Video: Mexicans march for peace

Tens of thousands of people of all social classes and ages marched across Mexico Saturday (August 30th 2008) in protest against high crime levels and rising kidnappings.

Anger has boiled over in the weeks since the death of Fernando Marti, the 14-year-old son of a wealthy businessman, whose body was found after his family reportedly paid millions of dollars to kidnappers.

At least two Mexico City police officers were suspected of involvement, provoking more fury among residents weary of endemic corruption and apparent impunity.

The Calderon government has struggled to show results from its 21-month-old offensive against organized crime.

More than 2,600 people have died this year in drug-related violence, according to unofficial counts by Mexican news outlets. [Los Angeles Times]

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Video: The thrill of the Huamantlada

Watch last weekend’s festivities in Huamantla, Mexico in which 23 people were injured trying to challenge 500-kilo bulls.

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Filming bullfights is not worth dying for

The Huamantlada pits man against beast in potentially disastrous circumstances. The annual event, which takes place in the otherwise sleepy town of Huamantla in the Mexican state of Tlaxcala, saw 24 bulls let loose in the town’s narrow, uneven streets to be confronted by locals and visitors alike – many of which had been drinking since early in the morning on what was a scorching hot day.

My loyal readers may remember the Huamantlada from last year – the film we made has proved one of our most watched and the coverage was one of the earliest missions of MexicoReporter.com – then known as NewCorrespondent.com. Well, this year I was back – for the Los Angeles Times this time around – and I wanted to apply my new video training to the event which had proved entertaining 12 months ago, although a little hard to watch. One man had died and there were 24 injuries during the 2007 event. Continue reading

Amateur bullfighting festival in Mexico ends with 23 injuries

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More than 20 people were gored or injured by bulls this weekend in Huamantla in the Mexican state of Tlaxcala after taking on one of the 24 bulls let loose into the streets as part of an annual festival.

The Huamantlada, which is often compared to the running of the bulls event in Pamplona, takes place every year in this small rural town. The comparison to the event in Spain is inaccurate – the bulls didn’t run anywhere. The town’s 17 central streets were transformed into huge pens for the half-ton animals, which were mercilessly taunted by the crowd and pelted with plastic bottles and beer cans.

Many of the men who challenged the bulls, matador-style, knew what they were doing and approached the animals with caution and capes. But many didn’t. The combination of alcohol, a screaming crowd and poor judgment was too much: 23 people ended up being carried away on stretchers by the Red Cross. Continue reading

Brian Conley and co heading home

Following the detention of Brian Conley, founder of Alive in Baghdad, and some of his colleagues on August 21st in Beijing, news emerged today that he and his companions have been released and are expected to arrive in los Angeles on Monday morning.

An email from Conley’s wife Eowyn reads:

We just got word that Brian and friends are on a plane to Los Angeles, arriving Monday morning. He was released with 7 other US citizen detainees: Jeff Goldin, Tom Grant, Mike Liss, James Powderly, Jeff Rae, John Watterberg and Jeremy Wells.

They have been released 6 days early, largely (we believe) because of political pressure and media attention that forced the US Embassy to take action.

The fate of the other 2 international detainees, Florian Norbu Gyanatshang a Tibetan with German citizenship, and Mandie McKeown from Britain, is not clear. Please feel free to call their respective embassies and urge their immediate release. For more info on phone numbers and other action steps, see the Free Tibet 2008 website.

There are other important steps we can take to make sure that their detention gets the international attention it deserves and that the underlying cause — freedom for the people of Tibet — is advanced. We can keep putting pressure on media to tell the real story of the Olympics in China. We can continue to raise awareness about the oppression and violence in Tibet. We can work to support independent media, so we actually get to hear these stories.

Welcome home Brian. Alive in Baghdad this week is expected to feature a short section on his detention.

Alive In Baghdad founder detained in China

Brian Conley, who runs the award-winning video blog Alive in Baghdad, has been detained in Beijing whilst documenting pro-Tibet protests in the city running alongside the Olypmics.

Conley has been of incredible help to MexicoReporter.com, helping me with video editing and filming tips during the early days, and also helped the Frontline Club promote the Frontline Club live video channel. Conley has “dedicated his life to helping oppressed people communicate their struggles to the world. Since 2004 he has worked on the video blog Alive in Baghdad which produces and distributes weekly video segments about daily life in Iraq and the impact of the war,” says his wife Eowy.

According to an email from Eowyn – who is 31 weeks pregnant with their first child – Conley was arrested by Chinese authorities for this work, along with 5 others working with Students for a Free Tibet, Jeff Rae (who also works with Alive in Baghdad), James Powderly, Jeff Goldin, Michael Liss, and Tom Grant.

As of about 8 pm Eastern Standard Time on Thursday, August 21 Brian and 5 others had been detained for approximately 77 hours, with no communication from them and minimal direct information from the Chinese authorities.

Earlier on Thursday, according to the Agency France Press the Beijing police disclosed that “Thomas” and 5 other unnamed activists had been sentenced to 10 days administrative detention for “upsetting public order.” We believe that the 6 detainees are Brian Conley, Jeff Rae (who also works with Alive in Baghdad), James Powderly, Jeff Goldin, Michael Liss, and Tom Grant.

After 72 hours of detention, foreign governments are expected to inform local embassies of the detention of any foreign nationals. The US Embassy has been confirmed the names of the 6 detainees with the Chinese authorities. The Embassy has also been in touch with Eowyn and assured her that they are working diligently to gain access to Brian and the other detainees.

For more information about the detention of Brian Conley and 5 others in Beijing, please see www.freetibet2008.org . Please consider donating money to Students for a Free Tibet to support their work. To get regular updates about Brian’s situation or to arrange an interview with me (Eowyn Rieke, Brian’s wife), please email brian.conley.update@gmail.com.

The News finally launches website

Remember the English-language newspaper The News which launched last October, pledging independence?

English language newspaper The News hit the streets of Mexico City today after a five year hiatus.

Its directors have promised a more independent tone this time around. In its prior incarnation The News kept its head under the parapet, preferring to keep its advertisers and powerful readers happy rather than rocking the boat.

Victor Hugo O’Farrill Ávila, owner and chairman of The News, said in the opening pages of today’s edition that the aim of the newspaper is to be ‘constructive and serious’, as his grandfather said some 60 years ago when launching the original form of the title in 1950.

But John Moody, chief executive of the paper, was much more bullish when he spoke to MexicoReporter.com a couple of weeks ago.

“I think that we’re going to be the only newspaper in Mexico that sells its readers and not paper and ink. I’m at the service of my readers and not my advertisers.”

Well, after a longer-than-expected wait, the daily has launched its website which you can see here at TheNews.com.mx.

According to my contact there, the site actually launched a month ago, so apologies for the delay – better late than never.