Mexico/US: Bush signs Mérida Initiative into law

June 30, 2008

President Bush on Monday said the men and women of the armed forces deserve

On the morning of June 30, US President Bush signed into law the Iraq Supplemental Funding Bill which includes an amendment allotting USD465 million to Mexico and Central America for anti–drug-trafficking and anti-terrorism measures, also know as the Mérida Initiative. At the signing President Bush commented that the initiative is a “national priority” for the United States. The signing comes four days after the law was approved by the Senate on June 26.

The initiative was originally criticized by the Mexican government for the human rights conditions it included, claiming that they imposed on Mexico’s national sovereignty. After an interparliamentary meeting between the United States and Mexico earlier this month, the bill was revised in Congress and much of the language defining these conditions was softened. The conditions that do remain include a report from the US Secretary of State on the progress of the Mexican judicial system in terms of human rights, an emphasis on police and military cooperation with civil trials for those who have been accused of human rights violations, and the creation of a mechanism for human rights consultation within the context of the initiative. Up to 15% of the funding could be withheld if these measures are not met.

Both international and Mexican social organizations have been critical of the weakened human rights conditions in the initiative and a lack of emphasis on arms trafficking and the narcotics market in the United States. As of the time of writing, there has been no reaction from the Mexican government.

More information:

Bush Signs War Supplemental (CBS 30/06/08)

U.S. includes rights language in Mexico anti-drug aid (International Herald Tribune 28/06/08)

WOLA Sees Shortcomings and Questions Priorities in Mérida Plan (27/06/08)

US/Mexico: Conditions placed on Mérida Initiative to be softened (SIPAZ 14/06/08)

US/Mexico: US Congress to vote on Merida Initiative (SIPAZ 13/05/08)

A Primer on Plan Mexico (Laura Carlsen 05/05/2008)

Wilson Center: Mérida Initiative Portal

More information in Spanish:

Bush promulga ley para financiar plan Mérida; 400 mdd son para México (La Jornada 30/06/08)

Firma Bush ley que aprueba recursos para Iniciativa Mérida (El Universal 30/06/08)

Critica HRW reticencia de México para aceptar supervisión sobre garantías (La Jornada 27/06/08)


Guerrero: The Human Rights Center of the Montaña Tlachinollan celebrates XIV Anniversary

June 30, 2008

Local social organizations take part in the state social forum “Guerrero: Where Poverty is Punished and Social Protest is Criminalized” [Source: Theres Hoechli]

On June 20 and 21, the Human Rights Center of the Montaña Tlachinollan celebrated its 14th anniversary with a statewide forum titled “Guerrero: Where Poverty is Punished and Social Protest is Criminalized.”

In the accord that was manifested at the end of the forum, 20 organizations from Guerrero and other states demanded among other things:

an end to the criminalization of social struggle

a stop to the militarization in indigenous regions

the punishment of the military and civilian authorities that have committed grave human rights violations

the immediate release of the cinco members of the OPIM, originally from the town of El Camalote, who are being held at the municipal jail in Ayutla de Los Libres

compliance with the recommendations made by the Special Rapporteurs to the United Nations and the public human rights commissions

The human rights center also issued an abstract of their 14th annual report on the same theme. Among the issues highlighted between June 2007 and May 2008 are the 201 penal cases brought against social leaders within the state:

73 penal cases brought against social leaders

75 pending arrest warrants

9 closed proceedings with favorable resolutions

44 preliminary inquiries of social leaders in progress

The full report from the Human Rights Center of the Montaña Tlachinollan will be published in the coming months.

More information:

Human Rights Center of the Montaña Tlachinollan

Chiapas: New communiqué from the Voz de Los Llanos

June 28, 2008



June 26, SIPAZ members visited six detainees at the Center for the Social Reinsertion of Sentenced Prisoners (CERSS, formerly know as CERESO) in San Cristóbal de Las Casas, all of whom are members of the organization “The Voice of the Llanos” (La Voz de Los Llanos), adherents of the Other Campaign.

The detainees, who refer to themselves as political prisoners, carried out a hunger strike/fast between March 4 and April 5 of 2008 and again on May 24 declaring their innocence and demanding their immediate release. On April 17, as a consequence of the strike, they were made victims of violence perpetrated by other detainees who were not prevented from doing so by the authorities.

They stated that, “We know that our cases, in which we are considered guilty, are under revision. We want them to take notice of our struggle and protest. We want our release as soon as posible. Our cases are based on false accusations and crimes attributed under torture. The government has raised an iron fist against us. We are asking for freedom without violence, through a peaceful struggle, in the Voz de Los Llanos and the Voz del Amate. We want a solution to this problem we are faced with, we want freedom.”

On June 27, the spokesperson for the Voz de Los Llanos,Tiburcio Gómez Pérez, contacted SIPAZ by phone in order to make public their communiqué. You can hear the communiqué in Spanish below.

More information in Spanish:

Mexico/US: US Senate approves new version of the Mérida Initiative

June 28, 2008

Ecos de la Costa

Mexican Interior Minister, Juan Camilo Mouriño Terrazo [Source: Ecos de la Costa]

On June 26 the US Senate approved the amendment, slated for the current fiscal year, that was passed by the House on June 19, 2008. The initiative puts aside USD400 million for Mexico and USD65 million for Central America in training and equipment to fight drug-trafficking and terrorism. The amount approved is some USD85 million less than President Bush proposed initially. The amendment will now be sent to the president for approval, which should occur in the next few days. The Mérida Initiative forms part of the Iraq Supplemental Funding Bill, amounting to USD162 billion in spending.

The amendment establishes a “shared responsibility” between the US and Mexico in the fight against drug trafficking, designating USD215.5 million to support programs initiated by the Mexican government to combat drug trafficking as well as USD116.5 million for “military cooperation” between the two countries. Another USD20 million will go towards the “building of institutions and support for the civil society.” In addition USD5 million is slated for “human rights training” among the police, public prosecutors and prison administrators as well as USD3 million in “support of NGOs and civil society.”

The original initiative, which was criticized by Mexican President Felipe Calderón’s government, was revised to cut the unilateral human rights “conditions” imposed by the US. No explicit demands in regards to conditions or “certification” mechanisms appear in the final version of the initiative.

In a press conference held by the Mexican Interior Minister, Juan Camilo Mouriño Terrazo, he denied that the initiative implies the presence of US police or military agents within Mexico. He also stated that “The Mexican government congratulates the US Legislature on their decision and reiterates the pledge to prioritize the fight against organized crime, with the understanding that international cooperation is a fundamental component.”

In the last 18 months the Mexican government has spent some USD7 billion in programs to fight drug-trafficking and drug cartels in Mexico that move cocaine from Colombia to consumers in the US. In the past year in Mexico 1400 people have been killed in drug-trafficking related violence.

More information:

More information in Spanish:

Guerrero: Evaluation of SIPAZ Follow-up Visit

June 27, 2008

SIPAZ presentation at the Guerrero state social forum “Guerrero: Where poverty is punished and protest is criminalized” [Source: Theres Hoechli]

Between June 18 and 21, three delegates –Marina Pagès (France), Monica Wooters (USA) and Theres Hoechli (Switzerland)– conducted a four-day visit to the State of Guerrero as a follow up to the March delegation coordinated by the International Service for Peace (SIPAZ) which included the participation of representatives of 11 NGOs (nongovernment organizations) from six countries.

This second trip included a stop in Ayutla de los Libres where the delegates met with the Tlachinollan Human Rights Center of the Montaña, the Organization of the Me’phaa Indigenous Peoples (OPIM, Organización del Pueblo Indígena Me’phaa) and interviewed five members of the OPIM in the municipal prison where they have been detained since April 18, 2008. In Chilpancingo, a meeting was conducted with the president of the State Commission for the Defense of Human Rights (Comisión Estatal de Defensa de los Derechos Humanos), Juan Alarcón Hernández, as well as the Secretary General of (State) Government, Ramírez Ramos.

Concluding the trip, the delegates attended the forum “Guerrero: Where poverty is punished and protest is criminalized,” organized by Tlachinollan Human Rights Center of the Montaña as part of its 14th anniversary celebrations. On the first day of the forum, soldiers from the Mexican Army established a roadside checkpoint at a distance of 50m from the event. This was interpreted by forum participants as a clear act of intimidation.

More information:

Full Evaluation of the SIPAZ Follow-up Visit to Guerrero (25/06/08)

Tlachinollan celebrates fourteen years of constant struggle in defence of human rights (18/06/08)

More information on the past SIPAZ delegation:

SIPAZ Delgation to Guerrero: Conclusions (05/08)

Guerrero: SIPAZ and Tlachinollan Human Rights Center of the Montaña launch international mission to document human rights violations (SIPAZ 14/03/08)

Guerrero: SIPAZ and CDHM Tlachinollan promote international mission to document human rights violations (SIPAZ 07/03/08)

More information on Guerrero:

Tlachinollan Human Rights Center of the Montaña

Guerrero: Human rights defenders in Ayutla held in prison for nearly two months (SIPAZ 13/06/08)

More information in Spanish:

Los derechos humanos no son prioritarios para el gobierno de Guerrero, afirma Sipaz (El Sur 20/06/08)

Comienza el Sipaz visita a Guerrero (La Jornada 08/03/08)

Policía Comunitaria de la Costa Chica y Montaña de Guerrero

Radio Ñomndaa – La Palabra del Agua

CODDEHUM de Guerrero

Gobierno estatal de Guerrero

Chiapas: Attempt to reforest the Zapatista Community Protected Area and Ecological Reserve of Huitepec

June 25, 2008

Source: Fray Bartolome de Las Casas Human Rights Center

On June 15, the rural municipal agency of San Cristóbal de las Casas attempted to complete an “annual reforestation” of the 112ha area of the Protected Natural Area Huitepec-Los Alcanfores. Since March 2007 the territory has been recovered by the EZLN and converted into the “Zapatista Community Protected Area and Ecological Reserve of Huitepec.” Subsequently the state government created the protected natural area. According to denunciations, the local community was not consulted but instead was threatened with eviction.

In the early morning of June 15, the Zapatistas posted at the Huitepec Reserve refused entry to those who arrived in response to the invitation made by the auxiliary rural municipal agent to participate in the reforestation of 2000 saplings. The new arrivals were registered by the agent as if they were participating in the federal government program “Opportunities”; they could then take as many saplings as they wished for their personal use. Subsequently, the Reserve was emptied without any reforestation being conducted.

Members of the State Preventative Police (PEP, Policía Estatal Preventiva) attended the meeting on two occasions.

Read more about the reserve and eviction threats in SIPAZ’s blog.

Circular of the Auxiliary Rural Municipal Agency:

Communiqué (in Spanish) of the Good Government Council of Oventic:

More information:

US/Mexico: Conditions placed on Mérida Initiative to be softened

June 14, 2008

After much deliberation within the US Congress and the meeting held between the US and Mexican Congresses in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon last week, it seems that the major conditions originally planned for the Mérida Initiative (alternately, Plan Mexico), tacked onto the Iraq Supplemental Bill, will be softened, but remain intact, according the the New York Times. However, on Friday, June 13, President Calderón, while in Spain discussing the privatization of Pemex (the state run Mexican petroleum company), celebrated the fact that the US Congress had cut certain conditions tied to the initiative, among them judicial reforms and human rights regulations that Calderón and some members of the Mexican Congress felt violated Mexican sovereignty. It still remains to be seen whether the conditions will be completely dropped or simply revised.

In May the Mérida Initiative was passed in the House and Senate, cutting the original amount of USD 500 million for the fiscal year of 2008 to USD 350 million. The amount is destined for technology, equipment and training of the Mexican military, police forces and judicial system to aid in the “war on drugs” and terrorism that president Calderón has made a priority during his term in office.

The meeting in Monterrey that sparked the debate over the conditions placed on the initiative was held at the same time that the inauguration of the Center for Dialog and Analysis on North America at the Monterrey Institute of Technology campus in Mexico City. In attendance at the inauguration was the US Deputy Chief of Mission of the US Embassy in Mexico, Leslie Basset, who in her speech at the center suggested the integration of the Mérida Initiative with the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America (SPP). Many suspect that the initiative is in fact the first legislative step in the progression of the SPP in order to “harmonize” the laws and regulations of the two nations.

Previously, the Mexican Minister of the Interior, Juan Camilo Mouriño Terrazo, stated that, “the incorporation of unilateral measures or evaluations that attempt to place conditions on the use of the resources implicated in the Mérida Initiative would have a profoundly contrary result to that of the objective and spirit of the initiative and would be counterproductive. For this reason it would be considered unacceptable.” Given the recent news that these conditions will be softened or dropped, it remains to be seen whether initiative will be received by the Mexican government.

More information:

US/Mexico: US Congress to vote on Mérida Initiative (SIPAZ 13/05/2008)

Plan Colombia and Beyond (Center for International Policy 13/06/2008)

Mexico: Antidrug Aid’s Strings Intact (New York Times 11/06/08)

U.S. lawmakers try to save Mexican drug fight plan (Reuters 08/06/2008)

US lawmakers to review Mexico aid terms (Associated Press 08/06/2008)

Lawmakers to Drop Language in U.S. Anti-Drug Package for Mexico (Bloomberg 08/06/2008)

US lawmakers to review Mexico aid terms (WTOP News 08/06/2008)

U.S. Merida aid initiative angers some in Mexico (Los Angeles Times 05/06/2008)

A Primer on Plan Mexico (Laura Carlsen 05/05/2008)

Mexico and the Merida Initiative: Make Human Rights the Core (Amnesty International 05/2008)

Wilson Center: Mérida Initiative Portal

More information in Spanish:

La embajada de EU sugiere que el Plan México entre en ASPAN (La Jornada 09/06/2008)

Propone consejera de la embajada de EU integrar la Iniciativa Mérida al ASPAN (Proceso 09/06/2008)

Mensaje ofrecido por el Secretario de Gobernación, Juan Camilo Mouriño Terrazo, en las instalaciones de esta dependencia (02/06/2008)