Category Archives: Autodefensas

The Abducted Journalist and the Mayor of Medellín, Veracruz By Ignacio Carvajal (SinEmbargo)

This article was first published on 9 January 2015. It has been translated without permission for the Mexican Journalism Translation Project.

The Abducted Journalist and the Mayor of Medellín, Veracruz
By Ignacio Carvajal (SinEmbargo)

(The first journalist abducted this year Moisés Sánchez of Veracruz, Mexico, was taken by armed men from his home in Medellín de Bravo on 2 January 2015. He has not yet been found. The Committee to Protect Journalists issued a press release summarizing the facts of Sánchez’s disappearance, demanding his return and the prosecution of his abductors. Veracruz is one of the most dangerous places in the Americas to practice journalism: CPJ reports that since 2011 three journalists have disappeared and the organization has documented the murders of nine other journalists.

Prior to Moisés Sanchez’s disappearance the mayor of Medellín had threatened the journalist. Days after Sánchez’s disappearance, the Associated Press reported that the entire municipal police force of Medellín de Bravo had been brought in for questioning by the Veracruz State Prosecutor with three of those officers detained.

Journalist Ignacio Carvajal reports from Veracruz on the story of the friendship and the fight between the journalist and the mayor of Medellín. – PT)

As a candidate he kissed children. He said hello to farmers and housewives. He walked the muddy streets of Medellín’s villages. He wore out his shoes and got thorns in his clothes in the rural areas. He promised that if he won he would jail his predecessors: Rubén Darío Lagunes and his putative political offspring Marcos Isleño Andrade, both of the Party of the Institutional Revolution (PRI). And he promised one more thing. Omar Cruz Reyes offered all the directorships and executive appointments to those born in the township: “Medellín for people from Medellín,” he used to say. But he did not fulfill that promise. Most of his cabinet was filled with people who lived in the Port of Veracruz and its bordering neighbor Boca del Río.

Omar Cruz is not a dyed-in-the wool PAN-ista. He became a candidate for the PAN thanks to efforts by his sister-in-law Hilda Nava Seseña and her uncle and aunt, Salustia Nava Seseña and Maurilio Fernández Ovando. The aunt is former president of the DIF [Mexico’s Children and Families Department] and the uncle is the former PANista Mayor of Medellín. Hilda was Maurilio Fernández’s personal assistant when he served as mayor.

At the same time, Omar Cruz Reyes created an organization bearing his initials (Organizando Contigo el Rumbo – literally translated as Organizing the Future With You) to work with the residents of the new subdivisions, like Arboleda San Ramón Puente Moreno and Casa Blanca. Both places bring together thousands of voters, mostly from Veracruz and Boca del Río).

Before the 2010 local elections, and to keep himself on the lips of voters, Cruz began a media campaign demonstrating against mayors Marco Isleño Andrade (2010 – 2013) and Rubén Darío Lagunes (2007 – 2010); primary school students made fun of Lagunes at school events because he dallied when he gave speeches.

There were at least three protests where Omar Cruz attacked Marcos Isleño Andrade for absent public works, missing support and neglect by the municipality. Invariably the journalist Moisés Sánchez attended these protests. He saw Omar Cruz – when he entered politics he was just 27 – as without bad political habits, without “a tail to be tugged”, well spoken, educated, from the working middle class and a rousing speaker against Marcos Isleño and in favor of citizens. The men clicked. And Moisés Sánchez began following him through the streets and writing stories about his promises and his projects. At last a young person from El Tejar – Medellín’s most important area – was willing to fight back against the corrupt politicians.

In the spirit of “Medellín for people from Medellín,” Omar Cruz offered Moisés Sánchez the position of press officer if he made it into the mayor’s office. That’s what Sanchez’s colleagues said; it was his big dream back in those days: to be his town’s press officer at city hall.


He had just won office as mayor when Omar Cruz turned his back on the PAN and his campaign promises, remembers a city employee who preferred to remain anonymous. Photo: Special

He had just won office as mayor when Omar Cruz turned his back on the PAN and his campaign promises, remembers a city employee who preferred to remain anonymous. Photo: Special

He’d barely won but he started reneging on his promises. He gave the post promised to the journalist to a person from the port of Veracruz. The salaries weren’t what he had promised. Neither were the responsibilities, nor the secretaries and support staff. The important posts stayed in the hands of citizens from the conurbation of Veracruz-Boca del Río and did not go to the professional activists in Medellín’s Partido de Acción Nacional (National Action Party, or, PAN). This young businessman’s promises were soon spent and many sunk. “Many people support him but it’s out of necessity, because their salaries aren’t enough,” said one city employee who commented on condition of anonymity.

On the campaign trail Omar Cruz was a different person from the one he became when mayor elect. He stood on the same platform as Julen Rementería and Oscar Lara, respectively the former mayor of Veracruz and a former PAN-ista legislator. This couple are credited with bringing Omar Cruz over to Governor Javier Duarte, to the PRI and to “red PANism” – the term, panismo rojo is a colloquial expression for a bloc of PAN-istas who fight the government of Veracruz with one hand but with the other support every move by Javier Duarte as governor. (Translator’s note: the PAN’s color is blue.)

The gap between Omar and the PAN-istas in Veracruz’s state capital, Xalapa, and with the Yunes [a political family in Veracruz with links to both the PAN and the PRI] soon widened. On one day he was seen close to Raúl Zarrabal, PRI legislator for Boca del Río on Wednesday when visiting his constituents, the next day he was with the PRI-ista side of the Yunes and the following day he was with a representative of the government of Veracruz.

Omar Cruz’s ties to Governor Duarte grew stronger because of the issues surrounding the Metropolitan Water and Sanitation System (SAS), a para-municipal organization that regulates and administers sanitation and water supply in the Veracruz-Boca del Río-Medellín conurbation. Its management of millions of pesos of resources has always been opaque.

In the middle of 2014, the mayor of Boca del Río, Miguel Ángel Yunes Márquez threatened breaking away from the SAS so that his city could administer its own municipal infrastructure. Independently of this threat, Yunes Márquez had provided evidence of the overwhelming corruption in the SAS since Yolanda Carlín’s time as its director. There were dozens of Carlín-friendly journalists on her payroll, leaders of PRI neighborhoods, among others. But the real debacle began when José Ruiz Carmona arrived on the scene. Carmona was a PRI-ista who had held many public posts and had concluded an undergraduate degree in record time. Governor Javier Duarte modified the law so that Ruiz Carmona could manage the SAS.

Ruiz Carmona ended his time at the top of the organization with blackouts for failure to pay bills, protests over uniforms for workers and complaints made to its union by pilots, lovers, wives and family members belonging to both the PRI and the PAN, all of whom were on the payroll or well-connected. Javier Duarte ignored the financial shambles left by Ruiz Carmona and brought him into his cabinet, naming him undersecretary for Human Development in the Ministry of Social Development (SEDESOL).

In this context and so as to establish order in the SAS, Yunez Márquez was waiting for support from Omar Cruz against the only PRI-ista on the organization’s board, Ramón Poo, the mayor of the Port of Veracruz. Instead, he deserted Yunes Márquez to support the SAS plan to create another organization, passing over Ruiz Carmona and other former directors.

Omar Cruz attended every event in the Port of Veracruz and Boca del Río at which Duarte appeared, looking for a moment, even if just a hello, with the governor.

Around Medellín, Omar Cruz assumed a friendship with Javier Duarte. “We understand society’s problems because we are both young,” he was heard to say. Now the governor won’t even answer his phone calls.

Back in 1812, in this municipality, army officer and ex-President Nicolás Bravo spared the lives of 300 Spanish combatants who had fallen prisoner in the Wars for Independence. That’s why Medellín is called Medellín de Bravo. It doesn’t look like Omar Cruz is going to have luck similar to that of the Spanish.

In Veracruz the worst state to practice journalism in the Americas, a place toxic for reporters, Moisés Sanchez’s abduction is the first time a high profile culprit has been accused of a crime against freedom of expression. The PRI-ista state government of Veracruz sees an opportunity to strike a blow against the PAN in the conurbation of Veracruz-Boca del Río-Medellín as it prepares for the 2015 federal elections.

Today, up to press deadline, not one PAN-ista heavyweight has spoken out in support of Omar Cruz. Not at the state level and there’s not a peep from Julen Rementería or Oscar Lara. Medellín’s PAN-istas have withdrawn into themselves, mute, watching everything and letting the guillotine fall into the hands of the prosecutor, Luis Ángel Bravo, who is aiming for Omar Cruz’s neck.


Since the disappearance of Moisés Sáncez, people in Veracruz have compared Mayor Omar Cruz and his wife, Maricela Nava to the Mayor of Iguala, Guerrero and his wife. Photo: Twitter @HaytodeMedellin

Since the disappearance of Moisés Sáncez, people in Veracruz have compared Mayor Omar Cruz and his wife, Maricela Nava to the Mayor of Iguala, Guerrero and his wife. Photo: Twitter @HaytodeMedellin

Since the disappearance of Moisés Sáncez, people in Veracruz have compared Mayor Omar Cruz and his wife, Maricela Nava to the Mayor of Iguala, Guerrero and his wife. Photo: Twitter @HaytodeMedellin

Another person passed over by Omar Cruz says, “The best jobs and salaries went to his friends. He sidelined the current PAN-istas and he gave them lesser jobs with low salaries. That was the constant complaint. In my case I left because of the pay. He promised me 12,000 pesos a month as a director (US$820) but I got half that. When I complained about the shortfall to Omar Cruz he wouldn’t talk to me. He sent me to his wife, Maricela Nava Seseña, the DIF president.”

Since what happened to Moisés Sánchez, both Maricela Nava and Omar Cruz have been compared to the Abarca, the mayor and his wife from the state of Guerrero [alleged to have masterminded the disappearances of the 43 student teachers of Ayotzinapa]. In this Veracruz municipality of major mango cultivation, Cruz and Nava ruled during the day and night, and people from the state have labeled them “the Abarca of the Mango Orchards.”

Inside the municipal building, in fact, they say that Omar Cruz does not decide anything without first going through Maricela Nava and her sister, Hilda Nava Seseña. Omar Cruz made his sister in law the municipal secretary.

The three live under the same roof in the Residencial Marino in Boca del Río where the cheapest houses sell for 1.5 million pesos (US$100,000) — and that’s the price of some of the more austere properties. The upscale residential neighborhood is five minutes from Plaza El Dorado, currently one of Veracruz’s most exclusive malls, frequented by those Veracruz magnates who arrive in their yachts – it has a marina – to buy cinema tickets for a matinée or to lunch in one of its restaurants.

The neighborhood is lined with beautiful trees. It is connected to the highway with panoramic views of the beaches in Vacas-Boca del Río. There are mansions, large salons for special events, estates with country houses and staff on hand for a relaxing weekend, all lining the backwater of the River Jamapa.

Omar, Maricela and Hilda ride around in this year’s trucks. The three use bodyguards and together they attend sessions with spiritualists.

“In the first few days after taking office, several spiritualist consultants – witches – arrived to cleanse the place,” the source says.

They focused their efforts on expelling the bad vibes from the mayor’s office, occupied for six years by PRI-istas. They placed quartz, burned incense, copal and every sort of mélange making it smell like a market.

Once the bad spirits had left, the mayor ordered a giant portrait hanged: underneath the image in large letters appears the name, “Javier Duarte de Ochoa, constitutional governor of Veracruz.”

In that office, on another wall, another black and white image bearing large letters: OMAR CRUZ, PRESIDENTE MUNICIPAL.

And decorating the surrounds in his office are numerous photos of Cruz along with his wife and sister in law.

In the mayor’s office, they say, Maricela Nava Seseña – known as the Queen of Medellín – became accustomed to issuing instructions and telling off campaign workers.

“Why are you asking for so much money from my husband? Are you really so great or are you his lover?” That’s what the first lady of Medellín said to staffers who complained about the low level of their salaries to Omar Cruz.

When dealing with labor issues, the mayor did not personally deal with them. He hung up the phone, referring them to his wife or his sister-in-law.

That’s what the former DIF director, Paula Aguilar Tlaseca experienced. She was one of the first to jump ship because of the poor treatment, low salary and little professional recognition from the Abarca of Medellín de Bravo.

When dealing with complaints in citizen-related issues, the protests did not mean much to them. “Protest all you like. I am the mayor,” Cruz replied when his staff advised him that social problems such as the new annual charge for public cleaning were turning into flash points of unrest.

Omar Cruz offered Moisés Sánchez the position of press officer if he won election as mayor. However, a little after the election the conflicts between began until, according to one witness, the mayor threatened the journalist. Photo: Special.

Omar Cruz offered Moisés Sánchez the position of press officer if he won election as mayor. However, a little after the election the conflicts between the men began until, according to one witness, the mayor threatened the journalist. Photo: Special.

In Moisés’ last protest outside the Medellín municipal building in the middle of last December he complained about this new municipal tax and the increase in common crime. It was a bitter encounter with Omar Cruz. A strange thing, too, since the mayor never confronted his critics.

“Why are you protecting criminals?” Moisés dared to ask Omar. It has been forty-eight hours since the owner of a convenience store had been murdered, his truck taken.

“I am not protecting them. I am fighting them. I asked for help from the Mando Único [the unified state command of public safety agencies] and the Marines,” Omar Cruz replied. But Moisés was not satisfied and continued in a loud voice with his criticism until one of Cruz’s staff, Juanita León slapped Moisés Sanchez several times on the cheeks.

Omar Cruz did not do anything else. But he left without offering Moisés an apology and failing to scold his employee who had hit him. Instead, a friend of Moisés told his family that the mayor threatened the journalist…

“Take care. Omar says that he wants to frighten you.”

Ignacio Carvajal is a prize-winning journalist working in Veracruz. Follow him @nachopallaypaca on Twitter. In Latin America Carvajal is recognized as a skilled practitioner of the crónica, a form of reporting news by telling a story. Check out hisRanch of Horror” in translation for the Mexican Journalism Translation Project. This article was first published under the title, “Aliado de Duarte, cliente de “brujos”, el Alcalde del PAN puso la mira en periodista,” available at:

Translator Patrick Timmons is a human rights investigator and journalist. He edits the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP), a quality selection of Spanish-language journalism about Latin America rendered into English. Follow him on Twitter @patricktimmons. The MxJTP has a Facebook page: like it, here.


Tagged , , , , ,

Diego Fonseca: “I don’t think that justice should come from retaliation or revenge” (By Paula Chouza, El País)

This article was first published in El País on 7 December 2013. It has been translated without permission for the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP).

Diego Fonseca: “I don’t think that justice should come from retaliation or revenge”
By Paula Chouza (
El País)

– At Guadalajara’s International Book Festival Diego Fonseca introduces a work of memoirs and essays about the 40 years since Pinochet’s coup

On that “first September 11,” while Pinochet’s dictatorship took La Moneda, Diego Fonseca (Argentina, 1970) was grabbing records from his father’s collection so he could trample them with his orthopedic shoes. Fonseca was three years old at the time. He uses that image from 1973 in his latest book, but it took three months to spring to mind, and came to him when he was looking at his four-year-old son. Little Matteo, of course, doesn’t scratch records – “because there are none in the house” – but with unconscious energy he will break an iPad’s screen.

The conversation with the journalist and writer takes place around a table on the third floor of Guadalajara’s Hilton Hotel, between events at the Feria Internacional del Libro (International Book Fair). Crecer a golpes. Crónicas y ensayos de América Latina a cuarenta años de Allende y Pinochet brings together the vision of 13 important storytellers and journalists to review the last four decades of the region’s ongoing conflicts. During the interview the author speaks about Latin America’s past and present, a story that belongs to a generation that grew up among the dictatorships. Diego Fonseca was 13 years old when Argentina recovered its democracy. Son of a teacher and a provincial lawmaker, at 14 he became politically active. “At the time I thought that being young could change things. Now I believe more in transformation as a progressive process. If you clear away everything at once the problem is that tomorrow people expect that public services will continue to function. Processes take time. Changes require force, dedication. Deep transformations don’t occur from one day to the next,” he says.

Question. Some say that Latin America has turned its back on its past. Do you think that there can be justice without damaging the economic and social well being that some of the region’s countries have achieved in spite of not judging their dictators?

Answer. I think that there’s an attempt at recuperation, of a re-reading of the past. At certain moments some countries did turn their backs because the necessary conditions did not exist. Argentina was the only country that didn’t turn its back. Scarcely two or three years after democracy’s return to Argentina, Alfonsín had put more than 300 soldiers in prison, between 40 or 45 years old, and who were fully a part of the armed forces. To me Guatemala’s attempt also seems consummately dignified. El Salvador is trying, a little, to look at that past. Chile still has a way to go. Argentina was complicated because while it tried to deliver justice, the economy tanked and the government couldn’t manage both fronts. Chile’s process, however, is distinct. Its economy has remained pretty stable but the political sphere needs some redefining. I hope it won’t take too long. But I don’t believe either retaliation or revenge make justice. The past needs to be reviewed in its entirety. Across the political spectrum they have made errors and I prefer that justice come later [rather than never].

Q: After the first round of elections in Chile, there are predictions of the Left’s return to power. Do you welcome that?

A: Yes I welcome the coalition’s return to government. I have always liked Bachelet. She’s a solid woman, a statesperson. The experience of the unreconstructed right, still stuck to the Chilean military’s old praetorian guard really wasn’t practical. It seems to me that there’s a huge social movement trying to argue about Chile’s values and I think that Bachelet must place before her some attention to those values that arose during her first period in office. Looked at another way, her style of managing social issues is different. Under Piñera, society’s demands exploded and I think that these can’t be ignored. Questions about educational policy need to be looked at again and that’s going to be central.

Q: How do you view the recent results of the Honduran elections: the victory of the official party’s candidate and the claims of fraud from the Left?

A: What’s certain is that I haven’t followed the elections deeply enough to judge the results. But on first blush it seems there is not sufficient proof to speak of fraud.

Q: You write that Latin America still hasn’t come of age. How old is it then?

A: It’s surely more than 13 years old and it’s probably closer to being a 17 year old. At that age rebellion sets in, responsibilities are looming, and one has to think about doing something in life. Latin America has thickened its understanding of strengthening institutions. The main goal is to try to bring stability, in society, as well as in the economy.  Through politics it’s possible to create those much-needed transformations. If any one of those three factors falters in a process of transformation, problems are going to arise. For example, in Chile’s specific case, if your economy is good and your institutions are good but you don’t manage social conflict, you are going to have little fare ups that, in Piñera’s case cost him keeping the Right in power. Improvement in equilibrium is much needed and Latin America is learning. But there are countries that still have to resolve many things, like freedom of the press or the rights of individuals.

Q: And what’s left for Mexico to resolve?

A: Mexico has many things left to do: the war against drug traffickers, the problems in managing public information… I think that there is an enormous question mark in respect to the PRI’s capacity and desire to show that it’s had a deep internal discussion about bringing democracy to the Party and at the same time that it has the capacity to manage the state through democratic government. This is a huge doubt that’s going to follow Peña Nieto throughout his term in office.

Q: Since drug trafficking is one of this country’s outstanding problems, does the growth of the self-defense movement warrant an opinion?

A: It’s a complex phenomenon. I don’t think it’s reasonable that civilian or social groups should take justice into their own hands. Having said that, one has to think about how to build the Mexican state. The idea of the nation hasn’t taken hold throughout the country. When one travels into the country’s deep south, like Chiapas, one finds that ethnicity exists before the idea of Mexico. It’s as if politics was a game of occupying spaces, and where the state doesn’t have any presence other political actors occupy that vacuum. In this way, the narco has created its own proto-state micro-relationships in places where it’s dominant. The self-defense groups finish with the state by saying it doesn’t have the capacity to provide the required security and that because they’ve been deserted the only thing that families can do is defend themselves. It’s an ugly message. I don’t like them. I understand why they’ve sprung up but I don’t like them.

Q: By way of conclusion, would you ever return to politics?

A: No [it’s resounding no]. I want to write. I believe that my role is trying to understand processes. My father’s a politician, but I’m not motivated in the same way. I dedicated the book to those who believed, to my father who still believes, and to my son who will believe, but I don’t put myself in any of those three places. I have believed and I stopped believing. I want to believe again but I am not stubborn like my father. I ought to be a bit more stubborn to return to politics and I think that just doesn’t grab me.

Journalist Paula Chouza reports from Mexico for El País. Follow her on Twitter @pchouza. This interview first appeared bearing the title “Diego Fonseca :“No creo que se deba hacer justicia por revancha ni venganza”,” available at:

Writer, journalist, and editor Diego Fonseca is the author of numerous articles and several books. His latest edited volume is Crecer a golpes (Penguin Random House, available on Kindle and in paper). You can follow him on Twitter @DiegoFonsecaDF.

Translator Patrick Timmons is a human rights investigator and journalist based in the Americas. He edits the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP). Follow him on Twitter@patricktimmons.

Tagged , , , ,

Two Deaths Divide the Mexican Self-Defense Movement (Paula Chouza, Verónica Calderón, EL PAÍS)

This article was published in El País on 25 March 2014. It has been translated without permission for the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP).

Two Deaths Divide the Mexican Self-Defense Movement
By Paula Chouza and Verónica Calderón

-Hipólito Mora is the only person under arrest for the double homicide; those who carried out the crime have not been identified.

Hipólito Mora, one of the founding leaders of the self-defense groups in Michoacán (southwest Mexico), is in a Morelia prison. He’s accused of having ordered the assassiantions of two people found dead on 8 March: Rafael Sánchez El Pollo and José Luis Torres Castañeda. Mora is the only person under arrest for the crime, and up until now the investigations have not led to any other suspects, not even the identities of those who committed the crime.

“There’s no evidence to support the judge’s decision,” reassured Eduardo Quintero, the lawyer of the leader of the self-defense forces from La Ruana, last Friday. Judge Juan Salvador Alonso Mejía on Wednesday decided that Mora should await trial from jail. According to Quintero, no clear evidence indicates a link between the self-defense force leader and the deaths. “It’s as if I were to say, right now: I think you are young and beautiful, I have no inkling why but I believe it. And, that’s how they sent him to prison, based on testimony like that.”

According to this version, a witness confirms seeing and hearing Mora and his people hit Rafael Sánchez and José Luis Torres. With this testimony, and accounts by the victims’ families, they said that Hipólito “was the one who gave the order” for the murders, so the judge thought that sufficient proof existed to imprison him.

Strong Disputes Centre Around Some Lime Orchards

Sánchez and Torres, both members of the self-defense movement, used to belong to a group outside Hipólito Mora’s control, instead under the control of Luis Torres, better known as Simón El Americano. The night before their murders, both were patrolling the Buenavista-Tomatlán area, in the township that belongs to the La Ruana community. It seems that they were ambushed in the early morning. They were killed and set alight. They were discovered the following day.

The group led by El Americano had already had differences with the group in La Ruana, and decided to enter the town to “end [Mora’s] leadership.” The two groups had fought over ownership of two lime orchards (the region is one of the country’s principle citrus producers), seized by hitmen belonging to the Knights Templar. The self-defense forces declared war on the drug gang in February 2013. El Americano’s men did not directly accuse Mora of the murders, but they did demand the surrender of Sánchez and Torres’ murderers whom they believe to belong to the ranks of La Ruana’s self-defense forces.

According to sources within the movement, Rafael Sánchez, alias El Pollo, fled the township after civilians rose up against organized crime, and months afterwards returned repentant and with the intention of joining the movement. At that moment he demanded Mora return his lands. In a telephone interview last week, José Manuel Mireles, the leader of Tepacatepec’s self-defense forces, stated that the spokesperson “refused to give ranches to him and his friends, but he also discounted that La Ruana’s leader might be involved in the murders.”

The victims were surprised by an ambush. Then they were set alight

One of the dead men, José Luis Torres Castañeda was the father of an advisor to Senator Iris Vianey Mendoza, who last month asked permission for a thirty-day absence from the Senate. She is being investigated by Mexico’s federal Attorney General after attracting attention for a picture of her dancing with one of the sons of the cartel leaders. The senator returned to her post after a few days even though the investigation’s results have not been disclosed.

Hipólito Mora rejects any relationship to the crime. “It’s not right. I didn’t kill them and the whole world knows it. The decision surprises me. I feel betrayed.” He also said that he worries for the lives and security of the members of his family. “They have treated me excellently. I feel safe inside the penitentiary but I fear for the lives of members of my family,” who, he said, are threat from El Americano. “The Government isn’t doing anything.” He repeated that he does not regret starting the self-defense movement more than a year ago: “The fight has been worth it so even if I die in prison, there are many people who my movement’s affected. They are the ones who put me here, so that I can’t damage them.”

Various sources agree that Mora has a criminal background in the United States for drug possession and distribution. But nobody has specified either the city where the arrests occurred or the substance for which he was detained. His lawyer argues that the information is false and Mora stated to the judge that this is the first time he has been arrested.

Mora rejects involvement in the crime and says that he fears for his family

Hipólito Mora was arrested on 11 March, just a couple of days after El Americano’s men stormed into La Ruana. In the following hours, the 10,000-person community was under siege. After complaining tht the group was trying to kill him, and that El Americano was a criminal serving as El Chayo’s messenger, the Policía Federal transferred Hipólito Mora to Mexico City where he stayed one night. The Interior Ministry has denied that its head, Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong, or its officials have met with him. After the arrest on Wednesday, the military disarmed 30 men with ties to Mora.

Self-defense groups rose up in arms in several of the region’s townships on 24 February 2013 to free residents from abuses by the Knights Templar cartel. This mafia mostly engages in drug trafficking, kidnapping, and extortion, among other crimes. Violence has overwhelmed the region, and Enrique Peña Nieto’s government announced a pacification strategy for the state, naming trusted associate Alfredo Castillo as commissioner.

Several high-ranking cartel leaders have been detained since then, including the fallen kingpin Nazario Moreno El Chayo, founder of the Knights Templar. Felipe Calderón’s government incorrectly declared dead Moreno in 2010. An operation on 8 March 2014 killed him.

The Interior Ministry Denies Meeting with Mora

This same Friday, Mora’s defense appealed the judge’s decision. The timeframe to resolve the dispute, even though not exact, might be 45 days. “Hipólito is in good condition,” his lawyer says. “They are treating him well in jail.” In spite of a preliminary instruction, the self-defense force leader will remain in Morelia and not be transferred to an Apatzingán jail, where alleged members of the Knights Templar are imprisoned.

Hipólito Mora, born in 1955, is a lime grower, father to 11 children and eight times a grandfather. For some time his people have heard him often complain about his vulnerability. “This is the most important battle I have waged in my life and I know it will take me to my grave,” he commented in February.


Journalists Paula Chouza and Verónica Calderón report from Mexico for El País. Follow Chouza on Twitter @pchouza, and follow Calderón @veronicacalderon. This story first appeared with the title, “Las dos muertes que han dividido a las autodefensas mexicanas,” available at:

Translator Patrick Timmons is a human rights investigator and journalist based in the Americas. He edits the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP). Follow him on Twitter@patricktimmons.

Tagged , , , ,

Governor of Mexico State says Michoacán Does Not Meet Minimum Criteria to Belong to the Federal Republic (El Deforma)

This satirical news piece – about hiving off Mexico’s troubled western state of Michoacán, making it independent – was published in El Deforma on Monday 24 March 2014. Mexico’s press has a lengthy tradition – stretching back to even before independence from Spain in the early nineteenth century – of employing satire to steer through thorny issues. It has been translated without permission for the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP). 

Governor of Mexico State says Michoacán Does Not Meet Minimum Criteria to Belong to the Federal Republic
By El Deforma

Mexico.- The Governor of the State of Mexico — the gurantor of safety for all the country’s inhabitants — requested the Senate erase the State of Michoacán. He says the state must not keep operating because it does not meet security standards.

Eruviel Ávila argues that there are not enough police resources to maintain order in that state and the healthiest thing to do is shut it down until there’s certainty that it can operate according to minimum standards to avoid instances of violence.

“We can’t let Michoacán go on. I know that there will be a lot of people affected by this proposal, but the damage will be greater if it continues being part of the country. Besides, they are going to refund money for everybody who bought a house there,” declared an energetic Eruviel, a man who never tires of protecting the nation.

“I know that it’s not my job to worry about Michoacán. But I feel a bit like a father who worries about his children and also about his friends.”

The Senate will analyze the proposal inviting Michoacán to declare itself independent for an indefinite period. Some lawmakers have already shown they are in favor. “Well, if we run some quick numbers, if we separate Mexico from Michoacán, then the violence in this country will go down automatically. The Monarch butterflies present a bit of a problem, because they bring in a ton of tourist money and they normally live in Michoacán, but surely we’ll be able to relocate them here,” stated Senator Eduardo Merénguez.

A vote on the proposal is expected in the following hours when a decision is expected.

Satirical news portal El Deforma pokes fun at all things in Mexico, including the country’s political class. The article first appeared under the title, “Asegura que Michoacán no cuenta con los estándares mínimos para llevarse a cabo,” available at:

Translator Patrick Timmons’ last piece of droll satire appeared on CounterPunch as “Interviewing Myself: A Selfie Portrait,” available at:

Tagged , , , , , , ,

“If the Government Wants War, then War it Shall Have”: Mireles (Francisco Castellanos J., PROCESO)

This article was first published in Proceso on 15 March 2014. It has been translated without permission for the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP).

“If the government wants war, then war it shall have”: Mireles
by Francisco Castellanos J. (PROCESO)

TEPALCATEPEC, Mich., (apro). – José Manuel Mireles Valverde, member of the Michoacán Self-Defense Council (known in Spanish by its acronym, CAM) accused Enrique Peña Nieto’s government of betraying them and censoring the media that is telling the truth about a social movement that has now lasted for longer than one year.

Interviewed in Tepalcatepec, the community leader confirmed that the Council is troubled by the arrest of Hipólito Mora Chávez, a founder of the movement against organized crime. Mora Chávez was arrested after a meeting with Michoacán’s security chief, Commissioner Alfredo Castillo who was trying to calm the quarrel between Mora and Simón, “El Americano.”

According to Mireles, the arrest resulted from a trap because Mora was delivered to the Attorney General for his alleged responsibility in the murders of Rafael Sánchez Moreno, “El Pollo,” and José Luis Torres Castañeda, “El Niño,” both executed and incinerated on 8 March.

The CAM met this past weekend in La Ganadera, where the self-defense forces expressed their annoyance with the federal government. In a press release, Mireles Valverde accused Enrique Peña Nieto’s government of “betrayal.”

“If the government wants a war, then a war it will have. It betrayed us. They met with us saying that we were allies: three days before [his arrest] Hipólito sat down with Commissioner Alfredo Castillo as “friends” and Mora Chávez demanded agreements. And how did the damned government respond?”

“The government jailed Hipólito and wants to arrest the other leaders. And it’s destroying the image of our self-defense forces by paying the media for unfounded stories, saying we are criminals. That’s a lie. Nobody messes with Michoacán, not even the damned government,” he maintained.

Mireles said that Carmen Aristegui’s program is proof of the government’s censorship because she frequently interviews CAM leaders but that the show is not broadcase in Michoacán.

“When I was recovering in Mexico [Mireles was injured in a plane crash in January] they did not let me speak to Paco Castellanos or any other reporter from Proceso. Mexico’s national security agency, CISEN, confiscated my telephones and they were very bothered by Proceso’s ongoing coverage of the self-defense movement, enemy number one of Peña Nieto’s government.”

Mireles revealed that he was told, “It’s strictly forbidden for you to speak with those bastards. So, they took my cell phones from me. That’s why I never answered the phone when people were asking me to give my usual interviews.”

He also emphatically maintains that the government, “with the national press’s support sold themselves out, and began to undermine the self-defense forces by low blows: alleging its leaders had criminal histories, never providing proof, only hearsay.”

He added that the government “manipulates” things, beginning a series of telephone surveys “designed to damage” the self-defense forces’ prestige.

“They are a bunch of narco politicians and they rule us. Can nobody really say anything about them?”

“The great heroes who gave us this country really weren’t the best people. So the government fears that Mexico will wake up. But with social networks it’s impossible for the government to take us for a ride,” Mireles said.

“The surveys put the safety of Michoacanos at risk since they ask people for opinions about the self-defense forces. The questions always look to damage the movement. It would be better for people to hang up the phone. Nobody should take this sort of call. They are ringing from telephone numbers in Mexico City that begin with 55,” Mireles said.

According to the leader of the self-defense forces, they are conducting surveys with “rigged data” in cities such as Uruapan, Morelia, Los Reyes, Zamora, Zacápu, Zitácuaro, Pátzcuaro, Lázaro Cárdenas, Los Reyes [sic.] Múgica and others.

This Monday, during an interview on Carmen Aristegui’s show Mesa de Análisis with Lorenzo Meyer and Sergio Aguayo, the self-defense force leader from Tepalcatepec also accused the government of trying to eliminate them in spite of the fact that the self-defense forces are “carrying out their job of cleaning the state.”

Mireles also insisted that the self-defence forces have not broken with the government. He emphasized that the authorities have not lived up to the original agreements with the self-defense forces’ general council and it does not trust them because whenever they talk with the press, there are repercussions.

By way of an example of these repercussions, Mireles labeled the agreements signed between the government and the self-defense fores as “pure theater.” After Mireles gave an interview to newspaper El País and to Carmen Aristegui, authorities withdrew federal bodyguards who had been protecting his son.

Journalist Francisco Castellanos J. reports from Michoacán for Proceso, Mexico’s weekly news magazine. This article first appeared under the title, “‘Si el gobierno quiere guerra, guerra tendrá’: Mireles,” available at:

Translator Patrick Timmons is a human rights investigator and journalist. He edits the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP), a quality selection of Spanish-language journalism about Latin America rendered into English. Follow him on Twitter @patricktimmons.

Tagged , , , ,