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Mystery of Mexico’s missing students is symptomatic of nationwide crisis

October 18, 2014

The mass graves near Iguala are not unique in Mexico. And the whereabouts of 43 male students who disappeared in the south-west state of Guerrero three weeks ago remains another mystery in a country where the missing often do not return.

It is still unclear why or under whose orders the students were abducted, but the case has heaped pressure on the government not only to solve the crime but also address the wider problem of forced disappearances that affects great swathes of Mexico.

The students were ambushed outside the town of Iguala on 26 September. The attacks left six civilians dead, at least 25 injured and 43 students missing. Many of them were last seen being driven away in a police car. The authorities have now arrested 48 suspects, including 40 police officers and several alleged members of local drug gang Guerreros Unidos (Warriors United), a splinter group of the infamous Beltran Leyva cartel. On Friday, officials said they had captured the group’s leader, Sidronio Casarrubias Salgado, along with a collaborator, weapons and vehicles.

The series of mass graves was discovered near Iguala. But the attorney general, Jesus Murillo Karam, announced last week that the 28 charred bodies found in the first set of graves were not those of the missing students. “Whether these corpses are those of the students or not, the situation is grave,” Mexican journalist Sanjuana Martinez told The Independent on Sunday. “If they aren’t the students’ bodies it’s just as bad, if not worse, because before there were 43 people missing in the state and now there are another 28 cases to be resolved.”

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

Mexican parents wait for news of 43 missing students following mass graves discovery

October 12, 2014

Mario Cesar Gonzalez found out that his son was in danger when he received a midnight phone call from one of his classmates. They had been attacked in the state of Guerrero, in the south-west of Mexico. Mr Gonzalez immediately made the 11-hour journey to the town of Iguala, where the incident had occurred.

“I arrived that morning. It was a really ugly situation and I felt shattered. Three students had been killed and several others were injured, some of them in a very grave condition,” he told The Independent on Sunday.

In total, six civilians died and at least 25 were wounded. One student was found with the skin stripped from his face and his eyes gouged out. Another 43 remain unaccounted for, including Mr Gonzalez’s 22-year-old son, Cesar Manuel, who was last seen being bundled into a police car.

The entire country, if not the world, watched with mounting horror and dread last week as investigators uncovered mass graves, one filled with 28 charred remains. Four more mass graves containing burned bodies were found on Thursday…

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

Global outrage grows over Mexico’s missing students

October 10, 2014

United in horror and rage, thousands of students, academics, human rights groups and other elements of civil society came together this week to condemn the disappearance and likely murder of dozens of students in Mexico.

As previously reported, 43 students went missing after police attacked them two weeks ago, killing six unarmed civilians and wounding another 25 just outside the town of Iguala, in the southwestern state of Guerrero.

After a week-long search, using information given by detained suspects linked to local organized crime, state authorities exhumed 28 bodies from six freshly covered graves near Iguala last Saturday.

Forensic experts said it could take weeks or even months to identify the badly burned bodies, but several members of the local Guerreros Unidos drug gang who are now in custody confessed to taking 17 of the students to the site where the graves were found.

Dismayed by the government’s inability or unwillingness to locate the missing students, hundreds of unarmed vigilantes swarmed into Iguala on Tuesday to help look for them. The vigilantes, who banded together last year to defend their rural towns from drug cartels, said they would do a door-to-door search of the area.

But on Thursday, Mexico’s Attorney General Jesús Murillo Karam announced the discovery of four more mass graves filled with charred bodies, likely those of the other 15 students…

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

Illicit arms factories busted in Guadalajara

October 8, 2014
Along with the AK-47, the AR-15 assault rifle is the weapon of choice for most Mexican cartels.

Along with the AK-47, the AR-15 assault rifle is the weapon of choice for most Mexican drug cartels.

Mexican authorities have shut down two clandestine weapons factories in Guadalajara, in what is thought to be the first instance of criminals producing their own firearms in the country.

A joint investigation by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), Mexico’s Attorney General’s Office (PGR) and the Jalisco state police led to the discovery and dismantling of the labs where criminals were assembling AR-15 assault rifles.

The authorities arrested four men and decommissioned 18 firearms at two properties in Guadalajara’s Villa Guerrero and Antigua Penal neighborhoods, revealed Jalisco Attorney General Carlos Najera in a press conference on Tuesday morning.

“This group is dedicated to sending arms to Michoacan and we also believe that they are selling arms to the local cartel, the Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generacion,” Najera said. “This is a strong blow against organized crime.”

The suspects are believed to have manufactured around 100 assault rifles in recent months, using parts imported from the United States, Najera said. They were equipped with highly sophisticated machinery and advanced software that enabled them to make precise incisions and finish assembling the weapons, he added.

The AR-15 is a semi-automatic version of the M-16 assault rifle used by the U.S. armed forces. Along with the AK-47, is the weapon of choice of most Mexican drug gangs. Such arms are typically smuggled into the country from the United States or Central America, but the existence of assembly plants within Mexico is another indication of the sophisticated nature of today’s cartels.

Where are Mexico’s missing students?

October 3, 2014

The attacks in Iguala represent one of the worst instances of violence against students in Mexico since October 2, 1968, when the military massacred hundreds of leftist student demonstrators in Tlatelolco, Mexico City.

Forty-three Mexican students are still missing a week after police and other unidentified assailants shot dead six unarmed civilians in Iguala, a small city in the southwestern state of Guerrero.

The students are activists from the Ayotzinapa teacher training college who had come to Iguala on Friday, September 26 to collect donations to fund planned demonstrations. They were protesting against what they consider discriminatory hiring practices that favor teachers from urban backgrounds over rural ones.

The students said they were hitchhiking back to their college on local buses that night when they came under attack by municipal police officers and other unidentified gunmen. The police gave chase and opened fire, later claiming that the students had hijacked the buses.

Three students were killed on the spot, along with a woman who was hit later that night when her taxi came under fire. Gunmen also shot at a bus carrying third-division soccer team Avispones – having presumably mistaken it for a bus seized by students – causing the vehicle to crash and killing the driver and a 15-year-old member of the team.

At least 17 others were injured and 57 students went missing in the aftermath of the attacks…

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

Jalisco is in favor of medical marijuana

September 26, 2014

The western Mexican state of Jalisco supports allowing marijuana for therapeutic use but opposes increasing the amount currently permitted for recreational use, a public survey showed this week.

The Jalisco Electoral Institute revealed on Wednesday that of 13,662 Jalisco residents who participated in the survey, 60.77 percent favored allowing those who suffer from terminal, chronic or degenerative diseases to keep five plants or 150 grams of marijuana in their homes, while 39.22 percent were against the proposal.

However, when it came to raising the amount of marijuana allowed for recreational use from five to 30 grams, the results were reversed with 60.9 percent of participants voting against the proposal and only 39.09 percent voting yes.

Jalisco has traditionally been considered one of Mexico’s most conservative states, but the results show that public opinion on marijuana has grown much more liberal in recent years. The survey was sponsored by the left-wing Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), which hopes to pass a bill based on its results.

The outcome does not guarantee any change in Jalisco’s laws, but it could help set new precedents for more democratic decision making and will put pressure on the state’s legislators to consider allowing medical marijuana…

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

Mexico City profile for Sportcal Insight

September 25, 2014


“Is this your first time in Mexico City? It’s a monster, isn’t it?” soccer agent Dario Vidali asks his newest recruit upon driving him into Mexico’s sprawling capital. “But even the ugliest monster has its charms.”

Vidali is a fictitious character in Mexico’s popular 2008 comedy Rudo & Cursi, but his description of Mexico City is certainly fitting.

Once synonymous with kidnappings and severe pollution, Mexico City has worked hard to improve its image over the last decade. The liberal local government has kept the capital free from the drug-related violence that has plagued parts of Mexico and it has been widely lauded for its efforts to improve air quality.

In a bid to combat obesity, crime and drug addiction, the city government has installed 600 open-air gyms across the city for free public use. Urban renewal has seen once-rundown neighbourhoods flourish and tourists have flocked to visit the capital’s ancient ruins, gaze at its famous murals and dine in its many world-class restaurants.

Previously the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan, the city was home to several majestic ball courts in which two teams would compete to force a rubber ball through a narrow stone hoop using only their elbows, knees, hips and heads. Historians believe the losing or even winning teams were often sacrificed to the gods.

Centuries later in 1968 – with such practices firmly in the past – Mexico City became the first Latin American city to host the Olympic Games, a feat not to be repeated for almost 50 years until Rio de Janeiro stages the Olympics in 2016…

Click here to read this feature in full in the fourth issue of Sportcal Insight magazine (pages 40-41).


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