Friday, September 26, 2014

8 Detained in Connection with Mexico ‘Massacre’

Yesterday evening, Mexico’s Defense Ministry (SEDENA) announced that eight military personnel -- an army officer and seven soldiers -- had been detained in connection with the June killing of 22 people in the state of Mexico.  It’s still unclear what the individuals have been accused of, but the fact that authorities are moving forward with an investigation into the alleged massacre is a positive sign.

It is also somewhat surprising considering that both state and federal authorities have maintained that there is no evidence of wrongdoing in the June incident. Only recently does there appear to have been a shift in the official attitude, with President Enrique Peña Nieto telling reporters in New York that the Attorney General’s Office was pursuing a full investigation into the alleged massacre.

According to El Universal, a SEDENA press statement released last night asserts that the men are being held in a military jail “for their alleged role in offenses against military discipline, disobedience and breach of duties in the case of the officer, and a breach of duties in the case of the enlisted personnel.”

Fortunately, because of reforms to Mexico’s Military Code of Justice passed earlier this year, a military investigation does not prevent civil authorities from investigating and prosecuting alleged abuses separately.
The Associated Press, which has been keeping tabs on the story ever since it noted suspicious irregularities at the site of the killings in the days after the June 30 incident, offers a summary of its findings in its coverage of the detentions:
At least five spots inside the warehouse where the bloodshed occurred showed the same pattern: One or two closely placed bullet pocks, surrounded by a mass of spattered blood, giving the appearance that some of those killed had been standing against a wall and shot at about chest level.
This fits with the statements of witnesses who told the press that all but one of the 22 had been executed after being interrogated.

News Briefs
  • In Cuba, Raul Castro has returned economic reform czar Marino Murillo to a former position as Economy Minister, tasking him with “harmonizing and integrating at a higher level the process of updating the economic model,” Spanish news agency EFE notes.
  • Reuters profiles remarks by Colombian anti-human trafficking authority Martha Diaz, who believes that the country needs to invest in more prosecutors to tackle the issue. Amazingly, last year just one official was responsible for handling all transnational trafficking cases in the entire country.
  • In an interview with Bloomberg earlier this week, Mexico’s Peña Nieto told journalists that he does not support legalizing marijuana, saying doing so would be “opening the door to a large intrusion of drugs that is very damaging to the population.” The position stands in stark contrast with the position of Colombia’s Juan Manuel Santos, who in a recent Global Commission on Drug Policy report called for a new shift in drug policy, saying: “If that means legalizing, and the world thinks that’s the solution, I will welcome it.”
  • The Economist features an analysis of the electoral landscape in Brazil ahead of the October 5 election, noting that President Dilma Rousseff has caught up in the polls to her challenger Marina Silva. The magazine also attempts to put forward a comprehensive analysis of the state of the “Latin American Left,” arguing that close elections in Brazil and Uruguay -- and a coming vote next year in Argentina -- are proof that the “pink tide” is ebbing and the region is moving back to the center. Still, the magazine concedes that the left has succeeded in placing inequality on the political agenda, and that the right will need to convince voters it can govern for all, “not just for the fat cats.”
  • In the event that the ruling Frente Amplio coalition loses Uruguay’s close presidential election in a likely second round vote in November, it may also mean that the country will no longer accept Guantanamo detainees from the U.S. El Pais reports that National Party candidate Luis Alberto Lacalle Pou, who polls show is running neck-and-neck with Tabare Vazquez, told reporters he is “totally opposed” to accepting Guantanamo prisoners, and would likely not adhere to an agreement made by the Mujica administration to accept them.
  • Vox’s Dara Lind has a smart analysis of the sharp decline in child migrants along the southwest U.S. border, identifying the likely causes of this as: increased enforcement along migrant routes in Mexico, stepped-up U.S. investigations into migrant smuggling, and a drop in the number who attempt the trip in the first place due to increasing public awareness of the associated dangers and legal barriers.
  • Mark Schneider of the International Crisis Group has an op-ed in the Miami Herald in which he asserts that “international mediators need to have a virtually permanent presence in Caracas” in order to persuade both the Venezuelan opposition and the government of President Nicolas Maduro to establish dialogue on certain issues, like naming new members to an independent electoral council.
  • In a Foreign Policy column published this week, conservative figure Roger Noriega criticizes the agreement reached in Latin America regarding the rotation of a regional UN Security Council seat, which is more or less guaranteed to Venezuela. Asserting that regional leaders will regret allowing the Maduro government to represent Latin America’s interests on the council, he also attacks the Obama administration for not challenging Venezuela’s bid.  Obama, Noriega asserts, has no constructive agenda in the Americas  compared to “the Bush years,” in which “the U.S. foreign policy team of which [Noriega] was a part helped save Colombia, doubled aid to the region, and offered mutually beneficial trade to Central American and Andean countries.”
  • Writing for InSight Crime, Hector Silva Avalos reports on the allegations of reform-minded Salvadoran Colonel Carlos Alfredo Rivas Najarro, who believes that his son was gunned down in April by assassinations paid for by elements in the armed forces.
  • As the Vatican prepares for a landmark trial of a priest accused of sexually assaulting minors in the Dominican Republic, Pope Francis has taken yet another step to crack down on child sex abuse associated with the Church in the Americas. As the New York Times and AFP report, the pope has dismissed a bishop from his post in Paraguay due to his promotion of a priest linked to abuses in Argentina and Pennsylvania, as the Global Post’s Will Carless has detailed.
  • In the Global Post, Seth Robbins  looks at the recorded phone calls of Padre Toño, the Spanish Catholic priest accused of conspiring with imprisoned gang leaders in the country to transfer them to different facilities, as well as to smuggle in cell phones and other contraband. The calls, which reveal that the priest had direct, even informal contact with Barrio 18 leader El Viejo Lin, have sparked a discussion of whether the Church official was engaged in criminal activity or merely  “getting his hands dirty” in an attempt to mediate gang feuds in his parish.