As thirty-two more bodies were recovered from what are now a total 34 mass graves near the town of San Fernando, both the Washington Post and LA Times have disturbing reports this morning about the on-going Tamaulipas investigations. The Post says many of the individuals whose corpses have been examined thus far died from powerful blows to the head. The LA Times cites witnesses to some of the killings who talk of individuals being raped and then burned alive. A number of Mexican commentators, the paper writes, have begun to call the massacres the “Mexican genocide.” Others have apparently referred to the Tamaulipas town as “Mexico’s Auschwitz.”
Both the Post and the Times suggest that evidence of disappearances around San Fernando dates back months, if not years. Officials in neighboring states of Guanajuato, Queretaro, and San Luis Potosí say they raised worries about missing residents to Tamaulipas authorities as early as 2009. Nobody seems to have investigated anything until less than one month ago.
After the bodies of 72 Central American migrants were found at a ranch in San Fernando, the Post says President Felipe Calderon sent in the Mexican military to retake the town. He promised to “protect migrants and Mexican families,” but the Mexican government’s attention quickly faded. The presence of federal forces was only temporary and after they withdrew, residents of San Fernando say violence returned almost immediately. Criminal groups – likely collaborating with some members of the town’s local police force – seized local farms, killing owners and converting barns and sheds into what the paper describes as “holding pens and execution chambers.”
In addition to sixteen local police officers who remain detained for allegedly protecting the Zetas in San Fernando, the town’s police chief was also arrested last Thursday.
The same day still unidentified gunmen are reported to have launched a major attack on another Tamaulipas town -- the border city of Miguel Aleman – launching grenades and burning down three car dealerships, an auto parts outlet, a furniture store and a gas station.
The Times says some are now demanding that the Mexican Senate use its power to unilaterally dismiss the elected officials in the state Tamaulipas, a rare measure and one which would be accompanied by the indefinite “suspension civil rights” in the northeastern state.
In an interview over the weekend, San Fernando mayor Tomas Gloria Renquena’s rejects the notion that his town is an anomaly, telling the Post that “San Fernando is Mexico. It’s just like anywhere else.”
Meanwhile, in Mexico’s southwest, five women, all employees of the same beauty salon in the city of Acapulco, were found brutally murdered over the holiday weekend. On Sunday, the AP says the body parts of another woman were discovered strewn about the upscale Mexico City neighborhood of San Miguel Chapultepec.
Today’s bullet points:
· In Haiti, both the US and UN are questioning the results of Haiti’s legislative elections, which were announced last week. Reuters and AP say the preliminary results of 18 legislative contests were reversed when official tabulations were released on Wednesday. Sixteen of the reversals, the U.N. mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) says, favored outgoing President Rene Preval’s INITE party. In a statement Friday, MINUSTAH says, “The final results have…raised serious concerns about the transparency and legitimacy of the process leading to their publication.” The US Embassy in Port-au-Prince echoed those remarks in its own statement. “We have found no explanation for the reversals of 18 legislative races in the final results, which in all except two cases benefited the incumbent part. Without a public explanation and review ... the legitimacy of seating these candidates is in question.” A series of protests against the election results took place in the Haitian countryside on Thursday. In the border town of Belladere, a staff member of Partners in Health was killed after a PIH staff house was torched.
· Also in Haiti, the New York Times reports on mass evictions of internally-displaced Haitians by private landowners. According to the International Organization for Migration, Haiti’s displaced population has fallen from its peak of 1.5 million shortly after the 2010 quake to 680,000 today. Most who have left the camps, however, have not returned to new or rebuilt homes and often remain in equally precarious and unstable living situations.
· The first poll numbers ahead of a June 5 runoff in Peru were released Sunday. The Ipsos-Apoyo survey shows Ollanta Humala up six points on Keiko Fujimori, 42% to 36%. El Comercio publishes the full results.
· In neighboring Ecuador, a number of the most important measures on Rafael Correa’s 10-point referendum proposal appear to have significant popular support two weeks before a national vote there. The idea of creating a five-member panel with a six-year mandate to overhaul the judiciary and appoint top judges has the backing of just over 60%, according to the Cedatos poll. There is slightly less support for a proposal to, in Reuters words, “prohibit banks and the media from owning shares in companies outside their sectors.” The AP reports more on freedom of press worries.
· Infolatam has a good look at the intra-party tensions in Uruguay’s Frente Amplio after the Senate approved the annulment of the country’s 1986 amnesty law two weeks ago.
· Also from Infolatam, news that Argentina will host the next meeting of G-20 finance ministers next month. The issue of commodity prices is expected to be the principal matter for discussion.
· AP reports that an individual suspected of working with the FARC was detained by Venezuelan authorities after arriving by plane in Caracas from Frankfurt, Germany.
· Brazil’s Estadao with more on Dilma Rousseff’s major foreign policy speech last week. While calling regional integration her “top foreign policy priority,” Rousseff also noted the new role human rights will play in Brazilian international relations.
· And after 38 years as a member of the Andean Community of Nations (CAN), Venezuela officially announced Friday it will be leaving the five nation trade bloc. AP reports while Mercopress notes the announcement last week was not a particularly new one. Chavez first said Venezuela would abandon CAN in 2006, in favor of Mercosur, after Peru and Colombia began FTA talks with the US. Last week’s re-announcement comes ahead of the second meeting of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States in Caracas in early July. Argentine foreign minister Hector Timerman was in Venezuela last week to begin preparing the agenda for those meetings which will be co-chaired by Venezuela and Chile. More on the relationship between that project and Mercosur, from EFE, while in the US, the Russell Crandall, most recently the director of Andean Affairs on President Obama’s National Security Council, has a piece in the new issue of Foreign Affairs on the shape of a “post-American” Western Hemisphere.