Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Recommended Readings:

La Frontera, o,  La Muralla Trompista

The US-Mexico border seems quiet, but there is a lot going on silently in peoples' understandings of the levers of power on both sides of La Muralla Trompista.  As this shakes out it will have a significant impact on the national reality of both countries.  Fronterizos are not as shocked by the events of the past year as Chilangos.  Most Juarenses read Trump's sly winking humor-to-the-base better than we do, and, while they, like us, don't know what will happen next, they know by instinct what counts as serious policy and what does not.  After years of reading about Hugo Chavez and now Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela (amply covered in a refreshingly unindoctrinated national news media), they can tell the difference between a clown and a fool.  Since U.S.-Mexican relations appear to be in for a wild ride, and the stakes are high for people on both sides, this would be a good time for Mexico to elect someone President next year from a border state, but that does not appear likely.  At some point that has not yet been reached citizens from the border on both sides will begin to push back.  My guess?  It will happen first on the Mexican side.

Tijuana:  CJNG "El Tribi" cell leader detained;  Borderland Beat

A new report is out that about one third of the US population is or has been addicted to opiates.  The drug lords responsible for this serious threat to our nation's health are not Mexican outlaws, but pharmaceutical  companies with global reach that produce far more than meets the legitimate medical demand, and the doctors who prescribe them.  I have seen nothing to suggest we will soon see CEOs and medical practitioners hobbling off into chains into a federal prison.  Meanwhile there is still a crippling and costly war going on in Mexico, with the professed aim of impeding the flow of drugs into the US.

National Blogs:

Secrecy and Suspicion Surround Trump's Deregulation Teams:  ProPublica
There is No Political Center in Modern America:  Naked Capitalism
The Democrat's "Better Deal:"  Angry Bear

Nuevo Méjico:

With a gubernatorial election just a year away, after nearly two decades of poor governance from the fourth floor and an economy sinking slowly into the quicksand, you would think there would be a healthy, honest, and heated debate about what kind of governor and government and governance New Mexico needs to climb out of the hole:  is it quicksand, or just a muddy rut?  Is the hole big, little, fat, or skinny?  Where are the concrete proposals to fix it?  So far the bloggers have been, as usual, simply handicapping the strengths and weaknesses of high-profile politicians, as though the reason we have elections is to be able to gossip about the candidates and catch them making a mistake, rather than about what they are doing or might do, with our money.  The only one who seems to be collecting odd bits of stuff about this is Harold Morgan

Policy Perspectives from Senior Democrats Diverge:  Harold Morgan Capitol Reports

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Mesilla Valley Flood (Un)Control:  The View from Vado, Hatch and La Union
Mary Carter,  La Politica New Mexico contributor

Sentenario Street, La Union
From 1996 to 2016 Dona Ana County had 54 floods, 16 in 2006 alone.  Global warming trends suggest more are on the way.  Recent floods created messes throughout the county, due to long-existing failures at all levels of government to provide either a drainage infrastructure for low-income communities lying in vulnerable areas, or to assist residents when floods cause severe damage.  In Hatch alone, for the umpteenth time, families, in this case 30 of them, were evacuated from their homes during the flooding.

Last week at a meeting in Vado (heavily affected by recent flooding) attended by about 20 persons, residents and community leaders expressed pent-up frustration about the lack of planning.  Listening to these were interim county manager Chuck McMahon, flood engineer John Gwynne, and other officials.  Co-hosting meeting was community leader America Terrazas, from Vado.

          "This conversation...should have happened a month ago, the planning for...evacuation.  Last week in Mesquite the elderly weren't being helped to carry sandbags to their doors." Arturo Uribe, community leader from Mesquite.

          "This flood is a gateway to community buy-in and prioritizing needs because what they did here with this grader after spending a million dollars...is not going to protect anything!  It's freaking dirt, its sand.!"  Pablo Martinez, resident of Hatch.
Pablo Martinez
 John Gwynne, an engineer for the Flood Commission, urged residents to buy sandbags and flood insurance.  As everyone there knew, this is a hopeless impossibility at the income levels of most residents.  He went on to say that officials had six grants from the Colonias Infrastructure Fund, but two of these were not handled is a timely way and about $100,000 in planning grants had to be returned.  Arturo Uribe, rumored to be considering a run for County Commission next year, said, "when you come and we hear that there isn't money and then you tell us that money goes back because you can't move it fast enough, then that is an issue."  Former county commissioner Oscar Butler urged residents to make their voices heard at the ballot box.

How much flood control money has been spent in DAC in the past ten years?  Is it enough?  What do other communities do to prevent damage from floods?  Has there been enough consultation with residents in affected areas?

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Mary Carter

La Politica New Mexico se complace en anunciar la participación de Mary Carter como autora contibuyente.  Carter es completamente bilingüe.  Actualmente sirve como directora ejecutiva del Centro Intercultural de Mujeres en Anthony, NM.  Bajo su dirección la participación comunitaria en el centro ha gozado de un aumento de 700 a 3400 personas.  El centro, cuyo trabajo consiste en la provisión de adiestramiento en las materias de autosuficiencia económica y espiritu empresarial, ha recibido numerosos premios por la obra que ha ejercido en los campos de empoderamiento y compromiso cívico.  Previaments, Carter trabajó como solicitadora de subvenciones el el Distrito Escolar Independiente de El Paso, y sirvió durante un período como coordinadora de proyectos especiales para el municipio de Sunland Park.  También ha trabajado en el sector privado.  Recibió el Premio de Liderazgo Ejecutivo del FBI en abril del año actual.

Con estos antecedentes, ella trae consigo un conocimiento amplio y profundo de las comunidades del Valle del Sur.  ¡Bienvenida!

La Politica New Mexico is pleased to announce the addition of Mary Carter, who is fully bilingual, as a contributing writer for this blog.  She is currently executive director of the Women's Intercultural Center in Anthony, NM.  Under her leadership center participation quintupled from 700 to over 3400.  The center, which has a focus on entrepreneurship and economic self-sufficiency, has received numerous awards for empowerment and engagement of women in the region.  She worked as a grant writer for the El Paso Independent School District and served for a time as a special projects coordinator for the City of Sunland Park.  Earlier in her career she worked in the private sector.  Most recently she received the Executive Leadership Award from the FBI, in April of this year.

Given this background, she brings a broad, deep understanding of South Valley communities to her perspective.  Welcome Aboard!

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Recommended Reading:

Interested in the history of the decline of NM's economy?  Harold Morgan posted another piece yesterday in his ongoing series on the history of this decline.  Morgan asks us to contemplate the trend in ABQ for the boards of the ABQ Chamber of Ccommerce and the Association of Commerce and Industry to be filled with corporate lobbyists, lawyers, and healthcare officials who have no real decision making authority within their own companies.  This trend deserves a lot more attention.

Marjorie Childress has a piece on the current status of funding in the ABQ mayor's race.  Colon (no accent on the "o.")  has the most money.  Rod Adair (NM Political Journal, see below) asserts that Colon prefers his name to be prounouced "colon," as in colonoscopy, instead of "Colón," with the accent of the "o" as it is pronounced in Spanish.  Mr. Colon, an attorney, is of Puerto Rican descent, but speaks no Spanish.  Don't need to cultivate the Hispanic vote this time around, Brian?  Adair also comments on peculiarities in the names of other candidates.  Finally, Monahan, still the best political blogger in the state, has some comments on the mayoral race.

By the way, are any of these candidates addressing issues pointed out by Morgan in his series?

Monday, July 31, 2017

Coming in September:  Relaunch of La Politica New Mexico

The election season is beginning!  A new governor in New Mexico will be elected next year; 435 members of Congress, and 70 seats in the New Mexico legislature.  The mischief of the 2016 presidential election will surely continue to scandalize even the most jaded, and the soap opera melodrama of the appalling occupants of the White House will surely keep us entertained.

How does this affect New Mexico?  As we recoil against the dysfunctional national scene, we are also reminded daily of the deterioration of New Mexico.  The economy is stagnant.  We are last in public education.  Our higher education system has been in decline for decades:  the best students are voting with their feet and going to better colleges in neighboring states.  The Albuquerque Police Department has become a poster child of why you shouldn't move to Albuquerque, while a transportation system nobody seems to really want continues to clog up the downtown area.  Northern New Mexico still has no economic base for job growth, continuing a long decline that no one even bothers to mention anymore.  Daily we are reminded of what appears to be increased corruption.  Coleen Heild, an investigative reporter for the ABQ Journal, recently uncovered a whole industry of rip-off artists in the legal guardianship industry in New Mexico, stealing millions of dollars from their clients, and seemingly impervious to any semblance of judicial control.  Our mental health care system has been eviscerated by state government.  Which institutions have not failed us?

Do any candidates running for governor have serious credentials for turning this around?  Have any of them ever proven they can actually work with a team--the legislature, executive agencies, the public at large--to produce results?  Do any of them show signs of true leadership, not just good campaign skills?  Do any of them deserve your vote?  How about your own state senator or legislator?  Have you ever held them to account?  Tune in during the next few months to get our take on all of this.  We will continue to emphasize the struggles of self-governance in the small communities in Dona Ana County.  Like the voters in Trumpolandia (largely uneducated white males whose fathers had better paying jobs and voted Democrat) voters in Anthony, Sunland Park, and other communities in Dona Ana County (overwhelmingly they speak Spanish at home, have limited job opportunities and education, and are poor) have been much  taken for granted at election time.  What is on their mind?  How do they view the political scene in New Mexico?  What do they want from a Governor or state legislator?  Watch this space.

Friday, April 21, 2017

La Frontera

“If we ever hurt the economy of Juarez, it will hurt El Paso, and the rest of the U.S.," Oscar Leeser, Mayor of El Paso, to Jeff Sessions, yesterday.

"El Paso welcomes refugees not racists," sign visible at Sessions' press conference

"I would suggest that if Mr. Sessions is interested in keeping America's streets safe that he would start in his own backyard,"  Former NM Secretary of Economic Development Jon Barela, (Birmingham, Alabama, ranked No. 3 in the nation in violent crimes in 2016, El Paso for years has been the safest city in the US for its size.)

"this sliver of land (is) where we establish a beachhead against the cartels, the transnational street gangs like Mara Salvatrucha 13, and the human traffickers. This is ground zero – this is the front lines, and this is where we take our stand"  Jeff Sessions, yesterday in El Paso

Once again, the US-Mexico border is rediscovered by Washington as the place to reassure the US public, this time nervous about a lot of things and wondering what might be next in the raising of security alarms by this flying-by the-seat-of-the-pants new presidential administration.  For more than two decades U.S. security officials, attorneys general, Homeland Security chiefs, etc., in remarkably bipartisan fashion, have been traipsing to El Paso or San Diego for photo ops, surrounded by the symbols of law enforcement--uniformed officers, plastic security badges, US flags, etc.  All of this took place again in El Paso yesterday as John Kelly and Jeff Sessions came to town for a photo op.  

Those of us who actually live on the border simply glance at these spectacles and yawn, knowing this will probably mean more money for the Border Patrol, maybe a few more buildings at Ft. Bliss nobody can enter without top security clearance, and probably more inconvenience crossing the border.  Nobody who lives here believes anything will happen to the flow of drugs across the border.  No one who lives here is worried about crime in El Paso.  In spite of the twitter wars, the grandstanding, the heightened rhetoric, little is likely to change.  This has become an empty ritual, a collaboration between our national news media, thirsting for 24/7 breathless news, the PR folk in the White House, and the desire of federal officials, somehow, to make themselves look good.  Something like a politician earnestly leading the pledge of allegiance at a baseball game.  It tells you nothing about the game to come itself.

Thursday, April 20, 2017


  •  An Ossoff Victory Would Not Have Saved the Democratic Party:  NY Magazine:    'The most hopeful signs for the Democrats are at its grass roots — as first exemplified by the Women’s March and most recently by the weekend’s tax protests...How this energy can be maintained and organized to powerful effect in the 2018 midterms is a question that cannot be answered by special elections in quirky congressional districts"

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Violence in Mexico and Juarez; Part II:  The National Perspective

A major change in drug trafficking patterns in Mexico is the partial fragmentation of five or six major enterprises a decade ago—Juarez, Gulf, Sinaloa, Tijuana, Oaxaca, Colima—down to dozens of gangs (some say as many as 200) participating in the marketplace after the decapitation of some of the leadership in strong cartels during the latter part of the Calderon and early Pena Nieto administrations.  This is what happened in Colombia after the collapse of the Pablo Escobar empire in the late 1980s.  Cocaine production and marketing continued there, with some of the functions of the industry taken over by willing FARC or ELN Marxist guerrillas or local and regional gangs, some of them paramilitary gangs formed initially to fight the guerrilla groups.  The result was the dispersion of violence especially along the major trade routes over which rival gangs competed.

In Mexico the relative ease of production of crystal methamphetamine, combined with its increased global demand, also contributed to the rise of small operators, and also to the spread of violence, as larger operators, with greater resources, have reacted by trying to place small-scale entrepreneurs under their control or eliminate this competition altogether.  The states most affected by this violence have been Mexico, Jalisco, Colima, Chihuahua, Michoacan, Sinaloa, and Veracruz.

Large scale cartels are still around.  Today the most powerful cartel in Mexico is the Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generacion (CJNG), controlling trafficking in much of the Bajio (parts of Jalisco, Queretaro, Guanajuato, and Aguascalientes),  Colima, both Bajas, Tamaulipas, Quintana Roo, Veracruz, Nuevo Leon, and Nayarit.  It also has a strong presence in Puebla, Mexico, and San Luis Potosi.  In late March of this year Edgar Veytia, attorney general of Nayarit, was arrested as he attempted to enter the US in San Diego, where he grew up and owned a home he bought for over half a million dollars in 2013.  He is now in jail in Brooklyn, having pleaded not guilty to drug trafficking charges.  He has long been suspected of using his position to facilitate the activities of the CJNG as it reached northward, displacing many elements of the Sinaloa cartel as it was battered down by law enforcement agencies in the past few years.

Javier Duarte, ex-governor of Veracruz, is currently a fugitive, wanted for corruption.  Tomas Yarrington, ex-governor of Tamaulipas, was arrested in Italy a few week ago, five years after fleeing the country.  Elections are scheduled in the states of Mexico, Nayarit, and Coahuila on June 4 of this year, all states that have come under the control of the CJNG.

The Sinaloa cartel is also still around, but it has been severely weakened by internal division and by competition from the Beltran Leyva organization and their gunmen, the Mazatlecos.  The Caballeros Templarios, composed of the remnants of the La Familia organization, still operates in parts of Michoacan.  And in Tamaulipas the Velazquez network still operates along the Eastern Coast of Mexico, but is weakened by internal strife.  The fragmentation of drug trafficking in Mexico is likely to continue into the for-seeable future.  It remains to be seen whether official corruption will become a major priority in the 2018 election season.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Chimayó, Domingo de Pascua 2017

Ayer tarde después de misa, la muchedumbre de fieles que congregaron en el santuario de Chimayó gozaron de un calor agradable, algunos alimentándose estilo picnic, otros caminando sobre el riachuelo, otros profesando su fe en la iglesia o espolvoreándose con la tierra bendita del recinto.  La gran mayoría de los que acudieron fueron hispanos, algunos de ellos hablando con los razgos regionales de la provincia mas norteña del viejo imperio español, otros con el acento característico de lo que ahora es el gran estado de Chihuahua, México.  Durante la época colonial, en lo que ahora son los estados de Chihuahua y Nuevo México, los fieles de ambos lugares pertenecían al arzobispado de Durango.  En la foto aparece un grupo de bailadores, vestidos de verde, adherentes de una cofradía denominado San Judas Tadeo, de Albuquerque.
Vista Clásica de la Iglesia de Chimayó, Ayer Tarde

Violence in Mexico and Juarez; Part I, Background

Drug-related violence in Mexico has been both rising and spreading during the final years of the Pena Nieto administration (2012-2018).  The twelve-year presidential run (2000-2012) of PAN presidents Fox and Calderon saw an enormous spike in narco-violence as the old rules of the game under PRI management were abandoned, only to be replaced by highly ineffective policies that neither curbed drug trafficking nor managed it well enough to prevent what amounted to a free-for-all competition among rival gangs for lucrative trade routes throughout the country.  The competition generated violence, especially in the form of homicide.  Ground zero for this free-for-all was the prized city of Juarez, where the Sinaloa cartel was able to compete with the decades-old but battered Juarez cartel for supremacy.  

President Calderon naively believed institutional improvements in law enforcement capabilities (urged on by the US government) such as better training, more reliance on intelligence, and judicial reform, would manage official corruption enough to make a difference.  But he only worsened matters in Juarez when, in early 2009 as violence was rising he sent in 10,000 military troops, but with little notion of what to do or how to do it.  Within weeks, after an initial drop in violence, it was clear drug trafficking violence would continue unabated.  Meanwhile, the ordinary criminal class discovered the presence of armed troops roaming through town had simply disrupted local management of crime, and there was a huge spike in kidnappings and an agonizing period in which practically every business establishment in Juarez, large or small, was being extorted by protection racketeers.  By the end of 2010 Juarez had become the most dangerous city with populations over 300,000 in the world.

Gradually the homicide rate declined in Juarez.  By 2012, when Pena Nieto was elected President, Juarez ranked 19th in the world, and then 37th in 2013.  After falling off the list of the most violent 50 in 2015, it returned in 2016, ranked 37th once again.

Let us put that in some perspective.  St. Louis, Baltimore, New Orleans, and Detroit in 2016 ranked higher in homicides than Juarez.  If drug-related violence is driving the world-class ranking in Juarez, what do you suppose is driving the violence in these US cities?  And remember:  El Paso is one of the very least violent cities in the U.S.

Tomorrow:  What is happening with Drug Trafficking in Mexico and Juarez today?