MEXICO SOLIDARITY NETWORK. WEEKLY NEWS AND ANALYSIS

JANUARY 15-21, 2007

1. MEXICO EXTRADITES FIFTEEN PRISONERS TO US
2. TORTILLA PRICE PACT IS QUICKLY BROKEN
3. INDISCRIMINATE REPRESSION IN OAXACA
4. MEXICO WILL DECREASE OIL SALES TO US
5. PRI PREDICTS INCREASED MIGRATION

1. MEXICO EXTRADITES FIFTEEN PRISONERS TO US
Mexico extradited fifteen prisoners to the US this week, including ten identified as leaders of drug cartels.  Osiel Cardenas, leader of the Gulf cartel, the bothers Gilberto and Ismael Higuera, aligned with the Tijuana cartel, and Hector “El Guero” Palma, former leader of the Sinaloa cartel, were included in the unprecedented extradition.  The Gulf and Tijuana cartels are currently allied, fighting a bloody war with the Sinaloa cartel, which is under the control of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman.  Several prisoners convicted of crimes in Mexico are not expected to return to Mexican prisons to serve time.  In 2004, Cardenas threatened to order an attack on the high security federal prison where he was held if prison wardens did not allow him broad privileges, including cell phones and private cells.  The mass extradition is an open admission by the Federal Attorney General that Mexico’s notoriously corrupt prison system is unable to control imprisoned drug dealers from powerful cartels.

2. TORTILLA PRICE PACT IS QUICKLY BROKEN
President Felipe Calderon signed an agreement on Friday with leading agricultural corporations to “stabilize” the price of tortillas at 8.5 pesos per kilo, a 40% increase over last year’s prices.  Tortillas were selling as high as 15 pesos per kilo in some cities earlier in the week, nearly triple the price of six pesos in November.  The agreement covers only the 5,000 largest tortilla vendors, excluding 60,000 smaller vendors, many of whom maintained prices above 8.5 pesos per kilo.  In Acapulco, two large distributors publicly announced their prices would be between nine and twelve pesos per kilo, pending a reduction in energy prices by the government.  And the National Confederation of Organizations of the Tortilla Industry threatened to close their businesses if the accord is not renegotiated to include reductions in energy costs.  Dramatic increases in energy costs and raw materials force many small producers to charge higher prices.  While the world price of corn, the main ingredient in tortillas, is on the rise due to increased demand for ethanol in the US market, most of the recent price increases in Mexico are due to speculation by corporate traders. [emphasis added –G.S.]

WalMart will maintain tortilla prices at less than six pesos per kilo, apparently using this “loss leader” to attract customers.  And Doctor Simi offered tortillas at his national pharmacy chain for less than five pesos, but only for customers who bought another item.  WalMart refused to sell tortillas to Farmacias Similares in large quantities, making it difficult for Doctor Simi, an enigmatic figure who ran for president in the 2006 elections, to maintain his offer.

Rather than stimulating internal production, devastated under NAFTA, Calderon decided to loosen tariff restrictions and import more US-produced corn in an effort to lower prices.  The United States is the largest corn producer in the world, and 80% of US production is controlled by Archer Daniels Midland and Cargill.

3. INDISCRIMINATE REPRESSION ON OAXACA
Oaxaca Governor Ulises Ruiz is applying a coordinated judicial, police and military strategy to control and destroy popular mobilizations that threaten his power, according to a report by the International Civil Commission for Observation of Human Rights (CCIODH).  The preliminary report concludes a 33 day investigation that included 420 interviews with officials, community leaders and political prisoners.  The Commission confirmed the use of paramilitary groups as well as state and federal police forces in kidnappings, illegal detentions, house searches, beatings, and sexual abuse of both male and female prisoners.   The Commission identified 23 assassinations, three more than the National Human Rights Commission named in a recent report and twelve more than the State Attorney General recognizes.

Meanwhile, the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH), a government entity, criticized inadequate conditions for observation and protection of human rights in Oaxaca.  “The problem is a result of poverty and inequality, and as long as this isn’t resolved, the problems in Oaxaca will not be resolved,” said Jose Luis Soberanes, head of the CNDH. 

The Interior Secretary admitted in a meeting with the APPO that federal and state police were “excessive” in their use of force in breaking up a demonstration last week in support of political prisoners held at Miahuatlan prison.  And in a press conference on his first 45 days in office, President Calderon claimed “we live in order and peace.”

4. MEXICO WILL DECREASE OIL SALES TO US
A recent study by Pemex, the national petroleum monopoly, predicts decreasing oil reserves will result in reduced exports to the US in coming years.  In the next four years, Mexico will decrease exports by 150,000 barrels per day, and the decline could reach 500,000 barrels a day by the end of the Calderon administration.  Declines are due mainly to reduced production in the Cantarell fields, source of 60% of Mexico’s oil.  In the coming twelve months, Pemex will cancel shipments to the Shell refinery in Deer Park, Texas, source of much of Mexico’s gasoline.  International crude oil prices are currently under US$50 per barrel for Mexico’s relatively heavy petroleum.  Pemex provides more than a third of the federal budget.

5. PRI PREDICTS INCREASED MIGRATION
The PRI Congressional bench predicted 650,000 Mexicans will migrate to the US in 2007 in search of work, a dramatic increase from the 500,000 to 600,000 per year during the Fox administration.  Increased inflation, particularly prices for basic consumer goods, contributes to the swelling immigration numbers.  “There is no good news for millions of Mexicans who live in rural and indigenous communities, whose incomes are about a dollar a day…,” said the Congressional report.  The Secretary of Economy predicted inflation of 3.4% for 2007, but the Congressional report notes recent increases in energy and tortilla prices will increase inflation dramatically.

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Mexico Solidarity Network http://www.mexicoso lidarity. org

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