Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Today's headlines: More death and confusion in Michoacán

Three of the five major Mexico City dailies chose not to lead with the Peña-Obama summit, where not much happened, and instead turned again to the state of Michoacán, where a lot happened and none of it good. In its lead headline, Milenio describes the news as “Federales take down eight armed civilians in Apatzingán.”  La Jornada’s main headline is similar, but puts the death toll at nine, the official number. Reforma has this: “Versions conflict in death of 11.” There were also reportedly 44 arrests, two of them women.
      This latest deadly violence happened when federal police and military personnel — the "federales" of Milenio's headline — mobilized in the pre-dawn hours Tuesday to liberate the city hall of Apatzingán, Michoacán’s fourth largest city of about 100,000. The building had been held since December 22 by dozens of armed men and women, presumably belonging to the criminal organization Los Viagras, but even that’s not confirmed. The official version is that there were two “incidents,” the first precipitated by an “ambush” of the amassing troops, during which one of the suspects was run over by a vehicle and killed. Eight more deaths — all of them suspects — occurred in the ensuing move on the building itself. Reforma quotes an anonymous witness as saying that at least two of the building-takers, no longer armed, were shot at point-blank range after they had surrendered. If that accusation holds up, we have an entirely different story.

The meeting Tuesday between Presidents Peña Nieto and Obama was a glorified photo op, at least as far as newspaper readers can tell. El Universal leads with it (“Alliance endorsed”), as does Excelsior (“U.S. offers more anti-narco help”).  Presumably, franker words were exchanged in private, but for the most part the coverage of what was announced for public consumption could have been written in advance. The two nations need to work together on security, agree on energy policy, strengthen economic ties, promote education . . . all boilerplate. Really, save for specific references to Obama’s partial immigration amnesty (“Thank you,” Peña Nieto said) and the Iguala student massacre (“It saddens us,” Obama said), the copy we read today could serve for any meeting of any two leaders of any two countries.

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