(TMU) — Mexican media and public figures are increasingly growing nervous about the possibility that continued drug cartel violence in the country could lead their northern neighbors in Washington to act rashly by declaring the powerful criminal groups to be “terrorist organizations,” resulting in a U.S. military intervention on Mexican soil.
The speculation comes after nine U.S. citizens from a Mormon sect were slaughtered this week by a drug cartel. On Thursday, hundreds of people gathered in the remote farming community of La Mora in the northern Mexican state of Sonora to mourn the deaths of the innocent civilians, many of whom were children.
Also on Thursday, Mexican daily Sin Embargo published a story detailing how U.S. lawmakers and top media outlets are pushing for the U.S. government to declare the cartels to be “terrorists.” Such a move could clear the path to unilateral actions by the Pentagon, handing the mantle of a “war on drugs” to the U.S. Armed Forces after Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (commonly known as AMLO) has repeatedly made clear that he is in favor of pursuing socio-economic solutions to the huge problem of crime in the country or, as he puts it, “hugs and not bullets” (“abrazos, no balazos”).
The newspaper said:
“Treating criminal organizations as terrorists would allow U.S. military operations on Mexican soil as is the case in Iraq, Afghanistan or Syria.
The United States Army operates—through such a justification—in several countries of the world without having to consult with local authorities.
And it carries out such [military] attacks on the pretext of ‘legitimate defense’ because U.S. law justifies these as ‘preventive’ attacks.”
— La Jornada Maya (@LaJornadaMaya) November 6, 2019
Indeed, in recent days some U.S. legislators have spoken about the need for unilateral military action in Mexico without the consent of the country’s authorities. On Tuesday, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) told Fox News that it’s clear that the Mexican government can’t control crime, adding:
“President Lopez Obrador came into office almost a year ago saying that his strategy for dealing with the cartels was going to be more hugs, not bullets. That may work in a children’s fairy tale, but in the real world when three American women and six American children were gunned down and burned alive the only thing that can counteract bullets is more and bigger bullets. If the Mexican government cannot protect American citizens in Mexico, then the United States may have to take matters into our own hands.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) has also said that he favors passage of a law that would dub Mexico’s cartels to be classified as Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs) on the same level as such notorious groups as ISIS. On Tuesday, he said:
“There are parts of Mexico that I’d rather go to Syria than Mexico.
I’m having my staff check whether or not Mexican cartels are terrorist organizations within the confines of the U.S. law. If they’re not, I’d like to make them.”
And on Wednesday, Rep. Chip Roy (R-Tex.) wrote an opinion piece for the Hill that luridly compared the crimes of Mexico’s cartels to the worst atrocities of al-Qaeda and ISIS. In a piece titled “To fight Mexican drug cartels, we must designate them Foreign Terrorist Organizations,” the representative said:
“The United States can no longer afford to sit idly while our friends in Mexico are being overrun. Our backyard is on fire. It is time we grab the fire hose.”
Also this week, the Wall Street Journal wrote an aggressive editorial titled “The Cartelization of Mexico” that explicitly called for U.S. military intervention in Mexican territory. In the op-ed, the editorial board excoriated AMLO’s policies, claiming:
“Mayhem has risen under the Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who took office last year and promised to end the anti-cartel campaign accused by his two immediate predecessors. He called the war on drugs a failure and promised to ‘start a peace process with organized crime organizations and adopt transitional justice models that guarantee victims’ rights.’ This is left-mumbo-jumbo for surrender, and the cartels have taken the message and gone on the offensive.”
Concluding, the editorial board said:
“But if Mexico cannot control its territory, the United States must do more to protect Americans in both countries from the cartels. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) should be able to find out the identity and location of those who ordered or carried out Monday’s killings, ensuring that their passing would be a signal that American justice has long reach. An American military operation cannot be ruled out.”
Also Monday, the far-right New York Post offered a similar prescription, arguing that “while a modern invasion by U.S. forces may not be imminent, it’s not unthinkable,” citing President Trump’s tweet this week offering to send the U.S. Army to help “wage war” on cartels.
….monsters, the United States stands ready, willing & able to get involved and do the job quickly and effectively. The great new President of Mexico has made this a big issue, but the cartels have become so large and powerful that you sometimes need an army to defeat an army!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 5, 2019
In the face of this concerted push for the United States to intervene in Mexico and violate Mexico’s sovereignty, AMLO has pushed back and insisted that a continuation of the failed “war on drugs” would hardly benefit his country. On Wednesday, the Mexican president pointed to the tens of thousands of victims of Mexico’s drug wars and said:
“We are carrying out a different policy … We are carrying out a different policy, because the policy they applied for 36 years was a resounding failure and caused so much damage, so much sadness, so many deaths and losses for the Mexican people.”
And at the same time, Mexican Security Secretary Alfonso Durazno pointed out how many of the weapons that were used to perpetrate the attacks, such as .223 Remington cartridges for AR-15 rifles, were clearly manufactured in the United States.
Yet while many Mexicans are expressing extreme unease about U.S. talk of a military intervention in the country, others are extremely critical of the Mexican government’s strategy of non-confrontation with the cartels, which led last month to the spectacular failed arrest of Ovidio Guzman, the son of notorious jailed cartel boss Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, in the northern city of Culiacan.
AMLO remains adamant that the U.S. would not be permitted to dictate policies to the Mexican government, especially over such a sensitive subject as the country’s struggle with cartels. In a heated exchange with reporters last week, he pointedly snapped:
“We do not receive orders from Washington!”
But it remains to be seen whether Washington will respect Mexico’s sovereignty or act on its own, potentially plunging its southern neighbor into a new—and deadlier—phase in the fight to control organized crime.
UN Says Trump Violated International Law With Pardons for Blackwater War Criminals
A United Nations panel has strongly denounced U.S. President Donald Trump’s pardons for several former Blackwater mercenaries and convicted war criminals that were found guilty of massacring over a dozen civilians in Baghdad.
The U.N. working group on the use of mercenaries released a statement Wednesday condemning the White House decision to pardon the four killers as an offense to basic justice and insult to the memory of over a dozen people killed in the 2007 massacre, reports Reuters. The panel also sharply condemned the move as a violation of U.S. obligations to international law.
“Pardoning the Blackwater contractors is an affront to justice and to the victims of the Nisour Square massacre and their families,” said panel chair Jelena Aparac.
“These pardons violate U.S. obligations under international law and more broadly undermine humanitarian law and human rights at a global level,” she added.
The four men, all of whom were American, were involved in the indiscriminate killing of 14 unarmed Iraqi civilians, when the mercenaries opened fire during busy traffic at the Baghdad square. Twenty additional civilians were injured. Nicholas Slatten was convicted of first-degree murder while Dustin Heard, Evan Liberty and Paul Slough were each convicted of voluntary and attempted manslaughter.
The four men were employed by the private security firm Blackwater which was owned by security contractor Erik Prince, the brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.
Prince has reportedly served as an informal adviser to the White House while also helping to orchestrate spying efforts to infiltrate campaigns by political and labor groups considered hostile to Trump, the New York Times reported earlier this year.
The four mercenaries were included in a wave of controversial pre-Christmas pardons announced by the Trump administration that critics derided as corrupt and immoral.
“While U.S. Army contractors convicted of massacring civilians in Iraq are pardoned, the man who exposed such crimes against humanity, [WikiLeaks founder] Julian Assange, rots in Britain’s Guantanamo,” tweeted Greek economist and parliamentarian Yanis Varoufakis.
The pardons for the former Blackwater mercenaries, in particular, were sharply criticized by Gen. David Petraeus and Ryan Crocker, the two top American officials in charge of U.S. policy in Iraq at the time of the 2007 massacre, who called the move “hugely damaging, an action that tells the world that Americans abroad can commit the most heinous crimes with impunity” in a joint statement.
The U.N. working group’s chair also said that the pardons send the signal that private security contractors would essentially give them the green light to “operate with impunity in armed conflicts” as states increasingly rely on the firms to circumvent their obligations under humanitarian law.
In recent years, military contractors have increasingly been deployed in sensitive conflict zones by companies from the U.S., U.K., Russia, South Africa and other countries.
Blackwater, which has since been renamed as Academi, earned worldwide notoriety for the 2007 massacre, after which the company was stripped of its license to operate in Iraq by the country’s government.
Documents released by WikiLeaks have also highlighted major human rights abuses, including the murder of civilians, by private security services such as Blackwater throughout the Iraq War.
Trophy Hunters Killed 1.7 Million Animals Over the Past Decade – Including Endangered Species
The bloodthirsty “sport” of trophy hunting managed to kill one animal every three minutes over the past decades, according to a devastating new exposé of the industry.
Over 1.7 million animals – including elephants, lions, and rhinos – have been slaughtered by trophy hunters, with the wealthiest among them paying top dollar to kill rare and endangered creatures hovering at the brink of extinction.
The grim data underscores the ties between an industry that rakes in over $400 million per year and the global elites thirsty for a chance to kill the rare animals that conservationists have tirelessly worked to rescue.
The new book, entitled Trophy Leaks: Top Hunters and Industry Secrets, was written by Campaign to Ban Trophy Hunting (CBTH) founder Eduardo Gonçalves, and exposes the shocking scale of an industry that disingenuously claims that it is pursuing the aim of conservation.
Instead, the book reveals that trophy hunters have killed some “100 endangered animals” every day in 2018. The book, which also relies on analysis by the International Fund for Animal Welfare, shows that the life of an animal is taken for sport every three minutes in a blatantly irresponsible contribution to a loss of biodiversity that has seen the global rate of species extinction accelerate to unprecedented levels in recent decades.
For this reason, Gonçalves aptly characterizes the trophy hunting trade as an extinction industry that banks on the wholesale slaughter of creatures.
“An estimated 1.7 million animals were shot by trophy hunters over the past decade – the equivalent of almost 500 animals a day, or one every 3 minutes,” Gonçalves writes.
The book also reveals how shills for the game-hunting industry have run high-profile disinformation campaigns on social media to counter the efforts of the U.K. government to outlaw imports linked to trophy hunters. About £600,000 (USD $800,000) was used to prop up sock puppet accounts on Facebook and Twitter that purported to be Africans opposed to Boris Johnson’s pledge to ban trophy imports to Britain.
According to the book, nearly 800 hunters have won the “African Big 5” prize from the industry, which rewards those who have slain at least one buffalo, elephant, leopard, lion, and black or white rhino.
Hunting lobbyists with the Safari Club International (SCI) industry association have also awarded special prizes to hunters who have killed over 80 different African species.
Hunting advocates have also allegedly pledged over $2 million to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign in hopes of seeing a generous return on investments under his administration.
While Trump has previously denounced trophy hunting as a “horror show,” his two sons are prominent trophy hunters and the Humane Society of the United States has denounced his administration for catering to wealthy trophy hunters and ignoring the pleas of conservationists to ban the import of slain animal “trophies.”
“Future generations will look back aghast at how we allowed the world’s most endangered species to be gunned down in their droves by adrenaline junkies in pursuit of grinning selfies and gruesome souvenirs,” Gonçalves told the Daily Mail.
“Trophy-hunting isn’t about a handful of sick individuals – it is about a huge global industry which wields extraordinary power and manipulates governments.”
Texas Dad Beaten, Maced, Taken to Jail for Filming Cops Arrest His Son for ‘Wide Right Turn’
As 2020 draws to a close, the year is likely to go down in history as a time when people across the United States finally decided to take a stand against systemic police brutality and widespread human rights abuses at the hands of law enforcement. Despite the protests, however, the widespread abuse of U.S. residents under color of authority is showing few signs of disappearing.
And in one especially egregious recent incident, a Texas police officer can be seen arresting a motorist for allegedly making too wide a right turn. The officer then proceeds to call for backup, after which the officers pepper-spray the driver and then beat the man’s father for lawfully filming the arrest.
The North Texas man is now suing two officers with the Keller Police Department for the disturbing incident, which occurred on Aug. 15 and has already led to the police chief disciplining the offending officer and apologizing to the family.
“It’s undeniable that their conduct was horrible,” Scott Palmer, one of the lawyers suing Keller PD, told New York Times. “They’re supposed to preserve and protect, and they caused havoc and mayhem.”
Dillon Puente, 22, was on his way to his grandmother’s home when he was pulled over for making a wide right turn. In police bodycam footage, Sergeant Blake Shimanek can be seen requesting that Dillon exit the car before he placed him in handcuffs.
In a police report reviewed by WFAA, Shimanek claimed that he arrested Puente for the mere traffic infraction out of fears for his own safety.
After Dillon was arrested, his father Marco Puente arrived at the scene to video record the arrest.
“He was ticketed and taken to jail for a wide right turn,” Marco later recounted.
Marco parked his truck in the lane adjacent to his son before Shimanek sharply warned him to move his vehicle, warning that he could be arrested for obstructing the roadway. Marco quickly complied before returning to record the arrest with his phone from the sidewalk across the road.
“The officer didn’t like me being there recording anything,” Marco said.
At that point, Shimanek ordered Officer Ankit Tomer to place Marco under arrest for filming the scene, which was well within his rights.
“Put your phone down,” Tomer said in footage captured by his bodycam. “Put your hands behind your head.”
“This guy is arresting me for just standing here,” Marco said.
It was at that point that Tomer escalated the situation by initiating force against Marco, an innocent civilian who was simply watching out for his son.
“They tried to take me down and pepper spray me, and it was a fiasco,” Marco said.
In the video, the officers can be seen tackling Marco to the ground and repeatedly spraying him with mace before placing him, too, in handcuffs. The father-son pair were then detained and hauled to the local jail.
However, Dillon Puente was ultimately only given a minor citation for the initial wide turn. Marco wasn’t charged with any crime, and he was quickly released.
Two days after the incident, the Keller police chief himself met with Marco to apologize for the conduct of his officers. Shimanek was also demoted from sergeant to officer for his role in the unnerving altercation.
In the lawsuit against the two officers, Keller PD leadership are quoted as calling the use of force and arrest of Marco Puente entirely “inappropriate.”
Regardless of the police department’s apologies, the lawsuit is being filed as a matter of ensuring basic accountability.
“Marco is not a criminal. This is a man, a concerned father, and if this can happen to him, it can happen to anyone,” Marco’s attorney Scott Palmer said. “These officers knew better. I believe they were trained better, but why did they not execute better? I don’t know.”
Shimanek also has a history of misconduct, including a 2016 incident where he unlawfully entered a home without a search warrant and other incidents.
“It’s disturbing to know that these are the people we are entrusting with providing safety in the community and they are abusing that power,” said James Roberts, an attorney who works with Palmer’s law firm. “I know that they knew better. I know that they knew what they were doing was wrong, yet they still did it.”
The Puente family is still disturbed by the incident, months after it transpired. And while Marco recognizes that the apology was a “nice” gesture, further accountability is required.
“This is going on everywhere,” Puente said about police brutality. “If people keep on brushing it under a rug, it’s going to keep happening.”
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