NYT: How the drug war impacts civilians

The drug war in Mexico has become pretty much a daily assignment here in the country – news of headless bodies turning up in the Yucatan and mass shootings in Chuihuaha tend to dominate the headlines. Combined with the huge crime wave and rising kidnappings, the country probably has one of the worst reputations abroad.

The New York Times has a great piece online today about how just regular citizens are reacting to the drug war.

“We all live in fear now,” he said. “Any of us could be taken or killed. I try to wear nothing and do nothing that attracts attention. I wear T-shirts and a hat. I have no jewelry. I don’t want to stand out.”

In modern Mexico, a new way of cautious thinking is setting in. A Hummer pulls beside one’s vehicle at an intersection? Better keep looking straight ahead. Or better yet, many recommend, do not stop at red lights at all.

Click here to read the full piece.

For nearly daily coverage of the drug violence in Mexico, stay tuned to the Los Angeles Times Mexico Under Siege page and the NYT’s Drug trafficking in Mexico topics page.

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.

Mexico church assailed for maligning miniskirt

Last week’s condemnation of the mini-skirt by the Mexican Catholic Church has enraged some Mexican women, who say that church’s statement that women should wear less provocative clothing makes it easier to justify rape and other forms of violence against them.

Last week’s statement, which advised women not to get into “spicy”conversations with men if they wanted to avoid rape and violence, saying:

“If you want to avoid sexual aggression….do not use provocative clothing…watch your glances…don’t be alone with a man, even if you know him…Don’t permit spicy chats or jokes… look for help  when you suspect bad intentions….”

Women protested in front of the cathedral in Mexico City’s Zocalo over the weekend – wearing miniskirts of course – and the statement has been lambasted by newspaper columnists and women’s rights activists.

“Guadalupe Loaeza, a renowned Mexican social commentator, said she worries the priest’s statements will be taken seriously and make it acceptable to blame the victim.

“”It gives rapists permission to say, ‘Well, she had on a miniskirt,'” Loaeza said. “What the church says has credibility – that’s why this type of statement is so dangerous.”” Associated Press.

Arrest warrants issued for Cacho case

Mexican journalist Lydia Cacho Ribeiro, herself a victim of human rights abuses, listens to the tale of the friend of a prison inmate.Warrants for the arrest of five public employees involved in the illegal detention of journalist Lydia Cacho (pictured) have been issued in Mexico after the nation’s Supreme Court decided at the end of last year not to pursue legal proceedings against those involved in the case.

The Attorney General’s office, which represents a special office set up to investigate crimes against journalists in Mexico (Fiscalía Especial para la Atención de Delitos Contra Periodistas, FEADP), issued the arrest warrants. The names of those who are under arrest warrant have not been published, and it is not known whether Mario Marin, the governor of Puebla who was implicated in the illegal arrest of Cacho, is amongst them. Continue reading

April update: Violence against journalists continues

April is shaping up to be a bad month for journalists in Mexico. Continue reading