Thursday, January 29, 2015

Today's Headlines: A new zero tolerance policy is aimed at cracking down on masked toll-booth takers. Unless their friends complain.

Responding to pressure, the Peña Nieto administration finally deployed federal police to the state of Guerrero Wednesday to deal with the almost daily seizures of toll booths along the Mexico City-Acapulco highway, mostly by militant teachers and other supporters of the 43 disappeared normal school students. Only Excelsior neglects any front-page mention of this third turning point in three days regarding the Iguala case. El Universal leads with it: “Guerrero government applies zero tolerance in Guerrero.”
    The “zero tolerance” thread runs through every paper’s account and surely originated with law enforcement itself. The term makes the intended point, but it’s a misnomer in this context. Zero tolerance as it applies to police work removes discretion from officers and requires them to act on the pettiest of infractions. Here, though, it means that the cops are going to stop letting masked gangs take over public facilities and extort money from their users.
    It didn’t take long for the operation to swing into action. According to the news reports, 80 officers were stationed along the sides of the road at the Palo Blanco toll booth near the state capital of Chilpancingo yesterday when a group of masked people pulled up to “take” the toll booth. Emboldened by four months of impunity, the gang ignored police orders and started about their business. When reality sunk in, they fled. They were caught. Thirteen (El Universal) or 14 (La Jornada), all students as a teachers college, were detained.
    They were soon freed. According to La Jornada they were let go because of “pressure from Aytozinapa students and teachers from CETEG,” gathered outside the building where they were being held. If that was really the reason for their release, the new “zero tolerance” policy doesn’t seem to have  changed the balance of power much.
    FUNPEG, the teachers college organization the arrested students belong to, says it will file a complaint on their behalf with the National Human Rights Commission. You can almost see the nation’s eyes rolling.
    Still, the surest way for the new policy to backfire is for the police to act abusively, and with unnecessary force against unarmed troublemakers, or criminal suspects, if you will. La Jornada runs a front-page photo of an officer with a two-fisted grip on his pistol, aiming it near one of the students, sans mask now and subdued on his knees. This is not the kind of image the nation needs to see right now.

The dailies give voice to a number of individuals and organizations taking issue with the conclusions of the Attorney General’s Office investigation released Tuesday. One of them is the National Human Rights Commission, quoted in La Jornada’s No. 2 headline: “The case of the 43 ‘is not over,’ CNDH says.” Among those differing with the report are CNDH head Luis Raúl González Pérez, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the writer Elena Poniatowska.
    Excelsior adds another voice to the it’s-not-over chorus: “PGR:  Iguala case is open. “PGR” is the Spanish initials of the very same Attorney General’s Office that released the report yesterday. “I never said the inquiries have closed,” Excelsior quotes Attorney General Jesús Murillo Karam as saying Wednesday. “I’m still investigating.”
    Nevertheless, he indicated, the principal conclusion won’t change — that the 43 disappeared students were murdered by members of the Guerreros Unidos drug trafficking organization. This is still controversial in some circles. The parents of the victims and their supporters won't accept that the students are dead until physical evidence proves it. Others think additional players were involved to a greater or lesser degree in the horrific events — including the army.
    Murillo made another comment that surely occurred to anybody who watched the PGR video that included the killers themselves re-enacting their deeds in detail, as though they were bricklayers explaining the finer points of mortar and pestle work. “I was impressed by how natural it was for the detainees to acknowledge the horrific deeds they had committed,” said the attorney general, who’s dealt with more than his share of violent criminals. “The lack of humanity worried me. It worried me a lot.”

La Jornada, curiously, goes with the following as its top headline: “Line 12 will be safe and a priority, Mancera guarantees.” Miguel Ángel Mancera is the head of government for the Federal District — that is, Mexico City’s mayor —who is presiding over one of the holiest of messes ever a hizzoner faced. The new Line 12, aka the Golden Line, of the Mexico City Metro system was inaugurated shortly before Mancera took office, and was partially shut down just over a year into his term when design flaws were discovered.
    Almost a year later, investigators revealed last week that all 30 trains may have to be replaced. This week we learned that a third of the 24-kilometer line will have to be rebuilt from scratch.
    Also this week, a congressional committee called Line 12 a “disaster”  and placed the blame squarely on Mancera’s predecessor, Marcelo Ebrard. Just like that, the once internationally acclaimed progressive mayor who was only an AMLO away from being the PRD’s presidential candidate in 2012 with a decent chance to win, is now the proud father of a certifiably botched 22 billion-peso  mega-project. He tried to speak this week before the committee. They wouldn’t let him in the door.
    The news today that inspired La Jornada’s uncharacteristically optimistic headline is based on Mancera’s assurances Wednesday that there is money for the reconstruction, that the train problem is salvageable, and that his government is committed to getting the full line up and running before the end of the year. Everything, we're being told, is going to be okay.

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