Arrest warrants issued in 2005 torture case of Lydia Cacho

Photo: Expansión Política.
Left to right: Lydia Cacho, Mario Marín Torres, and José Kamel Nacif. Photo: Expansión Política

12/14/20 (written by aahrensviquez) – Mexican federal prosecutors re-issued warrants on December 4, 2020 for the arrest of Puebla’s former governor, Mario Marín Torres; businessman José Kamel Nacif; and Pueblas’s former subsecretary of Public Security, Hugo Adolfo Karam Beltrán, for the unlawful detention and torture of journalist Lydia Cacho in 2005. This highly publicized case has largely been seen as illustrative of the dangers of being a journalist in Mexico and the government’s failure to hold those responsible to account.

The Case of Lydia Cacho

In 2005, Mexican journalist and activist Lydia Cacho published her book The demons of Eden: the power that protects child pornography (Los demonios del Edén, el poder que protege a la pornografía infantil). The book exposed the protection that businessmen Jean Succar Kuri and José Kamel Nacif were receiving from politicians and other businessmen when they were accused of creating a prostitution and child pornography ring. On December 16, 2005, months after the publication of her book, Cacho was arrested in Cacún at the Center for Women’s Comprehensive Assistance (Centro Integral de Atención a la Mujer) headquarters by members of Puebla’s judicial police force on charges of defamation. She was then transferred back to Puebla to face trial.

It was during her transfer, from December 16 to 17, 2005, that Cacho was tortured by members of the police force. According to ARTÍCULO 19, an independent, nonpartisan organization in Mexico and Central America that advocates for the freedom of press, during the ten  hours Cacho was detained, the authorities did not give her food or administer her bronchitis medication, nor was she allowed to sleep. Cacho was only allowed to use the bathroom once and place one phone call during this period. She was subjected to psychological and physical torture, sexual abuse, and threats.

Cacho was eventually released from custody on bail. She went to trial on January 17, 2006 and was fully exonerated on the charges of calumny. 

On February, 14, 2006, in an explosive exposé, an anonymous source publicized a phone call between Governor Marín and businessman Nacif that took place prior to Cacho’s 2005 detention. In the phone call, Nacif urges Marín to arrest Cacho so that she would be sexually assaulted in prison in retaliation for her calumny against him. The governor reassures him, saying that he will deliver a “f**king knock over the head” (“p*nche coscorrón”) to Cacho because in Puebla “the law is respected” (author’s own translation). On March 13, 2006, Cacho filed charges against Marín and Nacif, as well as other state figures.

15 Years of Impunity

In the 15 years since Cacho was detained and arrested, only two people have been sentenced in relation to the case. Two members of the police force, including former Puebla police commander Juan Sánchez Moreno, were convicted of carrying out the torture. So far, however, there has been no accountability for those who ordered the torture. 

The Cacho case eventually made it to the docket of the Mexican Supreme Court (Suprema Corte de Justicia de la Nación, SCJN). The justices launched an investigation of the case and the involvement of Puebla’s then-governor Marín. However, in a surprise ruling on November 29, 2007, the SCJN voted six to four to not go forward in prosecuting the case. The court found that though there were some violations of Cacho’s rights, they were not severe and did not merit the involvement of the SCJN. At the time, René Delgado, the former editor of the newspaper Reforma, called the 2007 vote a “monumental homage to impunity and cynicism” (author’s own translation).

Seeking justice elsewhere, ARTÍCULO 19 filed a petition on Cacho’s behalf to the Human Rights Committee of the United Nations (UN). The Committee ruled in Cacho’s favor in 2018, formally recognizing human rights abuses against the journalist. They determined that Cacho’s detention was arbitrary, meaning that there was little to no evidence that she had committed a crime at the time of the arrest. The Commitee also found that the arrest and torture had been retaliatory in nature. Additionally, they noted that the sexual nature of Cacho’s torture indicated that she had been discriminated against because of her gender, a protected characteristic. Finally, the Committee found that the state had not fulfilled its obligation to investigate this case and hold those responsible accountable.

Two months after ARTÍCULO 19 presented their petition to the UN, Mexican federal prosecutors brought the charges against the police commanders that carried out the torture ordered by their superiors. In 2016 Succar, who Cacho exposed in her 2005, was indeed convicted of child pornography and child sexual abuse in Cancún and was convicted to 112 years of prison.

Arrest Warrants Issued for Marín, Nacif, and Karam

Finally, in April of 2019, arrest warrants were issued for Marín, Nacif, and Karam. However, they were cancelled in November 2020 by the Third Circuit Court in Cacún through a writ of amparo. Judge María Elena Suárez Préstamo of the First Unitary Court (Primer Tribunal Unitario) reissued the warrant on December 4, 2020 for their arrest after reviewing the case. Marín, Nacif, and Karam are currently fugitives. 

Mexican Attorney General Alejandro Gertz Manero reported in July that Nacif was traced to Lebanon and disclosed that they were in communication with the Lebanese government to process his extradition. Cacho sharply criticized Gertz in an interview with W Radio Mexico, claiming that she had located Nacif through her coordination with Europol and Interpol and Gertz had risked her case by making that information and strategy public. She also rebuked him for mishandling her case. She posited that through her work, she and her team also located Marín and Karam, but neither of them have been detained either. Cacho is suspicious that Gertz may have some vested interest in not seeing her case through.

2020 Continues the Trend of Violence Toward Journalists in Mexico

In an article in El País, ARTÍCULO 19 described the Cacho case as a “fight against impunity in one of the most violent countries in the world to practice journalism.” Indeed, violence against journalists in Mexico have been widely publicized and well-documented over many years. Justice in Mexico consistently includes a section addressing violence against journalists in its  yearly Organized Crime and Violence in Mexico Special Report.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), from 1992 to 2020 there were 53 confirmed cases of journalists killed, 67 unconfirmed cases, and four cases of media-support workers were killed in Mexico (“Explore all CPJ data”). The CPJ identifies both homicides cases with motives that have been confirmed to have been related to the journalist’s profession, as well as cases with unconfirmed motives. In fact, this year, the CPJ identifies Mexico as the country with the most homicide cases with five confirmed motives in 2020, followed by Iraq and the Philippines each with three confirmed journalist murders. In 2020, the following journalists were  murdered in Mexico:

  • María Elena Ferral Hernández of El Diario de Xalapa and El Quinto Poder was murdered on March 30, 2020;
  • Jorge Miguel Armenta Ávalos of Última Palabra and Medios Obson was murdered on May 16, 2020;
  • Pablo Morragares Parraguirre from PM Noticias was murdered on August 2, 2020;
  • Julio Valdivia of El Mundo was murdered on September 9, 2020; and 
  • Israel Vázquez of El Salmantino was murdered on November 9, 2020.

The aforementioned ARTÍCULO 19 has not released their most updated data on violence against journalists in 2020. However, the organization released their tallies for the first six months of 2020 (from January to June 2020). The findings are alarming. The report documented 406 instances of violence or aggression against journalists including cases of threats, harassment, assault, murder, and disappearance, among others. This is up 45% from the 280 cases they identified during the same period in 2019.

In an effort to address the violence against journalists, the Mexican government created the Mechanism for the Protection of Defenders of Human Rights and Journalists (Mecanismo de Protección a Personas Defensoras de Derechos Humanos y Periodistas). Its objective is to provide protection for journalists that were threatened, including temporary relocations, armored vehicles, and security escorts. According to the Mexican National Commission for Human Rights (Comisión Nacional de los Derechos Humanos) report, there is a 90% impunity rate for crimes committed against journalists. Not only does the government often fail to protect journalists and bring their perpetrators to justice, public officials are often the perpetrators of said violence against journalists. ARTÍCULO 19 identifies public officials as the assailants of 199 cases out of the 406 cases of aggression against journalists that were identified in the first six months of 2020.

The Cacho case is a poignant, public exemplification of the issues facing Mexican journalists. She was victim to institutionalized torture at the hands of public officials in retaliation for holding power to account. Even with evidence against her assailants so widely publicized, she was unable to obtain justice from the government. Even now that her case was reopened, the arrest warrants have not been carried out, with very little hope that they ever will be. Moreover, she maintains that the justice system has continued to mishandle her case. Her public ire after 15 years is the same frustration that is inherent to being a journalist in Mexico.

Sources

“Gober precioso.” Youtube.com. February 13, 2007.

Relea, Francesc. “La impunidad ya tiene carta blanca en México.” El País. December 5, 2007.

Castro, Aída. “Cronología: Caso Lydia Cacho.” El Universal. June 2, 2008.

“Juez ratifica condena a Jean Succar Kuri por abuso de menores.” Regeneración. August 10, 2016.

“ONU reconoce violaciones a los derechos de la periodista Lydia Cacho.” ARTÍCULO 19. August 2, 2018.

“Demanda CNDH esclarecer el 90% de crímenes contra periodistas que permanece en impunidad lacerante- 13 en los últimos once meses-por falta de investigaciones prontas, diligentes, profesionales y eficaces de Procuradurías y Fiscalías.” Comisión Nacional de los Derechos Humanos. November 2, 2019.

“Syria, Mexico deadliest countries for journalists in 2019.” Committee to Protect Journalists. December 17, 2019.

Vivanco, José Miguel. “El luto del periodismo en México.” Human Rights Watch. June 11, 2020.

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

Hernández Zamora, Araceli. “El Fiscal tiró a la basura mi caso por bocón: Lydia Cacho.” W Radio Mexico. July 13, 2020.

“‘Todo lo tiró por bocón, por inútil’: Lydia Cacho acusó a Gertz Manero de echar a perder la investigación contra Kamel Nacif.” Infobae. July 13, 2020.

“Primer semestre de 2020: crecen exponencialmente las agresiones contra la prensa y continúan los asesinatos.” ARTÍCULO 19. September 14, 2020.

ARTÍCULO 19. “15 años de impunidad en el ‘caso Lydia Cacho’.” El País. November 16, 2020.

“Caso Lydia Cacho: De nueva cuenta se giran órdenes de aprehensión contra Marín, Nacif y Karam por delito de tortura.” ARTÍCULO 19. December 4, 2020.

“Vuelven a girar órdenes de captura contra Kamel Nacif y Mario Marín por tortura contra Lydia Cacho.” Animal Político. December 4, 2020.

“Explore all CPJ data.” Committee to Protect Journalists.

“Sobre ARTICLE 19.” ARTÍCULO 19.

United States Will Drop Charges against Former Mexican Defense Minister Cienfuegos

Photo: Bill Robles, Associated Press

11/18/20 (written by rkuckertz) – In an abrupt and unexpected reversal, the United States Department of Justice has announced that it will drop all drug trafficking and money laundering charges against Former Defense Minister Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda. The announcement came as a shock after a months-long investigation led to the secret indictment and subsequent arrest of Cienfuegos by U.S. officials.

The former defense minister (2012-2018) was arrested in Los Angeles on October 15, 2020 after he was indicted on various drug trafficking and money laundering counts, including conspiracy to import and distribute heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, and marijuana. The arrest shocked the Mexican public, as Cienfuegos is the first high-ranking Mexican military official to be arrested in the United States in connection with organized crime. The evidence against him pointed to his involvement with the H-2 cartel in exchange for bribes. Blackberry messages obtained by U.S. investigators detailed these alleged crimes, which included facilitating drug shipments into the United States and introducing cartel members to officials willing to accept bribes. Following his arrest, the former security official was transferred to a New York detention facility where he awaited trial in New York’s Eastern District.

However, in a joint statement released on Tuesday, U.S. Attorney General William Barr and his Mexican counterpart, Alejandro Gertz Manero, announced the planned dismissal of all charges against Cienfuegos. The attorneys general explained that the decision represented “a strong law enforcement partnership” between the two countries and demonstrated a “united front against all forms of criminality.”

U.S. prosecutors submitted an initial request on Monday before District Court Judge Carol Amon calling for the dismissal of charges. Prosecutors cited “sensitive” foreign policy considerations that outweighed U.S. interests in continuing to press charges against Cienfuegos. While Cienfuegos was scheduled for an initial hearing this Wednesday, it is anticipated that the official request to drop all charges will be granted during his court appearance.

Why Drop Charges?

According to The Washington Post, it appears that the decision was made in an attempt to repair a breach of trust caused by Cienfuegos’ arrest–a move that U.S. officials kept secret from Mexican authorities. Following the arrest, Mexico submitted a formal note of protest to the U.S. Department of Justice. Mexico’s foreign minister Marcelo Ebrard also expressed the country’s disapproval directly to Attorney General Barr on two occasions over the past month. Several U.S. officials agreed that the unilateral approach to Cienfuegos’ arrest was misguided. For instance, retired Army General Barry McCaffrey, the former head of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, called the move “very odd,” adding that he would have expected Mexican authorities to be informed prior to the arrest.

Some Mexican security experts believe that had the United States not returned Cienfuegos, the Mexican army would have ceased all bilateral cooperation on counter-drug and security operations. Similarly, prosecutors in the U.S. attorney general’s office in the Eastern District of New York speculate that the dismissal of charges can be attributed to threats to limit the role of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in Mexico. Ebrard seemed to confirm these notions, stating that bilateral cooperation against drug trafficking would continue, but only if the United States respected Mexico’s sovereignty.

Still, the decision to drop charges against Cienfuegos is unprecedented. Mike Vigil, the former DEA chief of foreign operations, told The Los Angeles Times that he “…had never seen anything like this occur in [his] lifetime.” He also expressed doubt that Mexican authorities would fulfill their commitment to prosecuting Cienfuegos, adding that he considers the likelihood of this “slim to none.” While the joint statement released by Barr and Gertz Manero noted that the United States would provide evidence to Mexico for its ongoing investigation, Mexican judicial authorities have not made any official commitments to charge Cienfuegos.

Defending Mexico’s Military

While former defense minister Cienfuegos served under AMLO’s predecessor, Enrique Peña Nieto, President López Obrador has demonstrated approval of the military leader’s role in leading the armed forces through times of crisis and upheaval. During the transition between administrations, AMLO called Cienfuegos “an extraordinary general, a man of institutions.”

Under the current administration, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) has gone to great lengths to defend the use of Mexico’s military in the fight against organized crime. A cornerstone of his anti-corruption platform, AMLO has sought to expand the role of the military in policing and security operations. Despite human rights concerns expressed by civil society and international organizations, Mexico’s citizenry seems to support López Obrador’s militarized tactics against organized crime. However, it remains to be seen if recent allegations of corruption against top military officials will sway public opinion. This may depend, in part, on how Mexico chooses to proceed with the investigation and case against Cienfuegos.

For his own part, AMLO has made sure to draw a stark contrast between military operations under Peña Nieto’s administration and his own. He has defended both the Secretariat of National Defense (SEDENA) and the Mexican Navy (SEMAR) as institutions that have ensured the security of the Mexican public. Nonetheless, individuals directly connected to the former defense minister Cienfuegos continue to operate within Mexico’s security apparatus.

Sources

“US to Drop Drug Charges against Mexico’s Former Defence Chief.” Aljazeera. 18 November 2020.

Brooks, David. “EU retira cargos a general Cienfuegos; se le investigará en México.” La Jornada. 17 November 2020.

Ferri, Pablo. “EE UU retira los cargos al exsecretario de Defensa Salvador Cienfuegos para que sea juzgado en México.” El País. 17 November 2020.

“Joint Statement by Attorney General of the United States William P. Barr and Fiscalía General of Mexico Alejandro Gertz Manero.” The United States Department of Justice, Office of Public Affairs. 17 November 2020.

Kuckertz, Rita E. “Former Mexican Defense Minister Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda Arrested by U.S. Officials.” Justice in Mexico. 19 October 2020.

McDonnell, Patrick J. & Kate Linthicum. “In a Stunning Reversal, U.S. Drops Charges against Mexico’s ex-defense Chief.” The Los Angeles Times. 17 November 2020.

Mosso, Rubén & José Antonio Belmont. “A petición de la FGR, EU se desiste de cargos contra Salvador Cienfuegos.” Milenio. 17 November 2020.

Sieff, Kevin; Mary Beth Sheridan; & Matt Zapotosky. “U.S. Agrees to Drop Charges against Former Mexican Defense Minister.” The Washington Post. 17 November 2020.

Krauze, León. “The Arrest of a Mexican General Should Be a Turning Point for AMLO and the War on Drugs.” The Washington Post. 22 October 2020.

The INE Takes Strides Against Gender Based Violence

11/12/20 (written by vrice)—At the end of October, the National Electoral Institute (Instituto Nacional Electoral, INE) unanimously endorsed guidelines for political parties to help combat gender-based political violence. Amongst other requirements, these stipulated that, beginning in 2021, no aspiring candidate can be convicted or accused of domestic violence, sexual misconduct, or have defaulted on alimony payments.

Inside the INE where voting for the new guidelines occurred. Photo: Expansion Política

The Guidelines

The guidelines approved by the INE were in response to the #3de3VsViolencia initiative introduced in August of this year by female members of the Chamber of Deputies (from Morena, the PAN, PRI, PRD, and MC) and Yndira Sandoval, cofounder of an organization called the Feminist Constituents (Las Constituyentes Feministas). The iniative delineated that no male with a record of violence against women be allowed to occupy a position in the legislature, executive or judiciary. Building on the #3de3VsViolencia, the INE guidelines outlined some methods to “ensure equality and guarantee women’s ability to exercise their political and electoral rights within parties,” including for political parties to: 

1) Investigate, sanction, repair, and eradicate gender based political violence

2) Promote, protect, and respect women’s rights

3) Possess plans of action for victims

4) Develop statutes that establish mechanisms to eliminate gender based political violence

5) Facilitate documentation of accusations concerning such violence

6) Create interparty justice bodies with gender parity

7) Determine a body that can assist victims

8) Establish comprehensive methods of redress

9) Require that political candidates sign paperwork and swear under oath that they have not been convicted or do not face charges of domestic violence, sexual misconduct, or alimony debts.

These guidelines will also establish a national registry of persons sanctioned for gender-based political violence against women.

Leading up to the INE’s vote, the Feminist Constituents mounted a sizable media campaign across various platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Their posts focused on circulating data to help build support for the #3de3VsViolencia initiative. This included highlighting that three out of four children with separated parents do not receive alimony payments, for example, and that 166,812 cases of domestic violence and 22,462 cases of sexual assault and rape against women were  registered from January to September 2020.

Responses

While representatives of various Mexican political parties have voiced their willingness to abide by the guidelines, INE councilors emphasized that this commitment must be reflected in concrete actions, as well. Martha Tagle, a representative of the Citizen’s Movement (Movimiento Ciudadano), deemed the new requisites essential. She argued that it is impossible to uphold laws protecting women, if lawmaking bodies are comprised of the very individuals who commit gender-based violence. The INE’s Councilor President, Lorenzo Córdova, reiterated claims of the guidelines’ necessity, referencing how violence against women who “dared to exercise their rights” increased since 2018, when Mexico implemented legislation stipulating gender parity in politics.

Morena representative Lorena Villavicencio Ayala countered outcries by some male politicians that #3de3VsViolencia aims to persecute men, highlighting how the initiative merely strives to uphold the first article of the constitution—respect and protection of human rights. Moreover, Laura Angélica Rojas Hernández, President of the Board of Directors of the Chamber of Deputies, pointed to requirements of the Organization of American States (Organización de los Estados Americanos, OEA), that civil servants be honest and respect the rights of all individuals. Rojas also stated that the #3de3VsViolencia initiative would promote democracy in Mexico and improve low levels of trust in institutions, by ensuring that only the most law-abiding/rights-protecting candidates occupy government positions.

Various requirements outlined in the INE guidelines have been previously debated within the Mexican government. In July of this year, the Superior Chamber of the Electoral Tribunal of the Judicial Power of the Federation (Sala Superior del Tribunal Electoral del Poder Judicial de la Federación, TEPJF) voted 5 v. 2 in favor of a national registry for those convicted of gender-based political violence. One of the dissenting judges, Reyes Rodríguez Mondragón, published a tweet stating that the creation of such a list had, “no constitutional basis.” Only time will tell to what extent the INE guidelines are upheld, and if they will face legal challenges on grounds of unconstitutionality.

The zoom meeting in which TEPJF justices voted on the creation of a national registry for those convicted of gender-based political violence. Photo: TEPJF via Twitter

Sources

“Deudores de pensión alimentaria o con cargos por violencia contra mujeres no podrán ser candidatos.” Animal Político, October 28, 2020.

Galván, Melissa. “El INE aprueba lineamientos contra la violencia política hacia las mujeres.” Expansión, October 28, 2020. 

López Ponce, Jannet. “INE logra que ningún agresor de mujeres pueda ser candidato.” Milenio, October 28, 2020. 

“ACUERDO del Consejo General del Instituto Nacional Electoral por el que se aprueban los Lineamientos para la integración, funcionamiento, actualización y conservación del Registro Nacional de Personas Sancionadas en Materia de Violencia Política contra las Mujeres en Razón de Género, en acatamiento a la sentencia dictada por la Sala Superior del Tribunal Electoral del Poder Judicial de la Federación en el expediente SUP-REC-91/2020 y acumulado.” Diario Oficial de la Federación de México, September 22, 2020. 

¿Qué es la iniciativa #3de3vsViolencia presentada por diputadas? Mujer México, August 10, 2020.

Jiménez, Horacio. “Buscan diputadas que hombres violentos no ocupen cargos públicos.” El Universal, August 8, 2020. 

“Ordena TEPJF al INE crear lista de quienes cometan violencia política de género; la rechazan 2 magistrados.” Aristegui Noticias, July 29, 2020. 

Two Former High-ranking Federal and State Officials Face Charges of Corruption

11/10/20 (written by kheinle) — The López Obrador administration’s efforts to root out corruption continue, this time with two officials at the federal and state level facing charges.

Corruption at the Federal Level

Luis Videgaray, the former Secretary of Finance and Public Credit (Secretaría de Hacienda y Credito Público, SHCP) during the Peña Nieto administration (2012-2018), is being investigated for alleged acts of corruption, electoral crimes, and possibly even treason. He allegedly received millions of dollars through the Brazilian-based business Odebrecht, the high-profile case of corruption that the López Obrador administration is working to untangle. A judge initially blocked the warrant for Videgaray’s arrest. Prosecutors are now working to “perfect” the language and justification for the warrant before resubmitting the request.  

Luis Videgaray. Photo: Cuartoscuro, Animal Politico.

Former CEO of PEMEX (Petróleo Mexicano), Emilio Lozoya, named Videgaray in the case. Lozoya, who is currently facing charges of corruption, tax fraud, bribery, and money laundering, is cooperating with officials as his case unfolds. Videgaray is one of a handful of high-profile persons that Lozoya has accused of corruption. This includes former Presidents Felipe Calderón (2006-2012) and Carlos Salinas de Gortari (1988-1994), and even President Enrique Peña Nieto under whom he served. In August 2020, according to Attorney General Alejandro Gertz Manero, Lozoya named Peña Nieto and Videgaray in the Odebrecht scandal, saying that he handled millions of dollars’ worth of bribes on both of their behalf, reported the Washington Post.

The targeting of former presidents in alleged criminal acts while in office compliments President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s strategy. The current president has pushed forward a referendum to address past cases of criminal conduct, specifically that of corruption and ties to organized crime. Mexico’s Chamber of Deputies approved the initiative on October 22 with a vote of 272 in favor and 116 against. Having now passed through Mexico’s Congress and with the backing of the Supreme Court (Suprema Corte de Justicia Nacional, SCJN), the Mexican people will vote on the plebiscite in June 2021.

Corruption in the Capital

In addition to federal level cases of corruption, the López Obrador administration is also targeting state- and local-level actors, like Raymundo Collins Flores who is accused of misdirecting public funds for personal gains and abuse of public office. As El Universal describes, Collins held a number of high-ranking positions in Mexico City. This included the former Under-secretary of Public Security (Secretaría de Seguridad Pública, SSP) in 2002, the former director of the Housing Institute (Instituto de Vivienda, INVI) from 2012 to 2018, and the former Secretary of Public Security in 2018.

Raymundo Collins Flores, seen left, and the 41 classic, high-end vehicles found on his property in Morelos. Photo: La Jornada.

An order for Collins’ arrest was issued in December 2019, but subsequently blocked by a judge. A second order was released in September 2020. On October 30, Mexican officials raided Collins’ property in the State of Morelos where they found over 40 high-end classic cars and expensive works of art, among other items. The day after the raid, Mexican officials requested that the United States extradite Collins back to Mexico to stand trial. He had fled while the investigations against him were unfolding. Although he has been located in the United States at the time of this writing, it is not clear if U.S. officials have yet complied with the extradition request.

Corruption within the AMLO Administration

Despite President López Obrador’s efforts to address corruption, his administration is not immune. According to the Secretary of Public Administration (Secretaría de la Función Pública, SFP), more than 500 complaints of wrongdoing were filed against the Attorney General’s Office (Fiscalía General de la República, FGR) since the president took office in December 2018. They include allegations of corruption, bribery, embezzlement, illegal use of public office, and other internal irregularities.

Over 75% of the complaints (296 of 388) registered from December 2018 through June 2020 were against the Institute of Security and State Workers Social Services (Instituto de Seguridad y Servicios Sociales de los Trabajadores del Estado, ISSSTE). Another 125 complaints against all offices were registered from late June to the end of October 2020, showing a noticeable increase in pace from the previous 18 months. Of the more than 500 cases in total during President López Obrador’s time in office, the Secretary of Public Administration noted that not one has been brought before the federal courts

It is encouraging to see the progress being made against former high-level officials like Videgaray and Collins involved in cases of corruption. Yet the results of the SFP’s investigation ought to be a reminder to the López Obrador administration to not lose sight of its own workers in the here and now.

Sources:

Alarcón, Juan Carlos. “Raymundo Collins no extorsionó a empresarios; denuncias pesan contra excolaboradores.” MVS Noticias. January 6, 2020.

López Obrador administration secures two high-profile cases of corruption.” Justice in Mexico. July 14, 2020.

Sheridan, Mary Beth. “Former aide ties Mexican ex-president Peña Nieto to millions in bribes.” Washington Post. August 11, 2020.

Fuentes, David. “Dictan segunda orden de aprehensión contra Raymundo Collins, extitular del Invi.” El Universal. September 8, 2020.

“President López Obrador Targets His Predecessors with a Referendum on Corruption.” Justice in Mexico. October 20, 2020.

Jimenez, Horacio. “Diputados avalan consulta de AMLO para enjuiciar a expresidentes.” El Universal. October 22, 2020.

“Quién es Raymundo Collins, exfuncionario al que le aseguararon 41 autos clásicos.” El Universal. October 30, 2020.

Ruiz, Kevin. “Catean domicile de Raymundo Collins en Tequesquitengo; aseguran 41 autos clásicos.El Universal. October 30, 2020.

Quintero M., Josefina. “Fiscalía solicita a Estados Unidos la extradición de Raymundo Collins.” La Jornada. November 1, 2020.

Lastiri, Diana. “Realizan 500 denuncias por corrupción, pero ninguna llega ante jueces.” El Universal. November 2, 2020.

“FGR sobre Videgaray: no nos han negado orden de aprehensión y reunimos más pruebas.” Animal Político. November 3, 2020.

Reuters. “AMLO confirma que juez negó orden de aprehensión contra Videgaray solicitada por la FGR.” El Economista. November 3, 2020.

The Rights to Water in La Boquilla

Local Farmers flooding La Boquilla dam to prevent the National Guard from opening the dam valves. Image: Mexico News Daily

10/21/20 (written by mlopez) The protests in La Boquilla, Chihuahua have turned violent within the past month as the exportation of water across the border is continuing. A 1944 U.S.-Mexico treaty, which was in response to both parties’ mutual interests in both countries’ shared rivers,   has resulted in a large debt that Mexico owes the United States. Mexico has delayed the release of the water reparations and the fast-approaching October 24th deadline of this year is resulting in the accelerated extortion of water from the dams in La Boquilla. This has resulted in a large divide among the local farmers who rely on the water for their agricultural purposes and the guardia nacional (National Guard) who is entrusted with releasing this water into the Rio Grande river. 

The 1944 Treaty

The Treaty of February 3, 1944 between the United States and Mexico established a mutual agreement to share water between the Colorado River and the Rio Grande. The neighboring countries would allow an equal amount of water to pass through the borders as they both share the environment surrounding the border. While both parties were invested in these two vital rivers for the region, the use of the water became disproportionate. Population growth and the increase in industrialization ultimately affect  how much water is needed by the communities that surround the rivers. 

Currently, however, Mexico is facing a significant shortfall in the amount of water — 307,943 acre-feet, or 379.8 million cubic meters — due by Oct. 24, when the current five-year cycle ends. The deficit is about 88% of what Mexico is expected to supply per year to the United States. It is also worth noting that Mexico receives four times the amount of water it exports to the United States under this treaty. Nevertheless, the ramifications of the 1944 Treaty continue to impact everyday Mexicans over 75 years later. Mexico is not only behind on its payments, as noted, but the local farmers see this rapid exportation of water as impossible in conjunction with their own water uses. Farmers are not protesting the treaty itself, but rather how quickly and how much water will be revoked within a month. Whereas on the other hand President Andrés Manuel López Obrador ordered his National Guard’s to guard the Chihuahua dams in question and ensure that the water repayment mission is completed. AMLO is adamant on repaying the water debt as he fears the consequences of not complying could result in U.S. tariffs. As Sally Spener, a U.S. spokeswoman for the U.S. Water Commission, noted the treaty does not specify sanctions for noncompliance and assumes that both parties will make “good-faith efforts” to fulfill mutual obligations. This signifies that the treaty holds no mention of sanctions or further conflict as a punishment for non compliance. 

The Affected Farmers

The farmers on the ground in Chihuahua have seen the escalation of issues with the 1944 treaty. They are stuck in between the area’s agricultural requirements for the land and the president’s sanctioning of the national guard in their backyard. The farmers began protesting at the start of July due to the National Guard’s presence at their dams. Protestors are upset that there will not be enough water to meet their agricultural needs, as they were recently hit by a drought. The water of these dams are seen as vital to the farmers’ livelihoods. Alejandro Aguilar, 57, a Chihuahua tomato and onion grower was among the protesters. “We will not end our fight, because this liquid is vital to our future, he said.” Protesters say they do not seek to renegotiate the 79-year-old binational water treaty. Rather, they say the Mexican government should seek alternative solutions, such as waiting for fall rains or diverting water from other border areas less affected by the drought than Chihuahua. Chihuahua’s climate is typically dry for the majority of the year with the rain season hitting from July through September. The lowest that the average temperature gets is about 50 ℉ and the highest is around 78℉, with the deserts hitting a high of 111℉. There are various terrains in the state of Chihuahua with the Sierra Madre mountains in the west, the Tarahumara Sierra mountains and Samalayuca deserts to the states north and south borders. These hot terrains in the north along with the lack of rainfall have lent to a dire situation where the sharing of their stored water seems like a threat to their farms in the north. In July 2020, protestors burned government vehicles, blocked railways, and set fire to government offices to protest the release of water to the United States. “For us, here, the question of water is fundamental,” said Salvador Alcántar, the head of Chihuahua’s association of irrigation. He continued, “It is the patrimony that we inherited from our grandparents, our parents. And now we have to leave it for our children.”

AMLO and the National Guards interference

President López Obrador expressed concern in press conferences that by not complying with the treaty the United States will place sanctions and have a reason to initiate conflict with Mexico. This is a presumed fear AMLO has as the treaty itself, as discussed by Sally Spener, has no punitive backing. He sees the National Guard protecting the transmission of water as a vital mission for Mexico’s national security and cooperative nature with the US. AMLO claims that Mexico receives four times the amount of water from the United States’s Colorado River than the United States does through the Rio Grande. Further, he estimates that the amount of stored water in Chihuahua’s northern dams is enough for both the farmers and the United States’s repayment. The president’s position on the repayment is also a product of his recent ties to President Donald Trump. López Obrador sees his next moves with the United States  as vital due to it being an election year and he does not want to encourage any further “mexico-bashing” from the United States. He also mentions that he thinks these outbreaks of protests are sponsored by the National Action Party (Partido de Acción Nacional, PAN), his rival party, along with others who see themselves as the dueños del agua (owners of the water). President López Obrador does not want any trade conflicts with the United States, yet he also condones the current violent surge between farmer protesters and the National Guard. He did reassure that if the payment is not possible, he would appeal to Trump and explain the circumstances as to why there was a delay. If needed, AMLO did also clarify that he could appeal to members of the United Nations to assist in auditing the payments to its northern neighbor. The United Nations has not been made aware of the possibility that the president could call for experts to help audit the payments. Even the U.S. Section of the International Boundary and Water Commission has not been made aware of any discussion from their southern partners that the United Nations would survey their water deliveries, yet the president has brought up this possible course of actions in multiple commentaries. AMLO has options when it comes to handling these protests; it is just a matter of meeting the deadline. 

Acceleration of the Violence

The protests themselves have been on and off since December of 2019, yet they really took root in Chihuahua in July 2020 with the drought. At the La Boquilla dam, on September 8 2020, the national guard tasked with opening the dam valves were encountered by protestors throwing rocks and sticks to stop the release of this water. The protestors eventually got control over the dam as the National Guard stepped back. This is where the narrative diverges, the national guard claims that armed citizens then fired at them, they retaliated, and one mother was killed in this exchange. On the other hand, the protestors and Chihuahua’s governor Javier Corral claim that the national guard was not attacked first. There is an ongoing investigation on the series of the events that claimed a woman’s life, harmed her husband, and have resulted in the escalation of violent protests in La Boquilla. These dams have become a site of mass unrest and these encounters will escalate as the deadline is a week away. 

Sources

Sánchez, Anabel. “1944 Water Treaty Between Mexico and the United States: Present Situation and Future Potential,” Frontera Norte. 17 February 2006. 

“Farmers clash with National Guard over diversion of dam’s water to US,” Mexico News Daily. 05 Febraury 2020. 

Stevenson, Mark. “Mexico struggles with US water debt, suggests UN audit,” Washington Post. 03 September 2020

“Farmers, troops skirmish over water in Northern Mexico,” Washington Post. 09 September 2020. 

“Mexican farmers, troops skirmish over La Boquilla dam water in Chihuahua,” El Paso Times. 09 September 2020.

McDonnell, Patrick.”Mexican water wars: Dam seized, troops deployed, at least one killed in protests about sharing with U.S,” LA Times. 11 September 2020.

“Gobierno federal y autoridades de Chihuahua instalan una mesa de diálogo para abordar el conflicto por el agua,” Latinus. 21 September 2020.
Rafael Romo, Krupskaia Alís. “El conflicto del agua en Chihuahua pasa de protesta de agricultores a pleito político,” CNN Espanol. 26 September, 2020.