• Chiapas violence: Hundreds flee cartel battles in southern Mexico

    Hundreds of people have fled their homes in southern Mexico as rival cartels fight for control of routes used to smuggle drugs and migrants.

    Locals described cowering in their homes while bullets flew through their homes during a seven-hour gun fight.

    More than 700 residents had been displaced from their communities near the Guatemala border, an official said.

    The Jalisco New Generation cartel (CJNG) is trying to wrest the area from the grip of the Sinaloa cartel.

    Criminal organisations like the CJNG and the Sinaloa cartel have been infiltrating the region because of its proximity to the border with Guatemala and important transit routes for migrants, whom they extort.

    The worst-hit communities are Chicomuselo and La Concordia in Chiapas state. Residents of Chicomuselo said 20 people – 18 gang members and two locals – were killed in a cartel battle on 4 January.

    In a statement, the community described “the pain at seeing children and youths trembling in fear and getting sick from having to live through these traumatic experiences”. They also accused the state of failing to protect them.

    However, the Chiapas state prosecutor’s office released a statement five days later saying that it had not received any reports of any killings in the area.

    The military has been deployed to the region but locals say they are now getting caught in the crossfire when the security forces confront the cartels.

    Entire families have left their homes and crossed the nearby Angostura lake by boat to escape the violence over the past days.

    Local journalists said that their villages now resembled ghost towns.

    Chiapas civil protection official Luis Manuel García Moreno told Radio Fórmula that 701 people had fled to the city of Comitán, most of them women and children.

  • Texas to arrest illegal migrants in challenge to federal government

    Texas has enacted a law that will make border crossings illegal and punishable with jail time, one of the toughest immigration laws passed by any US state in modern times.

    Governor Greg Abbott, a Republican, said it would “stop the tidal wave of illegal entry into Texas”.

    Immigrants rights groups have sued Texas to stop the law’s enforcement.

    It comes amid rising illegal migration and public concern over US President Joe Biden’s handling of the border.

    In practice, the law allows local and state police officers to stop and arrest anyone suspected of having crossed the border illegally, except in schools and hospitals.

    Punishments range from misdemeanours to felonies that can lead to jail time or fines of up to $2,000 (£1,580).

    A judge can also order that those arrested be sent back across the border into Mexico, although it is unclear how Texas authorities plan to enforce that provision.

    Penalties for illegal re-entry could go up to 20 years in jail, depending on a migrant’s immigration and criminal history.

    Crossing the border illegally is already a federal crime, but violations are currently handled as civil cases by the immigration court system.

    One of the key debates over the law is whether state governments can create such measures. US courts have previously ruled that only the federal government can enforce immigration laws.

    This measure has received heavy criticism from Democratic lawmakers and Mexico’s government, and it was a near certainty that it would face legal challenges from immigration advocates.

    The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Texas and Texas Civil Rights Project filed a lawsuit against the state on behalf of El Paso County and two immigrants rights organisations that operate in Texas the day after the law was signed by Governor Abbott.

    The ACLU argues in its lawsuit that the legislation is unconstitutional and burdensome to local governments.

    The lawsuit estimates that SB4 could result in 8,000 arrests each year in El Paso county alone – a potentially costly strain on the local court and jail system.

    The groups involved are asking for a federal judge to intervene, declare it unlawful and stop it from being enforced.

    “SB4 lets police arrest people over ‘suspicions’ about immigration status and judges deport people without due process,” the ACLU of Texas wrote on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter. “This is unconstitutional and will harm black and brown Texans the most.”

    On Tuesday, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador vowed his government would also challenge the law, characterising it as a misguided ploy for Governor Abbott to “win popularity”.

    White House spokesperson Angelo Fernández Hernández said that “generally speaking, the federal government – not individual states – is charged with determining how and when to remove noncitizens for violating immigration laws”.

    The BBC has contacted the justice department – which would be responsible for filing any federal legal action against Texas – for comment.

    Border and immigration issues have become a political headache for President Biden.

    During the 2022 fiscal year that ended in September, a total of 2.4 million migrant “encounters” were registered at the border, a record high.

    Republicans lawmakers have sought to use US military aid to Ukraine as leverage to secure policies to crack down on illegal immigration.

  • Chichen Itza: Archaeologists discover scoreboard for ancient Maya ball game

    Archaeologists in Mexico have uncovered an intricately carved stone they believe was used as a scoreboard for pelota, a ball game played by the Maya hundreds of years ago.

    The circular stone was found at the Chichen Itza archaeological site and is thought to be at least 1,200 years old.

    At its centre are two players in elaborate headgear surrounded by hieroglyphic writing.

    Experts are now analysing the writing to decipher its possible meaning.

    The 40kg-stone (88lb) was found by archaeologist Lizbeth Beatriz Mendicut Pérez in an architectonic compound known as Casa Colorada (Red House).

    Casa Colorada is the best preserved of the buildings surrounding the main plaza in the pre-Columbian city of Chichen Itza.

    Experts believe the stone would have adorned an archway at the entrance to the compound during the late 800s or early 900s.

    It was found face down half a metre underground, where it is thought to have fallen when the archway collapsed.

    Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) said the 40kg-stone (88lb) constituted a precious and unusual find.

    “It is rare to find hieroglyphic writing at this Maya site, and even rarer to find a complete text. This hasn’t happened in 11 years,” archaeologist Francisco Pérez Ruiz explained.

    A team of experts in iconography, led by Santiago Sobrino Fernández, has identified the two central figures as pelota players, one of whom wears a feather headdress and the other – presumed to be his opponent – wears what is known as a “snake turban”.

    The man with the snakes slithering around his head also appears to be wearing the protective gear typical of pelota players.

    Pelota is a team game played with a heavy ball made from rubber in a ballcourt. It is thought to be 3,000 years old and was played across Mesoamerica.

  • Commando assalta prigione in Messico e fa evadere un leader del narcotraffico

    C’è anche un pericoloso leader narco tra i 24 detenuti fuggiti dal carcere messicano di Ciudad Juarez dopo l’irruzione di un commando armato che ha provocato 17 vittime. Si tratta di Ernesto Alfredo Piñón de la Cruz – alias ‘El Neto’, leader di una cellula di sicari appartenente al cartello de ‘Los Mexicles’, in carcere dal 2009 e condannato a oltre 200 anni di carcere per diversi omicidi e sequestri.

    ‘El Neto’ è considerato uno degli esponenti più crudeli e sanguinari del cartello. Già ad agosto dell’anno scorso, ‘Los Mexicles’ misero a ferro e fuoco la cittadina al confine con gli Stati Uniti per evitare il suo trasferimento a un carcere di massima sicurezza.

    In quell’occasione furono 11 i morti che si contarono per le strade e nello stesso carcere di Ciudad Juarez al termine del raid narcos. Un’azione quest’ultima che, a detta delle autorità, sancì la rottura dell’alleanza de ‘Los Mexicles’ con il cartello di Sinaloa e l’avvicinamento al cartello di Suarez.

    Secondo l’ultimo bilancio diramato dalla Procura di Chihuahua, sono salite a 17 le vittime. Tra questi 10 agenti di sicurezza e custodia penitenziaria e 7 detenuti; si registrano inoltre 13 feriti e almeno 27 evasi.

    L’azione, riferisce la Procura, ha avuto inizio quando “un gruppo armato a bordo di mezzi blindati ha fatto irruzione nel Centro Penitenziario sparando contro gli agenti di sicurezza”. Il commando, riferiscono le autorità, ha agito appositamente durante l’orario di visita dei detenuti, approfittando la presenza di numerosi familiari attorno al penitenziario tra i quali si sarebbero mischiati gli evasi.

    Precedentemente un’altra cellula de ‘Los Mexicles’ aveva portato avanti un diversivo attaccando con armi da fuoco una pattuglia della polizia in un altro punto della città e provocando in questo modo una persecuzione che aveva tenuto impegnato un numero significativo di agenti.

    La governatrice dello stato di Chihuahua, María Eugenia Campos Galván, ha definito l’azione come “un atto vigliacco” sottolineando che “nessuno può violare la legge e rimanere impune. Non permetteremo che queste azioni ci facciano perdere la speranza”, ha aggiunto.

  • Migrants clash with police in Mexico border town

    More than 20 people have been injured in clashes between migrants and police in the town of Tapachula, on Mexico’s southern border, officials say.

    Mexico’s National Migration Institute (INM) said about 100 migrants, mainly from Cuba, Haiti and countries in Africa, joined in “violent protests”.

    The INM said the migrants were trying to jump the queue for permits to allow them to continue their journey north.

    Every year, hundreds of thousands of people cross Mexico headed to the US.

    Migrants threw stones and sticks at members of the National Guard and scuffles broke out between the two sides.

    Rights activist Irineo Mujica told Reuters news agency that the migrants were “desperate” after waiting for months to be given an appointment with Mexico’s immigration authorities.

    Most have been sleeping rough by the roadside and are relying on handouts to feed themselves.

    While many want to reach the United States and are waiting for papers that will allow them to cross the country without being detained, others are applying for refugee or asylum status to be able to stay in Mexico.

    Official data suggests that the number of people requesting refuge or asylum in Mexico almost doubled between 2019 and 2021, overwhelming the authorities.

    The immigration centre in Tapachula – the biggest in Mexico – has become one of the main bottlenecks on migrants’ journeys and the United Nations refugee agency has urged the authorities to do more to clear the backlog.

    Last week, a group of migrants in the town sewed their mouths shut in protest at the slow pace at which their requests are being processed.

  • Mexico violence: Third journalist killed this year

    A Mexican journalist has been shot dead in the northern border city of Tijuana, officials say, the third journalist to be killed in the country this year.

    Lourdes Maldonado López, who had decades of experience, was attacked in her car as she arrived home on Sunday.

    She had previously said she feared for her life, and was enrolled in a scheme to protect journalists, activists said.

    The country is one of the world’s most dangerous for journalists, and dozens have been killed in recent years.

    Many of those targeted covered corruption or powerful drug cartels. Campaigners say the killings are rarely fully investigated, with impunity virtually the norm.

    The motive for Maldonado’s killing was not clear and no-one has been arrested.

    During a news conference in 2019, Maldonado asked President Andrés Manuel López Obrador for his “support, help and labour justice” because, she said, “I fear for my life”.

    She was referring to a labour dispute with Jaime Bonilla, who was elected governor of Baja California state later that year as a candidate from the president’s Morena party. Mr Bonilla, who left office late last year, owns the PSN media outlet, which had employed Maldonado.

    Maldonado had sued the company for unfair dismissal and, last week, said she had won the lawsuit after a nine-year legal battle. Mr Bonilla and PSN have not commented.

    Rights group Article 19 said she had previously been attacked because of her work and was registered in the Mexican government’s programme to protect journalists.

    The campaign group Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said it was “shocked” by the murder.

    The killing came six days after photojournalist Margarito Martínez was shot dead outside his home in Tijuana. He covered crime in the city, with his work appearing in national and foreign media.

    A week earlier, José Luis Gamboa Arenas was found dead with stab wounds in the eastern city of Veracruz. An editor at the Inforegio and La Notícia news websites, he often wrote articles about organised crime and violence.

    Exact numbers of victims are hard to come by as investigations often get nowhere, and different studies apply different criteria in counting the dead.

    According to Article 19, 24 journalists were killed between December 2018, when President López Obrador took office, and the end of 2021.

  • Mexican nursery’s lottery win turns into nightmare

    Parents in southern Mexico say they are being threatened by a gang after their children’s nursery won 20m pesos ($950,000; £710,0000) in a lottery.

    The nursery has just over two dozen pupils and their parents were put in charge of administering the prize.

    Soon after their win was made public, they received threats from an armed group, which demanded that they use the money to buy weapons for the gang.

    The families say they had to flee their village and have been living rough.

    Gang violence is rife in Mexico and armed groups often try to recruit locals in their fight with rivals for control of territory.

    A number of the 500-peso tickets in Mexico’s much-publicised “plane lottery” were bought by anonymous benefactors and donated to poor schools and nurseries across the country.

    The Mexican state organised the lottery after a previous plan to raffle off the presidential plane to raise funds for hospital supplies had been shelved because it was deemed impractical.

    A list of the 100 winners was announced in September 2020 and published in Mexican newspapers.

    The tiny nursery in the indigenous village of Ocosingo was among the winners.

    While the windfall was cause for celebration at first, the problems started soon after news of it spread.

    Members of the parents’ association say that they started receiving threats from an armed group called Los Petules which demanded that the prize money be used to buy guns for the gang, which reportedly planned to attack a rival group in a neighbouring village.

    The parents refused and instead spent part of the money on a new roof for the nursery.

    The threats increased this year when the parents decided to use the remaining 14m pesos for works to improve their village.

    In March, one father was shot at by gang members who demanded he hand over the prize money.

    Last month, the situation escalated further when the gang reportedly attacked women and children in the village, causing 28 families to flee.

    One member of the parents’ association said the community had lost “cattle, our homes, refrigerators, our corn and bean harvests, our chickens”.

    A spokesman for the families said that they had alerted the local authorities to their plight but that unless the gang was disarmed and dissolved, they would not be able to return to their homes.

  • Il Messico si scusa con i Maya

    A 500 anni dalla Conquista spagnola e a 200 dalla dichiarazione d’indipendenza dalla Spagna, il Messico ha ufficialmente presentato le sue scuse al popolo indigeno Maya per i “terribili abusi” commessi contro di loro durante i secoli successivi alla colonizzazione iberica. A chiedere perdono è stato il presidente messicano Andrés Manuel López Obrador, “per i torti commessi nel corso della storia e per la discriminazione di cui sono ancora vittime oggi”.

    “Offriamo le più sincere scuse al popolo Maya per i terribili abusi commessi da individui e autorità nazionali e straniere nella conquista, durante i tre secoli di dominazione coloniale e in due secoli di Messico indipendente”, ha detto il leader messicano lunedì durante una cerimonia nello stato sudorientale di Quintana Roo, alla quale ha partecipato il suo omologo guatemalteco Alejandro Giammattei.

    Nel suo discorso, il presidente ha ricordato in particolare la Guerra delle Caste del 1847-1901, una ribellione indigena in cui si ritiene siano morte circa 250.000 persone. Ha inoltre riconosciuto che il razzismo e la discriminazione continuano ad affliggere la minoranza etnica. “La verità è che tutti i popoli originari del Messico, fino al periodo attuale, hanno subito sfruttamento, espropriazioni, repressione, razzismo, esclusione e massacri, ma gli Yaqui e i Maya sono stati, per la vergogna di tutti, quelli trattati in modo peggiore, le vittime delle più grandi crudeltà”, ha sottolineato il capo di Stato all’evento, parte delle commemorazioni per i 500 anni della conquista europea e i 200 anni dell’indipendenza nazionale.

    Quello degli indigeni è un tema significativo nella storia di Lopez Obrador, che ha iniziato la sua carriera come attivista per queste popolazioni. “Sebbene ci sia ancora molta povertà, non si può dire che il presente sia come il passato opprimente”, perché “c’è una nuova volontà di rendere giustizia per il bene del popolo” e “per questo stiamo qui a chiedere perdono e a dire che non dimenticheremo mai i popoli del Messico profondo”, ha dichiarato il presidente.

    Durante la cerimonia, le parole di Lopez Obrador hanno attirato fischi da parte di residenti che si oppongono al Treno Maya, un progetto turistico del governo che prevede 1.500 chilometri di ferrovia per collegare località caraibiche con gli antichi siti archeologici rappresentativi della cultura Maya. I critici dell’iniziativa ritengono che il Treno Maya danneggerà l’ambiente e le comunità indigene, ma l’esecutivo è deciso ad andare avanti. Lunedì, il presidente ha realizzato un sopralluogo per supervisionare l’andamento dei lavori a Calakmul (stato di Campeche) e ha sottolineato che la ferrovia consentirà a milioni di turisti stranieri di visitare il sud-est del Paese, escludendo che possa danneggiare l’ambiente e i luoghi storici.

  • Mexico cartel used explosive drones to attack police

    Suspected criminals in Mexico have used drones to drop explosives on police, injuring two officers.

    Officials think the powerful Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG) is behind Tuesday’s attack in the western state of Michoacán.

    In August, two rigged drones were found in the car of suspected CJNG members.

    The drones are thought to be the latest weapons in a deadly war between the drugs cartel and the security forces and vigilantes opposed to them.

    New weapon in a deadly fight

    Not much detail has been released about Tuesday’s attack but local media said two drones had been used.

    It is believed they were rigged in a similar way to the two drones that were found in the car boot of suspected cartel members.

    The drones seized last year had containers taped to them which had been filled with plastic explosives and ball bearings. Experts said they had been set up to be detonated remotely and could have inflicted deadly damage.

    The officers injured on Tuesday had been deployed to clear roads leading to the city of Aguililla, in Michoacán, which had been blocked by the cartel to impede the access of the security forces.

    Over the past weeks, hundreds of residents have been fleeing the city in fear as the CJNG and a rival group calling itself United Cartels (Cárteles Unidos), fight for control of the city.

    Earlier this month, eight mutilated bodies were found in the area after a particularly deadly fight between the two groups.

    Aguililla is the birthplace of CJNG leader Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes, also known as “El Mencho”.

    “El Mencho” is one of Mexico’s most wanted men and the US Drug Enforcement Administration is offering a $10m (£7.2m) reward for information leading to his capture.

    His cartel is one of the most powerful in the country and has been behind some of the deadliest attacks on Mexican security forces, such as a 2015 ambush in Jalisco which left 15 officers dead.

    It has spread from his original power base in the state of Jalisco to have an almost nationwide presence.

    Security officials say it was also behind the brazen assassination attempt on Mexico City’s police chief, Omar García Harfuch, last June.

    The cartel is believed to have further stepped up its attacks on the security forces in retaliation for the extradition to the United States of El Mencho’s son, Rubén Oseguera González, known as “Menchito” (Little Mencho), on drug trafficking charges.

  • Accordo Ue-Messico per eliminare i dazi sulle transazioni commerciali

    Dove c’è un dazio, la Coldiretti c’è. Dopo essersi opposta all’accordo Usa-Ue, poi abortito, e a quello Canada-Ue, che ha consentito a 41 marchi protetti (Doc, Docg) di essere riconosciuti e tutelati oltreoceano, la Coldiretti contesta l’accordo raggiunto, dopo quasi due anni di trattative, tra la Commissione europea e il governo messicano, un accordo politico che prevede la rimozione del 99% dei dazi, delle tariffe e in generale delle barriere commerciali applicate ai prodotti europei (tra cui la pasta e formaggi come il gorgonzola), nonché il riconoscimento di 340 Igp (Indicazione geografica protetta) che vengono così messe al riparo da imitazioni e contraffazioni.

    Definendo “scelta autolesionista” l’intesa, l’associazione ha annunciato di voler promuovere una “mobilitazione popolare per fermare il cibo falso”, lamentando che il Messico potrà “produrre e vendere oltre il 90% degli 817 prodotti a denominazione di origine nazionali riconosciuti in Italia e nell’Ue come il Parmesano, i salamini e il vino Dolcetto ‘Made in Messico’.

    Per il ministro per lo Sviluppo economico Carlo Calenda invece l’accordo rappresenta una “importante novità” ed è un “passo importante verso l’affermazione di un principio di relazioni commerciali internazionali basate su di una equa ripartizione dei benefici del commercio e sul rispetto di alti standard sociali ed ambientali”, ancor più ora che “nuove spinte protezionistiche si affacciano all’orizzonte” ed è “forte il bisogno di governare la globalizzazione”.

    L’interscambio di beni e servizi tra Ue e Messico vale circa 77 miliardi di euro e le esportazioni dell’Unione verso il partner americano hanno raggiunto i 48 miliardi di euro (l’Italia esporta per 4 miliardi e registra un attivo commerciale di 3,3 miliardi). Dal 2000, cioè dall’entra in vigore della prima intesa commerciale bilaterale, l’interscambio tra Ue e Messico è cresciuto del 148%.

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