It’s been a busy and interesting week regarding developments in Oaxaca, Mexico, and the U.S.
First, there were reports in the Mexican media on July 29 that an investigation by officials from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police into the murder of U.S. independent journalist Brad Will affirmed the conclusions drawn by the Mexican Federal Attorney General’s Office (PGR) regarding his death. The PGR, contrary to all available evidence, claims Will, shot in Oaxaca in 2006, was killed at close range by an anti-government protester. The media reports raised more questions than they answered. For example, why was the RCMP investigating this, and why, as evident from the reports, did they carry out such a clearly laughable investigation?
These questions and more were answered when Brad Will’s family released a statement soundly debunking the so-called RCMP report. As it turns out, there was no official RCMP investigation. It was merely three retired RCMP officers who did an “investigation,” which the Mexican government then presented to the media as an official RCMP report. Today, Physicians for Human Rights — a group that actually did investigate Brad’s murder — issued a press release that similarly called into question the veracity of the ex-RCMPers report. James Stephen, Phil Ziegler, and Gary Buerk certainly have some serious rebutting to do if they don’t want to be exposed as integrity-free hacks-for-hire (though I’m sure there’s always a market for those types).
The conclusions of another “investigation” regarding Oaxaca were released Tuesday by Mexico’s Supreme Court. They took it upon themselves to investigate the actions of the state and federal governments who brutally repressed the 2006 uprising. Unsurprisingly, the Supreme Court found the use of force — which left 27 dead and hundreds injured, arrested, and tortured — to be legitimate. This is the same court which found the murders and mass rapes by police that occurred in Atenco in 2006 to be unworthy of investigation.
But one question remains: why all these reports, now, seeking to have us believe that the Mexican state is not at fault for the 2006 atrocities in Oaxaca? The answer can be found in Plan Mexico, aka the Merida Initiative. The three-year, $1.4 billion aid (mostly military) package to Mexico and Central America has a human rights requirement for Mexico. Yearly, the U.S. State Department must certify Mexico’s respect for human rights and the Congress must approve that certification. If that doesn’t happen, then Mexico loses 15% of the Plan Mexico funds. Of course, Mexico gets the other 85% no matter how many people it tortures and kills, but it could do it much more effectively if it got 100% of the funds.
Also, later this month, both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are to visit Mexico to see how well Felipe Calderon is serving the U.S. hegemony. The family of Juan Manuel Martinez Moreno — the Oaxacan social activist being framed by Mexico for the murder of Brad Will — is requesting an audience with Obama in Mexico City. The Mexican government would of course rather avoid this and any other scrutiny of its human rights record, so it could secure all the Plan Mexico funds. The timing of the pseudo-RCMP and Supreme Court reports saying that everything is fine in Oaxaca is therefore no surprise.
However, it appears that their efforts have all been for naught. While Clinton’s State Department dutifully certified Mexico’s human rights record this week, even though human rights complaints have risen 600% under Calderon’s regime, Senator Patrick Leahy on Wednesday blocked the certification from being voted upon in the Senate, basically saying he doesn’t believe the State Department. Maybe Amnesty International got to him. This means that, at least for the time being, the Mexican government will only have 85% of the Plan Mexico funds at its disposal to deploy against the social movements demanding justice and an end to impunity. Which, given that Plan Mexico shouldn’t exist at all, is still appallingly too much.
Scott Campbell is a graduate student at NYU who spent six months in Oaxaca last year. He posts observations and translations at his blog Angry White Kid: <angrywhitekid.blogs.com>.