Police in the Mexican state of Chihuahua uncovered the bodies of three missing human rights defenders Friday. All three were mentioned in a Human Rights Watch statement last week, calling on Mexican authorities to protect various activists who have been threatened or attacked in recent weeks.
The victims – Maria Magdalena Reyes, 45; Elias Reyes, 56; and his wife, Luisa Ornelas, 54 – went missing on February 7. All three had been actively demanding justice in cases involving other members of their family, most notably the late Josefina Reyes Salazar, killed in January 2010. (Reyes Salazar’s brother, Ruben, was also murdered in 2010). Just one day before the disappearances of Maria Magdalena Reyes, Elias Reyes, and Luisa Orenalas were reported, unidentified individuals also burned down the home of Josefina Reyes’s mother, Sara Salazar, a leader of the Return our Daughters (Nuestras Hijas de Regreso a Casa) rights group.
The LA Times calls the Reyes family a “case study of the unrelenting violence ravaging northern Mexico.” Those family members who remain blame Mexican authorities for failing to protect their family.
Like Human Rights Watch, longtime Mexican human rights activist Gustavo de la Rosa calls the most recent disappearances and murders involving the Reyes family “an aggression against defenders of human rights.” Amnesty International echoes those sentiments in a new statement released after the discovery of the three bodies Friday. “The Reyes family is clearly being targeted in the most brutal way with five family members now dead,” said Susan Lee, Director of Amnesty’s Americas program. “The Mexican authorities’ top priority must be to ensure the safety of other relatives.”
According to the New York Times, two of Josefina Reyes Salazar’s sisters will continue protesting the Mexican government’s failure to pursue justice with a hunger strike.
The LA Times reports that the three bodies discovered Friday were found with handwritten signs “suggesting that they had worked for drug traffickers.” -- a charge the Reyes family has long rejected.
Other significant Mexico stories this weekend:
· Katia D'Artigues at El Universal comments on a statement made by former PRI Nuevo Leon governor Socrátes Rizzo. Speaking at the Universidad Autónoma de Coahuila last week, Rizzo suggested that the PRI-controlled federal government of the 1990s had created an alliance of sorts with told drug traffickers, telling cartels where they could and could not operate. “What control by the PRI governments guaranteed,” Rizzo continued, “was that drug trafficking did not disturb the social peace.” While many have suspected such an arrangement existed for some time, Borderland Beat says Rizzo’s words are the first time in recent history that a PRI insider has made such statements publicly. Borderland Beat adds that some believe “formalized arrangements” with drug traffickers began during the PRI administration of Miguel de la Madrid Hurtado from 1982 to 1988. Gancho highlights some responses to Rizzo’s provocative statement from both priístas and panistas, here and here.
· The Wall Street Journal looks at Mexican drug war “spillover” into Guatemala. The AP reports on the latest assassination attempt on a Mexican mayor outside of Monterrey Friday. Journalist Kristin Bricker, for the Security Sector Reform Resource Center, highlights the Mexican government’s non-compliance with Inter-American Court of Human Rights rulings against soldiers found guilty of raping indigenous women in Guerrero in 2002. The cases were tried in military courts – a move the IACHR says “violated the victims’ right to a fair and impartial trial.” The Washington Post with an interesting report on the American private security firms in Mexico. The Post says no country today has more private security firms, specializing in resolving kidnapping cases, than Mexico. But because the abductions occur in Mexico, there is nothing requiring American firms to report their cases to U.S. law enforcement agencies. According to the Post this means, “the boom in cross-border extortion rackets is occurring almost entirely in the shadows.” The AP says 28 individuals were killed over the weekend along the US-Mexico border and Mexico’s Pacific coast. CNS News says more civilians were confirmed dead in Ciudad Juarez in 2010 (3,111) than in all of Afghanistan (2,421). And Mary Anastasia O’Grady in the Wall Street Journal also comments on rising murder figures in Mexico while arguing the libertarian case against current US drug policy.
· From Bolivia, the AP says a senior Interior Ministry official and the recent head of that country’s anti-drug police force, the FECLN, was arrested Thursday in Panama and sent to the US. René Sanabria, a retired police general, faces charges of running an international cocaine trafficking ring. The general was named chief of the Center of Intelligence and Information Generation in the Interior Ministry in 2009. Three other senior Bolivian police officials were also arrested by Bolivian authorities in connection to the alleged ring over the weekend. In a statement Sunday, the Morales government’s deputy minister of social defense, Felipe Caceres, said everyone involved in the trafficking ring would be arrested and brought to justice in the coming days. The Bolivian opposition is using the arrests to attack the government. Andrés Ortega, an opposition lawmaker, says the case is a “very clear signal” that drug trafficking has “deeply infiltrated the Interior Ministry.”
· AQ on what may be the beginning of marijuana legalization in Uruguay.
· For the third weekend in a row, the Catholic Church in Cuba announced a new round of dissident releases. The release of nine prisoners includes Diosdado Gonzalez of the Group of 75, says the AP. Gonzalez will be allowed to stay in Cuba. The other eight individuals will go into exile in Spain. EFE also reports that Guillermo Farinas, arrested last Wednesday during protests to mark the one year anniversary of Orlando Zapata’s death, was released after 28 hours in prison.
· Chilean rights groups are asking that President Barack Obama use his visit to Chile next month to release more US documents which, in the AP’s words, “could be critical to prosecuting the Chilean agents responsible for torturing and killing leftists decades ago.” The daughters of Salvador Allende and Eduardo Frei are among those advocating a new round of declassification in Washington. AP:
“Chile’s Supreme Court recently ordered investigative judge Mario Carroza to probe Allende's death along with 725 others whose cases were never prosecuted. Another judge, Alejandro Madrid began probing Frei Montalva's death in 2002, and has charged six people, including doctors and former Pinochet spies, with poisoning him and covering up his death by removing his bodily fluids and organs."
Peter Kornbluh, senior analyst at National Security Archive and author of The Pinochet File, tells the AP that the Obama administration is being presented with an opportunity to practice “archival diplomacy” by initiating further document declassification. Current US ambassador to Chile, Alejandro Wolff tells the news agency that human rights is on Obama's agenda and “there is every disposition to be helpful.” IPS, meanwhile, reports on what may be on President Obama’s Central America agenda in El Salvador.
· In Honduras, the AP says members of the FNRP met in Tegucigalpa this weekend to determine whether or not they would form a “broad front” party and participate in 2013 elections. FNRP leader Juan Barahona says the movement’s objectives include “holding a national constituent assembly, returning [Manuel] Zelaya to the country and taking political power to transform Honduran society.” Zelaya has called on the movement to form itself into a political party of one form or another, according to EFE. But that proposal appears to have been rejected for the time being by the movement. For more on the evolution of the FNRP: a letter from Zelaya to the FNRP assembly, the FNRP’s platform for last weekend’s assembly, and an interview given by the former president last week to Telesur.
· Tim Rogers at TIME examines “virtual” demonstrations on Facebook, both for and against Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega.
· In the New York Times, Pooja Bhatia and Damien Cave on the apparently “stalled” return of Jean-Bertrand Aristide to Haiti.
· Netfa Freeman interviews ALBA Secretary General Amenothep Zambrano, at Venezuelanalysis.
· AFP reports on the inauguration of UNASUR’s Defense Board in Buenos Aires last week. The building that will house the board will take the name of the late Nestor Kirchner. Jose Mujica, Fernando Lugo, and Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner were on hand for the event, as were the foreign ministers from Venezuela and Ecuador.
· The Wall Street Journal says Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru have agreed on new steps toward creating an “electricity corridor” in the Andes, the objective being a more integrated regional energy grid.
· Finally, regional economic news. The Washington Post looks at the emergence of a “consumer class” in Latin America. The Post: “from Paraguay to Chile and Brazil to Peru, a growing middle class armed with cheap credit and new confidence in the future is contributing to the most vigorous economic expansion in decades.” As some note, that growth, however, continues to be fueled by primary exports. For the IMF’s assessment of the region, managing director Dominique Strauss Kahn authors a piece at Mercopress as he prepares to visit Panama, Uruguay, and Brazil this week.