Six alleged criminals were found alive with their hands chopped off after an apparent vigilante attack in the outskirts of Guadalajara, Mexico’s second biggest city, on Monday afternoon.
Authorities in the western state of Jalisco confirmed that five men men in their 30’s and a 44-year-old woman were being treated for amputations in local hospitals after they were discovered at about 6pm in Guadalajara’s Tlaquepaque district. The woman’s partner, a 39-year-old male, was found dead at the scene.
Graphic images circulating on social media showed several bloodied men with their hands hacked off at the wrists. Some had the words “I’m a rat” tattooed on their foreheads. Their severed hands were dumped in two plastic bags that lay beside them.
A handwritten banner left at the crime scene accused the victims of disrespecting women and children, breaking into people’s homes and stealing vehicles, jewelry and cell phones, among other alleged crimes. It was signed by the “Elite anti-rat group”. Thieves and petty criminals are commonly known as rats in Mexico.
A Guadalajara police officer, who asked that his name be withheld because he was not authorized to publicly discuss the case, confirmed the authenticity of the images…
When a group of young Mexicans began selling “I support Donald” T-shirts to people on the streets of Los Angeles last month they drew reactions of anger and disbelief from many passersby.
The joke was on the buyers. As temperatures rose a clown nose appeared on the Republican presidential candidate and the wording on the shirts changed, crossing out “I support” and leaving “El Que Lo Lea,” which translates to “whoever reads this” but is a nod for any Mexican Spanish speaker to the popular phrase: “Whoever reads this is an asshole.”
The prank was part of a viral marketing campaign by the Mexican craft brewery Cucapá, with the sales destined to fund free beer giveaways and a big party in Mexico City.
Cucapá’s stunt was the latest in a series of advertising campaigns by Mexican businesses that have mocked and criticised the Republican candidate for his racist rhetoric.
Mario García, the Cucapá founder, said the company came up with the idea after Trump’s surprise visit to Mexico in August. Upon returning to the US, Trump triumphantly proclaimed: “Mexico will pay for the wall, 100%. They don’t know it yet, but they’re going to pay.”
At just 26 years old, Pedro Kumamoto flipped the script on Mexico’s governing elite when he helped lead a successful crusade against their most sacred privilege. When the Jalisco state legislature voted in July to strip all public officials of their immunity to prosecution while in office—a measure that he sponsored—the state became the first in the country to do away with what had become a symbol of Mexico’s political impunity.
The achievement came just 13 months after Kumamoto made history as the first independent candidate elected to the western Mexican state’s legislature. That Kumamoto, a great-grandson of a Japanese immigrant with no ties to any political party, was able to convince some legislators to essentially vote against their own interests testifies to his powers of persuasion and the strength of his vision…
This article is part of Americas Quarterly’s list of the top five politicians in Latin America aged under 40. Click here to read the article in full in English or in Spanish. The full list appears in AQ’s most recent issue, “Fixing Brazil” and is available online here.
“Donald Trump is going to pay for our beers—he just doesn’t know it yet.”
That’s the message from Cerveza Cucapá, a Mexican craft brewery that has tricked Trump supporters into financing a massive fiesta to be held south of the border later this month.
In a Spanglish-language video published on the day of the first presidential debate, Cucapá revealed its staff had conned Trump supporters in Los Angeles into buying what appeared to be T-shirts proclaiming “I Support Donald.” What the buyers didn’t know was that in hot temperatures the wording on the T-shirts transforms into an anti-Trump message and his face resembles a clown’s.
Cucapá founder Mario García tells me the idea for the campaign came about “after that infamous clip where he said, ‘Mexico will pay for the wall, they just don’t know it yet.’ So we decided, ‘Well, Donald Trump is gonna pay for our beers, even though he doesn’t know it yet.’”
While Cucapá could not force the weasel-haired tycoon to open his checkbook, they decided that the next best thing would be for Trump supporters to cover the costs. So they began hawking what looked like pro-Trump T-shirts in affluent areas like Venice Beach, Hollywood Boulevard, and Huntington Beach…
Forget margaritas, tequila slammers, or the frankly terrible tequila sunrise. There’s a much more fun and refreshing way to enjoy Mexico’s most loved spirit: out of a clay casserole dish.
Native to the western state of Jalisco, where the majority of tequila is produced, the cazuela is a potent mixed drink that takes up a lot of table space but boasts a wonderfully explosive citrus flavor.
Named after the ornate, locally made stewpot in which it is served, the drink is also sometimes referred to as a cazuela voladora—literally a flying casserole dish—because it either leaves you feeling slightly dizzy or as if you can fly.
The cazuela is made by filling the dish with ice cubes, chunks of orange, lime, grapefruit, and a dash of sea salt to counter the acidity, as well as a generous serving of tequila, and an even bigger dose of Squirt. Having spent six years living in Guadalajara, the capital of Jalisco and the heart of tequila country, I’m convinced that this is one of the most enjoyable ways to mix the spirit.
A close relative of the classic Paloma cocktail and the Cantaritos de Amatitán, a similar local specialty served in large clay cups, the cazuela was invented more than 30 years ago in La Barca, a small town about 50 miles southeast of Guadalajara…
Alma Hernandez’s dreams of becoming an architect and building a future with her boyfriend, Pedro Navarro, were irrevocably crushed one sunny afternoon when they were gunned down outside a Walmart in their hometown of Colima.
The pair, both aged 21, had been together for five years. They had recently opened a hotdog stand to help support Hernandez’s family following the death of her father. None of that mattered to the unidentified gunmen who opened fire on April 20, killing both in broad daylight.
“Alma was very kind, intelligent and dedicated, a really fun person to be with,” Hernandez’s friend and classmate Livier Castro told Al Jazeera. The killings remain unsolved but Castro suspects this was simply “a case of bad luck” in a state that has quietly become the most murderous place in Mexico.
Located halfway up Mexico’s Pacific coastline, Colima is the least populated of the nation’s 32 states. It is rarely mentioned alongside notorious drug war hotspots like Tamaulipas, Guerrero or Michoacan, yet federal records show Colima suffered 46 homicides per 100,000 residents in the first seven months of the year, by far the highest rate in Mexico and double the state’s rate for 2015.
Many killings have been attributed to feuding drug cartels, but local authorities have not explained a wave of political assassinations and have failed to stem the violence that is also claiming innocent lives.
A wave of violent crime
A steamy city brimming with tropical greenery, Colima’s eponymous state capital sits beneath a deep blue sky broken only by the beige smoke drifting from a nearby volcano.
The city’s shops, bars and restaurants are bustling, creating the impression that daily life has not been overly disrupted. Yet the rate of extortion has almost tripled since last year, with Colima now recording Mexico’s second highest number of cases per inhabitant.
Local journalist Pedro Zamora told Al Jazeera the violence is occurring increasingly close to home: “I think most of the population have witnessed or been very close to an incident. It hasn’t caused mass panic yet but there’s a sense of fear and uncertainty.”
Over a decade after she was abducted, tortured and threatened with murder in retaliation for exposing a paedophile ring, Lydia Cacho, one of Mexico’s most respected journalists, may finally be about to receive a shred of justice. In an open letter published in April, Cacho revealed that her alleged tormenter, a member of the Puebla state police force, is soon to go on trial. “I hope he’s convicted,” she wrote, “so no one else will ever have to go through what I went through for telling the truth, for exercising their freedom of expression and defending human rights.”
Cacho may feel some relief if her alleged torturer is finally convicted, but recent cases have shown it remains just as risky for Mexican journalists to investigate such issues today.
Mexico is home to a vast and lucrative sex-trafficking industry, with an estimated 800,000 women and 20,000 children trafficked for sexual exploitation every year. Several of Mexico’s most respected female journalists have delved into this dark and disturbing world in recent years, only to discover that the criminal gangs that ruthlessly exploit young women often benefit from strong political connections. Publishing such investigations can entail serious risk.
Sanjuana Martínez, another reporter who has focused heavily on sex-trafficking throughout her career, is currently embroiled in a lawsuit over her investigation into a Mexico City strip club where 46 sexual slaves were discovered in 2012. The following year, Martínez published interviews with women and underage girls who said they were drugged, beaten, tortured and raped at the club on a daily basis.
One of the victims named Jesús Ortega, the former leader of the Democratic Revolution Party — which has governed Mexico’s capital since 2000 — as a regular client. Ortega denied the accusations, which he described as “flagrant lies”, and responded by suing Martínez for defamation.
Martínez was later told the lawsuit had been dropped because the case file had been lost, but it went ahead without her knowledge and in February a judge in Mexico City ruled that she must compensate the plaintiff. Martínez claims she was never notified throughout the trial – a violation of her right to a defence – and was only made aware of the verdict when Ortega publicly announced his victory two months later, by which time it was too late to appeal.
“The problem at the heart of all this is that the drug cartels that profit from trafficking women and children in Mexico all have links to politicians, public officials, police officers and businessmen,” Martínez told Index on Censorship.
“There’s a judicial and police-led persecution in this country,” she added. “If they don’t threaten you to kill you then they criminalise you. In order to defend freedom of expression we must protect our journalists, not shoot the messengers.”
Within days of the ruling, over 26,000 people signed a petition demanding that it be overturned. Mexico’s National Network of Human Rights Defenders called the ruling “a barrier for female victims of violence in the pursuit of justice”. Instead of persecuting journalists, the network urged Mexico’s authorities to investigate the allegations raised in Martínez’s reporting, “which reflect the high level of violence against women, the collusion between authorities and business-owners, the absence of investigations to determine the facts, and the prevailing impunity”.
Implicating influential figures can also put reporters’ jobs at risk. In 2014, an undercover investigation by a team of journalists led by Carmen Aristegui, another of Mexico’s most respected reporters, unearthed evidence that Cuauhtémoc Gutiérrez, the president of the Mexico City chapter of the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party, had been using public funds to run a prostitution network out of his office.
Local authorities eventually decided there was insufficient evidence to charge Gutiérrez, while Mexico’s MVS radio network fired Aristegui and her entire team within a matter of months. The journalists suspect the government pressured MVS into dismissing them in retaliation for a series of damaging stories they had broken, including the prostitution case and a subsequent property scandal involving president Enrique Peña Nieto and his wife. “A lot of people are being silently censored,” Aristegui’s colleague Rafael Cabrera told Index. “How strange that it’s only happening to those who do this kind of work.”
The level of risk appears to be rising, with Article 19 documenting 356 acts of aggression, including threats, harassment, espionage, invasions of privacy, murders and disappearances, against female journalists in Mexico the past seven years. There were 84 incidents in 2015, the worst year yet. This context makes self-censorship inevitable. Shaila Rosagel, a reporter who specialises in human rights, told Index she has been threatened while close colleagues have been murdered or disappeared. “When things like this happen you start to become very cautious in your work, knowing that in Mexico there are people you can’t mess with because they’ll kill you or make you disappear.”
Last year Rosagel authored a series of investigations into activists who claim to support victims of sex-trafficking but appear to exploit the victims in order to boost their own media profiles and political ambitions. Nonetheless, she remains wary of delving too deeply into issues that typically involve individuals with links to organised crime or the political elite. “These things obligate journalists to decide not to cover certain issues. When you’re deciding what issues to investigate in Mexico, you have to evaluate who might kill you for it or what they might do to you,” Rosagel admitted. “We’re totally defenceless. No one protects us, there’s complete impunity.”
Mexico is ranked 8th in the Committee to Protect Journalists’ 2015 Global Impunity Index, with 19 out of 23 murders that were directly linked to reporters’ work in the last decade going unpunished.
A conviction in Cacho’s case would be a step in the right direction. Her 2004 book The Demons of Eden exposed a child pornography and prostitution network involving several prominent business leaders and politicians. Presenting an updated edition of the book at a recent literature festival, Cacho lamented that Mexico still “doesn’t want to protect freedom of expression or the right to information”. Yet she does believe civil society has become better organised over the past decade, while the press has started paying greater attention to violence against women. “We’re in a slow process of change,” Cacho said of the state of freedom of expression. “It won’t happen in three or six years, but I think that in 50 years things will be different.”
As for the immediate future, a federal judge has since intervened in Martínez’s case, temporarily suspending the ruling against her, but there is uncertainty over what happens next. “This is a lawsuit that attempts to inhibit journalistic work, not just for me but for everyone,” Martínez told Index. “We want a retrial so I can have a fair trial with due process. If it’s not possible we’ll appeal to international bodies because this would set a very grave precedent for all journalists.”
The Lydia Cacho case
In her 2004 book, The Demons of Eden, Lydia Cacho exposed a child pornography and prostitution network involving several prominent business leaders and politicians. The following year, she was illegally detained by Puebla state police in Cancún, 900 miles outside their jurisdiction. The police tortured Cacho, put a gun in her mouth and threatened to rape her during a harrowing 20-hour car journey to Puebla, before charging her with libel and defamation on behalf of a wealthy textile baron whom she had identified as a key member of the paedophile ring.
The charges were eventually dropped. Months later, recordings circulated of the magnate and the Puebla governor boasting of beating Cacho and congratulating each other over her arrest. Cacho sued her aggressors for violating her civil rights, including her freedom of speech, but Mexico’s Supreme Court ruled against her.
This paper has been published in Index on Censorship, Vol.45, Issue 2 by SAGE Publications Ltd, All rights reserved. ©