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El EPR, Ahora

Jorge Lofredo


Centro de Documentación de los Movimientos Armados

Pueden destacarse algunos elementos del más reciente comunicado emitido por el Ejército Popular Revolucionario -firmado en Oaxaca- que permiten descubrir parte de su posicionamiento político frente a la coyuntura. Son fundamentalmente útiles para conocer sus tiempos internos y sus siguientes pasos; pero además, para desentrañar si es un preludio de lo que vendrá.

El primer punto es la solicitud de la continuidad de la Comisión de Mediación aún cuando a la prolongación de sus labores se le agreguen otros miembros (por primera vez se pronuncia en ese sentido). La organización realiza esta propuesta ante la disolución de la instancia mediadora, que consideró agotada su función.

Sin agregar nuevos datos, el grupo insiste en afirmar que sus desaparecidos están en el Campo Militar 1 y lo vincula con asesinatos selectivos de luchadores sociales para descabezar el descontento y criminalizar la protesta social. Para el EPR son la prueba del desarrollo de la Guerra de Baja Intensidad.

Luego denuncian el asesinato del “Comandante Insurgente Ramiro”, dirigente del ERPI. Este dato es de vital importancia para interpretar la circunstancia actual entre ambas organizaciones. Sin forzar interpretaciones ni adherir a teorías conspirativas, cabe agregar aquí el llamativo silencio que viene sosteniendo Tendencia Democrática Revolucionaria.

También ha sido curioso el texto del Comando 28 de Junio, luego del asesinato de “Ramiro”, que no refiere a la cuestión. De hecho, ni lo menciona; sin embargo, omitir no implica callar. Refiere a otra forma de silencio. Dio su señal: no dice nada porque es eso lo que tiene para decir.

Finalmente, la mención sobre la “lucha fratricida” que se subraya en el texto donde esboza un doble deslinde: por un lado, para que no sean señalados hoy como pretexto de ejecuciones intestinas y, por el otro, que las ejecuciones de décadas pasadas fueron llevadas a cabo por “ex compañeros” y exime de responsabilidad a la organización.

Son datos que sirven para la reconstrucción histórica, pero también para comprender su presente.

The TVA Ash Spill One Year Later: Lessons Learned

Pulse of the Planet



Nearly a year ago on Monday, December 22, 2009, at the Kingston fossil fuel plant in Eastern Tennessee, a fly ash impoundment collapsed and within minutes released 5.4 million cubic yards of toxic fly ash into the Emory River and over 300 acres of land. The spill damaged numerous homes, destroyed a portion of a rail line and covered a portion of a highway. Fortunately there were no fatalities, but the lives of hundreds of nearby residents were severely altered, some forever, by one of the worst in environmental disaster in our nation's history. The TVA estimates that it will cost rate- payers more than one billion dollars for the clean-up effort.

Equally troubling is the TVA's inept response to the disaster. A response so reckless it will undoubtedly be recorded in the annals of disaster history as what not to do in the wake of calamity. In the aftermath of the Exxon-Valdez oil spill (1989) there appeared a number of case studies criticizing Exxon's response to the spill, describing their response as a classic management case study of how not to response to a catastrophe. In light of the TVA's flawed response to the ash spill, in years to come their failure will certainly be viewed as yet another textbook case of how not to respond to crisis.

The Agency's response has been more than simply flawed. The TVA's tactical response to the disaster has been to manufacture doubt and uncertainty to keep the public confused and avoid environmental compliance and accountability. Their ability to pursue this strategy calls into question the regulatory powers of state and federal agencies.

As a result of this kind of an approach, their credibility has been severely questioned by many and some would argue that in weeks and months that followed the agency has squandered whatever credibility they had left.

The question remains if the TVA can recover their credibility and actually be perceived as having eventually taken the necessary steps to repair the damage to both the affected families and the environment. Even though the TVA appears to have, somewhat reluctantly, taken some modest steps in recent months the jury is still out on whether they will be able to restore their image and whether or not they have truly reformed or are merely undertaking yet another public relations campaign to repair their image and avoid transparency.

From the beginning they appeared to down play the event. In the first early hours in the media and on their websites they referred to the disaster as an "ash slide". Their early statements also underestimated the damage considerably by reporting that an estimated 1.8 million cubic yards of coal ash was spilled but they were later forced to issue a correction when radar analysis revealed the amount to be 5.4 cubic million yards.

Tom Kilgore, TVA CEO referred to the disaster as an "inconvenience" and TVA Senior Vice President for Environmental Policy, Anda Ray, astonishingly refused to call the spill an environmental disaster since in her mind coal waste is "inert". Instead, she described the event as "a challenging event to restore the community back to normalcy"

The efforts to downplay the disaster continued as Tom Kilgore prematurely declared the situation as "safe". In his statement he said, "chemicals in the ash spill are of concern, but the situation is probably safe." A statement made long before there was as any scientific evidence to support such a claim. Then Gilbert Francis Jr. an agency spokesperson made a statement to the press saying that ash spill materials "do contain some heavy metals within it, but it is not toxic or anything." These statements are ironic in light of a later internal report that would criticize the TVA for having "relegated [ash] to the status of garbage at a landfill rather than treating it as a potential hazard to the public and the environment."

Journalists, environmentalists, public health specialists and independent scientists wondered how the TVA could make such assertions when extensive scientific studies had not yet to been conducted. Whether or not there was imminent harm to public health or the environment seemed in some people's minds to be an open question that required more extensive investigation rather than hasty pronouncements.

In the wake of most disasters there often is an "informational vacuum" and research demonstrates that too often responsible parties hastily attempt to fill this vacuum with incomplete or misinformation before all the information and research is readily available to fully inform the public.

These initial missteps cascaded into a series of missteps or calculated manuvers. To some observers it soon began to appear that the TVA either didn't comprehend the severity of the event or was trying desperately to deny its severity and downplay it. In the coming weeks and months the TVA's handling of the event seemed in the eyes of some, if not many, to swing wildly out of control. The question in some minds was "how could an agency as large, as powerful, as the TVA falter again and again and appear to take such a reckless approach.

In addition to the false start described above, many of the TVA's responses called in to question "who was in charge?" As well as why the agency seemed to have so much difficulty in recovering. Among many of the missteps too numerous to mention were:

* To the shock of many, the TVA did not implement a National Incident Management System in accordance with Homeland Security Presidential Directive 5. The failure of which severely hampered emergency response communications with county, state and federal agency. In light of our nation's national disaster response to 9/11 and all the implemented in response to this national tragedy it was shocking and disturbing to many that an agency the size of the TVA, was not prepared to interactive with a system so vital to our nation's security. The idea that an agency with had so many major dams, fossil fuel plants, and nuclear facilities was unprepared to communicate and interact with NIMS was startling to seasoned disaster responders.

* Uncertainties, doubts, and concern increased in many peoples' mind when independent researchers began reporting test results that conflicted with the TVA's test results. Doubt and concern increased when the TVA severely restricted access to the afflicted area and prevented independent testing. Whether or not the move was surreptitious, it appeared to be so in the eyes of many. As the disparity in the risk evaluations grew and residents learned more about the potential health risks, concerns about health increased, as did concerns about long-term harm to the environment. One resident affected by the spill stated, "The TVA tends to dance around the issue and not tell you direct answers. Another resident, who attended the TVA's public meetings argued, "The TVA will sand bag you with tons of irrelevant data but will not answer your questions."

* The TVA's credibility was further eroded when an internal memo prepared by the agency's public relations staff, labeled, "risk assessment talking points" was leaked to inadvertently emailed to the Associated Press. The memo stated that the coal ash spill was best described as a "sudden accidental release" rather than "catastrophic." The memo further advised that to remove from any future statements the word, "risk to public health and risk to the environment" as the reason for monitoring water quality. A discussion of fly ash was revised to note that it consists of "inert" materials and is not harmful to the environment." Suspicions about the TVA's statements grew in the minds of some journalists as well as the families affected by the spill. As an internal TVA report would later state, "repeated efforts by the media to learn anything about the TVA's culpability were met with artful dodges" thereby confirming earlier suspicions about the TVA's motives.

* Doubts and suspicions were galvanized in some minds when in the summer of 2009 the TVA's inspector general released a report that claimed that the TVA had ignored several decades of warnings that could have prevented the tragedy from occurring.

* The report went on to assert that the TVA made a conscious effort to suppress certain facts. In commenting on the TVA's failure to investigate and report management practices that contributed to the spill the IG's report states: " the fact that the TVA would not review management practices may have contributed to the failure, but would instead tightly circumscribe the scope of the review to intentionally avoid revealing any evidence that would suggest culpability on the part of the TVA: "In fact, it would appear that TVA management made a conscious decision to present to the public only facts that supported an absence of liability for TVA for the Kingston spill".

* The report continues by exploring the issue further and stating that the agency's dilemma appears to have been accountability versus litigation. The IG's report suggests that one the one hand the TVA could have conducted a "diligent" review of TVA management practices and a technical examination of the failed impoundment structure and release their findings to the public or decide on a second choice which the report characterizes as to "circle the wagons" by only publishing favorable press releases and "attempt to minimize its legal liability." Both choices, the report argues are value judgments. While the inspector general's office does not have definitive information about how the decision was made the report suggests it would appear the TVA made the latter choice. If true, this is indeed unfortunate since, aside from the public's right to know, research demonstrates that the lack of transparency in the wake of disasters creates undo uncertainty and anxiety in the minds of those most affected by the tragedy. Decisions like this underscore the fact that it is not always science the drives decision-making process in the wake of disasters but rather politics and the culture of organizations.

* Finally, just this month the Environmental Integrity Project has just released new data, which in their words "paints an even grimmer picture of the coal ash disaster. Based on reports filed with the Environmental Protection Agency by the TVA, the ash spill "dumped an estimated 140,000 pounds of arsenic into the Emory River-more than twice the reported amount discharged in U.S. waterways from all power plants in 2007."

* The Toxics Release Inventory filed by TVA with the EPA also reports that other toxic pollutants, such as vanadium, chromium, lead, manganese, and nickel were deposited in the river at levels higher than twice the amount of reported amounts discharged in 2007 by all U.S. power plants into U.S. waterways. Not only is the shear amount of these toxic pollutants disturbing and troublesome, but also the fact that while the TVA reported these discharges, at some point in time, to the EPA, they failed to be transparent and report the same facts to the general public. Why did it take a report issued by an independent organization to make these amounts and their potential consequences known to the general public? Why has the TVA itself failed to do so? As we await the agency's response to these findings one cannot help but wonder if the TVA in its denial is not about to generate another media spin designed to create uncertainty.

Richard Moore, the TVA's Inspector General, recently testified before the United States House Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. In his statements he recounts some of his earlier findings on the failure of the TVA in responding to the ash spill disaster and outlines current attempts by the TVA to remedy their failures. Moore believes the TVA is "marching in the right direction based on actions implemented and/or initiated to-date." Although, he does caution: "it is too early to determine whether these will be sufficient to overcome a legacy of culture resistant to change."

What worries me is that many decades of disaster research clearly demonstrate that in the wake of disasters, many lessons are learned, but seldom if ever are they implemented, even when corporations or government announce their attention to do so.

One thing is clear. The remedy to the TVA's mishandling of the disaster requires more than a restructuring of management. If significant changes within the TVA corporate culture are to succeed, there must be recognition that even though science and technology are integral to responding to environmental disasters (which in this case seems to be the camouflage under which the TVA is hiding), research has demonstrated that the instinct to rely solely on an 'engineering fix' does not work. The TVA must recognize that the sociocultural issues within the agency and the affected communities cannot be ignored if they are to respond effectively to disasters and prevent them from happening in the future.

More importantly, given the TVA's careless response to the ash spill disaster and its poor environmental record across the board (See the Environmental Integrity Project's scathing report) it has become increasingly obvious that aside from a major sea change within it's organizational structure the TVA must held more accountable to the EPA and Congressional oversight and be denied its unique status as a "federal" agency which shields it from being held more accountable. In short, it is time to redress the asymmetrical power relationship between an environmental polluter like the TVA and the federal agencies that are mandated to protect the environment and the public's health.

Gregory V. Button, PhD is a faculty member at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville who has been researching disasters for over three decades. He is currently writing a book about the TVA Ash Spill titled, "When Ashes Flowed Like Water". He can be contacted at


Fuerte impulso a la agricultura familiar entre compromisos de Evo Morales en Bolivia

Comer lo nuestro


Entre los compromisos asumidos por el presidente boliviano Evo Morales para su futuro período de gobierno se encuentra terminar con la fuerte dependencia de productos importados para la conformación de la canasta alimentaria de sus compatriotas.

Así lo comentó en entrevista con Radio Mundo Real, Miguel Lora, desde La Paz. Miguel es columnista del sitio Bolpress y además integra el equipo de comunicación del Viceministerio de Tierras de Bolivia.

El próximo domingo 6 de diciembre se realizarán las elecciones en Bolivia donde el Movimiento al Socialismo buscará relegitimar la presidencia de Evo Morales en el período 2010-2015. En los últimos días se han sucedido actos de cierre de campaña en varias regiones de Bolivia. Los sondeos le otorgan a Evo una ventaja de cerca del 30 puntos respecto a las opciones de derecha.

Actualmente el trigo con que se elabora el pan boliviano es enteramente extranjero, procedente incluso por vía de “donación” de los Estados Unidos, dice Miguel, quien afirma que la incógnita es por qué margen será reelecto Morales.

“En esta segunda administración nosotros vamos a cultivar nuestros alimentos que son infinitamente más sanos y nutritivos que los alimentos industriales importados”, señala Lora recordando el compromiso de Evo.

Derecha sin discurso

Miguel analiza asimismo la importancia de la elección boliviana en el contexto latinoamericano donde en estos dias se sucedieron elecciones en Honduras bajo dictadura y en Uruguay con la consolidación de la izquierda en el gobierno tras el triunfo del Frente Amplio.

Desde su lectura personal Lora afirma que la derecha en Bolivia ha quedado sin discurso político o social lo que la deja “sin ninguna chance de forjar siquiera una segunda vuelta electoral”.

Attacks Against the Triquis Escalate

Violence from PRI UBISORT Becomes Chronic

By Nancy Davies

Narco News

Commentary from Oaxaca

Last November 28 in the autonomous municipality of San Juan Copala three acts of aggression occurred. Two of them were mentioned in Narconews: While the so-called Union for the Social Well-being of the Triqui Region (UBISORT in its Spanish initials), an organization firmly linked to the PRI, was blocking the only entrance to the township, other armed groups ascended the surrounding hills and began to shoot indiscriminately at the population. The immediate outcome of the aggressions was one dead nine year old, two other kids wounded, suspension of classes in the schools, and the closing of the Monday market which the town had been able to re-open only after years of effort. The town lives with anxiety: children won’t leave their houses, men leave hidden in trucks, and women who want to abandon the region don’t do so because it’s too risky; they say their fellow townspeople will regard them as cowards, or worse, as traitors.

The circle around the San Juan Copala autonomous municipality was both political and military. The third aggression is a campaign of disinformation. Some press accounts, without visiting the region, asserted that the autonomous municipality had been dismantled. One of the reports claimed that members of the Movement for Triqui Unification and Struggle (MULT, in its Spanish initials), descended from the hills shooting more than 500 rounds from AK-47s, weapons for exclusive use by the army. That the autonomous municipality, founded in 2006 in response to the teachers-APPO popular social movement, was ending. That the townspeople unanimously came together to celebrate the end of autonomy and furthermore, elected a constitutional authority. That the new authority named was none other than Anastasio Juárez Hernández, a migrant who lives in the state of Querétaro, brother of Rufino, the operator from UBISORT working with the state government.

Two days later, when the municipal authority had cleared up the facts — the authorities remained in their offices, there had been no election of anybody and that what really happened was an external aggression — some daily papers still insisted that the autonomous municipality had been dismantled. MULT denied the version issued by San Juan Copala which insisted that MULT had participated in a military aggression, but anyway the papers did not print it. Nothing was reported regarding the dead child, nor the wounded, nor the state of alarm among the people. Only Las Noticias, the only statewide left-sympathetic Oaxaca newspaper, followed the facts as they became available.

On December 9 UBISORT members kidnapped from San Juan Copala the wife and four minor children of Jordán González Ramírez, a sympathizer of the autonomous municipality who maybe killed a man last Tuesday. The UBISORT group claims Jordán González shot Pablo Bautista Ramirez in response to Bautista’s attacks against the home of González. Whether or not that is true, armed PRIistas installed blockades around the town to avoid any exit or entrance. The town president José Ramirez Flores explained that a group of UBISORT militants, identified by name by Jordán Gonzalez´ mother, entered his home at five A.M.. They kidnapped his wife and children. Later they demanded that the family pay 50,000 pesos within twenty-four hours, or they would murder one of the children.

On December 10 UBISORT placed the corpse of Pablo Bautista Ramirez on the desk of town president José Ramirez Flores. Dozens of heavily armed UBISORT militants had taken over the municipal palace, holding at bay the Independent Movement for Triqui Unification and Struggle, (in its Spanish initials MULT-I, to be distinguished from MULT), to which most of San Juan Copala’s population belong. UBISORT’s initial goal was to depose José Ramirez Flores and impose as new president Anastasio Juarez Hernandez.

Wait a minute, didn’t I just say that was a lie? The lie was reported and then it became true? Did some reporter spill the beans ahead of the appointed time?

Well, the door to the municipal palace was forced open by UBISORT militants, and their group brought along the corpse. At that time, the president issued a bulletin stating that the murder of Pablo Bautista had been an act of self-defense because Pablo Bautista had several times shot at the home of Jordán González. José Ramirez added that Bautista died on the road, traveling toward a hospital. President Ramirez recounted the events leading up to the palace take-over, and concluded by saying that the town authorities were willing to investigate whatever charges the family of Pablo Bautista brought; that in no moment had they concealed facts of that sort; during three years of autonomy they had demonstrated their ability to resolve cases through dialogue between accusers and accused, and then turn the results over to the proper authorities. The town president concluded by saying they would hold responsible the state government and its political operator UBISORT for any death among the kidnapped family and any future deaths among the Triqui population.

Thus inhabitants of the town are very clear about who’s hitting on it, and say so. What seems inexplicable is the viciousness of shooting against unarmed townspeople, murdering a child, and then kidnapping an entire family, while at the same time the media carry on a statewide campaign to discredit San Juan Copala.

Clearly state PRI controlled political groups are behind the aggression, that’s obvious. Why? There’s more involved than confrontation between organizations operating in the same region. More than two years ago, I was told by a Triqui authority that they refused entry and recognition to any groups, seeking a more or less peaceful town. A week ago I was told by a Triqui man (who lives safely in Oaxaca) that Triquis have the custom of taking vengeance like Hatfields and McCoys,holding grudges for generations. I don’t believe that. I think it’s promoted, and now more than ever.

One answer to the aggression could lie with the upcoming gubernatorial election in July 2010. Not only the Triquis have been attacked. Leonardo Clemente Cruz, an indígenous Chinanteco who was kidnapped on November 24, was found dead. But it’s not very logical to think the government commits acts of destabilization unless they can blame others. Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador has just published a four part series describing his tour through Oaxaca ( —and it’s all peace and praise. Another explanation was put forward by the township of San Juan Copala itself. President José Ramirez Flores believes the kidnapping of the five persons constitutes another act of provocation, like shooting the children. Generating violence, he claims, would justify militarization of the autonomous municipality and its communities.

Asking for the intervention of the Army – have we heard that before? Non-Mexicans may not know that the Triquis suffered this measure long before 2006, during the seventies and eighties. Like Oaxaca residents in 2006, they know what army occupation entails.

From a broader perspective, one could point out that the aggression is not just against Triqui autonomy, but against all who struggle for autonomy, in Oaxaca regions as well as in Chiapas. As Francisco López Bárcenas wrote in La Jornada on December 11[1],
“Something is happening.” Lopez Barcenas says that we don’t yet know what that “something” is, but surely in days to come we will be its witnesses. “Meanwhile, the life of the people is changing like in times of war, the Triquis say, and surely other people (say so) too.”

What I say, is that Mexico is well on its way to being militarized.

[1] much of this material is thanks to “La guerra contra los triquis” La Jornada, December 11, 2009, Francisco López Bárcenas

¿Cómo es posible la esclavitud en el siglo XXI?

La Jiribilla

La Declaración Universal de los Derechos Humanos establece en su artículo 4: “nadie estará sometido a esclavitud ni a servidumbre; la esclavitud y la trata de esclavos están prohibidas en todas sus formas”.

Sin embargo, y aunque ha sido abolida de manera oficial por los estados y gobiernos, en el mundo actual permanecen en régimen de esclavitud más de 27 millones de personas, una gran parte de ellas niños y mujeres, pertenecientes a los grupos sociales más vulnerables.

Existen esclavos en todos los continentes, pero África y Asia son los más afectados. Formas de servidumbres como la esclavitud por deuda, el tráfico humano, la esclavitud doméstica, la explotación sexual, la prostitución forzosa, el trabajo infantil, la venta de niños, los matrimonios forzosos o ventas de mujeres y la permanencia de ciertas modalidades de mendicidad figuran entre las maneras bajo las que se configura hoy día este imperdonable crimen de lesa humanidad.

Desde la década del setenta la prohibición de la esclavitud es considerada una obligación en Derecho Internacional y existen múltiples declaraciones de organismos internacionales que condenan su existencia. No obstante, ello no ha podido frenar un proceso que parte de la desigualdad e injusticia del sistema vigente en el mundo, de los conceptos con que se articula el poder y de la tolerancia con que se acoge el fenómeno.

Si en los tiempos antiguos la manera de establecer la propiedad de un ser humano por otro se realizaba a través de la compraventa en mercados públicos, ahora el ejercicio de la propiedad se realiza a través del control sobre las víctimas utilizando la amenaza, la violencia u otro tipo de coacciones tanto físicas como morales. Los propietarios disponen de manera absoluta de una persona sin que medie un documento de propiedad.

El Foro Interactivo Esclavitud en el siglo XXI: ¿Cómo es posible? —convocado por el Festival Internacional del Nuevo Cine Latinoamericano de La Habana, el sitio digital La Ventana, de Casa de las Américas y la revista La Jiribilla—, es una alternativa de comunicación en busca de confrontar respuestas que ayuden a visibilizar el problema de la esclavitud humana en su dimensión global. A través de la relación virtual entre intelectuales, cineastas, creadores, especialistas, periodistas, representantes de organizaciones no gubernamentales e internautas de todo el mundo, pudieran encontrarse nuevas estrategias que contribuyan tanto a visibilizar el fenómeno como para pensar el margen de sus soluciones.

Crow Creek Leader Begins Protest

By Austin Kaus

The Daily Republic

The chairman of the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe says he will take whatever peaceful action he can to reverse a land auction that involved disputed tribal land. Brandon Sazue this week vowed to set up teepees on the land, where he will live, fast and pray until the disagreement — involving some 7,100 acres on the Crow Creek Reservation — is settled.

FORT THOMPSON — The chairman of the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe says he will take whatever peaceful action he can to reverse a land auction that involved disputed tribal land.

Brandon Sazue this week vowed to set up teepees on the land, where he will live, fast and pray until the disagreement — involving some 7,100 acres on the Crow Creek Reservation — is settled.

“I am the chairman of my tribe. I’m not going to just sit back and not do anything,” Sazue told The Daily Republic. “I’ve got to do something.”

Sazue’s response comes after the IRS last week auctioned the land to pay off more than $3 million in back taxes, penalties and interests. The tribe has sued to block the sale, saying the sale was illegal under federal laws protecting American Indian land.

Although U.S. District Judge Roberto Lange allowed the sale to proceed, a March trial was set to hear arguments.

Sazue said his protest hasn’t exactly gone to plan. At present, he’s residing in a trailer on the land and won’t move to a teepee or fast until the tent arrives.

He has, however, braved frigid temperatures since Monday, surviving on the food and support provided to him by a steady stream of visitors.

According to a news release from the tribe, a representative from the tribal council was told in 2002 that the tribe did not owe any back taxes. The sale sets a dangerous precedent, Sazue said Thursday, and he’s hoping members from other various tribes will eventually join him at the protest site.

“It’s hurt us tremendously,” Sazue said. “If they can do it to us, what would stop them from doing it to them?”

Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin expressed concern Thursday about the methods and the reasoning behind the IRS’ decision-making process on the issue.

“They have not used this kind of authority much in the past and we’re concerned about the precedent that it sets,” Herseth Sandlin said. “We are raising questions about their authority to do so.”

She said she will look into the matter.

Until the dispute is resolved, Sazue said he will continue his protest on land near Mac’s Corner, about 12 miles north of Fort Thompson.

“I don’t care what the IRS says. It’s not for sale and it never will be,” Sazue said. “I could stay here forever.”

El triunfo de un pueblo organizado. Tinogasta le dijo no a sus verdugos


El pueblo de Tinogasta enfrento masivamente la provocación de 5 patoteros de la Mina de Rió Colorado, exigiendo que se quedaran en el campamento hasta que el fiscal, el intendente, y su sequito de concejales, se presentaran en el lugar para dar respuesta a los reclamos por la no instalación de la mina. Frente a las amenazas de detenciones, manifestaron que debían tener un predio suficientemente grande para encarcelar a todo el pueblo. Carlos Buslaiman representante de la empresa Jackson Minerals Ltd. se comprometió frente a las cámaras, a no regresar al predio de las minas, y que no arribarían maquinarias a Tinogasta.

Una vez más el pueblo de Tinogasta con la férrea convicción de la defensa de la vida y sus recursos, dio una clara señal de que la ambición de gobernantes, empresas transnacionales y la ignorancia de un minúsculo grupo de traidores... con el pueblo de Tinogasta.. ¡¡No podrán!! .. en esta bella y bendita tierra ¡¡No pasarán!!

Cerca de las 18 hs. del 24 de noviembre de 2.009 la camioneta patente GAZ 727 en cuya puerta se lee Proyecto Río Colorado en la que viajaban Carlos Buslaiman y cuatro jóvenes pagados por la empresa minera, ingresó al paraje La Higuerita manifestando una evidente provocación a las personas que estaban montando guardia en el campamento. De acuerdo a lo acordado y por "suerte" contando con señal de telefonía celular, inmediatamente se dio aviso a los auto convocados, quienes de inmediato arribaron al campamento convocando al pueblo a unirse para recordar a los intrusos que no cuentan con la licencia social del pueblo y que una vez más estaban violando propiedad privada.

Habiéndose congregado una inmensa multitud, en asamblea, se tomó la determinación de que a su regreso, la camioneta con sus ocupantes debían permanecer junto al campamento hasta que la Fiscal Silvia Alvarez y/o el Intendente Municipal Simón Quintar y los Concejales Guillermo Sesto, Edgardo Reartes, Horacio Sierralta y Gustavo Díaz se hicieran presente y escuchen el reclamo que se viene llevando en relación a la No explotación minera contaminante a cielo abierto, por el pueblo de Tinogasta desde octubre de 2.00, fecha en que además se presentó un recurso de amparo, aún hoy no resuelto.

Como siempre sucede con autoridades judiciales y la fuerzas policiales, solicitas al requerimiento de intereses ajenos al pueblo, un móvil policial con numerosos efectivos llegaron al campamento pidiendo que se liberara la camioneta. Ante la negativa de la asamblea, el efectivo policial expresó que regresaría en una hora y que ya se debía cumplir con la orden, de lo contrario se vería en la obligación de proceder a los arrestos, a lo que la multitud manifestó que procedieran y que debían contar con un predio inmenso ya que debía arrestar y contener al pueblo presente.

Dado lo avanzado de la hora, cerca de la una de la madrugada, y ante la negativa de la Fiscal, del Intendente y de los Concejales de escuchar el reclamo del pueblo, la asamblea decidió seguir en la misma modalidad, pero lo que sucedió ante el arribo nuevamente de la policía, cerca de las dos, fue sorprendente: Carlos Buslaiman representante de la empresa Jackson Minerals Ltd. solicitó que se le abriera paso con el compromiso publico y ante las cámaras de cable Sono Visión, de no regresar al predio de las minas nunca más y que tiene entendido que no hay maquinarias que estén planeando arribar a Tinogasta.

Por razones humanitarias y tácticas, dada la gran cantidad de horas que los ocupantes de la camioneta estaban soportantando sin agua, ni alimento, la asamblea decidió que se acompañaría a la camioneta con custodia policial, en caravana hasta la oficina que la empresa ocupa en la casa de Rosa Orquera de Mirolo.

No se vió desde hace muchos años una auténtica muestra del amor que la gente siente por su lugar, nuestro lugar. La caravana que acompañó a los vencidos pro mineros fue impresionante, magnifica, emocionante... más de ciento cincuenta automóviles, siempre acompañados a distancia prudente por móviles policiales, a las cuatro de la mañana recorrían ruidosamente las calles de la ciudad y con la decepción e impotencia de sentirse huérfanos, sin la seguridad, protección y representatividad que las autoridades democráticamente elegidas deben proporcionar, Tinogasta rompio en un bullicioso y estridente reclamo, con las únicas armas de los cánticos, palmas y un megáfono, se les hizo sentir a las autoridades, el justo enojo y la rebeldía. A las cuatro con treinta minutos, la caravana finalizó, como viene siendo una costumbre últimamente, en la explanada del Templo San Juan Bautista, con un fervoroso Padrenuestro.

Tinogasta era un pueblo que parecía dormido, sin embargo ante la amenaza a la vida de las presentes generaciones y de las futuras, surgió la voz de las generaciones pasadas, las que lucharon denodadamente por defender el suelo, la cultura, las raíces.. y despertó en los tinogasteños la fuerza de la raza diaguita cuya sangre corre aún hoy, por las venas del bravo pueblo de Tinogasta. Tinogasta ¡¡ de pie!! ¡¡¡ Viva el valiente y bravío pueblo de Tinogasta!!

International Court Holds Mexico Accountable for Femicides

Frontera NorteSur

In a ruling that could reverberate across the Americas, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights has taken the Mexican government to task for the murders of three young women in Ciudad Juarez. In a historic decision published this month, the justices found the government incurred in violations of the American Convention on Human Rights and the 1994 Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence against Women (Belem Do Para Convention) by failing to prevent the slayings and properly investigate the crimes.

“States are obligated to establish general policies of public order that protect the population from criminal violence,” wrote court Justice Diego Garcia-Sayan. “This obligation has progressive and decisive priority given the context of rising criminality in the majority of countries of the region.”

The case heard by the Costa Rica-based court involved three young women who were found slain along with five other female victims in a Ciudad Juarez cotton field located across the street from the headquarters of the Maquiladora Association in November 2001.

After finding no justice in the Mexican legal system, the mothers of Esmeralda Herrera Monreal, Claudia Ivette Gonzalez and Laura Berenice Ramos pursued human rights complaints in first the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and later in the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. Both institutions are affiliates of the Organization of American States (OAS).

Herrera and Ramos were minors at the time of their deaths, and the court ruled that the teens’ slayings constituted violations of the human rights of children.

In a Ciudad Juarez press conference last week, Josefina Gonzalez, mother of Claudia Ivette Gonzalez, said she that did not expect the murderers of her daughter to face justice. Nearly a decade after the cotton field case came to public light, no one is behind bars for the murders of Claudia Gonzalez and six of the other cotton field victims. Still, Gonzalez voiced satisfaction with the court’s action.

“It’s been 8 years since we have suffered and nothing has been achieved until now,” Gonzalez said, adding that the verdict was a victory for all the cotton field mothers and their supporters.

The court’s 167-page sentence lays out remedies the Mexican government must follow to assure justice for victims’ families and curb future acts of violence against women in Ciudad Juarez and Mexico. As an adherent to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, Mexico is obligated to comply
with the ruling and cannot appeal.

In addition to conducting a serious murder investigation and investigating law enforcement officials responsible for obstructing the cotton field case, which included the fabrication of scapegoats under torture, within one year the Mexican government must hold a public ceremony in Ciudad Juarez to apologize for the crimes; build a monument to the three murdered women in the border city; publish the sentence in the official government record and in newspapers; expand gender sensitivity and human rights training for police; step-up and coordinate efforts to find missing women; permanently publicize the cases of disappeared women on the Internet; and investigate reported death threats and harassment against members of the families of Esmeralda Herrera and Laura Ramos.

Three members of Ramos’ family, including her outspoken mother Benita Monarrez, were granted political asylum in the US in 2009. According to testimony presented in the femicide trial, pressure on Ramos’ relatives intensified after the OAS court accepted the case in 2007. Finally, the Mexican government was ordered to compensate victims’ families and their legal representatives to the tune of more than $800,000 for damages and expenses.

By the time of the cotton field murders, the court found, a well-established pattern of gender violence in Ciudad Juarez should have prompted authorities to adopt serious measures to prevent violence against women. Among the mountains of evidence, the court cited the 1998 recommendations issued by the Mexican government’s National Human Rights Commission which called for investigating and sanctioning numerous irregularities and deficiencies in women’s murder probes during the 1990s.

The Convoluted Cotton Field Case

If anything, however, the highly questionable circumstances in which investigations into the disappearances and murders of women were conducted reached new heights in the cotton field case.

In a phone interview with Frontera NorteSur, an Argentine forensic specialist who has worked on identifying the remains of the cotton field and other femicide victims recounted numerous irregularities in the official handling of the November 2001 murder investigation, including misidentified victims, mysteriously switched autopsy reports, mismatched clothing served up as evidence, and even missing body parts.

Mercedes Doretti, lead anthropologist for the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team (EAAF), supported the findings of the first autopsy report on the eight cotton field victims that the cause of death was not
determinable, because of the advanced state of decomposition of most of the bodies.

But in 2002, Doretti said, officials from Chihuahua City substituted the first autopsy report for a new one that listed asphyxiation as the cause of the women’s deaths, an explanation which conveniently jibed with the State of Chihuahua’s case against the two bus drivers accused at the time of strangling victims to death. That conclusion, Doretti told Frontera Norte, was “absolutely not valid” and without basis. “There was no scientific evidence whatsoever,” Doretti said.

The forensics expert also said that there was no substance to a subsequent claim that victims were stabbed to death, an accusation made by the Chihuahua state attorney generals’ office against a later suspect, Edgar Alvarez Cruz, who was convicted of killing cotton field victim Mayra Reyes Solis but, oddly, none of the other victims found in the same field at the same time and under the same conditions.

After arriving in Ciudad Juarez in 2005 to identify unknown homicide victims, Doretti and team learned that three of the eight cotton field victims were not even the women Chihuahua state authorities purported them to be.

In a bizarre twist, one of the mistakenly identified cotton field victims later turned up as a skeleton recovered in a separate location in 2002. A young maquiladora industry worker like Gonzalez, the 2002 victim had a thorax and vertebral column missing and, even more weirdly, a femur bone with the type of specialized cut that is normally made to draw DNA samples, according to Doretti. Among other irregularities, she said, were missing homicide and autopsy reports.

Complicating her work in all cases, Doretti said, has been Mexico’s lack of a centralized system of DNA storage, medical and dental record tracking and other personal information of women reported missing. Many of the unidentified victims in Ciudad Juarez could be from elsewhere in the country, she affirmed.

Doretti disputed the notion that lost or hidden evidence, combined with tattered paper trails in the cotton field and possibly related cases, would make the road to justice virtually impossible to navigate. The Chihuahua state attorney general’s office is fully aware of the irregularities and the chain-of-command responsible for committing them, Doretti asserted. “It’s a matter of deciding (to investigate),” Doretti said. “If they want to do it, they can.”

Since 2005, the EAAF has identified the remains of 33 presumed homicide victims in Ciudad Juarez and Chihuahua City, Doretti added. Currently, the team is working on establishing the identities of 50 additional victims. According to the EAAF’S chief investigator in Mexico, the team has examined the remains of unknown victims from 1993 to 2008. The EAAF’s work has been supported by private foundations, the US and other foreign governments and the Chihuahua state government.

Doretti, whose internationally-acclaimed organization grew out of the Argentine Dirty War scandals, submitted testimony in the cotton field trial. The Mexican state challenged the testimony, arguing it would expose “confidential information” and jeopardize ongoing murder investigations. Court justices, however, disagreed and accepted Doretti’s testimony. Mexico’s legal representatives also unsuccessfully attempted to suppress other expert witnesses, including Oscar Maynez, a former Chihuahua state forensic official who resigned after refusing to plant evidence on the two bus drivers initially accused of the cotton field slayings.

Other Responses to the Court’s Decision

In response to the court’s decision, Mexico’s federal Interior Ministry announced it would establish a sub-commission to supervise the country’s compliance with the sentence. Ciudad Juarez Mayor Jose Reyes Ferriz welcomed the court’s action, but insisted that the failings of previous murder investigations were a thing of the past and current authorities were on the right path in combating femicide.

The OAS’ court, however, found that many impediments to justice still exist. Although justices praised some aspects of Operation Alba, an inter-agency campaign which was established several years ago to locate missing women, they noted a website for disappeared women,, has not been updated since December 2006.

In fact, one of the missing women listed on the web page, Merlin Elizabeth Rodriguez Saenz, was previously identified by the EAAF as among the cotton field victims. Rodriguez reportedly disappeared in August 2000, long before many of the other cotton field victims vanished and about fifteen months before her remains were recovered.

Recent stories in the border and Mexican press have reported that at least 36 women and girls have gone missing in Ciudad Juarez in 2009. And murders of women- for all reasons- have reached unprecedented levels in Ciudad Juarez and the state of Chihuahua this year, claiming more than 185 victims- at least 144 of them in Ciudad Juarez-so far in 2009.

To monitor the Mexican government’s compliance with the court decision, lawyers for the victims’ mothers and members of non-governmental organizations announced in Mexico City late last week that they would form a commission of their own, with international participation, to ensure the sentence is carried out correctly.

In part, progress on the cotton field and other pending femicide cases will depend on Chihuahua State Attorney General Patricia Gonzalez, who is likely to leave office next year when the state governorship changes hands. According to Mercedes Doretti, Gonzalez still has a last chance to break "the circle of impunity” that envelops the cotton field case and so many others in Ciudad Juarez and Chihuahua.

Additional sources: Norte, December 12 and 13, 2009. Articles by Claudia Sanchez, Francisco Lujan and editorial staff. El Universal, December 12, 2009. Articles by Silvia Otero and Alberto Morales. El Paso Times, December 12, 2009. Article by Diana Washington Valdez and Aileen B. Flores. El Diario de Juarez, December 12, 2009. Article by Luz del Carmen Sosa. La Jornada, December 12, 2009. Article by Emir Olivares Alonso., December 12, 2009.

Frontera NorteSur (FNS): on-line, U.S.-Mexico border news Center for Latin American and Border Studies New Mexico State University Las Cruces, New Mexico


Una mujer que supo luchar por transformar la realidad

Juliana G. Quintanilla y José Martínez Cruz


De paso lento pero segura de hacia donde se encaminaba, desde la ladera del cerro, donde se ubica la colonia 24 de febrero en Yautepec, la recuerdo con sus ojos pequeños viendo hacia el valle, descansando a intervalos para recuperar la respiración entrecortada que no le permitía llenar de oxígeno sus pulmones.

Realmente agobiada por el cansancio de las actividades políticas, sociales, religiosas y el trabajo domestico, la recuerdo a sus 60 años, apenas se sentía bien contrariaba las indicaciones medicas, se levantaba a seguir participando en las comunidades, de su pueblo Yautepec.

Fue una de las fundadoras de la Coordinadora de Mujeres de Morelos y de la Red de Mujeres Contra la Violencia, como parte del proceso de organización de las mujeres, quienes desde sus colonias se integraron con sus demandas y se sumaron a las de otras, desde el año 1981 conformada por grupos feministas, sindicalistas y del movimiento urbano popular, con una perspectiva ideológica muy amplia.

A Cristina le toca llevar este proceso a las diversas colonias de Yautepec, iniciando en su colonia “la 24 de febrero” logrando penetrar ampliamente en varios sectores, abriendo brecha, logrando que la Coordinadora de Mujeres creara su carácter popular en sus demandas, así como su composición social que incluyó a feministas, sindicalistas, maestras. Las discusiones fueron parte de su vida cotidiana, igual podía debatir con las feministas sus ideas, que en la militancia política o en las comunidades eclesiales de base.

Con mujeres como Cristina se logró que la fuerza de las mujeres tuviera una gran respuesta en los mítines y actos públicos que se organizaron en los años 80s. Se promovió la lucha por la igualdad y la liberación, se profundizó el análisis sobre los problemas, los intereses e inquietudes de las mujeres, muchas como Cristina descubrieron que podían realizar múltiples actividades que no se redujeran exclusivamente a las tareas de la casa.

Estos resultados fueron tan importantes, que a la distancia observamos la creciente participación lograda el Día Internacional de las Mujeres, toda vez que en 1979 nos contábamos 60 mujeres y para 1987 llegamos a un acto de mil quinientas.

Y desde este espacio Cristina también tomó conciencia de la importancia de participar políticamente como candidata a un puesto de elección popular como candidata del PRT.

Muchas mujeres que junto con ella formaron parte de las Comunidades Eclesiales de Base y de la Unión de Colonos Independientes de Morelos, lograron que sus grupos adoptaran sus puntos programáticos de lucha por la liberación, la igualdad y los derechos de las mujeres.

Su participación inició en las Comunidades Ecleciales de Base cuando estaba al frente de la Diócesis de Cuernavaca el VII Obispo Don Sergio Méndez Arceo y una serie de sacerdotes comprometidos con la Teología de la Liberación fomentaron el estudio y reflexión de la palabra actuada, pasando rápidamente a formar parte de un grupo de simpatizantes del PRT y activistas del Frente Pro Derechos Humanos del Estado de Morelos. Cristina estaba convencida que entre cristianismo y revolución no hay contradicción y que su fe no era obstáculo para un compromiso militante en un partido revolucionario de las y los trabajadores, por lo que no sólo asumió la responsabilidad de organizar a las mujeres y hombres de su colonia, sino que su labor se extendió por todo el municipio de Yautepec y llegó a ser integrante del Comité Político Estatal del PRT en Morelos y también fue suplente en el Comité Central del PRT.

Cuando se formó la Comisión Independiente de Derechos Humanos de Morelos inmediatamente se integró a las actividades, destacando su participación en la organización del plebiscito contra la tortura y por la libertad de los presos políticos.

Recordamos que Cristina decía: “solas no hacemos nada, unidas hasta nos tienen miedo”.

(Cristina Pareja Dolores nació el año de 1941 en una pequeña ranchería, Ahuacatitlan, del Estado de Guerrero y emigró a Morelos a temprana edad en compañía de su esposo y compañero Miguel Bello, con quienes procrearon 4 hijos y 4 hijas. Murió el 2 de diciembre de 2009 en Yautepec.)

Joe Arpaio has escalated his tactics, not only defying the federal government on immigration but launching repeated investigations of those who critic

Arizona sheriff ups the ante against his foes

By Nicholas Riccardi

The Los Angeles Times

The day after the federal government told Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio that he could no longer use his deputies to round up suspected illegal immigrants on the street, the combative Arizona sheriff did just that.

He launched one of his notorious "sweeps," in which his officers descend on heavily Latino neighborhoods, arrest hundreds of people for violations as minor as a busted headlight and ask them whether they are in the country legally.

"I wanted to show everybody it didn't make a difference," Arpaio said of the Obama administration's order.

Arpaio calls himself "America's toughest sheriff" and remains widely popular across the state. For two decades, he has basked in publicity over his colorful tactics, such as dressing jail inmates in pink underwear and housing them in outdoor tents during the brutal Phoenix summers.

But he has escalated his tactics in recent months, not only defying the federal government but launching repeated investigations of those who criticize him. He recently filed a racketeering lawsuit against the entire Maricopa County power structure. On Thursday night, the Arizona Court of Appeals issued an emergency order forbidding the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office from searching the home or chambers of a Superior Court judge who was named in the racketeering case.

Last year, when Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon called for a federal investigation of Arpaio's immigration enforcement, the Sheriff's Office demanded to see Gordon's e-mails, phone logs and appointment calendars.

When the police chief in one suburb complained about the sweeps, Arpaio's deputies raided that town's City Hall.

A local television station, KPHO, in a 10-minute-long segment last month, documented two dozen instances of the sheriff launching investigations of critics, none of which led to convictions.

The most notorious case involves county Supervisor Don Stapley, a Republican who has sometimes disagreed with Arpaio's immigration tactics. Last December, deputies arrested Stapley on charges of failing to disclose business interests properly on his statement of economic interest.

Stapley's alarmed supervisor colleagues had their offices swept for listening devices. Arpaio contended the search was illegal and sent investigators to the homes of dozens of county staffers to grill them about the sweep.

A judge in September dismissed several of the allegations against Stapley, and prosecutors dropped the case. Three days later, Arpaio's deputies arrested Stapley again after he parked his car in a downtown parking structure near his office.

No charges were filed until County Atty. Andrew Thomas -- Arpaio's ally in his fights with the supervisor -- charged Stapley this week with misusing money he raised to run for president of the National Assn. of Counties.

"It's just extraordinary, the kind of thing that takes place in Third World dictatorships," said Paul Charlton, a former U.S. attorney who is representing Stapley. He predicted the latest charges would also be dismissed. "So many people are of one mind on a single issue -- illegal immigration -- that they are willing to ignore these misdeeds."

Arpaio brushes off suggestions that he's used his office to go after critics. Many of the complaints, as in the Stapley case, come from targets of anti-corruption probes that started with tips rather than the sheriff's personal intercession.

"We don't abuse our power," Arpaio said in an interview. "We do what we have to do."

Arpaio, a Republican, is highly popular in Arizona. He won reelection last year with 55% of the vote in the state's most populous county. Though he has said he's not interested in running for governor, a recent poll showed him crushing the presumptive Democratic nominee, state Atty. Gen. Terry Goddard, 51% to 39%.

The sheriff was not always at war with much of the region's political establishment. A former official with the Drug Enforcement Administration who was first elected sheriff in 1992, Arpaio had support from the majority-Republican county Board of Supervisors and from local Latino leaders.

"He had a very good relationship with the Hispanic community," said Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox, the lone Democrat and lone Latina on the board.

But by 2005, central Arizona was seething over illegal immigration. Crime was rising in Phoenix, a key smuggling hub that was becoming the kidnapping capital of the country.

Arpaio received a federal waiver, known as a 287(g), that allowed his deputies to enforce federal immigration laws. He said he had identified more than 30,000 illegal immigrants through his sweeps and interrogations in the county jail.

In October, the federal Department of Homeland Security revoked the 287(g) for Arpaio's street operations, though he could continue to question jail inmates about their immigration status.

Arpaio, however, said state law permitted him to continue his street operations and is awaiting a legal opinion from Thomas, the county attorney.

Latino community leaders say Arpaio has become more aggressive since he was stripped of some authority in the 287(g) program.

"It's actually gotten worse rather than better," said Salvador Reza, an activist who added that some immigrants don't dare turn the lights on in their homes at night for fear that Arpaio's deputies would knock at their doors.

A Homeland Security spokesman declined to comment, referring a reporter to statements Secretary Janet Napolitano gave to a liberal advocacy group in Washington.

Napolitano, the former governor of Arizona, said Arpaio "was unwilling to accept that there were standards that needed to be met. He wanted to go off on his own. And so that's where we had a parting of ways." She acknowledged, however, that state law would allow him to continue making his arrests.

The U.S. Department of Justice has launched a civil rights investigation into Arpaio's tactics. The sheriff has refused to cooperate and has called for an investigation of the investigators.

As Arpaio has fenced with the Obama administration, he has become embroiled in a sometimes-surreal battle with the five county supervisors who oversee his budget. Amid the recession, they have cut the sheriff's budget by 12.2%.

Arpaio and Thomas filed a federal racketeering lawsuit against the county supervisors, administrators and several judges who have ruled against the two in prior cases.

Arpaio and Thomas contended there was a conspiracy to assign the Stapley prosecution to an anti-Thomas judge, part of an effort to cover up what they call a wasteful county effort to build a new courthouse.

County officials noted that Arpaio and Thomas have sued them six times in efforts to regain power over their budgets -- and they lost every time.

Tensions escalated this week when the county attorney filed criminal charges against the presiding judge of the county's criminal courts, alleging bribery and obstruction of justice for ruling against Arpaio and prosecutors in some of those previous legal battles.

Wilcox, whom Thomas charged this week with violating state laws by voting on government contracts for a charitable organization that gave one of her businesses a loan, said she had been stunned by the sheriff's conduct.

"They have made life hell on everybody," she said of Arpaio and Thomas."Every time you speak out, they investigate you."

"Racketeering? That's just crazy," she added. "We're becoming the laughingstock of America."

Copyright © 2009, The Los Angeles Times

Feminicidio, Violencia y Corrupción

María del Pilar Barceló


A Marisela Ortiz, compartiendo su dolor, y en memoria de Jesús Alfredo Portillo Santos

Pietro Grasso, Fiscal Nacional Antimafia, explica que en los últimos años el creciente control sobre los puertos y aeropuertos colombianos ha forzado a los cárteles de este país a buscar nuevas áreas de almacenamiento de la pasta de coca destinada al mercado estadounidense y europeo, y que éstas se han ubicado sobre todo en México, donde los cárteles mexicanos han conseguido asegurarse el control del territorio. Para ello se han valido de las mismas estrategias que cualquier otra mafia: el terror, utilizando a grupos de sicarios que asesinan a cientos de testigos, presuntos informadores, magistrados y policías; y la connivencia –obtenida gracias a su inmensa riqueza- de amplios sectores políticos, funcionariales, empresariales y profesionales, hasta el punto de que puede afirmarse que estos grupos criminales han contaminado a la sociedad y la economía mexicana. El miedo y la corrupción son imprescindibles no sólo para actuar con eficacia, sino para asegurarse además la impunidad. Adicionalmente los grandes cárteles de la droga, que se reparten el país en áreas de influencia, en su afán de obtener el dominio de las rutas más practicables hacia Estados Unidos se enfrentan entre ellos por el control del territorio. El resultado son más de 3.000 personas asesinadas sólo en 2008.

En este contexto, durante los últimos quince años cientos de mujeres y niñas han sido sistemáticamente secuestradas, violadas, horriblemente torturadas, mutiladas y asesinadas en la fronteriza Ciudad Juárez, lugar de paso de la droga hacia EEUU y de las armas y narcodólares que a cambio se envían desde ese país a México. Al mismo tiempo el Estado mexicano ha mantenido una actitud de permanente inhibición y se ha abstenido de promover investigaciones eficaces, enjuiciar a los culpables y procurar la reparación de las víctimas y sus familias. Ello ha generado un clima de impunidad que no hace sino multiplicar la violencia contra las mujeres.

Las víctimas no han sido elegidas al azar. En su mayoría son trabajadoras de las maquiladoras. Muchachas inmigrantes, pobres, que desafían a los estereotipos de género que en su entorno aún tienen tanta fuerza intentando obtener su independencia económica, su autonomía; son mujeres a las que hay que escarmentar y cuyo destino ha de constituir una advertencia para quienes pretendan imitarlas. La vida de una mujer joven, inmigrante y pobre en Ciudad Juárez no vale nada.

La sistemática selección de las víctimas y la reiteración de determinados patrones de actuación (secuestro, violación sexual tumultuaria, mutilación y/o tortura, asesinato, abandono del cuerpo en lugares desérticos o lotes abandonados) permiten hablar de feminicidio. Pero la cuestión de género por sí sola no lo explica todo. En otros lugares las mujeres también sufren discriminación en virtud de estereotipos de género y sin embargo no se da esa práctica sistemática, siguiendo pautas predeterminadas, de violación, tortura y muerte. Como dice Emilio Ginés, abogado integrante de la delegación para la defensa de las víctimas en el caso Campo Algodonero que se sigue ante la Corte Interamericana de Derechos Humanos, estamos ante una realidad poliédrica, y para entenderla no podemos atender sólo a una de sus facetas.

Aunque Marisela Ortiz (Asociación Nuestras Hijas de Regreso a Casa) considera que la corrupción es algo profundamente arraigado en la sociedad mexicana, no cabe duda de que el creciente peso económico del narcotráfico y la necesidad de garantizar su práctica sin impedimentos y en condiciones de impunidad la agravan. A ello se une la violencia generada por dicha actividad. En los últimos tres años han muerto asesinadas de 10.000 a 15.000 personas, muchas de ellas sicarios. Esto significa que los cárteles al día de hoy y debido a la dificultad por reponer su “mano de obra cualificada” están recurriendo a las maras, que superponen al tráfico tradicional sus propias prácticas violentas (ritos de iniciación, etc).

Si a un contexto cultural de estereotipos de género discriminatorios se añaden la penetración de los intereses del narcotráfico en la sociedad mexicana y la violencia generada por dicha actividad, parece probable la conexión entre feminicidio, narcotráfico y corrupción, de tal modo que una lucha eficaz contra el feminicidio deberá abarcar estas tres facetas: la educación en la igualdad y la lucha contra la violencia, la corrupción y el narcotráfico.

Hasta que no se ponga coto a la corrupción, se mantendrá la impunidad, y continuarán siendo asesinadas las muchachas de Ciudad Juárez. Quienes allí intentan poner coto a estas violencias sufren presiones insoportables, amenazas, acoso o la muerte. Por ello es fundamental la presión internacional sobre el Estado mexicano para que cambien sustancialmente su actitud y empiece a combatir tanto la corrupción que lo corroe y que se traduce -en el caso de las mujeres de Ciudad Juárez- en facilitar interesadamente la impunidad de los culpables eludiendo la investigación, el castigo y la reparación.

Si la Corte Interamericana de Derechos Humanos dicta sentencia en el caso Campo Algodonero condenando a los Estados Unidos Mexicanos por su inactividad, se habrá dado un primer paso, pero no es suficiente. Es imprescindible que todos hagamos llegar nuestra voz contra el feminicidio, contra la violencia, contra la corrupción. A favor de las mujeres de Ciudad Juárez. A favor, en definitiva, de todo el pueblo mexicano.

25 Days In Federal Prison For Littering? Border Patrol Cracking Down on Human Rights Activists

By Jessica Weisberg


On Friday December 4th, an Arizona District Court judge told Walt Staton, a 28 year-old seminary student, that he might be facing 25 days in a federal prison. His crime was "knowingly littering" along the U.S.-Mexico border.

One day last December, Staton and a friend named Victor Ceballos, loaded 70 plastic water jugs into the back of a truck and drove from Tucson to outer stretches of Sonora desert. Temperatures in the desert are extreme, reaching 120 degrees during summer months and dropping below 30 degrees in the winter. Many people who attempt the four-day trek between the Mexico border and Phoenix do not survive; this year, a human rights group found the remains of 206 people. The main causes of death, the group believes, are heat overexposure or hypothermia, but corpses decompose so quickly in the desert that it is often impossible to tell.

Staton and Ceballos are volunteers for a group called No More Deaths, which offers humanitarian aid to those trying to cross the Mexico-Arizona border. Volunteers hand out water bottles and socks; they provide food and basic medical care. These actions carry risks of their own; in July 2005, two No More Deaths volunteers were charged with multiple felonies for driving three travelers to get medical care. Their case was eventually dismissed.

When it comes to the water bottles, volunteers are precise; they monitor each drop-off point to see if they've left too many or too few and they pick up any debris. "We put the water jugs right on the trail. So you can't miss them. Because a lot of people walk at night," Staton explained in a phone interview with AlterNet.

"We hear stories from people about how they were literally crawling on the ground and thought they were going to die and came across gallon jugs of water and were able to live."

It was ten days before Christmas when Staton and Ceballos were almost finished with their route. "We were dropping off 70 bottles total over five different locations," Staton recalled. The second to last spot that day was the Buenos Aires Wildlife Refuge, ten or so miles from the U.S.-Mexico border. As they were entering the refuge, Staton noticed a border patrol helicopter overhead. "That's really common. We interact with border patrol quite a bit. I didn't think anything of it."

Staton wears dark-rimmed glasses and speaks with hushed restraint, as if handling an oversensitive microphone. He says that as they were leaving the site, a law enforcement agent and border patrol officer pulled them over. Staton, Ceballos, and two University of Arizona students, who were researching a term paper on No More Deaths, received tickets for littering.

Staton faced a 12-person jury in June. "The defendant left full plastic water jugs on the refuge with the intent to aid illegal immigrant traffic," the U.S. Attorney's Office argued, despite the fact that Staton's charges were for littering alone "One need only to look at what is written on the plastic water jugs themselves to determine the true motive in leaving them. On many they state 'Buena suerte,' which means 'Good luck' in Spanish. The obvious conclusion is that the defendant and No More Deaths wish to aid illegal aliens in their entry attempt," the prosecution wrote. (The U.S. Attorney's office declined to comment for this article.)

Ceballos and the students had their charges dismissed, but Staton was found guilty. He was sentenced to 300 hours of community service and was forbidden from entering the refuge for a year. Staton decided to appeal. "I still can't conceive of this as being a crime," Staton says. "I'm not asking the judge to lessen the community service. I'm letting her know that I'm not going to do it at all. Not one hour, not 300 hours. I'd like to see the court stand up for international human rights."

In a letter to Judge Jennifer Guerin, Staton explained his reason for appealing the case and for not complying with his sentence. "My decision to place sealed gallon jugs of water along trails used by migrants to cross remote areas of the Sonoran desert should be understood as an attempt on my part to uphold international human rights law, specifically the right to life," he wrote. He cited three reports -- by the ACLU and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights -- accusing the U.S. of neglecting human rights law with its border policies.

"Humanitarian aid is never a crime" is No More Death's tagline. The phrase is printed on their website, on their posters, and t-shirts. They do not consider their work to be civil disobedience -- that would require intentionally breaking the law -- but implicit to their efforts is the belief that international human rights law supersedes U.S. homeland security concerns, not unlike the legal argument for forbidding waterboarding or shutting down Guantanamo. "We don't think Walt committed any crime by putting out fresh clean jugs of pure water to save human lives on the refuge," Bill Walker, Staton's attorney has said.

AlterNet spoke to Staton on Thursday, the day before his resentencing hearing. He was in a break between classes and said he was feeling "pretty optimistic" about his case. It wasn't clear whether to believe him or whether he just has a strong distaste for drama, particularly when he is at the center of it. At the end of our conversation, I told him I'd get in touch with him following his hearing the next day. "Hopefully," he responded and let out a nervous laugh.

On Friday, the day of his resentencing hearing, No More Deaths volunteers gathered outside the courthouse. They had set up 206 cardboard gravestones along the side of the building -- marking the number of migrant deaths in the desert this year. A woman wearing a headdress and frayed black and white pants stomped to the beat of a tambourine. Staton addressed the crowd. "I'm here to offer an invitation. I'm inviting this court to take an opportunity to reconsider the sentencing against me and their overall stance on how they treat humanitarian workers and migrants."

The hearing lasted 20 minutes; Judge Guerin denied his request to modify or suspend his sentence and threatened Staton with 25 days in federal prison for disobeying court orders. Judge Guerin will hear his appeal on December 21st, when the final sentence will be issued. No More Deaths has started organizing a letter writing campaign to Ken Salazar, the U.S. Secretary of the Interior, and to Arizona District Attorney's office.

A couple of days after the hearing, Staton was back at school in Los Angeles. He was noticeably shaken, and there was a trace of anger in his voice where there hadn't been. "You shouldn't be acting in fear of punishment if you're doing human rights work," he said. "You just shouldn't."


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La ofensiva del gobierno títere de Calderón contra los trabajadores organizados en el Sindicato Mexicano de Electricistas ha puesto sobre la mesa el análisis sobre el carácter terrorista del capital y de sus representantes como es el caso de Calderón, Lozano, Casterns y Compañía.

La etapa de los gobiernos dictatoriales en America Latina parecía superada por la restitución de los regimenes de democracia burguesa tradicional, cuando apoyado por los halcones de los Estados Unidos aparece el fantasma del gorilato en Honduras, se firma un convenio para establecer siete bases militares en Colombia mancillando la soberanía de ese país y se mantiene el criminal bloqueo contra Cuba; todas ellas expresiones de que el imperialismo norteamericano no ha cambiado su política de dominación, saqueo y violencia sobre nuestros pueblos.

En lo relativo a México la presencia del imperialismo se da por la vía del propio gobierno mexicano el que actúa como un simple agente de los intereses imperialistas; porque nuestro país es hoy una nación cuyo gobierno está sometido y absolutamente a su servicio, de la dominación y dependencia económica hemos pasado a una subordinación política del gobierno, lo cual es un proceso que se inició hace casi 30 años con el abandono del nacionalismo revolucionario para abrir paso al neoliberalismo, subordinación que ha ido profundizándose hasta convertirse en lo que hoy es: Una vergonzosa sumisión del Gobierno Mexicano a los Estados Unidos.

Nos parece útil examinar, aun cuando sea a manera de hipótesis, las razones del retroceso de las democracias burguesas y la profundización de la política neocolonial del imperialismo norteamericano sobre América Latina y su impacto en la vida nacional y una de las líneas de investigación sobre este tema tiene que ver con la crisis mundial del sistema capitalista de la cual aún no salimos.

De esta premisa se desprende también el establecimiento de una serie de medidas de endurecimiento del régimen hacia el pueblo y sus fuerzas representativas que conforman todo un proceso de fascistización orientado a construir desde ahora el escenario de la imposición violenta de medidas de política económica que les facilite el camino para profundizar la explotación de la clase trabajadora y seguir aplicando medidas contra nuestra soberanía; a sabiendas que el carácter antiimperialista del pueblo mexicano lo llevará a luchar y resistir la dominación.

De esta forma, la solución a la crisis del capitalismo solo ofrece dos posibilidades: la salida capitalista que no es otra que el fascismo y la salida anticapitalista, democrática y popular.

Las fuerzas democráticas no pueden cometer el error de subestimar estos planes ya en marcha de establecer regimenes de facto en nuestras naciones particularmente en México; este ensayo tiene el propósito de aportar elementos para la reflexión y discusión sobre el tema.


De acuerdo con Nicos Poulantzas el fascismo no es más que una forma particular de régimen de la forma de estado capitalista de excepción; Poulantzas considera que hay otras formas de estado capitalista de excepción, una de ellas es el estado bonapartista el cual implica una situación de equilibrio en la que el Estado asume una supuesta neutralidad y se ubica en una falsa posición por encima de la lucha de clases; otras formas del estado capitalista de excepción son las dictaduras militares como las que se establecieron en América Latina en la posguerra. Es importante precisar que el fascismo se ubica en la fase imperialista del capitalismo.

El fascismo se establece como la solución capitalista a la crisis, sostiene Jorge Dimitrov; dicho de manera textual: “….la solución capitalista de la crisis conduce de manera inevitable a la dictadura militar o fascista con todas las incalculables repercusiones internas para el pueblo y el país, y peligros exteriores para su libertad e independencia y para la paz…” (Dimitrov, 1976:18).


El fascismo es en primer lugar un fenómeno muy vinculado a los procesos económicos, podemos decir incluso que el fascismo es un fenómeno económico; porque aparece en una cierta etapa de maduración del capitalismo monopolista de estado el cual a su vez es un rasgo característico de la etapa imperialista del capitalismo.

Lo que sucede es que el capitalismo ha llegado a su fase superior que es la fase de imperialismo cuando se da la fusión entre el capital bancario y el capital industrial creando los grandes grupos financieros que controlan multiplicidad de empresas de diversas ramas de producción y servicios bajo una sola firma; pero eso no reduce las contradicciones propias del capitalismo sino al contrario, pues al concentrarse aun mas la riqueza estas contradicciones se agudizan.

Con la formación del capital financiero se acumula en su seno un gran poderío económico y político; el capital financiero tiene una fuerza que no conocían el resto de las expresiones del capital como el bancario o el industrial: “…el capital financiero es una fuerza tan poderosa, tan decisiva, podría decirse, en todas las relaciones internacionales que es capaz de someter y somete efectivamente incluso a estados que gozan de una completa independencia política…” (Lenin)

El fascismo surge como una necesidad del capital de resolver, vía intensificación de la explotación de la clase trabajadora sus necesidades de reproducción; de esta forma se acelera el proceso de fascistización en las etapas de crisis generalizada del propio sistema capitalista; porque en estas etapas en las que la tendencia a la baja de la tasa de ganancia ha hecho explotar la crisis, es cuando el capital tiene mayor necesidad de intensificar esa explotación. Para lograrlo debe aplicar violencia extrema contra los trabajadores que se resistan. El fascismo es la plena ofensiva abierta del capital contra los trabajadores y las clases que no se sometan a su dictado. El fascismo es la dictadura del capital financiero. El capital financiero necesita descargar todo el peso de la crisis sobre sus espaldas; para eso necesita del fascismo.


Pero el fascismo no solo es un fenómeno económico, sino también un fenómeno político-ideológico, de odio y venganza contra los trabajadores orientada a pisotear impunemente sus derechos. Es una nueva forma política del imperialismo basada en el terrorismo contra los trabajadores pero también contra todas las fuerzas y clases que no compartan su estrategia.

Si el objetivo del capital financiero es obtener el máximo de ganancia , el fascismo no repara en suprimir todas las libertades obtenidas cuando la burguesía tradicional ocupaba el poder y que le permitan lograr su objetivo a toda costa; es así como el fascismo poco a poco suprime todas esas libertades: suprime la libertad de empresa, ya de por si casi desparecida por la acción de los monopolios, elimina la libertad de prensa, la libertad de creencias, la libertad de tránsito y lo hace implantando un régimen político de terror, de miedo, para lo cual utiliza todos los medios a su alcance.Es por ello que el fascismo no golpea y persigue solo a los líderes revolucionarios y a los sindicalistas; el fascismo considera también sus enemigos a muerte a todos los demócratas, a los pequeños y medianos comerciantes que se resisten a aceptar su dictadura. Establece entonces una nueva forma de organización política basada en el control total de la situación social, económica y política.

Siendo una expresión del fracaso del capitalismo en su etapa imperialista para enfrentar las crisis recurrentes del sistema, el fascismo es resultado también de la descomposición y corrupción al seno del sistema capitalista; por ello utiliza sin miramiento moral alguno la mentira, la diatriba, el golpe bajo y la utilización persistente de la demagogia para engañar y lograr consensos a favor de su política en las grandes masas de la población. El fascismo utiliza el descontento de las grandes masas por su precaria situación como consecuencia de la crisis lanzando consignas seductoras y usando un lenguaje violento . En eso consiste el carácter corrupto y demagogo del fascismo.

La ideología del fascismo se nutre del desprecio a la clase trabajadora manual e intelectual y en las doctrinas que sustentan la existencia de clases superiores; la ideología del fascismo es la tesis de la colaboración de clases y el anticomunismo porque sabe muy bien que el marxismo se sustenta la necesidad de que la clase asuma el poder político para establecer una sociedad sin explotados ni explotadores.

Su ideología aprovecha muy bien las tesis anticomunistas del alto clero político, y establece alianzas estratégicas para legitimarse como doctrina de las clases que se consideran elitistas.


La estrategia del fascismo es liquidar a todos los sindicatos obreristas y revolucionarios; para ello estimula y provoca la división del movimiento obrero independiente; el fascismo es el más feroz enemigo de la unidad sindical; crea sus propios sindicatos afines y consecuentemente blancos; su objetivo es debilitar al movimiento sindical para luego eliminarlo y si es necesario encarcelar a sus lideres o asesinarlos. Para el fascismo es de primera importancia impedir que se conformen alianzas o confederaciones nacionales de los sindicatos independientes.

En consecuencia el peligro para el proletariado y para el movimiento sindical independiente es permanente una vez que se han dado las condiciones económicas, esto es , que el capital financiero ha tomado el control de la economía de una nación; porque para el fascismo la dominación y subordinación de los sindicatos es una necesidad de vida o muerte; sin sindicatos corporativizados, que se plieguen a sus dictados el capital financiero no podría garantizar la obtención de la máxima tasa de ganancia.

Por ello el tema del fascismo debe ser un tema de primera importancia para el análisis de los sindicatos revolucionarios; discutir sus características particulares, sus estrategias y definir en base a ello las mejores formas de enfrentarlo con éxito.

Hell is the Tijuana Assembly Line

Inside the Maquiladoras



"Crisis? What crisis? You’re sure there’s a new crisis? Here in Tijuana we’re always in crisis”, says Jaime Cotta with a smile. In spite of all the misery that trudges through his office, Cotta manages to retain his sense of humor. Without a doubt, he’s the person who best knows what conditions are really like in the maquiladoras, the assembly-line factories built in Mexico since the 1960s along the 3,000km frontier with the United States.

They came to Mexico because of cheap labor, almost non-existent taxes and very lax authorities, all alongside the world’s leading economy. Successive governors of the state of Baja California have been able to repeat over the years that, thanks to the maquiladoras, they enjoy full employment.

Cotta started out as a worker, then became a researcher. Now he’s a lawyer. His Information Centre for Working Women and Men (Cittac) is the only organization to support those thrown out of the factories over the past 20 years. Sacked workers, people who’ve had work accidents, temporary workers without rights or contracts, all bring stories of flagrant abuse. He advises them and sometimes suggests taking legal action. So it’s here that you come to take the social temperature of this frontier town with 1.5 million inhabitants.

Today, three workers are waiting to see him. One was suspended for two days because of one badly made component out of the 700 she produced in her 10-hour shift. “They want to sack me. They’re always watching me and they make up anything that suits them”, she says with lowered eyes. The piece of paper she hands Cotta claims that she “intentionally brought harm to the business”. She adds that in this maquiladora “technical shutdowns” happen each week. That means one day without pay, further reducing an already pathetic wage (755 pesos a week, barely $58).

“Technical shutdowns” are one of the latest brainwaves of the factory bosses. Felipe Calderón, the Mexican president, has promoted them to prevent massive redundancies. The federal government pays one third of salaries, the maquiladora another third, and the employee loses the final third through days not worked. In return, factories undertake only to sack the number of employees proportional to – not higher than – the fall in production or in sales. But as Magnolia Pineda, president of the Tijuana Association of Maquiladora Industry (3), explained, “few businesses have agreed to accept this program because it’s impossible for them not to have the right to sack workers. It’s an unacceptable restriction”. So they carry out “technical shutdowns” but without paying the wage, quite illegally. In any case, she added, “employees fully understand the situation. There has never been a strike”.

‘Don’t talk to me’

True, workers’ action has not been an issue at these subcontracting factories, which re-export their products to the US as soon as they are assembled. The most complete study of the sector established that 82 per cent of Tijuana factories do not allow trades unions. The remaining 18 per cent are blessed with organizations that the workers call “ghost unions”, not the phrase that Pineda would use. She thought hard and said that in 50 years of maquiladoras there hadn’t been unrest. However, it’s not the workers’ “understanding” but their fear of reprisals that keeps the peace in this border city. You only have to visit the industrial estates early in the morning to see why.

For several months now, lines of unemployed people have formed in the hope of finding a day’s work. At 5am, though there’s no sign of factory recruiters, people are too terrified to speak. “Don’t talk to me, don’t come near me”, one murmured. “I can’t say anything to you, I’m not allowed to.”

Another told me: “You shouldn’t be here, it’s forbidden. Yes, we’re in the street here, but we’re in front of the factory so this street’s also ‘theirs’.” By 7am nobody had been hired. The hopefuls, warming themselves over bad coffee 500m from the factory, were still afraid to talk: “They have cameras and you have a pen. It’s too dangerous.” Just one woman agreed to tell me how she’d been looking for work for several months and “there is nothing”. She wouldn’t give me her name, her age or her place of birth.

“I’ve tried every means possible for several years but they’ve never let me into their factories, even though they invite us all the time to press conferences in city-centre hotels”, explained a local business journalist. (The only film showing the inside of Tijuana factories was shot by female workers there for the documentary Maquilapolis (Vicky Funari and Sergio De La Torre, 2006). Despite the risks involved, they successfully captured several scenes with small hidden cameras. The documentary (68 minutes, in Spanish with English subtitles) can be bought at California newsreal.

The maquiladoras have always had their ways of gagging information. So one needs to go back to Cittac’s premises to learn a bit more about this secret world. Here, those who one day decided to push open the door and discover their rights are no longer afraid to speak.

Shattering work-pace

It has been the same story for years: working in the maquiladoras is hell. But the crisis has brought a new vicious circle, with shop-floor conditions getting even worse. Rogelio is in his 40s. He started work at 21 and has been employed by several companies. His experiences are inexhaustible: “I’m from Michoacan. When I first arrived, I worked for Takubi, a Japanese company, assembling speaker boxes; then at Tabushi, another Japanese company, making cables for Canon; and then at an American company, Sohnen, the worst of all, where we repaired electrical equipment.” At Sohnen, Rogelio took courses to train as a technician – two hours each evening after 10 hours’ work. He was promoted, and his weekly wage became almost respectable (1,700 pesos, $130). But the work-pace was shattering. “We were given 20 minutes to repair an item. If you didn’t finish you had to complete it that evening, without extra pay.”

According to his foreman, Rogelio wasn’t quick enough. Actually, he had started to organize a union with fellow workers. They met several times in a park and handed out leaflets at the factory gate. The supervisors asked other workers whether or not Rogelio had started it. Labelled as the chief troublemaker, he was fired. He refused to accept the derisory compensation check he was offered after several years with the business. After a legal battle that Cittac fought for him, he managed to get better compensation but went straight on the blacklist. Several workers, backed by Cittac, insist that the lists have always existed (which the employers’ organisation denies); the Mexican Social Security Institute is suspected of informing maquiladoras about actions taken by some workers.

Sharp employed him for a few weeks before realizing who he was and firing him on the spot. Work in electronics anywhere in Baja California was closed to him, so in 2007, he found a job at Unisolar Ovonic, an American maquiladora that assembles solar panels. “Work is not easy there. There are 16 ovens and no air extractors: the heat is stifling. The cutting zone is the most dangerous place. All day long you inhale glass fibre dust, which also sticks to the skin. By the end of the day, your whole body is covered.” Workers’ complaints changed nothing. “They simply repeated to us that we were lucky to have a job at this time of crisis.”

Threats of being fired became more serious as the year went on. Together with Manuel, a Honduran immigrant, Rogelio did some research on the company to put together a leaflet, which they distributed to workers. They found out that Unisolar Ovonic’s new chairman, Mark Morelli, had recently congratulated himself for the group’s good results in 2008 (“profits were up by 16 per cent”, said Manuel) before announcing sunny prospects for solar panels – thanks to “green awareness”. “Their order book was full until 2012, if you believe the chairman, so why threaten us constantly with the sack?” Rogelio fumed. “Of course, the crisis exists,” Cotta added, “but it’s also a pretext to keep employees quiet and forget about any wage increase.”

‘Southern end of silicon valley’

From the point of view of employers’ organizations, this type of claim would in any case be judged out of place “in these difficult times for us all”. But that’s not the most important issue. According to Claudio Arriola, president of the Tijuana chamber of the National Electronics Association (Canieti), although there still are difficult months ahead, the economy is set to take off again. President Calderón had made the same remarks the day before, claiming that “the signs of growth are multiplying”. At this moment in time, Arriola echoed, “we must move forward. The electronics business as we know it is finished here, but we hold all the trumps, particularly in our closeness to the US”.

If their optimism is not reflected in the international press, that’s a major confession. Electronics, still the principal employer in the city, is hardly the flavor of the month. Ten years ago, the same bosses talked of Tijuana as “the southern end of California’s Silicon Valley”; it was “the world capital of TV manufacturing”, a city of “full-employment”. Maquiladora developers eulogized over a model that attracted millions of dollars in inward investment, to the point where seven in 10 TV sets sold in the US were assembled in Tijuana.

From 1994, the year the North American Free Trade Agreement was signed, until 2001, there was enormous expansion. The workers’ small, agile hands were particularly suited to the sector and the authorities didn’t bother about the presence of polluting materials like lead.

On California’s doorstep, the maquiladoras recruited migrant labour to satisfy a seemingly unquenchable thirst for electronic gadgets. “From 1994 to 2000 we had full employment in Tijuana, with unemployment levels scarcely reaching 1 per cent,” said Cuauhtémoc Calderón, economics researcher at Tijuana’s North Border College. “All along the frontier, the maquiladora became a sort of immigration barrier. But this enterprise model was completely separated from the rest of the economy. It had no positive effect on the other sectors. Products were imported, assembled, then exported. So the maquiladoras could not absorb the huge number of migrants who arrived. Brutal deregulation of our economy brought the displacement of 500,000 Mexicans a year, something a country usually only suffers in wartime.”

With the millennium came the model’s first failures. The US recession of 2001 caused 200,000 job losses in the maquiladoras along the frontier. In 2002, the electronics sector shed 31 per cent of its labour force – 27 per cent of it in Tijuana alone. As Leticia Hernandez, a specialist in investment issues, explained: “We are totally dependent here on the US. Even in 2008, 78 per cent of the inward investment in the frontier zone was American. It’s not surprising that the crisis on their side of the frontier has created huge unemployment here.”

This autumn, the official unemployment level in Tijuana stood at 7 per cent, higher than the national level of 5 per cent. And as in the rest of the country, the informal economy still involves half of the active population. It’s a bitter dream. “There has been no technology transfer and in four decades the number of posts for engineers or technicians has been very disappointing”, said the sociologist Cirila Quintero, a maquiladora specialist at Matamoros North Border College. In Tijuana, 13 per cent of companies have no staff engineers while 65 per cent employ 10 or less. Similarly, 73 per cent of the electronics maquiladoras have no R&D facility. Half of the companies assemble just one product; only 13 per cent of them assemble three products. “By itself,” said Quintero, “the maquiladora does not encourage development, only unbalanced growth and therefore precarious, poorly paid employment.”

The export-led economy, entirely dependent on the big neighbor to the north, was already slowing down before the crisis. China’s 2001 entry into the World Trade Organization effectively changed the game. “For 10 years now we’ve been watching bigger and bigger abuses, more and more sackings without compensation,” said Cotta. “The factories are loath to pay whatever they have to, including protection against dangerous materials. But, since there’s no other work, people say nothing.”

One maquiladora, Power-Sonic, which makes batteries for electronic equipment, is a particular cause for concern. “Before, nobody would sign up there because you have to work with lead the whole day,” said Rogelio. “Now, a queue of people line up outside the factory each morning.” Netzahualcoyotl, 36, with two children and mortgage payments to keep up, said he had “little choice” when he lost his job at Sohnen. He would like to believe his protective clothing is effective. “Our bosses tell us that those who don’t use it will fall ill.” He himself is still all right – according to the criteria used by the business, which conducts tests on workers every month. “They don’t give us the results, but if levels of lead in our blood get too high they move us somewhere else. That’s how we know when we’re ill.”

As the essential element in all electronic products, lead is everywhere: in peoples’ fears, in discussions, in the rivers. For the past 10 years, the district of Chilpancingo, which lies below the industrial estates, has fought against lead waste dumped into the wild. Thanks to help from the San Diego NGO Environmental Health Coalition, 3,000 tonnes of polluted earth were sent to the US in 2008 to be cleaned, while 8,000 tonnes have been encased in concrete. The two countries’ governments paid for that, not the companies.

“They all congratulated themselves in the press”, said Yesina Palomares, long-time Chilpancingo residents’ leader. “But over the years we have wept unnoticed when children were born without a brain and died straight away. Unfortunately, nothing has changed. There is still no proper inspection of the waste dumped by companies, or of employee health.” Carmen, who worked for Panasonic, told me her own experience: “I put lead seals on electronics sheets and I knew that I breathed the smoke at each operation.” After six months, stains appeared on her face, she felt constantly tired and had kidney pains. “Panasonic’s doctor assured me it was nothing, but then a community doctor examined me and said ‘if you don’t stop now you’ll develop leukaemia’.”

Carmen took that advice because, at the time, you could easily change maquiladora. Today, she said, it’s different. “We are less careful.” In her district, the numbers of unemployed have grown since the Sony factory closed. Some neighbors even went back to their home states. “I came from Chiapas at 13. I’ve never seen so many people head south again in 30 years.” Before, migrants would work a few years in border towns to save enough to pay a trafficker, then would try their luck in the US. Now that’s too dangerous, with the uncertainties north of the border. “In the US, Mexican migrants normally work in the construction industry. But there’s not much possibility there just now,” they told me at the migrant hostel in Tijuana, run by Catholic priests, which for the first time was quite empty.
Would-be migrants are well aware of the situation. Just a few meters south of the border they knock on doors to offer their services as plumbers, gardeners or electricians. “The maquiladoras are not hiring, contrary to what we were told,” one of them said. Some migrants give up, others persevere, all are struggling with the crisis long before they reach American soil. They tighten their belts so as not to spend the money they need to give the trafficker.

Worst of all for the over-50s

In Tijuana, the over-50s suffer most. As ever, the maquiladoras hire the young. Most job ads state “under 35”. When they get to the fateful 50th birthday, people begin fighting to hold onto their jobs. “People reaching 50 have a real struggle,” said Netzahualcoyotl; “they work like mad so that they can’t be told ‘you’re not keeping up’. They are the most productive people in the company but they are too costly. They slave away in vain; it doesn’t change anything, they’re fired.”

Which is what happened to Delfina, barely 53. “I remember that at the end I was doing the work of three people. I had headaches, my nose bled, but the supervisor behind me told me to speed up. They decided to make us work standing up because we were less efficient sitting down. You were not allowed to speak, go to the toilet or even chew gum.”

Delfina was fired without any stated reason in November 2008. They didn’t even give her her weekly wage, or any compensation for losing her job. She complained and is now waiting for the conciliation council, a sort of industrial tribunal, to pronounce on her case. She survives on 200 pesos ($13) a week sent by one of her daughters who runs a grocery store. Three people have to live on that money. “We only have two meals a day,” she said, clearly embarrassed, when I asked how she manages on so little. After 25 years working in the maquiladoras, Delfina has no pension and no savings, after bringing up seven children as a single mother. Like many in her position, she worked nights over the years.

At Mattel, the toy maker, you had to fight for your rights. “When Mattel bought the business where I worked, they wanted to fire me without compensation. I refused, so they locked me up.” She spent a whole night confined to an office with a guard. She was told she had to accept a check for 2,000 pesos ($150) before she’d be allowed to leave early the next morning. “You understand, my children were waiting for me.” Helped by Cittac, she went on radio and television to denounce this practice. Mattel didn’t want to know about it. And the courts ruled that it wasn’t kidnapping because nobody had demanded a ransom.

Delfina realises she will never again be offered employment at a maquiladora. “It’s impossible at my age, and now they’re not even taking young people,” she said, pushing forward her son-in-law, 20 and unemployed. “Plenty of people are selling bits and pieces, but we’re all poor here so we don’t buy much.” The area where she lives is similar to a lot of Tijuana, illegally built, but then allowed to stand. However, the authorities never built any roads; and residents had to make their own arrangements for water and electricity. When her son’s house burnt down, the firemen didn’t come. “It’s just not right,” she said, angry, “but where can we complain?” Her son’s family lost everything. “The maquiladora where he’s employed gave him nothing. It was left to his workmates to help out. The only thing here that still works is solidarity.”

Translated by Robert Waterhouse.

Anna Vigna is a journalist.

This article appears in the December edition of the excellent monthly Le Monde Diplomatique, whose English language edition can be found at This full text appears by agreement with Le Monde Diplomatique. CounterPunch features one or two articles from LMD every month.