Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Today's headlines: * The Ayotzinapa parents are seeking a new ally — the pope. * Iguala was neither the first nor the worst case of cop/narco collaboration. * Message to the Jeep-smashing borough chief: This time it's not personal. * Throw Higa from the train.

All five papers front Iguala-related stories, but only Excelsior gives it top billing: “Cocula mayor testifies at the PGR.” Cocula is the small town just outside of Iguala whose police participated in the attack and where most of the students are thought to have been killed and incinerated. César Miguel Peñaloza Santana, the mayor, was reported missing earlier in the day, but it turned out he had been in the hands of the PGR — the federal Attorney General’s Office — since Friday. He was already interrogated in October, but was called back for more questioning by the SEIDO, the PGR’s organized crime division. Which is interesting.

Other papers play up possible Vatican interest in the Iguala case. El Universal’s No. 2 headline is “Parents of Ayotzinapa’s 43 ask the pope to get involved” and La Jornada’s second head is virtually identical. This development came out of a visit by papal nuncio Christophe Pierre to the very rural teachers college (its name is Isidro Burgos) in Ayotzinapa where the students were from. After a Mass the parents handed Pierre letters requesting the support of the pope, which might be in the form of a pronouncement on the case during his Christmas Eve homily. That, the parents hope, would rally the world to their cause. Reforma, Milenio and Excelsior focused on the visit rather than the request, all three in the form of photos with reefers to inside stories. In its photo caption, Excelsior refers to the nuncio’s suggestion that the parents “forgive.” That’s not going to happen any time soon.

Milenio’s top headline is a two-deck banner revealing that “Police are linked to two other massacres.” The reference is to the 2010 killing and mass burial of 72 Central American migrants in the town of San Fernando in the border state of Tamaulipas, and to the 2011 mass murder of 28 in Allende in Coahuila, another border state. The revelation is that in both cases local police officers were actively involved, collaborating with the murderous Zetas drug-trafficking organization. That information was apparently kept under wraps by the PGR until a freedom of information petition by the National Security Archive, a U.S. NGO, resulted in a transparency order by the IFAI, Mexico’s Institute for Access to Information. If the information is accurate, those slaughters of innocents were disturbingly similar to the Iguala massacre, and who knows how many more.

La Jornada leads with two pieces of bad news that seem almost benign in the midst of all the blood-soaked tragedy: “The peso and Mexican oil continue going downhill.” The peso closed Monday at 14.6575 to the dollar, weaker by 0.09% from Friday. Not long ago it was around 13. The value of the peso, however, is a range, not a point. Buying a dollar Monday cost you 14.96 pesos; selling one got you only 14.36 pesos. The price of Mexican crude for export has been falling for the last five weeks. It was at 48.20 a barrel on Monday, down 1.65 dollars from Friday. The drop in value has been nearly 48% for the year, according to the La Jornada article, but much of that fall had been accounted for, presciently, in the 2014 federal budget. Still, every decline is money lost to the national treasury, and that can lead to trouble. Ask Mr. Putin.

El Universal leads again with the woes of the borough chief of Mexico’s Iztapalapa delegación, Jesús Valencia. The story started out with the revelation that the SUV he smashed up after a party last week belonged to an employee of a government provider for whom Valencia had approved major contracts. Then, the more reporters started looking into the company, Amexire, the more mysterious it seemed to be. The news now is that Mexico City Mayor Miguel Ángel Mancera has ordered a formal investigation, which El Universal plays up under the head “MAM: the delegación head’s case is no longer personal.” Both Mancera and Valencia are PRD politicians.

Reforma’s top headline, “Higa thrown off the train,” is its allegedly clever way of informing us that the Communications and Transport Secretariat has disqualified Grupo Higa from participating in the new bidding process for building a rail line from Mexico City to Querétaro. Higa was part of the Chinese-led consortium that was originally awarded the contract, but President Peña Nieto decided to take a mulligan after it came to light hat Higa was financing the construction of a mansion for his wife. The cancellation was a major blow for the president's image, in terms of both his honesty and competence. This is no little choo-choo that has been undergoing a rather botched bidding process; it's a high-speed rail project that will cost billions of dollars. The Chinese consortium can bid again, but it will have to find new Mexican partners.

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