Panel of Experts Rejects Mexican Government’s Account of Ayotzinapa Disappearances

Family members and friends of missing Ayotzinapa students wait for an international panel of experts to presents its findings. Source: New York Times

Family members and friends of missing Ayotzinapa students wait for an international panel of experts to presents its findings.
Source: New York Times

9/18/15 (written by rkuckertz) – An international panel of experts appointed by the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights recently released a report contradicting the Mexican government’s official account of how 43 students from the Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers’ College disappeared last September near Iguala, Guerrero. According to the report, elements of the government’s explanation of the tragedy are inconsistent with scientific evidence procured by the panel of experts.

The report illuminates inconsistencies with the federal government’s version of these events—an account they claimed to be the “historical truth” this past January. According to the government’s narrative, municipal police in the state of Guerrero attacked several buses in various locations that carried as many as one hundred students in total. Following a shootout in which six people were killed, the 43 students were handed off to members of a local drug-trafficking gang, Guerreros Unidos, before being transported in trucks to a trash dump in Cocula, Guerrero. According to the January account, fifteen of these students were already dead upon arrival to the site and the remaining students were then executed. The government maintains that the remains were then incinerated and tossed into the nearby San Juan River.

The Inter-American Commission for Human Rights’ report has noted several large disparities between this account and evidence retrieved throughout the course of the investigation. For instance, the panel determined that it is “scientifically impossible” that the remains of the missing students were incinerated at the Cocula trash dump—a fact that the federal government claims to be true.

Following the report’s release, President Enrique Peña-Nieto tweeted that he had instructed members of his cabinet to support the ongoing investigation into the events occurring near Iguala. The Attorney General also extended the panel’s ability to remain in Mexico in order to continue its search for a true account of what happened to the missing 43 students. This response is uncharacteristic of past government reactions to the crisis. Rafael Fernández de Castro Medina, a foreign policy adviser to former President Felipe Calderón, states that “the strategy for Ayotzinapa has been do not rock the boat and let the popular indignation run its course.” However, experts such as New York Times foreign correspondent Azam Ahmed believe that the government’s unprecedented reception of the new report may suggest that the government is beginning to accept a role of responsibility in the events occurring near Iguala last year. A senior member of Peña-Nieto’s cabinet reported the president saying, “we need to do things different.”

Meanwhile, experts at the University of Innsbruck in Austria have recently identified a second set of remains to be one of the missing Ayotzinapa students, Jhosivani Guerrero de la Cruz. Jhosivani would now be twenty years old and wanted to teach in the community of Omeapa, Guerrero. His remains were identified through the analysis of bone fragments reportedly recovered from the San Juan River. The Argentina Forensic Anthropology Team (Equipo Argentino de Antropología Forense, EAAF) identified the first set of remains this past December as belonging to Alexander Mora Venancio, another Ayotzinapa student. Although EAAF did confirm the identity of these remains, they also indicated that they were not involved in the discovery of the bone fragments used in their DNA analysis. Consequently, the team of Argentine experts could neither confirm nor deny that the fragments were recovered from the San Juan River, as the Mexican government asserts. The expert panel appointed by the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights also asserts that physical evidence collected at the dumpsite failed to support the government hypothesis that the remains were cremated there.

Sources:

Ahmed, Azam. “Report Renews Hope and Doubt on Missing Students in Mexico.” New York Times. 9 September 2015.

Goldman, Francisco. “The Missing Forty-Three: The Government’s Case Collapses.” New Yorker. 8 June 2015.

Malking, Elizabeth. “Mexico: 2nd Missing Student Identified.” New York Times. 17 September 2015.

Villegas, Paulina. “Experts Reject Official Account of How 43 Mexican Students Were Killed.” New York Times. 6 September 2015.

“Identifican a Jhosivani, el segundo normalista de Ayotzinapa.” Vanguardia. 17 September 2015.

 

Looking back at Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzman’s escape from prison

Photo of Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán (Image: Telesur)

Photo of Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán
(Image: Telesur)

08/28/2015 (written by rkuckertz) – Experts have begun to speculate that the escape of Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán Loera on July 11, 2015 was motivated by concerns about his possible extradition to the United States. Sixteen days before his escape from the Altiplano federal prison in the State of Mexico, the United States government submitted a formal extradition order for Guzmán, the leader of the Sinaloa cartel. According to recent reports, Guzmán faced charges relating to murder and drug trafficking in at least seven U.S. federal courts. Prior to the United States’ formal request for extradition, Mexico’s former attorney general suggested earlier this year that Guzmán would never serve time in the United States, emphasizing Mexico’s sovereign right to penalize its own criminals. However, the United States proceeded with a formal request in late-June, which was still under review during the time of Guzmán’s escape.

Despite indications that Mexico intended to keep the notorious drug lord in Mexico, Juan Pablo Badillo Soto, Guzmán’s lawyer, claims that the threat of extradition to the United States may have been a motivating factor in Guzmán’s escape. According to Badillo Soto, the drug kingpin was skeptical about the Mexican government’s claim that he would remain in Mexico. Guzmán’s suspicions were validated three weeks after his July 11th escape when the Mexican attorney general announced that a judge had approved the pending extradition order to the United States.

Since the approval of the extradition order, Badillo Soto filed a request for injunction against the order which contended that Guzmán would not receive a fair trial in U.S. courts. Consequently, the order was suspended and has yet to be lifted. Badillo Soto believes that as a result of the suspension, Guzmán will not be extradited if he is recaptured.

Meanwhile, U.S. authorities announced in early August that they are offering a reward of $5 million for information that leads to Guzmán’s capture. The DEA’s San Diego office has set up a tip line and is working with its Mexican counterparts to locate Guzmán. Chuck Rosenberg, the acting leader of the DEA, acknowledges that while Guzmán could be anywhere, it is also likely that he is hiding out somewhere in Mexico. Rosenberg also posits that Guzmán may have returned to his native state of Sinaloa, where his family resides and where he has access to a large network of contacts.

Aside from analysts’ educated guesses, Guzmán’s location remains unknown. However, experts such as Rosenberg and Mexican journalist Anabel Hernandez contend that the drug lord may still possess powerful connections in Mexico. Hernandez, who has covered drug trafficking for decades, asserts that Guzmán continued to run cartel operations from prison. Furthermore, Hernandez speculates that Guzmán also had connections on the outside that aided in his escape on July 11; someone on the outside helped build the 1-kilometer, lighted tunnel that enabled him to flee—something the Peña Nieto administration had pledged to prevent.

Indeed, in a TV interview with Peña Nieto in March 2014, the president himself stressed that a second escape would be “unforgivable” and that the Mexican government would do everything in its power to prevent it. Thus, some analysts such as former head of the Mexican intelligence agency, Guillermo Valdés, now see the Sinaloa cartel kingpin’s escape as a sign of the Peña Nieto’s government ineptitude, or even complicity with Guzmán. Indeed, analysts like Valdés and Hector Aguilar Camín suggest that Guzmán’s escape was a major catastrophe for the Mexican president. In a report published by Milenio, Aguilar writes that “El Chapo has made the Mexican government look ridiculous.”

At the same time, others have criticized Peña Nieto for his supposed indifference to the situation, given his apparent unwillingness to address the escape publicly. As InSight Crime analyst Jeremy McDermott points out, the Peña Nieto administration’s haphazard response to El Chapo’s escape was not the first of its kind. McDermott cites the government’s dispassionate reaction to the forced disappearance of the 43 students in Iguala, Guerrero last year as well as recent accusations of human rights abuses against the Mexican military. Thus, according to analysts such as McDermott and Aguilar, Guzmán’s escape has indeed caused major harm to the administration’s legitimacy.

Sources:

“El Chapo’s escape was spurred by concern over extradition, lawyer says.” The Guardian. August 25, 2015.
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/aug/25/el-chapo-escape-us-extradition

“‘El Chapo’ podría estar escondido en Sinaloa.” Noticieros Televisa. August 5, 2015.
http://noticieros.televisa.com/mexico/1508/dea-cree-chapo-se-esconda-sinaloa1/

“EEUU ofrece $5 millones por El Chapo Guzmán, quien cree está en Sinaloa.” Univisión. August 5, 2015.
http://noticias.univision.com/article/2422874/2015-08-05/estados-unidos/noticias/eeuu-ofrece-5-millones-por-el-chapo-guzman-quien-cree-esta-en-sinaloa

Arroyo, Luis. “‘Narcoland’ Author on El Chapo’s Escape and Government Corruption in Mexico.” TeleSUR. July 29, 2015.
http://www.telesurtv.net/english/opinion/Anabel-Hernandez-Talks-About-the-Escape-of-El-Chapo-Guzman-20150729-0035.html

“EU pidió la extradición de ‘El Chapo’ 16 días antes de la fuga.” El Financiero. July 17, 2015.
http://www.elfinanciero.com.mx/nacional/eu-pidio-la-extradicion-de-el-chapo-16-dias-antes-de-la-fuga.html.

“La extradición que no fue.” El País. July 14, 2015.
http://internacional.elpais.com/internacional/2015/07/13/actualidad/1436824108_700324.html.

Miller, Michael E. “How El Chapo’s Tunnel Could Bury the Rival who Jailed Him, Mexico’s President.” Washington Post. July 14, 2015.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2015/07/14/how-el-chapos-tunnel-could-bury-the-rival-who-jailed-him-mexicos-president

Aguilar Camín, Hector. “Cuentas de ‘El Chapo’.” 13 July, 2015.
http://www.milenio.com/firmas/hector_aguilar_camin_dia-con-dia/Cuentas-Chapo_18_553924638.html

“El Chapo’s Escape: No Light at the End of the Tunnel.” CNN. July 13, 2015.
http://www.cnn.com/2015/07/13/opinions/winslow-el-chapo-escape/.

“Mexican President in 2014: Second Escape by El Chapo Would Be ‘unforgivable’.” Univisión. July 13, 2015.
http://noticias.univision.com/article/2399860/2015-07-13/mexico/noticias/univision-news-transcript-interview-with-mexican-president-enrique-pena-nieto.

Tuckman, Jo. “El Chapo’s Escape Humiliates Mexican president: ‘The state looks putrefied.’ The Guardian. 13 July, 2015.
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jul/13/el-chapo-escape-mexico-president-enrique-pena-nieto

 

Criticisms surface against President Peña Nieto’s proposals for new reforms

police, mexico

Mexico’s Federal Police.

12/11/14 (written by sramirez) — President Enrique Peña Nieto announced on Thursday, November 27 his proposal for anew security planthat would include dissolving municipal police forces and placing them under state police, among other reforms that stimulate economic development. Although rallying support from the President’s Institutional Revolutionary Party (Partido Revolucionario Institucional, PRI) and other prominent government officials, overwhelming criticisms of the proposal arose. President Peña Nieto himself admitted that the route the government chose to transform the security and justice system would be “challenging” to complete, reports CNN México, and it appears many other Mexican voices agree.

Of the criticisms received, many of President Peña Nieto’s suggested that the measures have already been debated or are currently being debated in Congress. However, strong juxtaposing opinions have prohibited some reforms from being passed as legislation, and eight of these 14 measures do require Congress’ endorsement. The measures have also generated negative reactions from civil organizations that look at the proposals with skepticism. Organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, for example, labeled the proposal as superficial “cosmetic changes” that will ultimately be insufficient in avoiding human rights abuses such as those that transpired in the events of Ayotzinapa in September.

Public figures such as Father Alejandro Solalinde, who is a defender of human rights and immigrants and who declared that he had information that the 43-normalista students disappeared in Ayotzinapa had been assassinated, also criticized the proposal on his Twitter account. “The captain is still fixated on navigating a ship that the people are tired of rowing. #GlobalActionForMexico,” reports CNN México. Carlos Navarrete, the national leader of the opposition party, the Party of the Democratic Revolution (Partido del la Revolución Democrática, PRD), stated that the reforms lacked necessary components, and that his party would help in the discussion of them. “The measures announced today through EPN are a mandatory first response to the situation that the country is in. They aren’t complete, but they are on the right track,” said Navarrete, quoted in CNN México. “They still need to be completed, particularized, extended, and defined on how and when. There are subjects that aren’t present and others that fall short. We will soon evaluate the 10 points in detail and make suggested proposals. We will participate in Congress.” More critical of the proposals, the Senate leader of the National Action Party (Partido Acción Nacional, PAN) has signaled that the proposals do not resolve the grave problems of justice that Mexico suffers. “It should not have remained a meditative and electoral message. There is no change in the Cabinet, it has not called upon any civil servant to take responsibility,” said Jorge Luis Preciado, quoted in El País.

As to the economic reforms, the enterprise sector received Peña Nieto’s proposals with some reservations. The President of Mexico’s Employer Association (Consejo Coordinador Empresarial), Gerardo Gutiérrez Candiani, while agreeing that the states in which President Peña Nieto focused on—namely Guerrero, Oaxaca, and Michoacán—are important, believes that rest of the Mexican states also in need of an economic boost to better their security to guarantee that investments are safe, writes El País.

Furthermore, political analysts remain skeptical as to how dissolving municipal police and creating a unified state police will eliminate inefficiency and the “entangled relationship in between corrupt authorities and Mexican cartels,” questions BBC Mundo, which also notes that the actual procedure of unification is also rather convoluted. In the same article, analyst Alejandro Hope added “It is not clear if they are talking about eliminating 1.800 municipal police or passing them over to state police. It is not the same.” Further criticisms arise over the constitutional change that would allow the federal government and the executive branch the power to dissolve local governments accused of infiltration by drug trafficking. Also, some argue that this centralization of power that the federal and executive branches would be given could ultimately be more harmful than helpful, writes BBC Mundo.

The Peña Nieto administration hopes that this plan will mark the start of a new chapter befalling the crisis of the 43 missing students in Iguala. “After Iguala, Mexico must change,” President Peña Nieto admitted. Supporters of the reforms state that the proposals will help administrations to overcome problems with police inefficiency and justice overall. However, those in opposition of the reforms believe that the proposals do not reach the center of the problem of corruption and impunity in Mexico.

Sources:

“Las reacciones a las reformas de seguridad anunciadas por Peña Nieto.” CNN México. November 27, 2014.

“8 de las 14 nuevas medidas de Peña en seguridad, sujetas al Congreso.” CNN México. November 28, 2014.

“Peña admite que implementar su plan de seguridad será tardado y difícil.” CNN México. November 28, 2014.

Corona, Sonia. “El plan de Peña Nieto contra la impunidad desata críticas.” El País. November 29, 2014.

“President Peña Nieto proposes unified state police commands, among other reforms.” Justice in Mexico. November 30, 2014.

Grant, Will, “México: Puede reforma de Peña Nieto superar la crisis de Iguala?” BBC Mundo. December 1, 2014.