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Elderly Mexican villagers cling to town, fight plans to flood land

August 22, 2017

Temacapulín residents have resisted the government’s plans for 12 years

Abigail Agredano fears her 96-year-old mother would not survive being uprooted from their hometown in the highlands of western Mexico, where its 400 mostly elderly residents are battling a  government plan to dam the nearby Río Verde.

“If they manage to force us out, I think she and many others would die immediately,” Agredano, head of the Committee to Save Temacapulín, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Damming the Río Verde would supply water for major urban areas in the state of Jalisco and neighboring Guanajuato but leave Temacapulín and the smaller villages of Palmajero and Acasico underwater.

Abigail Agredano is leading the campaign to save Temacapulín from being flooded.

While the dam was proposed a dozen years ago, the campaign has grown more urgent this summer since Jalisco Governor Aristóteles Sandoval abandoned a pledge he made in 2013 to save Temacapulín.

Construction of the dam was halted at 80 meters (262 ft)after a Supreme Court ruling in 2013 and, as the partially finished dam has not been sealed, the river still runs through it.

But Sandoval, a member of the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), said in late June the government now intends to raise the Zapotillo dam to 105 meters, a height that would seal the fate of the three tiny towns.

If the government plans go ahead this entire town will end up underwater.

“Saving Temacapulín is no longer an affordable option,” Sandoval said, due to growing water demands of the state capital Guadalajara, Mexico’s second biggest city…

Click here to read this feature in full at the Thomson Reuters Foundation

Here’s a short video I made about the situation in Temacapulín. Feedback is welcome.

Mexico hopes its famous chorizo can win over Donald Trump

August 21, 2017

Founded by a Spanish refugee, La Vaquita Negra del Portal is one of Toluca’s oldest chorizo vendors.

When Barack Obama visited the Mexican city of Toluca for the North American Leaders Summit in 2014, he lamented that he didn’t have time to try the “legendary” local chorizo.

“Hopefully next time I stop by, I’m gonna be able to have some of that,” Obama said as he thanked his Mexican counterpart Enrique Peña Nieto for his “extraordinary hospitality”.

Relations between both countries have since deteriorated, but Mexico’s government may have come up with a cunning plan to win Donald Trump over.

Toluca’s famous chorizo comes in many different varieties and is often enjoyed in tortas.

We know Trump loves a taco bowl, but could a taste of more traditional Mexican cuisine change his mind about his southern neighbors?

Mexico’s Secretary of the Economy, Ildefonso Guajardo, thinks so. “We mustn’t lose hope,” he joked ahead of the NAFTA renegotiations that began last week. “President Obama never tried chorizo from Toluca, but we can offer it to President Trump.”

With Mexico’s future prosperity seemingly hanging in the balance, I decided to visit Toluca to find out why its chorizo is the source of such great national pride…

Click here to read this article in full at Munchies

Mexican muralists transform violent neighbourhoods in Pachuca

August 19, 2017

Covering 40,000 m2, the mural will be the biggest of its kind in the world. (Photo by Germen Crew)

For many years the rundown Palmitas neighbourhood that overlooks the Mexican city of Pachuca was a hive of delinquency.

The drab homes and dimly lit streets that hugged the steep hillside were rife with drug addiction, theft and domestic violence.

Now proudly bathed in kaleidoscopic colours, the area stands as an example of how to transform marginalised neighbourhoods across Latin America.

Government-funded muralists have turned the hillside into a giant work of art, while helping locals to find employment opportunities and develop a sense of community.

The graffiti artists painted several iconic portraits of local community members.

“The neighbourhood changed completely. The colours gave it life,” says Doña Chela, a local pastry chef.

“There used to be a lot of robberies and people drinking on the streets all the time. That happens much less now.”

Pachuca’s paint job

Located 88km (55 miles) north east of Mexico City in Hidalgo state, Pachuca is best known as a former hub for Cornish miners who introduced football and pasties to Mexico in the 19th Century.

The city has been spared the worst of the cartel violence that has plagued Mexico in the last decade but petty crime has been a consistent problem, particularly in hillside slums like Palmitas.

The project is led by former gang member Enrique Gómez.

This has begun to change since a team of graffiti artists known as the Germen Crew painted 200 houses here in 2015.

Viewed from afar, the homes fit together to form swirling patterns inspired by Pachuca’s nickname, “La Bella Airosa” (The Windy Beauty).

Closer inspection reveals finer details among the labyrinth of stairways and alleyways, including several iconic portraits of local residents.

Gómez hopes the project will help keep local youths away from a life of crime.

The muralists are now painting another 300 homes in the adjacent Cubitos neighbourhood.

Known as the Macro Mural, the project is due for completion in November.

Organisers say it will cover 40,000 square metres, making it the world’s largest mural of its kind…

Click here to read this feature in full at the BBC

Mexico’s biggest soccer legend accused of laundering drug money

August 10, 2017

The US government sanctioned Rafael Márquez and nine businesses that are linked to him.

Mexicans were shocked to see a familiar scourge taint a national hero’s image on Wednesday, when the U.S. government accused soccer legend Rafael Márquez of laundering money for a drug cartel.

Having won four La Liga titles and two Champions Leagues with Barcelona, plus more than a dozen other trophies during a career that has stretched over two decades, Márquez is Mexico’s most successful soccer player of all time. The veteran defender has captained Mexico in a record of four World Cups and was in line to lead them into a fifth next year.

A respected leader on and off the field, Márquez is also known for his charity work with disadvantaged youths. In a country stained by cartel violence and political corruption, he is a hero to millions and a symbol of national pride.

But according to a multi-year investigation involving several U.S. and Mexican agencies, even Márquez is not immune to the reach of Mexico’s many drug cartels.

The Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) sanctioned Márquez and 21 others under the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act for their links to a vast but little-known criminal network run by Raúl Flores Hernández.

In what it described as the largest single action it had ever taken against a Mexican cartel, OFAC also blacklisted 42 businesses, including nine linked to Márquez. All but one are located in the western city of Guadalajara, where the veteran star is currently playing for his boyhood club Atlas…

Click here to read this article in full at VICE News

Viva México Episode 7: That F***ing Wall

August 8, 2017

 
Former Coca-Cola executive Vicente Fox made history in Mexico when he ended seven decades of one-party rule by defeating the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, in the year 2000. But the euphoria did not last long as Fox struggled to implement major changes and the PRI reclaimed power in 2012. Fox has since reinvented himself as a vocal critic of Donald Trump, constantly trolling him on Twitter, and slamming his planned border wall.

In an exclusive interview  Fox tells us why he’s taken on the self-appointed role of Trump’s “shadow” and calls for the legalisation of all drugs. He also defends his vast state pension and admits to making a pact with Mexico’s current president Enrique Peña Nieto against his own party’s candidate in the 2012 election. Watch the full video of our interview below.

 

Surrender of El Chapo’s godson changes Sinaloa’s gruesome drug war

August 2, 2017

Mexico has experienced a surge in drug-related violence this year

Infamous drug lords rarely hand themselves over to the U.S. government voluntarily. But that’s precisely what Dámaso López Serrano, the godson of Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, did after walking through the border crossing at Calexico, California, last Wednesday morning.

The U.S. government has not commented on his arrest or what charges he might face following his surrender, but the timing isn’t entirely surprising, say security analysts familiar with Mexico’s violent drug war.

ópez Serrano’s sudden surrender comes three months after the capture of his father, Dámaso López Nuñez, and amid a series of high-profile losses in the father-son duo’s bloody war with Guzmán’s sons for control of his criminal empire. Having grown increasingly isolated after his father’s arrest, analysts believe López Serrano likely cut a deal to help prosecutors convict his godfather Guzmán, who faces trial in New York’s Eastern District court in April.

Nicknamed “Mini Lic,” López Serrano is known throughout Mexico as a flamboyant playboy who led a group of young cartel assassins called the Anthrax squad. He is famed for flaunting his exotic pets and gold-plated firearms on Instagram and is the subject of a narcocorrido anthem that has been viewed over 213 million times on YouTube

Click here to read this article in full at VICE News

Bodies are piling up in Mexico’s drug war because El Chapo is gone

July 12, 2017

Mexican soldiers and federal police patrol the streets of Guadalajara.

Alejandro Pesqueda was driving home from a party at 3 a.m. on Saturday when a corpse nearly crashed through his windshield.

At first, Pesqueda didn’t realize the large green plastic bag that thumped onto the ground next to him contained a body. But after he stopped his car, he looked up and saw another human-shaped bag hanging from the overpass under which he had just driven.

“If I’d been driving two meters to the right, it would have hit me,” the 29-year-old radio host said of the falling body. “You see this kind of thing in movies or on the news… but this scene made my blood turn cold.”

May was the most violent month in Mexico since records began in 1997.

When he saw police lights approaching, Pesqueda parked across the road. “Two police officers came over with their pistols raised,” he said. “I held my hands up and they asked me what I was doing here. They checked my ID and told me to get out of there because the situation could be misinterpreted. I left feeling really scared.”

Click here to read this article in full at VICE News