Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Meth in Mexico

Just as methamphetamine use in the United States spread west to east, there is fear in Mexico that meth consumption – known as tacha, cristal, piedra, ice, hielo, and glass – will spread from Baja California Norte, Sinaloa, and Michoacan to points west. Recently, public health authorities in Juárez, together with their counterparts in El Paso, launched the “Oscuridad de Cristal” (Darkness of Meth) campaign to warn students and others of the dangers of metamphetamines. While meth use and production has stabilized in the United States, the scourge of meth use and trafficking is spreading through Mexico. Tijuana has more than 100,000 meth users, according to Victor Clark Alfaro, a human rights leader in Tijuana, and authorities in Juárez worry that the meth epidemic may soon take hold of this border city. An estimated 70-80 percent of the meth used in the United States now comes from Mexico, where “ice” – a highly concentrated form of meth – is produced in superlabs. According to the National Drug Intelligence Center, Mexican drug distribution networks are “circumventing chemical sale and import restrictions in Mexico in an attempt to maintain large-scale meth production in that country.” Meth superlabs, according to the government agency, operate throughout Mexico but are mainly found in Michoacan, Baja California, Colima, and Jalisco.
Photo: Bags of ice seized at San Luis, AZ, March 25

Monday, April 28, 2008

Save Us from the SAVE Act

The Secure America Through Verification and Enforcement Act (SAVE Act, HR 4088) is a declaration of war against unauthorized immigrants. Backed by over 160 congressional representatives, including forty Democrats, the SAVE Act is being promoted by immigration restrictionist organizations, such as NumbersUSA, Federation for American Immigration Reform, and Eagle Forum, as providing legislative authority for their “enforcement only” strategy. But rather calling for a massive deportation of the country’s 12-13 million illegal immigrants, the restrictionists are currently mobilizing behind an “attrition through enforcement” campaign that puts “constant pressure on illegal aliens and their employers by ICE and local governments.” According to NumbersUSA President Roy Beck, an “attrition through enforcement” strategy is the “most effective and efficient solution” to “our illegal immigration nightmare.” By increasing the pressure on immigrants through employer verification and immigration enforcement by all law enforcement agencies, local and national, the SAVE Act, according to Beck, is the “middle-ground solution.” It’s what “most Americans want” since the bill offers an option that involves neither “massive legalizations” nor “massive round-ups.” By requiring local police to enforce immigration law, putting 8,000 more Border Patrol agents out in the field, and requiring employers to verify the legal status of all workers within four years (using a highly flawed national employment database), the SAVE Act aims to increase pressure on immigrants to “self-deport.” While the Democratic leadership has attempted to delay the bill until there is time to craft another comprehensive immigration reform proposal that includes a legalization component, the House Republicans are mobilizing behind a “discharge” measure that would force the bill to a floor vote. Needing a majority of 218 votes to discharge the bill, the House Immigration Caucus has succeeded in winning the support of 186 members. Immigration restrictionists crashed in the presidential campaign, but they are not a spent force. Having succeeded in quashing comprehensive reform and elevating a “security” agenda to the top of the immigration policy agenda, they are pushing now to pass the SAVE Act in the House. In keeping the focus of immigration reform on security and enforcement – calling for more Border Patrol agents, more judges (to order deportations), and more border fencing -- restrictionists like Rep. Brian Bilbray (R-Cal.), the SAVE Act’s cosponsor (along with Rep. Heath Shuler, D-NC ) have escalated the horrifying war against immigrants. The Democrats need to mobilize themselves to hold the line against the likes of Rep. Tom Tancredo, NumbersUSA, Immigration Reform Caucus, and all those seeking to increase the fear and vulnerability of immigrants. Attrition is not an acceptable policy alternative. Nor is it an efficient and cost-effective solution. As the Congressional Budget Office concluded, the SAVE Act will cost the nation dearly. If implemented, federal revenues will decrease by $17. 3 billion over the 2009-2018 period as immigrant workers are pushed outside the tax system, and increase discretionary spending by $10.3 billion over the same period.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Maquila Lay-offs

As the U.S. goes, so too does Mexico. In 2000, as the U.S. economy slowed, employment plunged 15% in Mexico’s maquilas. More than 160,000 jobs were lost in Mexico’s maquila sector by late 2001. Once again the onset of recessionary times in the United States is impacting maquila employment. From October through February, maquilas in Juárez laid off 11, 370 workers—a drop of 4.6%. At the beginning of March, the city’s maquila sector employed 233,861 workers but leaders of industry associations predicted continuing layoffs in the months ahead as the U.S. recession deepens. Especially hard hit are the city’s auto-parts plants, including Automotive Lighting, Lear Corporation, Delphi, Philips, Manufacturas Avanzadas, Anamex, and ITESA (Siemens). Plant closures and lower sales in the United States for Ford and GM mean layoffs and reduced hours for workers in Mexico. According to José Jésus Díaz, secretary general of the Revolutionary Federation of Northern Workers (a CTM branch), more than fifty assembly plants in Juárez have cut back workers’ hours in response to reduced factory orders. Juárez hosts dozens of high-tech maquilas, while most of the city’s low-tech, low-skilled assembly plants have moved to the country’s interior where wages are lower. According to Sandra Montijo Dubrule, president of the Maquila Association of Ciudad Juárez, the city’s maquilas are trying to retain their highly-trained work forces, which is why they are slowing down production and cutting hours—paros técnicos—rather than closing down the plants. She believes that as soon as the economic crisis in the U.S. passes, the maquila sector will continue its expansion. Montijo Dubrule told El Diario (March 10), “It’s better to assume the economic cost of having to pay employees for days not work that having to fire them and then recontract them after two or three months.”

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Links to Mexico's Border Newspapers

Here is a list of links to Mexico's border newspapers that I compiled with the help of the University of Texas at San Antonio library.
Baja California Tijuana
El Diario (with editions in Casas Grandes, Parral, Chihuahua, and Cuauhtémoc). Norte Sonora Hermosillo
El Imparcial Dossier Político Nogales
Nuevo Día Tamaulipas Cd. Victoria
En Linea Directa Nuevo Laredo Diario Reynosa

Finding the News in the Mexican Borderlands

Where to find them? If you are new to town, it's hard to find a newspaper in Mexico, especially outside the major metropolitan areas. You need to know the routine of the street vendors, or which pharmacy or liquor store carries the paper. And you need to be willing to shell out ten peso (a dollar) for papers that have little or no international news (not unlike most U.S. dailies), but have extensive social sections featuring the marriages, showers, and engagements of the region's elites. But Mexican newspapers are essential if you want to understand what is happening in the escalating drug war in the borderlands. The latest offensive is Operativo Conjunto Chihuahua in which 2500 Mexican soldiers have been deployed in the northern state of Chihuahua. According to the region’s military commander, Gen. Jorge Juarez , the army is confronting five cartels that are contesting power in Chihuahua: the Juárez, Golfo, Sinaloa, Aztecas, and El Pirata, which is the most “dangerous.” As the narcos continue to battle each other for control of territory, even in such small border towns as Palomas, Chihuahua, the military and the police are also at war. After the military arrested 22 police in Juárez, a group of demonstrators (reportedly hired by the policy) shut down the Santa Fe Bridge going into El Paso for an hour last week, demanding that the army leave the city. But this morning the government announced that it would continue the Joint Chihuahua Operation for at least another six months. In the next post, I will include a list of links to Mexican border newspapers so that even if you missed the guy hawking the newspaper, you can follow the spreading drug war in the Mexican borderlands.