US Agents Will Carry Guns in Mexico in New Joint Border Inspections

Top Story — The United States and Mexico inaugurated a joint inspection program on Tuesday that, for the first time in history, will allow armed U.S. customs officials to work on Mexican soil.

The program, which aims to reduce congestion at the border, was made possible after Mexican legislators in April overturned a long-standing ban on foreign officials being armed while working in the country. That bill was supported by President Enrique Peña Nieto, despite his insistence during his campaign he would not allow it.

The move is the latest sign of increased cooperation between two countries with historically tense security relations. It follows Mexico’s announcement on Sunday that it plans to extradite recaptured drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán to the United States, reversing past resistance to U.S. calls for Guzmán’s extradition.

The program will see Mexican and U.S. officials working together in Tijuana and San Diego, aiming to prevent the inspection of cargo shipments on both sides of the border.

Inspections in Mexico will be initially restricted to agricultural products, but U.S. authorities plan to expand the program to include inspections in San Jerónimo, in the Mexican state of Chihuahua, for trucks carrying computers.

One expert speaking to The Associated Press referred to the program as “joint border management in its early stages.” It follows the opening in December of a pedestrian bridge connecting Tijuana and San Diego, which also aims to expedite border-crossing times.

Mexican public opinion has long been strictly opposed to the presence of openly armed U.S. agents on its soil. In 2014, the Wall Street Journal reported that U.S. agents regularly participated in armed raids against suspected drug traffickers in Mexico, concealing their identities by wearing Mexican military and police uniforms.

Just Published in Latin America News Dispatch

The police killing of 16-year-old Roberto de Souza Penha and his four friends in Rio de Janeiro sparked large protests against police violence and racism. Jessica Diaz-Hurtado reports on the deaths of the five black boys and the anti-racist protest movement that has sprung up in the aftermath.

Headlines from the Western Hemisphere

North America

The family of recaptured Sinaloa Cartel drug kingpin Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán unsuccessfully attempted to trademark his name with the Mexican government with the purposes of branding a wide range of consumer goods in 2011.

Meanwhile, in an attempt to prevent a third escape, the Mexican government has announced that they have increased the security for Guzmán’s” prison cell, by reinforcing the floor and posting a guard permanently outside of his cell as well as stationing a team of armed vehicles and tanks outside the prison gates.

Finally, a White House national security advisor said that actor Sean Penn was not working for the U.S. government when he interviewed Guzmán.

An appeals court ruling in Mexico may jeopardize the case against 22 police officers who are accused of killing four people the night 43 students disappeared in Guerrero state, in turn threatening efforts to prosecute suspects in the country’s most devastating crime in recent years.

Caribbean

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio proposed a bill Tuesday that would eliminate automatic federal benefits for Cuban immigrants, a unique privilege they currently enjoy under a decades-old policy, and instead require Cubans to prove they were persecuted in order to qualify for public assistance.

Puerto Rico’s creditors are already discussing amongst themselves options for a restructuring of the U.S. territory’s debt, which Reuters suggests is a possible signal they will resist a so-called “superbond,” a type of alternative payment.

Central America

The Peace Corps announced that it is temporarily suspending its program in El Salvador because it believes the country is too dangerous for volunteers, a position the Huffington Post argues is at odds with the U.S. government’s continued deportation of migrants to the country.

The first 180 of 8,000 stranded Cuban migrants flew on Tuesday night from Costa Rica to Mexico, an effort to skirt Nicaragua’s refusal to let the migrants pass through its territory en route to the United States.

Officials in Guatemala have arrested the head of the national soccer confederation in relation with an international investigation into corruption at the global football body FIFA.

Andes

Venezuelan First Lady and legislator Cilia Flores has broken her silence regarding the arrests of two of her nephews by U.S. Drug Enforcement officials in Haiti, calling the arrests a kidnapping and a violation of sovereignty.

The opposition-led Venezuelan National Assembly failed to reach a quorum following the ruling by the Supreme Court that all actions taken by the body would be invalid, a sign pro-government legislators say indicates fracture within the opposition bloc.

Southern Cone

Brazilian scientists report that the mosquito-borne Zika virus, believed to be the source of thousands of new cases of infant brain damage in the country, has worsened as the summer season reaches its zenith.

Brazil-based mining company Vale, the world’s largest iron ore producer, announced that it will take out $3 billion in credit to pay its debts this quarter, which analysts are taking as a sign of grave trouble at the firm.Brazilian legislators are considering a bill which would force Internet users to provide a range of personal information when accessing websites, effectively rolling back many of the provisions of a landmark digital freedom bill passed in 2014.

Argentine President Mauricio Macri has announced that representatives of his government will on Wednesday begin negotiations to resolve a long-standing dispute with foreign creditors, an effort to allow the country to access international financial markets for the first time since its 2001 default.

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Mexico Will Seek to Extradite ‘El Chapo’ After Drug Lord’s Recapture

Top Story – The office of Mexico’s attorney general announced on Sunday that it has launched extradition proceedings against recaptured drug kingpin Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, but the Sinaloa Cartel leader is sure to battle his transfer to the United States, where he is far less likely to escape from prison for a third time.

Agents from Interpol formally notified Guzmán on Sunday of two U.S. arrest warrants against him. Officials warned that the extradition process could take months, the New York Times reported. Guzmán’s defense team has already filed six motions challenging the request, according to his attorney Juan Pablo Badillo.

Guzmán was recaptured on Friday during a raid in his home state of Sinaloa, six months after his escape from a maximum-security prison —his second in 14 years— dealt a blow to the administration of Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto.

Mexico resisted several calls for extradition made by the United States prior to Guzmán’s prison escape in July. One year ago, in January 2015, then-Attorney General Jesús Murillo Karam openly mocked the possibility of Guzmán serving time in a U.S. prison.

“El Chapo must stay here to complete his sentence, and then I will extradite him,” Murillo said. “So about 300 or 400 years later — it will be a while.”

However, Mexican authorities have softened their attitudes toward extradition in recent months, in part due to criticism faced over Guzmán’s escape. In September, Mexico extradited 13 people to the United States, a move described by The Associated Press as a new bilateral effort to fight organized crime.

Guzmán’s attempt to spearhead the production of a movie about his life offered a substantial lead as to his whereabouts, the attorney general said during a Friday press conference. On Saturday, Rolling Stone published a lengthy article by Hollywood actor Sean Penn about a secret meeting with Guzmán in October brokered by Mexican actress Kate del Castillo. Penn’s article has come under criticism for its florid prose and for Rolling Stone’s decision to give Guzmán editorial control over the published piece.

Headlines from the Western Hemisphere

North America

20 people died when a bus carrying 45 members of a soccer team fell off of a bridge and fell into a deep gorge near Córdoba, Mexico on Sunday.

Mexico’s peso weakened to a record low of 18.01 to the dollar on Sunday, having dropped nearly 17 percent in 2015, amid economic uncertainty worsened by a decline in oil prices.

Protesters heckled Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio over his immigration platform during his speech at a forum on poverty, with many shouting that the Florida Senator fails to represent the Hispanic community.

Caribbean

U.S. President Barack Obama’s decision to remove U.S. limits on money transfers to Cuba has helped fuel the island’s economy and provided needed capital investment for Cuba’s emerging entrepreneurs as person-to-person remittances support private businesses.

Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe’s trade mission to Cuba last week was largely a diplomatic success, according to The Washington Post, except for McAuliffe’s decision to metaphorically describe Virginia Commonwealth University’s move to create exchange programs with the University of Havana as “[putting] our flag down here in Cuba,” phrasing that smacks of imperialism in an island where concerns over sovereignty predominate.

Central America

Former El Salvador defense minister José Guillermo García-Merino was deported from the United States for his role in human rights abuses, including numerous acts of torture and extrajudicial killings, during El Salvador’s civil war between 1979 and 1983.

Six drug traffickers in Guatemala convicted of killing a busload of foreigners and setting them on fire in 2008 were sentenced to prison terms of up to 828 years after a trial on Friday.

In Panama, authorities are arguing the consortium responsible for the main canal expansion project defrauded the government by demanding some $3.5 billion in recuperation for alleged cost overruns.

Andes

Colombia’s ELN rebels have called on the government to turn over the remains of Camilo Torres, the Roman Catholic priest who became a martyr for the rebels when he took up arms with the ELN and was killed in his first battle with government forces in 1965.

Bolivia and Peru signed an agreement Friday that pledges $500 million to clean up Lake Titicaca, which sits on the two countries’ border and has been polluted by the urban and agricultural development occurring along its coasts.

Southern Cone

A protest in São Paulo, Brazil, against the rising costs of public transportation turned violent on Friday when protesters clashed with police. Inflation has hit its highest levels in 13 years as Brazil faces the worst recession the country has seen in more than 25 years.

Meanwhile, the AP reports that embattled Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff — facing a corruption scandal, the tanking economy, impeachment proceedings in Congress and rock-bottom approval ratings — has spent this month focused on devising a plan to help the country recover from its economic crisis, which has been largely fueled by plummeting commodity prices.

In Argentina, a police manhunt broadcast on live television has gripped the nation and caused embarrassment to authorities, who have only captured one of the three fugitive escapees from a maximum-security prison.

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Three Suspects Detained in Killing of Mexican Mayor

Top Story — Three suspects have been apprehended following the Saturday assassination of a newly inaugurated mayor in the Mexican city of Temixco, which has been plagued in recent years by drug and extortion gangs, The Associated Press reports.

Gisela Mota, 33, was shot dead at her home on Jan. 1, just hours after taking the oath of office. She is one of several Mexican mayors to have been killed during the past year. Police reported that Mota was gunned down by four assailants, although two suspects were reportedly shot dead on the scene and three others were taken into custody.

Blaming organized crime for Mota’s murder, Morelos State Gov. Graco Ramírez took over police services in 15 cities, vowing that “the government will not be intimidated by organized crime.” Mota, a former federal congresswoman, had vowed to fight organized crime in Temixco and had supported the state government’s efforts to place local police forces under the control of state authorities.

The Mexico City daily newspaper Reforma has reported that one of the suspects confessed to having been paid 500,000 pesos (close to $29,000) to kill Mota, while the newspaper El Universal is reporting that the assassination was the work of Los Rojos drug gang, which is fighting for territory with other drug gangs in nearby Guerrero state.

In an official statement, the Morelos state government called Mota “an honest and committed public servant,” and said that it “will not compromise or give a single step back in building a secure entity, in peace and harmony.”

Headlines from the Western Hemisphere

North America

U.S. immigration authorities have launched a “surge” of deportation raids targeting mainly Central American immigrants who entered the country in the past two years, according to human rights advocates as well as the governments of El Salvador and Guatemala.

Caribbean

After a runoff presidential election in Haiti was postponed last month amid widespread protests of corruption, the country’s electoral commission said Sunday that the runoff can proceed in as little as two weeks, despite having found that the first round election on Oct. 25 was “stained by irregularities.”

U.S. President Barack Obama is weighing a visit to Cuba this year if the country makes sufficient progress in liberalizing its approach to both dissidents and the private sector, an advisor said Saturday.

Central America

The United States has requested the extradition of former Honduran Vice President Jaime Rosenthal, who along with several of his family members faces charges of running a large money-laundering scheme for Central American drug gangs.

El Salvador saw at least 29 people killed on the first day of 2016, following a year in which the homicide rate reached levels unseen since the country’s civil war.

Andes

Venezuela’s opposition on Sunday elected the firebrand Henry Ramos Allup as the president of the National Assembly, which, when it convenes on Tuesday, will be the first Venezuelan government body headed by the opposition in more than a decade.

In defiance of a supply agreement between Colombia and Venezuela, the Venezuelan government has announced a temporary halt of natural gas exports to Colombia, citing energy generation issues as the reason for the delay.

The Bolivian government asserted that its oil industry recorded positive figures for 2015, despite a plunge in global oil prices.

The New York Times reports on archeologists’ newest discoveries in Peru that will help them decipher the Incan khipus, which are records formed from knotted pieces of strings.

Southern Cone

Uruguay’s congressional lower house has voted to relieve the state oil company ANCAP of its $622 million debt and set aside $250 million for an aid package.

On Saturday, a Mini Cooper participating in a race at the Dakar Rally in Argentina veered into a crowd and injured several spectators.

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Returning to a Changed Mexico

Returning to a place you love can be a joy. But if that place has changed for the worse, the opposite can happen. Canadian reporter Conrad Fox tells us about a visit to his former hometown of Xalapa, Mexico. Fox was hoping to visit old friends and relive some of his fondest memories in the city where his kids were born. Instead, he found militant police forces, unexplained disappearances, violence and everywhere a sense of fear.

Family Skypes for Homework Sessions Across Borders

Eight-year-old Kevin Alex Gallegos used to do homework with his dad in their Omaha home every night before his dad was deported, and although they are now 2,000 miles away, father and son found a way to do homework together via Skype.

“It’s really hard because you’re so close from the laptop or the phone but yet again so far away,” said Manny Alvarado.

Alex’s mother, Zulema, takes pictures of her son’s textbooks and sends them to her husband Manny via WhatsApp, a free mobile phone app for instant messaging.

“We read books together so whenever I do a mistake, he can look at the book and he can help me fix that problem,” Alex said. “I like doing homework with my dad a lot.”

Manny had been going to a cybercafé in a small Oaxacan town in the south of Mexico, paying 10 pesos per hour to talk to his family. He has recently spent his savings on a tablet so it’s easier for him to connect with his son every weeknight. Although Manny is using technology to stay connected, “it’s just not the same.”

WhatsApp and Murder in Mexico

In Mexico, the Internet and mobile technology are giving activists new ways to share information. Tech can help activists expose corruption, organize protests and become citizen reporters. Websites like Méxicoleaks make it possible to whistleblow and share anonymously. The instant messaging service WhatsApp helps people connect. But in Mexico, even texting can be life-threatening. Community organizer Miguel Ángel Jiménez Blanco used WhatsApp to keep journalists and activists around the world informed about government corruption abuse in his home state of Guerrero. Kara Andrade’s reporting in Mexico was supported by the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting.  To learn more about her project, click here.

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The following photo gallery from earlier this year features Miguel Ángel Jiménez Blanco. All photos are by Kara Andrade.

Miguel Ángel Jiménez Blanco speaks to voters in San Marcos, Guerrero in June
Miguel Ángel Jiménez Blanco speaks to voters in San Marcos, Guerrero in June
A voter near San Marcos, Guerrero tells Miguel Ángel Jiménez Blanco of alleged vote-buying and coercion by political parties in June.
A voter near San Marcos, Guerrero tells Miguel Ángel Jiménez Blanco of alleged vote-buying and coercion by political parties in June.
Miguel Ángel Jiménez Blanco convinces voters in the San Marcos, Guerrero area to give their video testimony of vote buying (June 2015).
Miguel Ángel Jiménez Blanco convinces voters in the San Marcos, Guerrero area to give their video testimony of vote buying (June 2015).
Miguel Ángel Jiménez Blanco and co-workers exchange video testimonies of vote buying in the San Marcos, Guerrero (June 2015).
Miguel Ángel Jiménez Blanco and co-workers exchange video testimonies of vote buying in the San Marcos, Guerrero (June 2015).
One of the local community self-protection groups organized by Unión de Pueblos y Organizaciones del Estado de Guerrero or the Union of People and Organizations of Guerrero.
One of the local community self-protection groups organized by Unión de Pueblos y Organizaciones del Estado de Guerrero or the Union of People and Organizations of Guerrero.

Terrorized by Violence: Mexico’s Refugees

In the United States, there’s a widespread notion that Mexicans fleeing cartel violence head north. In reality, most of these people move somewhere else in Mexico, becoming internal refugees in their own country. But the Mexican government has yet to acknowledge the scope of the problem. Reporter Lynda Lopez traveled to Mexico with the team at Refugees International and examines something unimaginable in the U.S., but very common there.

Photo of Paola and her family

Las Luchadoras

Lucha Libre, Mexico’s national past-time of performance wrestling, is a macho sport where contestants wear super hero costumes and try to crush each other in the ring. They’re mostly thought of as men, but that’s starting to change. As Jasmine Garsd reports, women luchadoras are earning their place alongside men in this strange and complex Mexican tradition.

 

contributors1

Jasmine Garsd was born in Argentina and hosts NPR’s Alt.Latino podcast. As a journalist she’s worked on the NPR programs Morning Edition, Talk of the Nation and Tell Me More. She has covered a wide variety of topics for radio including immigration issues.

 

 

 

 

 

Photo by Flickr user Lee South

Spitting in Spanglish

From the Mecca of Mexican hip-hop, 27-year-old rapper Carla Reyna, aka Niña Dioz, talks about hip-hop, race, and her new album, “Indestructible.”
Photo Courtesy of Niña Dioz Facebook.

Screen Shot 2013-05-31 at 1.34.13 PMCarla Reyna, better known by her MC name Niña Dioz, emerged from the underground hip-hop scene in Monterrey, Mexico. After years of making a name for herself in Mexico and internationally on the hip-hop festival circuit, she has finally released her first full-length album, “Indestructible,” a collection of Spanglish rhymes and high-energy beats.

FOR BULLETS, IT’S OPEN BORDERS

Why are U.S Border Patrol agents shooting into Mexico and killing innocent civilians? Latino USA host María Hinojosa speaks with John Carlos Frey, author of investigative report, “Over the Line,” that looks into the increase in fatal shootings of Mexican nationals, by border patrol agents.

[audio:http://latinousa.org/audio/1319seg02.mp3]
Click here to download this week’s show. Image courtesy of John Carlos Frey.

john-carlos-frey-cropped_150John Carlos Frey is a freelance investigative reporter and documentary filmmaker based in Los Angeles. His investigative work has been featured on the 60 Minutes episode, “The All American Canal;” a three-part series for PBS entitled “Crossing the Line;” and several episodes of Dan Rather Reports, “Angel of the Desert,” and “Operation Streamline.” In 2011 Frey documented the journey of Mexican migrants across the US-Mexico border and walked for days in the Arizona desert risking his own life for the documentary Life and Death on the Border”. John Carlos Frey has also written articles for the Los Angeles Times, the Huffington Post, Salon, Need to Know online, the Washington Monthly, and El Diario (in Spanish). Frey’s documentary films include The Invisible Mexicans of Deer Canyon (2007), The Invisible Chapel (2008), and The 800 Mile Wall (2009). He is the 2012 recipient of the Scripps Howard Award and the Sigma Delta Chi award for his Investigative Fund/PBS reporting on the excessive use of force by the US Border Patrol.