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Surviving the narco-blockades of Mexico’s Jalisco state

May 15, 2015
Locals look down at the burnt-out remains of their car. Photo by Victor Hugo Ornelas.

Locals look down at the burnt-out remains of their car. Photo by Victor Hugo Ornelas.

Mickey Hernandez, a 24-year-old accountant from Guadalajara, was heading to a beach vacation for the three-day May Day weekend with his parents, sister, and nieces when danger struck.

“We were driving on the highway when a truck pulled up in front of us blocking the lane. I thought it was turning around, but then I saw armed men with bulletproof vests and machine guns up ahead,” Hernandez told VICE News.

“They pointed and gestured for us to leave, and seconds later started shooting at the truck.”

Dozens of similar narco-blockades occurred across the western region of Mexico on May 1, causing chaos and panic on highways leading out of the Guadalajara metropolitan zone just as families were hitting the road for the holiday.

The coordinated blockades set up by the increasingly powerful Jalisco New Generation Cartel came in response to a government operation aimed at capturing the group’s leaders. In all, 17 people died that day, including eight military personnel and a federal policewoman.

“We reversed as far as we could, and then started driving down the wrong side of the highway,” Hernandez recalled.

In a panic, Hernandez and his family tried to return to Guadalajara, but found their way barred by another blockade. After two hours stuck in traffic, they were eventually able to continue to the coast in neighboring Colima state, he said, passing the burnt-out husks of a bus and another truck on the way…

Click here to read this feature in full at VICE News.

Ayotzinapa caravan rolls through Europe as survivors, grieving parents demand justice

May 15, 2015

Almost eight months since the forced disappearance and probable massacre of 43 students in the southern Mexican state of Guerrero, survivors and family members of the missing continue to campaign for justice.

Having already traveled across Mexico and the United States in a bid to raise awareness of the human rights crisis in their country, a group of activists are now traversing Europe and are due to end their tour in the United Kingdom next week.

The case of the missing students has ignited waves of demonstrations and drawn international attention to the twin problems of corruption and violence that plague Mexican society.

The abductions took place on September 26 after police officers from the town of Iguala started shooting at busloads of student protesters from Guerrero’s Ayotzinapa teachers’ training college…

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

Murdering Mexican women with impunity

May 13, 2015
Protesters hold a sign up reading 'Not one more femicide' during a feminist march in Guadalajara

Protesters hold a sign reading ‘Not one more femicide’ during a feminist march in Guadalajara

Life can be tough and bitterly unfair for women in Mexico with one killed every four hours and only a small proportion of those responsible ever being convicted.

Maria Guadalupe Leon Hurtado doesn’t want her daughter to become the next grim statistic. Leon, a mother of eight who used to suffer domestic abuse, sits in the waiting room at the Women’s Justice Centre in Guadalajara, Mexico’s second-biggest city.

With a pained expression, Leon told Al Jazeera she’s there to support her daughter, who is being physically abused by her partner.

Since its inauguration in February, the centre has been flooded by victims of gender-based violence. In its first two weeks, it received 675 women who had the courage to denounce all manner of physical and emotional abuse and seek help.

“The most common complaints are of domestic violence, rape and sexual harassment,” Zulema Carrio, the director of the centre, told Al Jazeera.

The majority of victims are women of low economic status, she said…

Click here to read this feature in full at Al Jazeera.

‘People are fed up': Jalisco elections could upend traditional politics in Mexico

May 11, 2015
Citizens' Movement candidate Enrique Alfaro hopes to become the next mayor of Guadalajara.

Citizens’ Movement candidate Enrique Alfaro hopes to become the next mayor of Guadalajara.

Mexican director Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu, known for the film Birdman, perfectly captured the mood of his nation during his 2015 Academy Awards acceptance speech, dedicating his award to the people of Mexico.

“I pray that we can find and build the government that we deserve,” he said.

Years of constant bloodshed and unchecked corruption have fueled disillusionment in the country ahead of this summer’s midterm elections. But in Guadalajara, the nation’s second-largest city, there are signs that the June 7 elections could herald a shift toward what some voters hope could be a more citizen-led model of government.

Two candidates in particular have stoked a sense of optimism: Enrique Alfaro of the liberal Citizen’s Movement party, and Pedro Kumamoto, a young independent candidate for the Jalisco state congress.

Alfaro, who is currently leading in Guadalajara’s mayoral race, presents a well-funded and highly organized campaign, while Kumamoto is leading a mostly grassroots independent movement. But what 40-year-old Alfaro, and wiry 25-year-old Kumamato have in common is the goal of defeating the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, from its current grip of power in one of Mexico´s most important states…

Click here to read this feature in full at VICE News.

The first independent candidate for the state congress, Pedro Kumamoto has spent day after day canvassing voters in Zapopan's District 10.

The first independent candidate for the state congress, Pedro Kumamoto has spent day after day canvassing voters in Zapopan’s District 10.

Reporting on the recent violence in Jalisco

May 8, 2015

Earlier today I discussed the recent violence in Guadalajara and the state of Jalisco with Marco Werman on his show The World, which airs on PRI radio and the BBC World Service.

You can listen to my segment and read a summary here.

Earlier this week I also did a similar interview with James Fredrick on the Los Gueros podcast of Latin American news (click here to download from iTunes)

Another journalist murdered while Mexico’s president celebrates freedom of the press

May 8, 2015

Yet another Mexican reporter was murdered in Veracruz this week, the 12th journalist to have been killed in the eastern state in the last five years.

After being abducted as he was driving home last Saturday, Armando Saldaña Morales, a 52-year-old reporter for a local radio station called La Ke Buena, was found dead in the town of Morelos on Monday. His body reportedly showed signs of torture and four bullet wounds.

The motive for Saldaña’s murder was not immediately clear but he had recently reported on corruption and organized crime, including the assassination of a former police chief and the theft of oil from state-owned pipelines in the region.

The killing of Saldaña, who had covered the region for 25 years for numerous local media outlets, came just four months after the death of Moisés Sánchez, the last journalist to have been killed in Veracruz.

Twelve reporters have now been murdered in this Mexican Gulf state since Governor Javier Duarte de Ochoa of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) took office in December 2010…

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

Huff Post Live: The rise of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel

May 5, 2015


This morning I went on the Huff Post Live online channel to discuss the rise of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel. Unfortunately my Internet connection was pretty terrible so instead of a video interview we just spoke over the phone. I’m not tech savvy enough to know how to embed the video on this page but if you want to watch it just click here and skip forward to minute 8:35.


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