Skip to content

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

Viva México podcast episode 6: The Writings on the Wall

July 9, 2017

In episode six of the Viva México podcast, Booker Prize-winning novelist DBC Pierre tells us how growing up in Mexico influenced his writing and gave him “an extraordinary capability for bullshit”. We also speak to the historian Andrew Paxman about his new biography of William Jenkins, an American magnate who became the richest man in Mexico and “the gringo that Mexicans most loved to hate,” long before Donald Trump. Plus, all the latest on Trump’s meeting with Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto at the G20, and the upcoming NAFTA renegotiations.

Paxman’s book “Jenkins of Mexico” is available on Amazon here. We highly recommend it.

Click here to listen to previous episodes of the Viva México podcast

Mexico’s most-wanted: A guide to the drug cartels

July 5, 2017

More than 200,000 people have been killed or have disappeared since Mexico’s government declared war on organised crime in December 2006.

The military offensive has led to the destruction of some drug gangs, splits within others and the emergence of new groups.

With widespread corruption and impunity exacerbating Mexico’s problems, there is no end in sight to the violence.

Which are the most powerful cartels today? And who is behind them?

The Sinaloa cartel

Founded in the late 1980s, the Sinaloa cartel headed by Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán has long been considered Mexico’s most powerful criminal organisation.

Having outfought several rival groups, the Sinaloa cartel dominates much of north-west Mexico and makes billions of dollars from trafficking illicit narcotics to the United States, Europe and Asia.

However, the cartel’s future is uncertain after Guzmán was recaptured in 2016 following two daring prison breaks. He was extradited to the US in January and now awaits trial in New York…

Click here to read this feature in full at the BBC

Mexico’s unlikely visitor: Leon Trotsky arrived in Mexico with blood on his hands, but quickly became a free speech fighter

June 29, 2017

Leon Trotsky’s ashes are buried at his former home in Mexico City.

Deep, wide holes still mark the walls of the house where Leon Trotsky lived in exile in Mexico City’s bohemian Coyoacán neighbourhood. Granted asylum two decades after leading the Russian Revolution of 1917, Trotsky spent his final years hiding from Soviet assassins and exhorting the importance of free press and artistic expression.

Responsible for the repression and murder of thousands of political opponents during Russia’s Red Terror, Trotsky was an unlikely advocate for free speech. Yet, having been exiled by Joseph Stalin and airbrushed from Soviet history after losing out in a power struggle with his former comrade, he was no stranger to censorship himself.

Embraced by a small community of artists and intellectuals, Trotsky stayed active in Mexico, founding a local Marxist magazine and launching an international initiative for revolutionary art. Then he was murdered by a Stalinist agent.

Trotsky was reading at his desk when he was murdered by a Stalinist agent armed with an ice pick.

A century on from the Russian Revolution and 80 years since Trotsky arrived in Mexico, his time there continues to pique public interest. His former home, now a museum, draws some 17,000 foreign visitors and 50,000 Mexican students a year, while The Chosen, a new film based on his assassination, was bought by Netflix and released in 190 countries in April.

Trotsky’s presence in Mexico, a nation that had only emerged from its own decade-long revolution in 1920, proved divisive from the outset. The socialist-leaning president Lázaro Cárdenas had offered him asylum after Trotsky had difficult spells in Turkey, France and Norway, but the decision did not go down well with Mexico’s Kremlin-backed communist party nor left-wing newspapers…

This article is available for free for a limited time at Index on Censorship

Mexico hopes new women’s pro soccer league will boost its national team

June 26, 2017

Santos Laguna’s new women’s side will compete in the 16-team league.

Yuliana Adriano started playing soccer at age 7 at her parent’s ranch in Esmeralda, a village with 2,000 inhabitants in the northern Mexican state of Durango. She dreamed of playing professionally one day, but understood that would be unlikely since there was no professional women’s league in Mexico.

After leaving home to receive a better education and play for a school team, Adriano was called up to Durango’s state all star team, although they only trained and played together sporadically. And yet Adriano continued to improve. By the time she became a teenager, Adriano was a bonafide talent. And coincidentally, at that exact same time, the Mexican soccer federation announced the formation of the Liga MX Femenil, a 16-team league that kicks off on July 29. Adriano, 14, was signed by the league and assigned to the Santos Laguna team.

“We’re going to put a lot of effort in so that they make the women’s league equal to the men’s one,” Adriano said with a smile. “I’d love for us to have the same wages and all the things that they have. We’re going to show them that being men doesn’t make them better than us.”

14-year-old Yuliana Adriano scored the first goal in the history of Santos’ women’s team. (Photo by Kim Tate/Santos Laguna)

This is the first women’s competition in Mexico to mirror the men’s Liga MX, with each season split between Apertura and Clausura tournaments. The only structural difference is that the clubs will be divided into two eight-team groups, with the top two from each group going through to the playoff semifinals. The first final will take place in December.

There are still many hurdles for the league to overcome—particularly with regard to wages, broadcast rights and sponsorship—but the hope is that the league will help raise the level of the women’s national team and create opportunities for girls like Adriano to fulfill their potential…

Click here to read this story in full at VICE Sports

Corbyn surge raises hopes that Mexico might soon have a friend in No. 10 Downing Street

June 25, 2017

Jeremy Corbyn met Andrés Manuel López Obrador in Tabasco last Christmas.

When Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn outperformed expectations in the UK’s recent general election, he upended the country’s political culture and energised a generation of young supporters.

But his achievement also sparked a wave of optimism among activists in Mexico, who are starting to hope that they might soon have a friend in 10 Downing Street.

Britain’s Conservative government has forged close ties with Mexico’s Enrique Peña Nieto administration, which has been tainted by corruption scandals, worsening violence and accusations of spying on journalists and activists.

And while Theresa May has sought to appease Donald Trump, who has threatened and offended Mexico at every opportunity, Corbyn has become an unlikely source of inspiration for Mexican activists.

Corbyn, whose wife, Laura Álvarez, is Mexican, often speaks at solidarity events organised by London’s Mexican community. He has, in parliament, condemned Mexico’s media censorship and human rights abuses, and led demonstrations against Peña Nieto’s state visit in 2015 while the British government was signing controversial oil deals.

Corbyn also wrote to Mexico’s ambassador to express “deep concern” over the disappearance of 43 students abducted by police officers in southern Mexico in 2014.

Omar García, who escaped on the night his classmates from the Ayotzinapa college were attacked, met Corbyn and his wife while touring Europe last year to raise awareness about the situation in Mexico…

Click here to read this article in full at The Guardian

Drug cartels, mining firms and peyote tourism are threatening Wixárika culture

June 16, 2017

A Wixárika elder looks out at the sacred lands of Wirikuta at dawn.

As dawn broke on a sacred mountaintop in northern Mexico, a group of indigenous pilgrims dragged a sacrificial calf into their stone circle and slit its throat. They then dipped candles in the warm blood still gushing from the animal’s throat and lit them, creating a circle of light.

The heart was next. The tribesmen cut it from the calf’s chest, cooked it in campfire ashes, and ate it as a gesture of respect for the dead animal.

Aukwe Mijarez dips candles into the warm blood of the sacrificial calf.

The ceremony was a plea to the tribe’s gods to defend their ancestral lands from transnational mining companies and their people from displacement at the hands of predatory drug cartels. The Wixárika have inhabited this region of northern Mexico that stretches across four states to the Pacific coast. Today, the Wixárika number 45,000, and they worry that these emerging threats signal the erasure of their culture.

Ceremonies like this one are fueled by peyote, a hallucinogenic cactus sacred to the Wixárika, or Huichol, people, and vital in facilitating conversation with their gods. But thanks to a booming illegal peyote tourism industry nearby, even that part of their culture is in jeopardy.

Dawn breaks over the mountains where the Wixárika believe the sun was born.

The Wixárika have taken practical measures against these existential threats but they believe they need divine intervention to ensure their survival. VICE News accompanied the indigenous group’s leaders on their annual pilgrimage to the Cerro Quemado, a cactus-covered mountain in San Luis Potosí where they believe the sun was born. This year’s voyage took on added urgency as it came just days after two Wixárika activists were murdered in nearby Jalisco state.

The rocky Cerro Quemado mountaintop serves as an altar for the pilgrims’ elaborate offerings.

Miguel Vázquez, a prominent land rights activist, was fatally shot by gunmen believed to work for the Jalisco New Generation cartel in the town of Tuxpan de Bolaños on May 20. His brother Agustín was killed after visiting him in the hospital that night…

Click here to read this feature in full at VICE News