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The monster in the mountains

1 April 2015

Not everyone has access to The New Yorker magazine (my budget only goes so far, and I’ve run out of free access), so here is the URL for the”Monster In The Mountain“.  A copy is at Borderlands Beat (here).   The most important thing in this video, I think, is the reminder that this is not a “war on drugs” but a war on the poor.  And, left unsaid in the seven minute video, a war designed to keep the poor in poverty.  It was no mistake that the victims are the educated, the would-be educated, who threaten the “corruption and impunity” that are the real monster.




The Border Patrol… and the birth of Baja California cuisine

31 March 2015

Via KQED:  “California Foodways”:

If you ask people in the city of Mexicali, Mexico, about their most notable regional cuisine, they won’t say street tacos or mole. They’ll say Chinese food. There are as many as 200 Chinese restaurants in the city. North of the border, in Imperial County, the population is mostly Latino, but Chinese restaurants are packed. There are dishes in this region you won’t find anywhere else, and a history behind them that goes back more than 130 years.


There’s a specific reason for all of this, according to Professor Robert Chao Romero.

“The restaurants you see now are remnants of the Chinese population that used to fill the U.S./Mexico borderlands in Mexicali and in Baja California,” he says.


… today’s Border Patrol grew out of the Mounted Guard of Chinese Inspectors, created to keep Chinese immigrants from entering the U.S. At the same time, the Mexican government welcomed Chinese immigrants to go to the sparsely populated border region, to work on farms and in mines and canals. Many Chinese immigrants settled in Mexicali, becoming grocers, merchants and restaurant owners.

(read the whole story here)

Any day is a good day for a walk

29 March 2015

The Public Security Secretariat for the Federal District released statistics the other day (Jornada, 27 de Marzo de 2015) on the popularity of one of the capital’s more favored forms of social activity.  From April 2014 through March of this year, more than four million people turned out for various demonstrations.  The actual number of demonstrations recorded by District Public Security was 9,168, or slightly over 25 per day.


WWORT? The “Alliance For Prosperity”

26 March 2015

What would Oscar Romero think?


Whether one considers Romero a saint, or merely a patriot who died trying to save his country from further suffering and violence, somehow I don’t think he’d look down on El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras with anything but sadness. And, as a Catholic Bishop, he might have a few choice words (some rather less than saintly) for Catholic layman Joe Biden.

Biden has been the point man on selling, both in the United States and to the Central American nations, the “Alliance for Prosperity” or “Partnership for Growth”… a billion dollar “investment” in the Central American nations that appears to be nothing more than an extension of the oh-so-successful “Plan Merida” that escalated gangsterism in Mexico into a sporadic civil war (leaving somewhere around 100,000 Mexicans dead) to Central America, coupled with destroying peasant agriculture and food security for low-wage assembly jobs for foreign corporations. A recipe for more civil unrest and exploitation.

As Alexander Main (Senior Associate for International Policy at the Center for Economic and Policy Research) wrote in The Hill (via Counterpunch) writes:

… the “Alliance” plan appears to be largely focused on attracting forms of foreign investment that have arguably made life worse for many Central Americans and had little positive impact on the overall economic situation. These include investments in “strategic sectors”– textile manufacturing, agro-industry and tourism –which all too frequently offer workers poverty-level jobs and provoke the displacement of small farmers and entire communities whose rights and historic claims to land are rarely supported by state authorities.

Security assistance would also increase significantly under the White House’s Central America budget proposal. Funding for International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement (INCLE) aid to Central America would double from $100 million in FY2014 to $205 million in FY2016. This assistance, rooted primarily in the U.S. “war on drugs,” includes extensive support for the region’s police and military forces despite abundant reports of their involvement in extrajudicial killings and other serious human rights violations. All of the INCLE funding would be channeled through the Central American Regional Security Initiative (CARSI), a multilateral cooperation mechanism that is notoriously opaque, leaving the public and members of Congress with minimal information on where and how the funds are actually used.

There is little evidence that U.S. security assistance has worked in Central America; in fact, many human rights defenders [PDF] point to the massive impunity around police and military human rights violations and consider that the fire.U.S. has simply been adding fuel to the fire.

Why would the U.S. be so anxious to expand its less than successful “assistance” to Mexico into Central America? Simple… the maintain control of these countries, not from “narcos” but from their own people.

Specifically talking about Romero’s own El Salvador, Kevin Young at NACLA calls the proposal “War by Other Means.”   Young quotes labor leader Wilfredo Berríos, who said of post-civil war Salvador, “the political, social, and economic war began again… under the rules of the right, the rules of capitalism, and the rules of the United States.”

The Obama administration has sought to ensure the adoption of corporate-friendly policies in El Salvador by conditioning Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) development aid upon a slew of neoliberal reforms that include privatization, the relaxation of business regulations, and the enforcement of trade provisions that privilege U.S. corporations. Since 2011, the U.S. “Partnership for Growth” has provided the overarching framework for advancing these policies. According to the State Department, the program aims to “promote a business-friendly institutional environment” and “catalyze private investment.”

The “Partnership” exemplifies a more general U.S. strategy in Latin America. Since 1998 the region has elected roughly a dozen left-of-center presidents who explicitly reject U.S. intervention and neoliberal economics. In response, the United States has tried to institutionalize neoliberal policies that can constrain future governments regardless of political affiliation. In effect, Washington has sought to mitigate the danger of elections by insulating economic policy from democratic input.

The Obama Administration has twisted the collective arms of Salvador’s leaders to sign off on a number of “reforms”… everything from permitting Monsanto GM corn imports (which was beaten back by popular opposition), to changing patent laws to keep cheap generic medications off the market, to less restrictive mining laws.

A common thread is the tailoring of development projects to the needs of large business interests rather than small-scale producers, workers, and residents. Ana Dubon, who lives in a community near the northern highway, said that the old road was in “terrible condition” and she wanted it repaired. But the new highway, designed to fit huge trucks and without good connections to rural villages, reflected the priorities of the wealthy. She said it “has brought development for those with economic resources, so they can make more money,” and also warned that it has increased drug trafficking and prostitution in the area. “And that’s development?”, she asked.


… If recent decades are any guide, further neoliberal reforms will produce lower growth and greater inequality. Meanwhile, the militarized U.S. approach to drug trafficking and street crime will also likely increase state violations of human rights, and—judging by recent patterns in Mexico and Central America—amplify violence by non-state actors as well.

Romero wept!

As it happens: committing journalism

26 March 2015

The “real Mexico” of journalists, courtesy of Carlos Léon Palacio, a free-lance reporter (and editor of an you-tube video news site, “Pensar Ético”):

What Léon was covering was a protest by Chontel Mayan women who have been staging a hunger strike in Villahermosa, Tabasco, seeking promised support from the state’s governor, for assistance in purchasing farm machinery. The women, and campesinos were trying to deliver a petition to the Governor and to meet with him face-to-face. Léon was trying to do his job.

On the other side of the Republic, the farm workers’ strikes in Baja California are being sort-of reported on outside Mexico… but mostly just because the peones (and there has been evidence that workers are being held in debt slavery, which is what peonage is) are a threat to the low, low prices U.S. consumers pay for their produce.

Military assault

24 March 2015

Another MUST READ for anyone interested in U.S. military activity in Latin America.  Congratulations to Adriaan Alsema on breaking this story, now making the rounds of the Latin American press, and seriously discomforting the Pentagon,

US soldiers and military contractors sexually abused more than 54 children in Colombia between 2003 and 2007, according to a recently released historic document on the country’s conflict. The suspects have allegedly not been prosecuted due to immunity clauses in bilateral agreements.

The 800-page independent historic report was commissioned by the Colombian government and rebel group FARC to establish the causes and violence aggravators of the 50-year-long conflict they are negotiating to end.

The document is to help negotiators determine who is responsible for the 7 million victims or the armed conflict between leftist rebels and the state while they are negotiating peace.

At least 54 Colombian girls sexually abused by immune US military: Report

With U.S. military (and paramilitary) personnel here in Mexico (where sexual abuse by our own soldiers is all too common) and more U.S. personnel headed to Peru, people in the United States need to understand that there could, and likely will be, blowback as stories like the Colombian experience become better known.

Shop til you drop

24 March 2015

Mexico has been on a buying spree for U.S. military equipment, especially helicopters and armored vehicles, with purchases amounting to more than a billion dollars in the last 12 months. U.S. Northern Command chief Admiral William Gortney said the combined deals represent “a 100-fold increase from prior years.” For a military supposedly proud of its independence from the United States, it is a dependent client.

John Lindsay-Poland,  on “The Mexican Military’s Buying Binge” (NACLA 23 March 2015)

I haven’t been keeping up with Mexican military spending, but do recall that as a portion of the national budget, “security” has been taking a bigger and bigger chunk over the last few years. I also know that much of the spending has been that “Plan Merida” funding, which was not so much Mexican spending, as US taxpayer funds being given to Mexico to buy US equipment, supposedly to fight narcos who are selling drugs (and buying arms) to willing buyers (and willing sellers) in the US.

Lindsay-Poland’s article on WHAT is being bought is a must read. Where the money is coming from (us.. or the U.S.?) and — ultimately — cui bono from these sales is something I just don’t know.


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