Friday, August 28, 2015

Do You Really Want To Know Why Washington Won't Fix Illegal Immigration? This Won't Be Found In Their Narrative

New face of the war on immigrants?: US immigration reform

The reform plays a balancing act for a stable supply of cheap labour and a viable system of state control of immigrants.

| US & Canada, Latin America, Australia, Costa Rica, Japan
  • 513
  • 63
  • All Social
  • Listen to this page using ReadSpeaker
An immigration reform that’s inclusive of 11m undocumented people passed the US senate June 27 [Getty Images]
An immigration reform that’s inclusive of 11m undocumented people passed the US senate June 27 [Getty Images]

About the Author

William I. Robinson

William I. Robinson a professor of sociology and global studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Story highlights

After years of false starts, the US Congress now seems set to pass some version of long-awaited immigrant reform legislation.  On June 27 the Senate passed a bill that observers have referred to as the “most monumental overhaul” of US immigration laws in a generation and the House is set to begin debate on reform legislation later in July.
But immigrant rights organisations are deeply divided. Some groups have given critical support to the proposed legislation as the “best bill possible” under current conditions for the estimated 11-12 million undocumented immigrants in the United States to normalise their status. Many others, however, have rejected what they see as a punitive Faustian bargain. They condemn the bill as an attempt to deny rights, codify repression, legitimate the
After years of false starts, the US Congress now seems set to pass some version of long-awaited immigrant reform legislation. On June 27 the Senate passed a bill that observers have referred to as the "most monumental overhaul" of US immigration laws in a generation and the House is set to begin debate on reform legislation later in July.
But immigrant rights organisations are deeply divided. Some groups have given critical support to the proposed legislation as the "best bill possible" under current conditions for the estimated 11-12 million undocumented immigrants in the United States to normalise their status. Many others, however, have rejected what they see as a punitive Faustian bargain. They condemn the bill as an attempt to deny rights, codify repression, legitimate the criminalisation of immigrants, further the militarised control of their communities, and reproduce a system of de facto labour peonage.
Although the bill supposedly provides a "pathway to citizenship" for immigrants, the conditions under which undocumented immigrants can legalise their status are so onerous that it is estimated that between one-third and two-thirds of the undocumented will be unable meet the criteria. This criteria includes having an income of 125 per cent of the federal poverty guideline, which would make millions of immigrants who now work for minimum wage or less ineligible, as well as no lapses of employment for more than 60 days during a decade of provisional status, paying hefty fees and fines, passing a criminal background check, learning English and US civics and history.
The bill denies immigrants access to public services. It does not lift the repressive "Secure Communities" and "287g" government programmes. These two federal programs establish broad collabouration between the federal government and local and state law enforcement in policing immigrant communities, in raids, detentions, and deportations.
More ominous, the bill hinges on so-called "border security". If proposes to increase spending by nearly $50bn on militarising the 2,000 mile US-Mexico border (some 3,200 km), doubling the number of Border Patrol agents to some 40,000 (one agent for every 88 yards or 80 meters), to add 700 miles of fencing, to deploy drones, Blackhawk helicopters, surveillance towers, sensors, and former army soldiers to the border.
It would mandate a universal "E-verify" system, by which workers must prove they are eligible for employment before being hired, introduce biometric ID for immigrant workers, stipulate unprecedented collabouration between local and state police agencies and the Department of Homeland Security for database sharing, detention, and transfer of detainees, and sets up a "guest worker" programme that amounts to little more than indentured servitude.
It is no wonder that National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights board member Hamid Khan described the bill as a model for the "surveillance industrial complex." Under the guise of public safety and security, "the bill is a political investment in the further strengthening and legitimisation of the police state," he said.
Global capitalism and immigrant labour
The reform...meets the interests of the immigrant military-prison-industrial-detention complex. Military contractors, Silicon Valley, law enforcement, construction and private prison companies stand to earn billions in profits.
The larger story behind immigration reform is capitalist globalisation and the worldwide reorganisation of the system for supplying labour to the global economy. Over the past few decades there has been an upsurge in transnational migration as every country and region has become integrated, often violently, into global capitalism through foreign invasions and occupations, free trade agreements, neo-liberal social and economic policies, and financial crises. Hundreds of millions have been displaced from the countryside in the Global South and turned into internal and transnational migrants, providing a vast new pool of exploitable labour for the global economy as national labour markets have increasingly merged into a global labour market.
The creation of immigrant labour pools is a worldwide phenomenon, in which poles of accumulation in the global economy attract immigrant labour from their peripheries. Thus, to name a few of the major 21st century transnational labour flows, Turkish and Eastern European workers supply labour to Western Europe, Central Africans to South Africa, Nicaraguans to Costa Rica, Sri Lankas and other South Asians to the Middle East oil producing countries, Asians to Australia, Thais to Japan, Indonesians to Malaysia, and so on.
In all of these cases, it is repressive state controls that create "immigrant workers" as a distinct category of labour that becomes central to the whole global capitalist economy. As borders have come down for capital and goods they have been reinforced for human beings. While global capitalism creates immigrant workers, these workers do not enjoy citizenship rights in their host countries. Stripped either de facto or de jure of the political, civic, and labour rights afforded to citizens, immigrant workers are forced into the underground, made vulnerable to employers, whether large private or state employers or affluent families, and subject to hostile cultural and ideological environments.
Neither employers nor the state want to do away with immigrant labour. To the contrary, they want to sustain a vast exploitable labour pool that exists under precarious conditions and that is flexible and disposable through deportation and therefore controllable. This super-exploitation of an immigrant workforce would not be possible if that workforce had the same civil, political and labour rights as citizens, if it did not face the insecurities and vulnerabilities of being undocumented or "illegal".
Driving immigrant labour underground and absolving the state and employers of any commitment to the social reproduction of this labour allows for its maximum exploitation together with its disposal when necessary. In this way the immigrant labour force becomes responsible for its own maintenance and reproduction and also - through remittances - for their family members abroad. This makes immigrant labour low-cost and flexible for capital and also costless for the state compared to native born labour.
In sum, the division of the global working class into citizen and immigrant is a major new axis of inequality worldwide. Borders and nationality are used by transnational capital, the powerful and the privileged, to sustain new methods of control and domination over the global working class.
The US economy has become increasingly dependent on immigrant labour. There are an estimated 34 million immigrants in the United States, 20 million of these from Latin America, and 11-12 million undocumented, most of them of Latin American origin. 
This is, however, a contradictory situation. From the viewpoint of the dominant groups the dilemma is how to super-exploit an immigrant labour force, such as Latinos in the US, yet how to simultaneously assure it is super controllable and super-controlled. The push in the United States and elsewhere has been towards heightened criminalisation of immigrant communities, the militarised control of these communities, and the establishment of an immigrant detention and deportation complex.
The immigrant military-prison-industrial-detention complex
But there is another less evident dimension to the criminalisation of immigrants and the militarised control of their communities and the border.
The immigrant military-prison-industrial-detention complex is one of the fastest growing sectors of the US economy. There has been a boom in new private prison construction to house immigrants detained during deportation proceedings. In 2007 nearly one million undocumented immigrants were apprehended and 311,000 deported. The Obama administration presents itself as a friend of Latinos (and immigrants more generally) yet Obama has deported more immigrants than any other in the past half a century - some 400,000 per year since he took office in 2009.
Immigrant labour is extremely profitable for the corporate economy in double sense. First, as noted, it is labour that is highly vulnerable, forced to exist semi-underground, and deportable, and therefore super-exploitable. Second, the criminalisation of undocumented immigrants and the militarisation of their control not only reproduce these conditions of vulnerability but also in themselves generate vast new opportunities for accumulation.
The private immigrant detention complex is a boom industry. Undocumented immigrants constitute the fastest growing sector of the US prison population and are detained in private detention centres and deported by private companies contracted out by the US state. As of 2010 there were 270 immigration detention centres that caged on any given day over 30,000 immigrants. Since detainment facilities and deportation logistics are subcontracted to private companies, capital has a vested interest in the criminalisation of immigrants and in the militarisation of control over immigrants - and more broadly, therefore, a vested interest in contributing to the neo-fascist anti-immigrant movement.
It is no surprise that William Andrews, the CEO of the Corrections Corporation of America, or CCA, the largest private US contractor for immigrant detention centres, declared in 2008 that "the demand for our facilities and services could be adversely affected by the relaxation of enforcement efforts…or through decriminalisation [of immigrants]." A month after the anti-immigrant bill in Arizona, SB1070, became law, Wayne Callabres, the president of Geo Group, another private prison contractor, held a conference call with investors and explained his company’s aspirations. "Opportunities at the federal level are going to continue apace as a result of what’s happening," he said, referring to the Arizona law. "Those people coming across the border being caught are going to have to be detained and that to me at least suggests there’s going to be enhanced opportunities for what we do."
Containing the immigrant rights movement
The "war on terror" paved the way for an undeclared war on immigrants by fusing "national security/anti-terrorism" with immigration law enforcement, involving designation of borders and immigrant flows as "terrorism threats," the approval of vast new funding and the passage of a slew of policies and laws to undertake the new war.
This war has further escalated in response to the spread worldwide of an immigrant rights movement to fight-back against repression, exploitation, exclusion, cultural degradation and racism. A major turning point in this struggle in the United States came in spring 2006 with a series of unparalleled strikes and demonstrations that swept the country.
The immediate trigger for these mass protests was the introduction in the US Congress of a bill, known as the Sensenbrenner bill, that called for criminalising undocumented immigrants by making it a felony to be in the US without proper documentation. It also stipulated construction of a militarised wall between Mexico and the US and the application of criminal sanctions against anyone who provided assistance to undocumented immigrants, including churches, humanitarian groups, and social service agencies.
The protests defeated the Sensenbrenner bill and at the same time frightened the ruling class, sparking an escalation of state repression and racist nativism and fuelled the neo-fascist anti-immigrant movement. The backlash involved, among other things, stepped-up raids on immigrant workplaces and communities, mass deportations, an increase in the number of federal immigration enforcement agents, the deputizing of local police forces as enforcement agents, the further militarisation of the US-Mexico border, anti-immigrant hysteria in the mass media, and the introduction at local, state, and federal levels of a slew of discriminatory anti-immigrant legislative initiatives.
Anti-immigrant hate groups had already been on the rise in the years prior to 2006. The FBI reported more than 2,500 hate crimes against Latinos in the United States between 2000 and 2006. Blatantly racist public discourse that only a few years earlier would have been considered extreme became increasingly mainstreamed and aired on the mass media. The paramilitary organisation Minutemen, a modern day Latino-hating version of the Ku Klux Klan, spread in the first decade of the 21st century from its place of origin along the US-Mexican border in Arizona and California to other parts of the country. Minutemen claimed they must "secure the border" in the face of inadequate state-sponsored control. Their discourse, as well as that of the Tea Party and other such groups, beyond racist, was neo-fascist.
Lifting national borders for capital and simultaneously reinforcing these same national boundaries is a contradictory situation that helps generate a nationalist hysteria by propagating such images as "out of control borders" and "invasions of illegal immigrants". Racist hostility towards Latinos and other immigrants may be intentionally generated by right-wing politicians, law-enforcement agents and neo-fascist anti-immigrant movements. They may be the effect of the structural and legal-institutional subordination of immigrant workers and their communities, or simply an unintended (although not necessarily unwelcomed) byproduct of the state’s coercive policies.
The crisis, cooptation, and reform legislation
White middle and world class sectors in the US faced downward mobility and heightened insecurities as the welfare state and job stability have been dismantled in the face of capitalist globalisation. These sectors have been particularly prone to being organised into racist anti-immigrant politics by conservative political groups housed inside and outside of the Republican Party. Anti-immigrant forces have tried to draw in white workers with appeals to racial solidarity and to xenophobia and scapegoating of immigrant communities.
The scapegoating of these communities reached a zenith in the wake of the 2008 financial collapse and the onset of crisis. The crisis intensified anti-immigrant hysteria, fueled by a right-wing, racist and xenophobic anti-immigrant movement. Dozens of state and local governments around the country passed repressive anti-immigrant legislation, among them, Arizona’s SB1070 and Alabama’s HB56, both of which institutionalised racial profiling and the terrorisation of immigrant communities.
The magazine Mother Jones built a database of hundreds of repressive local and state level anti-immigrant laws introduced around the US in the wake of SB1070, including 164 such laws passed by state legislatures in 2010 and 2011 alone. The database as well uncovered the extensive interlocking of far-right organisations comprising the anti-immigrant movement, other neo-fascist organisations in civil society (see above), government agencies and elected officials (local and federal), politicians, and corporate and foundation funders, lobbies, and activists.
If there is a broad social and political base for the maintenance of a flexible, super-controlled and super-exploited Latino immigrant workforce, the immigrant issue presents a contradiction for political and economic elites: from the vantage points of dominant group interests, the dilemma is how to deal with the new "barbarians" at Rome’s door. The state must play a balancing act by finding a formula for a stable supply of cheap labour to employers and at the same time for a viable system of state control over immigrants.
It is widely recognised that Obama’s 2012 reelection hinged heavily on the Latino vote, and that this voting bloc is expanding rapidly, something that has caused important sectors of the Republican Party to reconsider immigration reform. It may be that the 2012 vote gave the necessary impetus to bringing together a critical mass around the reformation of the strategy and methods for reproducing and controlling a reserve army of immigrant labour.
The reform legislation passed in the Senate on June 27 meets the interests of the immigrant military-prison-industrial-detention complex. Military contractors, Silicon Valley, law enforcement, construction and private prison companies stand to earn billions in profits. Agribusiness and the corporate sector will continue to exploit a largely captive labour force, racialised and relegated to second class status, especially among the millions of immigrants who will be unable to legalise their status, among new immigrants, and among those brought in as "guest workers". It is no wonder that along with corporate lobbyists staunch anti-immigrant conservatives such as Arizona governor Jan Brewer, FOX News commentator Bill O’Reilly, and Tea Party icon Rand Paul, have endorsed the bill.
The Obama strategy may prove to be quite successful in establishing the conditions for a reformulation of strategies and methods of immigrant social control and political co-optation. In the wake of the 2006 mass immigrant rights protests and the fierce state repression that ensued, Washington DC-based foundations broadly funded the more moderate and mainstream of the Latino and immigrant rights organisations, while the Democratic Party set about to separate the "establishment" Latino leadership from the radical organisers at the mass grassroots base and to recruit this leadership for the Obama project.
These diverse developments - state repression, anti-immigrant politics, establishment and Democratic cooptation - all came together in recent years and paid off by throwing the grassroots movement onto the defensive, bolstering Democratic Party hegemony among immigrants, and generating a critical mass for exactly the kind of conservative and repressive immigration reform legislation now in Congress.
William I. Robinson a professor of sociology and global studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Monday, August 24, 2015

After Brutal Murder Of Photojournalist, Mexico City No Longer A Safe Haven For Reporters - Dolia Estevez

After Brutal Murder Of Photojournalist, Mexico City No Longer A Safe Haven For Reporters

I cover Mexico's billionaires, politics and U.S.-Mexico relations
I’m a native of Mexico who lives and works in Washington D.C. as a Foreign Correspondent. From 1989 to 2005, I was bureau chief for El Financiero, Mexico’s leading financial newspaper. I am currently Washington correspondent for Noticias MVS, Mexico’s #1 radio news station. My book, U.S. Ambassadors to Mexico, published by the Woodrow Wilson Center, looks into three decades of U.S.-Mexico relations from the unique perspective of Washington’s men in Mexico. The book is also available in Spanish under the title El Embajador (Editorial Planeta, 2013). Follow me on Twitter: @DoliaEstevez or write me:

Mexico City, the nation’s capital, was long considered a safe haven for journalists compared with the rest of Mexico. However, it is no longer safe. This became clear after Mexican photojournalist Rubén Espinosa, who fled the coastal state of Veracruz after receiving threats, was murdered in Mexico City  on July 31.
Veracruz is a particularly dangerous state. At least 11 journalists have been killed and three have disappeared there in the past four years since ruling PRI party’s Javier Duarte became the governor of Veracruz, which tops the list of Mexican states with most reporters murdered.
Four women, among them human rights activist Nadia Vera, were also murdered along with the 31-year-old photojournalist Espinosa in what Francisco Goldman in The New Yorker called “The Colonia Narvarte massacre” after the name of the middle-class neighborhood were they were killed, execution-style.
Photojournalists wearing t-shirts with characters that form the words ‘Justice For Ruben’,  who was killed along with four women in Mexico City.  (Photo credit: Yuri Cortez/AFP/Getty Images)
“Rubén Espinosa fled after being threatened in one of the region’s deadliest states for journalists and was murdered after six weeks in a place once seen as a safe haven in the country,” Carlos Lauría, senior program coordinator for the Americas at the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said in a statement.
The last time a reporter was killed in Mexico City was in 2006. The victim was José Manuel Nava, the former Washington correspondent for Mexican newspaper Excelsior.
Espinosa told the CPJ in June that he had been threatened repeatedly in the past few years and that he ran away from Veracruz after he noticed people outside his home in Xalapa, the state capital, three separate times who made intimidating glances and gestures. 
Recommended by Forbes
Espinosa also told the CPJ that in 2012 an unidentified man “grabbed me by the shirt, threw me up against a metal curtain and told me, ‘Stop taking photos…if you don’t want to end up like Regina Martínez.’” Regina Martínez Pérez, the Veracruz correspondent for the national magazine Proceso, was killed in April 2012 after she wrote articles that were critical of state officials.
The Colonia Narvarte killings triggered a wave of condemnations in Mexico and abroad. Several thousand people took to the streets in Mexico City soon after the murders, carrying banners reading “Killing journalists won’t kill the truth.”
Protest for the murder of Ruben Espioosa and four women in Mexico City (Photo credit: Yuri Cortez/AFP/Getty Images)
For the demonstrators the murder of Espinosa shattered the idea that Mexico City could be a haven for journalists fleeing violence in other Mexican states. There is also the sense that impunity will continue unabated and that Espinosa’s murder, like the vast majority that have preceded it, will remain unsolved. According to the CPJ, 90% of all murder cases of journalists in the past 10 years in Mexico have not been resolved.
Lauría, the CPJ coordinator for the Americas, said that it is time for Mexican federal and local authorities to take action to combat the “serious press freedom crisis facing Mexico.”
The assassinations put the international spotlight back on the plight of reporters in Mexico. In an open letter to Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto on August 15, 500 renowned journalists, writers, creative artists, and free expression advocates from around the world, expressed their “indignation” over the deadly attacks against reporters in Mexico.
With the support of PEN and the CPJ, the group reminded Peña Nieto that an “attempt on the life of a journalist is an attack on society’s very right to be informed” and urged him to guarantee a credible investigation of the assassination of Espinosa and all other assassinations of reporters, and to protect freedom of expression in Mexico.
Their concern was echoed by The New York Times. In an August 15 editorial titled “The Murder of Mexico’s Free Press,” the paper called on Peña Nieto to take “forceful action” to end attacks on the press.
Peña Nieto did not respond to the letter, but asked the Ministry of Government to answer on his behalf. Assistant Secretary for Human Rights Roberto Campa said on Tuesday August 18 that the government condemns attacks against the press and human rights advocates and is collaborating in the investigations of the recent killings which are being conducted by Mexico City’s authorities.
Twitter: @DoliaEstevez

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Corruption: Why Washington Will Never Successfully Address Illegal Immigration

Placing Their Bets Early, DC Lobbyists Put Biggest Money on Clinton

Published on

Placing Their Bets Early, DC Lobbyists Put Biggest Money on Clinton

True to form, K Street firms offer backing to the two most established candidates
Among K Street funders and bundlers so far,  Hillary Clinton is the safe bet for influence peddlers in Washington, DC. (Photo: Getty)
Though the presidential election is more than 14 months away and competitive primary races for both major parties are in full swing, lobbying firms in Washington, DC and the people who work for them are so far placing their political bets on the establishment campaign of Democrat Hillary Clinton and to a slightly lesser degree Republican Jeb Bush.
According to an analysis of filings from registered K Street firms by The Hill, Clinton and Bush combined have received approximately $1 million so far this year from professional influence peddlers who play such an outsized role on Capitol Hill – substantially more than other candidates in the field.
Common Dreams needs you today!
As The Hill reports:
While many lobbyists are holding their pocketbooks in the early stages of the 2016 election cycle, Clinton — the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination — received at least $625,703 from 316 registered lobbyists and corporate PACs during the first half of the year, according to disclosure forms.

“She’s going at it for the second time, and there is a list of people who are very committed to her from eight years ago,” said Al Motteur, senior Democratic lobbyist at Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck and longtime Clinton supporter. Motteur has not only given to the campaign, but is also bundling cash from other donors.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush ranks as a distant second in the influence industry, collecting $444,500 from 140 lobbyists.

The more than $1 million shelled out to Clinton and Bush in the first half on 2015 represents the lion’s share of contributions from K Streeters to presidential campaigns, as lobbyists, at least for now, appear most comfortable giving to establishment candidates.

The donations are a shift from the last couple election cycles, especially on the Democratic side. President Obama made campaign promises in 2008 and 2012 not to take money from registered lobbyists — in addition to vowing to ban them from the administration — so the early donations signal that K Street hopes to be back in good graces when the next administration takes over the White House.
With Clinton the clear leader among candidates from either party, her Democratic rivals have garnered little support. Former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Mally so far has raised just over $50,000 from lobbying firms.
Meanwhile—though his campaign has eschewed corporate PACs and now reports surging campaign donations with approximately 350,000 individual small donors—Bernie Sanders has received a grand total of $420 from the K Street crowd.

Monday, August 17, 2015

US Presidential Hopefuls Are Immigration Idiots

Scott Walker Wants To Build A Wall On The U.S.-Mexico Border

The presidential candidate says he is on the same page as Donald Trump.

Share on Pinterest
WASHINGTON -- It didn't take long for Donald Trump's surging presidential campaign to drag his fellow Republican rivals further to the right.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) said on Monday that his immigration proposals were "very similar" to those of the real estate magnate, who over the weekend released a tough new plan exclusively focused on enforcement and cracking down on unauthorized immigrants. Walker said that he, too, wanted to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, which is one of Trump's most controversial proposals.
"Earlier in the year, I was on 'Fox News Sunday' and laid out what I thought we should do, which is secure the border, which means build the wall, have the technology, have the personnel to make sure it's safe and secure," Walker said in an interview with Fox News.
The governor and presidential contender was referring to a March interview in which he did not mention a wall, but discussed the need to crack down on illegal immigration more generally.
Walker's recent comments on immigration have been less hard-line than his comments on Monday indicated. Asked by Breitbart News last week whether he supported building a wall, he simply said the U.S. needed to secure its southern border through "better infrastructure, personnel and technology."
Earlier this year, Walker admitted to shifting his position regarding a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
In 2013, Walker advocated for "a saner way to let people into the country" rather than focusing only on border security or the construction of a wall to address the status of millions of undocumented immigrants living in the U.S.
"You hear some people talk about border security and a wall and all that," he said at the time. "To me, I don't know that you need any of that if you had a better, saner way to let people into the country in the first place."
He now says he has changed his mind, and argues that the country must first beef up its border security before dealing with undocumented immigrants, a more typical conservative stance.
According to the latest Fox News national poll of registered voters -- the first such poll since the GOP debate on Aug. 6 -- Walker trails behind Trump, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.
UPDATE: 12:05 p.m. -- After speaking at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines on Monday morning, Walker told a reporter that he supported ending birthright citizenship -- another tenet of Trump's recently unveiled immigration plan. 
Also on HuffPost:
Declared 2016 Presidential Candidates
1 of 21

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Mexico: Shooting the Messengers Will Leave Us All in the Dark Carlos K. Zazueta

Become a fan

Mexico Researcher at Amnesty International

Mexico: Shooting the Messengers Will Leave Us All in the Dark

Posted: Updated:

The grisly discovery of the corpses of four women and one man earlier this month in an apartment in a quiet neighborhood in Mexico City could easily have been brushed off as yet another violent crime in a country engulfed in a protracted "war on drugs."
But there is a more sinister undertone to the killings.
The dead were not gun-wielding drug barons. So far, the only two victims publicly identified by the authorities are photojournalist Rubén Espinosa Becerril, 31, and human rights activist Nadia Dominique Vera Pérez, 32. Both fled eastern Mexico's Veracruz State after facing continuous harassment for their work and criticism of the authorities.
Their killings are only the latest in a long line of similar murders aimed at silencing journalists and other critics. Veracruz stands out for its recent history of unprecedented violence against journalists. Since 2011, 14 journalists have been killed there, three of them this year alone. All these cases remain unsolved. The investigations are plagued with shortcomings, including a reluctance to even acknowledge that the victims were journalists; that their violent demise may in some way have been linked to their work.
Mexico City's Attorney General, Rodolfo Fernando Ríos Garza, confirmed to radio outlets that Rubén Espinosa, Nadia Vera and the other victims were shot point-blank in the head. It is what the crime shows on TV refer to as "execution style". So far, one suspect is in custody, pending further investigation.
The authorities must investigate if any of these five people were gunned down to silence their journalism or human rights work, and inform the Mexican society of their findings. But regardless of whether or not it was designed to curtail freedom of expression or the work of human rights defenders, this violent crime must not go unpunished.
Such crimes are endemic across Mexico. One hundred journalists were violently killed in the last 15 years according to the National Commission on Human Rights.
Meanwhile, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights reported 245 attacks, including 22 killings, against human rights defenders from 2006 to 2012.
Despite the gravity of this crisis, the Mexican authorities continue to fail to take concrete and effective measures to protect people like Rubén Espinosa and Nadia Vera. In 2012, the Mexican Congress unanimously passed the Law for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and Journalists, which established a federal mechanism for their protection. Yet, most of those most at risk actually distrust this mechanism because it has proven ineffective. After more than three years, the government has yet to prove its will to ensure the law is effectively implemented.
A protection mechanism is not the solution, but it's a start. The state must also have a policy to prevent and mitigate risks and a clear plan to ensure that society at large understands and appreciates the vital and legitimate work of journalists and human rights defenders.
Likewise, all such cases, including that of Rubén and Nadia, must be properly investigated by civilian authorities. The most effective way to prevent similar attacks from happening again is to punish those who are found responsible and send a clear message that these attacks are not tolerated.
Before their killings, both Rubén Espinosa and Nadia Vera publicly expressed fears about what might happen to them. In an interview with an online media outlet a few days before his death, Rubén said the violence against journalists in Veracruz is what prompted his move to Mexico City.
After Nadia Vera's death, her mother -- poet Mirtha Luz Pérez- wrote to her:
Do not leave me without your eyes
Do not leave me without your voice
Do not leave me without your light
In the dark

Mexicans want to be free to express themselves, to question, to be creative. But this becomes impossible if any dissent is allowed to be expunged by violence. Either through killing them or cowing them into silence, this can only lead us to an environment where reliable independent journalists and human rights defenders are no longer there to inform society and spark debate.
This kind of crime deeply saddens us, but, what's worse, it spreads fear. As ordinary Mexicans, we deserve better. We deserve to see justice delivered. We are not going to be left blinded, silent and in the dark.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Washington Insidiously and Shamefully "Takes The 5th" Concerning The Murderous Ways Of Its Corrupt NAFTA Trading Partner

17 Holes In Mexico's Official Account Of The Missing Students Case

Experts say the government's version of events is riddled with conflicting testimonies, tainted evidence and coerced confessions.

Demonstrators and relatives of the 43 missing students of Ayotzinapa college march during a protest rally ten months after the students disappearance on July 26, 2015 in Mexico City.  Demonstrators and relatives of the 43 missing students of Ayotzinapa college march during a protest rally ten months after the students disappearance on July 26, 2015 in Mexico City.  | Share on Pinterest
Mexican authorities said in January they had established the “historical truth” of what happened to 43 students who disappeared in one night last September in the city of Iguala. A growing chorus of witnesses, family members, journalists and independent experts beg to differ.
According to the Mexican federal investigation’s account of events, the students from Ayotzinapa teachers school were abducted by corrupt local police in Iguala on Sept. 26, and slaughtered by members of Guerreros Unidos, a local drug gang. Mexico’s then-attorney general, Jesús Murillo Karam, said in January that all leads in the case had been exhausted, signaling that the bulk of the government’s investigation was over.
Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission recently listed 32 problems with the government’s investigation -- including witnesses who were never questioned, key evidence left unexamined, and the failure to build basic profiles of the victims. The report bolsters the questions of many critics of the government’s case, which has become a rallying cry for those furious with the corruption, impunity and drug violence in Mexico. The families of the missing students refuse to accept their sons’ deaths until their remains are found.
Mexican criminal justice expert Layda Negrete said that by presenting such problematic evidence as truth, the authorities are reinforcing the lack of transparency and right to a fair trial in Mexico's deeply flawed justice system. Negrete pointed to one survey that found just 26 percent of Mexicans believe justice will be done in the case.
“On an individual level, I find it very sad. As a country, I think it’s dangerous not to have avenues to be heard, like the justice system," she told The WorldPost.
In a case riddled with complexity and confusion, The WorldPost lays out the Mexican government’s account of events and the serious holes that remain.
Police in riot gear chase students of the Rural Normal School of Ayotzinapa after they tried to reach the city of Chilpancingo to protest, June 3, 2015. Police in riot gear chase students of the Rural Normal School of Ayotzinapa after they tried to reach the city of Chilpancingo to protest, June 3, 2015. | Share on Pinterest


The government’s case
Iguala’s municipal police, in collusion with the local drug gang Guerreros Unidos, opened fire on the students in at least three separate attacks after the students commandeered several buses to take to an upcoming protest. Amidst the attacks, the local police officers abducted 43 of the students and took them to Iguala’s police station. Then, police from the nearby municipality of Cocula drove them to an area called Loma de Los Coyotes and handed them over to gang members.
Mexico’s government said no federal forces were involved, so there's no need to investigate their role. Mexico’s national defense secretary said that the Army’s 27th Infantry Battalion, stationed a few miles from Iguala, did not find out about the attacks until hours after they began, and were misled by the municipal police commander when they tried to investigate.
The government said it has dozens of confessions to support its case, including those of local police officers and three cartel members who admitted to carrying out the killings.
  • Students who survived the attacks that night said they saw federal police at the scene.
  • In cellphone footage recorded by students on one bus attacked that night, someone can be heard shouting out: “The police [municipal forces] are leaving! The federales [federal forces] are staying, they’re going to want to mess with us.” The footage is too dark to identify the attackers or their uniforms. 
  • Magistrate Judge Bernabé García said the students never came to Iguala’s municipal police station, where he was stationed throughout the night of the attacks. García is wanted by Mexico in connection with the attacks, and is now seeking asylum in the U.S.
  • Records uncovered by investigative journalists Anabel Hernández and Steve Fisher appear to show that federal forces were made aware of the attacks that night. A command center that is used by military, federal and local security forces, called the Center of Control, Command, Communications and Computation, or C4, was monitoring the students’ movements from the moment they left their college and communications show that the first attack was reported to the center. 
  • Federal forces were patrolling the streets that night. Military logs obtained by Mexican magazine Proceso showed the 27th Battalion’s Reaction Force came across the wounded students at a hospital, but did not report any unusual activity to their superiors.
  • Hernández and Fisher obtained medical records suggesting that key witnesses, including cartel members and over two dozen municipal police officers, were beaten and given electric shocks in order to extract their confessions.
  • The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, which is now looking into the case, said they heard “numerous” accounts of abuse and torture from the suspects and that at least a dozen detainees have lodged complaints of torture or due process violations with Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission. 
  • While it’s not uncommon to have conflicting testimonies in complex investigations, Hernandez and Fisher obtained the depositions and confessions from the federal probe, and found that they contradict each other over basic facts like when and how the students were abducted.
A group of masked residents and parents of missing students from Ayotzinapa walk through the town center of Tixtla during a protest on June 7, 2015.  A group of masked residents and parents of missing students from Ayotzinapa walk through the town center of Tixtla during a protest on June 7, 2015.  | Share on Pinterest
The government’s case
The federal investigation claims that the mayor of Iguala, José Luis Abarca, and his wife, María de los Ángeles Pineda, masterminded the attacks.
Pineda was holding a political event in town that was meant to launch her own political career, and Abarca wanted to prevent the students from disrupting it, federal investigators said. A local police official told them he overheard Abarca order police to "teach them a lesson." Pineda and Abarca were captured by Mexican authorities in November after going on the run.
In their January summary of the case, federal authorities added another element -- claiming that another reason Guerreros Unidos targeted the students, in collaboration with local authorities, was because they believed them to be members of a rival drug gang, Los Rojos.
  • Pineda’s political event was already finished two hours before the first attack took place.
  • Mexican authorities have had trouble getting charges to stick against Pineda. She is charged with links to organized crime, but other charges connected to the missing students have been thrown out for lack of evidence. Abarca was charged with the kidnapping of the students, but denies the allegations.
  • Another investigation by Proceso found serious inconsistencies in the case against Abarca, and doubts about the credibility of the main witness against Pineda. 
  • It is not clear how the Guerreros Unidos members misidentified the students as members of a rival gang. The leader of Guerreros Unidos claimed that the students had been infiltrated by Los Rojos members, but his confession was riddled with inconsistencies, including placing the students in Iguala several hours before they actually arrived. The Ayotzinapa students and victims' families strongly deny that the students had anything to do with the cartel. 
A woman paints the silhouette of a girl during a protest to demand the safe return of the 43 missing students of Ayotzinapa, on June 26, 2015 in Mexico City. A woman paints the silhouette of a girl during a protest to demand the safe return of the 43 missing students of Ayotzinapa, on June 26, 2015 in Mexico City. | Share on Pinterest


The government's case
The students were crammed into two police trucks and driven to the Cocula municipal dump, according to government investigators. Many of them died on the way, possibly from asphyxiation, while those who made it to the site were interrogated and shot dead.
The gang members incinerated their bodies and belongings in a fire that burned until the following afternoon. Then the cartel members put the ashes in garbage bags and dumped them in the San Juan river.
Investigators said they found evidence of a fire and ballistics from the scene. They also recovered a bone fragment from the site that the University of Innsbruck in Austria matched to the DNA of one student, 19-year-old Alexander Mora.
  • The victims’ families insisted that an independent party join the investigation, and the government agreed to work with a team of forensic experts from Argentina. However, the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team (EAAF) strongly criticized the government for not notifying them before they extracted the bone fragment and other evidence from the site, so that they could confirm the "chain of custody" of the evidence -- a critical forensic procedure to establish the origin and authenticity of evidence.
  • The EAAF released pictures showing several fires burning at the site since 2010, meaning the charred evidence of a huge fire on the site could date from an earlier time.
  • The EAAF also said the site was left unguarded for three weeks after the remains were found there, leaving the possibility that evidence could have been compromised.
  • Residents said it was raining that night in the area, which would have impeded such a huge fire. Mexican authorities dismissed the reports, saying at most “isolated showers” took place.
  • The government said no one would have witnessed the fire because it was at such a remote site. But flight records show that a helicopter searched the area that night, but saw no plume of smoke, according to The Intercept.
  • Mexican scientists said it would not have been possible to burn that number of bodies in that amount of space in such a short period of time.
More from HuffPost on the 43 Mexican students: 
The Missing Mexican Students Case Is Not Closed For 43 Families
Leading Mexican Journalist Explains Why Everything You're Hearing About The Drug War Is Wrong
- Report: Mexico Tortured Police For Confessions In 43 Students Case
- Damning Report Claims Mexican Federal Police Participated In Disappearance Of 43 Students
- Parents Of 43 Missing Students Ask Not To Be Forgotten Over The Holidays
- The Disappearance Of 43 Students In Mexico Is An Atrocity, But It's No Isolated Incident