Things That Matter

Cartels Are Targeting Migrants Forced To Stay In Mexico Under Trump’s ‘Remain In Mexico’ Policy

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you’d know that the Trump administration has had the bright idea of forcing asylum seekers to wait in Mexico until their cases are heard in the US federal courts. While there are definitely parts of Mexico that would be great to stay in for a week on break, this is no holiday for these asylum seekers. In an effort to profit from some of the most vulnerable people in Mexico, cartel violence has specifically targeted the areas where migrants are being temporarily housed. 

The violence has gotten so bad that some have abandoned their asylum applications.

Instagram / @paulratje

At this point, it’s hard to keep up with what’s happened so far to threaten the lives of migrants. In Nuevo Laredo alone, there’s an entire laundry list of incidents that have made asylum seekers uneasy. Last week, shooting broke out between gang members on the main boulevard to Nuevo Laredo’s airport. An educated guess would say that The Cartel of the Northeast was responsible for the trouble, since they dominate that area of town. It’s not uncommon to see them riding around in armored cars emblazoned with “Tropas del Infierno” across the sides. It’s their constant presence that keeps migrants constantly anxious and alert.

The government is offering bus trips to other cities outside the border zone.

Instagram / @altavozmx

In an effort to alleviate tensions, the government has provided free bus trips for asylum seekers to places such as Monterrey and Tapachula, which are around 3 and 36 hours away from Nuevo Laredo, respectively. However, the trips have been disrupted by gang members, who take it upon themselves to stop the buses and abduct the passengers. Abductions give cartels hostages that they can use to blackmail relatives in exchange for payouts. It’s clear that it’s not safe for migrants to stay in this environment. And apparently, it’s barely even safe to leave through provided channels. This has resulted in asylum seekers abandoning their applications to return to the relative safety of home – despite the fact that the dangers there had prompted them to leave in the first place.

Aid providers say the Migrant Protection Protocols, or MPP, are to blame.

Instagram / @jenny_frankfurt

So far, the MPP have resulted in approximately 35,000 migrants being sent back to Mexican border cities to wait for their day in court. In fact, 4,500 people have been sent to Nuevo Laredo alone. What essentially happens under the MPP is that, once asylum seekers reach US ports of entry, they are sent back to Mexico with a date to return and make their case for asylum via video link. Migrants can be stuck waiting for that day from anywhere between two to four months.

So why did Mexico agree to the MPP in the first place, when it’s had some very dire outcomes?

Instagram / @jackytsaiart

Well, Trump had threatened Mexico with tariffs if they didn’t agree with the MPP. Now, it’s all well and good to say that Mexico could have done a China, and dived head first into a trade war. But Mexico doesn’t have that sort of economic power. Most of its trade is conducted with the US. China, on the other hand, has diversified its trade relationships. As a result, it doesn’t depend on business with the US to keep the Chinese economy running. Mexico, being backed into a corner as it were, had no choice but to agree to the terms of the MPP.

There are a few reasons why the Trump administration has pursued this course of action – and none of them are good.

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There are two main reasons why the Trump administration has developed the MPP: money, and the strict enforcement of immigration law. Where money is concerned – it costs a lot to employ the 150 judges who oversee immigration cases, and whatever other staff and facilities are needed as part of both detaining and processing asylum seekers. It’s must less expensive to just not do that.

With these type of policies, many worry violence could begin to spread.

Instagram / @rebecca_esq

As far as strict enforcement of immigration law … well, we’ve seen a lot of that already with the overflow of inmates at border detention centers, and the exponential increase of ICE raids and arrests. What’s been discussed less by the media is the fact that, in 2018, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions enacted legislation that determined migrants could not apply for asylum based on the threat of domestic or cartel violence, because it’s too hard for the government to verify. So, why even bother allowing migrants to leech off US resources, if you’re pretty much planning to deny their request for asylum anyway?

All of this is great news in light of the agreement that’s in the works between Guatemala and the US. Should it be ratified, Guatemala would be set to be the next Mexico, and also house asylum seekers while they wait for their applications to be reviewed by the US. This could potentially mean a rise in cartel violence in Guatemala, too.

Many Mexicans Are Calling Out Fragile Masculinity As Some Continue To Protest A Controversial Zapata Painting

Culture

Many Mexicans Are Calling Out Fragile Masculinity As Some Continue To Protest A Controversial Zapata Painting

Jorge Rivera-Pineda / Mexico Broadcasters

It is no secret that Mexican society is often affected by displays of homophobia. Even though there have been great advances such as the legalization of same-sex marriage in some states, the largely Catholic country is home of opinion leaders who are conservative and whose masculinity seems to be constantly threatened by anything that doesn’t spell out “straight.”

Added to this, Mexican political discourse is anchored in a solemn approach to institutions and the myths of the wars of Independence and Revolution, the two historical moments that have defined Mexican political life and foundational narratives for the past 200 years. So a recent painting hosted at the Palacio de Bellas Artes, perhaps the most iconic building dedicated to the arts in the Latin American country, made conservatives poner el grito en el cielo, as it dares to reimagine one of Mexico’s revolutionary leaders as a queer character.

For many, Zapata is akin to a deity and the image of heroic masculinity. The painting is, however, incendiary for exactly that reason, because it challenges notions of sex and gender in a day and age were some parts of Mexico are progressive while others remain under the dark clouds of discrimination and segregation of LGBTQ communities.

So this is the 2014 painting “The Revolution” by Fabian Chairez. 

The painting depicts a male figure who resembles the revolutionary hero Emiliano Zapata, a cornerstone of Mexico’s Revolutionary War. Zapata was beloved by indigenous populations and gente de campo who believed that other revolutionaries were forgetting the most marginalised sectors of society.

But there is a twist: here, Zapata is naked, wearing heels and being totally gender-non-conforming as he rides a voluptuous horse. Chairez told Reuters: “I use these elements like the sombrero and horse and create a proposal that shows other realities, other ways of representing masculinity.”

Definitely not your usual depiction of the times, but surely a piece that is confronting in the best possible way. The painting was chosen as part of an exhibition on the revolutionary hero, but things got nasty. 

Zapata’s grandchildren have spoken out against the painting in the most homophic way, and things got bloody.

Zapata’s family demanded that the painting be taken off the exhibition because it allegedly “tainted” the public image of their grandfather. Let’s take a minute here and think about this: it is actually the worst possible kind of homophobia, as it implies that being queer is wrong and that it would be a blemish on Zapata’s legacy.

There were protests inside Bellas Artes and university students defending the work and freedom of expression actually got into a fistfight with farmers who stormed Bellas Artes chanting homophobic slurs and threatening to burn the painting in a gross display of toxic masculinity and an Inquisitorial outlook on life and art.

As reported by CE Noticias Financieras, Federico Ovalle, leader of the Independent Central Of Agricultural and Peasant Workers, said: “The picture denigrates the personality and trajectory of the general and it seems to us that presenting this figure is grotesque, of contempt and contempt of the peasants of the country.”

Luis Vargas Santiago, curator of the exhibit ‘Emiliano Zapata after Zapata’, told Reuters: “Of course it’s fine if they don’t like the painting, they can criticize the exhibition, but to seek to censor freedom of expression, that’s different.” 

The painting can stay, but it is being censored anyway.

As reported by Agence France Presse, the authorities decided that the painting can stay, but with a caveat: “But the Mexican Revolutionary hero’s family will be allowed to place a text beside it stating their strong objections to the work, which shows Zapata draped suggestively over a white horse with a giant erection.”

And the image will also be sort of hidden from public view (which, to be honest, might only increase the influx of visitors to the exhibition).

As AFP continues: “Under the deal, brokered by the Mexican culture ministry, the painting by artist Fabian Chairez will also be removed from promotional materials for the exhibition, “Emiliano. Zapata After Zapata,” which opened last month at the Palace of Fine Arts in Mexico City.”

Even Mexican president AMLO, who has declared his admiration for the revolutionary hero, got involved, ordering his culture minister to get involved. 

So was Emiliano Zapata a queer revolutionary hero? Perhaps, but that is not the point!

For years, historians have tried to get a glimpse into the man who was Emiliano Zapata. Some claim that his overt displays of macho masculinity were perhaps a way to silence any rumors regarding his sexuality. But the point is that it does not matter, or it should not matter, for any other reason that historical accuracy. And it isn’t anyone’s business, is it?

One Of Mexico’s Most Important Former Officials Was Just Arrested For Allegedly Taking Bribes From El Chapo’s Sinaloa Cartel

Things That Matter

One Of Mexico’s Most Important Former Officials Was Just Arrested For Allegedly Taking Bribes From El Chapo’s Sinaloa Cartel

Celia Lucero

For years, conservative minded people in Mexico have defended the full frontal war that then president Felipe Calderón Hinojosa waged against the drug cartels from 2006 to 2012. This war continues today and has seen almost half a million people killed, countless abuses, displacement of whole populations and a diminished image of Mexico locally and abroad. Those who align with the supposedly incorruptible stance that Calderón took against organized crime claim that he was just doing a job that previous presidents had failed to do.

During this period government forces fought mainly Los Zetas and the Gulf Cartel, as well as new organizations in the state of Michoacan such as La Familia Michoacana and Los Caballeros Templarios. Strangely, the Sinaloa Cartel was left largely untouched and even expanded its operations during the Calderón presidency.

A recent high profile arrest could shed some light on why the war against the cartels has developed in a way that up until recently seemed to benefit the powerful organization built by Joaquín El Chapo Guzmán and his compadre Mayo Zambada. As The Guardian reports: “A 2010 analysis of crime figures by NPR found that only 12% of people arrested, prosecuted or sentenced for drug, organised crime and weapons offences had ties to the Sinaloa cartel”. This is peculiar, to say the least. 

Genaro García Luna, Calderón’s security chief, was arrested in the United States.

The charges emanated from the recent trial in which El Chapo Guzmán was sentenced to life in prison. The authority  claims that García Luna, who was infamous for the many human rights abuses that the State’s forces committed under his command, received generous bribes from the Sinaloa Cartel to warranty that their operations would not be threatened.

If true, this would be corruption at the highest levels of government and would justify fears that Mexico has become a Narco-State in which global trafficking networks are the de facto decision makers. He led Mexico’s federal investigation agency from 2001 to 2005. From 2006 to 2012 he served under Calderón as secretary of public security. So yes, cannot get more powerful than that! 

García Luna was the architect of the federal police, a force which coordinated with the Army and the Navy to fight the cartels.

If the allegations are true, it could mean that the whole State apparatus was created with a hidden agenda in mind, which would put the legitimacy of the institutional framework of Mexico during the FCH presidency on serious scrutiny. After the former security chief was arrested,  US attorney Richard P Donoghue said: “García Luna stands accused of taking millions of dollars in bribes from ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán’s Sinaloa cartel while he controlled Mexico’s federal police force and was responsible for ensuring public safety in Mexico. Today’s arrest demonstrates our resolve to bring to justice those who help cartels inflict devastating harm on the United States and Mexico, regardless of the positions they held while committing their crimes.”

Of course, Calderón was quick to say he wasn’t aware of this happening

Former president Calderón, who is attempting to create his own political party alongside his wife Margarita Zavala, took to Twitter to say he was unaware of García Luna’s dishonest ways.

If this is the case then it would amount to the worst kind of incompetence on Calderón’s part. If he was indeed aware, however, well it would spell political and possibly legal disaster for him. Either way, this arrest could probably mean the end of Calderón’s political life.

By the way, he once said that nothing happens without the president knowing about it. The accusations are damning.

As summarized by The Guardian: “According to the indictment, cartel bagmen twice delivered briefcases containing millions of dollars to García Luna. In 2018, former cartel member Jesús Zambada testified at the trial of the Sinaloa kingpin Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán that he personally made at least $6m in hidden payments to García Luna, on behalf of his older brother, cartel boss Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada. In exchange for the bribes, the Sinaloa cartel obtained safe passage for its drug shipments, inside details of police investigations, and information about rival drug cartels, the indictment said.”

We wonder how many heads will fall as the ugly truths revealed during El Chapo’s trial keep resurfacing. 

Remember the Netflix show El Chapo? Well, it sort of showed these acts of corruption in an eerily similar way.

Credit: Netflix

As more information surfaces after the now legendary El Chapo trial, we stand in awe at how accurate the Netflix-Telemundo show was. In it, Calderón’s government strikes a deal with the Sinaloa Cartel through a shady political operative who had García Luna’s exact same job? Coincidence or was it un secreto a voces?