Prisoners by day, hit men by night


Journalists Javier Canales Fernandez (2nd L) of Multimedios Torreon and Alejandro Hernandez Pacheco (R) of Televisa are escorted out of an helicopter arriving in Mexico City before a press conference on July 31, 2010. Police rescued the two journalists the Pacifico drug cartel had kidnapped days ago to demand television stations to broadcast a video linking the Durango state government to a rival drug gang, officials said.



Top News: The reports were stranger than fiction. Convicted murderers and traffickers, it was revealed, had been leaving a prison at night carrying out brutal massacres and then returning to their cells to sleep. Even worse, they were using guns and vehicles, provided by the prison guards. It would have been the perfect alibi for the killers – if the plot had not blown up in the national press. Police arrested the prison director over the scandal. But question marks still hang over her boss: the local state governor.

Four journalists who went to cover the dirty drama then got kidnapped by gangsters. The cameramen and reporters were abducted by armed men and beaten until their networks aired a narco propganda video showing the torturing of police officers. After five days, federal police swarmed into a safe house and freed the journalists. The reporters said they were certain they were going to die and thanked God for being born again.

But overall it was a grim sign for journalism in Mexico. Following the kidnapping, thousands of journalists protested the violence in a march in Mexico City. Then days later, thugs threw grenades at the offices of Televisa, Mexico’s biggest TV network. Such violence and intimidation has created a new word in the lexicon of the drug war – narco censorship.

With such a humanitarian disaster, an increasing number are saying it is time to throw in the towel and legalize it. The latest recruit to the legalize drugs lobby is none other than former Mexican President Vicente Fox. The president from 2000 to 2006 wrote about his new stance on his blog, sparking a flurry of media attention. “Legalization does not mean that drugs are good,” he wrote, “but we have to see (legalization) as a strategy to weaken and break the economic system that allows cartels to earn huge profits.”

Another thing that has been legalized in Mexico City is gay marriage and the couple’s rights to adopt children. Those laws were approved in December and were upheld by Mexico’s supreme court in rulings this Aug. 9 and Aug. 16. The decision was celebrated by gay rights groups but ignited a round of fury from conservatives. Cardinal Juan Sandoval Iniguez, archbishop of Guadalajara, unleashed a rant in which he accused the Mexico City mayor of bribing the judges and asked “Would you want to be adopted by a pair of faggots or lesbians?” Mexico City Mayor Marcelo Ebrard demanded an apology, threatening legal action against the cleric.

Money: Mexico turned up the heat on a decade-old dispute with the United States over trucks on Aug. 16, raising special retaliatory tariffs. Under the new action, Mexico will increase the number of products paying these tariffs from 89 to 99, the economy ministry said. The action was in response to the United States’ failure to allow Mexican trucks to drive on U.S. roads. The Mexican 18 wheelers were meant to be roaming north of the Rio Grande since 2000 but the Teamsters union has blocked their entrance, citing safety reasons.

Mexico’s largest airline Mexicana canceled flights, fought with unions and filed for bankruptcy protection in the first weeks of August amid revelations of its towering debts. On Aug. 10, the CEO Manuel Borja said the airline needed $100 million to $150 million to get out of jail. The company said it had been badly hit by the swine flu outbreak last year as well high jet fuel prices and high labor costs. However, after some cost cutting agreements with unions and deals with creditors, Mexicana resumed ticket sales on Aug. 11.

Elsewhere: It was the cruise of a lifetime for American holidaymakers floating over the Caribbean on the Carnival Dream cruiser – until a fight broke out. After a rowdy brawl in the ship disco, crew members ejected ten of 3,600 passengers on the vessel into the Mexican city of Costa Maya. No serious injuries were reported aboard the vessel, although some passengers blogged about seeing blood spatter on artwork. The cruise ship headed back north leaving the stranded brawlers to make their own way home.