Nothing raises the ire of Mexicans more than stories like this: a young Mexican, brought illegally to the US as a baby, is deported as a young adult back “home,” despite having no family ties in Mexico, and often not even speaking Spanish.
Now President Obama has taken a step hailed in Mexico: He's called for ending deportations – effective immediately – and beginning to grant work permits for young illegal immigrants who have been in the US since they were children.
“It is definitely a source of a lot of moral distress because the kids are American in their upbringing and their culture,” says David Mena Alemán, a professor of international affairs at the Iberoamericana University in Mexico City. “Among people realistic in their views about immigration, this is a very good step forward.”
The plan was announced Friday by Department of Homeland Security head Janet Napolitano, and has been described as a temporary fix. Illegal immigrants who are under age 30 but brought to the US before they were 16 are eligible for a deportation waiver and can apply for a two-year work permit. Those eligible must be in school or have a high school or equivalent degree. The policy also applies to those who have served in the military. All must be law-abiding, as well. It could affect some 800,000 immigrants.
The move is being praised by Latinos and activists in the US ahead of the November Presidential election. The plan is likely to draw fierce criticism among Republicans who often dub such policies "backdoor amnesty," and seek tighter border enforcement and stricter policies overall.
Seeking to stave off some of that criticism, Ms. Napolitano said Friday: “It is not immunity. It is not amnesty. It is an exercise of discretion to ensure these people are not in the removal process and ensure that we are not clogging the immigration system with low-priority cases involving productive young people."
“This is essentially the Dream Act for these young people,” says Analicia Ruiz, an expert on US-Mexican relations at Anahuac University in Mexico City. “Obama has not been able to push through comprehensive immigration reform, but he is making adjustments to get on the right track.”
Some of Obama's immigration policies have been controversial. There has been a record deportation rate since he came to office, for example, forcing Mexicans to make ends meet in rural towns that they had long left behind.
But he has also announced that his administration will focus on deporting illegal immigrants who are deemed a public security threat to the US.
Many in Mexico say this latest move is an important acknowledgement that many Mexicans in the US, who have literally never stepped on Mexican soil, belong in America. “This will raise his popularity in Mexico,” Ms. Ruiz says.
• A version of this post ran on the author's blog, Riorealblog.com. The views expressed are the author's own.
The Facebook answers are for you and your visitors, too. So much is new and different – and we’re proud, after long decline, to show off the city that was only months ago a moldering village and is on its way to metropolis status. With warts, of course.
The Dona Marta elevator: Since late 2008, this state-built [funicular] with five stations offers an alternative to more than 800 stairs, between Rua São Clemente and the top of Rio’s first pacified favela. Check out the rooftop where Michael Jackson made a music video – after checking with the drug boss.
Lapa on a Friday or Saturday night, when the main drag is closed to traffic, a recent development. Here’s a helpful blog post. Enjoy the bars, cafés, and music that goes far beyond samba these days.
The Pavão-Pavãozinho lookout, opened in 2010 atop an elevator shaft above the Teixeira de Melo exit of the General Osório metro station. Ride up for free, see the views, and walk with local residents along a passageway into the favela where you can safely explore ever since the installation of a police pacification unit in 2009. Note the light meters outside the houses; it’s all about taking people into the formal economy. There’s still a LOT of trash.
Vidigal favela, where foreigners have long had a toehold, is now host to an inn that throws parties and has a stunning view.
The new gastronomic heartland of the North Zone, pioneered by Aconchego Carioca and its feijoada croquettes.
Cadeg market in the North Zone, known for flowers, Portuguese dancing, wine, codfish, and olive oil, and some awesome restaurants. Revitalizing now.
The Complexo do Alemão cable car system, also in the North Zone. Built by the federal government when drug dealers still ran the place, it’s controversial because no one bothered to ask residents if they needed or wanted it. Also, as this TV Globo report done by a local young partner journalist reveals, planning and construction were shoddy. Yet it’s an amazing ride of six stops over the famous complex of favelas that the army invaded and occupied in November 2010, a turning point for Rio’s pacification effort. Again, fabulous views – more of which can be found nearby at the Igreja da Penha, a tiny church atop a steep hill with a new cable car up to it (but take the stairs if you’ve been having caipirinhas and eating fried manioc), an impressive array of religious mementos, miracle castoffs, slave artifacts, and events such as the blessing of the motorcycles. For more, see this post about this locale that’s returned to the map of places you can safely go in Rio.
The port area, a muddy proposition where you can see recent excavations of Rio’s long-forgotten Valongo slave wharf and a so-called slave cemetery (Cemitério dos Pretos Novos) which was actually a dumping ground for slaves who didn’t survive the trip to Rio (the world’s largest slave port in terms of total volume). An estimated 10,000 skeletons lie under two houses and you can see some of them in holes dug in the floor. A slavery memorial is planned.
On a lighter note, enjoy Friday or Monday night outdoor samba at the Pedra de Sal, where slaves and their descendants have long made music, at the foot of the Morro da Conceição, another attraction worth a visit now that there’s a police pacification unit. The Trapiche da Gamboa is also nearby, a cozy samba venue with great snacks.
Avenida Presidente Vargas, a swathe cut through the city in 1941 that never breathed on its own – until now, with myriad remodeling, retrofitting and building projects going on.
The Rio-Niterói Bridge, from which you can see giant oil rigs under construction, Guanabara Bay chockablock with cargo ships, and (mostly in the Northern Hemisphere winter), colossal cruise ships anchored in the port . Money is pouring into Rio… but don’t take the ferry across the bay. It’s a mess, and about to be rescued by a federal loan to buy new boats.
Morro da Providência, also near the port, another downtown favela with a police pacification unit. Port-and Olympics-related renovations, which involved the destruction of a praça and many homes, plus resident relocation, have drawn criticism. But it’s Rio’s first favela, dating back to 1897, and boasts the Casa Amarela, a vibrant photography center started by Maurício Hora, son of a drug trafficker, to engage local youth in photography.
Bar do David, in the pacified Chapéu Mangueira favela above Leme. David draws a growing number of people (including, New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg on June 19 – and here’s a fun mayoral comparison, by the way) up off the asphalt for his seafood feijoada. He was the first favela restaurateur to place in Rio’s annual Comida de Buteco (bar food) contest. Chapéu Mangueira is also worth a visit because it’s being developed as a model for sustainable living, as part of the Morar Carioca favela upgrade project, meant to bring all Rio favelas up to standard by 2020.
RELATED: Rio's Pacification police
Last but not least, the traditional North Zone Imperator cinema has just reopened as a city cultural center, after the city undertook a thorough remodeling. Try to catch a show of some of that great oldtime samba!
Thanks to André Sampaio (check out his WikiRio), Bruno Correia, Ana Amelia Whately, Gustavo de Almeida and Manoel de Almeida e Silva for their help!!
Do you have recommendations? Leave a comment– and share away, on whatever social media you use.
• A version of this post ran on the author's blog, bloggingsbyboz.com. The views expressed are the author's own.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said [Wednesday] that his country has built several unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and has plans to potentially export them to other Latin American countries. The president of Compañia Anonima Venezolana de Industrias Militares (Cavim) says the drones have a radius of 100km, a flying time of 90 minutes, and a maximum altitude of 3,000 feet. The plane can transmit live streaming video and take high resolution pictures.
Mr. Chavez also announced that the country has built 3,000 AK-103 assault rifles, even though its joint factory with Russia is not complete, and will be capable of building 25,000 rifles per year.
We should fear the guns far more than we fear the drones.
Building drones is easy. Over a dozen of the hemisphere's militaries already have drones and more are on the way. My prediction, as I've stated in various recent presentations, is that private companies and criminal groups will have unmanned surveillance drones within 5-10 years in the region. In fact, the DIY Drones community in the US has people building unmanned vehicles in their backyards for only a couple hundred or couple thousand dollars. Venezuela's drones are probably not a threat and can be easily taken down by most of Venezuela's neighbors if they are used maliciously.
The small arms, thousands of new rifles entering the region with little or no accountability, will cause decades of violence in Venezuela and its neighbors. They are easy to hide and traffic and easy to use and find ammunition (especially if Venezuela completes its ammunition factory with Russia). The rifles aren't being marked or tracked off the assembly line and weapons regularly go missing or stolen from Venezuelan military supplies. They're going to end up in the hands of Chavista paramilitaries in Venezuela, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), and emerging paramilitary organizations (BACRIM) in Colombia, and gangs in Brazil.
Drones are new and exciting to talk about, but small arms and light weapons remain the much larger threat to the hemisphere's security. Venezuela's neighbors should welcome a discussion about the UAVs and even work together in building them so the region has shared capabilities. It's a fun project with lots of good civilian and military uses. Meanwhile, the same neighbors should be very hesitant and even warn Chavez against the manufacturing of additional small arms like the AK-103. Though it isn't the Venezuelan government's intent, those rifles are going [to be] stolen, trafficked, and turned against security forces and civilian populations in the hemisphere. More assault rifles floating around is the last thing South America needs.
– James Bosworth is a freelance writer and consultant who runs Bloggings by Boz.
Are Latin American cities more forward thinking than the rest of the world when it comes to the consequences of global warming?
That's what a new report from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) says, showing that 95 percent of cities in the region are well aware of and planning for the negative effects of climate change. (That compares to just 59 percent of US cities.)
This doesn't mean Latin American countries are actually making concrete plans, but they are doing their homework: meeting with local government environmental offices, conducting research on consequences, and forming task forces and partnerships with NGOs and other local entities.
This flurry of action may not be propelled by a commitment to preparation, but instead by the fact that Latin America is under more pressure than other regions.
Another new report, this one from the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) in partnership with other organizations like the World Wildlife Fund, shows that Latin America is among the most vulnerable regions in the world when it comes to climate change: It could cost the region $100 billion a year by 2050 if current warming trends hold, the report says.
We recently wrote about the challenges of sustainability for megacities ahead of the UN's Conference on Sustainable Development, for the Rio+20 conference underway until June 22, looking specifically at Mexico City, Mumbai, and Lagos, Nigeria.
In Latin America, which accounts for only 11 percent of global greenhouse-gas emissions, the challenges of sustainable development expand beyond the metropolis. The IADB report details the consequences of retreating glaciers, smaller agricultural yields, and natural disasters such as floods and droughts.
From the coral biome in the Caribbean, to glaciers in the Andes, to the forests of the Amazon basin, the region is dependent on natural resources under threat. And the region's financial loss due to the impact of weather changes on agricultural exports alone could measure in at between $30 billion and $52 billion in 2050.
Already, cities say they are feeling the heat. The MIT report, called “Progress and Challenges in Urban Climate Adaptation,” looked at 468 cities across the globe, and shows that cities are already feeling the consequences, from an increased frequency of extreme weather events, to storm surges and coastal erosion. Mexico has been amid one of its worst droughts in decades, there have been deadly landslides from El Salvador to Brazil, and unprecedented rising water levels at Lake Atitlan in Guatemala.
Overall, 79 percent of cities worldwide report that in the past five years, they perceived changes in temperature, precipitation, sea level, or natural hazards that they attribute to climate change. Among cities that completed assessments, increased storm water runoff is the issue that most anticipate they will need to address in the near term (65 percent), with storm water management (61 percent) ranked close behind.
Some cities have taken action, and Mexico City is a clear example. Its ambitious 15-year "Plan Verde," or green plan, promises to reduce vehicle emissions by 7 million metric tons before 2012 by investing in alternative energy, more green zones, and public transport such as electric buses. "This is very exciting for a city that used to be one of the most polluted in the world," Martha Delgado, the city's environmental secretary, told me on the heels of the World Mayors Summit on Climate (WMSC) in Mexico City in November 2010, held as the UN climate talks got underway in Cancun.
There Mexico City signed a voluntary pact – together with 137 other cities worldwide – to establish a monitoring and verification mechanism to track emissions.
But as the MIT report shows, the challenges of turning pledges into concrete action are many. The top-three challenges listed, according to the survey, include funding, communicating the needs for adaptation to local officials, and gaining commitment from national governments to implement the realities on the ground.
The Rio+20 summit could, optimists say, cover some important ground in alleviating these setbacks.
As the Falkland islanders celebrate the 30-year anniversary of the June 14 end to the war between Argentina and Great Britain, the dispute is far from settled. Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner is expected to argue her country's claim of sovereignty over the South Atlantic islands, which they call the Malvinas, before the United Nations today, the latest move in the continuing diplomatic dust-up between the two countries.
It’s a long-standing problem that might need an innovative solution. Think about it: The Borges proposal of a Bolivian Falklands should gratify Argentines and Britons because it would mean one less nationalist cause that their politicians could use to distract them from more important matters. It would finally give the impoverished and land-locked Bolivia an answer to its historical call for access to the sea. And it would provide excellent material for followers of the Latin American surrealist literary tradition.
But, alas, it wouldn’t resolve the issue at the heart of the conflict, which is the freedom to self-determination of 3,000 Falkland islanders, known as kelpers – a decision they will make in an early 2013 referendum, announced on Tuesday by Gavin Short, chairman of the Falklands Legislative Assembly. British leaders have maintained they will not negotiate over island sovereignty unless residents express a desire to do so.
And Mr. Short was clear: “I have no doubt that the people of the Falklands wish for the islands to remain a self-governing overseas territory of the United Kingdom,” he said in a statement. “We certainly have no desire to be ruled by the government in Buenos Aires, a fact that is immediately obvious to anyone who has visited the islands and heard our views.”
While the referendum will likely bolster the British side of the dispute, President Fernandez claims that the Falklands are an “absurd” relic of a colonial past, and has pursued a multi-pronged diplomatic and legal effort to pressure the UK into negotiations, including the banning of British ships in the region, and filing a suit against firms exploring for offshore oil. She’s expected to raise the issue on Thursday in New York for the annual UN decolonization committee hearings.
Thirty years ago, the Argentine military government invaded the islands as part of an effort to galvanize waning support for its rule. A 74-day war ensued, ending the lives of 649 Argentine and 255 British soldiers. The British military presence left behind allowed Falkland authorities to update its infrastructure, and collect fees from the international boats that fish its rich waters, turning the islands from a sheep-farming economic backwater into one of the richest territories (per capita) in the Western Hemisphere. Kelpers were given full citizenship and representative government under British protection, forging even stronger ties between Great Britain and the islanders, who speak British English, watch the BBC, and send their kids to university in Britain.
Meanwhile, children in Argentina learn in school – and Argentines preserve the widely held conviction – that the "Malvinas are Argentine." Authorities say the territory was inherited from Spain upon independence in 1816, but historical documents show that no nation had undisputed control of the islands when they were claimed by the British in 1833. Argentina’s bid for a share of expected oil wealth has been abandoned, and they're instead trying to isolate the Falklands by blocking ships, and pursuing diplomatic efforts to get other Latin American countries to do the same. And the demand for revenue sharing, if it ends there, is disingenuous: Argentina's constitution was reformed in the 1990s, and calls for full sovereignty over the islands.
The Argentine cause, then, if it continues to be used as a cudgel for heavy-handed nationalism, and views the islands only as a physical space without recognizing the wishes of the kelpers, would be just as fanciful as Borges’s.
A new Senate report highlights how prescription drug abuse is now one of the biggest health and security problems facing the US, casting doubt on the conventional wisdom that Latin American cartels still present the biggest risk to the US in terms of drug policy
The latest briefing by the US Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control calls attention to a shift in drug consumption trends observed for several years now. While use of [...] cocaine and marijuana appears stable, if not decreasing, prescription drugs are now the second most common form of drug abuse in the US. The White House previously called it the “the Nation’s fastest-growing drug problem.” And as the Senate briefing points out, prescription drugs are now responsible for the majority of overdose deaths in the US, outnumbering deaths involving heroin and cocaine combined. Meanwhile the number of people seeking treatment for addiction to legal opiates increased 400 percent between 2004 and 2008, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
Rising prescription drug abuse has also led to increased violent robberies of pharmacies, up 82 percent between 2006 and 2011, the Senate briefing notes. The implication is that not only is prescription drug abuse leading to serious health problems across the US, but it is becoming a security issue as well. From Florida to New England, local law enforcement is reporting a rise in violent crime and theft linked to prescription drugs.
Such findings are further indication that the major drug policy challenges facing the US increasingly have less to do with the illegal drugs traditionally supplied by Latin American criminal organizations. Latin America-based cartels are hardly the main suppliers when it comes the prescription drug epidemic: according to a 2009 government survey on drug use in the US, 70 percent of prescription drug abusers in the US were supplied their pills by a friend or a relative. The epidemic raises the tricky question of just how many resources the US should continue putting into international drug enforcement in Latin America, when it’s clear that the more pressing challenges facing the country lie within its own borders and its domestic laws regarding pharmaceutical drugs.
Shifting drug consumption habits in the US also call into question repeated claims by Latin American countries that their struggle against organized crime is primarily driven by US consumers of cocaine and marijuana. The Senate Caucas report acknowledges the US’s shared responsibility in this problem, stating, “Ultimately, it is drug consumption in the United States that fuels violence throughout Latin America and the Caribbean.”
While it is important for the US to emphasize this, it shouldn’t distract from the evidence showing that much of the violence afflicting places like Colombia, Mexico, and the Northern Triangle [El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras] is partly driven by growing domestic consumption in those countries. According to the Organization of American States’ (OAS) first ever report on drug consumption trends in the Americas, cocaine and crack use is rising across Latin America. The United Nations International Narcotics Control Board observed a similar trend in their 2011 survey of drug use dynamics in the hemisphere. As cocaine use goes down and prescription drug use goes up in the US, it appears that Latin America is compensating in terms of supplying its own cocaine and crack users.
This year has seen plenty of cries from Latin American leaders for a more nuanced debate on drug policy. One of the fundamental problems is that the US’s traditional focus on Latin America-sourced cocaine, marijuana, and heroin is outdated. Prescription and synthetic drugs – such as the “bath salts” that are reportedly becoming more widely available in Latin America, and which supposedly drove the “Miami cannibal” incident – may turn out to be the more significant drug policy challenges in the 21st century.
The US has already rung plenty of alarm bells that the prescription drug epidemic needs plenty of attention from policymakers. And if there are new drugs besides cocaine and marijuana that are causing the most significant health and security problems in the US, policymakers would do well to apply a new drug policy strategy that would have ramifications for Latin America as well. Especially if the new White House drug control strategy is supposed to emphasize drug use prevention and treatment, it would be a lost opportunity not to encourage the same approach south of the border.
• A version of this post ran on the author's blog, Riogringa. The views expressed are the author's own.
One of the most controversial environmental issues, the Forest Code, was passed by the president and seems to be plowing ahead. [President] Dilma [Rousseff] made a number of modifications and vetos, and after she sent the bill back to Congress, it received over 600 amendments. (Given how contentious the bill became, Dilma herself didn't actually announce the changes she made; she sent her ministers to do it.) With Dilma's changes, the bill is still fairly ambiguous and left both environmentalists and agribusiness interests unhappy. One of the biggest points of contention dealt with amnesty for deforesters; while she vetoed amnesty for large deforesters, amnesty for small-scale deforesters remained in the bill. Things took another strange turn today when some of the ruralistas tried to get the Supreme Court to block Dilma's changes to the law. Now, Congress says it won't have a final vote on the final changes until July. But some question whether the changes to the law will matter in the long run, given that the parts of the country most affected by deforestation are areas with weak rule of law where many already ignore the rules.
Given that the Forest Code has gained a lot of negative attention both in Brazil and beyond, the government has made some last-ditch efforts to produce some environmentally friendly news. This week, the government announced that according to the state-run agency INPE, the Amazon has seen the lowest deforestation rates since 1988 and that over 81 percent of the original forest has been preserved. The time period in question is between August 2010 and July 2011, but deforestation also reportedly fell between August 2011 and May 2012. The crux of the announcement – about the 2010-11 numbers – were actually just a rehash of an announcement already made last year. But Dilma also took the opportunity to announce the creation of two new nature reserves (in Paraná and Rio Grande do Norte) and seven new indigenous reserves in the Amazon.
But as the hosts of one of the most important global environmental events, what do Brazilians think about the environment, the Amazon, and deforestation?
- Knowledge about the environment is on the rise in Brazil. Over the past 20 years, consciousness about deforestation, environmental protection, and other issues have steadily grown, as more and more Brazilians believe a healthy environment is good for the country. According to a survey released today, though only 22 percent of Brazilians know what Rio+20 is, more Brazilians are concerned about the environment. The study showed that Brazilians listed the environment as the number 6 concern for the country; in a similar study in 1992, the environment didn't even appear on the list. Interestingly, of those who said they were "very proud" of the country, most listed the environment as the number one reason for feeling proud of the country, above socioeconomic development and the Brazilian people. Also, 65 percent said it is important to protect the environment for "survival." It's also interesting to note that in 1992, 47 percent did not know or didn't give an opinion on Brazil's main environmental problems; in 2012, it decreased to 10 percent.
- More Brazilians are taking action about the environment. Though only an estimated 2 percent of household trash is recycled in Brazil, the environment survey released today indicated that 48 percent of Brazilians separate their trash for recycling. One in five Brazilians have taken environmental action, including separating the trash, planting trees, and group clean-ups. Around 76 percent of those who live in cities trying to reduce plastic bag use said they have committed themselves to the campaign. Brazilians also mobilized against the Forest Code. A petition signed by nearly 2 million people--of which 1.5 million were Brazilian--was delivered to Dilma asking her to veto the entire bill. A number of high-profile celebrities ranging from Gisele to Rodrigo Santoro to Fernando Meirelles mobilized support among Brazilians to protest the law both on the streets and on the web.
- The Amazon is ours, Brazilians sometimes say when asked about who is responsible for one of the world's largest rainforests. But for many Brazilians who live in the country's largest cities, the Amazon is something of a faraway concept, even though the Amazon rainforest accounts for between 40 and 50 percent of Brazil's total area. Still, the rallying cry of maintaining sovereignty over the Amazon--a Amazônia é nossa--may not take into complete account the fact that the Amazon basin is spread over nine countries, and around 40 percent of the total area is located in Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname, and French Guiana. There's also a lot of sensitivity around criticism and pressure from abroad to protect the Amazon, and some believe that foreigners should have no say in Amazonian protection efforts.
- Brazilians are very protective of the Amazon, and beyond sensitivity to outside influence, some are even suspicious of foreign intervention there. There's a long-running urban myth that foreigners are trying to take over the Amazon, a conspiracy theory that has persisted to this day. While a number of experts have tried to debunk this myth, there is evidence that foreigners support stronger restrictions on Amazon deforestation. A January 2012 survey of foreigners from 18 countries asked about their perceptions of Brazil showed that 40 percent believe the Amazon should be administered according to international law rather than Brazilian law. Plus, 65 percent said they'd be willing to donate money to help preserve the Amazon. But since Brazilians are wary of foreigners' involvement with the Amazon, would those unaware of the event--around 80 percent of the population--support Rio+20 if they knew what it was? In the end, it may not matter, since setting legally binding targets seems very unlikely. The good news is that more and more Brazilians are becoming more invested in the environment, which will hopefully mean that more people willl seek to hold leaders accountable for environmental protection and sustainability.
There is already ample evidence of how Mexican traffickers have infiltrated American cities. The Department of Justice says Mexican drug trafficking organizations were operating in more than 1,000 of them as of 2010.
And now, according to an investigative piece by The New York Times, they are on the nation's racetracks too. Ginger Thompson of the Times writes about the Treviño family, which is accused of establishing a notable horse breeding operation in the US called Tremor Enterprises, through which they have allegedly laundered millions of dollars.
And the man behind the operation? Miguel Ángel Treviño Morales, a key figure in the Zetas drug gang, the most ruthless of the ruthless trafficking organizations in Mexico. Ms. Thompson describes him as such: “Thin with a furrowed brow, he has become the organization’s lead enforcer – infamous for dismembering his victims while they are still alive.”
RELATED: Who are the Zetas?
The face of the breeding and racing operation was Mr. Treviño's US-based brother, Jose, though Treviño is believed to be behind the funding of the operation.
According to US officials, Treviño used cash from drug profits to help establish the operation, including a ranch in Oklahoma with 300 stallions and mares, often paid for in cash. Tremor obviously had a knack for the work: Its horses won three of the biggest industry races in the past three years.
Yesterday federal agents raided the ranch and stables in Oklahoma, charging 15 people with money laundering. Miguel Treviño is still at large, believed to be in Mexico.
"This case is a prime example of the ability of Mexican drug cartels to establish footholds in legitimate US industries and highlights the serious threat money laundering causes to our financial system," Richard Weber, chief of the Internal Revenue Service's criminal investigation unit, told Associated Press.
The Zetas are one of the most powerful drug trafficking organizations in Mexico and widely considered its most brutal. They are accused of being the masterminds behind Mexico's most gruesome violence in recent years, including arson at a casino in Monterrey in the middle of the day and the massacre of 72 migrants heading to the US.
The case is also a prime example of the convergence of two cultures, steeped in custom and mythology. Thompson's piece is worth a read. She begins:
Newcomers rarely make it into the winner’s circle at the All American Futurity, considered the Kentucky Derby of quarter horse racing.
Leading the revelry at the track was Mr. Piloto’s owner, José Treviño Morales, 45, a self-described brick mason who had grown up poor in Mexico. Across the border, Ramiro Villarreal, an affable associate who had helped acquire the winning colt, celebrated at a bar with friends.
As for the man who made the whole day possible, Miguel Ángel Treviño Morales, he was living on the run, one of the most wanted drug traffickers in the world.
The circles of American horse breeding seem an unlikely conduit for drug trafficking funds. But that may have been why it was chosen – that and the love that the Treviños allegedly had for the trade. Questions had already started to emerge, especially over the origins of Jose's money. One of his horses was named Number One Cartel. The AP notes that workers in New Mexico stables called them the "Zetas stables." But in the struggling industry, few were asking questions. Today, however, many might be wondering: What industry is next?
• A version of this post ran on the author's blog. The views expressed are the author's own.
One year ago, I was writing about Decree 743, a law signed by President Mauricio Funes, that tried to change the rules for El Salvador's Constitutional Court to require unanimous decisions rather than majority decisions. After considerable public opposition, the legislature and president Funes backed down and repealed Decree 743. Now that same court has made a unanimous ruling which has precipitated another constitutional clash among El Salvador's branches of government. (El Salvador's Supreme Judicial Tribunal (TSJ) has different wings which rule on different areas of law like criminal law, constitutional law, etc. The " Sala de lo Constitucional" or Constitutional Court rules on whether laws passed by the National Assembly and acts of the executive branch are unconstitutional).
The Constitutional Court ruled that votes by the National Assembly to appoint judges to the TSJ in 2006 and 2012 were unconstitutional. The Court ruled that the constitution requires that one third of the court be elected every three years. The three year cycle matches up to the three year cycle on which deputies to the National Assembly are elected. The Court decided that for every three year term of the National Assembly, that group of legislators can only vote once. In both 2006 and 2012, the legislature had voted twice to change the make-up of the TSJ's judges. In this way, citizens' votes are taken into consideration (theoretically, at least) because they can alter the make-up of the National Assembly and hence alter the votes for judges of the TSJ.
The Court ordered the National Assembly to take up a new election of the two-thirds of judges who had been named by the legislature in 2006 and 2012. In the meantime, the work for the TSJ has ground to a halt as the judges whose elections have been challenged, are declining to sign any more orders. Now the National Assembly is refusing to go along with the Constitutional Court's rulings. The National Assembly instead is consulting with legal experts, and is talking about asking the Central America Court of Justice to rule on this conflict between El Salvador's legislative and judicial branches. Like the dispute in 2011, this is another test of which branch of government in El Salvador is supreme. Having the rule of law be respected requires a national consensus that the highest court in the country has the final say and requires a court with judicial independence. The Constitutional Court has shown itself to be independent, but El Salvador still lacks the national consensus that the decisions of these independent judges are the ultimate authority.
A movie rehashing one of the most controversial events in Mexico’s modern election history – likened to the country's equivalent of JFK's assassination in the US – debuted here to packed theaters just three weeks ahead of presidential elections.
Colosio, the Assassination tells the story of the March 1994 killing of Luis Donaldo Colosio, the presidential candidate of the semi-authoritarian Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI. It’s a fictional account of real events that all but confirms what Mexicans have long believed.
“It’s the same story: that it had to have been a crime of the state,” said Rafael Muñez after seeing the movie.
On the campaign trail in a tough Tijuana neighborhood, Colosio was shot twice – once in the head, once in the side – while making his way through a crowd of supporters. The authorities presented a man, Mario Aburto, as the shooter. A federal investigation determined he acted alone.
But the Aburto presented to media as the culprit bore little resemblance to the man captured at the scene of the crime, whose face had been caught on television. And the questions and conspiracy theories began to fly.
Directed by Carlos Bolado and based on official documents declassified in 2000, the movie makes no direct accusations of guilt but details how evidence was tampered with or disappeared, how key suspects were inexplicably let free, and how witnesses or potential informants – at least 15 of them – were methodically killed in the wake of the assassination.
Colosio, the Assassination reveals the deep fissures that divided the long-governing PRI in 1994 and pitted the standing president, Carlos Salinas de Gortari, against the candidate whom he had chosen as his successor. Just days before his death, Colosio gave a speech in Mexico City denouncing official corruption and promising to push the country toward a more open democracy. Had he threatened official interests?
That this movie could even be made is a testament to how far Mexico has come from the days of government censorship, wrote Carlos Bonfil in Mexico’s La Jornada newspaper.
“One of the most perceptible effects of the downfall of political authoritarianism in Mexico has been the disappearance or total inefficacy of cinematographic censorship,” Mr. Bonfil said.
Movies including Herod’s Law (Luis Estrada, 1999) and The Crime of Father Amaro (Carlos Carrera, 2002) have explored previously untouchable topics: the corruptibility of Mexican politicians in the first, and the clergy in the second.
The debut of Colosio, the Assassination coincided this weekend with another morbid historical memory: the halconazo of June 10, 1971, when an iron-fisted PRI sent in armed paramilitaries to attack students demanding the liberation of political prisoners. Dozens of students were killed, but no official count of the dead and missing was ever released. This past weekend, thousands of students marched in the capital to commemorate the massacre and demand justice.
Many of the marchers carried the placards of the #YoSoy132 student movement, which largely opposes the return of the PRI to power.
PRI candidate Enrique Peña Nieto holds onto a substantial lead in the polls leading up to the July 1 election.
As the credits rolled at the movie’s end, a woman leaned into the man to her right and asked, “After seeing this movie, who can vote for the PRI?”