they are not afforded the right to free movement.

If they board a bus, undocumented migrants in Mexico can be pulled off and deported by soldiers at numerous checkpoints dotting northern-bound highways. Without paperwork, they can’t make it past the airport service counter. Thus, the train remains the most accessible means of transport for Hondurans, Guatemalans, Salvadorans, Nicaraguans, and others who hope against hope they’ll make to the US and find employment.

The double murder on the train tracks in Chiapas took place on the heels of an Observation Mission into the conditions of migrants in southern Mexico, coordinated by the Mesoamerican Migration Movement. The Mission, led by activists and members of the Catholic Church as well as journalists based in Veracruz and Mexico, made its way from Orizaba, in Veracruz state, to Tenosique, a municipality in Tabasco state, which borders Guatemala. (more…)

Communities in the Crosshairs: The Drug War in Guatemala

Posted in Guatemala, Mexico, Mining by dawn on 21/12/2012

I recently produced a 29 minute radio documentary titled “Communities in the Crosshairs: The Drug War in Guatemala” for Free Speech Radio News, which will air in the US on December 25, 2012. Click here to listen to the audio version online. Big thanks to Shannon Young and the team at FSRN for their help with editing, production and tech. The music you hear in the documentary is from “Time for Marimba” [Minoru Miki], performed by DHernDniz. I hope to have a Spanish version of the documentary ready in the new year.

A transcript of the documentary is available after the jump, just click the “more” button to the right. (more…)

Strategies of a New Cold War: US Marines and the Drug War in Guatemala

Posted in Guatemala, Mexico, Mining by dawn on 18/12/2012

Here’s a piece I prepared for Toward Freedom recently. The Spanish version is forthcoming.

Strategies of a New Cold War: US Marines and the Drug War in Guatemala

GUATEMALA CITY—The news broke in the United States during the lazy summer days of late August: 200 US Marines were stationed in Guatemala as part of the war on drugs.[1] The deployment of US combat troops to Guatemala was part of Operation Martillo, a military plan meant to disrupt cocaine trafficking routes that pass through Central America on their way from Colombia to the United States.

Fighting organized crime and drug trafficking is the most recent justification for US incursions in Guatemala, also

US Huey Heli Crew takes off from Santa Elena, Peten as part of Op Martillo. Photo: US Southcom.

US Huey Heli Crew takes off from Santa Elena, Peten as part of Op Martillo. Photo: US Southcom.

serving to justify the increased activity of Guatemalan military around the country. This militarization is taking place in areas where there are fierce social and land conflicts related to the imposition of mega-resource extraction projects, such as in mining and oil industries. In addition, communities that resist displacement and the extractive industries have been tarred with accusations that they are involved in the organized crime; in some cases entire peasant villages have even been labeled “narco-communities.”

“We have the sense that [fighting narcotrafficking] is a pretext to return to the level of military deployment that was maintained during the height of the armed conflict, which resulted in acts of genocide,” said Iduvina Hernandez Batres, of the Guatemala City-based NGO Security and Democracy (Sedem). The Guatemalan Army, which is still formally ineligible for receiving US military assistance, was responsible for the vast majority of the 200,000 killed and the 50,000 disappeared during the internal armed conflict, which officially ended in 1996.

The Guatemalan army was called upon “to put an end to the external threats and contribute to neutralizing illegal armed groups by means of military power,” by Guatemalan President Otto Pérez Molina the day after his inauguration in January 2012.[2] Pérez Molina, a former General and head of army intelligence, also promised to increase military spending. So far, he has kept his promise. According to Plaza Publica, a Guatemalan investigative journalism outlet, projected spending on military and security equipment in 2013 alone will surpass all such spending between 2004 and 2012.[3]

The arrival of US Marines in Guatemala represents more than a military maneuver to disrupt drug trafficking. It demonstrates that in allied countries like Guatemala, the US can champion a military invasion under the discourse of the war on drugs with little fanfare or criticism. The deployment of US troops to Guatemala is arguably the most blatant example of an evolving strategy that the US military establishment is betting on in order to expand and exercise control in the hemisphere, all within an international framework of formal democracy and law and order. (more…)

CREOMPAZ : La petite « École des Amériques » du Guatemala

Posted in Guatemala by dawn on 07/12/2012

Merci a Estelle et Carlos Debiasi de El Correo pour leur traduction de CREOMPAZ: Guatemala’s ‘Little School of the Americas’ aux français!

+

COBAN, GUATEMALA—Depuis février, les anthropologues légistes ont trouvé prés de 400 restes humains dans une base militaireImage by James Rodríguez dans le Cobán, au Guatemala, dans ce qui est rapidement devenu la découverte de l’une des plus grandes fosses communes clandestines du pays. Pendant le conflit armé qui a saigné le pays pendant 36 ans et qui fut la scène d’actes génocidaires, la base de Cobán fut utilisée comme centre de renseignement pour la coordination d’opérations militaires.

Mais ce qui semble extraordinaire dans le cas en question, c’ est que la base militaire continue d’ être encore active aujourd’hui : Des effectifs militaires et policiers étrangers se rendent régulièrement à la base pour entraîner des troupes du Guatemala, Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras et de la République Dominicaine. (« Groupe de travail pour la stabilisation et la reconstruction ») En 2006, la zone militaire de Cobán a été rebaptisée avec le nom de CREOMPAZ, sigle pour« Comando Regional de Entrenamiento de Operaciones de Mantenimiento de Paz » (Commando Régional d’Entraînement d’Opérations de Maintien de Paix en espagnol).

L’histoire terrifiante de la base militaire de Cobán au Guatemala et l’impunité face à l’extermination d’hommes, femmes et d’enfants déploie une toile de fond inquiétante pour les « Opérations de paix » actuellement. (more…)