Archive for category Drug Trafficking

TBI Hosts Film Screening of “Al Otro Lado”


09/12/12 – On Saturday, September 8, the Trans-Border Institute (TBI) hosted the screening of the film “Al otro lado” (“To the Other Side”) as part of the border region film series, “Ambulante Border: New Perspectives on Gun Policy, Arms Trafficking, Violence and Immigration, Freedom of Expression, and Violence Towards Journalists.”

Produced and directed by Natalia Almada, the 2005 documentary narrates the story of 23-year-old Magdiel, a Mexican fisherman that dreams of having a better a life. Through Magdiel’s story, the movie shows that the reason many Mexicans want to migrate to the United States is for a better future–for the opportunities to study and to improve their economic conditions by finding better-paying jobs–even if it means crossing illegally.

Not only does the film focus on immigration, it weaves in topics of drug-trafficking and day-to-day realities that many Mexicans face. Given the economic hardships and lack of opportunity present for many Mexicans, and the difficulties one endures if attempting to cross the border, the movie shows that many turn to drug trafficking as a source of income and resources to solve their financial problems. This ever-present reality in Mexico is often captured in the popular “corridos,” a type of Mexican music that has embraced the narco-lifestyle and that narrates, for example, the stories of average Mexicans struggling to survive and to overcome financial hardships, even if that means crossing the border without documents or drug trafficking. The film relies on such “corridos” to help tell their story, as well as showcase their importance in Mexican culture and the influence that drug-trafficking has had on this genre of music and thus on Mexican culture.

In sum, “Al otro lado” explores these broader topics of immigration, economic hardships, drug trafficking, and “corridos” through its protagonist, Magdiel.

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Race to the Presidential Palace: Mexico’s Presidential Candidate Profiles

Mexico’s candidates officially began their presidential campaigns this past Friday (03/30/12). The candidates have 3 months till the July 1st votes are cast and the next six year term President of Mexico in elected. With the population tired of the drug war (nearly 50,000 dead as of 2006) and Mexico/Latin America’s largest corporation, state owned oil company PEMEX reporting a quarter drop in production since 2004, triple the number of graduates within the last three decades and a growing middle class having less children, this is an election for the world to watch. Read about the candidates and watch their campaign commericals below:

Candidate: Peña Nieto

Ratings in the Polls: 36%

Party: Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI)

-The PRI is a member of the Socialist International

-The PRI had governed Mexico for 70 year before 2000 (mostly due to false elections).

-Centrist Party

On the Issues:

-Has proposed replacing the military combating the drug war with a better organized police force, as well as creating a national division to combat kidnapping and extortion

-For the state owned energy industry PEMEX, Nieto would like to increase foreign investment from foreign capital markets to raise exploration, production and refining capacity

-On jobs and fiscal policy Nieto has proposed expanding the public budget to double the spending for infrustructure projects

-On education Nieto proposes giving teachers incentives based on student performance

-Nieto’s foreign policy is to consist of working with the United States to ease Mexican’s conerns over the treatment of undocumented workers as well as ease concerns over emerging market rivals such as China.

Candidate: Josefina Vázquez Mota

Rating in the Polls: 26%

Party: National Action Party (PAN)

-Came to power 2000 with the election of current President of Mexico, Felipe Calderon


On the Issues:

-On the drug war Mota promotes maintaining the same agenda as Calderon, deploying the army and marines to combat the drug problem.

-On Mexico’s state owned oil company PEMEX, she has raised the possibility of listing it on the stock exchange.

-Mota’s fiscal policy consist of liberalizing the labor market, very similar to Nieto’s proposal

-Mota had served as Calderon’s Education Minister, helping to pass education reform that established the first national teacher performance test, as well as mandating that raises and hiring of teacher be subject to more rigorous evaluations

-Mota’s foreign policy consists of strengthening ties with Latin America; she has recently toured the region.

Candidate: López Obrador

Rating in the Polls: 18%

Party: Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD)

-Established 1989, never held a presidential position

-The PRD is a member of Socialist International


On the Issues:

-Has proposed withdrawing troops from combating the drug war in the streets and refocusing resources on job creation in poor neighborhoods where kids are more prone to enter join gangs.

-On the state owned energy monopoly PEMEX, Obrador hopes to expand it refinery construction to lessen Mexico’s need for foreign oil.

-Obrador’s fiscal policy calls for shifting taxes from individual to corporations.

-On education Orbrador has said the country must reach an annual economic growth of 6% annually to pay for school and jobs for seven million youth within a six-month time frame. He would also like to provide more scholarships for low-income students

-Orbrador’s foreign policy stronger economic ties with the United States and not so much military cooperation

Hernandez, Daniel. “Sizing up campaign ads in Mexico’s presidential election,” The Los Angeles Times, March 30, 2012.

Graham, Dave and Garcia, David Alire. “Mexico Presidential favorote Pena Nieto has clear lead: poll,” Rueters, March 28, 2012

“Meet the Candidates,” The Economist, March 29th, 2012.

“Mexico presidential campaign: Off to a good start.” Christian Science Monitor, March 29th, 2012.

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The Pope’s visit to Mexico: Benefits for PAN and the Vatican?

03/27/12 The Pope arrived in Leon, Mexico this past Saturday. Upon his arrival he took a 20-mile ride in his Pope Mobil to “Colegio de Miraflores,”a Catholic school run by nuns. Here the Pope stayed for three days before moving onto Cuba. Several people have come to understand the reason for the Pope visiting Mexico and Cuba is to address the changing environment in the two countries. As the Pope spoke out against Cuba’s Marxist ideology on his flight to Mexico and after speaking out against the drug war upon his arrival in Leon, people understood his visit to be politically motivated.

Mexico’s current President Felipe Calderon is member of PAN, the party most identified with the Roman Catholic Party. Their candidate for the 2012 Presidential elections is Josefina Vazquez Mota; she is currently behind in the polls. Her campaign has concentrated  on calling to parents, especially to mother’s  (or senora’s as she claims to be and embraces) to protect their kids from  falling into the drug violence. The Pope had similar talking points in his speech at the Catholic school he arrived to. He called for the adults in Mexico to “protect and to care for the children.”  The Pope had previously focused his attention shortly after he was elected in 2005 on calling for the end of the narco-church; a relationship where the church takes donations from unknown sources and asks no questions. His message to the adults of Mexico also did not resonate well with many critics who saw it as ironic because they claim the Vatican protected Marcial Maciel for decades. Maciel was a pedophile abuse offender born in Mexico and  founder of the Legion of Christ order; he died in 2008. Since being elected the Pope has sat down with abuse victims in every country, except during this trip to Mexico despite public outcry. A spokeman for the Pope said no Mexico Bishop’s requested such an encounter.

The visit is hoped to reinvigorate Mexico though, the second largest Roman Catholic nation in the world. Mexico had once been almost universally Roman Catholic, but now has dropped to 83% of the total population. In exchange for the Pope’s support he has said he wants changes to Mexico’s constitution to allow for religious education in public schools. There has been a separation between church and state in Mexico since 1855.

Romo, Rafael. “Pope’s visit an effort to reinvigorate faith in Mexico,” CNN, March 27, 2012.

“Pope calls for protection of Mexican children; Catholic leader condemns cartel related violence but does not mention pedophilia allegation during his Mexico trip,”  Aljazeera, March 25, 2012.

“Pope Benedict XVI: Marxist ideology no longer corresponds to reality,” Telegraph, March 24, 2012

Tuckmen, Jo. “Pope’s visit to Mexico, refocuses attention on narco-church relations: Priest have tp report suspicious donations to their dioceses, but the power of the drug cartels means it is not that simple,” The Guardian, March 22, 2012.

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Mexican Cameraman Makes a New Life for Himself After Receiving Political Assylum

02/27/2012- On July 26, 2010, Alejandro Hernández Pacheco, 42, went to work like it was just another day on the job. A cameraman for Televisa in Torreon, Hernández and a reporter were sent to cover a news story in Gomez Palacio, Durango about killings connected to a prison in the city. Hernández was not scheduled to work off-studio that day. “After leaving the prison, the two men were carjacked, bound, blindfolded and taken to a home with two other kidnapped journalists, where the men were allegedly tortured, starved and beaten.”(El Paso Times) They were held captive for five days and were threatened with death by their captors, who were members of the Sinaloa drug cartel. On July 31, 2010, the captors freed Hernández and the other men early in the morning. They were told to run and not to look back. A group of armed policemen were waiting for them in the secluded area of Gomez Palacio, near where they were released.

Just hours after their release, the men were told they were going to be flown to meet with Mexican President Felipe Calderón to be hailed as heroes. However, much to their surprise, they were greeted by dozens of Mexican and international journalists and cameras. According to Hernández’s attorney, Carlos Spector, by doing this, the federal government “recklessly exhibited Hernández as a potential witness against the Sinaloa cartel and put his life in danger” (El Paso Times). This, as well as Hernández’s fear about speaking out publicly against the Mexican government, for failing to protect him, led him to his decision to move to El Paso, Texas.

In August 2010, Hernández moved to the United States with a valid laser visa, and his family followed shortly after. After arriving, he applied for political asylum, which he was granted in August 2011, being the second Mexican journalist to receive the immigration benefit since the beginning of the current wave of drug violence that is rocking the nation. Just shortly after being granted political asylum, Hernández called Univision, a news company in El Paso, left his resume, and was hired right away. In an interview, Hernández said he is doing what he “loves most, which is looking for the news camera in hand,” and even though he misses his home in Torreon, he and his family feel lucky that they can feel safe here and not worry for their lives. (Borderzine)

Martínez-Cabrera, Alejandro. “Mexican Cameraman Granted Political Asylum.” El Paso Times. August 30, 2011.

Perez, Victoria A. “Mexican Kidnap Victim Establishes a New Life in El Paso.” Borderzine. February 23, 2012.

Photo Credit: Victoria A. Perez/


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“Anonymous Mexico’s,” Operation’s in Taking on their Politicians and Cartel’s

A new global phenomenon is proliferating across the world, known as “Anonymous” or “Anon” for short. Anonymous is a group of anonymous individuals without a leader or any actual organizational structure who work to take down what they believe to be corrupt institutions by hacking into, defacing and protesting their targets means of communication. The media has labeled them, “hacktivist” (a portmanteau of hacker and activist). Their lack of structure, anonymity to the public and anonymity within the group itself and their ability to still coordinate their attacks make them difficult to combat.

They were originally derived from a group of young individual looking to play pranks with the ability to hide in the shadows of anonymity (to learn more about their history click here). After several public and online stunts though, it seems other began to look at anonymity not so much as a way of hiding but as forum to surpass censorship and expose corruption, while avoiding prosecution. With the radical idea of Anonymity as a tool for influence, they took to the Middle East during the Arab Spring to shut down several government websites in Tunisia and Egypt. They also claim responsibility for restoring the Internet back to the Egyptian people during their revolution.

Anonymous’ recent actions have been able to make national and less often, international headlines. Recently they have defaced the Prime Minister of Poland’s website page after signing onto the Anti-Counterfeit Trade Agreement (ACTA). They have threatened to release archives of stolen emails concerning a controversial U.S. raid in Iraq in response to a call they intercepted from the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to take down Anonymous hackers. In Greece they have protested on the justice ministries website proclaiming to the Government, “You have joined the IMF against your people’s acquiescence, you have so introduced a new dictatorship upon your people’s shoulder’s and allowed the bankers and the monarchs of the EU to enslave them both economically and politically.” Less recently, they have even attacked Brazil’s largest bank sites to call attention to the countries corruption and inequality. Thus with everyone having the ability to be anonymous, speaking every language and knowing everyone, it seems only inevitable that they show up in Mexico.

Anonymous operations in Mexico have been aimed against the government and the cartels.  Anonymous began operations in Mexico on the 15th of September, the independence day of Mexico. One of the biggest hits came to the website of the Defense Ministry. Their video message was clear, “We demonstrate to the government and drug trafficking groups that we will not allow more violence and insecurity and let them know Mexican Anonymous.” Their message drew a parallel calling it the independence of the Federal Government and not of the people because while officials are celebrating, they continue to drown out the voices of the people who continuously helplessly live enscribed in the terror of organized crime. The following awareness campaign for Mexico consisted of “paper storm,” an international campaign that encourages member to take to the streets of their cities with paper flyers. It was then found out that during a paper storm, one of the members of Anonymous was kidnapped by the Los Zetas cartel while posting flyer’s around Veracruz. In response Anonymous posted a video to Los Zetas, threatening to release the information of all the taxi driver’s, journalist, newspapers, and police officers who have and continue to collaborate with them. After several published concerns from Mexican and US intelligence officials that Anonymous’ act would not so much lead to the arrest of the collaborators as intended, but make them targets of the Los Zetas competing cartel’s. They soon decided to revoke their plan of action.

“Anonymous” refuses to lay dormant on all issues it sees threatening though. Their knew fight, which governments everywhere seem to be pursuing is establishing stricter intellectual property (IP) rights. IP rights seem to be making headline everywhere because whistleblower’s like Wikileaks and Anonymous (who often work in ‘sync) have brought it to the public’s attention. The common theme when establishing stricter rules of law on IP rights has been the amount of power if gives the authorities to censor, incriminate, and fine individuals.  Recently Senator Frederico Doring proposed a law that could fine individuals over 100,000 dollars (one million pesos) for online copyright infringement. Anonymous responded by blocking access to the Mexican Senate and Interior Ministry websites. Critics say the proposed law is similar to a bill introduced in the United States known as SOPA that faced a mutiny of opposition after it was publicly advertised, eventually leading to its failure. Anonymous has not necessarily been able to create any direct action but they have been able to change the national conversation. Though their plan of action against Los Zetas cartel was abandoned, the cartel obviously found them a big enough threat to kidnap one of their members as a means of intimidation to Anonymous members. As for the government the only thing they can do is try to enforce stronger internet policies, but with the public opposition and whistleblower’s like Wikileaks and Anonymous looking to inform the public it seems unlikely, unless a law passes in the utmost secrecy. This too seems highly unlikely though as gettingt ride of  hacktivism and anonymity are like trying to get ride of your shadow, for Anonymous always claims “We are anonymous, we are legion, we don’t forgive, we don’t forget, united as one, divided as zero, expect us.”

Kovacs, Eduard. “Anonymous Hits Government Website in Mexico.” Semptember  19, 2011.

Franzen, Carl. “Anonymous Takes on Mexican Drug Cartel Los Zetas.” October 30, 2011.

Franzen, Carl. “Anonymous Cancel Operation Cartel as Los Zetas Track Hacktvist” November 1, 2011.

Soriano, Javier. “Anonymous Swoop on Mexico Government Site in Copyright Law Protest.” Jnuary 28, 2012.

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“March of the Skulls” in Mexico City honors victims of drug violence through psycho-magic

Photo Credit: El Universal DF

On Sunday, 82 year old cult mystic Alejandro Jodorowsky called people in Mexico City to join in the “March of the Skulls” in order to “heal” Mexico of its drug violence. The march is called the “first act of collective psycho-magic in Mexico.”Many Jodorowsky fans showed up for the event which was advertised in this video. Jodorosky is a Chilean-born filmmaker and tarot guru who produced most of his films in Mexico including “El Topo,” “Santa Sangre,” and the “Holy Mountain.” By leading the march, Jodorosky was challenging article 33, which prohibits foreigners from intervening in political affairs.

The marchers dressed in black, painted their faces like skulls or wore masks, and carried Mexican flags colored in black shouting, “Long live the dead!” However the 3,000 people who showed up for the Marcha de las Calaveras paled in comparison to the 10,000 people who marched dressed as zombies on Saturday to break a Guinness world record.

The Sunday event demonstrates desperation by Mexicans to try anything, even public mysticism, to end the relentless violence plaguing Mexico. Angelica Cuellar, a 63-year old teacher said with regards to the dead, “Through the psycho-magic, we are saying, for this moment, we are them.” Her sister added, “And if we do it collectively, I assure you, at another level of energy, those dead will come awake.”

During the march, accompanied by mariachis, the group sang, “La Llorona,” the Weeping Woman. Through a bullhorn Jodorosky stated, “There are 50,000 dead beings. They are sheep. They are not black sheep. We must have mercy for these souls that have disappeared. Let’s sing this song with lament, as if we were the mother of one of these persons. Understand?” After singing the group chanted “Peace, peace, peace!” until Jodorosky told them to all start laughing. He ended the march by saying, “See you on Twitter!”

Guzman Roque, Sharenii.”Calaveras” claman paz social en Garibaldi Fotos.” El Universal DF. 28 November, 2011.

 Hernandez, Daniel. “Cult mystic holds ‘march of skulls’ for Mexico’s drug war dead. “LA Times. 28 November, 2011.

Nales, Miriam. “Psicomagia con mariachi.” Milenio. 28 November, 2011. 

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Anti-violence activists arrested in Ciudad Juarez

Photo Credit: El Universal

Numerous activists were arrested by police in Ciudad Juarez after painting crosses with the names of victims of violent crime. Called the “Indignants of Ciudad Juarez,” the group painted about 100 black crosses in locations where more than 9,000 victims have been murdered in the last three years. The group was inspired by Mexican poet and activist Javier Sicilia’s organization Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity, which calls for justice for victims of violence in Mexico. Sicilia’s son was murdered this year by suspected drug-gang members. Ciudad Juarez has 191 homicides per 100,000 resiedents, and was named the most violent city in the world in 2009 by two Mexican non-governmental organizations.

One of the demonstrators stated, “Ciudad Juarez has no legs but it continues to march on in its struggle. Today we’re sticking 9,000 paper crosses with the names of the victims to show the sorrow that consumes us.” The demonstrators painted the crosses on everything from trees to public monuments. During the demonstration, about 100 police officers arrived, preventing the demonstrators from painting the crosses, and leading to several, arrests. About 30 people were detained, among them minors and 10 students from the Universidad Autónoma de Ciudad Juárez (UACJ), and two journalists covering the news.

 “Arrestan a activistas en Ciudad Juarez.” EFE. 2 November, 2011.

“Suman 30 ‘indignados’ detenidos en Ciudad Juárez: manifestantes.” Jornada. 2 November, 2011. 

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