On April 9 the California-based technology company Hewlett-Packard (HP) announced that it was paying a $108 million fine to the US Justice Department and the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to end an investigation into subsidiaries in Poland, Russia and Mexico that allegedly paid bribes to officials. The HP subsidiaries "created a slush fund for bribe payments, set up an intricate web of shell companies and bank accounts to launder money, employed two sets of books to track bribe recipients, and used anonymous email accounts and prepaid mobile telephones to arrange covert meetings to hand over bags of cash," according to a statement by the Justice Department. HP said the corruption "was limited to a small number of people who are no longer employed by the company."
Popular organizations in the Mexican states of Puebla, Tlaxcala and Morelos announced protests to demand the liberation of three campesinos detained in connection with opposition to a planned gas pipeline through their communities. Juan Carlos Flores Solís of the Puebla and Tlaxcala Front of Pueblos in Defense of Water and Land (FPDATPT) was arrested April 8 with Enedina Rosas Vélez, the comisariada ejidal (administrator of communal lands) at the village of San Felipe Xonacayucan, Atlixco municipality, Puebla. Later that day, Abraham Cordero Calderón, president of the Campesino Front of Ejidatarios and Small Property Owners of the Valley of Texmelucan and the Sierra Nevada, was arrested at Atlixco. The three have apparently been charged with threatening public officials and "illegal privation of liberty" in connection with protests against the Gasoducto Morelos.
Just weeks after the Mexican government signed an accord with the "community police" vigilante network in Michoacán, ostensibly bringing the anti-narco militias under control of the armed forces, it is looking more and more like they have been transformed into a lawless paramilitary force—even acting against Mexico''s federal authorities. On March 19, "community police" forces at La Placita, on Michoacán's Pacific coast, launched a blockade of the entrance of a Mexican naval outpost, apparently in protest of the disarming of 14 of their gunmen by Mexican marines stationed there. The blockade escalated in the following days, with hundreds of armed vigilantes from neighboring towns converging at the base. (El Sol de Leon, March 21)
Four people died the morning of April 5 in a confrontation between indigenous Mexicans over land in Chilón municipality in the highland region of the southeastern state of Chiapas. The violence broke out when some 25 people tried to remove members of the Regional Organization of Autonomous Ocosingo Coffee Growers (ORCAO) from a 84-hectare ranch; sources differ on whether the ranch is called San Luis or Luis Irineo. The attackers were apparently egged on by the former owner of the ranch, which a group of ORCAO members took over in 1994. On April 6 the state attorney general's office announced that four people had been arrested in the incident. (La Jornada, Mexico, April 6; SDP Noticias, Mexico, April 6)
After 75 years of state control over oil and gas production, the Mexican government is planning to open up about two-thirds of its reserves to bidding by private companies, according to information that Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex), Mexico's state-owned oil monopoly, passed on to potential bidders on March 28. This is the first indication of what can be expected from President Enrique Peña Nieto's controversial "energy reform" program. Changes to the Constitution enabling the program were passed by Congress and a majority of states in December, over strong opposition from grassroots organizations and parties on the left; doubts about contracting out oil and gas exploitation increased following fraud allegations against a major Pemex contractor, Oceanografía SA de CV.
Hipolito Mora, a top leader of the "community police" self-defense network in Michoacán, was detained by state police March 10 as a suspect in the slaying of two members of the movement. The detention comes amid an armed stand-off between rival factions of the self-defense network in the town of Buenavista Tomatlán. Hundreds of police and soldiers have been sent to the town as factions have seized turf and drawn lines across the municipality. Mora was helicoptered from Los Palmares ranch, in an outlying area of Buenavista, where he and his armed followers were holed up against rivals. The rival outfit, based in Buenavista's hamlet of La Ruana, is said to be led by Luís Antonio Torres González, who goes by the nom de guerre "Simón El Americano," because he grew up in the US. Torres González told local media that the two dead men were part of his defense group. Their bodies were found inside a pick-up truck that had been set on fire.
Here we go again. Mexican authorities announced March 9 the death of Michoacán's top drug lord Nazario Moreno AKA "El Chayo" in a shoot-out that erupted when a mixed force of military and federal police troops raided his 44th birthday party in the pueblo of Apatzingán. Also known as "El Más Loco" (the Craziest One), "El Macho Loco" and "El Doctor," Moreno was the founder of both La Familia cartel and its offshoot, the Knights Templar. But there is an all-too-familiar sense of deja vu here: this is the second time that El Chayo was reported killed in a shoot-out with federal cops in Apatzingán. The first time was in December 2010, although authorities didn't produce the body. This time they have, and boast positive forensic identification. (Univision, March 10; BBC News, La Jornada, AP, Milenio, March 9)
Mexican authorities on March 4 announced the seizure of 119,000 tons of iron ore—with an estimated value of $15.4 million—along with 124 bulldozers, backhoes and trucks at Michoacán's Pacific seaport of Lázaro Cardenas, following tips about drug cartels exporting black-market ore to China. More than 400 federal police and military troops were involved in the coordinated raids on 11 processing facilities in the port city. Six Chinese workers at the sites were arrested, apparently on immigration charges. The federal security commissioner for Michoacán, Alfredo Castillo, told Periódico Digital that the ore is being tested to determine which mines it came from in order to crack down on the operation. In November 2013, the Mexican Navy took control of Lázaro Cardenas to cut off illicit exports for the Knights Templar drug cartel. (Metal Miner, March 7; Mining.com, Port Technology, March 4)