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Viva México Podcast Episode 4: A Wall of Protest

May 6, 2017

In this episode British author, journalist and activist Owen Jones discusses Donald Trump, Mexico, protest and the press. Women’s rights activist Sofía Virgen talks about the conviction and sentencing of the murderers of her sister Imelda and the culture of blaming female victims of violence in Mexico. And we discuss Ted Cruz’s plans to make billionaire drug lord “El Chapo” pay for Trump’s border wall.

Inside the Game of Thrones-style war to replace El Chapo in the Sinaloa Cartel

May 4, 2017

The sight of masked federal agents frog-marching Dámaso López Nuñez out of an upscale apartment block in Mexico City on Tuesday morning prompted backslapping within the Mexican government. But the celebration couldn’t mask the degree of trepidation that clouded the arrest.

The capture of Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán’s former right-hand man was the latest major blow to the Sinaloa Cartel, which has been in a state of upheaval since Guzmán’s capture in January 2016. But observers fear it will have significant blowback, resulting in an intensification of the already bloody dispute over this multibillion-dollar criminal empire.

The mixture of excitement and dread was evident in the comments given by Mexico’s president and top drug war general. While President Enrique Peña Nieto applauded “the detention of another key objective in the battle against crime,” Defense Secretary Salvador Cienfuegos struck a more cautious tone, warning that rising violence in Sinaloa state “could be sustained by the power struggle” to come.

With rival clans committing ambushes, abductions and betrayals, the fight for Guzmán’s legacy has come to resemble a gangland Game of Thrones. Now that López, his apparent successor, is out of the picture, the conflict looks set to drag on…

Click here to read this article in full at VICE News

Between a rock and a hard place: Mexico’s journalists face threats from cartels, the government and even each other

April 22, 2017

“I hope the government doesn’t give in to the authoritarian temptation to block internet coverage and start arresting activists,” Mexican blogger and activist Alberto Escorcia told Index on Censorship magazine.

Escorcia had just received a series of threats for writing an article about recent unrest in the country. The next day the threats against him intensified. Feeling trapped and unprotected, he began making plans to flee the country.

Many people are concerned about the state of freedom of expression in Mexico. A stagnant economy, a currency in freefall, a bloody drug war with no end in sight, a deeply unpopular president at home and the belligerent Donald Trump administration freshly installed in the USA across the border, these forces are all creating a squeeze in 2017.

One of the biggest tensions is Mexico’s own president. Enrique Peña Nieto’s four years in office have brought sluggish economic growth. There has also been resurgent violence and a string of corruption scandals. In January this year his approval ratings plummeted to 12%.

But when journalists have tried to report on the president and his policies they have come under fire…

Click here to read this article in full at Index on Censorship

Debunking fake news: not a laughing matter

April 20, 2017

This account of the supposed murder of two clowns is an example of fake news in Mexico.

Disinformation thrives in times of public anxiety. Soon after a series of reports on sinister clowns scaring the public in the USA in 2016, a story appeared in the Mexican press about clowns being beaten to death.

At the height of the clown hysteria, the little-known Mexican news site DenunciasMX reported that a group of youths in Ecatepec, a gritty suburb of Mexico City, had beaten two clowns to death in retaliation for intimidating passers-by. The article featured a low-resolution image of the slain clowns on a run-down street, with a crowd of onlookers gathered behind police tape.

To the trained eye, there were several telltale signs that the news was not genuine…

Click here to read this article in full at Index on Censorship

Mexicans are fed up with corrupt, fugitive governors escaping justice

April 18, 2017

Despite being handcuffed at the wrists and flanked by Interpol agents, fugitive Mexican governor Javier Duarte wore a disconcerting grin moments after his arrest in Guatemala on Saturday. It was the smirk, many Mexicans observed, of a man accustomed to getting away with it.

Having allegedly embezzled 55 billion pesos ($2.97 billion) in public funds in just six years, the portly 43-year-old former governor of Veracruz state has come to personify the rampant corruption and impunity that plague Mexican politics. Yet analysts say his arrest, like that of Tomás Yarrington, another fugitive ex-governor captured in Italy six days earlier, is an example of “selective justice” that will do nothing to solve these deep-rooted problems.

Six months after fleeing the country with the alleged support of dozens of political allies, Duarte was caught at an exclusive hotel beside Lake Atitlán where he and his wife had been staying under false names and paying in cash. Duarte, who has always maintained his innocence, now faces extradition to Mexico, where he stands accused of money laundering and organized crime.

On Monday, President Enrique Peña Nieto, who had previously called Duarte his friend and lauded him as part of a “new generation” in the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), called the arrests “a firm and forceful message from the Mexican state against impunity.”

Yet the Mexican public is not convinced. Both fugitives were captured in Interpol-led operations after managing to slip out of Mexico undetected. Duarte fled Veracruz in a government helicopter allegedly lent to him by his interim successor, while Yarrington reportedly had eight state police officers assigned to protect him even after five years on the lam…

Click here to read this article in full at VICE News

‘A slap in the face for many Mexicans’: my analysis of the 2026 World Cup bid

April 11, 2017

Mexico has enough modern stadiums, such as the Estadio Omnilife, to host the planned 10 games.

The US, Mexico and Canada have submitted a joint bid to host the tournament. But is it a fair deal for fans across the three countries?

Would it have been better for Mexico to bid on its own?

It would have been a more popular move but also a riskier, more complicated path to take. Mexico would have been bidding against a formidable adversary in the US and would have been required to invest a lot more in organisation and infrastructure if it had won the bid on its own. A joint bid diminishes the risks of corruption and security problems — two major concerns in Mexico today. Co-hosting would also enable the involvement of millions of Mexicans who live north of the border, without excluding those at home.

Is it fair that the US gets most of the games?

It rankles with Mexicans that their country, which boasts a much richer footballing tradition than the US, is being treated as its junior partner. With tensions already running high between both nations during the Donald Trump era, the plans for Mexico to host just 10 out of 80 games and none from the quarter-finals onwards have come as a shock and another slap in the face to many Mexicans. Their enthusiasm dampened, some fans have even called on Mexico’s Football Federation to withdraw from the bid unless they are guaranteed more games. On the other hand, some have argued that the US could have launched a solo bid and still won, leading Mexico (and Canada) without any games…

Click here to read this article in full at The Guardian.

International Journalism Festival: A world of censorship

April 8, 2017

Alongside four colleagues from Index on Censorship magazine, I took part in a panel on media censorship and freedom of expression this morning at the 2017 International Journalism Festival in Perugia, Italy. I spoke about the many dangers and challenges facing journalists in Mexico today.