Category Archives: politics

The Health Sector: César Duarte’s Goldmine, By Patricia Mayorga (PROCESO)

News magazine Proceso first published this article on January 2, 2015. This article is about former Governor César Duarte of Chihuahua. Duarte is one of eight former governors in Mexico who are wanted for corruption, among other charges. Unlike the other seven governors, Duarte is still on the run and has not been arrested.

Good investigative journalism about corruption in Mexico exists but is sometimes hard to come by. The simplicity with which Mayorga tells a complex story — one that weaves together confidential and anonymous sources along with freedom of information requests and corresponding contracts and other documents —  about corruption in Mexico is one of the reasons this article deserves translation. The fact that Duarte has so far escaped justice demonstrates Mayorga’s article is still timely, still relevant. The power of Mayorga’s investigative journalism reminds us why she is one of Mexico’s threatened journalists. 

Mayorga’s article has been translated in anticipation of her receiving the Committee to Protect Journalists’ Press Freedom Award this November. The Mexican Journalism Translation Project will translate more work by Patricia Mayorga into English in the coming weeks and months so that readers who do not readily speak Spanish can familiarize themselves with the work of this brave Mexican journalist. At least 11 journalists have been murdered in Mexico in 2017. – PT

César Duarte, Former Governor of Chihuahua

The Health Sector: César Duarte’s Goldmine
By Patricia Mayorga (PROCESO)

Complaints and accusations are piling up against the governor of Chihuahua, César Duarte Jáquez. Charges have been filed against Duarte at the federal Attorney General’s office for embezzlement, corruption, overstepping his powers as governor, and misappropriating funds: he transferred state resources to a bank where he holds shares. Duarte now faces  conflict of interest charges for giving state business to certain companies that supply Chihuahua’s health sector and to which he has ties.

CHIHUAHUA, Chih. (Proceso). – In 2011 — and two months after being sworn in as governor — César Horacio Duarte Jáquez of Chihuahua entered into an arrangement with Ymmarsa Pharmaceutica, S.A. de C.V. and Servicios y Atenciones Médicas K. Thanks to him these companies became the state health sector’s top suppliers. Duarte showered them directly with million-peso contracts – in spite of complaints against them for selling overpriced drugs. Duarte’s registered tax address for his not-for-profit and his business is also the same address used by these medical supply companies.

Duarte shares the tax address at 8725 Periferico de la Juventud in the Lomas Universidad neighborhood in Chihuahua with Servicios y Atenciones Médicas K (Farmacias Economik). Duarte’s business, Union Ganadera División del Norte and his not-for-profit Que el Cielo Bendiga a Chihuahua are also domiciled at this address. The not-for-profit was only just registered with Mexico’s Institute for Industrial Property.

Ymmarsa Pharmaceutica’s directors work out of the governor’s business office, even though the company’s address is 11368 Rudyard Kipling Street in the Chihuahua Industrial Complex (“Complejo Industrial Chihuahua”). The directors put the governor’s business office address on their business cards.

A scandal already surrounds Duarte for transferring state resources to the Progreso de Chihuahua Bank, where he is also a shareholder. Attorney Jaime García Chávez and the PAN-ista legislator Rocio Reza Gallegos have filed complaints against Duarte for embezzlement, corruption, misappropriating funds and overstepping his powers. Forty senators and thousands of citizens who have established an anti-Duarte movement back García Chávez and Reza Gallegos. They filed their complaints at the federal Attorney General’s Office.

The pharmaceutical companies present a different sort of case, this time about conflict of interest and favoritism to businesses. Between 2011 and 2013 the health sector spent almost 3 billion pesos (about USD$161million) purchasing drugs, according to the Transparency and Access to Information Law (“Ley de Transparencia y Acceso a la Información”).

Eduardo Almeida Navarro owns both Ymmarsa Farmacias Economik and Administración y Comercialización de Franquicias Internacional, S de RL de CV. Almeida Navarro belongs to the PRI, Duarte’s party, and he backed Duarte’s election campaign. In 2011, 2012, and 2013 more than half of the state budget for purchasing medicines and medical supplies went to Almeida Navarro’s pharmacies. The 2014 expenditures are not yet public.

Since Duarte became governor the state’s expenditure on pharmaceuticals has increased by 32 percent or 301.9million pesos, about US$16 million. Yet state health centers noticeably lack stocks of drugs and medical supplies. The state auditor (“Auditor Superior del Estado,” acronym in Spanish: ASE) has reported that warehouses lack appropriate stock controls.

Audits indicate that businesses linked to Duarte fail to fulfill requirements, or other suppliers file complaints against them showing that their medicines are priced significantly higher than their competitors. And yet still their bids win government tenders.

One group of citizens – supported by doctors who suspected conflict of interest and misappropriation of funds – requested an investigation by the federal Ministry for Public Performance (“Secretaría de la Función Pública”). The Ministry turned down their request, arguing that the correct agency is the state comptroller. But former PRI legislator Liz Aguilera García runs the state comptroller’s office. Aguilera García is close to Duarte and may run as a candidate for Mexico’s federal Congress.

On November 28, 2014, these citizens – and with Proceso already aware of their complaint – filed another before federal auditors. Its received a status of “study and analyze.” In this document citizen petitioners accuse the government of colluding with officials from the health sector and violating the Law of Acquisitions, Leases, Service Contracts and Public Works and the Law of Responsibility for Chihuahua’s State Public Servants.

More Money, Less Stock
The alliance between these pharmacy companies meant that the Chihuahua’s Ministry of Health increased its medicine budget. From 2011 to 2013 the budget surged by about 190 million pesos (around USD$10million).

A summary of the budget document obtained under the Transparency Law makes it apparent that State Health Services spent about 3 billion pesos just on buying drugs and medical supplies. Chihuahua’s Institute of Health (acronym in Spanish, ICHISAL) also manages the federal health program Seguro Popular and it spent around 600 million pesos on similar items for the state pension system, around 1.5million pesos (US$80,000).

However, in one of the most used hospitals for people with Seguro Popular, there have been significant shortages in drugs and medical supplies since 2013. The last available report states that between 2013 and July 2014 no month went by when stock exceeded 90 percent. Instead, for those nineteen months average stock rates were around 58 percent. In previous administration, even with a smaller budget, public officials say the average stocking level hovered around 80 percent.

Some experts cannot believe the increased spending on medicine. “This situation needs to be compared against population increase (…). The previous administration barely covered eight percent of the state’s population. But the current administration covers 45 percent of Chihuahua’s population. The point is that they haven’t taken into account that half of the people in Chihuahua have access to federal health insurance through IMSS [meaning they don’t need duplicated coverage from Seguro Popular],” says an official speaking on condition of anonymity because he is close to Chihuahua’s health minister Pedro Hernández Florez.

There’s a difference of opinion over what is going on: “Maybe they are buying at too great a cost, making poor purchasing choices, or overcompensating after they look at the lack of supply in the hospitals, perhaps both of these things are happening. Buying poorly comes from defective analysis of statistical reports about illnesses. Or, that the reports have not been given appropriate consideration. The favored supplier is given priority and they sell through an intermediary seeking maximum profit, expending minimum effort. The drug might be about to exceed its expiration date or maybe it is not used that frequently.

So, he says, auditors find it difficult to uncover poor practices because they are not doctors trained in administration. He says that when Hernández Flores took up the position the situation worsened.

Another high-level collaborator from the Ministry of Health said on condition of anonymity that the state health sector had taken on these supplies though intermediaries instead of contracting out supply separately and directly with their makers, something that would result in big savings. “Basing drug supply on intermediaries goes against cost saving and opens the door to corruption,” he told Proceso.

Shady Businesses
Ymmarsa and Servicios y Atenciones Médicas K are apparently one and the same. Their partners are the same, they work out of the same offices and they buy medicine and medical supplies from different laboratories at low cast and in bulk. But when these businesses began to supply the state in 2011 they were not prepared to sell to its public health sector, nor that of other states where they have contracts.

Two brothers, Juan Hiram and Jorge Márquez Rodríguez opened Economik Pharmacies as a family business in Durango in 2004. In 2011 they created Ymmarsa Pharmaceutica so they could supply the public sector. Juan Hiram took the business on and invited Jesús Miguel Robles Villareal to be his partner.

“They had drugs stored on the floor or exposed to the light, even though they are meant to be in a controlled environment. They operated like that for a year until the State Commission for the Prevention of Risks to Health (acronym in Spanish: COESPRIS) put a stop to it,” asserts one of the company’s administrative employees speaking under condition of anonymity. State auditors confirmed this situation in their 2012 audit.

One administrative employee interviewed in the offices located at Periférico de la Juventud says it is the location where they deal with the contracts as they see fit: “A week before announcement of a request for proposals they prepared everything they would need to compete. That’s what they stuck to because they were the ones who set the contracts’ terms. The government sent them contracts and they dealt with them however they wanted.”

Ymmarsa took control over the pharmacy franchises belonging to Economik in 2011. These had sprung up as a family business in Durango. They opened 7 stores there. They started out in Chihuahua in 2011. Today there are nine branches in Chihuahua City, Parral, Ciudad Juárez and Cuauhtémoc.

When somebody asks for Servicios y Atenciones Médicas K at 8725 Periférico de la Juventud the inquiry first goes to Jesús Miguel Robles Villareal, one of the Ymmarsa partners. This person—who handed over a business card for Médicas K at the same address as the governor’s business, even though the company is registered at 11368 Rudyark Kipling Street—said an agreement existed over the registered tax address.

When asked for an interview with one of the people in charge of Médicas K Robles Villareal suggested contacting its legal representative. The lawyer failed to respond to the request. People consulted by Proceso and familiar with the company confirm that it’s the same but is using a different name (Ymmarsa and Médicas K).

Robles Villareal denies any relationship with Unión Ganadera División del Norte, established by Duarte in 2005. “We even had problems with them over parking, but we don’t have anything to do with them,” he asserts then adding, “they pay the rent.”

Ymmarsa – which supplies both the pension systems for the state of Chihuahua and the city of Chihuahua – stands accused of inflating prices by 300 percent and still winning contracts. There are complaints from Chihuahua, Tabasco and Durango; Nuevo León rescinded a contract on June 27, 2014.

The state auditor found that for fiscal years 2012 and 2013 the state Ministry of Health poorly distributed drugs, and did not have control over warehouses or when supplies expired, something that implicated Médicas K . Even so the State Congress unanimously approved the Médicas K account.

The state’s health services directly have handed over at least 500 million pesos (about US$26 million) to Médicas K since 2012. This year alone it received 321.1million pesos (about US$17 million) for drugs and medical supplies for Seguro Popular. That’s what contract D250517 indicates under direct tender 282/2012.

In 2013 while Médicas K received 183.5 million pesos (US$9.8 million) because it supplies the Ministry of Health, other suppliers received only between 106,000 (US$5,600) and 600,000 pesos (US$32,000) and only one other supplier received as much as 68 million pesos (US$3.6 million), according to freedom of information request 087242014.

In 2012 the state auditor commented to Chihuahua’s Health Services for awarding this company contracts D20517 and D20518 worth 417.5 million pesos (US$23 million) without putting them first out to tender. The state’s Health Services awarded the contracts even though the company, Médicas K, did not have the required health license.

Ymmarsa also has its own history. In 2012, Marketing Medicinal and others suppliers complained publicly that the state pension scheme awarded this Durango-based company a contract for 345 million pesos (US$18 million), even though they inflated their prices. Of the 881 drugs and medical supplies the pension agencies needed, Marketing Medicinal provided 738 of them, meaning that it controlled more than 80 percent of the drugs and other items supplied under contract LP002012.

The complaints from other suppliers offer more examples. Ymmarsa bid 1,503 pesos for each of the 700 boxes of Bicalutamida (to treat prostate cancer) even though distributor México Hospitalaria bid 500 pesos for the same drug. For Fenitoína (an anti-epileptic) Ymmarsa bid 394 pesos per box even though Laboratorio Pisa bid 14 pesos. Ymmarsa won the bid for Prozac, an anti-depressant, at 398 pesos per box when the year before it cost 7.50 pesos.

The other suppliers complain that fraud costs the state at least 100 million pesos (US$5.4 million). These companies allege that Ymmarsa was not even asked for a letter to show that it does not have a history of failing to fulfill contracts, as contract requirements state. But Ymmarsa cannot show this type of letter because the company was created in 2011 and it has never supplied public health agencies.

For Chihuahua City’s municipal pension scheme 67% of the drugs are overpriced.

In 2012, Marcelo González Tachiquín, current education minister and who served as director of the pension system, confirmed that he had fired the person in charge of purchasing, Edgar Hermes Sandoval Tarín. However, Sandolva Tarín did not leave the agency until August 2014.

And Prosalud, Too
The third favored provider is Administración y Comercialización de Franquicias Internacional—known as Prosalud. It belongs to Grupo ALSA. Eduardo Almeida Navarro owns the holding company. He donated to Duarte’s gubernatorial campaign. The businessman owns a Cessna 402 plane with license number N3403. In June 2014 he was nominated as the PRI’s president in the city.

Grupo ALSA is made up of seven firms. Three supply the state government and Chihuahua’s city government: Construcciones Corporativas Inmobiliarias, SA de CV, Comercializadora Corporativa Internacional, SA de CV, and Administración y Comercialización de Franquicias Internacional, S de RL de CV.

These companies are in charge of installing public lighting, renovating buildings, selling machinery, constructing and remodeling schools, and selling pharmaceuticals.

Prosalud provides drugs and medical supplies to Chihuahua’s government. In 2012 the State of Chihuahua paid it 180 million pesos (US$9.6 million). The company’s website indicates that its holding company was created in 2003 and in 2011 it reactivated itself to open the pharmacy Prosalud. It supplies at least nine pharmacies, along with public health providers in Chihuahua: IMSS, ICHISAL, and, of course, the pension agencies.

Investigative reporter Patricia Mayorga is a prize-winning Mexican journalist from Chihuahua. She works with Proceso, Mexico’s premier investigative news magazine. After the murder of her friend and colleague Miroslava Breach in March 2017 in Ciudad Chihuahua, she went into exile and is currently in hiding. The Committee to Protect Journalists will honor her with its Press Freedom Award this November.

Translator Patrick Timmons is human rights investigator and lawyer, and a journalist. His articles have appeared in the Texas Observer, CounterPunch, NACLA, Foreign Policy in Focus, and Horizontal.mx. In September he provided freelance coverage of the Mexico City earthquake for ITN’s News at Ten, ITV London’s Good Morning Britain, and The Daily Telegraph. Timmons collaborates with the Freedom of Expression Project at the Transborder Institute at the University of San Diego. He is participating in #agendadeperiodistas, a new group formed by journalists to protect journalists. He lives in Mexico City.

 

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They are going to kill you, by Javier Valdez Cárdenas

Friends, family, and colleagues warned him: Take care, man. Those guys have no limits. They are bastards. But in his column in one of the local papers he kept criticizing and complaining, using his keyboard, his words, to pelt corrupt politicians for conspiring with criminals, police at the mafia’s command.

He’d been a reporter for some time, experienced in investigative work. There was never a shortage of subjects to cover, but those paths, hidden by thorny plants, led to gunpowder or a waiting trigger, to the bosses’ glassy stares, to escape routes without exits, to streets that only led to hot smoke, wisps dancing in the wind after the gun shots.

But he wore a bulletproof vest across his chest. To him the moon looked like a lantern that could even light up the day. Pen and notebook were his escape, therapy, crucifixion, and exorcism. He wrote and wrote onto a blank page and spat it out onto the screen with his fingers, from his mouth, splattering everything. He bawled into his columns with anger and pain and sadness and wrath and consternation and fury, talking about the shit-covered governor, the mayor flush with funds, the smiling lawmaker who looked like a cash register receiving and receiving wads of cash and pinging when taking in another million.

The business dealings of the powerful were his subject. How they took advantage of everything and fucked over the common people. Destitution, like garbage, grew and spilled over sidewalks and street corners. Brothels overflowed. Hospitals never lacked sick people but neither were there beds nor doctors. That’s right, the prisons overflowed and an empire of smoke covered everything. Black clouds covered the starry skies, filling the heads of the region’s residents, making them sick yet not indignant. But he wasn’t going to give in. No way, he repeated to himself. He started to write.

A report put a lawmaker at the center of a hurricane. He joined those criticizing the lawmaker’s might and his ties to those at the top of political, economic and criminal power. Few were the legislators’ detractors and almost nobody wrote about it, but he would not shut up. On FaceBook he posted ferocious, brave words. They told him: Hey man, tone it down. Those bastards are out to get you. They will kill you. He shrugged it off with a harrumph. They won’t do anything to me. They can go fuck themselves.

Three hours after that post on social media they caught up with him and shot him point blank so as not to miss.

Award winning Mexican journalist Javier Valdez Cárdenas was murdered on 15 May 2017 just after leaving Ríodoce, a newspaper he helped establish in Culiacán, Sinaloa. He was 50 years old. He published this Malayerba column on 27 March 2017. His most recent book (previously published in Spanish as Levantones), appears in English translation and with an introduction by Everard Meade as The Taken: True Stories of the Sinaloa Drug War,  published earlier this year by University of Oklahoma Press.

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.

CRUZ TURNED HIS BACK ON THE PAN

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.

THE ABARCA OF MEDELLÍN’S MANGO ORCHARDS

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: http://www.sinembargo.mx/09-01-2015/1212468.

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.

 

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Municipality Sends Official to Cuba, Does not Know Why (Juan de Dios Olivas by EL DIARIO DE JUÁREZ)

This article was published on 19 September 2014. It has been translated without permission for the Mexican Journalism Translation Project.

From Mayor of Juárez, Enrique Serrano Escobar´s Website.

From Mayor of Juárez, Enrique Serrano Escobar´s Website.

Municipality Sends Official to Cuba, Does not Know Why
By Juan de Dios Olivas (EL DIARIO DE JUÁREZ)

The legal director of the Ecology Department, Laura Yanely Rodríguez Mireles, has been absent this week from her duties in the Municipality for a trip to Cuba for a lawyers’ congress. Her immediate supervisor, Alejandro Gloria González, and the city’s mayor, Enrique Serrano Escobar, justified her absence by saying that she was representing local government. But they could not describe the type of representation or explain its purpose.

The official, who has already had several trips within the country or abroad this year, posted on social media networks that she would attend the Lawyering Congress (Congreso de Abogacía) from 16 to 18 September. This timing means that she used the national holiday but also workdays to absent herself.

“It’s an event that has to do with her official duties, but I don’t remember the name of the event,” said Mayor Serrano Escobar yesterday.

He indicated that the official was only going to represent the Municipality, and she did not have an official task to execute.

“She’s going in representation but I don’t remember what the event is called. I saw it once but right now I don’t remember,” he said.

When questioned about Rodríguez Mireles’s work absences the Mayor said that it was necessary to speak with her immediate supervisor, the director of the Ecology Department, Gloria González.

“You would need to speak with her boss because I don’t take care of the attendance record for all the employees. We are a workforce of 7,400,” the mayor emphasized.

In a separate interview with her immediate supervisor, Alejandro Gloria Gonzaléz said that he did not send her to Cuba and he said that he did not know why she went.

He emphasized that she was sent by the municipality’s administration.

“She’s going on the Municipality’s business, not directly that of the Department. In representation – that’s what it said on the form,” he said.

Gloria González confirmed that this year Yanely Rodríguez only had one authorized absence from her duties.

“This one and no more. I don’t have an official report for the others,” he noted.

However, the official has posted on social media about four trips this year related to her profession as a lawyer. One of these was to Puerto Vallarta from 23 to 26 July, during the workweek. Before that there were other similar trips to Monterrey and Aguascalientes.

El Diario tried to locate the official by cellphone but she could not be contacted.

Before coming to work in municipal administration Rodríguez Mireles was President of the Bar and Lawyers’ College and also a candidate for District 7 representative. She ran as a candidate of Mexico’s green party, Partido Verde Ecologista de México.

The Ecology Department is an agency where a month ago the Municipal Oversight Board (Sindicatura Municipal) reported at least a dozen unjustified absences based on a random, routine list sent to different organizations within the municipal government.

Journalist Juan de Dios Olivas reports for El Diario de Juárez. Follow him on Twitter: @JDOlivas. This article first appeared on 19 September 2014 under the title, “Manda Municipio a funcionaria a Cuba pero no saben a qué,” available at: http://diario.mx/Local/2014-09-19_c5f7688e/manda-municipio-a-funcionaria-a-cuba-pero-no-saben-a-que.

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.

 

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Mexican Fishermen Remove 54 Tons of Dead Fish from Lagoon (Verónica Calderón, EL PAÍS)

This article was published on 1 September 2014. It has been translated without permission for the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP).

Mexican Fishermen Remove 54 Tons of Dead Fish from Lagoon
By Verónica Calderón (EL PAÍS)

– Authorities have not given clear reasons for the ecological emergency in the Cajititlán Lagoon, located in western Mexico

Fishermen collect dead fish in Cajititlán, Mexico. (Héctor Guerrero, AFP)

Fishermen collect dead fish in Cajititlán, Mexico. (Héctor Guerrero, AFP)

The fishermen of the small community encircling Cajititlán Lagoon in Tlajomulco Township (within Guadalajara´s metropolitan area, in western Mexico) rely on it for their livelihood. Last week they found it covered with a silver carpeting of dead fish. Just this Sunday it spewed out 33.7 tons, say the townspeople. Since the emergency began that makes 54 tons. The town’s authorities agree humans caused it. The State of Jalisco’s Ministry of the Environment (SEMADET) issued an alert about the poor state of water treatment by nearby businesses. The thorough cleanup can hardly cope. And the popochas – the twenty-centimeter freshwater fish don’t stop floating to the surface. Dead.

The contradictions started on day one. Town officials said that they had picked up 4.5 tons of popochas from Tuesday to Thursday, but the president of the fishermen’s cooperative in the town, Octavio Cortés, said to the EFE news service that on Tuesday alone they had removed eleven tons.

Residents of towns close to the lagoon accuse three treatment plants of dumping organic waste and another fifteen factories on the banks of the lagoon as guilty for what’s happened to the river. The lagoon is forty-one kilometers from Guadalajra, one of the country’s major urban centers.

This is the fourth time this year that there has been a mass of dead fish on the banks of the lagoon

 

The minister for the environment in the state of Jalisco (SEMADET), Magdalena Ruiz Mejía says that it’s a “serious event.” Tlajomulco Township has said from the outset that the deaths resulted from a drop in oxygen because of a change in the temperature of the water. But the minister confirmed that the “poor management” of water treatment is the probable cause of pollution suffered by the lagoon.

As if that weren’t enough already, there’s one more ingredient. The labyrinth of Mexican bureaucracy has worsened the performance before, during, and after the emergency. The mayor of Tlajomulco comes from the Citizens’ Movement (Movimiento Ciudadano, MC), a rarity in Mexican politics, a party that has emerged as stronger than any of Mexico’s main parties: the ruling party of the PRI, the conservative PAN and the leftwing PRD. The lagoon belongs to this township. The MC president Hugo Luna had announced last 12 August an “institutional separation” from Jalisco’s governor, Aristóteles Sandoval of the PRI.

The day the MC leader announced the split with the state Government, Tlajomulco’s mayor, Ismael del Toro confirmed that one of the pieces of “evidence” that Aristóteles Sandoval’s administration was trying to damage MC governments was the way Cajititlán had been abandoned. He emphasized that state authorities have systematically broken work agreements between the two governments to clean the lagoon despite warnings from SEMADET.

Journalist Verónica Calderón reports from Mexico for El País. Follow Calderón on Twitter @veronicacalderon. This story first appeared with the title, “Unos pescadores mexicanos recogen 54 toneladas de peces muertos en una laguna,” available at: http://sociedad.elpais.com/sociedad/2014/09/01/actualidad/1409601239_538919.html.

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.

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