Saturday, February 14, 2015

Today's Headlines: A UN committee report finds that forced disappearances are widespread in Mexico. The Peña Nieto administration respectfully disagrees. So what now?

Right on time, the special United Nations committee on disappearances issued its report Friday on the situation in Mexico, based on its own research and testimony provided in Geneva earlier this month by government officials. All the dailies except Reforma front the story, and three lead with it. La Jornada’s top head is “Disappearances in almost all of Mexico: UN.” 
    The report, as expected, comes down hard on Mexico. Not only are disappearances “widespread” throughout the country, but many of them can be classified as “forced” or “enforced” disappearances, meaning they were carried out by — or with the complicity of — government officials or entities.
    The UN panel’s initials, CED, stand for Committee on Enforced Disappearances. It has jurisdiction over nations that have subscribed, by treaty, to UN protocols on handling cases of disappearance. Mexico is one of those nations.
    The CED recognized some advances, citing Mexico’s ratification of UN human rights treaties, the 2011 constitutional reform strengthening human rights commitments, and the adoption of legislation in favor of victims of rights violations.
    But those are just words on paper or screen. In terms of actually doing things, the committee concluded that the Mexican government is not in compliance with UN norms in a number of areas. There is no register of disappeared persons, for example, hence no accurate numbers on just how many people are victims. Investigation procedures are weak, means of identifying remains are insufficient and impunity is rampant.
    Mexico also needs to allow individuals to report suspected disappearances directly to the CED, the report said. And it pointed specifically to the case of the 43 disappeared normal school students from Ayotzinapa in the state of Guerrero as an example of “the serious challenges” Mexico faces.
    In the new Mexico of the imagination, the Peña Nieto administration’s response goes something like this: “We recognize the tragedy of the unacceptably high number of enforced and other disappearances throughout our country and we accept the CED report with gratitude for its   information on the situation and its recommendations. We will begin immediately to implement those recommendations that we are not already working on, and we will move forward quickly and efficiently in order to remove this scourge from our national life.”
    Alas, in the existing Mexico of reality, the government response was nothing like that, as we see learn from El Universal’s lead headline — “UN and government clash over disappearances” — and from Milenio’s more specific top head: “Mexico to the UN: there is no widespread disappearance.”
    The Foreign Relations and Interior (Gobernación) Secretariats released a statement Friday that included this sentence: “The recommendations made by the Committee do not adequately reflect the information submitted by Mexico nor do they provide additional elements that reinforce the actions and commitments being undertaken to address these challenges.”
    If you can't join 'em, fight 'em. 

Reforma leads with, and La Jornada gives prominent front-page space to, one of those outré events that say more about official dysfunction than any academic analysis could ever hope to. La Jornada: “Federales sent against police in Oaxaca.” Reforma: “Police repel PF with gunfire!”
    The “federales” or “PF” are the Federal Police. The plain “police” in those heads refers to the Oaxaca state force, in particular those who are on strike (250-300 of them according to Reforma, 2,000 according to La Jornada) and occupying the law enforcement installations in the town of Santa María Coyotepec.
    A good chunk of Oaxaca being without police protection for two weeks now, and a vital public facility having been taken out of commission extra-legally, the federal government responded by redeploying police agents (500, according to Reforma, 230 according to La Jornada) from the neighboring state of Guerrero to take back the Oaxaca barracks and restore order.
   The glitch in that plan had to do with the arsenal the striking Oaxaca officers were sitting on in the barracks — 3,434 firearms, short and long, some 500,000 cartridges in assorted calibers, patrol cars and communication equipment. The feds, therefore, were met with gunfire, which they returned. The two forces also came to blows with fists, according to the reports.
    By the time the skirmish was over, three federales and 22 Oaxaca cops were injured and nothing was settled. Each side held prisoners, which were exchanged. Reforma quoted a federal police spokesperson as saying they thought there’d be fewer state police inside.
    Later, Federal Police Commissioner Enrique Galindo showed up and negotiations — unarmed — began.

There was a terrible accident in the town of Anáhuac, about 50 miles from the U.S. border in the state of Nuevo León. It happened too late for the papers to cover, save for a front-page photo in Milenio with the blurb: Tragedy in Nuevo León.”
    Online reports this morning say an overloaded passenger bus tried to beat a freight train past a crossing and didn’t make it. Twenty are dead, according to the Anáhuac mayor, four of them minors. Another 31 were injured. The bus driver is hospitalized and in custody.

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