Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Today's headlines: Speaking of human rights . . .

With the Peña Nieto-Obama meeting set for for today in Washington, the Mexican press is providing the two North American presidents a lot to talk about. Topic A: human rights. La Jornada leads with “Torture a widespread practice in the country, NGO says.” Despite the head, the story cites several, not just one, non-governmental human rights organizations as it runs down a frightening list of human rights abuses by Mexican authorities nationwide. The point of the article is that extreme cases such as Iguala, in which city police gunned down six young people and turned over 43 more to a criminal organization for execution, and Tlataya, in which soldiers executed 22 captured suspects in a matter of minutes, are only part of the problem. Official abuse, including torture, are “common, everyday occurrences” in Mexico, according to the article.

What does Mexico’s human rights problem have to do with the United States? El Universal’s second front-page headline tells us: “Press Peña on human rights, Obama urged.” Doing the urging is Human Rights Watch, the New York-based international organization that sent a letter calling on the U.S. president to confront Peña Nieto “with greater seriousness” on the issue. Theoretically, the U.S. must certify Mexico’s compliance with human rights standards in order to keep the funds flowing for the security cooperation agreement known as the Mérida Initiative. That's generally been rubber-stamped, but HRW and others would like to see the U.S. put some teeth in the requirement. The topic will be taken up, but it will take some deft dancing for anything worthwhile to come out of the conversation. If Obama overtly alleges that Peña Nieto isn’t doing enough to end human rights abuse in Mexico, he will be accused of meddling, and that accusation will come from the same people on this side of the border who allege Peña Nieto isn’t doing enough to end human rights abuse in Mexico. It will also be pointed out that the U.S. record on human rights, including torture, has not exactly been exemplary.

Excelsior does the math and comes up with the following lead head: “Ceteg amasses 200,000 pesos per hour in tool booths.” Ceteg is the militant organization of teachers in the state of Guerrero that has unfortunately emerged as the leader of the grassroots mobilization that arose after the Iguala massacre. It funds its often violent protests by taking over toll booths, mostly on the Mexico City-Acapulco highway, and forcing motorists to hand over cash (more on this at “Whose impunity?” below). Excelsior interviewed toll booth operators and calculated the average hourly booty based on typical traffic flow. The article points out that Guerrero state authorities negotiated a pact with Ceteg to pause the toll booth actions during the holiday period, December 19 to January 4. Which raises  two questions: Shouldn’t authorities be preventing these robberies instead of negotiating when they’ll take place? And why were there no consequences when the pact was broken, as it was repeatedly?

Milenio leads with a triple play of bad economic news: “Oil falls, stock exchange loses ground and peso goes down.” The price of the "Mexican blend” is down to $41.25 dollars per barrel; it's dropped by 33.6% since December 1, according to Milenio. There’s talk of adjusting the 2015 budget to reduce spending if the price doesn’t bottom out soon. The peso, meanwhile, has sunk to 15.24 to the dollar, its weakest value in relation to the U.S. currency since 2009. And the index (IPC) of the Mexican Stock Exchange (BMV) has lost 4.8% so far in 2015, which is only two working days old.

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