Civilians call for Prison Reform in Nuevo Léon

09/24/20 (written by mlopez) – Nuevo Léon’s penal system has been facing critique as the protocols and adherence of inmate rights are being questioned by locals and authorities. The prison system in Mexico has long had its issues with overcrowding and gang violence, as well as recent complications with COVID-19. These factors are making the cells inhabitable for Nuevo Léon’s inmates. Families of the detained are now calling for a fair and impartial investigation into these prison environments. 

In September 2020,  two respected human rights watch group organizations — Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the Ciudadanos en Apoyo a Los Derechos Humanos (CADHAC) — co-authored a letter demanding the investigation into the suspicious deaths of three inmates. HRW’s Jose Miguel Vivanco and CADHAC’s Hermana Consuelo Gonzales addressed the letter to Nuevo Leon’s governor, JRC, “El Bronco.” In it, they ask for clarity on the prisons Apodaca 1 and 2.

In these jails, there are allegations of gang violence and corrupt payoffs, unsafe and unhygienic social distancing and safety guidelines pertaining to COVID-19, and a lack of medicinal support for any COVID-19 cases. The three deaths mentioned in the letter by HRW and CADHAC add to the complaints made by other inmates’ families and have raised suspicion among the public. The first involved Estanislao Aguilera Escamilla, who died of electrocution on July 14, within a day of being detained. The second victim was Modesto Martínez de la Cruz who died of pneumonia on July 24, within three days of being detained. Just two weeks later, Óscar Hugo de León Martínez was also found dead after having allegedly committed suicide. HRW and CADHAC are urging Governor Rodríguez Calderón to take action in these prisons and to protect prisoners’ rights.

Nuevo Léon’s prisons

One of the nine banners hung in Monterrey, NL’s plaza. The banner directly calls for the governor to look into these two commanders who allegedly protected an inmate for the sake of being hostile to other prisoners and to trafficking drugs. Photo: Especial

The prisons themselves have been harshly critiqued by authorities and by the families of inmates. El Norte’s Christian Lara reported on the display of mantas (banners) in Monterrey Plaza. This public display was an attempt to bring the conditions of the prisons to the forefront of the issues that Nuevo Léon is facing. These issues include penitentiaries that are overcrowded, influenced by gang activity, and unsanitary. Overcrowded prisons have a low guard to inmate ratio, there is supposed to be 1 guard per 3 inmates, yet realistically there is one guard per every 5.91 prisoners. Due to this imbalance of guards, riots and gang violence persist through the detention centers. Two notorious such riots were those of Topo Chico in 2012 and 2016. While authorities have promoted cutting the lifeline of gangs in detention facilities, there are still allegations of families having to pay off gang leadership in prisons to protect their families that are incarcerated. Carlos Jáuregui, former public security secretary, stated, “the problem is that the majority of Mexican prisons are out of control. They are run by organized crime and the prisoners themselves.”

Shutting down of Topo Chico

The 2016 closure of Topo Chico, in Monterrey, Nuevo León, was in response to how inoperable the facility was and due to all the violence that erupted in this facility. Its closure meant the relocation of 2,000 inmates to Apodaca 1 and Cadereyta with the caveat that they would be under surveillance. Some lawyers saw this move as dangerous as it would be a mezcla — or mix — of gang leadership, which could result in more violence. Many inmates have detailed that certain cartels and gangs controlled various aspects of Topo Chico, signifying the prison officials were out of the loop. Yet, Carlos Martín Sánchez Bocanegra, Director of prison reform group Renace, claimed Topo Chico was primarily shut down because it no longer met national standards, citing a shortage of custodians. Meanwhile, others claim that it was the prison’s infrastructure that posed a threat to the guards, visitors, and inmates. 

Topo Chico was the home to the largest penal massacre due to gang violence between Zetas and the Gulf Cartel, two of the most notorious organized crime groups in Mexico. This resulted in 49 dead and the escape of 37 gang leaders. Nevertheless, despite the massacre, the Zetas and the Gulf Cartel were still believed to have had influence within the prison. Governor Rodríguez Calderón responded to these prison riots saying “The self-governance (of prisons) will not return because we made the decision: no more extortion of prisoners, of depriving people’s liberties, to their families that have lost heritage as well as tranquility. Imagining and building are what is best. I imagine that Nuevo Léon will recover its happiness.” [author’s own translation]

COVID-19 as a new factor in prisons

The latest challenge to the livelihoods of prisons is the novel coronavirus. Although Governor Rodríguez Calderón encouraged all of the state’s businesses to implement the proper guidelines to reduce the virus’ spread, prisons have fallen through the crack with reports of minimal social distancing measures in place.  In fact, 37% of Mexico’s detention facilities report having overcrowded cells. “Our main aim is to depressurize the prisons in the face of the overpopulation we have,” Maribel Cervantes, the security secretary for Ciudad de Mexico, told EFE. She further highlights that the state’s prisons are designed to house 13,500 inmates but currently contain 31,000 prisoners. With the lack of COVID preventative measures, there is also a lack of proper testing for inmates. Citizens in Monterrey Plaza called for intervention from “El Bronco” by means of the banners they displayed in May of this year. Since then, prisons reportedly have had 100 cases of Covid-19, 79 suspected cases, nine deaths, and three riots linked to the virus since the outbreak of the pandemic according to Mexico’s National Commission for Human Rights (Comisión Nacional de Los Derechos Humanos, CNDH).

There has yet to be a response from “El Bronco” on this specific letter from the HRW and CADHAC. However, Mexico has responded to the inefficient health measures in prisons by asking the judicial branch to release at least 380 prisoners who are serving under five-year sentences or are chronically ill to minimize the crowding in prisons. Penitentiaries are notorious for having substandard living conditions, yet Mexico has been attempting to rebrand the prisons in the country. The 2016 reform of Article 18 in the Mexican Constitution, for example, further defines the mission of detention centers as a resocialization effort to promote work, education, sport, health, and basic human rights. The overcrowding, lack of gang control, and inefficient prevention of disease present serious challenges to upholding this mission.

Sources: 

Malkin, Elisabeth. “At Least 49 Inmates Killed in Mexican Prison Riot,” New York Times. February 6, 2016.

Barrios, Adrián Franco. “En Numeros: Características de la población privada de la libertad en México,” Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Geografía. March 2018. 

“Nuevo Léon opens its doors to reveal 76 years of history,” Mexico News daily. September 2019.

Carrizales, David. “Topo Chico Cierra Penal Incontrolable,” El Universal. September 9, 2019.

Campos Garza, Luciana. “Termina la era de Topo Chico, uno de los capítulos más oscuros del sistema penal,” Proceso. September 30, 2019. 

I Admetlla, Eduard Ribas. “Mexican Prisoners at serious risk for COVID-19,” La Prensa Latina. May 14, 2020. 

Lara, Christian. “Aparecen mantas; reportan ‘abusos’ en penales,” El Norte. May 24, 2020. 

Vivanco, José Miguel. “Letter to the Governor of Nuevo León regarding abuses in state prisons,” Humans Right Watch. September 2, 2020.

Feminist movement occupies human rights facilities

09/22/20 (written by vrice)—While rising feminist protests in Mexico during the early months of 2020 were hampered by the coronavirus pandemic, feminist collectives have begun mobilizing again by occupying two nationally-recognized human rights facilities. Mexico possesses the highest number of femicides per capita in Latin America. In the wake of a 60% uptick in domestic violence cases during the pandemic lockdown, Mexican women’s call for justice has taken on increased urgency.

Occupation of the CNDH

Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission (Comisión Nacional de Derechos Humanos, CNDH) is headquartered in Mexico City. Since Thursday, September 3, these headquarters have been occupied by feminist collectives Frente Nacional Ni Una Menos (National Front Not One (Woman) Less) and Aequus, Promoción y Defensa de los Derechos Humanos (Equal, Promotion and Defense of Human Rights). Occupiers demand greater government action to protect against and investigate increasing cases of violence against women. The collectives have turned the headquarters into a shelter for those facing gender-based violence, equipped with medical and legal professionals who have served about 100 women in the first week of September.

Occupation of the CODHEM

On September 10, in solidarity with the CNDH occupation, feminist collectives occupied the headquarters of the Human Rights Comission for the State of Mexico (Comisión de Derechos Humanos del Estado de México, CODHEM) in the municipality of Ecatepec. The collectives said that they were given CODHEM’s permission to peacefully occupy the office and cited motives akin to those of occupiers in the CNDH. Mexican state authorities have been accused of excessive force in their removal of occupiers, during which they detained 11 women, two men, and multiple minors. A few hours after the arrestees’ release on September 11, protestors set fire to and spray painted the CODHEM office to rebuke the police’s violent arrest and removal of occupiers.

Feminist activists outside the CNDH announcing the auction (“subasta”) of the altered Francisco Madero painting denounced by AMLO. Photo: El Universal.

Responses could suggest growing solidarity

In response to the CNDH occupation, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) said that he respects the just demand presented by the collectives. Although, AMLO maintained that he condemns violence and occupiers who spray painted walls and painted on a portrait of Mexican revolutionary and former president Francisco I. Madero. The president denounced the latter acts as vandalism. Akin to AMLO’s call for nonviolence, Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum emphasized in a press conference that the fight must be peaceful, citing rights to freedom of expression and to protest. The CNDH has also weighed in, maintaining that the organization has no intention to file charges against occupiers and even offering the feminist collectives a different building from which to continue conducting work to combat gender-based violence. The president of the CNDH, Rosario Piedra Ibarra—whose resignation the collectives have requested—affirmed that she is on the side of victims and that the occupiers are not the enemy that needs to be defeated; rather, she called for dialogue. Yesenia Zamudio, one of the Ni Una Menos collective leaders, expressed to El Universal that government officials were less equipped than occupiers to run the CNDH offices.

Meanwhile, the police removal of the CODHEM office occupiers was denounced via Twitter by the State of Mexico’s Governor, Alfredo Del Mazo Maza. The governor also shared that he instructed two officials (including the State of Mexico’s Secretary of Justice and Human Rights, Rodrigo Espeleta) to support the women and safeguard their rights. The State of Mexico’s Attorney General’s Office (Fiscalía General de Justicia del Estado de México, FGJEM) released a statement denying the use of excessive force and stating that individuals had been detained on charges of illegally occupying a public service building. Similar to the CNDH case, the FGJEM maintained that it will not pursue criminal charges against the occupiers. CODHEM expressed that it was on the side of the feminist movement and stands with victims of violence and femicide, parallel with the sentiments of Pierda regarding the CNDH’s occupation. However, hours later when protestors set fire to the office, CODHEM released a tweet condemning these acts as hindering efforts to protect human rights in the State of Mexico. In a press conference on September 11, AMLO asserted that he had not been briefed on the feminist occupiers’ removal. He then requested that the occurrences be investigated and the women be protected from harm.  

Police officers used fire extinguishers to disperse protestors who demanded the release of detained CODHEM occupiers. Photo: El País.
Police officers used fire extinguishers to disperse protestors who demanded the release of detained CODHEM occupiers. Photo: El País.

Significance of occupation locations and the larger pattern of mobilization

Various catalyzing events for the Mexican feminist movement have taken place in Mexico City (Ciudad de México, CDMX), the nation’s capital. Public demonstrations erupted after the rape of a 17-year-old girl by four police men in a patrol car in 2019 and the murders of 25-year-old Ingrid Escamilla and 7-year-old Fatima Cecelia Aldrighett Anton in 2020. The murders of Escamilla and Aldrighett occurred a few weeks before International Women’s Day on March 8, and led to the greatest turnout in such a march in Mexico’s history. 

 The CNDH headquarters are located in Mexico City. In 2019, Mexico City saw the greatest number of registered sex crimes for any city across Mexico with 6,507—nearly 13% of the national total. This type of crime includes but is not limited to sexual abuse, rape, and varying forms of sexual assault. In the same year, the city also registered the nation’s third highest number of femicides at 71. The CODHEM office, meanwhile, is located in the State of Mexico, which also saw 123 cases of femicide in 2019. These rates make it the state with the second highest cases in all of Mexico. Moreover, in 2019, Ecatepec the municipality where the CODHEM office is located, registered the highest number of cases of intentional injury (5,392), the most cases of extortion (296), and the second most robberies (25,168) in the country. The threatening environments for women in CDMX and Ecatepec may explain parallel demands of CNDH and CODHEM occupiers for the government to more actively address gender-based violence.  

The CNDH and CODHEM occupations are not isolated incidents. In fact, over the last two weeks in solidarity with Ni Una Más, feminist collectives have also symbolically occupied local human rights commissions in Aguascalientes, Michoacán, Puebla, Tabasco, and Veracruz. The violent removal of occupiers in Ecatepec is part of a pattern of police behavior in which feminist demonstrations are met with violence. For example, police violently ended a march in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua against police brutality last week and arrested 28 women. Furthermore, an August manifestation against sexual assault in León, Guanajuato ended in the arrests of various women, who reported sexual assault against the officers who detained them.

Feminists have grown increasingly aggravated as the threat of gender-based violence continues to rise in Mexico. Data from the Mexican National Public Security System (Sistema Nacional de Seguridad Pública, SNSP) shows 2019 was the most violent year on record for women, and just this August the country registered the highest monthly total for femicides in Mexican history. Statistics from El Sol Mexico estimated that two-thirds of women over 15 years of age in Mexico would be forced to quarantine with a violent partner due to the coronavirus outbreak. Moreover, during the first three weeks after stay at home orders were issued at the end of March, violence against women surged by 30-100%, according to approximates by Mexican authorities. For more resources and statistics, visit Justice in Mexico’s recent blog post examining violence against women during the COVID-19 lockdown here.

Sources

Fernández, Emilio. “Fiscalía no ejercerá acción penal contra mujeres que tomaron Codhem.” El Universal, Sept. 15, 2020. 

“Protesters continue to occupy human rights office; director says she’s a victim too.” Mexico News Daily, Sept. 15, 2020. 

Fernanda Navarro, María. “Crisis de derechos humanos no la puede resolver solo la CNDH: Rosario Piedra.” Forbes México, Sept. 14, 2020.

Velasco, Ángeles. “Vandalizan oficinas de la Codhem en Ecatepec.” Excélsior, Sept. 12, 2020.

Barragán, Almudena and Pablo Ferri. “El desalojo de una protesta feminista dispara las críticas contra la Fiscalía del Estado de México.” El País, Sept. 11, 2020.

Comisión de Derechos Humanos del Estado de México (@CODHEM) “Condenamos los actos de que fueron objeto las instalaciones y bienes de la Visitaduría General en #Ecatepec; un daño severo al patrimonio de las y los mexiquenses, que impacta el servicio de protección, promoción y defensa de los #DDHH en 15 municipios esa zona del #Edoméx.” Sept. 11, 2020, 5:38 PM.

Del Mazo Maza, Alfredo (@alfredodelmazo). “El Gobierno del Estado de México reprueba las acciones llevadas a cabo por la @fiscaliaEdomex en contra de las mujeres que se manifestaron en la @CODHEM. He dado la instrucción para que Melissa Vargas titular del 

@CEMYBSedomex y Rodrigo Espeleta, Secretario de Justicia y Derechos Humanos, apoyen a las mujeres para salvaguardar plenamente su integridad y sus derechos.” Sept. 11, 2020, 8:11 AM. Tweet. 

“Policías agreden y detienen a mujeres que tomaron sede de la CODHEM en Ecatepec.” Animal Político, Sept. 11, 2020. 

Villa y Caña, Pedro and Alberto Morales. “AMLO pide investigar desalojo de mujeres en sede de la CODHEM.” El Universal, Sept. 11, 2020.

“CNDH acepta pliego petitorio de feministas.” La Jornada, Sept.10, 2020. 

Comisión de Derechos Humanos del Estado de México (@CODHEM). “La #CODHEM está del lado del movimiento feminista, apoya a víctimas de violencia y feminicidio; la #CODHEM es aliada no enemiga.” Sept. 10, 2020, 10:14 PM.

Ortiz, Alexis et al. “Feminist activists occupy government building, demand justice for victims of gender-based violence.” El Universal, Sept. 10, 2020. 

“Familiares de víctimas exigen renuncia de Rosario Piedra Ibarra; ella pide diálogo.” Milenio, Sept. 8, 2020.

Ferri, Pablo. “La toma de la Comisión de Derechos Humanos de México exhibe las carencias en la ayuda a las víctimas.” El País, Sept. 7, 2020.

Méndez, Enrique and Alonso Urrutia. “Rechaza AMLO “vandalismo” en la CNDH.” La Jornada, Sept. 7, 2020.

Ortiz, Alex. “Convierten CNDH en albergue.” El Universal, Sept. 7, 2020. 

“‘Lucha debe ser pacífica’ recomienda Sheinbaum a feministas que tomaron la CNDH.” El Heraldo de México, Sept. 5, 2020.

Laura Calderon et al. “Organized Crime and Violence in Mexico: 2020 Special Report.” Justice in Mexico, July 31, 2020.

Alcántara, Margarita. “Violencia Doméstica Contra La Mujer Aumenta 60% En México Durante La Pandemia.” Forbes México, July 17, 2020. 

“International Women’s Day and #ADayWithoutUs.” Justice in Mexico, July 2, 2020.

“Domestic Violence in Mexico During COVID-19.” Justice in Mexico, June 16, 2020. 

“Women Voice Ire, Fear as Femicides Continue to Rise in Mexico.” Justice in Mexico, March 10, 2020. 

“80,000 participate in Women’s Day march in CDMX against gender violence.” Mexico News Daily, March 9, 2020. 

Galván, Melissa. “2019, El Año En Que La ‘Ola Feminista’ Sacudió a México.” Expansion Política, Dec. 28, 2019. 

Increased indigenous displacement within Mexico and its connections to mining operations in Guerrero

08/28/20 (written by cmurray)

Indigenous Displacement in Mexico

Over the past decade, as violent crime continues to rise in Mexico, large numbers of individuals have become victims of internal displacement with 7,100 new displacements being recorded between January 1 and December 31, 2019. Many of the reported displacements have been the result of land disputes, initiated by private companies and enforced by organized crime groups (OCGs) eager to mine precious metals within Mexico. The Mexican Commission for the Defense and Promotion of Human Rights (Comisión Mexicana de Defensa y Promoción de los Derechos Humanos, CMDPDH) estimates that 310,527 individuals have been victims of internal displacement within Mexico between 2009 and January of 2017. Subsequent data released by the CMDPDH states that an additional 20,000 people within Mexico had been displaced in 2017, with 60% of them being indigenous peoples (Minority Rights). As of December 31, 2019, the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre recorded that the total number of internally-displaced individuals in Mexico rose to 345,000. 

Escalating Tensions within Guerrero 

Indigenous displacement has become a pressing issue in the state of Guerrero, with an estimated 9,000 inhabitants having fled their homes between 2017 and 2018. This massive dispersal of individuals spans across 37 towns in 11 municipalities and has been attributed to an increased presence of organized crime within the state. According to Manuel Olivares, the Director of the José María Morelos y Pavón Regional Center for the Defense of Human Rights in Guerrero (Centro Regional de Derechos Humanos “José María Morelos y Pavón”), this phenomenon of indigenous displacement has been taking place since 2011 but has escalated in the past several years. Olivares also states that mining companies eager to conduct business in Guerrero ally themselves with OCGs as a way to assure their presence within the region. Moreover, OCGs  have learned that a more diversified revenue stream can bolster their regional control, with many of them claiming that mining has replaced heroin in the fight for power. Although the mining companies pay the local communities, the residual environment becomes uninhabitable as a result of the harmful emissions and pollutants. 

The Case of Carrizalillo

The community of Carrizalillo, located in the center of Guerrero, is situated in a region abundant with precious metals and became a major mining hub in 2003 after private companies were allowed temporary rights to the land. In 2006, corporations began mining at “El Bermejal” and the various chemicals used for gold extraction, such as sodium cyanide, began negatively affecting the surrounding environment as well as the 252 families living in the area. Tensions began to rise when the Carrizalillo residents realized that the land had been purchased illegally under agrarian law. The Unitary Agrarian Tribunal (Tribunal Unitario Agrario, TUA) issued a ruling upholding agrarian law and stated that the company was required to pay for the restoration of lands in addition to offering better agreement terms. In 2012, a community census was conducted by local health officials who stated that at least one member of every family had symptoms of one or more diseases related to mineral extraction (Environmental Justice Atlas). The village was diligent in documenting illness in accordance with the protocol set forth by the Mexican Network of People Affected by Mining and the Mesoamerican Movement against the Mining Extractive Model (Red Mexicana de Afectadas y Afectados por la Minería y el Movimiento Mesoamericano contra el Modelo extractivo Minero, M4). The main water basin within Carrizalillo, occupying around 77.4% of the territory, was destroyed and caused 80% of the families to show signs of skin damage. Despite the indigenous community gaining control of the territorial lease and stipulations, there has been irreparable damage done within the region. Between 2011 and 2019, a total of 55 community members have been murdered as a result of various violent attacks, a majority of which were carried out by organized crime groups in the region. 

A Current Reality

Torex Gold Resources Inc, a Canadian mining company that has been operating in Guerrero under its subsidiary Media Luna Mine (Minera Media Luna S.A. de C.V.) since 2010, has been cited as having evaded many of the protective laws in place for indigenous peoples throughout the years. The community of La Fundición has faced continued persecution from groups like the Confederation of Mexican Workers (Confederación de Trabajadores Mexicanos, CMT) and other OCGs openly in favor of the mining company. One hundred and seventy families from the communities of La Fundición and Real del Limón were displaced after false land titles were used to strip the residents of their land rights. Further claims against Torex Gold Resources state that the Autonomous University of Guerrero (Universidad Autónoma de Guerrero, UAGro) manipulated data relating to contamination figures, as the university has previously received funds from the company. On May 12, Óscar Ontiveros Martínez, a miner in opposition of the Media Luna Mining Company was killed by an armed group in Real de Limón. The Business and Human Rights Resource Centre stated that this was the fourth individual who worked with or in the mine since 2017. The company released a statement in response to the four murders and denied any involvement in the crimes while also restating that as a company their protection of human rights remains paramount. 

An Uncertain Future

There are various organizations like the CMDPDH and the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre that condemn the continued persecution and violent displacement of indigenous communities throughout Mexico. However, government officials have been reticent about combating this phenomenon and OCGs continue to wage violence in an effort to advance their organizational interests. One certainty is that there are insufficient protections available to indigenous persons facing the threat of displacement and their safety has become contingent on the outcomes of the disputes emerging around them. Since the emergence of COVID-19, many cartels have become emboldened and are targeting mining facilities due to their current vulnerability. The Alamos Gold’s Mulatos mine, located in Sonora, reported on April 8 that armed criminals stole gold bars from the facility, estimated to be around $3 million dollars. A predicted decrease in drug trade revenues has forced organized crime groups to shift their sights towards metal and mineral mining facilities, as they are seen as easy targets. Much is yet to be determined as mining facilities and their surrounding communities, like Guerrero, are left susceptible to organized crime groups and face the uncertainties of COVID-19. 

Sources:

Comisión Mexicana de Defensa y Promoción de los Derechos Humanos. “Urge protección y atención a cientos de familias desplazadas en Chiapas.” CMDPDH. December 21, 2017.

Palma, Arturo de Dios. “Sin freno, éxodo por la violencia.” El Universal. January 12, 2018.

Movimiento Mesoamericano contra el Modelo extractivo Minero. “Canadian Mining Company Torex Gold Resources Inc; Archetype of Violence in Guerrero.” October 4, 2019.

Environmental Justice Atlas. “Mina Los Filos – El Bermejal, Carrizalillo, Guerrero, Mexico.” October 20, 2019.

Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre. “Mexico.” December 31, 2019.

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre. “Mexico: Torex Gold responds to 4 cases of killings and the one disappearance of labour rights defenders and workers in the Media Luna mine in Guerrero over the past 3 years.” 2020.

Bnamericas. “Mexican crime gangs target miners amid COVID-19 crisis.” Bnamericas. April 14, 2020.

International Crisis Group. “Mexico’s Everyday War: Guerrero and the Trials of Peace.” May 4, 2020.

Contreras, Ezequiel Flores. “Ejecutan a opositor a la minera Media Luna en Cocula, Guerrero.” Proceso. May 16, 2020.

Torex Gold Resources Inc. “Torex Gold response.” Business & Human Rights Resource Centre. June 1, 2020.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “SODIUM CYANIDE : Systemic Agent.” CDC.

Minority Rights Group. “Indigenous Peoples.”

México\Procuraduría Agraria.

New Justice in Mexico working paper: “Organized Crime and Violence in Guanajuato”

08/25/20 (written by aahrensvíquez)-Justice in Mexico released its latest working paper “Organized Crime and Violence in Guanajuato” by Laura Y. Calderón on Thursday. As mentioned in the Justice in Mexico 2020 Organized Crime and Violence Special Report, Guanajuato is one of the major hot spots of violence in Mexico. Calderón analyzes the surge in violence in the state, comparing the number of intentional homicide cases with the increasing problem of fuel theft in the state, and describing some of the state and federal government measures to address both issues. Following the national trend, the state of Guanajuato also had its most violent year in 2019 with two of its cities, León and Irapuato, featured in the country’s top ten most violent municipalities.

Context

Calderón provides context for the current security crisis by detailing the deadly territory dispute between Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generación (CJNG) and Cartel Santa Rosa de Lima (CSRL) within Guanajuato. As she explains, the CSRL is a local organized crime group that emerged from Santa Rosa de Lima, a small town in the municipality of Villagrán, that has a history of drug dealing and fuel theft or huachicoleo.

CSRL gained national relevance in 2017, when Jose Antonio Yepez Ortiz, “El Marro,” assumed leadership and decided to monopolize organized crime activities, declaring a deadly war against CJNG, and more specifically, its leader Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes better known as “El Mencho.” Known for its famously violent tactics, the CJNG is looking to gain control over a drug trafficking corridor that would facilitate the transportation of their product from Lázaro Cárdenas, Michoacán to the northern border city of Reynosa, Tamaulipas. The rivalry between the two groups has had major security implications within the state, from targeting police officers and local officials, to using improvised explosive devices to deter rival groups. 

Government Response to Violence

The increasingly dire situation in Guanajuato has led to both federal and state responses. As Calderón stipulates, an increasingly pressing issue within Mexico, huachicoleo has led to millions of pesos stolen from Petróleos Mexicanos, better known as PEMEX, throughout Mexico.  Guanajuato saw the second highest number of illegal pipeline taps, totaling 5,091 cases from 2015 to 2019, constituting 16.14% of the total taps nationwide. For more on huachicoleo, please see the Justice in Mexico blog post previously authored by Calderón from 2017, “Huachicoleros on the rise in Mexico.” 

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) sought to address the issue of huachicoleo head-on in early 2019. Looking to decrease the number of illegal pipeline taps, AMLO notably tasked fuel tankers with delivering petroleum. This led to a major upset throughout the country during the transition as gas shortages led to hours-long waits. The administration maintains that fuel theft decreased from 81,000 barrels and 800 gas trucks stolen per day in 2018, to 5,000 barrels and 40 gas trucks stolen per day by July 2019. However, this has had the unintentional effect of leading criminal groups to steal liquified petroleum gas instead, as the process is virtually the same as for fuel theft. 

Additionally, AMLO deployed the National Guard and federal police to Guanajuato to address increasing insecurity. However, the steady increase in homicides since the deployment indicated that it did not lead to any significant decrease in violence within the state. 

Likewise, the government of the state of Guanajuato has taken steps in an attempt to decrease the violence. The state launched a special operation known as Golpe de Timón (or “steering the wheel” in English) that at first aimed to find and arrest “El Marro.” However, after little success, the strategy was shifted to address social issues- rehabilitating infrastructure, revamping education, and establishing a state-level police academy. 

Analysis

Calderón goes on to examine the potential causes of violence and crime within Guanajuato. Data gathered by Reforma shows that Guanajuato had the highest number of murdered police officials in 2019 with 56 victims. Both of the aforementioned organized crime groups, the CSRL and the CJNG, have escalated their turf dispute and have also targeted the state forces working to combat them. Additionally, as Viridiana Rios points out in her paper “Why did Mexico become so violent? A self-reinforcing violent equilibrium caused by competition and enforcement,”, violent territorial conflicts arise when a single organization does not have total control over a criminal market. With both groups looking to assert their control over strategic plazas, they have created an unstable environment leading to a higher number of homicides within Guanajuato. 

Organized crime groups have been diversifying their income through enterprises other than drug trafficking, as noted by the author. The huachicoleo favored by the CSRL is an especially tempting source of revenue in comparison to drug trafficking due to it being a lower risk enterprise and posing less of a logistical challenge. Additionally, criminal sentences for fuel theft are far less aggressive than those of drug trafficking. Likewise, the state has been seeing an increase in extortion and kidnapping with 18 reported cases of extortion and 10 reported cases of kidnapping in 2019.

Calderón  evaluates the effect of illegal fuel line taps on homicide rate. Calderón found that there was indeed a relationship with the number of illegal taps explaining 53% of the observed variation in homicides. She notes that there has been a geographic shift in homicide that has been mirrored in the amount of illegal taps in those areas. There are several successes in the government attempt to decrease the number of illegal tapping to mitigate the level of violence. This can be observed in the case of Irapuato. However, there were cases in which the reduction of illegal taps did not result in decrease in intentional homicide as in León and Salamanca. 

High profile arrests in Guanajuato

In a rare instance of federal and state government collaboration, 2020 has seen major blows delivered to the CSRL. Early in the year, various associates of “El Marro” and his parents were detained. His father would later be released to house arrest due to concerns of him contracting COVID-19 in his old age and his mother was released due to lack of evidence. Following the arrest of his parents, “El Marro” issued two videos of himself promising a continuance of the CSRL’s criminal activities and an increase of violence in the state. 

“El Marro” was arrested on August 2 in the municipality of Santa Cruz Juventino Rosas, just two weeks after publishing his videos. The arrest was touted as a major success by the administration of AMLO. Both federal and state governments hope that the arrest will lead to the dismantling of the CSRL and thereby lead to more peace in Guanajuato. For more information on the arrest of “El Marro,” please see the Justice in Mexico blog post, “Mexican kingpin ‘El Marro’ arrested in Guanajuato.”

Conclusion

Calderón concludes her paper by emphasizing the importance of federal and local strategies to reduce hauchicoleo operations without relying solely on the eradication of illegal taps. Doing so has proven to be a policy measure with grave unintended consequences in terms of security. She also urges for the development of a coherent security agenda within the country, citing the AMLO administration’s seemingly paradoxical approaches to ensuring public security. 

Click here for the full report: 

Click here for the 2020 Organized Crime and Violence in Mexico report: 

Obstacles to International Conventions Protecting Women in Mexico

08/04/20 (written by MMacGregor)- Although Mexico has engaged in various agreements in order to prevent domestic violence and promote women’s rights, the situation for women in the country continues to be extremely dangerous. According to a survey by the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Geografía), 7 out of 10 women have experienced violence at some point in their lives. Despite the creation of laws that explicitly define the different forms that domestic violence can take, Mexico has faced challenges with the implementation of these laws at the state and local levels, resulting in insufficient justice for victims and their families. 

At the international level, Mexico is a signatory of agreements whose primary purpose is to promote gender equality and women’s rights. These agreements include the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in 1979, a document that defines what constitutes discrimination against women and sets up a national agenda to end this discrimination. According to the United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner, the Convention defines discrimination against women as “any distinction, exclusion, or restriction made on the basis of sex which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment, or exercise by women, irrespective of their marital status, on a basis of equality of men and women, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil, or any other field”.

International Frameworks

Additionally, Mexico is a part of the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment, and Eradication of Violence against Women (Convention Belem do Para of 1994), which explicitly defines violence against women and establishes that women have the right to live free of violence. According to the Organization of American States, the convention “calls for the establishment of mechanisms for protecting and defending women’s rights as essential to combating the phenomenon of violence against women’s physical, sexual, and psychological identity, whether in the private or public sphere, and for asserting those rights within society”. Finally, Mexico is also a part of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (1995), which is the most progressive blueprint for advancing women’s rights and “imagines a world where each and every women and girl can exercise her freedoms and choices and realize all of her rights, such as living free from violence, going to school, participating in decisions, and earning equal pay for equal work”.

National Mechanism and Institutions

Since Mexico is a signatory on these powerful international agreements committed to the advancement, empowerment, and protection of women and their rights, it is essential to analyze the reasons why the country has not been able to implement these commitments on a national level. In order to do so, it is important to understand the federal binding laws in Mexico and key national institutions to address women’s rights, as well as the legal mechanism to prevent femicides from occurring. 

From a legal perspective with regard to violence against women, the federal binding law in Mexico is the General Law on Women’s Access to a Life Free of Violence, or la Ley General de Aceso de las Mujeres a Una Vida Libre de Violencia. Published on February 1st, 2007, the law “contains the guiding principles for the access of all women to a life free of violence and discrimination, legal equality between women and men, and respect for women’s dignity”. This law was a significant step in Mexican history because, for the first time, it distinguished between the different types of violence inflicted against women: psychological, physical, economic, patrimonial, and sexual. It made it clear that violence does not always produce visible physical injuries. It has established the areas of life women are being violated. Additionally, the law attempts to specify the modality of violence, distinguishing between violence inflicted at home, school, work, or through another institution.

Furthermore, the legal mechanism to prevent femicide is the Gender Violence Against Women Alert (Alerta de Violencia de Genero contra las Mujeres), which consists of a set of emergency government actions to stop violence against women in a particular territory and can be exercised by invididuals or by the community itself. Representatives from various national institutions analyze and research the situation in the territory in order to determine possible human rights violations. This research can take the form of on-site visits, interviews, and information from state authorities. These institutions include the National Institute of Women (Instituto Nacional de Mujeres- INMUJERES), the National Commission to Prevent and Eradicate Violence Against Women (Comisión Nacional para Prevenir y Eradicar la Violencia Contra las Mujeres- CONAVIM), and the Special Prosecutor’s Office for Crimes of Violence against Women and Trafficking in Persons (Fiscalía Especial para los Delitos de Violencia Contra las Mujeres y Trata de Personas). All three of these organizations work together with academic and local authorities to prevent feminicidal violence against women. 

Challenges to Preventing Violence Against Women

With all of these international and national conventions in place to protect women, it is important to consider the reasons why the number of domestic violence cases and femicides continue to pose a significant problem in Mexico. According to Amnesty International, the problem lies in the implementation of these laws at the state and local level. Although the General Law was a step in the right direction, the law has not focused on removing the real obstacles preventing women from registering complaints or improving persecutions of those who commit violence against women. Specifically, Article 27 in the General Law states that “when they are made aware of acts that may constitute offenses or crimes involving violence against women” protection orders must be issued by authorities. The reality of this is that protection or restraining orders are rarely used or enforced. As a result, women who need urgent help because a restraining order has been violated have no option other than to contact the general police emergency number or bring the complaint to a court. Neither of these guarantee that they will get the immediate help they need. Additionally, social services and prosecutor’s offices often encourage victims to reconcile with those responsible for the violence in their homes rather than pursuing criminal prosecutions. Because many victims do not want to confront their attacker to tell them about the mediation meetings and procedures for fear of retaliation, many of the cases end up unresolved.

In conclusion, there remains an urgent need to bridge the gap between the international and national frameworks regarding the protection of women and their implementation in the country. In order to adequately protect women and prevent violence against them, it is vital that the Mexican government put its numerous policies into action with political commitment, resources, training, and accountability.

Sources:

Alerta De Violencia De Género Contra Las Mujeres. Institutional Nacional De Las Mujeres. 22 Feb 2020. 

Comisión Nacional para Prevenir y Erradicar la Violencia Contra las Mujeres. “Ley General De Acceso De Las Mujeres a Una Vida Libre De Violencia (PDF).” Gobierno De México.

“Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women.” OHCHR. 

“Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.” OHCHR.

“Fiscalía Especial Para Los Delitos De Violencia Contra Las Mujeres y Trata De Personas.” Gobierno De México.

Instituto Nacional de Estadística, Geografía e Informática (INEGI). “Encuesta Nacional sobre la Dinámica de las Relaciones en los Hogares (ENDIREH 2016).” INEGI. 18 Agosto 2017.

Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment, and Eradication of Violence against Women (Convention of Belém Do Pará). Organization of American States, 1994.

“Organization of American States: Democracy for Peace, Security, and Development.” Organization of American States, Follow-up Mechanism to the Belém Do Pará Convention (MESECVI), 1 Aug. 2009.

“Protection for Women: Violence in the Family in Mexico.” Stop Violence Against Women: Amnesty International, Amnesty International.

“Sitio De Comisión Nacional Para Prevenir y Erradicar La Violencia Contra Las Mujeres.” Gobierno De México.

“Sitio De Instituto Nacional De Las Mujeres.” Gobierno De México

“The Beijing Platform for Action: Inspiration Then and Now.” UN Women | The Beijing Platform for Action Turns 20.