El Paso reacts with skepticism to Chapo Guzman’s capture

EL PASO — On February 14, 2014, the leader of the Sinaloa Cartel Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman was captured in a small, rather dull condominium. Guzman ran a drug business worth approximately $3 billion, and he has been on the run from Mexican officials since his first escape from prison in 2001. According to Mexican officials, he escaped jail the first time by simply bribing prison guards and walking out the front gate. However, this escape was highly romanticized and eventually grew into a daring urban legend. Guzman’s most recent capture has left borderland residents with mixed emotions ranging from elation to apathy.

Original Time magazine cover with Mexican President, Enrique Peña Nieto.

Mexican government payments to Time Warner Inc. stain the journalistic integrity of the legendary magazine

EL PASO — As I woke up this past Tuesday I went through my regular routine of reading the news of the day on my smartphone. I skimmed over the spam known as CNN, and then checked NPR and Reuters’ headlines, but that particular day I came across a very interesting looking Al Jazeera English article titled “TIME magazine’s ‘Saving Mexico’ issue prompts backlash.”

The image of Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto (EPN), who in my photographer’s opinion seemed photoshopped in order to look more presidential, filled the TIME’s cover page. But what struck me with an immediate sense of indignation was the cover article’s title: “Saving Mexico.”

There he was, a man whose political party was caught buying votes and still won the presidency, a man interconnected with ex-President Carlos Salinas de Gortari, who had one of Mexico’s most tarnished presidencies in history. This man Peña Nieto, the current president of my home country, is not someone I could ever trust. Setting aside the fact that his so called reforms jeopardize the entire country, disregarding the fact that after 75 years of sovereignty he is selling out our oil reserves to foreign investors, my immediate disgust shifted toward the TIME publication and the article written by one of their chief foreign correspondents, Michael Crowley.

cover A War That Cant Be Won

Mexico’s war on drugs continues on its faltering path

EL PASO – An estimated 30,000 Mexicans murdered or missing and widespread institutional corruption are just two aspects of a never-ending war on drugs that the Mexican government continues to fight. “The drug war is more than a justice issue, it is a social issue; a lot of words and not a lot of action,” said Jose Villalobos, assistant professor at the University of Texas at El Paso’s department of political science, speaking recently at UTEP about the Mexican drug war. Three other political science UTEP professors – Tony Payan, Kathleen Staudt, and Anthony Kruszewski collaborated with multiple scholars in the U.S. and Mexico to compile and publish A War that Can’t Be Won: Bi-national Perspectives on the War on Drugs, which looks into the history of the drug war. A War that Can’t Be Won includes contributions from scholars on both sides of the U.S-Mexico border, providing a unique perspective on the many dimensions of the crisis that has affected residents of both nations, particularly those who live and work in the borderlands. Payan said that organized crime in Mexico has many layers that include drugs and killings, but it is much more than that.

Ernesto López Portillo. (Jaime Cervantes/Borderzine.com)

Ernesto López Portillo – El problema de seguridad en México radica en la producción de instituciones fallidas

EL PASO ­– La tesis con la que introdujo López Portillo una conferencia este pasado jueves 7 de noviembre en la Universidad de Texas en El Paso fue simple: “Más seguridad, más derechos humanos.” Pero, pese a la simplicidad de esta propuesta, dijo que llegar a implementarla en un contexto mexicano sería sumamente complejo. El experimentado periodista y analista político López Portillo, junto con su organización Instituto Para la Seguridad y la Democracia (INSYDE) buscan promover una reforma estructural de la policía en México. López Portillo habló, entre otras cosas, de la vieja lucha por “recontextualizar” la agenda de seguridad en México, la cual actualmente es solo “un espacio para la reducción del ejercicio de otros derechos.”

Explicó en tono reflexivo que “México presenta una transición democrática fallida…pensábamos que elecciones libres y competidas nos darían gobiernos de calidad. Pensábamos que la posibilidad que se fragmentara el poder iba a dar competencia de gobierno para generar gobiernos de calidad. Pero hoy, la noticia que tenemos es que nos ha fallado la fórmula.”

Para López Portillo, el problema de la policía y la seguridad en México radica en una profunda crisis en la política mexicana que “está generando y reproduciendo instituciones fallidas.” Esta competencia por el poder sin reglas ha desorganizado al régimen político mexicano generando así vacíos de poder y “no hay vacío de poder que no sea llenado de alguna manera,” comentó.

Mexican journalist Anabel Hernandez said that 'corruption' was the one single word that describes what is happening in Mexico. (Luis Hernández/Borderzine.com)

Mexican journalist blames the failure of the drug-war on corrupt and inept government policies on both sides of the border

EL PASO – Five unique and experienced voices were heard at the University of Texas at El Paso this week discussing the seemingly eternal drug war and the government policies that fuel it that has plagued the U.S.-Mexico border region in recent years. The participants included UTEP professor and author Dr. Howard Campbell, former DEA agent Gilberto Gonzalez, UTEP Communication professor Andrew Kennis, Mexican journalist Anabel Hernandez, and U.S. Representative Beto O’Rouke (D., El Paso). The event, called  “Drug Policy on the Border and Beyond: Dangers Facing Journalists, Obstacles Facing Policy Makers” organized by Kennis, added to the growing discussion by policy makers, law enforcement, public officials and journalists on how to end the war that has claimed thousands of lives in Mexico and led to increased anti-drug enforcement along the U.S. side of the border. Hernandez, an investigative journalist in Mexico who has done some of the best coverage of the drug war and published a book, Narcoland: The Mexican Drug Lords and their Godfathers, in English and Spanish, drew upon her extensive research to discuss the strong connections between the drug cartels and the Mexican government. She also spoke of the importance of the drug economy to the people of Mexico.