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We expected better?

25 September 2012

I have a sick computer at home, so don’t have access to my usual files. This piece, from New Mexico State University’s Center for Latin American and Border Studies on-line news letter, Frontera NorteSur, lists its references, but does not include links. Given the recent disappearance of Ruy Salgado, and a string of disappearances among political dissidents, what has been nagging at me is the sense that it is a perfectly logical extension of the “war on drugs”. It is an open secret that the state has been, shall we say, less than scrupulous about protecting the rights of those considered inconvenient. While one might cheer the fact that “narcos” seldom live long enough to get to court, let alone to be arrested, one senses that the sting of unsolved murders and disappearances usually credited to organized crime are seldom major crime figures — more socially inconvenient types like what we call “narcomenudistas” (retail drug dealers… i.e., the kid down the street selling marijuana) or petty thieves or maybe just the neighborhood ne’er-do-well.

Very few are going to mourn their demise, or put much effort into finding them. We always seem shocked when we discover, as happened in Ahome, Sinaloa (detailed in Rio Doce, two weeks ago), that the local police are doubling as a hit squad… or that a U.S. “contractor” hired under Plan Merida is tied to training death squads in Juarez (Your U.S. tax dollars at work). But, as long as it was “those people”, it was to all too many easily overlooked, or just not considered. It’s not a leap of logic to go from eliminating “them” in the same of social peace (or, rather, in the name of market stability) and protecting the state to eliminating opposition to the state as it is now composed. With the state willing to use military force (designed not to “serve and protect” but to destroy enemies) and legitimized one set of non-conformists as the “enemy” (as in rebranding common criminal organizations as first “cartels” then as TCOs… transnational criminal organizations… and increasingly as “terrorists”), we are long on the way of defining all dissent and disruption as “terrorism”. And, having turned a blind eye to military “excesses” (or rather, the logical method of military control — killing the “enemy” ) as normal, it’s not to a surprise if civilians also adopt these methods.

In this climate, disappearances are politics by other means.

Friends and supporters of Baja California resident Aleph Jimenez Dominguez are demanding the young man’s safe return. The 32-year-old spokesperson for the Ensenada branch of the Mexican youth activist group #YoSoy 132 (I am Number 132) was reported last seen at a local bank on Thursday, September 20.

An oceanographer who collaborated with a research project involving the Mexican national oil company Pemex, Jimenez has also been a very visible and vocal activist with the 132 Movement, which arose last May as a protest against the ultimately successful presidential candidacy of Enrique Pena Nieto of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI).

According to Raul Ramirez Baena, director of the independent, Baja-based Northwest Citizen Human Rights Commission, Jimenez was among 20 people detained for protesting at the annual Independence Day ceremony in Ensenada on September 15, an event in which journalists also suffered aggressions. Ramirez said Jimenez had also criticized the mayor of Ensenada, the PRI’s Enrique Pelayo, for the politician’s aspirations to become the governor of Baja California.

“Because of the antecedents mentioned and Aleph’s leadership in the #YoSoy 132 group in Ensenada, it is presumed that this is one more case of forced disappearance, a crime against humanity…,” Ramirez wrote in a statement posted on Proceso newsweekly’s website. He demanded that the authorities immediately locate the activist and punish those responsible for the disappearance.

Jimenez’s associates were quoted in the media as saying that their friend had been followed by a vehicle with tainted windows and a mysterious man in the days prior to his disappearance.

In response to the disappearance, Mayor Pelayo called Jimenez a valuable young man and dedicated professional. He pledged to collaborate until the end with “all the authorities to find the young man.” Francisco Sanchez Corona, state legislator for the Party of the Democratic Revolution, said he would seek to make forced disappearance a crime in Baja California.

… increasingly, 132 activists in different regions of Mexico have been subjected to a pattern of threats, mass arrests and physical aggressions by local police or unknown individuals. In addition to Baja California, detentions and threats have been reported in Puebla, Guadalajara, Aguascalientes, Acapulco and other places.

In July, six members of 132 accused police officers in Leon, Guanajuato, of driving them around the city and molesting female members of the group after they were detained during an anti-Pena Nieto protest. In San Nicolas de la Garza, Nuevo Leon, three activists alleged they were stripped naked and beaten by local cops.

Jimenez’s disappearance came only days before the 132 Movement and allies in labor and popular movements announced a new round of mobilizations against Pena Nieto’s ascendancy to the presidency in December. Meeting in Oaxaca this past weekend, the Second National Convention against the Imposition unveiled a series of national mobilizations beginning with a September 25 demonstration in Mexico City against the labor reform legislation pending in the Congress and culminating in a massive gathering in the capital city on December 2 and 3.

In the interim, activists plan student strikes, protests against media monopolization, a presence at the youth-popular Cervantino Festival in Guanajuato and a commemoration of this year’s Day of the Dead holiday festivity as “The Day of the Drug War Dead.” Convention participant Camilo Valenzuela characterized the fall season as the birth of a “national liberation movement.”

Sources: Frontera, September 24, 2012., September 22 and 24, 2012. Articles by Elizabeth Vargas and editorial staff. El Sol de Tijuana, September 23, 2012. Article by Rocio Galvan. La Jornada (Jalisco Edition), September 22, 2012. Article by Alejandro Velazco., September 20 and 22, 2012. Articles by Nicte Madrigal and Elviga., September 19, 2012. Articles by Miguel Ramirez and the Reforma news agency. La Jornada (Guerrero Edition), September 16, 2012. Article by Francisca Meza Carranza. El Semanario de Nuevo Mexico, September 13, 2012.

La Jornada, September 8, 21 and 22, 2012. Articles by David Carrizales, Vicente Juarez, Rubicela Morelos, Fernando Camacho Servin, and Abraham Nuncio. Proceso/Apro, July 23, 2012; September 8, 15, 23, 24, 2012. Articles by Gabriela Hernandez, Pedro Matias, Maria Luisa Vivas and editorial staff. El Universal, August 24, 2012. Article by Javier Cabrera Martinez.

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