For Mexican Towns Attacked by Cartel, Few Answers and No Justice

It was a brazen attack. Some 60 gunmen linked to the brutal Zetas cartel descended on a quiet cluster of towns just south of the Mexican border in the spring of 2011 and launched a door-to-door extermination campaign that went on for weeks, leaving an untold number of people dead or missing. Yet in the five years since the slaughter in the northern Mexican state of Coahuila, the Mexican government has failed to fully investigate, much less address the needs of the victims and their families, according to a preliminary report released today by a panel of scholars and human rights investigators.

"It's horrifying because it was all so blatant," said Mariclaire Acosta, a veteran human rights investigator who advised the panel. "This wasn't a hidden crime. It all happened out in the open, and not one government agency did anything to stop it."

Such charges have become a disturbing echo in Mexico, where hundreds of thousands of people have been killed by drug violence, either at the hands of traffickers or corrupt security forces, and the crippled — often complicit — justice system is incapable of pursuing those responsible. Sunday's report suggests that Mexicans have begun to look for ways, at the very least, to get to the truth, rather than sitting idly and wait for justice from their government. They are increasingly calling for help from external experts, both at home and abroad, to oversee investigations into the most egregious crimes. And government leaders — who may or may not be committed to real reforms, but seem prickly about public opinion polls — are relenting.

Experts who worked on the report — led by scholars from the prestigious Colegio de Mexico and from an autonomous victims' rights commission — said their focus was on providing answers that might help the affected families and communities heal. They issued numerous recommendations for ways to improve the way authorities treat the country's untold numbers of victims. And they urged the government to apologize for leaving communities, like the ones in Coahuila, unprotected. "The victims, their relatives and society have the right to know what happened and to be treated with dignity," the report said. "Until now, the term that best describes victim's experiences is abandonment."

Sunday's report also draws links between the violence ravaging Mexico and the United States. Many of the rugged communities of ranchers and factory workers that were assaulted in 2011 in Coahuila are located less than an hour's drive from the U.S. border. The attack was started when the leaders of the Zetas cartel discovered that they had been betrayed by their own operatives, and dispatched their henchmen to Allende and several neighboring communities to seek revenge against the traitors and anyone related to them. Numerous victims' relatives fled for their lives across the border, as did some of the traffickers on the Zetas' target list. American authorities have provided protection to a handful of the traffickers in exchange for their cooperation. But, according to the report, American authorities have so far refused to discuss what they know about the massacre.

"The opacity of the United States obstructs the truth," the report found. It called the massacre an example of "bi-national criminal violence," and added, that American authorities "hold important information for understanding what happened in Mexico."

The examination of the so-called Allende massacre, named for the Coahuila town hit hardest by the violence, marks the first time that the government's investigation of the killing has been opened to external scrutiny. Among the report's most withering elements is its abbreviated chronology of government files showing for the first time in detail how much authorities knew about the extent of the bloodshed and how they did next to nothing to investigate it for three years. Once officials did investigate, the report said, they based their case almost entirely on uncorroborated confessions by those accused of participating in the killing, along with statements by firefighters who responded to calls for help. Authorities said they have recovered some 68 pieces of teeth and bones from one of the killing sites, but it's unclear whether they have ever attempted to identify the remains.

The report includes some details on the bargain rates for bribing local officials: In the years leading up to the killing, the Zetas paid off Allende's entire municipal police force with just $3,600 a month, while a single trafficker operating there at the time boasted of earning $4 million every 10 days. The first person to file a complaint about relatives who had gone missing in the attack was arrested a year later by municipal police and has never been seen again. The mayor of Allende at the time told authorities he was unaware of the killing until it was over, a claim that defies credulity for anyone who's ever been to Allende — one of the houses that was destroyed during the attack sits across the street from the mayor's. And the state attorney charged with investigating the killings was eventually removed from office for having provided protection to the cartel.

The report accuses the governor at the time of downplaying the extent of the damage. And, while it credits the current governor, Ruben Moreira, with implementing important law enforcement reforms, including creating a special unit to investigate disappearances, it says his handling of the Allende investigation shows "less interest in the truth and more in closing the matter," by pushing victims' relatives to accept that their loved ones are dead and move on.

"Their main concern is to collect incriminating statements," the report said. "There is minimal investigation that validates the veracity or falsehood of what is said. That impedes precision in establishing the facts, assigning blame, and delivering justice and reparations."

Sergio Aguayo, the lead author of the report and a widely respected human rights advocate, acknowledged in an interview that numerous important questions remain unanswered, particularly those relating to how much federal authorities were aware of the violence and what they did or did not do about it. The report also left open the key question of how many people are dead or missing, saying the government has information on 42 victims, while other "extended accounts" say there are as many as 300.

"It's possible," the report said, "that there are victims that have not been registered" by authorities.

Aguayo said the panel's work so far had focused largely on a review of the voluminous investigative files from the federal human rights commission, and the state prosecutor's office in Coahuila. But he said he would seek access to more federal investigative files, and interviews with authorities at all levels of the government to produce a more complete report early next year.

It's impossible to predict how much more authorities are willing to cooperate with Aguayo's efforts.

Last year, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, seeking to lift his dismal approval ratings, took the rare step of inviting an international panel of legal experts to examine the government's investigation of the massacre of 43 students at a teachers college in the southern State of Guerrero. But the effort ended acrimoniously when the investigators contradicted the government's version of events, and accused federal authorities of attempting to obstruct their work.

The work by Aguayo's panel poses similar potential political pitfalls for Governor Moreira, of Coahuila. His brother, Humberto, was governor during the time that the Zetas occupied the northern part of the state. Humberto Moreira, once a close political ally of Peña, has dodged numerous accusations of corruption and money laundering since leaving Coahuila with a debt 100 times larger than when he took office.

To illustrate the balancing act in his efforts, Aguayo said that on the day that the current governor agreed to give him access to the Allende files, the former governor announced he was suing Aguayo for $500,000. Aguayo had previously written a column about the former governor, describing him as a "politician who stank of corruption."

In addition to looking into the killings in Allende, the panel also examined the 2011 massacre of 72 Central American migrants in Tamaulipas, another border state located southeast of Coahuila. The panel's findings there were similar.

"I truly believe we are living an emergency in some parts of Mexico," Aguayo said.

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Clinton, Trump go full throttle in second presidential debate
The second US presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump on Sunday night here ended with the two going full throttle over a host of issues including Trumps take on women, Muslims, taxes and the former Secretary of States deleted emails.
After the two presidential candidates traded insults in a contentious nasty debate in a Town Hall format at the Washington University here taking questions from the audience and the moderators, the CNN/ORS poll indicated that Trump lost with only 34% votes to Clinton's 57.
Unlike the first debate, there were no signs of cordiality between the two as they entered the arena with former President and the Democrat's husband Bill Clinton and the Republican's wife Melania Trump already seated with their extended families.
ABC's Martha Raddatz began the debate along with CNN's Anderson Cooper with first question by a teacher from the audience asking if the two were modelling appropriate behaviour for the US children.
Clinton in her response promised to work "with every American" and said she "will be the president for all Americans".
Still early in the debate, so a cautious Trump was found agreeing "with everything she said".
Coming to the video leaked by the Washington Post, Cooper said: "You bragged that you sexually assualted women -- do you understand that?"
Trump, tried his best to defend his lewd comments about women in the 2005 tape, saying: "No that's not what I said. This was locker room talk. I am not proud of it."
He then pivoted to terrorism and "bad things happening" in the world.
Taking on Trump, Clinton said though she had differences on policies and principles with the Republican candidates in the past, but Trump "...was not fit to be president and commander in chief".
"We've seen him rate women on their appearance, ranking them from one to 10... it's not only women, it's not only this video... This is who Donald Trump is," she added.
Trump then accused Bill Clinton of doing much worse than just talking about sexual assault and even targeted the candidate of harassing a rape victim.
Clinton then mentioned other moments that damaged Trump's campaign, including a spat with Gold Star Parents, the Khans, while the billionaire accused her of starting the birther claim and said she should apologise to President Barack Obama.
Trump also mentioned WikiLeaks' disclosures of internal emails from Democrats.
Meanwhile, the Republican was hassled by the fact that his rival was getting more time to respond and that the moderators were not bringing up issues related to Clinton.
Trump said: "If I win, I am going to instruct my Attorney General to get a special prosecutor to look into your (email) situation... you ought to be ashamed of yourself."
There was also a moment when Trump insisted Clinton to answer the question about healthcare.
Clinton called reining in the cost of the Affordable Care Act the highest priority of the next president and agreed that premiums were high, but Trump said: "Obamacare will never work. It's very bad health insurance." 
He insisted that it was too expensive and said he would repeal it.
When asked by a young woman in crowd about Muslims in the US being targeted and facing hate, Trump said: "She (Clinton) won't say the name, and Obama won't say the name, but the name is there: ‘Radical Islamic terror'."
"Muslims have to report it when they see hate going on. Muslims have to report the problems when they see them," he added.
On his proposed Muslim ban, the Republican said it was the "greatest Trojan horse" of their time.
He said: "I don't want to have hundreds of thousands of people coming in from Syria when we know nothing about their values, their love for our country."
Clinton later called out Trump for denying his support for the war in Iraq to which Trump immediately interrupted and said that he was always against the war in Iraq.
When asked about candidate tax plans, Clinton attacked Trump referring to a New York Times report that he could have avoided federal income taxes for 18 years.
Trump said: "I pay tax, and I pay federal tax, too."
Replying to a voter's question, whether the candidates will be a devoted president to all people, Trump noted African-Americans, the inner cities and Latinos.
He cited a remark Clinton made, saying that half Trump's supporters are a "basket of deplorables".
Clinton said she had tried her entire life to do what "I can to support children and families".
When Cooper pressed Trump about his early hours Twitter rant against former Miss Universe Alicia Machado, the billionaire deflected and began talking about Clinton and Benghazi.
Referring to the early morning tweet about a sex tape, he said: "I'm not unproud of it."
He brought up the 2012 attack on the US consulate in Libya, saying Clinton ignored multiple requests for more security from the US ambassador who was killed in Benghazi.
Commenting on the war in Syria, Clinton said would specifically target the Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, while Trump mentioned: "I don't like Assad at all, but Assad is killing the IS. Russia is killing the IS and Iran is killing the IS, and the three have lined up together."
On Supreme Court Clinton said that she wanted to appoint judges "who understand the way the world really works" and that she wanted to protect voting rights, women's reproductive rights as well as marriage equality.
In the last question about naming one positive thing that the candidates respect in one another, Clinton said she respects Trump's children.
Trump said he respected that Clinton "doesn't give up".
Finally, the candidates did sign off with a handshake.
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.


Sensex, Nifty losing bullish momentum – Weekly closing report
We had mentioned in last week’s closing report that Nifty, Sensex might rally if weekly lows hold. The major indices of the Indian stock markets rallied strongly only on Monday. On the remaining days of the week, the indices failed to continue on the upward trajectory. It appeared that the momentum of the initial rally had been lost through the week. Trading volumes were high through the week. The trends of the major indices in the course of the week’s trading are given in the table below:
Positive global cues lifted the Indian equity markets on Monday. Buying was witnessed in automobile, capital goods and banking stocks. The BSE market breadth was skewed in favour of the bulls - with 2,228 advances and 660 declines. On the NSE, there were 1,316 advances, 155 declines and 42 unchanged.
Two and three wheeler major Bajaj Auto on Monday reported a decline of 2% in its total sales for September. According to the company, its total sales during the month under review stood at 376,765 units from an off-take of 384,400 units during the corresponding month of 2015. However, total domestic sales in September were up 21% to 255,592 units from 210,599 units sold during the like month of last year. The overall exports during the last month declined by 30% to 121,173 units from 173,801 units shipped out during the corresponding month of 2015. The company's total motorcycle sales during the month under review increased by one per cent to 331,976 units from 330,228 units sold in the like month of last year. In contrast, the overall commercial vehicle sales declined by 17% to 44,789 units from 54,172 units sold during September 2015. Bajaj Auto shares closed at Rs2,875.30, up 1.52% on the BSE.
Reduction in a key lending rate, coupled with short covering and value buying, pushed up the Indian equity markets on Tuesday. The key indices which opened on a higher note following positive cues from Asian markets, held on to their gains after the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) announced a 25 basis points cut in one of its key lending rates. Buying was witnessed in interest-sensitive stocks in oil and gas, banking and metals. The BSE market breadth was tilted in favour of the bulls -- with 1,689 advances and 1,156 declines. On the NSE, there were 826 advances, 615 declines and 62 unchanged.
 The Monetary Policy Committee of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) cut a key lending rate by 25 basis points on Tuesday at the conclusion of its first meeting over two days, bringing much relief to commercial banks and India Inc. With the decision, the repurchase rate, or the short-term lending rate charged by the central bank on borrowings by commercial banks, stands lowered to 6.25%. The reverse repurchase rate also automatically stands lowered to 5.75%.  This was the first meeting of the new policy panel, constituted by the government with the primary mandate to ensure a retail inflation of 4%, plus or minus a band of two percentage points. The panel said in a statement that the decision taken on Tuesday was consistent with an accommodative stance, with the objective of achieving the inflation target.  All six members of the panel, chaired by RBI Governor Urjit Patel, voted in favour of the monetary policy decisions -- the minutes of which will be released on October 18. The markets responded to the decision with a spike in key indices.
Negative global indices, coupled with profit booking and lower than expected macro-data, dragged the Indian equity markets during the mid-afternoon trade session on Wednesday. Selling pressure was witnessed in banking, IT and oil and gas stocks. On the BSE, there were 1,739 advances, 1,142 declines and 123 unchanged. On the NSE, there were 841 advances, 598 declines and 43 unchanged. Investors were seen reluctant to chase prices after several days of rise, pointed out market analysts. Negative European markets and disappointing Services PMI figure, too, dragged the key indices lower.
Anil Ambani-led Reliance Infrastructure on Wednesday said it is selling its entire transmission assets to Adani Transmission. The deal size was not divulged, but banking sources estimated it at over Rs 2,000 crore. Reliance Infrastructure owns the country's first 100% private sector transmission project -- the Western Region System Strengthening Scheme -- in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka. Reliance Infrastructure also owns 74 per cent in Parbati Koldam Transmission located in Himachal Pradesh and Punjab in a joint venture with Power Grid Corp. All three transmission projects have been completed and are revenue-generating, the company said in a statement. "The entire sale proceeds from the transaction will be utilized for debt reduction," the company said. "The transaction is in line with the strategic plan of monetizing non-core business and focus on growth areas like defence and engineering, procurement and construction business." 
Negative global markets, coupled with lower crude oil prices and a weak rupee, dented the equity markets during the mid-afternoon trade session on Thursday. Selling pressure was witnessed in automobile, banking and IT (information technology) stocks. The BSE market breadth was tilted in favour of the bulls -- with 1,366 advances and 1,506 declines. On the NSE, there were 658 advances, 960 declines and 255 unchanged. 
Initially on Thursday, the benchmark indices opened on a higher note in sync with their Asian peers. However, the global markets, especially the European markets, remained subdued over speculation on curtailment of stimulus measures by the European Central Bank (ECB). Besides, caution prevailed ahead of key US macro-data on jobs to be released on Friday. In addition, lower crude oil prices, profit booking and consolidation added to the downward trajectory.
Three public sector banks -- Indian Overseas Bank (IOB), Bank of India and Syndicate Bank -- on Wednesday announced reduction in their marginal cost of funds-based lending rate (MCLR) for various tenors. Indian Overseas Bank, in a statement, said its MCLR for one year was reduced to 9.50% from 9.55% with effect from October 1. Similarly, Syndicate Bank said it cut its MCLR for one year to 9.45% from 9.55% effective from October 7. On its part, Bank of India said its one year MCLR was 9.35% effective from October 7. 
Negative global indices and profit booking pulled the Indian equity markets lower on Friday. The key indices traded on a flat-to-negative note during the session, as selling pressure was witnessed in IT (information technology), oil and gas, and capital goods stocks. The BSE market breadth was tilted in favour of the bears -- with 1,387 declines and 1,315 advances. On the NSE, there were 783 advances, 835 declines and 257 unchanged. On Friday, the major indices of the Indian stock markets closed around 0.15% lower than Thursday’s close. To add to the stock market investors’ caution, U.S. employment growth was likely to have picked up in September, putting pressure on the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates and signalling that steam could be building in the economy ahead of America's presidential election.


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