Mexico: Avoiding Escalation


January 1, 2008: 14 years ago today Subcommandante Marcos lead Zapatista (EZLN) rebels in a series of attacks in the Mexican state of Chiapas. Subcommandante Marcos and his Mayan fighters really conducted a sophisticated information warfare campaign, relying on the media to relay their demands to the world. Still, the gun battles shocked the Mexican government. In 2005, Subcommandante Marcos resurfaced. He even campaigned for leftwing candidates in the 2006 Mexican elections. In late December 2007, Subcommandante Marcos announced that he would once again "withdraw into the shadows" (ie, quit making public appearances). Marcos may not have a huge political following, but he is an example of a charismatic intellectual radical who knows how to get media attention and then use that attention was a political weapon. The Zapatista rebellion has had some evident political effects. At the moment the Zapatistas claim to control the "autonomous governments" of 38 villages in Chiapas.

December 30, 2007: In central Mexico, police stopped a truck with Texas plates, and found four kidnappers (one was killed while resisting arrest) and their victim. The kidnappers were arrested, and the victim freed. But while escorting the three kidnappers to jail, the police convoy was attacked by more gunmen. Seven cops died in the gun battle, and two of the kidnappers got away. The kidnapper still in custody is being questioned to find the identity of the gunmen. The police take the death of their own pretty seriously, and this incident is going to lead to more bloodshed. The ambush appears to have been organized by one of the drug cartels, who often allow their members to do kidnapping on the side.

December 29, 2007: The Mexican government believes that there are more than 400 million border crossings each year over the Mexico-US border. The number, of course, is just an estimate. Presumably a crossing is one person crossing the border one-way, thus a round trip is two crossings. A person living in Nuevo Laredo and working in Laredo, Texas (or vice versa), would make five round trips a week, 40 crossings a month. Subtracting for holidays and vacation, the worker would make roughly 450 crossings a year, The big number's big point, however, is tough to miss: the border is a very busy place. US-Mexican trade is big business. US-Mexican travel is big business. Merchants on both sides of the border got squeamish in early December when the US Border Patrol started conducting more border checks at major crossings. Why? Because would-be shoppers spent more time waiting to cross the border and less time shopping. No one is going to close the border – it can't be done. The issue is controlling the flow, but there is a lot of flow to control.

December 22, 2007: Mexican police arrested Antonio Santiz, an alleged paramilitary leader who in the late 1990s operated in the state of Chiapas. Santiz' paramilitary group was supposedly connected to the then-ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). Santiz is suspected of orchestrating the December 1997 massacre of 45 Tzotzil Indians living in the village of Acteal. The Tazotzils were regarded as an ally of the Zapatista rebels. Those murdered belonged to a Roman Catholic human rights advocacy group called Las Abejas (The Bees).

December 19, 2007: Five beheaded or mutilated bodies have been discovered in and around Mexico City. Mexican authorities believe the murders were police informants killed in revenge for a huge drug seizure by Mexico City police.




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