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Mexican civil society launches anti-junk food campaign to counter diabetes crisis

February 27, 2015
The Alliance for Healthy Food warns that one in three Mexican children will suffer from diabetes in their lifetime.

The Alliance for Healthy Food warns that one in three Mexican children will suffer from diabetes in their lifetime.

With one-third of Mexican children likely to develop diabetes during their lifetime, a group of civic associations known as the Alliance for Healthy Food have called for the removal of junk food and related marketing from children’s lives.

The Alliance for Healthy Food’s mass media campaign, entitled “What did your children eat today?” aims to raise awareness of this health crisis which is being fueled by excessive consumption of junk food and sugary drinks.

The campaign is targeted at parents, to encourage them to make better dietary choices for their children, and at lawmakers, to persuade them to pass more stringent legislation against junk food and sugary drink advertising that targets Mexican children.

“Government officials and legislators have a decisive role to play everywhere in safeguarding the future of children,” said Alejandro Calvillo of the consumer rights organization El Poder del Consumidor, one of more than 20 public interest organizations and social movements that comprise the Alliance for Healthy Food.

“When children see junk food and its pervasive marketing in every corner of their environment, and when the government and educators fail to inform consumers and children of the health risks of certain foods, we are failing our children,” Calvillo added.

Full-blown health crisis

Mexico has the highest rate of adult obesity in the world, with one third of all adults obese, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. One-third of children and seventy percent of adults are overweight or obese.

Estimates for the number of Mexicans killed by diabetes each year range from 70,000 to 100,000 – roughly the same number of people killed in Mexico’s war on drugs in the last eight years…

Click here to read this article in full at Latin Correspondent.

Gruesome murders and threats of violence stalk Mexican activists

February 20, 2015

Two activists who had campaigned for justice and searched for the victims of forced disappearances were brutally murdered in Mexico’s troubled south this month.

Last Friday, 26-year-old Norma Angélica Bruno Román was shot dead in front of her three children at a cemetery in Iguala, the same city where 43 students were abducted by corrupt police officers last September.

She was a member of a citizen-led organization combing mass graves in this troubled area of Guerrero state in search of missing relatives.

Nine days earlier, Gustavo Salgado Delgado, a 32-year-old leader of the left-wing Popular Revolutionary Front (FPR), was decapitated in the neighboring state of Morelos.

He had campaigned on behalf of migrant farmers from southern Mexico and played an active role in local demonstrations demanding the safe return of the 43 students from the rural teacher training college in Ayotzinapa.

As the disappearance of the students has spurred a huge protest movement, the Mexican government has repeatedly sought to bury the case, while police officers have infiltrated marches and even threatened to rape, murder and incinerate demonstrators.

The culprits were not apprehended in either of the recent killings and it is not yet clear whether either victim was targeted because of their work. Still, the murders are further evidence of the dangers that activists face across Mexico, especially in the country’s lawless south…

Click here to read this article in full at Latin Correspondent.

Football legend Cuauhtémoc Blanco moves into politics to take on Mexico’s most violent city

February 13, 2015

Mexican football legend Cuauhtémoc Blanco has announced his imminent retirement from the sport in order to run for mayor of Cuernavaca, which was named the most dangerous city in the country earlier this week.

Blanco, 42, who currently plays for Puebla in Mexico’s top division, the Liga MX, revealed on Wednesday that he will step down from professional football on April 20 ahead of the Cuernavaca elections on June 7.

The short, balding but iconic star, who made his name at Club América, has enjoyed a long and successful career including stints with over half a dozen Mexican clubs and brief spells in Spain and the United States.

He appeared at three World Cups for the Mexican national team, including the France 1998 tournament where he drew international acclaim for his acrobatic goals and his eye-catching trademark trick that became known as the “Cuauhtemiña” or “Blanco Bounce”.

Blanco, who will represent the little known Social Democratic Party (PSD) if, as expected, he wins the March 7 primary, has already begun positioning himself as an anti-establishment figure.

“I haven’t voted for a long time because we don’t believe in politicians anymore… I’m not a politician, I’m running for you,” he said, upon announcing his candidacy in Cuernavaca last month.

In a colorful press conference, Blanco denied that he was running for money or publicity, denounced the incumbent Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) administration as thieves, and vowed to “help the people” so that Cuernavaca could “move forward”…

Click here to read this feature in full at Latin Correspondent.

Was the CIA involved in the murder of DEA agent Kiki Camarena?

February 6, 2015
Thirty years ago, DEA agent Enrique Camarena was tortured and murdered at this house by leading members of the Guadalajara Cartel.

Thirty years ago, DEA agent Enrique Camarena was tortured and murdered at this house by leading members of the Guadalajara Cartel.

The modest, salmon-colored building at 881 Lope de Vega street looks much like any other home in Guadalajara’s middle-class Jardines del Bosque neighborhood.

But behind the whitewashed walls, electric fence and barred windows is the house where one of the most infamous crimes in Mexican history took place.

Having just left the U.S. Consulate building on February 7, 1985, DEA Agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena was on his way to meet his wife for lunch when he was apprehended by corrupt members of Mexico’s federal security agency.

The agents blindfolded Camarena, forced him into their black Grand Marquis and drove him to the safe house on Lope de Vega to be interrogated by the leaders of the Guadalajara Cartel, then Mexico’s dominant drug-trafficking organization.

Camarena’s captors beat him repeatedly, burned his chest with cigarette butts and gunpowder, pulled out his fingernails and violated him with a broom handle. They even brought in a doctor to administer shots to keep him alive long enough to continue the interrogation.

An eyewitness would later testify in a Los Angeles courtroom that the Jalisco state governor and two federal cabinet members were present throughout the interrogation in order to ascertain what Camarena knew about their own links to the cartel.

After 30 hours of torture, Camarena finally died from a crowbar blow to the head. His body was eventually discovered a month later and many of the culprits were subsequently rounded up and convicted after the DEA launched Operation Leyenda, the biggest investigation in its history.

Thirty years on, Camarena’s death remains the source of great debate on both sides of the border. The controversy was reignited last September when Jesús Esquivel, the Washington correspondent for Mexico’s respected Proceso magazine, released a book suggesting that the CIA was directly involved in his abduction, torture and murder.

Largely based on interviews with former DEA supervisor Hector Berrellez, who oversaw Operation Leyenda, the book posits that during the mid-1980s the CIA helped the Guadalajara Cartel smuggle tons of cocaine into the United States in order to fund a dirty war against Nicaragua’s leftist Sandinista government. In return, the cartel purportedly shipped arms and drug money to the Contras, right-wing rebels who were fighting the Sandinistas.

The CIA has strongly denied any involvement in Camarena’s death but Esquivel believes the DEA agent had uncovered evidence of this unholy alliance shortly before he was murdered…

Click here to read this feature in full at Latin Correspondent.

Families of Mexico’s missing students won’t let government bury the case

January 30, 2015

Human rights organizations and the parents of Mexico’s 43 missing students have criticized the government’s efforts to prematurely close the case on the young men who were abducted by corrupt police officers in the southern state of Guerrero last September.

Until now the students from the Ayotzinapa teachers college had officially been classified as missing, but Mexico’s Federal Attorney General, Jesús Murillo Karam, claimed in a press conference on Tuesday that his office now has “legal certainty” that they were murdered by members of the Guerreros Unidos drug gang.

The government has 487 strands of evidence that “have allowed us to… come to the conclusion beyond a doubt that the students were abducted and killed, before being incinerated and thrown into the San Juan river, in that order,” Murillo said.

This explanation did little to convince the many critics who have pointed out an array of inconsistencies in the official account of events. Moreover, it is unclear how there could be complete legal certainty over who killed the students or disposed of their bodies when not one suspect has been tried or convicted of such crimes…

Click here to read this article in full at Latin Correspondent.

Mexican President Peña Nieto in fresh conflict-of-interest scandal

January 23, 2015

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto has denied any wrongdoing after becoming engulfed in another scandal involving luxury properties, government contractors and accusations of conflict of interest.

An investigation by the Wall Street Journal revealed on Tuesday that Peña Nieto purchased a house at an exclusive country club in Ixtapan de la Sal in his native Mexico state just weeks after becoming governor of the state in 2005.

Peña Nieto bought the property from Roberto San Roman, a businessman whose construction company went on to win over $100 million in state government contracts from 2005 to 2011. The same firm, Constructora Urbanizadora Ixtapan (CUISA), which had never before carried out federal projects, has also won at least 11 federal contracts since Peña Nieto became president in late 2012.

Peña Nieto’s office released a statement on Wednesday affirming that the house was purchased legally at full market value of $372,000 and publicly disclosed among his assets. However, the identity of the seller of the property had not been known until now, the Wall Street Journal reported.

CUISA has denied that the sale of the property resulted in it gaining favored status under the Peña Nieto administration. The company said it won the contracts by offering the most competitive bids and emphasized that it has launched another 48 unsuccessful bids for federal contracts since Peña Nieto became president.

Peña Nieto’s office stated that he is not involved in the awarding of public contracts, but this is not the first time that he or those close to him have made use of luxury homes provided by favored contractors…

Click here to read this article in full at Latin Correspondent.

Mexican army faces questions over fate of 43 missing students

January 21, 2015
Omar Garcia suffered a black eye and a bloodied face in a clash outside the army base in Iguala last week.

Omar Garcia suffered a black eye and a bloodied face in a clash outside the army base in Iguala last week.

Four months on from the abduction and probable massacre of 43 students in southern Mexico, the survivors and the victims’ families have turned the focus of their relentless fight for justice on the Mexican army.

At least 97 suspects, including scores of corrupt police officers, gang members and the local mayor and his wife, have been arrested in connection with the disappearance of the students in the town of Iguala, in Guerrero state, on 26 September.

The Mexican government has questioned but not charged 36 soldiers, and repeatedly denied allegations of the army’s involvement in the disappearance of the students. Yet their families are demanding a deeper investigation as well as unrestricted access to the military bases where they suspect the 43 young men may have been held.

Omar Garcia, a 24-year-old student who was threatened by soldiers after escaping from the police gunmen that fateful night, has been a leading figure in the campaign for justice ever since.

“We have reason to believe that the army was involved in the disappearance of our companions,” Garcia said. “They were there that night. They probably covered up, facilitated, or played a leading role in the disappearances.”

On 12 January, Garcia suffered a black eye and a bloodied face as protesters and relatives of the missing students were beaten and tear-gassed by military police upon trying to force their way into the army headquarters in Iguala. The military base lies just over a mile from where the 43 students disappeared after a series of shootings that left six civilians dead.

The students all came from poor, rural areas and were training to become teachers at Guerrero’s left-wing Ayotzinapa college. Ironically, they had travelled to Iguala to commandeer buses so that they could attend a demonstration in Mexico City commemorating the massacre of scores or even hundreds of student protesters by the Mexican army on 2 October 1968.

Upon arriving in Iguala, Garcia told The Independent that the students split into two groups. At about 8 p.m. he received a call from the others saying that the police were shooting at them. When Garcia and his companions arrived at the scene they found a group of students huddled outside the bullet-riddled buses in a moment of respite. They tried to call ambulances, lawyers and the press, only for another attack to begin…

Click here to read this feature in full at The Independent.

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