Category Archives: Announcement

Rethinking the Notion of Renewable Energies

Lifted from the excellent consciousness of sheep blog…..

For all practical purposes, solar energy (along with the wind, waves and tides that it drives) is unending.  Or, to put it more starkly, the odds of human beings being around to witness the day when solar energy no longer exists are staggeringly low.  The same, of course, cannot be said for the technologies that humans have developed to harvest this energy.  Indeed, the term “renewable” is among the greatest PR confidence tricks ever to be played upon an unsuspecting public, since solar panels and wind (and tidal and wave) turbines are very much a product of and dependent upon the fossil carbon economy.

Until now, this inconvenient truth has not been seen as a problem because our attention has been focussed upon the need to lower our dependency on fossil carbon fuels (coal, gas and oil).  In developed states like Germany, the UK and some of the states within the USA, wind and solar power have reduced the consumption of coal-generated electricity.  However, the impact of so-called renewables on global energy consumption remains negligible; accounting for less than three percent of total energy consumption worldwide.

A bigger problem may, however, be looming as a result of the lack of renewability of the renewable energy technologies themselves.  This is because solar panels and wind turbines do not follow the principles of the emerging “circular economy” model in which products are meant to be largely reusable, if not entirely renewable.

According to proponents of the circular economy model such as the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, the old fossil carbon economy is based on a linear process in which raw materials and energy are used to manufacture goods that are used and then discarded:

This approach may have been acceptable a century ago when there were less than two billion humans on the planet and when consumption was largely limited to food and clothing.  However, as the population increased, mass consumption took off and the impact of our activities on the environment became increasingly obvious, it became clear that there is no “away” where we can dispose of all of our unwanted waste.  The result was the shift to what was optimistically referred to as “recycling.”  However, most of what we call recycling today is actually “down-cycling” – converting relatively high value goods into relatively low value materials:

The problem with this approach is that the cost of separating small volumes of high-value materials (such as the gold in electrical circuits) is far higher than the cost of mining and refining them from scratch.  As a result, most recycling involves the recovery of large volumes of relatively low value materials like aluminium, steel and PET plastic.  The remainder of the waste stream ends up in landfill or, in the case of toxic and hazardous products in special storage facilities.

In a circular economy, products would be designed as far as possible to be reused, bring them closer to what might realistically be called “renewable” – allowing that the second law of thermodynamics traps us into producing some waste irrespective of what we do:

Contrary to the “renewables” label, it turns out that solar panels and wind turbines are anything but.  They are dependent upon raw resources and fossil carbon fuels in their manufacture and, until recently, little thought had been put into how to dispose of them at the end of their working lives.  Since both wind turbines and solar panels contain hazardous materials, they cannot simply be dumped in landfill.  However, their composition makes them – at least for now – unsuited to the down-cycling processes employed by commercial recycling facilities.

While solar panels have more hazardous materials than wind turbines, they may prove to be more amenable to down-cycling, since the process of dismantling a solar panel is at least technically possible.  With wind turbines it is a different matter, as Alex Reichmuth at Basler Zeitung notes:

“The German Wind Energy Association estimates that by 2023 around 14,000 MW of installed capacity will lose production, which is more than a quarter of German wind power capacity on land. How many plants actually go off the grid depends on the future electricity price. If this remains as deep as it is today, more plants could be shut down than newly built.

“However, the dismantling of wind turbines is not without its pitfalls. Today, old plants can still be sold with profit to other parts of the world, such as Eastern Europe, Russia or North Africa, where they will continue to be used. But the supply of well-maintained old facilities is rising and should soon surpass demand. Then only the dismantling of plants remains…

“Although the material of steel parts or copper pipes is very good recyclable. However, one problem is the rotor blades, which consist of a mixture of glass and carbon fibers and are glued with polyester resins.”

According to Reichmuth, even incinerating the rotor blades will cause problems because this will block the filters used in waste incineration plants to prevent toxins being discharged into the atmosphere.  However, the removal of the concrete and steel bases on which the turbines stand may prove to be the bigger economic headache:

“In a large plant, this base can quickly cover more than 3,000 tons of reinforced concrete and often reach more than twenty meters deep into the ground… The complete removal of the concrete base can quickly cost hundreds of thousands of euros.”

It is this economic issue that is likely to scupper attempts to develop a solar panel recycling industry.  In a recent paper in the International Journal of Photoenergy, D’Adamo et. al. conclude that while technically possible, current recycling processes are too expensive to be commercially viable.  As Nate Berg at Ensia explains:

“Part of the problem is that solar panels are complicated to recycle. They’re made of many materials, some hazardous, and assembled with adhesives and sealants that make breaking them apart challenging.

“’The longevity of these panels, the way they’re put together and how they make them make it inherently difficult to, to use a term, de-manufacture,’ says Mark Robards, director of special projects for ECS Refining, one of the largest electronics recyclers in the U.S. The panels are torn apart mechanically and broken down with acids to separate out the crystalline silicon, the semiconducting material used by most photovoltaic manufacturers. Heat systems are used to burn up the adhesives that bind them to their armatures, and acidic hydro-metallurgical systems are used to separate precious metals.

“Robards says nearly 75 percent of the material that gets separated out is glass, which is easy to recycle into new products but also has a very low resale value…”

Ironically, manufacturers’ efforts to drive down the price of solar panels make recycling them even more difficult by reducing the amount of expensive materials like silver and copper for which there is demand in recycling.

In Europe, regulations for the disposal of electrical waste were amended in 2012 to incorporate solar panels.  This means that the cost of disposing used solar panels rests with the manufacturer.  No such legislation exists elsewhere.  Nor is it clear whether those costs will be absorbed by the manufacturer or passed on to consumers.

Since only the oldest solar panels and wind turbines have to be disposed of at present, it might be that someone will figure out how to streamline the down-cycling process.  As far more systems come to the end of their life in the next decade, volume may help drive down costs.  However, we cannot bank on this.  The energy and materials required to dismantle these technologies may well prove more expensive than the value of the recovered materials.  As Kelly Pickerel at Solar Power World concedes:

“System owners recycle their panels in Europe because they are required to. Panel recycling in an unregulated market (like the United States) will only work if there is value in the product. The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) detailed solar panel compositions in a 2016 report and found that c-Si modules contained about 76% glass, 10% polymer (encapsulant and backsheet), 8% aluminum (mostly the frame), 5% silicon, 1% copper and less than 0.1% of silver, tin and lead. As new technologies are adopted, the percentage of glass is expected to increase while aluminum and polymers will decrease, most likely because of dual-glass bifacial designs and frameless models.

“CIGS thin-film modules are composed of 89% glass, 7% aluminum and 4% polymers. The small percentages of semiconductors and other metals include copper, indium, gallium and selenium. CdTe thin-film is about 97% glass and 3% polymer, with other metals including nickel, zinc, tin and cadmium telluride.

“There’s just not a large amount of money-making salvageable parts on any type of solar panel. That’s why regulations have made such a difference in Europe.”

Ultimately, even down-cycling these supposedly “renewable” technologies will require state intervention.  Or, to put it another way, the public – either as consumers or taxpayers – are going to have to pick up the tab in the same way as they are currently subsidising fossil carbon fuels and nuclear.  The question that the proponents of these technologies dare not ask, is how far electorates are prepared to put up with these increasing costs before they turn to politicians out of the Donald Trump/ Malcolm Turnbull stable who promise the cheapest energy irrespective of its environmental impact.

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More Mexican Women Running for Office

During the 2018 elections in Mexico a phenomenon will occur in Jalisco that surely has not happened in the electoral life of Mexico, which incidentally, began in April 1812 with the election of political representatives through the vote exclusively of men of legal age, women did not have voting rights.

206 years later things are a lot different in Jalisco for women in politics. From the electoral political reforms approved in the Jalisco Congress during 2017, political parties are obliged to respect equality guidelines. From the obligation, more participation of women in politics this year emerged.

Now, there are six municipalities in the state of Jalisco in which there are only women as candidates for their towns mayor. These are: Amecueca, Atenguillo, Chimaltitán, Huejúcar, San Martín de Bolaños and Valle de Guadalupe.

During 2012, none of the 125 municipalities had an all female ticket for mayor, now there are six. On the other hand, the majority participation of men as standard-bearers of the political parties in the municipalities was notorious six years ago. In 84 municipalities there were only male candidates, no women. Now in 2018 there are only five municipalities with all male tickets: La Barca, Tequila, Tala, Talpa and Zapopan.

The participation of women as political candidates in municipality elections are growing in the state. In 114 municipalities there are participation of women and men, of which, in 29 only one woman candidate is registered and in 22 municipalities there is only one man among the possibilities of election.

The reform approved last year contemplates that political parties or coalitions had to nominate 50 percent of women: “one of the seats in the Senate, twenty of the local councils by relative majority, ten of the twenty federal councils, 63 of the 125 municipal presidencies, 63 of the 125 syndicates and 613 of the 1,226 regidurías”, this taking into account that not all political parties have candidates in the 125 municipalities.”

In the majority of the municipalities there are at least three candidates. The municipality of Zapopan is the one that has the most applicants with a total of ten. In the municipal territory that has fewer candidates is Mixtlán with only two candidates: Eva María Rubio Becerra for the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and Arturo Rubio González for the New Alliance Party (Panal).

Revisiting Immigration/Refugee Issue: Information

1. Who gets asylum?

Under international law, countries must offer asylum to migrants who can prove they have a “credible fear” of certain kinds of violence at home.

“The rights of refugees – those forced to leave their country because of war or persecution – are enshrined in the 1951 Convention for Refugees and its subsequent 1967 protocol,” explains Parvati Nair of the United Nations University.

The Trump administration asserts that the caravan members are not refugees but criminals committing immigration fraud.

The boundary between migrant and refugee can indeed be blurry, Nair says. “Many displaced people today defy the parameters used by policymakers to define who is entitled to what rights,” which are more than a half-century old.

2. Are Central Americans migrants or refugees?

Trump’s restrictive approach to immigration evidently hinges on a belief that most people crossing the border are economic migrants from Mexico.

“They’re taking our manufacturing jobs,” he said in 2015. “They’re taking our money.”

That perception is out of date, says Jonathan Hiskey, a migration scholar at Vanderbilt University.

“An increasing number of individuals are now arriving at the U.S. southwest border because of crime, violence and insecurity in Central America,” Hiskey says.

With 60 murders per 100,000 people in 2017, El Salvador was the deadliest places in the world that was not at war. Almost 4,000 people were killed there last year.

Honduras’ murder rate has dropped markedly in recent years, but with 42.8 murders per 100,000 people in 2017, it is still one of the world’s most dangerous places.

Hiskey’s research shows that fear – not economic opportunity – is what drives many migrants to leave home.

“The strongest predictor of someone having an ‘intent to emigrate,’” he writes, “was whether they had been the victim of crime multiple times in the previous 12 months.”

Rather than trying to sneak across the U.S. border, Hiskey says that many of these migrants voluntarily surrender and request asylum in the United States.

3. What are Central Americans fleeing?

Many of the Central American asylum seekers now stuck in Tijuana have told reporters that their lives were threatened by gangs like MS-13. Some have family members who have been killed.

MS-13 first appeared as a street gang in Los Angeles during the 1980s. It was not until nearly two decades later, in the early 2000s, that the group expanded into Central America, says Florida International University professor José Miguel Cruz.

As rival Salvadoran gangs from LA did likewise, crime across Central American cities increased. Police in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras began to crack down on gang activity.

Police began to crack downs on gang violence in the early 2000s, leading violence to spiral. REUTERS/Jose Cabezas

“In El Salvador, the spiritual homeland of MS-13, the police arrested nearly 31,000 young people from 2003 to 2005,” Cruz writes.

As Central American gangs grew stronger, they began fighting to expand their territorial control across the region. Beginning in 2010, these turf wars contributed to an astronomical rise in violence across the region.

“El Salvador went from a homicide rate of 36.9 murders per 100,000 inhabitants in 2000 to 64.4 in 2006 and 70.9 in 2009,” says Cruz. “The same thing happened in Honduras and Guatemala, where the rivalry between MS-13 and the Eighteenth Street Gang descended into a succession of local street wars.”

4. Why can’t their governments protect them?

Brutal gangs are not the sole cause of Central America’s violence, Cruz cautions. Rather, they are “a symptom of a far more critical issue plaguing the region – namely, corruption.”

Prosecutors in Honduras and El Salvador have discovered numerous financial links between MS-13 and high-ranking government officials.

“They shield criminal organizations in exchange for economic support and political backing in gang-controlled barrios,” explains Cruz. These illicit relationships have “shattered most efforts to build the kinds of criminal justice institutions necessary to support a democratic society.”

Indictments for government corruption are rare in Central America. As a result, criminals can extort, threaten and kill with impunity. In 2014, 99 percent of all murders in Honduras went unsolved.

5. What is Mexico’s role?

Fleeing these conditions, hundreds of thousands of Central Americans flee for the United States each year. To get there, they must cross Mexico, which does not criminalize undocumented border crossings into its territory.

But since 2014 the U.S. has put increasing pressure on the Mexican government to increase immigration enforcement and stop Central American migrants before they reach the U.S.-Mexico border, writes Luís Gómez Romero, a professor at Australia’s University of Wollongong.

In response, Mexico has beefed up security along its border with Guatemala, “increased patrols throughout areas where migrants travel and conducted controversial raids,” Gómez Romero says.

Increased enforcement has changed migration routes but not deterred migrants. In 2013, Mexico deported 80,709 immigrants, most of them Central American. In 2016, it sent an estimated 165,000 people – including thousands who had requested asylum – back home.

Mexico Reviewing Cooperation with U.S.

Mexico said on Monday it will review all forms of cooperation with the United States, including efforts to combat powerful drug cartels, in a sign of mounting frustration over President Donald Trump’s antagonistic attitude toward the country.

President Enrique Pena Nieto gave the order to his cabinet in a meeting on Sunday after a week of heightened bilateral tensions, during which he rebuked Trump for repeatedly stoking conflict and chafing against Mexico.

Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray said the review would cover all aspects of the relationship, ranging from border security and migration to trade and the fight against drug gangs.

Mexico has long been identified as the leading transshipment point for illicit drugs entering the U.S. market.

Noting that no decision had yet been made to suspend or reduce collaboration, Videgaray said the government had to act given the degree of public support that had been expressed in Mexico for Pena Nieto’s tougher stance.

“The key thing here is that it’s not just words. This stance needs to have practical consequences,” said Videgaray, who as recently as February had said Mexico’s relationship with the United States was closer than it had been with previous governments.

The review will last “a few weeks” and take place under the aegis of the foreign ministry, Videgaray said. After that, Pena Nieto would make decisions based on the “very public, notorious differences we have today with the United States,” he said.

White House spokeswoman Helen Aguirre Ferre said the U.S. administration welcomed the review of cooperation and “continues to do the same with Mexico.” The two nations were working together on numerous issues of mutual interest, she added.

“President Trump looks forward to working with the president of Mexico and other leaders of the Western Hemisphere who share our democratic values and celebrate the promotion of free and fair trade at the Summit of the Americas in Peru,” she said.

The summit takes place in Lima on April 13-14, which President Trump announced he would not be attending due to dealing with response to Syria chemical attack.

The Mexican government’s decision was backed by opposition lawmakers, who said it vindicated the Senate’s call last week for the government to end cooperation on migration and security with the United States in response to Trump deploying the National Guard on the U.S.-Mexico border.

“Donald Trump has to understand that he must stop threatening, blackmailing and lying in the relationship if he wants Mexico to carry on cooperating on things that matter to him,” said Laura Rojas, head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a member of the opposition National Action Party.

After Trump set out his National Guard plans, Pena Nieto chided him in unusually forthright terms, telling him not to take out his domestic policy “frustration” on Mexico.

The border plan took shape after Trump accused Mexico of doing next to “nothing” to stop illegal immigrants reaching the United States when news broke of a “caravan” of Central Americans organized by a human rights group moving north.

Trump again threatened to scrap the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and the caravan quickly began dispersing when Mexican authorities moved in to register the migrants.

Trump, who launched his election campaign in 2015 by calling Mexicans who come to the United States rapists, has caused profound anger in Mexico with his repeated broadsides on trade and migration, as well as his plans for a southern border wall.

The latest Trump spat comes as Mexico, the United States and Canada are at a crucial phase in talks to rework NAFTA. The Mexican government has long said the renegotiation should be couched within a review of the entire relationship.

Many Mexicans would like to see the government take a tougher line with the U.S. president. The Mexican public is far more united in its antipathy toward Trump than it is in support of its own leading politicians.

Mexico’s next presidential election takes place on July 1, and the main candidates have all upbraided Trump for his digs against the country. The candidate of the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) is in third place in most polls.

Pena Nieto, who cannot stand for re-election, has one of the lowest approval ratings of any modern Mexican president, but tends to benefit from taking a firm stand against Trump.

Despite heated public rhetoric, some senior Mexican officials say privately they believe Trump’s Twitter attacks in the past week were more intended to fire up his voter base and attack his domestic opponents than hurt Mexico.

Videgaray said NAFTA talks would continue at the Summit of the Americas, which government officials responsible for the renegotiation are expected to attend.

Reporting by Dave Graham; Additional reporting by Roberta Rampton and Lesley Wroughton in Washington and Gabriel Stargardter in Mexico City; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel, Tom Brown and Cynthia Osterman

Mexico’s women’s team is making world rugby history

By Emily Green

Rugby is a game that favors big, strong players who can tackle their opponents to the ground. The Mexican women’s national team isn’t big. In their green, white and red uniforms, the women look tiny next to some of their competitors.

But at an international qualifying tournament in Mexico City last year, the women showed off their biggest asset: speed. Over and over, they outran their rivals — so much so that they won the tournament and earned a spot in this year’s rugby sevens World Cup, which will be held in San Francisco in July.

As the Mexican women clinched the victory, the crowd of approximately 500 people clapped wildly and began singing the popular song “Cielito Lindo.”

This triumph was unimaginable just five years ago. Ten years ago, it would have been straight up laughable.

Heriberto Lachica, Mexico’s national development manager for rugby, said that a decade ago there was hardly a local rugby team to be found in Mexico, men or women’s. That changed about five years ago when rugby was added to the country’s annual youth Olympics tournament. Half a dozen women’s teams formed at the time. Fast-forward to today and there are around 50 women’s rugby teams in Mexico, Lachica said.

The sport’s growth in Mexico corresponds with a broader push to develop the game internationally and expand its popularity beyond traditional strongholds like England and former British colonies.

It was included in the 2016 Olympics for the first time since 1924. And the number of players climbed from 5.5 million in 2012 to 8.5 million in 2016, according to the World Rugby organization. A substantial part of that growth occurred in Asia and Latin America, said the organization’s Jen Gray, who oversees operations in North America.

“The challenge that we have is really just getting eyeballs on the sport and then from there converting people into playing,” she said.

That was the case for many of the women on Mexico’s national team, who were exposed to the sport in college. Alma Jiménez had never even heard of rugby before her college team asked her to join. She said she had played football — the American kind — in high school, but when she first saw a rugby game she was skeptical.

“The sport seemed really weird and funny to me,” she recalled. “The way people were lifted in the air and all the tackling. But I am someone who really likes contact in sports, and it fascinated me. After playing my first game, I was hooked.”

Over the next few years, Jiménez often ended up training with men because there weren’t a lot of women rugby players. She said rugby has taught her to be strong, physically and emotionally.

“In rugby, women, like men, can show what they are made of. There’s a lot of machismo in Mexico. But the world of rugby values respect, discipline, solidarity, and it doesn’t matter if you are a man, women, big, tall, fat or skinny — in rugby everyone can play.”

The growth of women’s rugby in Mexico underscores the shifting gender dynamics in Mexico.

Just last year, the country for the first time started a professional women’s soccer league. The league has turned into a big success and attracted tens of thousands of fans to its championship game.

Rugby has a long ways to go before it reaches anywhere near that kind of popularity, but Lachica said the sport nonetheless exemplifies female empowerment.

The Mexico women’s rugby team celebrates. Credit: Courtesy of Robin MacDowell

“When we watch women playing rugby — they’re very fierce. That machista element is just out of the picture. So we hope that because more women are playing it will eventually impact the culture of sports.”

Robin MacDowell, the coach of the Mexican women’s team, echoed that sentiment. He pointed to one lanky player on the team and said her mom probably wanted her to be a model. She wanted to play rugby instead.

“Any girl that plays rugby knows that she can tackle the world. It definitely gives women confidence.”

MacDowell was playing on an elite Canadian team when he met one of the Mexican players at a tournament. She asked MacDowell if he would help coach the women’s national team. That was six years ago. He started out as an assistant and took over as head coach last year. MacDowell still lives in Canada and flies down to Mexico regularly to train the team.

As the women celebrated the World Cup-qualifying victory, he beamed with happiness and pride.

“No Mexican team, men or women’s, have ever qualified for something this big. This is like, Mexican sport history. This is world rugby history. This is like the best day of my life.”

A record 29,000 Mexicans were murdered last year – can soldiers stop the bloodshed?

By —Luis Gómez Romero

Senior Lecturer in Human Rights, Constitutional Law and Legal Theory, University of Wollongong, Australia.

Mexico’s war on drugs has left 234,966 people dead in the last 11 years. In 2017 alone, the country saw some 29,000 murders, the highest annual tally since such record-keeping began in 1997.

For years, incensed Mexicans have demanded that President Enrique Peña Nieto – now in the final stretch of his six-year term – take action. Recently, lawmakers from his Revolutionary Institutional Party proposed a controversial solution: Put Mexico’s military on the streets to fight crime.

Despite protests and warnings from human rights advocates, who say the law will actually escalate violence, on Dec. 15, 2017, the Mexican Senate approved the Internal Security Law.

Just before Christmas, Peña Nieto signed the legislation into law. In response, activists poured red paint in fountains across Mexico City to symbolize the bloodshed it would usher in.

A military history of massacres

I’ve been studying the violence in my home country for decades. While something must be done to stem the bloodshed, history shows that militarizing law enforcement will hurt rather than help.

Mexico’s military has actually been fighting crime informally for over a decade. In 2006, former President Felipe Calderón sent 6,500 soldiers to battle cartels in the state of Michoacán. And they never really stopped.

The consequences have been grave. Between 2012 and 2016, Mexico’s attorney general launched 505 investigations into alleged human rights abuses – including torture and forced disappearances – committed by the military.

In 2014, soldiers shot 22 unarmed citizens in the town of Tlatlaya. Later that year, the army was allegedly involved in the unsolved kidnapping of 43 students from a teachers college in southern Mexico.

Mexico’s army was allegedly involved in the disappearance of 43 students in 2014. The case remains unsolved. Jose Cabezas/Reuters

Much of the military’s extrajudicial violence is undocumented and investigations move slowly, so crimes by the armed forces have been difficult to prosecute. In 11 years, only 16 soldiers have been convicted of human rights abuses in civilian courts.

Supporters of the Internal Security Law, including Secretary of Defense Gen. Salvador Cienfuegos, say the new law will right this wrong. By providing a legal framework for the armed forces to take on law enforcement duties, it ensures stricter regulation and more oversight.

Security experts, on the other hand, call the Internal Security Law dangerous, saying it delays much-needed police reforms and violates the Mexican Constitution, which prohibits using the military for Mexico’s public security.

The authoritarian connection

The idea of “internal security” has a dark genealogy in Mexican law. It first appeared just after the country’s independence from Spain, in 1822. According to the short-lived Emperor Agustín de Iturbide, his government had the right to protect “the internal order and the external security” of the fledgling nation.

In practice, that meant persecuting those who had opposed Iturbide’s dissolution of Congress and proclamation of himself as Mexico’s new emperor.

Authoritarian regimes have since invoked “internal security” – which made its way into the country’s 1917 constitution – to fight all sorts of rebels, from revolutionaries to student liberals to indigenous discontents.

The new Internal Security Law continues this tradition, giving the president the right to order federal authorities, including the army and the navy, to intervene when other federal and local forces cannot handle certain “threats to internal security.”

Built-in safeguards are supposed to prevent the government from abusing this power. Within 72 hours of such a threat emerging, the president must publish a “designation of protection” that details the specific place and limited time frame of military occupation.

In practice, though, these requirements are optional. In cases of “grave danger,” the law says, the president can take “immediate action.”

The new law contains other concerning contradictions. One article states that peaceful protests do not constitute a threat to Mexico’s internal security. This should avoid a repeat of the 1968 Tlatelolco massacre, in which soldiers in Mexico City gunned down hundreds of student demonstrators.

But another article of the law may undermine that provision by deeming “controlling, repelling or neutralizing acts of resistance” to be a legitimate use of military force.

The most challenged law

Mexican human rights advocates aren’t the only ones alarmed by the new law. In December, both the United Nations and Amnesty International asked the president to veto it.

Instead, Peña Nieto approved the law but declared that it would not be enforced until the Supreme Court can review its constitutionality.

The Supreme Court has now received thousands of legal challenges to the Internal Security Law. Suits alleging that the law encroaches on Mexicans’ basic rights were filed by Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission, 188 congressmen and 43 senators. More than 12,000 citizens have also submitted individual complaints on similar grounds. On Feb. 12, the hugely popular governor of Chihuahua, Javier Corral, traveled to Mexico City to personally file a claim in the name of the people of his state.

No date has yet been set for the 11 Supreme Court justices to hear arguments.

The problem with the police

Another consequence of the Internal Security Law, in my analysis, is that it will further weaken Mexico’s already troubled police force.

According to a December 2017 government report, Mexico has just 0.8 police officers per 1,000 inhabitants – less than half what the U.N. – recommends.

The report also notes that just 1 in 4 officers has received sufficient training. And out of 39 police academies, only 6 satisfy the minimum conditions – for example, dormitories, medical services or training infrastructure – to be considered fully functional.

Mexico’s police are also widely perceived as corrupt and ineffective. In part, that’s due to their low salaries. Currently, officers in poor states like Chiapas and Tabasco earn about half the federally recommended minimum monthly salary of 9,993 pesos, or US$500.

To supplement their poverty wages, as Mexicans well know, many police officers have traditionally turned to petty bribery. More recently, some police have gotten involved in more lucrative criminal activity, working with the same drug cartels they’re supposed to be fighting.

Successive Mexican governments have used the shortcomings in the police force to justify sending in soldiers and marines, claiming it’s a provisional measure to get crime under control while the police are professionalized. The new law has turned this temporary solution into national policy.

A spectacular failure

The military is not exempt from corruption.

The brutal Zetas cartel, infamous for beheadings and indiscriminate slaughter, was originally formed by deserters of the Mexican army’s elite special forces.

The claim that the military can keep Mexicans safe was recently put to its first test. In January President Peña Nieto had to cancel a trip to the city of Reynosa, in Tamaulipas state, where criminal groups have been violently clashing. The army said it could not guarantee his safety there.

If the military cannot even protect the president, Mexicans ask, what hope do the people have?

7.5 Magnitud Quake Hits Oaxaca

–AP News Service

The U.S. Geological Survey put today’s quake at a preliminary magnitude 7.2 and said its epicenter was 33 miles (53 kilometers) northeast of Pinotepa in Oaxaca state. It had a depth of 15 miles (24 kilometers).

The quake was felt as far as Puerto Vallarta with reports of buildings swaying. Guests at the Grand Venetian Puerto Vallarta reported the building swaying as some guests evacuated. Others in the area reported beds shaking and lights swaying. No reports of damage or injury at this time.

This is the second earthquake felt in Puerto Vallarta in the last week.

Crowds of people gathered on Mexico City’s central Reforma Avenue as well as on streets in Oaxaca state’s capital, nearer the quake’s epicenter, which was in a rural area close to Mexico’s Pacific coast and the border with Guerrero state.

“It was awful,” said Mercedes Rojas Huerta, 57, who was sitting on a bench outside her home in Mexico City’s trendy Condesa district, too frightened to go back inside. “It started to shake; the cars were going here and there. What do I do?”

She said she was still scared thinking of the Sept. 19 earthquake that caused 228 deaths in the capital and 141 more in nearby states. Many buildings in Mexico City are still damaged from that quake.

Mexican Civil Protection chief Luis Felipe Puente tweeted that there were no immediate reports of damages from the quake. The Oaxaca state government said via Twitter that only material damages were reported near Pinotepa and Santiago Jamiltepec, but that shelters were opened for those fleeing damaged homes.

The Mexico City Red Cross said via Twitter that the facade of a building collapsed in Mexico City’s Condesa neighborhood, which was hit hard on Sept. 19. A video included showed people walking through a dust cloud. But reporters at the scene later found no evidence of a collapse at the location given.

About an hour after the quake, a magnitude 5.8 aftershock also centered in Oaxaca caused tall buildings in Mexico City to briefly sway again.

USGS seismologist Paul Earle said Friday’s earthquake appeared to be a separate temblor, rather than an aftershock of a Sept. 8 earthquake also centered in Oaxaca, which registered a magnitude of 8.2. The Sept. 19 earthquake struck closer to Mexico City.

The Sept. 8 quake killed nearly 100 people in Oaxaca and neighboring Chiapas, but was centered about 273 miles (440 kilometers) southwest of Friday’s earthquake, Earle said.

In Mexico’s capital, frightened residents flooded into the streets in Condesa, including one unidentified woman wrapped in just a towel, but there were no immediate signs of damage.

“I’m scared,” said Rojas Huerta, recalling five months ago when buildings fell as she ran barefoot into the street. “The house is old.”

Annual Valentine’s Day Brunch Reminder

Remember to mark your calendars for Wednesday, February 14, when EDR Las Hermanas communities will host the annual V-Day Brunch.

Time: 9:30 am –1 or 2 pm

Location: El Dorado Ranch. Los Viajeros North. 6100-3113 –Casa de las Tortugas Viejas. L&L’s place.

Directions:

  1. Enter through the main MOUNTAIN side gates of EDR (next to the Pemex on highway 5).
  2. Go straight up Saltito Road heading towards the mountains for approximately 3 Miles. Look for signage for the “Los Viajeros” solar communities.
  3. Look for sign that says Road 22 (cerro Feliz) on the right hand side of Saltito Road. Turn right on Road 22 (north). Cross the “inside” road or “frontage” road. Turn left immediately past the “inside” road.
  4. Look for sign that says Road 23 (cerro encantada). Turn right. Look for white motor home and rainbow flag. — sounds complicated… but, it’s not, honestly.

What to bring:

  • yourselves and something to drink if you don’t want coffee, Bloody Caesar, or Mimosas!
  • We will have ice and an ice chest for other beverages.
  • Sunscreen and a hat — if it’s going to be a sunny and a scorcher.
  • We should have plenty of chairs.
  • Books and videos if you want to be part of the book/video exchange.
  • IF you are desperate to make something for the brunch, or simply want to try out a new recipe on us, please feel free to bring it. Otherwise, we’ve got it covered.

If you or someone you know is NOT a property owner at EDR and planning to attend, PLEASE let me know ASAP so I can turn a list into the main gate. If this isn’t done, they will have to have the guard call me from the guard house: 687-307-6138 and tell the guard they are visiting Linda Whedbee, 6100-3113.PLEASE SHARE THIS INFORMATION WITH FAMILY SISTERS!!

Annual Valentine’s Day Brunch

Mark your calendars for the annual Las Hermanas Valentine’s Day Brunch to be held Wednesday, February 14. Same place: El Dorado Ranch, Los Viajeros North, 31-13, Crones’ Cantina off of Saltito Rd, on Road 23. Time: 9:30 until ? (Depending on heat and wind.).

This year we will be missing a few of our usuals, therefore we hope some of you can volunteer to add a favorite Brunch recipe to the table. If you can, could you please let us know in person, an IM or phone: (US) 970-213-1328, 970-98&-2929–or–(MX) 686-307-6138.

Sharron won’t be here this year. Lynda has graciously agreed to tend bar in her absence. We’ll have ice chests for ice and other beverages. No need to bring a chair. Well-behaved dogs are welcome–water will be provided.

Questions? Don’t hesitate to ask. Look forward to seeing everyone!

Solidarity with US Women’s Anniversary March

Live stream

https://www.facebook.com/wandercrones/videos/10211276759099270/

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