Geopolitics

Mexico News, 5 Stories Making Headlines At Home

Mexico News, 5 Stories Making Headlines At Home
Giacomo Tognini

This week we shine the spotlight on Mexico:

CHILD TRAFFICKING PROBE IN SONORA

Mexican national daily Excelsior reports that the country’s Attorney General formally charged two officials from the northern state of Sonora with child trafficking. The case first emerged last month, when Vladimir Alfredo Arzate and José Hernández López, both officials at a government agency tasked with protecting at-risk minors, were alleged to have run a child trafficking network in Sonora that abducted newborn children and sold them to willing buyers.

According to financial newspaper El Economista the men and their associates, including a doctor who falsified birth certificates, are accused of taking babies from poor mothers or women suffering from drug addiction and then sell them to wealthy families for anywhere between $5,000 and $9,000 each. They could face up to 40 years in prison if convicted.


ANNIVERSARY MARCH FOR MISSING STUDENTS

Thousands took to the streets of Mexico City to mark the anniversary of the disappearance of 43 students in the city of Iguala, kidnapped on Sept. 26, 2014 from a rural high school. Relatives of the missing students joined with marchers from across Mexican society for a peaceful protest against the government’s handling of the investigation into the disappearance.

The Mexican government finished its investigation in February, concluding that the students were taken by local policemen allied to a drug lord who later killed them and incinerated their bodies. But the people who gathered to march to Mexico City’s central Zócalo square don’t believe the government’s story, and this month experts from the Organization of American States (OAS) refuted the official version of events. Mexican daily El Universal writes that 18,000 people marched in the pouring rain to commemorate the missing students and demand justice from the authorities.


DESIGNERS REBEL AGAINST “EL BRONCO”

While the eccentric and outspoken Jaime Calderón, known colloquially as “El Bronco,” may have won over Nuevo León’s voters, he does not seem to be enjoying much popularity among graphic designers, writes the Saltillo-based newspaper Vanguardia. The independent politician caused a stir in Mexican politics this year when he became the first independent candidate to win a major election, succeeding in his campaign to become governor of Nuevo León, an industrial powerhouse state in northern Mexico.

But designers on the Internet ridiculed Calderón when he announced that the winner of a contest to design the new logo of the Nuevo León government would have to give up all property rights over the design, with the only reward being a dinner with El Bronco himself. Many contestants expressed their outrage on Facebook, with one saying “this is robbery,” while another called on Mexico’s designers to unite and say no to the proposal.

Famous on the campaign trail for his propensity for vulgar language, controversy still seems to follow El Bronco even as governor-elect.


CLASHES IN MORELIA

Students engaged in violent clashes with the police on a highway near the city of Morelia on Saturday, reports Mexico City-based El Universal. High school students from the nearby Tiripetio Vasco de Quiroga Normal School stole several cars and then blocked traffic on the Morelia-Pátzcuaro highway, and police soon arrived to respond to the situation. The stand-off soon turned violent as the students threw rocks and sticks at the officers, who charged at the students and arrested eight of them. Angered by the police action, the others regrouped to block the exit to Pátzcuaro for several hours and threatened to set fire to the highway. The stand-off ended when the students stole five buses and escaped to their school, taking the passengers and drivers hostage.

Students clash with police on a highway near Morelia â€" Photo: El Universal/ZUMA

According to El Universal this is the third violent confrontation between normal school students and police this month, as tensions are high due to the anniversary of the disappearance of 43 normal school students from Iguala.


RARE WHITE LION CUBS BORN

The Culiacán Zoo presented two rare white lion clubs to the public for the first time since their birth two months ago, writes Sinaloan daily El Debate. The zoo’s director told the newspaper that the cubs’ birth is a huge success for the zoo’s conservation program, as their species is in danger of extinction.

Culiacán’s mayor attended the event and praised the zoo’s white lion conservation work, announcing that the city’s children would participate in a vote to name the two newborn cubs. Only two other zoos in Mexico have similar conservation programs for white lions.

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
Geopolitics

How Thailand's Lèse-Majesté Law Is Used To Stifle All Protest

Once meant to protect the royal family, the century-old law has become a tool for the military-led government in Bangkok to stamp out all dissent. A new report outlines the abuses.

Pro-Democracy protest at The Criminal Court in Bangkok, Thailand

Laura Valentina Cortés Sierra

"We need to reform the institution of the monarchy in Thailand. It is the root of the problem." Those words, from Thai student activist Juthatip Sirikan, are a clear expression of the growing youth-led movement that is challenging the legitimacy of the government and demanding deep political changes in the Southeast Asian nation. Yet those very same words could also send Sirikan to jail.

Thailand's Criminal Code 'Lèse-Majesté' Article 112 imposes jail terms for defaming, insulting, or threatening the monarchy, with sentences of three to 15 years. This law has been present in Thai politics since 1908, though applied sparingly, only when direct verbal or written attacks against members of the royal family.


But after the May 2014 military coup d'état, Thailand experienced the first wave of lèse-majesté arrests, prosecutions, and detentions of at least 127 individuals arrested in a much wider interpretation of the law.

The recent report 'Second Wave: The Return of Lèse-Majesté in Thailand', documents how the Thai government has "used and abused Article 112 of the Criminal Code to target pro-democracy activists and protesters in relation to their online political expression and participation in peaceful pro-democracy demonstrations."

Criticism of any 'royal project'

The investigation shows 124 individuals, including at least eight minors, have been charged with lèse-majesté between November 2020 and August 2021. Nineteen of them served jail time. The new wave of charges is cited as a response to the rising pro-democracy protests across Thailand over the past year.

Juthatip Sirikan explains that the law is now being applied in such a broad way that people are not allowed to question government budgets and expenditure if they have any relationship with the royal family, which stifles criticism of the most basic government decision-making since there are an estimated 5,000 ongoing "royal" projects. "Article 112 of lèse-majesté could be the key (factor) in Thailand's political problems" the young activist argues.

In 2020 the Move Forward opposition party questioned royal spending paid by government departments, including nearly 3 billion baht (89,874,174 USD) from the Defense Ministry and Thai police for royal security, and 7 billion baht budgeted for royal development projects, as well as 38 planes and helicopters for the monarchy. Previously, on June 16, 2018, it was revealed that Thailand's Crown Property Bureau transferred its entire portfolio to the new King Maha Vajiralongkorn.

photo of graffiti of 112 crossed out on sidewalk

Protestors In Bangkok Call For Political Prisoner Release

Peerapon Boonyakiat/SOPA Images via ZUMA Wire

Freedom of speech at stake

"Article 112 shuts down all freedom of speech in this country", says Sirikan. "Even the political parties fear to touch the subject, so it blocks most things. This country cannot move anywhere if we still have this law."

The student activist herself was charged with lèse-majesté in September 2020, after simply citing a list of public documents that refer to royal family expenditure. Sirikan comes from a family that has faced the consequences of decades of political repression. Her grandfather, Tiang Sirikhan was a journalist and politician who openly protested against Thailand's involvement in World War II. He was accused of being a Communist and abducted in 1952. According to Sirikhan's family, he was killed by the state.

The new report was conducted by The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Thai Lawyer for Human Rights (TLHR), and Internet Law Reform Dialogue (iLaw). It accuses Thai authorities of an increasingly broad interpretation of Article 112, to the point of "absurdity," including charges against people for criticizing the government's COVID-19 vaccine management, wearing crop tops, insulting the previous monarch, or quoting a United Nations statement about Article 112.

Juthatip Sirikan speaks in front of democracy monument.

Shift to social media

While in the past the Article was only used against people who spoke about the royals, it's now being used as an alibi for more general political repression — which has also spurred more open campaigning to abolish it. Sirikan recounts recent cases of police charging people for spreading paint near the picture of the king during a protest, or even just for having a picture of the king as phone wallpaper.

The more than a century-old law is now largely playing out online, where much of today's protest takes place in Thailand. Sirikan says people are willing to go further on social media to expose information such as how the king intervenes in politics and the monarchy's accumulation of wealth, information the mainstream media rarely reports on them.

Not surprisingly, however, social media is heavily monitored and the military is involved in Intelligence operations and cyber attacks against human rights defenders and critics of any kind. In October 2020, Twitter took down 926 accounts, linked to the army and the government, which promoted themselves and attacked political opposition, and this June, Google removed two Maps with pictures, names, and addresses, of more than 400 people who were accused of insulting the Thai monarchy. "They are trying to control the internet as well," Sirikan says. "They are trying to censor every content that they find a threat".

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
THE LATEST
FOCUS
TRENDING TOPICS
MOST READ