Special Report: 43 Faces that Move the World

Editor’s Note: The latest installment of Frontera NorteSur’s special coverage on the crisis in Mexico.  Previous stories can be viewed at the FNS website: http://fnsnews.nmsu.edu/





On a frigid November night, candles illuminated the photos of 43 missing young men laid out on the patio of the Mexican Consulate in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

A man crouched on the ground, reading out the names of the disappeared: “Leonel Castro Abarca (18), Mauricio Ortega Valerio (18), Felipe Arnulfo Rosa (20)…”


“Presente!” roared back a crowd of about 100 people as each name was read off.  Mixed in ethnicity and age but with a heavy representation of young people, the demonstrators sang, chanted and spoke out about the murdered and forcibly disappeared students of the Ayotzinapa rural teachers’ college in the southern Mexican state of Guerrero.


“Justice! When do we want it? Now!” demanded the protesters.  The Nov. 13 Duke City demonstration was among numerous actions that swept the globe in recent days as outrage swelled over the police/cartel killings and forced disappearances of 49 students and civilians in Iguala, Guerrero, last Sept. 26 and 27.


For Cipriana Jurado, the atrocities of Iguala are far from new. A longtime labor and human rights activist from Ciudad Juárez who participated in the Consulate protest, Jurado was granted U.S. political asylum following threats and the killings of her friends from the Reyes Salazar family in the Juárez Valley during 2010 and 2011.


“We’ve suffered other massacres like those in Juárez and Tamaulipas, but Ayotzinapa is the straw that broke the camel’s back,” Jurado told FNS.


Inside and outside Mexico, demands for justice for Ayotzinapa resound like a trumpet call bouncing off mountain peaks, gliding into river valleys and crossing oceans.  In various ways, the United Nations, Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and European Parliament are involved in the issue.


Pope Francisco recently conveyed his “closeness in a painful moment” to the Mexican people.


Last week, 35 members of the UK Parliament signed a motion demanding that London pressure Mexico on the human rights front. In Chile, the Chamber of Deputies approved a resolution calling on President Michele Bachelet to recall Chile’s ambassador in Mexico for consultations. On a visit to Guerrero, German lawmaker Heike Hansel, who represents the left fraction in her country’s parliament, met with Ayotzinapa parents, human rights activists and an official from the federal attorney general’s office.


Hansel told the local press that German arms illegally exported to Mexico were used in a 2011 police attack against protesting Ayotzinapa students that left two young men dead; civil society organizations are campaigning against a new security agreement between Mexico and Germany, the parliamentarian said.


In Amsterdam, meanwhile, dozens of members of Mexico’s vast diaspora staged a demonstration inside a soccer stadium where the Mexican and Dutch national teams were competing. A participant in the protest, Nela Avila, later said her group waved white handkerchiefs and shouted “43! 43! 43!” when the clock struck the 43rd minute of the match.


The shadows of Ayotzinapa followed Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto to Australia for a meeting of the G-20 nations. A group of Mexican emigres and Australians, Australia in Action for Ayotzinapa, issued a statement while organizing protests in Brisbane, Adelaide, Canberra, Melbourne and Sydney.


“Young people in Mexico are in constant risk and double victims,” the group declared. “On the one hand, they are victims of harassment, violence and murder perpetrated by state-criminal collusion; and on the other, (youth) are coopted by organized crime that takes advantage of the lack of educational and employment opportunities.”


In Mexico, protests electrified the country. Most were peaceful but some were not.  Students from public and private universities led a march of 2,000 people in the state capital of Aguascalientes, while the National Coordinator of Education Workers shut down schools and occupied 113 city halls in the state of Michoacan.


Filmmakers Alonso Cuaron and Guillermo del Toro became the latest in a parade of celebrities to sharply condemn the violence against the Ayotzinapa students, joining the voices of soccer star Chicharito, pop singer Thalia, Mana’s Fher, and the norteno combo Los Tigres del Norte, among many others. At a Mexico City concert, 43 candles decorated the stage for a performance of the popular rock group Café Tacuba.


“This is a grave situation in which we live,” lead singer Ruben Albarran told the crowd of about 10,000 fans. “Let’s not confuse ourselves. This is a state crime..”


Across Mexico, protesters seized highway toll booths, occupied commercial plazas and snarled traffic.  On Friday, Nov. 14, Mexico City traffic was paralyzed by multiple blockades inside the capital city and around three access highways. The police shooting and wounding of a young man on the Autonomous National University of Mexico campus Nov. 15  further inflamed the situation, prompting clashes with local police and more protests.


As the week drew to a close, three caravans headed by parents of the Ayotzinapa students left Guerrero for different states of the Mexican republic, where meetings were held with a cross-section of Mexican society ranging from small farmers in Chihuahua to indigenous Zapatistas in Chiapas. The caravan plans to converge on Mexico City for a national protest on November 20—the holiday anniversary of the 1910 Mexican Revolution.


“The flame of civil insurgency is lit,” declared parents’ spokesperson Felipe de la Cruz.


In the northern border region, about 100 students of the Autonomous University of Ciudad Juárez occupied the rector’s office the evening of November 13, demanding that the university support the Nov. 20 national day of protest.


The students also called on the university to take a stronger stance on the issue of women’s murders, or femicides. After an all-night occupation, university officials issued a statement declaring support for the protest and inviting the community to attend relevant activities at the school’s University Cultural Center on Nov. 20.


“Because they were taken alive, we want them back alive,” read an official university statement. “We are all Ayotzinapa.”


A student survivor of September’s government carnage in Iguala who was present in Juárez said “he was really joyful to see all the support of all the students from Juárez,” according to Gio Acosta, member of the newly-formed El Paso-Juárez group Ayotzinapa Sin Fronteras.


In a phone interview with FNS, Acosta said the student movement was growing in Juarez, with the political discussion expanding to include issues such as femicide and the high cost of higher education.


“Students have been joining in. It’s hard to keep track of them, but the movement is becoming very plural in Juarez,” Acosta added.


At the same time, what might be termed the “Ayotzinapa Effect” rolled across the nation, surfacing in Tres Marias outside Mexico City, where residents blockaded the highway to protest another politically and criminally tainted kidnapping.


A Nov. 16 march of 5,000 people in Ecatapec, Mexico state, protested growing insecurity in the city while expressing support for the Ayotzinapa students.


In a similar vein, teachers in Acapulco shut down about 100 schools in the city Nov. 13-14. Despite previous strikes over the same safety grievances, and federal and state intervention in Acapulco’s law enforcement, teachers claimed 19 fellow educators had been murdered in 2014 alone.


“The repudiation of the kidnapping of 43 student teachers has a new focal point in Veracruz, where the 22nd Central American and Caribbean Games are underway,” wrote Proceso’s Noe Zavaleta. “In this encounter of international projection, students, politicians and activists have undertaken an effort to give visibility to one of the most brutal cases of government criminality in recent years.”


At the Nov. 14 kick-off of the games, thousands of people reportedly booed Veracruz Gov. Javier Duarte and Interior Minister Miguel Angel Osorio Chong.  Soldiers and police have militarized the zone around the games and even outnumber the 5,000-plus athletes, according to some media accounts.


To say the situation in Guerrero is explosive would be a monumental understatement.


If a soundtrack were to accompany some episodes in Acapulco and the state capital of Chilpancingo, the old Rolling Stones’ song “Street Fighting Man” would be an apt addition, as pitched battles between police and groups of protesters have involved rocks, clubs and bottle rockets; almost systematically, brigades of hooded men have trashed and set fire to government buildings and the offices of political parties.


A Nov. 15 shootout in the rural section of Acapulco between gravel company employees and members of the Cecop, a landowners’ coalition that is opposed to a proposed dam and supportive of the Ayotzinapa students, left four people dead and five others wounded.   Conversely, a silent march of more than 250 people proceeded without incident through Chilpancingo to draw attention to the “forgotten victims” of the Sept. 26 Iguala violence, in addition to the Ayotzinapa 43.


Relatives of bus driver Victor Manuel Lugo Cortes and 15-year-old soccer player David Josue Evangelista Garza, who were both killed when police fired on a bus carrying Los Avispones soccer club members, participated in the march for justice. The families were joined by other “forgotten victims—“survivors of last year’s Tropical Storm Manuel who contend they have gone more than a year without adequate government assistance.


With the passage of each day, the possibility of more repression grows. Upon returning from his trip to China and Australia this past weekend, President Pena Nieto immediately gave a press conference in which he condemned violent protests and insisted the government was “privileging dialogue” with different groups.


“I aspire to and hope it is not the case that the government must arrive to the extreme of using public force,” Pena Nieto said.  “We want to convoke order and peace.”


North of the border, Ayotzinapa-themed  vigils, protests outside Mexican consulates, press conferences and university roundtables have been recently held in Los Angeles, Albuquerque, Las Cruces and El Paso, among other places.


Convened by social media, the Nov. 13 Albuquerque vigil was a very spirited event.  Mexican Consul Mauricio Ibarra walked up to the large candle-lit circle and thanked the attendees for their concern about Mexico and events that “should not happen.”


But Ibarra was soon fielding shouts for President Pena Nieto to resign and recriminations over the controversial statement by Mexican Attorney General Jesus Murrillo Karam that the 43 missing students had been murdered and incinerated at a garbage dump.  Ibarra assured FNS that the Mexican government is awaiting the results of an investigation by the University of Innsbruck in Austria to determine if ashes recovered in northern Guerrero belonged to any of the students.


“We are treating the case as a disappearance until there are other indications,” Ibarra said. Asked about the Mexican government’s view of the worldwide protests sparked by Ayotzinapa, Ibarra said it was striking to see “the solidarity people are showing to the people of Mexico.”


Addressing the crowd, speakers talked about the role of U.S. arms in fomenting violence in Mexico, the influence of Mexican media giants Televisa and TV Azteca and generalized insecurity south of the border.


Gemma Olvera, who moved to Albuquerque less than one year ago from the northern Mexican border state of Tamaulipas, told FNS that conditions back home had not improved during the Pena Nieto presidency.


Olvera said the public safety climate took a sharp dive about six years ago, recalling a shootout in front of an elementary school in her town during regular school hours that forced the children to duck and cover.

Nowadays, criminals freely roam private universities demanding pay-offs, extort small businesses and leave bodies on public highways, the young woman said.


“There are shootouts and deaths in Tamaulipas every day,” Olvera said. “Everybody is afraid to speak out in Mexico. Ayotizinapa is the tip of the iceberg of everything that is happening in Mexico.”


Political exile Cipriana Jurado agreed that Ayotzinapa could also be a watershed moment. “It’s very important,” she said. “Now Mexicans all over the world are tired of the situation in Mexico—massacres, impunity, the murders of women. The line between government and organized crime is erased—it’s the same.”


The Albuquerque Consulate protest ended with shouts of “Long Live Zapata!” and a performance by two young musicians singing Molotov’s “Give me the Power,” the classic broadside against the socio-economic order and Mexican political class. Local activists plan another demonstration for the Ayotzinapa students at the Consulate on the evening of Nov. 20.


Additional Sources: El Sur, Nov. 15 and 16, 2014. Articles by Anarsis Pacheco Polito, Lourdes Chavez and Carlos Moreno A. Nortedigital.mx, Nov. 13 and 15, 2014. El Diario de Chihuahua, Nov. 15, 2014. La Jornada (Guerrero edition), Nov. 15, 2014. Article by Hector Briseno. La Jornada (Aguascalientes edition), Nov. 14, 2014. Article by Alejandra Huerta. El Diario de El Paso, Nov. 13, 2014. Article by Diego Murcia.


La Jornada, Nov. 12, 13, 13, 15, 16, 2014. Articles by Rubicela Morelos, Josefina Quintero, Sergio Ocampo, Ernesto Martinez, Jorge A. Perez Alonso, Diana Manzo, Elio Enriquez, Rosa Elvira Vargas, Silvia Chavez Gonzalez, Hector Briseno, Javier Salinas, the Associated Press, AFP, DPA, and editorial staff.  Proceso/Apro, Nov. 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 2014. Articles by Beatriz Pereyra, Noe Zavaleta and editorial staff.



Frontera NorteSur: on-line, U.S.-Mexico border news

Center for Latin American and Border Studies

New Mexico State University

Las Cruces, New Mexico


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email: fnsnews@nmsu.edu



Obama Extends War in Afghanistan

By Kathy Kelly

News agencies reported this morning that weeks ago President Obama signed an order, kept secret until now, to authorize continuation of the Afghan war for at least another year. The order authorizes U.S. airstrikes “to support Afghan military operations in the country” and U.S. ground troops to continue normal operations, which is to say, to “occasionally accompany Afghan troops” on operations against the Taliban. 

The administration, in its leak to the New York Times, affirmed that there had been “heated debate” between Pentagon advisers and others in Obama’s cabinet chiefly concerned not to lose soldiers in combat.  Oil strategy isn’t mentioned as having been debated and neither is further encirclement of China, but the most notable absence in the reporting was any mention of cabinet members’ concern for Afghan civilians affected by air strikes and ground troop operations, in a country already afflicted by nightmares of poverty and social breakdown.  

Here are just three events, excerpted from an August 2014 Amnesty International report, which President Obama and his advisors should have considered (and allowed into a public debate) before once more expanding the U.S. combat role in Afghanistan:

1)    In September, 2012 a group of women from an impoverished village in mountainous Laghman province were collecting firewood when a U.S. plane dropped at least two bombs on them, killing seven and injuring seven others, four of them seriously. One villager, Mullah Bashir, told Amnesty, “…I started searching for my daughter. Finally I found her. Her face was covered with blood and her body was shattered.”

2)    A U.S. Special Operations Forces unit was responsible for extrajudicial killing, torture and enforced disappearances during the period of December, 2012 to February, 2013. Included among those tortured was 51 year old Qandi Agha, “a petty employee of the Ministry of Culture,” who described in detail the various torture techniques he suffered.  He was told that he would be tortured using “14 different types of torture”. These included: Beatings with cables, electric shock, prolonged, painful stress positions, repeated head first dunking in a barrel of water, and burial in a hole full of cold water for entire nights. He said that both US Special Forces and Afghans participated in the torture and often smoked hashish while doing so.

3)    On March 26, 2013 the village of Sajawand was attacked by joint Afghan—ISAF (International Special Assistance Forces). Between 20-30 people were killed including children. After the attack, a cousin of one of the villagers visited the scene and stated, ”The first thing I saw as I entered the compound was a little child of maybe three years old whose chest was torn apart; you could see inside her body. The house was turned into a pile of mud and poles and there was nothing left. When we were taking out the bodies we didn’t see any Taliban among the dead, and we didn’t know why they were hit or killed.”

NYT coverage of the leaked debate mentions Obama’s promise, made earlier this year and now broken, to withdraw troops.  The article doesn’t make any other mention of U.S. public opposition to a continuation of the war. 

Attempts to remake Afghanistan by military force have resulted in warlordism, ever more widespread and desperate poverty, and bereavement for hundreds of thousands whose loved ones are among the tens of thousands of casualties. Area hospitals report seeing fewer IED injuries and many more bullet wounds from pitched battles between rival armed militias whose allegiances, Taliban, government, or other, are hard to determine.  With 40 percent of U.S. weapon supplies to Afghan security forces now unaccounted for, many of the weapons employed on all sides may have been supplied by the U.S. 

Meanwhile the implications for U.S. democracy aren’t reassuring.  Was this decision really made weeks ago but only announced now that congressional elections are safely over? Was a Friday night cabinet leak, buried between official Administration announcements on immigration and Iran sanctions, really the President’s solution to the unpopularity of a decision affecting the lives of so many?  With concern for the wishes of U.S. citizens given so little weight, it is doubtful that much thought was given to the terrible costs of these military interventions for ordinary people trying to live, raise families and survive in Afghanistan.

But for those whose “heated debates” focus solely on what is best for U.S. national interests, here are a few suggestions:

1)    The U.S. should end its current provocative drive toward military alliances and encirclement of Russia and China with missiles.  It should accept pluralism of economic and political power in the contemporary world.  Present U.S. policies are provoking a return to Cold War with Russia and possibly beginning one with China.  This is a lose/lose proposition for all countries involved.


2)    By a resetting of policy focused on cooperation with Russia, China and other influential countries within the framework of the United Nations, the United States could foster international mediation.


3)    The U.S. should offer generous medical and economic aid and technical expertise wherever it may be helpful in other countries and thus build a reservoir of international goodwill and positive influence.

That’s something that nobody would have to keep secret.


Kathy Kelly, Kathy@vcnv.org, writes for PeaceVoice and co-coordinates Voices for Creative Nonviolence (www.vcnv.org). Kelly has spent a great deal of time in Afghanistan, amongst the villagers who have been targeted and killed by US war planes. While in Kabul, she is a guest of the Afghan Peace Volunteers (ourjourneytosmile.org)


New Mexico Department of Health to Host Flu Shot Clinic in Las Cruces

High Risk Residents Strongly Encouraged to Attend

(Santa Fe) – The New Mexico Department of Health’s Las Cruces Central Public Health Office will be hosting a flu shot clinic on Friday, November 21st from 1:00 – 3:30 pm at the St. Genevieve Parish Hall, 1025 E. Las Cruces Ave. in Las Cruces, NM. There is no charge to those attending the clinic, but everyone should bring their insurance card, including Medicaid or Medicare, with them.

Everyone six months of age and older should get a flu vaccine each flu season, especially people in the following groups because they are at high risk of having serious flu-related complications or because they live with or care for people at high risk for developing flu-related complications:

• Children 6 months through 4 years of age
• Pregnant women (any trimester)
• People age 50 and older
• People of any age with certain chronic medical conditions like asthma, diabetes, lung or heart disease, and those who are immunocompromised
• People who live in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities
• People who live with or care for those at high risk for complications from flu
• American Indians and Alaskan Natives
• People who are morbidly obese
• Healthcare and early childhood personnel

People in these groups should also consider seeing their health care provider to be evaluated for antiviral medication if they develop flu symptoms.

For more information on the no-charge flu shot clinic, call the Las Cruces Central Public Health Office at (575) 528-5001.



SWEC: Last chance to speak for river

Last Chance to Speak for Gila River

The NM Interstate Stream Commission (ISC) is meeting in Silver City tomorrow (11/14) at 9 am. It is the final meeting before the ISC makes its decision about how to move forward under the Arizona Water Settlements Act, and maybe the last chance to stop a proposed diversion and storage boondoggle project on New Mexico’s last free-flowing river.

New Mexico must notify the Department of the Interior by the end of the year if it intends to construct a harmful diversion project on New Mexico’s last wild river. Diversion would be tremendously expensive for New Mexico taxpayers (construction, OM&R and exchange costs estimated at $1.1 billion), would yield little to no water according to the latest analyses from former ISC director Norm Gaume, and would negatively impact the hydrology and ecology of the Gila River according to the recently released Gila River Flow Needs Assessment.

Non-diversion alternatives, such as municipal and agricultural conservation, sustainable water management and infrastructure improvements, effluent reuse and watershed restoration, can meet southwest New Mexico’s long-term water needs at a fraction of the cost of a billion dollar diversion project. However, the ISC is being lobbied hard to build a diversion project.

It’s critical that supporters of the Gila River come out in force.  There may not be another chance! The meeting will be held at the Grant County Administration Building, 1400 Highway 180E, in Silver City.

NM Game Commission Thumbs Nose at Mexican Wolves—Again!

The NM Game Commission again expressed its hostility towards Mexican wolf recovery, this time by amending the rules on importing wildlife into the state. Usually the director of the Department of Game and Fish approves such permits, but at its meeting today in Espanola, the governor-appointed Commission voted unanimously to give itself veto authority over any proposal to import, hold or release on private property any “carnivore” for the purpose of “reintroduction, recovery, conditioning, establishment or reestablishment in New Mexico.” The move seems aimed squarely at thwarting Ted Turner and other private landowners who wish to assist with Mexican wolf recovery. Turner operates a Mexican wolf pre-release facility on his Ladder Ranch in New Mexico. The Commission’s action won’t stop the Mexican wolf reintroduction program, since it is governed by federal law, but it may cost NM taxpayers (and hunting and fishing license buyers) money to defend the state against a lawsuit that seems inevitable if the state tries to enforce the rule change.

Don’t Forget Your Albertsons’ Card

Shopping at Albertsons this holiday season? Don’t forget your SWEC Community Partners card. Every time you shop at Albertsons (any location) and show your card a portion of the sales is donated to SWEC to help wildlife conservation programs. Can’t find your card? Stop by the center and get a new one or print a temporary card here.



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    Events Calendar

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  • The Light of New Mexico
  • Green Fire Times
  • Transition Times--Colorado
  • Heath Haussamen: NM Politics
  • Thomas Wark
  • Carolyn Baker: “Speaking truth to power”
  • James Howard Kunstler: The Clusterfuck Nation Chronicle
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  • Desert Journal: NM online newspaper
  • Bruce Gagnon: Organizing Notes
  • Sally Erickson: The end of empire
  • Steve Klinger’s music and blogs: Songs for change; music blog
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  • Gordon Solberg
  • Brenda Norrell: Censored and under-reported news
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  • JourneySantaFe—Water: Who Controls It?

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