Saturday, January 10, 2015

Today's headlines: Friendly fire

El Universal has an exclusive on the January 6 battle (there’s no other word for it) in the city of Apatzingán in the state of Michoacán, which it plays up big on page one under the two-deck, four-column head: “Friendly fire in Apatzingán deaths: government.” The paper got ahold of a still-unreleased report from the office of the state’s federally appointed security commissioner, Alfredo Castillo. The results of the investigation indicate that at least six of the nine dead were hit by their own gang members.
    According to El Universal, it went down like this: Hours after occupiers were cleared out of city hall, federal police were transporting to an impoundment lot a number of automobiles the occupiers had stolen. Pick-up trucks suddenly cut off the police caravan front and back, and dozens of assailants poured out, shooting. This was captured on traffic surveillance video, some footage of which was up on El Universal's site earlier this morning but has disappeared, replaced by a video of the aftermath, which you can see here (not recommended: high on gore, low on info).
    The cops returned fire, the assailants beat a retreat, shooting behind them. That’s when six of them went down, caught in their own side’s fire. That is confirmed, the investigation says, by the caliber of the bullets in their bodies. Also, only 80 of the 327 casings found in the area were from police weapons.
    The story doesn’t mention army personnel, who were said to be part of the operations in earlier reports. Nor does it clarify exactly who these people are, willing and able to wage war in broad daylight. What do they want? Were the ambushers the same people who occupied city hall? How is it that the seat of government of a major city can be held by a gang for two weeks? And how long are the people of Michoacán (and Guerrero, and the State of Mexico, and Tamaulipas , and . . . ) expected to live with all this going on?

The crime crisis in Acapulco kept a reported 15,000 students out of school when classes resumed on January 7. That number grew over the week, according to Excelsior’s top headline: “Crime closes 109 schools in Acapulco.” Both Excelsior (sourcing an interview with Mayor Luis Walton) and La Jornada (under it’s No. 2 head; it leads with the events in France) say the teachers are more under threat than the students. What’s happening, the mayor said, is that the delinquents know the teachers are receiving their year-end bonuses, and are therefore ripe for the pickings. Once this period is over, things will return to “normal,” he said. One might assume that a crime prevention strategy of arresting muggers rather than waiting them out might be more effective. But Walton says there's not enough personnel for a law enforcement presence at all of the municipios 1,113 schools, even with federal help.

Milenio leads with, and most others front, the upcoming bidding processes for two important mega-projects — a new ultra-modern international airport on the outskirts of Mexico City and a high-speed rail project connecting the capital with the commercially vibrant city of Querétaro, about 136 miles away. The first attempt at contracting for the train project was canceled last fall when it was discovered that one of the participants in the winning (and only) consortium was involved in a real estate transaction with President Peña Nieto’s wife. This time, as Milenio’s headline informs us, there will be some outside assistance: “OECD will monitor train and airport bidding.” That announcement was made Friday by Communications and Transportation Secretary Gerardo Ruiz Esparza, who was frank about the motive for the OECD involvement , which is to make sure everything is on the up and up. The Organization for Economic Cooperation Development consists of 34 democracies with free-market economies. Mexico has been a member since 1994. The OECD’s secretary-general is former Mexican Foreign Relations Secretary José Ángel Gurria

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