The death toll after an attempted prison break in north-central Mexico's Durango state on Dec. 18 has risen to at least 23. Nine guards and 14 inmates were killed in clashes at the Social Reinsertion Center (CERESO) Number 2 in the city of Gómez Palacio. The facility's guards fired in the air to stop the jailbreak, and prisoners returned fire at the watchtowers and guard areas. Authorities are now investigating how the prisoners got hold of the weapons. The CERESO has been seized by the military, and the prisoners all relocated while the investigation is underway. CERESO Number 2 also made headlines in 2010 when the facility's warden was himself imprisoned after it emerged that inmates were allowed to borrow weapons from guards and leave the prison at night to carry out murders against gangland rivals. (La Jornada, Dec. 20; LAT, Dec. 19; Global Post, Dec. 18)
The London-based corporation HSBC, Europe's largest bank, will pay the US government $1.92 billion in fines for its failure to prevent money laundering through some of its affiliates, including its Mexican branch, US assistant attorney general Lanny Breuer announced at a press conference in Brooklyn on Dec. 11. However, the US Justice Department has decided not to bring criminal charges against the bank. Breuer noted that bank executives faced some penalties. "HSBC has replaced virtually all of its senior management," he said, "and agreed to partially defer bonus compensation for its most senior officials" over a five-year period.
New Age tourists will be flocking to Mexico's Yucatan Penninsula this week for the "end of the Maya calendar" (sic). But Yucatecan Maya elder José Manrique Esquivel protests that he and his followers will be barred from performing ceremonies at the peninsula's ancient Maya sites. "We would like to do these ceremonies in the archaeological sites, but unfortunately they won't let us enter," Esquivel told the AP. "It makes us angry, but that's the way it is... We perform our rituals in patios, in fields, in vacant lots, wherever we can." Francisco de Anda, press director for the government's National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), offers two reasons for the ban: "In part it is for visitor safety, and also for preservation of the sites, especially on dates when there are massive numbers of visitors... Many of the groups that want to hold ceremonies bring braziers and want to burn incense, and that simply isn't allowed."
A four-justice panel of Mexico's Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation (SCJN) decided unanimously on Dec. 5 to uphold a challenge that three same-sex couples brought against the marriage law in the southern state of Oaxaca. State authorities had refused to marry the couples last year under Oaxaca Civil Code Article 143, which defines marriage as "a civil contract carried out between one man and one woman, who join together to perpetuate the species and to provide mutual aid." The justices ruled that the requirement "to procreate to perpetuate the species violates the constitutional principle of self-determination of persons and the right of each individual to the free development of personality." The SCJN ordered the Oaxaca Civil Registry to act on the applications the three couples made for marriage authorization and not to discriminate against them.
On Dec. 9 Mexican authorities released 56 of the 69 people who had been in detention for more than a week on suspicion of "attacking public peace" during protests in Mexico City against the inauguration of President Enrique Peña Nieto. A total of 106 were reportedly arrested on a day that included violent confrontations between police and protesters and widespread property destruction, but 28 were quickly released. Judge María del Carmen Mora Brito of the Federal District (DF) court system ordered the Dec. 9 releases after "analyzing videos, testimonies and expert witnesses' reports," the DF Superior Court of Justice (TSJDF) announced in a communiqué. (Europa Press, Dec. 10)
Protests against Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto during his inauguration on Dec. 1 quickly turned into violent confrontations between police and demonstrators that disrupted much of downtown Mexico City. The protests were called by the National Convention Against the Imposition, a coalition of groups holding that Peña Nieto's election last July was manipulated, and #YoSoy132 ("I'm number 132"), a student movement that arose in the spring in response to the election campaign. But masked youths, many of them wearing black t-shirts with anarchist symbols, quickly became the center of attention at the Dec. 1 demonstration.
Juventina Villa Mojica, an environmental activist in the village of Coyuca de Catalán, in Mexico's southern state of Guerrero, was murdered along with her 10-year-old son on Nov. 28, in a mountaintop attack by up to 30 gunmen. Villa had ridden in an all-terrain vehicle with her two children up a mountain to get a cellphone signal, as there are no telephones in the village. Her seven-year-old daughter survived unharmed. State prosecutors report that the ambush took place despite the presence of 10 state police officers who had been assigned to protect her following death threats on Villa and deadly attacks on her family members. Manuel Olivares Hernández, director of the local Centro Morelos human rights group said Villa was targeted by narco gangs for her efforts to protect the forest. "It's a virgin area with rich forest areas, and the main interest of drug traffickers is cutting down the trees so that once it is deforested they can expand their drug fields," Olivares said.
A total of 19 bodies have been found in clandestine graves in northern Mexico's Chihuahua state, officials from the state prosecutor's office said Nov. 26. The first 11 were discovered in what was described as a deserted area of La Colorada ranch, in the community of Ejido Jesús Carranza, 40 kilometers southeast of Ciudad Juárez near the Texas border. The bodies were said to be two years old. The victims were asphyxiated, shot or beaten, their ages ranged from 18 to 40 years old, and they included US citizens. Information leading to the discovery came from the US consulate in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua authorities said. That same day, eight more bodies were unearthed near Rosales, in Chihuahua's interior. These bodies were just two days old, and bore signs of torture. Some had been burned, beaten and had eyes carved out before being shot in the head. Four more bodies were found along the highway near the mountain outpost of Creel.