Monday, August 30, 2010

Nearly a Quarter Million Persons Have Fled Juarez

According to a new study by Ramón Chavira and Wilebaldo Martínez, from the Autonomous University of Cd. Juarez, about 230,000 persons have left Juarez in the past two years due to the increasing violence in the city. According to the study, over half of these have moved to the U.S., and most of these to the neighboring city of El Paso. This means that 18% of the people of Juarez, nearly one in five, has left the city. Those who stayed in Mexico generally returned to states they had migrated from, such as Durango, Veracruz, and Coahuila. During the maquila boom of the late 1990s and early 2000's many persons came from these states to work in the growing maquila sector of Juarez. From story in el Pionero of Delicias, click here.

2006 Murders So Far in 2010: Record Pace

With two days still to go in August, the homicide rate is still running at record pace, in spite of a relatively quiet weekend. Last year at the end of August there had been 1496 murders. As of this morning it stands at 2006, a 34% increase over last year.

Five Dead: At about 2:00 a.m. on Sunday morning a group of armed men interrupted a family gathering at a home near the Babicora police station in Col. Torres del PRI, killing five persons, including a woman who was shot in a 1996 Taurus, apparently trying to escape the massacre. The victims were estimated to be in their 20's and 30's.

One: José Javier González Delgado, 26, was shot and killed on the street in Col. Arco Iris shortly after midnight on Sunday.

In Front of His Wife and Daughter: On Sunday morning
Pedro García Briones, 23, accompanied by his wife and infant daughter, was traveling on a bus going into town on the Casas Grandes highway. At km. 15 a group of armed men stopped the bus, looked over the passengers, and forced Mr. Garcia to exit the bus. In spite of a spirited protest by his wife, who was prevented from moving by one of the gunmen, Garcia was shot several times before the gunmen took off. Fifteen spent cartridges were found on the ground by his body.

Another Tire Repair Shop Victim: Roberto Fernandez Diaz, 36, was shot and killed inside a tire repair shop on km. 27 of the Casas Grandes highway, near the intersection to San Jeronimo, in Col Villa Esperanza.

More: Manuel Ortiz was found dead from multiple gunshot wounds at about 4 a.m. in a bedroom in a residence in Col.
Felipe Ángeles. Juan Raymundo Sida de la Rosa, 41, and Juan Alberto Sida Chaparro, 22, were shot and killed on a street in Col. Hermenegildo Galeana. Seventeen spent cartridges were found nearby. José Reyes Ortiz, 31, died at the Social Security Hospital at 7 p.m. on Saturday night while being treated for gunshot wounds he sustained during an attack on a street in Col. Paseos del Alba.

Compiled from stories by Luz del Carmen Sosa, Diario (click here) and
Félix A. González, Norte Digital (click here), and Cruz Loera, El Fronterizo (click here)

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Mene Mene Tekel Upharsin: The Writing on the Wall: Daniel 5: 25-28. Meanwhile the Count is Up to 1994 for the year

Two narco-messages painted on walls appeared yesterday briefly in Juarez before they were painted out. One was photographed with the following message, written with many misspellings:

“siganse asiendo pendejos para el joto de ferriz y calderon ustedes apoyan al chapo gusman por eso se les estan tumbando federales son los ke cobran cuotas y secruestan y dicen ke los de la linea tu teto murgia espero y no apoyes al chapo gusman mientras sigan cobrando cutas y estorsionando seguiremo tumbando federales atte la linea”

(My translation: "go ahead and keep on being dumb jerks for the queer Ferriz (outgoing mayor of Juarez) and Calderon you support Chapo Guzman which is why federales (police) keep going down they are the ones who charge extortion fees and kidnap and then blame la linea, you, Teto Murguia (mayor-elect of Juarez) we hope you don't support Chapo Guzman as long as they keep charging extortion fees we will keep knocking off federales sincerely la linea."

This message was painted on a wall at the intersection of Octavio Paz and Álvaro Obregón in Col Zapata. Another, which was not photographed before authorities painted over it, was painted on a wall at the intersection of Paraguay and Niños Héroes.

A review of news outlets that cover murder in Juarez reveals that only four persons were murdered yesterday, a relatively quiet Saturday, bringing the total up to 1994 on the year.
Héctor Gutiérrez Portillo, 29, was shot multiple times at the intersection of Panamá and Zempoala in Col. Hidalgo, shortly after midnight. His body was found sitting against a wall outside a convenience store; another person was reported wounded at the scene. Both were reported snorting cocaine at the time of the attack. A few minutes later police were called to a house in Col. Industrial where two men were killed and two more wounded when gunmen shot the locks off a chain protecting the gates of the residence and forced their way into the house. They led the victims outside to the patio where they were executed.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Beat: Death in Juarez: Two Burned Alive, Three Presumed Extortionists, Others

At 10:30 a.m. on Friday the bodies of two men were found murdered in a Chrysler Voyager, in Col Los Nogales. One apparently tried escaping, as the door was open and a leg was hanging out.

More Junk Yard Mysteries: Ten minutes later two men were found dead in the patio of the office of a junk yard called "yonke 68 Zaragoza," on the Juarez-Porvenir highway. Moments after the assassination newspaper reporters came, and observed federal and municipal police agents arrive. The dead men were identified as federal police, Aldo Holguín Crespo and Aurelio Iván Musiño Reyes, 27 and 29, respectively, shot shortly after arriving in a 2008 Nissan Altima to pick up some used parts. As Diario reporter Luz del Carmen Sosa relates it (click here) when federal police learned the dead men were federal agents they ordered the municipal police to leave the scene. They entered the office and began to question the owner, Alberto, and an employee of his. The owner explained that moments after the federal agents arrived gunmen came in and started shooting. One of the agents tried to flee between some cars but was hit by gunfire. Federal agents confiscated Alberto's cell phone and radios and then began to arrest Alberto. They took him outside and asked him to put his hands on the hood of a car. While he was doing this a federal agent took the butt of his rifle and smacked Alberto on the forehead with it. He began to bleed profusely, and a witness offered him a handkerchief to wipe off the blood from his face. Witnesses explained that Alberto had been present during the attack on the federal agents but had not participated in it. Federal agents arrested Alberto anyway, as well as an employee of his.

Junk yard owners have complained to Diario that they are often required to sell stolen used car parts brought in by the very persons who extort money from them, and then hand over the proceeds to the extortionists. And speculation about the motive for the killings began among witnesses, who indicated the 2008 Nissan Altima the dead agents were driving is far above the financial ability of a young federal police officer to afford--new automobiles carry high tariffs and many persons in Juarez purchase used vehicles brought in from the U.S. at no tariff as long as they are more than seven years old. Witnesses also explained that Alberto had rented out his license to sell junk cars to someone else three months ago, but was using the lot to try to sell a used Mustang a few weeks ago when federal agents driving an Eclipse offered him their car plus two thousand pesos (about $150) in exchange for the Eclipse. When he said no the agents threatened to take the car anyway, and Alberto finally caved in and lost his Mustang.

Presumed Extortionists Killed: Three men were found dead with signs of torture, hands bound, and faces covered with tape, last night at about 11 p.m. in an empty lot behind Wal-Mart. There was a sign next to one of the bodies saying, "For Being Extortionists."

Burned Alive: At about 5:30 yesterday morning neighbors heard noises in an empty lot in col.
Ángel Trías. According to one witness a man was taken out of a Dodge Caravan, still alive. Shots were heard (although no empty cartridges were found) and the man's body was then set on fire and the Caravan left. No signs of violence were found on his body, except for the burns. The man had on only cowboy boots and he was found face down.

Then last night, just before 9 p.m., in Col. 9 de Septiembre near Jimenez and Delicias, witnesses saw several men get out of a black SUV. They threw gasoline on the body of one of the men from the car, and then lit a match. Witnesses heard the man screaming and at least one person tried to put out the flames with a bucket of water, but it was too late.

Burned Bodies Found in Chihuahua: At about 8 a.m. yesterday the bodies of 9 men shot to death and then tossed into the cabin of a 1998 or 1999 Ford Expedition and incinerated, were found at km. 23.5 on the Chihuahua-Juarez highway just north of Chihuahua. Fifteen spent 9 mm. cartridges were found near the vehicle.

Compiled from stories in Diario. El Mexicano, Nortedigital

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Santa Fe Bureaucrats Want to Close Anthony Court: A Population of 50,000 Will Be Inconvenienced. Does This Make Sense? Does Anybody Care? Read On

Arthur Pippin, Director of the Administrative Office of the Courts--a creature of the New Mexico Supreme Court--which prepares budgets and provides other professional services for the New Mexico court systems, has informed the Magistrate Court in Dona Ana County that it will close the Anthony Court in the very near future. The closing is in response to the state's perilous fiscal condition, with tax revenues lower than expected.

The problem with closing the Anthony Court is that, located more than twenty miles South of Las Cruces, it services a population of about 50,000, including the communities of Sunland Park, Santa Teresa, La Union, Chaparral, Chamberino, La Mesa, San Miguel, Anthony, Berino, and Mesquite. And it serves this population only two days per week as it is. This population is about the same size as Eddy County (population about 52,000), the 10th largest county in the state, in population. People in Sunland Park, Santa Teresa, and Anthony are among the fastest growing communities in the state, with El Paso spilling into our South Mesilla Valley from the $5 billion expansion of Ft. Bliss. If Anthony is closed, Sunland Park, Santa Teresa, and Chamberino residents will have to commute about 35 miles to the Las Cruces Magistrate Court. People in La Union, Chaparral, Chamberino, La Mesa, San Miguel, Anthony, Berino, and Mesquite, will have to commute an average of about 20-25 miles to get to the Las Cruces Court. The Hatch Court, about 40 miles away, but with only a small fraction of the cases handled by Anthony, will not close.

The Anthony Court handles about 6000 cases per year. This calculates at about 60 cases per day for the two days a week the court is open. Are the courts in counties with less than 50,000 population, and less than 6000 cases per year, going to close down, or drastically curtail their schedules?

It so happens, the New Mexico Motor Transportation Department, located 2 miles from Anthony, issues numerous citations per week to truckers with irregularities--often part of the huge increase in traffic in the past few years from Mexico, an increase that is bragged about in economic development brochures hoping to attract industry to the area. Does it matter that a state agency will be stretched thin by having to send officers all the way to Las Cruces to handle these cases? Can the AOC release the measures they are going to take in other counties to address the fiscal crisis, transparently, so that citizens can judge for themselves whether their court is getting fair and equitable treatment?

Yes, closing Anthony will save the court system in Santa Fe some money. But with all the extra dollars spent in gasoline, isn't this really a transfer of money from citizens and sometimes other state agencies to the court system, a tax, really, on people of the South Valley to pay for the state's (that is, the legislature's and the governor's) inability to set priorities and plan ahead? Aren't NM taxpayers still subsidizing the Hollywood industry for their costs while filming here, a tab that cost us $90 million in the fiscal year just ended, in an enterprise that gets us back 14 cents on the dollar? Why should the South Mesilla Valley have to pay more than their fair share for the state's poor priorities and planning?

The South Mesilla Valley has been neglected for many decades by the political system, and it remains among the poorest regions in the state, in spite of usually contributing an extremely high percentage to the usually winning party. Supreme Court Judges come down at election time smiling nicely, asking for votes, and usually can count on extremely high percentages. Aren't the people of the South Mesilla Valley entitled to more than a door slammed shut at the courthouse? Was this decision made, as it appears, without any consultation with the people that would be affected? If there are good answers to these questions, let us know.

Only One Murder on Tuesday

The only murder in Juarez on Tuesday was that of a 28-year old woman who was kidnapped, shot in the head twice, thrown out of a vehicle onto a street, dragged for several yards, run over by the wheels of the vehicle, and left on the street in Col Niños Héroes. Seven persons were executed on Monday. For story in El Mexicano, click here.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Obama Extends Tax Cuts to the Rich, Republicans Want Even More: Death and Taxes: Let's Talk (Cents?) About Taxes for a Change

The Tax Policy Center has just published a report (click here) detailing the stakes in the debate over extending the tax cuts enacted by Congress in 2001, after George W. Bush became president, and again in 2003, when tax rates were lowered to 15% on capital gains and dividends.

First, let's review a few tax rules enacted in the past few decades and proposals on the table to cut taxes or extend the tax breaks beyond the congressional expiration date, with an estimate by the Policy Center of how much each proposal would cost in lost revenues for the federal government.

1. AMT: originally, the Alternative Minimum Tax was imposed by Congress on the wealthiest income earners, many of whom were escaping the taxation system altogether through various loopholes. Until 2000 the AMT applied only to the wealthiest 1% of workers. However, with inflation, it began to apply to more and more persons, projected to rise up to 20% of taxpayers in 2010. There is now a proposal to index the AMT so that it will only affect the wealthiest 1% of Americans. Cost in federal revenues of this proposal: $66 billion.

2. 10, 25, and 28% rates: In 1988 the top tax rate for any income was set at 28% (down from 50% in 1986). Since that time the top tax rates went up to 39.6% in the 1990s, and then down to 35% during the Bush years. There is now a proposal to go back to rates of 10, 25, and 28% for all but the highest incomes, which would basically extend tax cuts for lower and middle-level income earners. Cost of this proposal in federal dollars: 121 billion

3. Marriage penalty relief: in 1969 Congress imposed higher taxes on some married couples than they would have paid had they both been single; by 1996 46% of couples were paying more, and the marriage penalty was eased up in 2001 and 2003, but the relief is scheduled to elapse at the end of 2010. There is a proposal to extend the relief. Total cost in federal dollars: $32 billion.

4. Expanded tax credits: Because of the recession certain tax credits were enacted in 2009 to help stimulate the economy, particularly beneficial to middle class families. There is a proposal to continue these. Cost: $29 billion.

5. Tax dividends like capital gains and lower rates for bottom tax brackets: there is a proposal to treat dividends like capital gains, instead of like income as they are now, and to lower rates on the bottom tax brackets. Cost: $24 billion

6. Extend estate tax at 2009 level. Until George Bush came along, estates were taxed if they exceeded $1 million. These were taxed at a rate of 37% going up to 55% for wealthier estates. Bush enacted a gradual estate tax cut such that in 2009 estates were not taxed unless they exceeded $3.5 million, at a rate of 45%. This year, 2010, there is no estate tax at all, so if you are going to die, this is a good year to do it, for your heirs' sake. After that, Congress agreed to go back in 2011 to the pre-Bush tax rates for estates over $1 million. There is a proposal to keep the estate tax where it was in 2009. Cost: $26 billion.

7. Lower rates on dividends and capital gains. Under sunset provisions long-term capital gains taxes are scheduled to go up from 15% to 20%, except for lower-income brackets, which are scheduled to be taxed at 10%. Currently, long term capital gains are taxed at 15% except for lower-income brackets, where the tax rate is zero. Dividends, which are currently taxed at 15% (zero for low-income brackets) are scheduled to be taxed in 2011 as ordinary income. There is a proposal to keep the rates at 15% for dividends and capital gains. Cost: $11 billion.

8. Repeal PEP and Peale for upper income brackets: Twenty years ago there was a phase-out of personal exemption deductions and itemized deduction values for upper income brackets which ended in 2010. The Obama administration budget reinstates the PEP and Peale limitations on single individuals earning over $200,000 and couples with AGI over $250,000. There is a proposal to repeal PEP and Peale limitations for upper income brackets. Cost: $21 billion.

9. Extend 33 and 35% tax rates: The 2003 tax cuts to wealthier Americans are scheduled to expire. Under these cuts the top rates fell from 27% to 25%; from 30% to 28%; from 35% to 33%; and from 38.6% to 35% for the wealthiest tax bracket. These are scheduled to go up to 28%, 31%, 36%, and 39.6%. There is a proposal to extend the 33 and 35% tax rates to the wealthiest Americans. Cost: $36 billion.

If none of these proposals should go into law, the federal government would be richer by an estimated $366 billion per year. But this is unlikely. The administration, according to the Tax Policy Center, has a plan to give tax breaks to all taxpayers, starting out with about $69 and $583 to the lowest two income brackets averaging incomes of $11,600 and $28,852, respectively. Taxpayers averaging incomes of $52,224 and $88978 would get breaks averaging $1016 and $2124, respectively. Taxpayers in the 80-90% bracket, with incomes averaging 138,385, would get a break of $4032; taxpayers in the 90-95% income range would get a break of $5508; and taxpayers in the 95-99% range (ave. income=$345,574) would get a break of $8809. Taxpayers in the 99-99.99% range, averaging $1,098,290 in income, would get a break of $14,022, and the richest one-in-a-thousand taxpayer, incomes averaging $8,367,274, would get a tax break of $61,510.

Republicans, who cry crocodile tears about the huge deficits piling up, recommend giving the very wealthiest Americans major tax breaks by keeping the top tax rates at 33% and 35%, repealing PEP and Pease for the rich, and lowering the tax on dividends and capital gains back to 15%. The Tax Policy Center estimates that these lowered taxes would raise the deficit by $68 billion per year and put $310,140 into the pocketbooks of the richest one-in-a-thousand, whose incomes average $8,367,274. Just what you need if you make over $8 million, right? Another $310,000 welfare check from Uncle Sam during the worst recession since the Great Depression.

Easy Juarez Sunday: Only One Murder

A man in his 40s was found murdered by gunfire at about 1:00 a.m. on Sunday morning in Col. Los Olivos. No other deaths were recorded. On Saturday 10 persons were gunned down, for a total on the weekend of 23 murders.

Michelito, Lupita, Cerqueira, have Bad Afternoons

Michelito was knocked down once again, by his first bull, Merenguero, weighing 880 lbs. He misjudged the trajectory of the bull on a quick turn by the beast and was thrown to the ground without injury as the bull tried to stab him with scooping thrusts of his horns. Michelito backed away from most of his passes after that instead of holding his ground. The bull took to pawing on the ground, backing away, difficult to kill and Michelito butchered him with three misplaced thrusts of the sword, finishing with a descabello (a maneuver with a small sword thrust into the back of the head, severing the spinal chord of the bull) which killed the bull on the second try. Not pretty, any of it. His second bull, smaller, about 80 lbs. lighter, was more his size, and the capework was better, but not distinguished. He was warned about time (you have to kill the bull within 16 minutes in Mexico) twice, killed perfunctorily, and was booed for his performance.

Lupita's first bull was hard to fight but she showed determination. She was unable to kill the bull with her sword thrust and the peones killed it with a puntilla (daggar to the back of the head).

The proceedings in her second bull violated the letter of the law and especially the spirit behind bullfighting. After a few initial veronicas by Lupita, the bull was injured slightly in the right hind leg during the pic-ing. Everyone in the ring saw it, visibly limping, and the bull should have been removed immediately, alive, the legal protocol for an injured bull. It retreated to a querencia (a spot in the ring it prefers) and could not be coaxed to the middle of the ring. In spite of the obvious injury, her bullfighter placed, or rather misplaced, a pair of banderillas with the bull in a dangerous defensive position. Instead of taking charge and asking the authorities for the bull to be removed, Lupita stood by for several minutes, apparently confused, while one of her bullfighters made half-hearted efforts to lead the bull to the middle of the ring. Lupita finally left the ring altogether, with the bull clearly holding his right leg up. Her bullfighter led it to a burladero to be killed by a peon with a dagger long after 16 minutes had elapsed, which should have triggered the removal of the bull alive, a second reason for removal. Highly irregular, very ugly, another butchery; score another point for opponents of bullfighting.

Since the bull had, in spite of two legal reasons for it's removal alive, been killed in the ring, Lupita was, technically, not entitled to another bull, but she was given one anyway. She handled it reasonably well and was well on her way to winning an ear except for a missed thrust on the kill followed by a half-hilt thrust which was not mortal and forced the bull to be killed by dagger. In Juarez they might have given her an ear. Not in Mexico City, especially after the ugliness of the previous bull, in which she had basically abandoned her responsibilities to fight, to seek the removal of the bull, and to take charge of the proceedings. Cerqueira fought two bad bulls perfunctorily without incident, poorly killed. The man on horseback was unable to kill the bull on horseback and had to kill it on foot with a descabello; not pretty.

Bad afternoon. I watched a good deal of it as it was streamed on internet live from the Plaza and later recorded. The bullring was only filled to about 10% capacity, which may help explain the unprofessional management of the afternoon. The video clip of this could serve as a poster child for banning bullfighting.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Michelito, Lupita López, to fight in 9th Novice Bullfight in Mexico City Tomorrow

The novice season is ending in the Plaza Monumental Bullring of Mexico City. Tomorrow Michelito, the twelve-year old novice who, in spite of obvious potential and desire, has been tossed around like a rag doll all summer long by bulls he couldn't handle, will fight again in the the largest bullring in the world. In his last fight there, on June 6, he was tossed by his second bull and was unable to finish.

Also on the cartel is Lupita López, also a novice, a 31-year old woman from Yucatan who, like Michelito, was tossed in the same venue with Michelito on June 6. Each of them has killed only one bull in Mexico City so far this year. The third matador is the french novice, Tomás Cerqueira, who debuted in Mexico City only last week, but without much luck. Emilio Gamero, a novice rejoneador (matador on horseback) will kill one bull as well.

Below is a YouTube clip of each of them getting tossed in Mexico City last June 6.

Juarez This Weekend: More Death, Hotel Fiesta Inn Flap; Protest March

The weekend began at an August pace: twelve murders yesterday in Juarez. One of them occurred at the intersection of Ave. de las Americas and 16 de Septiembre, where the Shangri-la and Los Arcos restaurants are located. There, a man was murdered by gunfire at close range inside a bus, in an incident that also wounded a pregnant woman and the bus driver.

Fiesta Inn Flap: This past week saw an only-in-Juarez controversy unfold over the presence of federal police agents at the Fiesta Inn Hotel on 16 de Septiembre. The hotel is located just a couple of blocks from the Los Arcos restaurant, in front of the Lucerna hotel, next to the Women's Hospital, and right next to the large installations of Diario de Juarez, the flagship paper for Juarez. Several dozen federal police officers were housed there (they come to Juarez for relatively short rotations and tend to stay in hotels for security reasons) until Thursday.

On Tuesday evening at about 7 p.m. there was an exchange of gunfire that lasted about 12 minutes when men in a Cherokee Jeep began shooting at civilian automobiles carrying a federal police intelligence unit, right in front of the Fiesta Inn hotel. When it was over 5 agents were wounded, federal police agents had beaten a Diario photographer trying to get pictures of the incident, people at the Women's Hospital were slowly getting up after hitting the floor at the sound of gunfire, and there was generalized panic throughout the entire Pronaf quarter, one of the busiest areas in the city.

The next day Diario editorialized that the agents should leave the hotel, as a safety precaution for this highly commercial section of town. The agents left on Thursday. As they were leaving there was a demonstration against Diario by hotel employees, who complained they would be out of a job now that the federal agents were leaving. Federal police spokesman José Ramón Salinas explained that the police were leaving "because of the high cost" of the room charges.

Protest: A group of about 60 persons marched down Ave. Manuel J. Clouthier (Jilotepec) in what they said was "a march against death," protesting the violence in Juarez and specifically the deaths of Josefina and Rubén Reyes, city council woman from Guadalupe (in the Valle de Juarez) last January in front of a restaurant, and her brother, on Wednesday. The march had a decidedly anti-government element in it, as marchers chanted “Juárez no es cuartel, fuera ejército de él” (Juarez is not a barracks, troops out of of town) and “federal, policía: la misma porquería” (federal police or local police; the same stinking mess). The march was apparently organized by several groups, including the Latin American Federation of Associations of Disappeared Family Members, and the Movement for Culture and Plural Citizen Front.

Compiled from stories in Diario.

The Crisis in Juarez: Diesel, Gasoline Sales Down

Due to the economic and law enforcement crisis in Juarez, and significant price increases, gasoline sales are down 30% and diesel sales are down 40%--about what they were six years ago. Three years ago the Pemex refinery in Juarez would make about 190 deliveries to gasoline stations each day. Now the number is down to 140.

Whereas in early 2009 filling a tank with about 16 gallons (60 liters) cost $333 pesos (about $25 U.S.) today the same amount costs $501 pesos (about $38). Mexican government officials have warned citizens they can expect more gasoline price increases in the next few months from the government-owned oil company, Pemex, which sets prices.

From a note by Juan de Dios Olivas, Diario.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Albuquerque Journal Editorial: NMSU Athletic Budget Taking Money From Academics

This morning's Albuquerque Journal editorial slams NMSU for lack of transparency in transferring funds from academics to athletics. I've reproduced it in it's entirety.

Did you hear the one about the Aggie who was alphabetizing the NMSU department list?

He thought "athletics" came before "academics."

That's more than a bad Aggie joke; that's been standard operating procedure at New Mexico State University, where officials plan to throw a Hail Mary pass of $4.1 million annually from academics to prop up a deep-in-the-red athletics program.
No matter that the Athletic Department is supposed to be self-supporting. Or that it hasn't operated in the black in years. Or that the state's higher education system as a whole is under fire for bad academic season after bad academic season. Let's just transfer $4.1 million out of Aggie academics and into athletics every year until 2018.

The Legislative Finance Committee has rightly thrown a flag on the transfers, saying that while they are "not financially improper," athletic programs are "not central" to the university's educational mission. It has recommended NMSU curtail its blitz on academic balances.
Give the LFC an "A" for effort, "F" for delivering a strong thesis statement with clear consequences.

Same goes for NMSU, which claims it is committed to reducing the subsidy and trimmed the Athletic Department deficit by $750,000 last fiscal year. Unfortunately, the scoreboard shows that reduction was courtesy of the $4.1 million from academics.

And NMSU isn't alone in calling this play.
If the state and its universities want to subsidize college athletics, then they can — and should — in an open and honest manner. Don't tell the public the programs are self-supporting, then shuffle cash intended for classrooms. Don't force academics to play defense year in and year out. The Legislature needs to blow the whistle on this play once and for all.

Used Car Part Businesses Hit Hard by Extortion, Murder

Álvaro Palos López, 35, was killed on Tuesday afternoon a few yards from his junkyard, the Yonke 48 located on Manuel J. Clouthier 1036, in Col. Salvárcar. He was running from his assassins, who caught up to him and gunned him down right in front of a ravine. He had refused to pay a quota of $1500 pesos (about $115 U.S.) per week, demanded by extortionists witnesses said were identified with La Linea. In May the manager of the enterprise, a man identified only as Guadalupe, was murdered after the owner refused to pay the extortionists. Guadalupe tried calling 066 (equivalent to 911) and the operator heard gunshots. They sent the Red Cross ambulance but Guadalupe was dead when they arrived.

In another case a junkyard owner was kidnapped and, according to the story in Diario, his family paid a ransom fee of $200,000 pesos (about $15,000 U.S.) but the victim' body was found on May 10, decapitated. Junkyard owners complain that a group of suspected extortionists were jailed but later released because of a "poorly prepared case." Since that time, about two weeks ago, they said, extortion cases among junkyard owners have increased. One person interviewed said that the number of junkyards has declined from about 800 in 2008 to 500 now, due principally to the threat of extortion.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Las Cruces Per Capita Income Up in 2009

Capitol Report New Mexico (click here), an excellent web site that keeps track of economic indicators and trends in New Mexico's economy, reports today that per capita income in Las Cruces went up 1.4% from 2008 to 2009, to $28,855. In contrast per capita income in Albuquerque declined 0.7%, to $35,165. Santa Fe declined to $43,002, a decline of 4.3%.

Mutineers Will be Relocated, Violence is Down: Facundo Rosas Rosas

The Federal Police Commissioner to Juarez, Facundo Rosas Rosas, told reporters yesterday the 248 persons who participated in the mutiny against their commander, Salomón Alarcón Romero, have been relocated and have already been replaced in Juarez. Alarcon, Ricardo Duque Chávez, Joel Ortega Montenegro and Antelmo Castañeda Silva--accused by the mutineers of severe acts of corruption--have been suspended, as well as 16 persons thought to be ringleaders of the revolt.

Federal Government Report to Mexico City Last Saturday: Violence is Down

Rosas was challenged by reporters about a report presented to federal police officials last Saturday in Mexico City to the effect that the violence in Juarez is in " marginal decline." The data used by the federal government, according to reporters, does not coincide with data provided by the state prosecutor's office, which is used by the news media to keep track of homicides, and which indicates that homicides are in fact on the rise compared to last year. Rosas suggested that last year there were spikes of up to 287 murders per month during the second half, compared to "249 murders in July of 2010. This is a decline that doesn't satisfy very much, but we are working on it." Reporters, however, pointed out that the state prosecutor's office shows July of 2010 with 291 homicides, a slight rise. Rosas also asserted that kidnappings and extortions in Juarez are down compared to last year.
From a note this morning in Diario

However, Felix A. Gonzalez, writing for Norte
this morning (click here) cites statistics from the state prosecutor's office showing that, while auto theft is down overall, car jackings, which is to say, theft with threat of violence, is up about 50% compared with last year.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

El Juli, Number One Ranking Bullfighter This Season

A few weeks ago (click here) I wrote a few words about seeing the young matador El Juli (Julián López Escobar) in Juarez in 1999, and I've been trying with only limited success this summer to follow (through the news media) the career of Michelito, the twelve-year-old novice in Mexico. He has had several bad afternoons and there is some question whether he can learn to stay out of trouble quickly enough to make it as a serious matador. I'm betting that he can.

I looked up the escalafon taurino (the bullfighter rankings) this morning and discovered that El Juli is finishing up the 2010 season Number one again for the first time in years. He was severely gored in the thigh in 2005 and other matadors (Miguel Angel Perera, Morante de la Puebla, El Cid, Jose Manzanares, Sebastian Castella, Juan Bautista) have been able to compete with him for top honors ever since.

I have embedded a Youtube video of El Juli when he was 18 in 2001, and if you want to see how he has evolved as a bullfighter you can see a video of him just a few days ago in Gijon, Spain on August 12 by clicking here and scrolling down to the first video.

Would you Rather Be Killed by a Beautiful Woman? Female Assassins Recruited, Teto Advisor Assassinated, Twenty Dead, More Juarez Guns of August

The guns of August are smoking in Juarez.

Yesterday, Sergio Raúl Natividad García, a former city councilor and city administrator during the previous administration of Hector (Teto) Muguia (2004-2007), was killed as he was driving on Tecnologico at 1:25 a.m. on Monday morning, apparently ambushed by an assassination squad. He was one of the persons Murguia most confided in, and he was expected to play a major role in the new city administration of Murguia, that begins in October. He began his political career in 2004 when he was elected councilor, but withdrew from that position when appointed by Murguia to be the director of a department dealing with new urban growth. He was on the transition team for the mayor-elect. For story in Diario click here.

Mr. Natividad García was one of twenty persons assassinated yesterday.

In a note in Diario Sandra Rodríguez Nieto reports (click here) that a man captured and accused of participating in the homicide of a police officer whose body was dismembered, has informed his captors that La Linea recruited about 20-30 young, attractive women between the ages of 18 and 25 or 30, to form part of assassination squads. They have been on salary for about two months and are learning the trade on the job. The are recruited in large part to prevent suspicion on the part of their targets, and they integrate themselves into existing assassination cells.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Death in the Afternoon: And More, as the Beat Goes On: 47 on the Weekend

From Diario (click here): Yesterday afternoon at about 2 p.m. on Los Ángeles, a residential street in Col. Industrial, three pickups pulled up to a recently rented house where people, mainly women, had been partying for three days. The men in the pickups, all of them armed, surrounded the house, and a few of them entered. Then witnesses say they heard gunfire. Thinking it would be over in a few moments, neighbors were surprised gunshots could be heard in the house as much as twenty minutes later. Then the men walked out of the house calmly, bought some popsicles and snow cones from a street vendor who was passing by, and left. Only then did police arrive, to find four persons dead, three women, and one man. Four more women were injured. All of the women killed or injured were between 18 and 24 years old. The man killed was Rogelio Orozco, 26. The weapons used were AK-47 and R-15.

The 47 persons killed in Juarez this weekend tied the record set this year on a weekend in January and another in July. On Friday twenty persons lost their lives, 6 were killed on Saturday, and 21 were killed yesterday.

A few hours before the Los
Ángeles killings, at about 1 a.m. on Sunday morning, five persons were killed at a residential home in Col. Infonavit Solidaridad, when a birthday party, for a woman who turned 20 on Saturday, was interrupted by assassins. The victims were shot while sitting at tables in plastic chairs provided for the party. Hours later, according to Norte (click here) the gunmen returned to kill one of the survivors.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Michelito, Twelve Years Old, Has a Bad Afternoon in Torreon

Michelito Lagravere, the twelve-year old novice bullfighter, got knocked down by a novillero (novice-level) bull, his first of the afternoon last Sunday in Torreon, and, while he killed it (without much elegance) he was unable to continue for his second bull. Instead, he was taken to the hospital. Ulises Rivera of El Siglo de Torreon reported that his first bull, Compadre, "lacked presence and style," and tossed him during a pass. He failed multiple times to kill the bull with the sword, and was not applauded when he finally succeeded in killing him. He then was taken to the hospital. A local novice bullfighter, Salvador López, finished out the afternoon, having to kill three bulls, for which he was awarded the "Coliseo Centenario" trophy. He is the first novice bullfighter in the history of the Torreon bullring to kill three bulls in one encounter. For story in El Siglo click here

Body Count 1802 On the Year: Ten More Yesterday

During August the homicide average in Juarez has notched upward, from 8 to 10 per day. Yesterday ten persons were killed, including a federal police officer, whose decapitated body was found wrapped in a blue tarp with hands and feet tied near a warehouse on Oscar Flores Blvd. On his body was a narco-message that said, "I'm a PFP (federal police), Sincerely _____," indicating the assassins, presumably, were members of La Linea. Twenty three federal police officers have been killed since federal police took over security responsibilities, replacing the army, on April 9. Another of the victims was Hugo Francisco Zamora Ochoa, 24 años, a nephew of Manuel Espino, former head of the PAN Party in Mexico, who lives in Juarez. He was killed at the Mitla Mall at around 11 a.m. just as he was getting into his automobile, a black Peugeot, in the shopping center parking lot.

Compiled from stories in Diario and La Polaka

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Funeral Homes, Cemeteries, Hospitals, and the Presence of Death: The Juarez Tuesday Beat

The Juarez Beat: Eleven Dead on Tuesday

As the corpse of a murder victim in Juarez was being embalmed at a funeral home at about 1 p.m. yesterday afternoon, a group of men entered and asked to see the body. The owner of the establishment denied the request since the body was still being prepared, but at that moment a group of armed men entered the building, causing the first group to flee through a back door. A few minutes later the owner, Ramón Quintana González, 50, his son Ivan, and a friend of the family, Octavio Aragón, were dead from gunshot wounds and another one of González's sons was wounded. The corpse that was being embalmed at the time of the incident was going to be transferred to another funeral home, but there had been difficulty getting another funeral home to accept it, for fear of just the kind of incident that took three lives at this funeral home, the Funeraria Satélite.

"When is this going to end?" asked one of the neighbors, who had come across the bodies of two decapitated men (pig faces painted on their chests) fourteen hours earlier behind the Jardines Eternos cemetery, about 500 yards away from the funeral home.

At 8:30 last night two men arrived a the emergency entrance of the Social Security Hospital (No. 66), one of them injured with a bullet wound. After the wounded man was admitted a group of armed men burst into the emergency room, located the men, and killed them.

The body of a 28-year old woman,
Blanca Iris Pérez Chico, was left next to an empty lot at Parque Industrial Aerojuárez, at about 3:45 p.m. Witnesses said the vehicle carrying the body then ran over it before leaving the scene. She had been kidnapped earlier in the day.

Compiled from staff reports in Diario, click here for story.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

To Arm or Not to Arm Traffic Police in Juarez

The Mexican defense department has taken weapons assigned to traffic police (part of the municipal police force) away from them temporarily, ostensibly to verify registration numbers. But many traffic police officers believe the measure was taken because of recent attacks by organized criminal gangs against traffic police, in which weapons were taken from officers.

Recent attacks against traffic police assigned to guard bus terminals have resulted in injuries to officers and in several instances officers under attack have been relieved of their weapons. On July 27, for example, eight officers were attacked, and all were relieved of their weapons. This, many traffic officers believe, is the real reason their guns have been taken away: to prevent criminal gangs from attacking traffic police to obtain guns. Diario (click here) interviewed several traffic officers, who spoke on condition of anonymity, who asserted that the registration checks occur once or twice a year but in previous checks officers were simply asked to present themselves at an office to verify the registration number on their weapon. The guns never left their possession, as has happened now. Some of the officers feel much more vulnerable without their weapons, and hope they will get them back soon.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Mutiny Fallout: 248 Officers Will Be Investigated for Insubordination

Diario today notes (click here)that the public has been "astonished" to hear that the 248 federal police officers who rebelled against their apparently corrupt superiors may face charges of insubordination. In a press release from the Federal Public Security Department, it was announced that four commanding officers of the Third Group of federal police in Juarez have been transferred to Mexico City to face an investigation by the internal affairs department of the federal police. Mayor Jose Reyes Ferriz today not only confirmed this but he also added that the PGR, the national prosecutor's office (similar to the Justice Department) will also conduct an investigation.

But the press release also indicated that the 248 agents may face punishment for having made their protest public without using "appropriate channels" to bring to public light the corruption of the police.

Other notes in Diario today suggest that some sectors of the population would like to see the federal police leave, and bring back the armed forces. This, according to Mayor Reyes, is not going to happen.

This is a delicate situation for the federal police, for many reasons. If, as many people seem to think is likely, the four commanders were indeed committing some of the crimes they were accused of, then a good question is, why did it take a full fledged mutiny, including a moment in which federal police were pointing loaded weapons at each other, to bring this to light? Did it not begin (as I understand it from reading the Diario account) precisely because officer Desid ended up being arrested, the mutineers believed, for refusing to obey orders to commit illegal acts? That is, because "appropriate channels" were not working? Shouldn't the mutineers be rewarded for their actions, instead of punished? On the other hand, ignoring the insubordination of the mutineers could be devastating for federal police command structures in the future, and if left unpunished, it might provoke federal agents to mutiny for inappropriate reasons, say complaints about working conditions or pay, which did in fact surface during this past mutiny, along with much more serious accusations. A serious investigation is needed, by a credible outside team with no vested interest, to understand factually just what the circumstances were. Fixing the "appropriate channels" may be a necessary step, but if police corruption is as widespread as some people think, it is difficult to imagine fixing things if the appropriate channels are part of the problem.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Anatomy of a Mutiny: The Federal Police Revolt in Juarez

From Diario's account (click here): It began shortly after 4 a.m. when federal police agent Victor Manuel Desid, assigned to the Third Group of the Federal Police of Juarez, was arrested for possession of drugs. He was arrested by personnel escorting Third Group commander (the exact title is First Inspector) Salomon Alarcón Romero, nicknamed "El Chamán." Angered at what they considered an illegal arrest, some of Desid's co-workers called news reporters as early as 7 a.m. to assert his innocence. By 8 a.m. a group of Desid's co-workers had decided to go on strike demanding Desid's release.

But some of them also marched to the Playa Hotel where commander Alarcón was staying, bursting into some of the rooms occupied by his escorts and lieutenants. Alarcón retreated to one of the rooms (not his), guarded by a phalanx of his officers. Rebel officers burst into room 105, Alarcon's, and discovered weapons, ammunition, and small packages of cocaine and marijuana. By this time numerous photographers, camaramen, and reporters were on the scene. Some of the rebels explained that drugs were planted on officers who refused to cooperate with some of Alarcón's illegal activities. This, they believed, was why Desid had been arrested. Other rebels shouted out complaints about working 12 hour shifts, about the poor quality of the food, lack of support for uniforms, and that they were being charged between 500 and 2000 pesos ($40-$160 US) to obtain a pass to visit their families. As the morning passed, between 250 and 300 federal officers, wearing masks, joined the mutiny. They blocked off Ave. Lopez Mateos from Benjamin Franklin to Hermanos Escobar, keeping traffic from passing by the Playa Hotel, which is located right across the street from the old U.S. Consulate building.

Officers complained that Alarcón, who took command of his unit just a month ago, boasted from the beginning that he was well connected in the division of internal affairs at the PGR (the cabinet department that supports the federal police) so they could take no action against him. He informed his troops "Que todo aquel güey que no quisiera trabajar con él se iba a chingar" (rough translation: anyone who refused to work with him would be screwed), said one officer.

A policewoman from the prosecutor's office arrived on the scene and began to negotiate with the rebels. She promised the release of agent Desid by 3 p.m. and to bring federal officials dispatched that morning from Mexico City to negotiate with the mutineers. She explained that the prosecutor's office was not open on Saturday, which is why officers had not been dispatched to the scene to record the presence of drugs found in Alarcon's room.

At 3 p.m., however, Desid had not been released and no agent from Mexico City had arrived. The mutineers began insulting the guards protecting Alarcon, pointing their weapons at them. Alarcon's guards relinquished their weapons, but Alarcon himself kept his assault rifle in his hands. As the mutineers moved toward the small command group, Alarcon declared that commander Ricardo Duque Chavez had arrested agent Desid. Duque was then beaten severely, in front of photographers. Alarcon was then disarmed and "arrested" and forced to walk to a table containing the drugs discovered in his room. They tried to force him to kneel down in a mock presentation as federal police often do before the press to criminals with evidence found against them, but, fighting back, he remained standing. "I'm also a person, I don't know what they are talking about, I didn't arrest the officer, I'm defending him. I don't know what they are accusing me of," he said to television cameras that were rolling.

Then the area motorcycle coordinator, Mario Montano Alcocer arrived on the scene, telling mutineers that while they were dealing with a matter of internal affairs, the rest of the federal agents were working, and one agent had already been killed in the morning, and four wounded. He assured them that officials from Mexico City were on their way, but a Special Forces group was organizing to move against them.

At about 5 p.m. the officials from Mexico City, headed by Rafael
Avilés arrived, heavily escorted by hundreds of heavily armed troops. After private negotiations that lasted more than half an hour, reporters heard all parties shout in unison, "Federal Police, Federal Police: Protect and Serve the Community." Aviles later announced that four commanders, including Alarcon and Duque, had been separated from their responsibilities; an investigation would be launched in response to the accusations made by the mutineers; the 25 agents who had initiated the mutiny would be identified; and other complaints would be addressed. By 6:30 p.m. agents of the Third Group were patrolling again, in the Chihuahua Sector of Cd. Juarez. At 7 p.m. agent Victor Manuel Desid, whose arrest had provoked the mutiny, was released on his own recognizance pending investigation.

Among the accusations reporters heard against Alarcon were that he is tied in with organized criminals; that he has participated in kidnappings, executions, and extortions, and that his officers have been forced to go along with these illegal activities. Photographs were displayed of persons who, mutineering agents asserted, had been kidnapped by federal agents under Alarcon's command.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Breaking Story: About 200 Federal Police In Juarez Revolt Against What They Claim are Three Corrupt Chiefs

Several newspapers in Juarez are reporting this afternoon that about 200 federal police blocked off Ave. Lopez Mateos from Hermanos Escobar to Benjamin Franklin this morning and held a protest in front of the Hotel Playa, nearby. They demanded the firing of First Inspector of the Federal Police, Salomon Alarcón Olvera, alias El Chamán, and Joel Ortega and Ricardo Duque, who apparently work with him, who, they say, are part of an organized ring that extorts money from them. They also demanded the release of Jose D'Cid, a federal police officer who, they say, reported Salomon to higher authorities only to find himself charged with drug possession and detained by the PGR.

Reports about exactly what happened are still sketchy, but apparently the three officers accused of these offenses were in the Hotel Playa (really, a motel) in rooms 105, 106, and 107. Federal police officers kicked down the doors, and, reports say, found drugs in them which, they say, are used to plant on officers who refuse to pay their extortion fees. Some photographs appear to indicate that at least one of the officers was dragged from his room and forced in front of TV cameras. Diario (click here) noted that Facundo Rosas Rosas, the Juarez federal police commissioner, was on the scene.

The last report by Diario, minutes ago (at 3:09, I'm writing at 3:21) is that a deadline protesting police had placed on the release of D'Cid passed at 3:00 and protesters have been able to disarm guards protecting room 105, which holds Salomon, from protesters

For coverage by La Polaka click here.
For coverage by Diario click here
For coverage by El Pueblo click here

Diario Story: Bus Drivers Are Being Hit By Extortionists

In an interesting story in Diario this morning (click here) Rocío Gallegos interviews several bus drivers for reactions to the death of a bus driver and his money collector on Thursday afternoon.

"We used to be afraid just of armed robbers," one driver said. "Now on top of that we have problems with extortionists, gun battles, and executions."

"We all go on our daily rounds with fear," said another.

Drivers held a protest during the May 1 (Labor Day) parade, asking for greater protection and arguing that they had suffered almost 400 incidences from 2009 through the first four months of 2010, and that 30 drivers had been killed either in direct attacks, assaults, or stray bullets. They claim a number of drivers have given up their jobs, while others have taken to living in El Paso or living in hiding in Juarez. While law enforcement officials promised to place undercover agents on buses, one driver told Gallegos this has never been implemented.

Eleven Percent of All Slain Mexican Police Are Slain in Cd. Juarez

Public Security Secretary Genaro Garcia Luna revealed yesterday that since President Felipe Calderon became president on December 1, 2006, until July 26, 2010, 2076 law enforcement officials at federal, state, and local levels have been assassinated. Out of these, 227--10.9%--were killed in Cd. Juárez. Police assassinations in Juárez have been escalating steadily: 14 in 2007, 71 in 2008, 67 in 2009, and 65 so far this year. Out of these, 24 have been local police, 18 were federal police, 10 were from the state investigative police, and two from the traffic police. Three state agents have been killed, two guards at the state prison, two detectives from the state prosecutor's office, two officers in the state justice office, one state prosecutor, and one guard at the local jail. For story in Diario click here.

Assuming that police officers are geographically distributed throughout Mexico in proportion to the population, and since Juárez has just over 1% of the population of Mexico, this suggests a police officer in Juárez is about ten times more likely to be killed than police throughout the rest of Mexico. On Wednesday August 4 we provided statistics given out by a government agency (CISEN) that 23% of all murders attributed to organized crime since Calderon became president took place in Juárez, and that this suggests residents of Juárez are about twenty times more likely to be murdered than residents throughout the rest of Mexico.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Public Security Chief of Mexico Urges Replacement of Municipal Police

Late last year President Calderon proposed doing away with municipal police and replacing them with federal police. This week in Puerto Vallarta a National Governor's Conference was held to discuss a proposal to replace municipal police with state police. The Secretary of Public Security, Genaro Garcia Luna, attended the conference and asserted in a presentation he made that according to evidence gathered recently organized crime is paying off municipal police about $300-$375 (U.S.) per month as "compensation." If the government were to increase the salaries of municipal police by that amount, he said it would come to an extra $100 million per month, enabling police to live a more dignified life. He also asserted that the municipal police add up to about 40% of all law enforcement officials in the country, and they have no legal authority to investigate crimes (felonies are the responsibility of state and federal police), only to enforce local ordinances at the behest of city governments. He appeared to support the new proposal. This would, however, require constitutional revision.

Currently in Juarez a municipal police officer is earning about $800 per month; the salaries are about half as much or less in many parts of Mexico.

The Guns of August: Eleven Dead, One Nebraskan, One Apparent Extortionist, TwoTeenagers, One Woman Who's Husband Was Murdered Last Week, And Others

Compiled from stories in Diario, El Mexicano, La Polaka, and El Norte

Yesterday was active. At about 11:20 a.m. the owner of a tire repair shop in Zaragoza and his 17-year old assistant were murdered in the shop. While police were looking at the crime scene they were notified about another double murder in Villas del Sur (see picture) in Lote Bravo. One, Ismael López Sánchez, was 16, a high school student at a private school. The other, Humberto Esteban Chairez Gómez, 20, worked at the Electrolux maquila plant.

Three miles away, at about the same time an American from Nebraska--Roy Labra, 20--driving a sand-colored Chrysler M300 without plates, was chased down and killed by gunmen in two vehicles, a car and a pickup in Col. Paso del Norte. According to one version of events one of the pursuing vehicles rammed the Chrysler onto a sidewalk, but the car ended up in the middle of the street. The man then tried to hide in the back seat, where he was executed. The car had many bullet holes in it and broken windows. Police arriving on the scene could hear the sound of a corrido coming from the radio. One report said there was a gun in the car.

Then at about 5 p.m. the driver of a bus traveling South along the Juárez-Porvenir highway was gunned down along with his money collector. Apparently two vehicles intercepted the bus at No. 9 Riberas del Bravo (km. 19) and shot at the driver, Carlos Vera, 35, who pulled the bus off the road onto an empty lot and stopped, mortally wounded. His body slumped off the driver's seat. A gunman entered the bus and shot and killed the money collector who was trying to escape out the emergency door in the back. Newspapers had conflicting reports as to whether there were passengers on the bus. For one version (El Mexicano) click here. For another version (Diario) click here.

A woman around 30 years old whose husband was killed last Saturday in the Plaza Reloj was gunned down yesterday in front of her house in Col. Juarez Nuevo.

Late yesterday afternoon at Ave. Tecnológico between De la Raza and Simona Barba, a municipal police officer confronted a group of extortionists hitting up the owner for his "quota." The officer, assigned to protect a nearby business noticed a group of armed persons going into a used car lot. Solis Motors. At that moment a unit of the Federal Police was going by and they joined the police officer. The extortionists drew weapons and there was an exchange of gunfire for several minutes, leaving one man dead and another injured while the other members of the gang fled.

Witnesses at the scene indicated that Tuesdays and Thursdays are the days extortionists tend to pick up their weekly "quotas."

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

More Deadly Statistics: One in Four Assassinations in Mexico are Consumated in Juarez

The Center for National Security Research (CISEN) released statistics on Monday that have been making the rounds in the news media. According to their count since President Felipe Calderon took office on December 1, 2006, until July 31, 2010, 28,000 assassinations (exactly? Give or take a few? I'm not sure) in all of Mexico have been attributed to organized crime. Of these 6416 (23% of the total) have taken place in Cd. Juarez. So almost one in four murders attributed to organized crime throughout Mexico occur in Juarez, which is home to just over one Mexican out of every hundred. Another way of putting this is that your chances of being killed by an act attributed to organized crime in Juarez is about 20 time higher than it would be if homicides were randomly distributed throughout Mexico.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

U.S. Consulate Reopens

The U.S. Consulate Offices in Cd. Juarez reopened today after closing for four days for a "security review." The closing of the consulate raised the level of fear to new heights even for Juarez, particularly when citizens were advised to stay away from the area surrounding the building after a bomb threat against the facilities.

The reopening of the building is likely to sooth some of the fear that has gripped this city ever since a car bomb went off on a busy thoroughfare downtown, killing four people, accompanied by narco-messages painted on walls, apparently by a drug organization, threatening more car bombs. These fears were amplified in the public mind when the Consulate closed its doors, and after a fragmentation grenade went off as federal police were approaching an abandoned vehicle on a street (a phenomenon that for good reasons in Juarez sends up red flags), a scene witnessed and recorded by reporters and photographers who had learned about the incident. No one was killed but the explosion was photographed by frightened reporters and was seen by viewers in El Paso, Las Cruces, and Juarez (some of the coverage was near-hysterical), increasing the generalized fear.

As if this were not enough, a riot between rival gangs (the Doble A and the Azteca gangs) at Cereso jail in Juarez, which sent smoke pluming through the air visibly, and an unusually high death toll of 27 murders over the weekend, punctuated the lack of security in the city. While it is only prudent for citizens to proceed with caution and to be aware of their surroundings as they go about their daily business in Juarez, it appears the immediate danger of a car bombing going off in public is less likely than many people fear or imagine even though it remains a distinct possibility.

New Narcomessage Signed by La Linea Threatens Federal Police Again

Federales. Hijos de puta salgan para partirles la madre no se escondan atte la ____.”

(My translation: Federal Police. Sons of bitches come out so we can split your heads open don't hide, sincerely La Linea)

The drug gang La Linea (the Line) has taken to signing off with a line (____) instead of writing out the word.

This was the message found painted on a wall of a municipal cemetery yesterday afternoon at 4 p.m., about 24 hours after
Rubén del Valle Martínez, a federal police agent, was killed in an ambush on his patrol car at Niños Héroes and Plutarco Elías Calles. Shortly after that ambush a group of federal agents who were closing in on a suspiciously abandoned car on Avenida de la Raza were surprised by what was later confirmed as a fragmentation grenade went off nearby. No one was killed, but the incident received a great deal of public notoriety since a Diario photographer and a unit of channel 44 news and other news media personnel were covering the event and got video and pics of the action on TV. The TV unit had some holes in it from the splinters of the grenade. Had they not been present, the story would not have warranted any coverage.

For Diario coverage of this click here.

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Latest Income Distribution Figures: The Richest 1% Gobbled Up 21% of All U.S. Income in 2008. How Did the Richest Fare in the Great Recession?

Are the rich still getting richer?

For the past few years Emmanuel Saez, a Berkeley economist, and Thomas Piketty, an economist at the Paris School of Economics, have been updating some work they published in the Quarterly Journal of Economics in 2003. They look at income tax returns, especially for the top ten percent of the U.S. and calculate the amount of pre-tax income going to the top 10%, the top 5%, the top 1%, the top .1%, etc. Their results show an astonishing concentration of income to the richest Americans during the past thirty years. In 1978 richest 1% of Americans gobbled up almost 9% (8.5%) of all the income reported for taxes that year. By 2007, the year before the Great Recession of 2008, they were gobbling up 23.5% of all the income. The only year since the income tax was created in the U.S. in 1913 that surpasses this concentration is 1928 (when it was 23.94%), the year before the stock market crash that jump-started the Great Depression.

For the downloads click here.

This year Saez's update includes a discussion about what he thinks may be happening at the very top of the income heap as a result of the Great Recession of 2008-2009. Here is a quote: "in the economic expansion of 2002-2007, the top 1 percent captured two thirds of income growth." That is, the bottom 99 percent had to share only 33% of the growth in income during that period. However, in the Great Recession of 2008-2009 the top one percent did suffer disproportionately, falling by 19.7%, while the bottom 99 percent's income dropped only 6.9%; however, this 6.9% drop is the "worst drop on record since the Great Depression of 1929-1933." And the drop in the incomes of the rich should be put into perspective: "the top 1 percent absorbed a larger fraction of losses in the 2000-2002 recession (57%) than in the first year of Great recession (47%)." And he concludes that although there has been a drop in the proportion of income going to the very rich, "the Great Recession is unlikely to have a very large impact on top income shares and will certainly not undo much of the dramatic increase in top income shares that has taken place since the 1970s."

At the present time there is a debate in Congress as to whether the huge tax cuts to the rich, enacted by President Bush should be allowed to expire at the end of the year, in order to help pay for the federal government's deficit spending. Should Congress continue to enact policies designed to shovel money up from the masses to the richest Americans, as we have for the past three decades? Should stimulus money continue to be used to pay for bonuses that go to the business class in the richest one tenth of one percent on income earners? Both political parties have gone along with policies that have distributed income up to the rich in the past thirty years. Is there any indication this will change now that we know the very wealthiest class in America, after screaming at and bribing both parties to deregulate their financial activities, provoked the conditions, through smoke and mirrors and a little fudging on bond ratings, that led to the greatest economic disaster since the Great Depression? A top economist at Berkeley thinks not.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Diario Speaks Out: A Sunday Editorial

Note: For the past two years violence in Juarez has escalated steadily, as two rival drug organizations have fought each other with deadly passion over regional turf. At first they were just shooting at each other. But when in the Spring of 2009 the presence of nearly 10,000 recently arrived army troops proved to be ineffective in stopping gang killings and other forms of crime, a surge of kidnappings and a massive wave of extortions took hold. Ordinary criminals and sometimes underemployed drug-gang members themselves began to target small and medium businesses, emboldened by the seeming impotence of police forces; indeed, some police officers got into the act themselves. Now business owners were being shot and victimized at as well as drug traffickers, initiating a new phase in the war. Law enforcement deterrence remained minimal at first in spite of the large presence of troops, although in recent months police forces been able to capture some of the extortionists, kidnappers, and drug gang assassins.

The recent car-bombing, preceded by threats against law enforcement and followed by threats against the U.S. Consulate and others, have now elevated the generalized fear to a new, heightened level. Anyone innocently within range of a car bomb in a public place is a potential victim. At least for the moment Juarez is in a new phase in this downward spiral of violence.

I thought readers who have been following some of the violence through this blog site might be interested in reading excerpts from an articulate editorial that appeared today in the city's largest newspaper, Diario de Juarez. The tone of the piece reflects the lack of trust in public institutions, fear, anguish, and anger that you hear expressed by citizens of Juarez, about forty miles as the crow flies from my home in Las Cruces. Notice the last sentence and the last two words, defending the democratic process. For the whole editorial in Spanish click here.

What do authorities know about the threats that we don't know about? What threats caused the U.S. government to close the U.S. Consulate without giving a date for it's reopening?....Why did the Americans warn their citizens to stay away from the area surrounding the Consulate? What threats did (Juarez) municipal authorities receive to make them adopt strict security measures at City Hall? Is it because things are worse than we thought that the State Electoral Institute has estimated 110,000 residences have been abandoned in Juarez? Are the experts right to tell us to expect more explosions and instruct us on what to do in case of a massive explosion?

Why, if Mayor Reyes Ferriz is correct that future attacks will not be directed against civil society, did he at the same time announce severe measures to shield City Hall, and assert that he wants similar measures to be taken by the private sector "including shopping centers where large concentrations of people gather.?" In other words precautions should be taken in places of large concentrations even though, he says, they are not targets of the criminal organizations because "they are aware that they can attack police forces but not civil society." Don't the narcomessages painted on the walls tell us exactly the opposite, that they will attack innocent persons in public places if law enforcement doesn't yield to the demands of criminal groups?

If this situation were not serious enough, the execution of Ignacio Coronel (it was an execution, just like that of Arturo Beltran Leyva, because not a shred of evidence leads to any other conclusion), is likely to make violence even worse, and not just in Jalisco or on the Pacific Coast where, law enforcement tells us, Coronel was the big cheese. The struggle will be national in scope not only because of the national scope of the Sinaloa Cartel but also because other criminal organizations will now try to fill in the blank spaces, leading us--probably--to another escalation in the wave of executions throughout the country.

Like José Reveles, one of the Mexican journalists most familiar with the problem, asserts, the unraveling of the cartels "will not stop drug trafficking." This points to a serious problem that we seldom discuss, which is the strategy employed by Felipe Calderon (if he has one), which, like that of Fox is premised in terms of the success of short-term half-measures rather than in effectiveness in the long run.

This strategy has converted the country into a butchery, with no end in sight, costing Mexicans many painful losses, including the first stirrings of freedom of expression, and it has taken the nation to a state of red alert. It would seem to want to take us to the conclusion that only an authoritarian solution can resolve such a serious crisis: no way...

The Beat: 291 Assassinations in July, 1701 On the Year

Juarez continues to rack up records. A few deadly statistics: last year at the end of July 1151 murders attributed to organized crime had been registered in Juarez, a record number. This year it is a nice round 1701. In all of 2009 my count is 2657. In 2008 it was 1653. In 2007 it was 318. In 2001 it was 194. Look like a rising trend? At the present rate of butchery 2010 will end with 2913 deaths attributed to organized crime, for an increase of over 9 percent over last year.

Definitions: In Mexico authorities distinguish between "homicidio doloso," which is murder, and "homicidio culposo," which is manslaughter. The deadly statistics you see on Juarez do not normally include manslaughter statistics. So if a drunk driver runs over a man and kills him, he is charged with "homicidio culposo." Problem is, sometimes agencies collecting statistics simply ask for "homicidios" for Juarez and end up with an exaggerated view of the cost of the drug war there. There is no need to exaggerate. The toll is bad enough.

January: 227
February: 163
March: 240
April: 205
May: 262
June: 313
July: 291

For an excellent wrap-up of the state of the violence in Juarez click here for a story in Diario by Luz del Carmen Sosa, who has been covering this for several years.