Monday, March 30, 2015

Denouncing Official Corruption Through #Mexicoleaks

The firing of popular news host Carmen Aristegui created a huge firestorm in Mexico, a topic that we covered in the March 25 issue of SourceMex. The conflict began when the management of MVS Noticias fired investigative reporters Daniel Lizárraga and Irving Huerta, who were part of Aristegui's investigative team. The reason: the MVS investigative team joined the Wikileaks site, using the MVS name, without permission.  Aristegui was not initially dismissed, but management knew she would not stand for the firing her talented reporters without adequate reason.  So she demanded that the station rescind the firings. Instead, she was shown the door.

So what is it about Mexicoleaks that was so objectionable to MVS Noticias? The site, created by six news organizations, offers a platform for ordinary citizens to help expose official corruption to the media. The tipsters can remain anonymous, which allows citizens to provide information freely.  This is how the process works. Here is an introductory video that the organization posted on its Web site.

Mexicoleaks has opened a Twitter account to make the site known to media savvy Mexicans.
Here are a couple of introductory Teeets.

There is no doubt that Mexican citizens are better off by having the Mexicoleaks option. Elected and appointed officials are now going to have to think twice before taking that bribe or doing that favor for a donor.

-Carlos Navarro

Also in LADB on March 25-27

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Thursday, March 26, 2015

Five Journalists Killed in Paraguay During President Horacio Cartes' Administration

From the time President Horacio Cartes of Paraguay took office in April of 2013, five journalists have been killed in what some Paraguayan leaders are calling a narco-political effort to silence voices of opposition. Andrés Gaudín covered the killing of the fifth and most recent journalist, Gerardo Servia, in last week's issue of NotiSur. "Journalists and campesino groups accuse President Cartes of being a ‘partner and protector of the mafias.’ During a March 6 memorial service for Servián, the secretary-general of the Sindicato de Periodistas de Paraguay (SPP) Santiago Ortiz called Cartes the ‘godfather of these mafia groups’ and said his ‘government of narcopolitics’ is directly to blame for the five journalist killings. ‘Since Cartes took over the presidency, the mafia murders with impunity,’ he said. ‘We’ve got to stop being silent and afraid. We must put an end to narcopolitics. Either that or narcopolitics will put an end to us.’

The repeated killings of journalists and campesinos have also gone unacknowledged by groups such as the Inter American Press Association (IAPA) and Human Rights Watch (HRW), and by regional organizations such as the Organization of American States (OAS) and the Unión de Naciones Suramericanas (UNASUR)."

Despite this apparent lack of attention from others, Reporters Without Borders has taken notice. On their webpage focused on Paraguayan reporters, stories of the five journalists and the broader issues highlighted by their murders are provided for the public, as well as activists, other journalists, and anyone generally interested in the rights of press workers and the freedom of information.

Photo: Reporters without Borders
Gerardo Servian Coronel, a radio journalist in the Paraguayan border town of Zanja Pytá, was assassinated on March 4, 2015, by two men riding a motorcycle near the border city of Ponta Pora. Servian was critical of the local government on his radio program, which was not hard to do in a nation riddled by rampant corruption at the highest levels. Servian’sbrother and fellow journalist Gerardo Servian received numerous death threats after working alongside Santiago Leguizamon. Leguizamon was murdered in 1991 and to this day no one has been held accountable. Servian’s is the 17th murder of a Paraguayan journalist in the last two decades, and the fifth since the election of Horacio Cartes. Reporters Without Borders reports that the vast majority of these murders were reprisals for investigative reporting on the links between organized crime and politics.

Photo: Reporters without Borders
Pablo Medina, a correspondent for Paraguay’s leading daily periodical ABC Color, was murdered on his way back from reporting near the indigenous community of Ko’e Pora on October 16, 2014. Known for covering the drug trade in Paraguay, Medina had received numerous death threats before. His assistant, Antonia Almada, was also fatally wounded. Medina was formerly under police protection, but that protection was lifted in 2013. Reports say that two men stopped his vehicle, asked him to identify himself, and then fatally shot him and his assistant. Medina’s brother and fellow journalist, Salvador Medina, was also murdered in the same region in January of 2001 after covering drug traffickers.

Edgar Fernández Fleitas, a Concepción-based lawyer and presenter of a daily radio program called “Ciudad de la Furia” (City of Fury), was murdered on June 9, 2014, just one month after the murder of fellow journalist Fausto Alcaraz. Fleitas’ radio program openly criticized local government and judicial officials and repeatedly drew attention to their involvement with drug traffickers. Death threats on his life were repeatedly reported to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. A single gunman assassinated Fleitas inside his Concepción office.

Fausto Gabriel Alcaraz, a popular radio journalist who covered drug trafficking and the involvement of government officials in illicit trade on the border town of Pedro Juan Cabaellero, was murdered on May 16, 2014. Reports show that Alcaraz was shot 11 times. Alcaraz often accused officials by name on his program for involvement in illicit trade near the border and in other regions. Pedro Juan Caballero has been the site of at least two other murders of journalists in recent memory, including that of Santiago Leguizamon and the radio director Marcelino Vasquez, whose murder took place just months before Cartes entered office.

Carlos Artaza, a press photographer who had recently been covering the aggressive race gubernatorial race in the state of Amambay, was murdered on April 25, 20013 in the city of Pedro Juan Caballero. The homicide occurred just days after Cartes election, a month after the similar murder of Marcelino Vasquez, and on the 24th anniversary of the murder of Leguizamon in the same city. Other journalists in the area who were also covering the heated race and supporting the left-leaning candidate, Pedro Gonzalez, received death threats on their phone reading, for example, “you are next” in both Spanish and Guaraní. Artaza was shot in his car by two men on a motorcycle.

Paraguay ranks 109 out of 180 countries in The Reporters Without Borders 2015 Press Freedom Index.  The index ranks the performance of 180 countries according to a range of criteria that include media pluralism and independence, respect for the safety and freedom of journalists, and the legislative, institutional and infrastructural environment in which the media operate. Other countries in the Latin America-Caribbean region that rank higher than Paraguay are Costa Rica (16), Uruguay (23), Suriname (29), Belize (30), Eastern Caribbean (37), Chile (43), El Salvador  (45), Haiti (53), Argentina (57), Guyana (62), Dominican Republic (63), Panama (83), Peru (92), Bolivia (94), Brazil (99), and Ecuador (108).  In contrast, Guatemala ranked 124, Colombia 128,  Honduras 132, Venezuela 137, and Mexico 148. 

When examining the situation in Paraguay in particular, we see that the northeastern border departments of Concepción, Canindeyú and Amambay (the location of  Pedro Juan Cabellero) continue to be the region in which the greatest effort to silence reporters is exerted. Comprised mainly of rural communities with small and medium-sized urban centers, this is the region traffickers must pass through when traveling from Asunción to the consumer markets of Brazil.

-Jake Sandler

Also in LADB on March 18-20

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    Friday, March 13, 2015

    Fourteen Years Later, a Verdict Against Chilean Intelligence Officers Implicated in Disappearance of U.S. Citizens

    A judge in Chile has sentenced a pair of former intelligence officers for their roles in the deaths of two US citizens, Charles Horman and Frank Teruggi, who were seized, tortured, and executed shortly after the 1973 coup that ousted Socialist President Salvador Allende (1970-1973) and set in motion a 17-year dictatorship led by Gen. Augusto Pinochet (1973-1990).

    The ruling, issued Jan. 9 but not made public until three weeks later, comes 14 years after investigative Judge Jorge Zepeda first took up the case and more than four decades after the crimes, which were immortalized in the 1982 award-winning Hollywood film Missing, took place.

    Missing, by famed Greek director Costa-Gavras, was based on the book The Execution of Charles Horman: An American Sacrifice, published in 1978. Author Thomas Hauser wrote the book in collaboration with Horman’s widow, Joyce, and father, Ed Horman, who flew to Chile shortly after his son’s disappearance and searched desperately to locate him.  Read Benjamin Witte-Lebhar's full article about the recent judicial decisions in Chile in this week's edition of NotiSur   Below is the trailer to Missing.

    Also in LADB on March 11-13
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    Friday, March 6, 2015

    Multilatinas in Mexico and South America

    When we think about multinational corportations, our thoughts center on European, US, Canadian, or Japanese business enterprises conducting business and investing across borders. A number of Latin America-based companies are also prominent among the businesses that have a presence beyond their home country.  These Latin American mulinationals are often known as multilatinas.  In this week's issue of NotiSur, Andrés Gaudín examines the rapid growth of multilatinas,  based in South America's two largest economies. These include  Brazilian companies Vale, Petrobras, Weg, and Embraer and Argentine companies Tenaris/Ternium, Impsa, and Bagó.  Embraer (ERJ) has become the world's leader in regional jets (fewer than 120 seats). Today, virtually every major U.S. network carrier now includes Embraer jets in its fleet.  In addition to Argentina and Brazil, multilatinas are based in Mexico, Chile, Colombia, Venezuela, Peru, Bolivia, and other countries.  Here is a list of some of the leading multilatinas, courtesy of América Economía.

    Cemex plant, Cheshire, England (Wikimedia Commons)
    CEMEX (Mexico) – Drawing in around US$15 billion annually, CEMEX is ranked as number one on América Economía’s 100 Latin American Multinationals of 2014. CEMEX is a giant in the building and construction materials industry its home country of Mexico and in three other continents. During Presdent Hugo Chávez's administration, Until his death last year, the company was led by Lorenzo Zambrano, whose grandfather founded his cement business in the early 20th century, profiting from the reconstruction of Monterrey after the Mexican Revolution.

    LATAM AIRLINES (Chile) – LATAM Airlines Group is airline holding company with subsidiaries throughout South America. The air carrier was formed in 2010 following the merger of Chile’s LAN and Brazil’s TAM. Annual revenues are over US$13 billion, more than triple that of the next largest airline holding consortium in Latin America, Colombia’s Avianca-TACA group.

    AVIANCA-TACA (Colombia) – Avianca-TACA AirHoldings was also formed in 2010, following the merger of Colombia’s Avianca and El Salvador’s TACA.Avianca-TACA is a subsidiary of Synergy Group, a conglomerate founded and owned by Avianca’s founder, Germán Efromovich, a Bolivian-born son of Polish Jewish immigrants who holds citizenships in Brazil, Colombia, and Poland.

    TELMEX (Mexico) – Mexico’s telecommunications giant has had tight control over the Mexican telecommunications market for years, but its monopoly is coming to an end. Company chairman Carlos Slim Helu, a Mexican of Lebanese descent, and his family has frequently made the Forbes Magazine list of the world's wealthiest individuals.

    GRUPO BIMBO (Mexico) – Mexico’s largest baking company also has a broad presence in global markets.  The company, which owns Thomas' English Muffins and Entenmann's cakes, is evolving into a dominant player in the US bakery market with its planned acquisition of Sara Lee's North American bakery business for US$959 million.

    BRIGHTSTAR (Bolivia) – Bolivia’s only multinational to make an appearance on América Economía's power rankings, this telecomm growing giant was founded by the current CEO of Sprint, Marcelo Claure, in 1997. With headquarters in South Florida, the La Paz native grew Brightstar into a multibillion dollar multinational by focusing on developing markets in Bolivia, Paraguay and the Caribbean during the late 1990s. The company then struck a deal with Motorola Latin America in 2000, which opened up markets in the rest of the region.

    Citgo Station, Tankstelle, Germany (Wikimedia Commons)
    PDVSA (Venezuela) – Petroleos de Venezuela is Venezuela’s state-owned oil and natural gas company. PDVSA’s activities include resource extraction, exploration, refining and international exportation. Founded in 1976 following the nationalization of Venezuela’s oil industry, PDVSA purchased 50% of USA’s Citgo in 1986, and the remainder in 1990.

    SUDAMERICA DE VAPORES (Chile) – Compañia Sudamerica de Vapores (CSAV),  founded in 1872, is the largest shipping company in Latin America and one of the oldest multinationals in the region. CSAV, which has the world’s 20th largest shipping fleet, expanded rapidly after the 1914 opening of the Panama Canal, making large gains on the coastal routes from western South American to Panama. After a century of unprecendented growth, CSAV entered into a merger agreement with German shipping giant Hapag-Lloyd, another shipping firm that earned its stripes during the global trade during World War I.

    Wikimedia Commons
    AJEGROUP (Peru) – Ranked number 10 on América Economía's power rankings, this company is of two Peruvian multinationals to appear on the list, Ajegroup is dedicated to the production and distribution of alcoholic and soft drink beverages. The company's Agua Cielo brand of bottled water is sold widely throughout Latin America and its Big Cola soft drink is a popular product in India.

    GRUMA (Mexico) – The world’s largest producer of corn and flour tortillas is headquartered in San Pedro Garza García, just outside of Monterrey. Gruma owns a variety of brand names that sell well in US, China, England, Central America, and Venezuela. The Mexican multilatina has drawn wide attention in global stock markets, as Gruma's shares gain value in accordance with the worldwide increase in tortilla consumption.

    -Jake Sandler

    Also in LADB on March 4-6 
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