Things That Matter

Mexicans Are Questioning Their Government’s Decision To Release El Chapo’s Son After A Massive Gun Battle

An operation to capture one of Mexico’s most powerful drug lords failed disastrously Thursday as several Mexican security officers were held hostage by heavily armed cartel fighters who laid siege to the northern Mexican city of Culiacan.

Authorities had sought to detain Ovidio Guzman Lopez, a leader of the powerful Sinaloa cartel and the son of notorious drug boss Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman. But after briefly capturing their target, security forces ultimately retreated without him, a move Mexico’s leaders defended as necessary to save lives.

Police had attempted to capture one of El Chapo’s sons but a massive gun battle took place across the capital of Sinaloa – Culiacán.

When authorities arrived at the home in an upscale Culiacan neighborhood where Guzman was staying, they were fired upon, Mexican Security Minister Alfonso Durazo said at a news conference. Authorities returned fire, took control of the house and found four occupants inside, including 28-year-old Guzman, he said.

But soon, Guzman’s defenders arrived and “surrounded the house with a greater force,” Durazo said. It was then, apparently, that cartel gunman took several soldiers or National Guard members hostage.

Videos published on social media showed a scene resembling a war zone, with gunmen, some wearing black ski masks over their faces, riding in the back of trucks firing mounted machine guns as vehicles burned. People could be seen running for cover as machine gun fire rattled around them. Drivers drove in reverse frantically to get away from the clashes.

“With the goal of safeguarding the well-being and tranquillity of Culiacan society, officials in the security Cabinet decided to suspend the actions,” Durazo said.

The cartel’s victory in subduing authorities was a stunning humiliation for the Mexican government, which has struggled to quell growing violence across the country.

Credit: AP / Scott Reusak

On Friday, security officials gave more details about exactly how Mexican authorities found themselves so overpowered.

Secretary of Defense Luis Cresencio Sandoval said at a news conference in Culiacan that members of the army and the newly formed National Guard were seeking to execute an extradition arrest warrant for Guzman that was issued by a federal judge in the United States.

The security forces decided to try to capture Guzman without authorization from their supervisors, he said.

“The group responsible for this action, in eagerness to achieve positive results, acted in a hasty manner, with poor planning,” he said, adding that the troops who carried out the operation had failed to obtain approval from a command superior.

Though Mexican President AMLO has declared the operation a success and praised his forces for having freed El Chapo’s son.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said Friday that he backed the decisions of his security officials, and added that the army operation was based on an arrest warrant.

“The capture of one criminal cannot be worth more than the lives of people,” López Obrador said, calling the response to the operation “very violent” and saying many lives were put at risk.

“This decision was made to protect citizens. … You cannot fight fire with fire,” he added. “We do not want deaths. We do not want war.”

But many Mexicans took to social media to express their outrage and embarrassment over the failed operation.

Many expressed disappointment in the decision to release Guzman while recognizing that it may have been the only option to protect those living in the city. Some also pointed out that the failure of the operation and the poor planning that must of gone into such a massive operation for it to have failed so terribly.

Others expressed doubt in their ability to trust the government to protect them and whether or not the government can even claim sovereignty over a state that the cartel seems to control.

And if the whole situation couldn’t get more intense, El Chapo’s family is holding a press conference to thank the Mexican President.

El Chapo’s family, who are high-profile celebrities in their home state of Sinaloa, held a press conference to thank the President for supporting the release of one of their own.

Guzman had been wanted by authorities in the United States, but despite his extradition request, Mexican authorities said they had no choice but to release him to avoid further bloodshed.

Gun violence driven by Mexico’s thriving drug cartels has been spiraling out of control for months.

In fact, 2019 is set to break records when it comes to the number of homicides across the country. So far there have been more than 15,000 homicides – putting the country on course to surpass the 29,111 murders of last year, an all-time high.

That’s what makes this story all that more startling. It’s another massive shoot out involving police and drug cartels, but it’s making headlines around the world because of its intensity and the fact that one of El Chapo’s sons was the intended target.

500 Years After The Conquest Of Mexico Began, Descendants Of Both Cortes And Moctezuma Meet

Things That Matter

500 Years After The Conquest Of Mexico Began, Descendants Of Both Cortes And Moctezuma Meet

The scars of the Spanish colonization of what is now known as Mexico are still fresh in the racial, social and political relationships that shape the Latin American country. Current president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has continuously demanded Spain and the Catholic Church to apologize for the many crimes perpetuated against indigenous populations during La Conquista and La Colonia, periods in which the European colonizers imposed their will by brute force, enslaving the original owners of the land.

A recent event brought together two of the direct descendants of the Spanish conqueror, Hernan Cortes, and the conquered Aztec emperor, Moctezuma. The meet up was organized by filmmaker Miguel Gleason, who is making a documentary about the conquest. They met at a church were Cortes is buried. 

Yes, it has been 500 years since Tenochtitlan, the capital of the Aztec empire, fell, but the episode still resonates with today’s Mexicans.

Contrary to other countries that were born out of European invasions, such as New Zealand, the indigenous population in Mexico has not been fully assimilated into political life, and many decisions are made for them in the higher echelons of power.

The story of the conquest is still seen as an us versus them, and even for Mexicans who are casually racist against indigenous people on an everyday basis there is a tinge of historical resentment against the Spanish.

It is important to point out that the Conquista was brutal: it was not the joyous founding of a new country, but a bloodshed that saw the indigenous population wiped out by guns and diseases such as smallpox for which they had no antibodies. It was cruel. To add insult to injury, they were also conquered ideologically and religiously by envoys from the Catholic Church that were hand in hand with the Spanish Crown. 

Un abrazo that is worth a thousand words… but are they empty words?

With much fanfare, surrounded by cameras and reporters, two men shared an embrace 500 years after their ancestors first met in 1519 and changed the history of the world.

Federico Acosta, a Mexican man whose family is directed down 16 generations to the daughter of Moctezuma, met with Ascanio Pignatelli, an Italian citizen related to Cortés’ daughter. Pignatelli’s family held one of  the conquistador’s noble titles, but sold it over 150 years ago. This was a heartfelt moment, but perhaps is was too naive. The event was covered by the Mexican and international media, but one should wonder the impact it could really have beyond the wow factor. Acosta said: “It’s not that there were good people and bad people. It’s that, that’s the way things were done”. Excuse us? 

This was a tender media moment, and it is an ideal scenario in terms of reconciliation. But how much can an act like this actually mean?

Pignatelli told Acosta: “I want to ask your forgiveness for all the bad things that happened. We need to leave the past behind us. Today is a day for leaving all the bad things in the past”.

This apology sounds all fine and dandy, but what does it mean for today’s world?

Acosta said: “We are the fusion of two cultures, the European and ours. We are the result of that meeting, the vast majority of us have Spanish and Mexican blood”.

And what Acosta said is true. Today’s Mexico is made up of a melange of heritages that extends far beyond Spain and the Aztec Empire. On the indigenous side there is Olmec, Mixtec, Maya, Tarahumara and many, many other ethnic groups that are often forgotten and still live under precarious conditions, akin to colonial times. On the European side, there have been German, French, Portuguese, European Jewish and all sorts of migrations. So Mexican identity is much more than an Aztec/Spanish dichotomy. 

Now AMLO is asking for an apology… again.

Pignatelli’s apology is something that the current Mexican president AMLO would like to hear from the Spanish Crown. His government’s ideology is based on a look into history and the many debts accumulated towards the marginal sectors of Mexican society. Among them, of course, are indigenous Mexicans.

He said: “I still ask the king of Spain and Pope Francis, humbly, that they apologize for the abuses committed during the conquest and the colonial domination”. This would be a merely symbolic act, as economic elites dominate the country regardless, oftentimes, of race.

Also, this view perpetuates the us vs them political imaginary that perhaps ends up not being very productive at all. But then again, AMLO’s ideological postulates are based on a revisionist approach to history. 

She Was Body-Shamed During The 2016 Olympics And Has Now Been Named Mexico’s Best Non-Professional Athlete

Entertainment

She Was Body-Shamed During The 2016 Olympics And Has Now Been Named Mexico’s Best Non-Professional Athlete

alexa.morenomx / Instagram

In 2016, Mexicana Alexa Moreno traveled to Rio de Janeiro to compete for her country in the Olympics. Mexico rooted for her as she impressively competed in the uneven bars, floor exercise, beam, vault and more, earning 31st place. Meanwhile, instead of being deeply impressed by her skills, Mexican Twitter trolls body-shamed her. Not for long. Some people around the world rallied to her defense and pointed out her superior athleticism.

In fact, Mexico just awarded Moreno with the Premio Nacional del Deporte, naming her the best non-professional athlete in the entire country.

In a video shared to Twitter, gymnast Alexa Moreno thanked her supporters.

Credit: @alexa_moreno_mx / Twitter

“Thank you for this recognition and thanks to all who have supported me on the way to get here,” she captioned the video. “Today, I was informed that I was the winner of the Premio Nacional del Deporte. I’m very shocked. The truth is that I didn’t imagine this would happen at all,” she told her fans in the video. “It’s a huge surprise. It’s very gratifying. Yes, I’m very, very happy. There’s nothing else to say but thank you to everyone. I want to thank everyone who has been a part of my journey. There’s been an entire circle of people around me. It’s not just me. It’s not just my job. I want to thank all the people who believed in me, for believing in me. Thank you very much.”

Moreno is the first Mexican woman gymnast to medal at a world championship.

@alexa_moreno_mx / Twitter

Moreno became the first Mexican woman to medal at a world championship just last year, when she earned bronze on vault. Last month, Moreno competed in the 2019 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships in Stuttgart, Germany. Her performance on vault qualified her for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo!

Moreno’s supporters emoji-clapping all over Twitter.

“HONOR TO WHOM HONOR IS DUE,” tweeted sports journalist Jocelin Flores in Spanish. “Alexa Moreno, the first Mexican to climb the podium of the World Artistic Gymnastics Championship, is the winner of the 2019 National Sports Award, Non-Professional category.” One mother tweeted at Moreno to say in Spanish, “Congratulations! You are a great role model for the children of the country.”

“The most deserved,” tweeted Twitter user Sebastián, “I think she’s already established herself as the best Mexican gymnast of all time.”

When the haters were hating, some people were creating beautiful illustrations of Moreno.

Credit: Jose Acosta / Facebook

Moreno signed up for gymnastics when she was just 3-years-old. “Mexico needs people who prove that everything is possible,” Moreno told CCTV America in 2016. “You need to believe in yourself and fight to be able to do things that no one has ever done before.” Moreno is just 4’11” and 99 pounds. As the haters started deleting their tweets, Alexa Moreno went viral for all the fan art her inspirational performance generated.

We hope all the Mexican niñas are watching and being inspired by Moreno.

Credit: @kaleidoscopao / Instagram

“I can’t believe the criticism and bullying of #AlexaMoreno,” one Mexican woman shared to Instagram, along with a video of her routine. “I see this routine and I applaud it, it excites me, it inspires me. This girl is a champion and an example to follow. I was a gymnast and BELIEVE ME it is very difficult to reach that level in this country where the support for gymnastics is almost nil. How can it be that instead of being proud and encouraging we are the first to trash her?!?! What kind of country are we? How do we intend to train valuable athletes if we are the first to throw them down?!?!”

Even though Moreno did nothing to achieve her beauty, we have to say, she’s so beautiful.

Credit: @danpichardo / Twitter

Of course, we should all be talking about how 23 years of regimented, back-breaking athleticism has made her Mexico’s best gymnast. That takes the kind of athletic work that many of us will never know. Moreno is also “drop-dead gorgeous” as my mom would say. Not that it matters.

Felicidades a la favorita de México!

Credit: @publisportmx / Twitter

We are rooting for you, Moreno! The medal that qualified her for the 2020 Olympics scored at a 14.508, less than one point behind the infamous U.S. gymnastics gold champion Simone Biles. Mexico has never taken home a medal in gymnastics. With Moreno competing on behalf of México, we’re high-key rooting she becomes the first Mexican to climb up on an Olympic podium to medal in gymnastics. Let the haters hate. Mexico loves you, Moreno, and so do we.

READ: A Mexican Gymnast Who Was Body-Shamed During The 2016 Olympics Just Qualified For The 2020 Games