Civil society is organizing
Two events in early 2015 are worth noting. The first is a continuation of what several different organizations and platforms have worked for in recent years. El primer Constituyente Ciudadana Popular, “The First Meeting of a New and Popular Constitution,” was organized Feb. 5 with Bishop Raúl Vera at the head. The main purpose is to rebuild the nation of Mexico based on a new constitution where, among other things, free organization of trade unions, respect for women, and a guarantee of human rights are central points.
The second event is a new initiative by Ayotzinapa, Convención Nacional Popular or “The National People’s Convention” in Norwegian, which was organized on February 5 and 6, 2015 with a total of 244 organizations. Coordinating a civil society of different organizations with different political strategies and motivations is complicated in Mexico, but Ayotzinapa is gathering the various organized resistance movements that have been visible in Mexico for the past 15 years. The main purpose is to create a platform for coordination of a political plan at national level.
The demonstrations for Ayotzinapa in the fall of 2014 gathered everything from the outspoken Catholic priests Raúl Vera and Solalinde, to the FPDT from Atenco, the students from # yosoy132, most universities, other teachers ‘schools, the teachers’ union, independent Mexicans and EZLN in Chiapas. The word about Ayotzinapa has come a long way and they are not the only ones suffering from the hidden violence in the country. The poet Javier Sicilia, who headed the giant marches with 200,000 people in 2011 after his son and six others were brutally killed by a criminal group, also participates in the room that has emerged in the cooling waters of Ayotzinapa. However, there are divisions, different strategies and forms of motivation within the various organizations that will make a common front difficult to coordinate.
The point that creates divisions within the movement is participation in elections. Should one vote in elections or organize themselves in new political parties and thus legitimate is a system that does not work, or should one operate outside? This was crucial to the split on the left in 2006, when one direction chose not to vote in the election, led by EZLN’s second campaign, and the other followed the PRD, hoping that Amlo could make changes. Since then, the question of participation in elections has followed organized civil society as a ghost and many initiatives that could have grown larger split up due to disagreements about this particular issue.
In June 2015, local elections were held in Mexico. In a case about the election, the media collective Subversiones wrote: «7. June will be a historic day. It will be the day the people will see the effect of the ignorance and disgust the Mexican government has shown to the very poor. It will be the day the parents of the 43 teacher students and MPG (Guerrero People’s Movement) will give a lesson to the Mexican people on how to defend the country. Today, more than ever, Ayotzinapa lives “.
Prior to the election, the resistance to participation was attempted to be met with violence by the government. At all costs they would carry out the election, while in the state of Guerrero it was important for the network around Ayotzinapa to stop the election.
– It is not possible to hold an election in Mexico now, even less in Guerrero. How can they ask us to go to elections when we are still looking for our children who the police kidnapped on September 26 last year? said Hilda Legideño Vargas, mother of Jorge Antonio Tizapa Legideño, one of the 43 missing students.
With the development of violence in Mexico, security and human rights have become a growing concern. In several international reports on both freedom of speech, violence against women and impunity, Mexico scores poorly.
Freedom of speech
The social crisis Mexico is in is characterized by very precarious limits to freedom of expression. The number of killings of journalists in Mexico has been increasing and alarming. According to the 2014 Freedom House Press Freedom Report in 2014, 76 journalists have been killed between 2000 and 2013, and 16 have disappeared in the same period. The figure dropped in 2013, but Mexico is still characterized as a non-free country of Freedom House. Alarming numbers of assaults and threats against journalists come in the same report. In 2011, 172 journalists were tried, in 2012 a total of 207 and in 2013 the number increased to 225 death threats. The threats are mainly directed at the smaller local newspapers and activists from so-called independent and free media. It is largely a persecution of those journalists who choose to highlight issues that do not escape through the censorship of the media monopoly.
In August 2015, Mexico was again shaken by brutal killings of journalists. In an apartment in the Navarro district of Mexico City, five people were raped, tortured and killed. The forefinger is aimed at state governor Javier Duarte in the state of Veracruz. Two of them killed the work and studied in Veracruz, and reported direct threats from governors if they did not stop documenting the state government’s link to the drug cartel Los Zetas. The situation in the state has long been criticized after 17 journalists were killed and four disappeared.
The major media giants Televisa and Tv Azteca control large parts of public communication. The two privately owned channels reach 93.2 percent of Mexican homes. Through political alliances, where information of national interest is carefully directed and instructed from a political point of view, journalists avoid threats.
A majority of newspapers in the north conduct self-censorship in an effort to protect their employees. The legal organization Articulo 19 works with the surveillance and legal follow-up of journalists who are subjected to persecution or murder. They point out that 59 percent of the threats registered against journalists are committed by public officials. Articulo 19 has also followed the development of the criminalization of protests. They see a negative trend from 2013 and claim that Mexico’s streets have been turned into war zones. The police use political arrests and carry out violence far beyond their mandate. The street fighting and arrests that took place on December 1, 2012, on October 2, 2013, and up to several times during the fall of 2014, showed a Mexican police without control. Minors, children, innocent passers-by, and protesters were all hit by incomprehensible violence. Several from independent media are imprisoned and the collectives working with communications have been forced to take more precautions to cover demonstrations.
The women’s hate killings, feminicidio, gained international attention in the early 2000s. The problem is traced back to 1993, and the first published figures documented 370 killings of women between 1993 and 2005. Initially, the problem was related to young women in the Maquila industry (textile factories in the U.S. border) who disappeared and were found dead with signs of sexual torture. The killings have drowned in the ongoing drug war despite the fact that female killings have increased by 77 percent over the past three years, according to the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH).
The phenomenon of feminicidios has previously been linked to areas in northern Mexico, but as the phenomenon became known, documentation began in other states as well. States such as Chiapas, Oaxaca and Guerrero in the south, and Chihuahua, Durango, Michoacán, Sinaloa, Sonora and Mexico in the center and north are high on the statistics. Common to all states is high activity among criminal groups. But drug crime alone cannot explain the problem. Hatred against women is a problem in Mexico’s male-dominated society. According to a 2014 national survey, 46 percent of women over the age of 15 have been subjected to domestic violence. The state of Mexico comes out worst on the statistics.
Mexico has actively advocated the fight against women murder and violence against women, at least on paper. By amending the legislation, penalties of up to 60 years can be obtained for the murder of women, 20 years for rape and fines of 250 to 5000 times your daily salary for sexual harassment in public space. In reality, the situation is different. Sexual harassment is only characterized as something criminal in 15 of Mexico’s 31 states. Although rape has harsh penalties, few cases are reported and those reported rarely lead to a verdict. Women’s organizations in Mexico believe that just impunity for violence against women means that few will undertake a degrading review process.
Mexico’s courts are to a large extent politically controlled, characterized by corruption on many levels, as well as a long-standing practice where prisons are used as a political press. About 40 percent of those in prison today are without a sentence. Human Right Watch reports that torture is still prevalent within the prison walls and overcrowded prisons lead to inhumane conditions. According to figures from the Ministry of Justice, impunity is over 90 percent, and only seven out of a hundred cases reported result in sentencing.
It is more startling when one considers that several offenses are never reported. The reasons for this may be so many: humiliation of women exposed to sexual violence, fear, and widespread distrust among the population when impunity and corruption are high.
The Minister of Justice has launched a national law enforcement program to curb the impunity. Nevertheless, criticism of the initiative is pointed out, since it is known that many of those who are actually convicted are not guilty. Over 92 percent of prison sentences are not based on physical evidence but on “presumed guilt”. That is, the accused is convicted of failing to prove his innocence, the opposite of a Norwegian legal system. It is often more important to have someone convicted of a crime than to take the one who is actually guilty.
One of the most successful Mexican documentaries of recent times is Presunto Culpable, “Guilty Guilt, ” which documents the story of the supposedly guilty Toño. The documentary shows how the legal system in Mexico works according to practices other than one would expect from a legal system. The film shows how 78 percent of inmates depend on getting food from their families, 93 percent of inmates have never been arrested and just as many of the defendants have never seen a judge.
In 2014, Amnesty released a report on the use of torture in Mexico. The report documents how torture reviews have increased by a staggering 600 percent from 2003 to 2013, in line with the evolution of the war on drugs.
NAFTA and financial projects
In 1992, Mexico ratified the North American Free Trade Agreement NAFTA with Canada and the United States. 20 years later, the country’s foreign debt and dependence on imports have increased. Today, the country spends ten times as much on imports compared to the time before NAFTA came into force in 1994. Over two million farmers have given up farming, and migration to the United States has increased.
According to Countryaah.com, economic development in Mexico is based on increased foreign investment, especially in the mining and renewable energy sectors. As many as 20 percent of Mexico’s territories are distributed to various mining projects at the end of 2014. Article 6 of the Constitution states that “the exploration, extraction and processing of minerals or substances is prioritized over any other use or utilization of land as long as it is public. benefit… “. Most of these resources are located in indigenous areas and on collectively owned land, making it complicated for smaller communities to resist ever-expanding concessions.
The conflict around the land issue escalated when the NAFTA agreement was signed. The United States called for an amendment to Article 27 of the Constitution, the law that guarantees collective ownership of land. The change in the article opened up the distribution of individual land titles in Mexico and thus also for privatization. Across the country, there are today conflicts related to indigenous areas and agricultural lands, in order to preserve the people’s right to areas in the face of international companies.
Since December 2012, Mexico has formally participated in the disputed TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) negotiations, along with a total of 12 countries bordering the Pacific, including the United States, Canada and Japan. If the negotiating parties come to an agreement and the agreement comes into force, the dependence on US imports will increase. Opponents fear that the Mexican state will weaken any possible conflict with foreign investors because of the investor-state dispute resolution that the agreement entails, and that the country’s human rights and indigenous obligations could be further weakened.
“Today, they will kill us with wind turbines, with car roads, with mines, with steam projects, airports and drug traffic,” says the indigenous movement to describe how the colonization and demolition of indigenous communities have changed their characteristics.
There are currently 65 registered indigenous groups in Mexico who speak over sixty different languages. The struggle of indigenous peoples is not only about protecting a geographically restricted area, but also about preserving language, culture, way of life and natural resources that have other values a purely economic. In the face of economic projects that seek profits in everything from wind and hydropower, to mines, tourist complexes, roads and more industrial agriculture, indigenous peoples are discussing the strategy of struggle.
Mexico was among the first countries to sign ILO Convention No. 169 on the rights of indigenous peoples and tribes, yet they have not followed the law in practice. The most famous indigenous organization in Mexico is the Zapatistas in Chiapas. In 1994, they revolted against the Mexican state because of a “500-year exclusion” and the implementation of the NAFTA agreement. After several attempts at dialogue with Congress beyond the 1990s, the Zapati Army for National Liberation (EZLN) finally broke all forms of dialogue and support for change through the established political system. Several indigenous organizations are now following suit, as it proves very complicated and almost impossible to protect indigenous peoples through dialogue and use of the legislation.
Through the indigenous network CNI, the National Indigenous Congress, indigenous peoples cooperate throughout the country. At the transition to 2015, EZLN and CNI invited activists and organizations nationally and internationally to the World Festival of Rebellion and Resistance to Capitalism. Coercive displacement or divisions of communities to obtain consent for various economic projects is a widespread problem and will become more visible in Mexico in the time to come. If CNI and EZLN manage to maintain close cooperation with other civil actors in the country, it will be more difficult for the government to carelessly distribute licenses.
A hard and a soft hand
The hard and soft hand, the PRI’s strategy for overcoming resistance, has become clear in the Ayotzinapa case. From the first moment, the family members were sought out and offered financial compensation. No one would accept. “We don’t negotiate for our children,” were the parents’ response. They still have the search and protests against all odds. The Mexican government has strived hard to maintain a good reputation outwardly and inwardly. In December 2014, Nieto convened all of its European ambassadors to devise strategies for what was going out to the media internationally. Also in Norway, the Mexican embassy sent a letter to Norwegian media to assure good control over the investigation.
The soft hand of the PRI will negotiate with the school and the parents, while the hard will now become more debt. Several of the protests have been severely suppressed, and it is announced that no more protest actions from the school and families will be tolerated. On the other hand, Ayotzinapa is in front of a much larger protest in Mexico. A protest that has been in waves for several years. Here gather other families and relatives who are looking for answers. This is where indigenous communities gather, which are forcibly displaced because of major economic projects such as mining, hydroelectricity, road construction, tourist complexes, and here the student movement is gathered which marked itself strongly during the run-up to the elections in 2012. PRI has many political opponents, but the biggest is the opposition to the political system, which targets all political parties.
Mexico’s government is entering a challenging period, and time will tell if the PRI will run out.
Capital: Mexico City
Population: 123.17 million (2016)
Life expectancy: 75.9 years (2016)
Infant mortality: 11.9 per 1,000 (2016)
GDP per capita (PPP): US $ 18,900 (2016)
Religion: Catholicism 82.7%, Pentecostal 1.6%, Jehovah’s Witnesses 1.4%, Other 6.9% (2016)
Official Languages: Spanish
Currency Unit: Mexican Pesos
Main Export Items: Industrial Products, Oil & Oil Products, Silver, Fruits, Vegetables, Coffee and cotton.
Regional relations: Member of CAN (observer), NAFTA, CELAC, Pacific Alliance, Union Latina (observer), UNASUR (observer) and OAS