Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Cartel media censorship in Mexico (Dec. 15, 2015)

Washington Post investigation details the life-and-death decisions taken everyday by Mexican journalists and editors in the country's northeast where there is a deeply institutionalized system of cartel censorship imposed on media outlets.

Submitting to cartel demands is the only way to survive, said Hildebrando "Brando" Deandar Ayala, editor in chief of El Mañana, one of the oldest and largest newspapers in the region with a print circulation of 30,000. "You do it or you die, and nobody wants to die," he said. "Auto censura — self-censorship — that's our shield."

Reporting from the region, which is between the Zetas and the Gulf cartels' territories, is fraught, and four journalists from the newspaper have been killed over the past decade. The last time the paper defied the cartel censorship rules, in February, an editor in its Matamoros bureau was dragged outside, stuffed in a van and beaten as his abductors drove around threatening him with death, reports the Post piece.

The Zeta's cartel has a media director, who calls reporters at media outlets to to tell them what stories the cartel wants published or censored. "One day it's a story critical of new government limits on imported cars; the next it’s a birthday party in the social pages featuring a cartel boss's daughter. Sometimes the media director provides photos and video for an article."

Social media reporting has filled the void left by cartel censorship of the traditional media, but bloggers have also become targets of cartel ire. 

News Briefs

  • Haiti is ready for a scheduled Dec. 27 run-off election to determine its next president, but with less than two weeks to go, it's not clear that it will be carried out, reports the Miami Herald. The second-place candidate, Jude Célestine is demanding an independent verification of the first round of voting, and has been joined by other opposition presidential candidates, religious leaders, local election observers, human rights organizations and even one member of the Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) who did not sign off on the original results. Other CEP members have threatened to resign if any sort of a review commission is set up, and the international community has ratified the results of the Oct. 25 first-round.
  • A piece in the Washington Post reviews how the thaw between the U.S. and Cuba has developed over the past year since the initial announcement by Barack Obama and Raúl Castro. (See yesterday's post.) The two countries have traded in the boxing ring in which they conducted their foreign relations for a chess board, argues the piece. The pace of change is both quick and slow. American interest is huge, but the Cuban government is stalling. At the same time, far from loosening political restrictions, the government seems to be cracking down on dissidents more than ever, though with short detentions rather than long prison terms.
  • Early this morning Brazilian police carried out 53 search-and-seizure raids the homes and offices of top political figures accused of a massive corruption investigation related to state-run oil company Petrobras, reports Reuters. The targets included Speaker of the House, Eduardo Cunha, a bitter enemy of President Dilma Rousseff's administration and who began impeachment proceedings against her earlier this month. Cunha is faces federal charges of corruption for allegedly accepting at least $5 million in bribes related to the Petrobras kickback scandal, reports the Associated Press. At least one federal minister, that of Tourism, was also a target, according to Reuters. The Wall Street Journal says Senator Edison Lobao, a former energy and mining minister in Rousseff's first administration and science and technology minister Celso Pansera were also targets. Police confiscated phones, computers and documents, but made no arrests in the raids. The searches are unusual as Brazilian lawmakers enjoy significant protections against legal actions under Brazil’s constitution and require the approval of Brazil’s Supreme Court, explains WSJ.
  • Brazilian lawmakers will likely vote on next year's fiscal targets this week. Investors are hoping for a budget surplus, which would be interpreted as a sign of "fiscal responsibility," but lawmakers and government officials are also seeking to avoid cuts to social programs, investment and other spending that spurs economic growth because the country is in recession, reports the Wall Street Journal.
  • The Rio Olympics are being used as an excuse to evict poor people from valuable land, reports VICEThe Guardian has several blog posts by Rio favela residents ahead of next year's Olympic games. They write about pervasive gun and police violence, an ongoing issue in Rio. Blacks are killed by police far out of proportion to their share in the population, but there is little attention to the issue in the national media, writes the Washington Post. There is a perception that it is not an issue of racism, explains the piece. (See Nov. 4th's post.)
  • On Friday Venezuela's opposition coalition presented a legislative agenda that promised to stimulate production and supply, reverse expropriations of private businesses and tackle security issues, reports The Guardian. The piece says President Nicolás Maduro is likely to take a pragmatic approach to working with the opposition, and cites a "well-connected source" who said "that privately Maduro seemed conciliatory and had sought to create a backchannel for conversations with the new legislative majority."
  • A piece in the Los Angeles Times looks at gang violence in Honduras, specifically after the death of a national soccer star last week, who was shot in a mall parking lot. (See last Friday's post.)
  • As hundreds of families in Mexico's Guerrero state search for their "disappeared" loved ones, the Associated Press has a unique interview with the other side: "the tale of a man who kidnaps, tortures and kills for a drug cartel. His story is the mirror image of those recounted by survivors and victims' families, and seems to confirm their worst fears: Many, if not most, of the disappeared likely are never coming home."
  • Today Pope Francis called on countries to welcome refugees, integrate them and help them become legal residents. The topic will be central to his visit to Mexico in February. He will say a Mass right on the border with the United States, where he is expected to defend the rights of immigrants, reports Reuters.
  • Mexican authorities confirmed that the charred bodies found in a camper van in Sinaloa late last month belong to two missing Australian surfers. Sinaloa officials this month arrested three men over the disappearance, but said two suspects remain at large, reports Reuters.
  • Argentine President Mauricio Macri designated two new Supreme Court justices to act "in commission" while the Senate is in recess, until they can be confirmed by Congress. While constitutional, La Nación notes that the measure is extremely polemic and hasn't been used since 1862. 
  • At least 43 Argentine gendarmes were killed when a bus blew a tire and veered off a bridge in the northern province of Salta. The accident has brought attention to the poor state of the country's roads.
  • The Argentine classic political comic - El Eternauta - is available in English for the first time. The Guardian reviews the story of the unique Argentine superhero, Juan Salvo, whose sci-fi battle is also a political allegory. 

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