Thursday, December 18, 2014

Today's headlines: * The U.S.-Cuba thaw is played up big, and the mood is celebratory. * The state of Morelos is seen to be riddled with narco-municipios, and nobody's surprised. * What really happened in Michoacán between rival 'self-defense' groups, besides 11 people getting killed?

News of the breakthrough in U.S.-Cuban relations broke Wednesday morning, so it was well-known by the time the Thursday papers hit the stands. But such was the magnitude of the event that four of the five major dailies led with it anyway (Reforma, again, was the outlier).  In fact, three papers bannered it: La Jornada with “Cuba-U.S.: The thaw,” Excelsior with “U.S. and Cuba reconcile,” and Milenio with “Obama puts an end to the enmity with Cuba.”  That last might be overstating things. You can expect plenty of enmity from Republicans (and some Democrats)  in the U.S. Congress in the months ahead, though aimed more at Obama than either Castro. The Washington Post is already leading the charge, accusing the U.S. president of handing the Castro regime a “bailout.”

But it’s clear that diplomatic relations will be renewed, if in somewhat truncated fashion at first, and it was hard to find a negative word about it anywhere in the Mexican press. The closest thing to a downside came with the ubiquitous reminders that the embargo will remain in place until the GOP-controlled Congress votes to end it, or until Democrats regain control, or until hell freezes over.  Excelsior offered the nice touch of reproducing its 1961 front page with a banner head announcing the break in relations (which actually came a few months after the embargo was put in place). Similarly, Milenio ran an opinion column by Carlos Marín on Page One as a sort of sidebar to the main story, with the title “The onerous rupture of 53 years ago.” In it, Marín describes the circumstances leading up to the break in relations, although he was still a teenager at the time. Putting Marín’s column on the front page underscores the importance of the story, as well as the fact that Marín is the editor of the paper. (He was also a key player in the historic walkout of staffers and contributors from Excelsior in 1976, described on this site earlier; scroll ahead and click “Earlier Posts” and go to December 4.)

Reforma’s top head is “11 mayors linked to crime,” with the crime being understood as the organized type. The narco-municipios in question are spread across the state of Morelos, which has 33 municipios in all, so we’re talking about a third of them. That’s a shocking percentage — or at least would be in saner times — but most saw it coming. Morelos Governor Graco Ramírez talked openly about the problem earlier in the week. The Reforma story backs up his concerns, sourced now by intelligence officials. One of the mafias some mayors are said to be connected to is Guerreros Unidos, the presumed killers of the 43 teacher trainees in Iguala, which has a presence in Morelos as well.

Excelsior and Milenio give second place to, and all but Reforma front, a follow-up on Tuesday’s armed clash in Michoacán between rival self-defense gangs that left 11 dead. One of La Jornada’s sub-heads tells the takeaway: “It was the Gendarmerie that opened fire in La Ruana: El Americano.” El Americano is the nickname of one of the gang leaders, La Ruana was the site of the battle and the Gendarmerie is a paramilitary force created by the Peña Nieto administration to help fight drug mafias. In other words, the strategy again is to blame the feds. Alfredo Castillo, the federal commissioner for Michoacán who is pretty much running the state, said that 65 different individuals discharged their weapons during the fracas. He also promised that his investigators will get to the bottom of what happened, which seems desirable and unlikely in equal measures.

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