Thursday, April 9, 2015

Today's Mexico City Headlines: Is it something or is it nothing?

A roundup of the top headlines can clue us in to what people are talking about, at least those people who follow the news. Today it starts with a mega-heist at a major open-air mine in the state of Sinaloa, where commandos armed with high-powered rifles made off with 7,000 ounces of gold.
    All the papers front the story in one way or another, and Reforma leads with it: “130 million pesos in gold stolen.” La Jornada does the conversion for us with a head farther down the pecking order: “8.5 million dollars in gold stolen in assault on Sinaloa mine.”
    This was not the first mine robbery in recent years, although Sinaloa’s governor says it’s the first in his state. It’s certainly one of the biggest ever.
    We get no details of how the heist went down, whether shots were fired, whether there was a series of attacks or just one, or who might have done it. Drug-trafficking cartels have been known to carry out similar robberies of mines in Mexico, many of which are owned and operated by Canadian firms.

La Jornada’s lead news item gives us a dose of the kind of coverage almost all media outlets prefer when it comes to Congress — a blow-by-blow description of legislators insulting one another.
    Here’s La Jornada’s top headline: “Scuffle in San Lorenzo over Korenfeld.”
    Here’s the explanation: San Lorenzo is the site of the Chamber of Deputies, the lower house of Congress. David Korenfeld, who as director general of the National Water Commission (Conagua) is one of the most important federal officials in the nation, was recently caught making private use of a government helicopter. He admitted his transgression, and offered to pay back the cost.
    Opposition parties on the right (PAN) and the left (Morena, PT) want more than that. A resolution urging the president to fire him was introduced. Hence the “scuffle.”
    PAN Deputy Esther Quintana Salinas: “It’s not enough for this shameless and cynical Conagua director to pay 40,000 pesos. . . . He should be thrown out into the street feet first.”
    Deputy Salvador Romero came to his fellow PRI member’s defense with a look-who’s-talking argument: “Accusations of corruption are worthless if you don’t have the moral authority to make them. . . . We all witnessed the creepy corruption scandal of PAN deputies and their moches ('commissions' received for approving funds).”
    For Morena’s Alfonso Durazo, it was a matter of a pox on both their houses: “The PRI and PAN are both full of corruption.”

One of the most disturbing events of the week was the ambush Monday of a Jalisco state police convoy that resulted in the death of 15 officers. The perpetrators are assumed to be the powerful and especially violent drug-trafficking organization known as Jalisco’s New Generation.
    Aside from the human toll, the attack, which apparently had been meticulously planned over several days, worries authorities because it appears to represent a military-style offensive against the government.
    Excélsior leads today with this development: “U.S. issues warning on Jalisco drug traffickers.” The alert comes from the Treasury Department, which put the New Generation cartel and the allied Los Cuinis on its Foreign Narcotics Kingpin list, which officially prohibits U.S. citizens from engaging in transactions with them, for whatever that's worth.   
    The Treasury story broke in the U.S. press yesterday. The AP version maintains in its headline that this kind of planned ambush is a “rarity.” But the text itself says the opposite, i.e. that it was “the latest in a series of ambushes and attacks by cartel gunmen.” 

El Universal leads with this intriguing head: “Monreal and Cuauhtémoc Gutiérrez are being spied on.” It’s the kind of story that recalls the old David Letterman bit — is this something or nothing?
    Ricardo Monreal was a PRI ally of former President Carlos Salinas (1988-1994), but when he failed to receive the PRI nomination for governor of his native Zacatecas, he jumped to the PRD, which was formed precisely to oppose Salinas. He’s now a candidate to head a Mexico City borough on the ticket of yet another party, Morena.
    In other words, a typical Mexican politician. Restless. Itinerant. Open to new experiences.
    Cuauhtémoc Gutiérrez de la Torre is even more interesting. He inherited the leadership of the garbage workers union, which is a much more powerful position than it sounds. He was also the PRI party leader in the Federal District until a year ago, when it was revealed that the duties of many of the female employees he hired were not administrative.
    He was investigated for running a hooker service on the side but never charged or punished. He is presumed to still be calling the shots behind the scenes for the PRI in the DF, and controls a number of that party’s candidates for city office.
    One of them is running against Monreal for borough chief, so El Universal thought it noteworthy that a secret videotape — the espionage referred to in the headline — revealed both Gutiérrez and Monreal showing up, separately, at the offices of a powerful union in the south of the city.
    It’s not mentioned who shot the video, although Gutiérrez indicated he thinks it was Cisen, the national intelligence agency. Monreal, for his part, said he’s used to being spied upon. In so saying, he seemed to make an early declaration of candidacy for 2018: “They’re afraid of me becoming head of the DF government,” he said, referring to the Mexico City equivalent of mayor.
    Both denied that they met in the union headquarters, or that they even knew the other was there.
    It’s hard to tell whether the main point of the story is that a meeting may have taken place between the two presumed rivals, or that their movements were being videotaped.
    The most likely motive for El Universal giving the story such prominent play is that it had access to the videotape and the other papers didn’t.

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