Polar Bear

They call me Mr Sunshine
Verified Military
Aug 14, 2006
Mexico City bomb blasts hit court, party HQ, bank

MEXICO CITY, Mexico (AP) -- The Mexican government called for calm Monday after homemade bombs blew up at the Federal Electoral Tribunal, a bank branch and the former ruling party's headquarters in the country's capital.
Police deactivated a fourth explosive before it went off at a second bank branch and were inspecting a suspicious backpack found outside a branch of the Mexican restaurant chain Sanborns, owned by billionaire Carlos Slim.
There were no injuries and no immediate claims of responsibility for the blasts, which were widely dispersed across Mexico City.
The blasts shortly after midnight damaged an auditorium at the headquarters of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI. They also shattered windows and caused minor damage at the bank, electoral court and nearby businesses and residences -- rattling nerves in Mexico, which has been besieged by protests since its polarizing July 2 presidential elections.
"We categorically reject these criminal acts aimed at frightening the population, and we're going to work vigorously to clear this up and guarantee security," President Vicente Fox said.
Mexico City Mayor Alejandro Encinas asked residents not to panic but acknowledged the blasts were "creating a climate of uncertainty."
Police intensified security in the city's public transportation system, as well as at the presidential residence, Los Pinos, federal government offices and at the U.S. and British embassies, said a spokesman for the city police department, who was not authorized to give his name.
The explosions came a day after more than 20,000 leftists from across Mexico marched in the southern city of Oaxaca to demand the withdrawal of federal police who were sent in on October 29 to end violence linked to a five-month protest against the state's governor, Ulises Ruiz. Demonstrators claim Ruiz, a PRI member, rigged the 2004 elections and uses thugs to repress dissent.
Protest leader Flavio Sosa said his movement had no ties to the explosions and didn't know who could be behind them.
"We don't condemn anything, but we also don't have anything to do with these acts. Ours is a democratic and pacific movement," he told The Associated Press.
Mexico City Public Safety Secretary Joel Ortega told reporters that emergency officials received two telephone calls warning that bombs were about to be detonated.
Valeano Toledo, 27, one of about a dozen private security guards on overnight duty at the PRI headquarters in north-central Mexico City, told The Associated Press that he was at a different building in the compound when "I heard one explosion, and then a stronger one that shook the buildings, and the windows and glass doors."
He and other guards ran to the site of the explosion, "where we saw a lot of smoke," he said.
The door was blown out and chunks of concrete were scattered among shattered glass. Pieces of the concrete bust of former Mexican President Plutarco Elias Calles -- the PRI's founder for whom the auditorium is named -- lay scattered on the ground. There appeared to be little damage inside the building.
The explosion at the Federal Electoral Tribunal building in southeastern Mexico City damaged the first floor and broke second-floor windows, Encinas said.
Two explosions at a branch of Canadian-owned Scotiabank in southern Mexico City ripped through the ceiling and shattered windows.
Ortega said a police bomb squad deactivated an explosive device at a second branch of Scotiabank near the tribunal. The device, labeled "Bomb Danger," was made with a digital watch, a battery and ammonium nitrate and fuel oil.
A PRI representative told radio station Formato 21 the explosions were probably carried out by groups trying to destabilize the government before President-elect Felipe Calderon's swearing-in on December 1.
PRI spokesman Carlos Flores, however, said Mexico's strong institutions "will allow for a peaceful, civilized change in government."
Calderon, a member of Fox's National Action Party, said the violence should be "rejected" by "all Mexicans."
The PRI, which ruled Mexico for 71 years before Fox's 2000 triumph, backed the electoral tribunal when it confirmed Calderon's victory by less than 1 percentage point over leftist Democratic Revolution Party candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.
Lopez Obrador, a former Mexico City mayor, claimed the election was tainted by fraud and launched a massive protest that clogged the capital for more than a month to demand a recount, which the court refused to order.
In recent years, several small bombs have been placed at bank offices in Mexico. Those explosives were accompanied by messages in which small, radical leftist groups took responsibility.
Two Forces Maintain Siege of Oaxaca
Facing Uncertainty, Mexican City Shuts Down

[SIZE=-1]By Manuel Roig-Franzia
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, October 31, 2006; A15
OAXACA, Mexico, Oct. 30 -- The men who weave wool into boldly patterned rugs don't bother coming here anymore. The little shops that sold sweet, grainy chocolate are boarded up.
Oaxaca, Mexico's colonial-era jewel, was almost unrecognizable Monday, a barely functioning city befouled by smoldering trash and the charred hulks of burned-out buses. Five months after teachers launched a strike for better pay, and two days after the arrival of federal police, Oaxaca is a place under siege by equally determined opposing forces.
Police outfitted with gas masks control the city square. Masked protesters armed with rocks control the rest. No one seems to know what will happen next.
The police say they are determined to restore order. But the demonstrators have voted not to budge until the Oaxaca state governor, Ulises Ruiz, steps down. Some business owners are hopeful that local lawmakers will be able to persuade Ruiz to resign and end the crisis. Both houses of Mexico's Congress passed a resolution Monday urging Ruiz to resign. But for now, the standoff is testing the resolve of a populist movement of poor Mexicans and bringing chaos to a city long known as a haven for tourists.
Oaxaca got to this point in flashes of gunfire Friday that killed two protesters and an independent American journalist and activist, Brad Will, who came here to support the teachers' strike. The shootings prompted Mexican President Vicente Fox to send in 4,500 federal police officers, who were met by a hail of rocks as they smashed through barricades and drove demonstrators out of the city square on Sunday.
Fox declared Monday that "today in Oaxaca social order and peace has been restored." But the president's declaration seemed out of sync with events on the ground.
Streets teemed with sweaty young men, some carrying medieval-looking clubs with nails jutting out of ax handles. Others collected rocks, for later use as weapons, in shopping carts. The few visitors to come here were dumped at taxi stands on the outskirts of the city's historic center because airport van drivers were afraid of getting hijacked.
Demonstrators control the university radio station, broadcasting a stream of political invective, protest songs and slogans. "The People United Will Never Be Defeated," their anthem, plays constantly.
Thousands of demonstrators spent hours under a wilting sun Monday taunting police, who stood 10 deep alongside armored vehicles to block the many streets leading into the city square.
"It smells like dogs," one protester screamed, drawing laughter from hundreds clumped on Cinco de Mayo, a street named in honor of Mexico's revolutionary spirit. The police just glared back, protected by helmets and thick plastic shields. At their feet were wooden crosses, smudged red by protesters who pricked their arms and squeezed out the blood.
While the standoff began as a teachers' strike, it has morphed into a political movement here in the second-poorest of Mexican states. Even as some teachers seem to be wavering in their resolve -- a few returned to work in outlying villages in the state Monday -- an umbrella group with an ambitious mission of social and economic reform has taken over. The group, the Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca, or APPO, is also demanding the resignation of Ruiz, who infuriated teachers by using force to disband their annual protest five months ago.
On Monday, APPO activists waved their fists at the helicopters that constantly swept overhead, yelling, "Murderers!" They said two comrades were killed Sunday and more than a dozen had died since the protest began.
Farther up Cinco de Mayo, a young man wearing a bandanna spray-painted "Hoteliers are complicit with Ruiz" on the salmon-colored walls of the Camino Real, an exquisite convent-turned-hotel.
"These hotel people, all they want is repression. They're in league with the governor," said the man, who declined to give his name for fear of repercussions in his small village.
Daniel Velasquez, the lone vendor in the once-bustling Plaza Antonio Labistida, watched it all and frowned.
"Oaxaca is hurting," he said. "Oaxaca is ugly."
On the wall to Velasquez's left, a sign invited people to a tour marking the Day of the Dead, an important Mexican holiday, on Wednesday. It was accompanied by a sign-up sheet. But there wasn't a single signature.
Oaxaca's Embattled Governor Keeps a Tenuous Hold on Power
Ruiz Resists Calls to Resign, Even From Within His Party

[SIZE=-1]By Manuel Roig-Franzia
Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, November 1, 2006; A15
OAXACA, Mexico, Oct. 31 -- Ulises Ruiz, governor of the strike-scorched state of Oaxaca, is cornered.
Mexico's Congress wants him to quit. Hordes of protesters want him to quit. His own party wants him to quit.
But he won't budge.
Ruiz is the central player in the 163-day strike that thousands of federal riot police have not been able to end. He is the subject of an ultimatum: Unless Ruiz goes, the protesters will stay. After more than five months of tumult, few people here question the demonstrators' resolve, even though the city was mostly calm Tuesday while protest leaders huddled to plan new actions.
The conflict, which has claimed the lives of an American freelance journalist and as many as 14 demonstrators, is exposing Ruiz's weaknesses. A longtime political operative, he is accustomed to working behind the scenes. At a time when a rousing speech might have won him support, Ruiz has seldom appeared in public. Analysts here describe him as an uninspiring orator, unable to connect with the public at large.
"He has no charisma, no ability to get close to the people," said Isidoro Yescas Martínez of Benito Juarez Autonomous University of Oaxaca. "What he's trying to do is survive in a situation that is impossible politically, technically and administratively."
For much of the past five months, Ruiz has not even been able to go to work. Protesters, including striking teachers, anarchists and union activists, occupied his office until federal troops arrived here Saturday night. Ruiz has frequently been forced to flee to Mexico City, a six-hour drive from Oaxaca, and to try to govern by phone.
"Each day it is becoming more obvious that in order to start heading toward a solution, he must leave office," Dulce María Sauri, an influential senator, said in an interview. "Sometimes a person's absence helps more than his presence." Like Ruiz, Sauri is a member of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI.
On Monday, both houses of Mexico's Congress passed resolutions urging Ruiz to resign. The Chiapas rebel leader, Subcomandante Marcos, and Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who lost this summer's presidential election but remains influential, have also called for his ouster.
Ruiz's tenure as governor was troubled before it began. On election night in 2004, he was trailing when a computer glitch shut down the counting. When the counting resumed, he was on top. The opposition accused him of fraud.
He stepped into one of the country's most complicated political jobs. Oaxaca is Mexico's second-poorest state and home to 16 indigenous ethnic groups that speak more than 50 dialects. Though its population is 3 million-plus people, it has 570 municipalities -- nearly a fourth of the cities in Mexico--and more than 8,000 administrative units known as localities, each with its own informal social and governmental structures.
During his nearly two years in office, Ruiz offended many residents by undertaking an expensive renovation of the town's beloved square -- which some considered perfect as it was-- and by spending heavily on controversial road projects.
Local journalists and activists accused him of wasting tax dollars and countless hours trying to buck up the flagging presidential campaign of Roberto Madrazo, the PRI candidate. Few would have questioned the spending during the PRI's 70-year hold on power, which ended in 2000. But after that the party became much weaker.
Residents took to the streets to complain. Oaxaca has a long history of public demonstrations against graft. The formula, perfected during the long reign of the PRI , was simple: Groups marched or threatened to march; politicians gave them money to go away.
When Ruiz took office, Oaxaca was being overrun by such protests, and he tried to change the system. He cracked down on small groups but initially did nothing stop the powerful teachers union from holding its annual sit-in for higher salaries. After several days, though, he sent police to push the teachers out. Protesters were furious and began calling for his ouster. His move proved ineffective -- the teachers fought back, overwhelming the police and regaining the town square.
"This monster -- the never-ending protests, which had been created by these PRI governments -- rose up and this colossus said: 'No,' " said Gloria Zafra, a sociologist who has written extensively about protest traditions in Oaxaca.
The colossus is still saying no, but so is Ruiz. Their standoff has turned into Mexico's biggest political flash point. The question is who will give up first -- Ruiz's term doesn't expire until 2010.
Whatever if it was up to me I would make it a minefield

Mexico voices US border concerns

Mexican President-elect Felipe Calderon has met US President George W Bush to voice concern over US plans to fence off part of the two countries' border.

Mr Bush later said he had assured the visiting Mexican leader the two countries would co-operate closely.
As well as migration issues, the two men discussed free trade and efforts to curb drug trafficking.
Mr Calderon had earlier said he hoped the Democrats' new majority in Congress would boost US immigration reforms.
Mr Calderon was making his first visit to the White House since beating left-wing challenger Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador in Mexico's recent close-run election.
His visit follows mid-term elections this week that saw Mr Bush's Republican Party lose control of both houses of Congress.
'Deplorable' fence
Mr Calderon said he had used the meeting with President Bush to express his concern over the US stance on immigration.
"President Bush was very open to all the arguments that I presented to him," he said.
Mr Calderon has called US plans to build a 700-mile (1,125km) border fence "deplorable", and even made comparisons with the Berlin Wall.
Speaking at a gathering of Hispanic leaders in Washington, Mr Calderon said that the two countries needed "bridges for progress and not walls that isolate and divide".
The border "should not be a zone of barbed wire, but a zone of opportunities," Mr Calderon added.
Conservative criticism
Mr Bush signed the plan for a fence into law despite strong Mexican opposition in October.
Washington is hoping that the plan will stem the tide of illegal immigrants into the US.
About 11 million Mexicans are thought to live in the US, more than six million of them illegally.
An estimated 1.2 million illegal immigrants were arrested last year trying to cross into the US via the border states of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California.
BBC Americas analyst Will Grant says it is too early to say how the new Democratic majority in Congress will affect plans for the border fence.
In order to get the bill through, Mr Bush had to calm conservative fears over his plans for a guest-worker programme which opponents said was akin to an amnesty for illegal immigrants.
A Democrat-led Congress will certainly be more sympathetic to the guest-worker idea, our correspondent adds, they will also probably ask Mr Bush the difficult questions about the barrier's funding.
Sosa says Mexico needs a hard kick

OAXACA, Mexico (AP) -- Flavio Sosa is remarkably relaxed for a wanted man.
As the most visible leader of a leftist movement that has rattled the Vicente Fox administration, chased state police out of this southern Mexican city and challenged hundreds of federal troops -- Sosa faces arrest warrants on riot and conspiracy charges.
He also has received death threats, no small worry in a city where there have been at least nine political killings since August, mostly of Sosa's fellow leftists.
But sitting in a colonial plaza, just two blocks away from an encampment of police clutching rifles and riot shields, the 41-year-old activist couldn't stop smiling.
"It's no use living my life in fear and being scared every time I go out in the street," he said. "This movement is beautiful. I'm proud to be a part of it."
A former migrant worker, Sosa is one of the founders of the Oaxaca People's Assembly, a leftist front trying to oust state Gov. Ulises Ruiz. The assembly formed in June after Ruiz's police officers violently broke up a protest by striking teachers demanding higher wages.
The assembly accuses Ruiz of rigging the 2004 election to win office and sending gangs of gun-toting thugs against his opponents.
But Sosa says the fight goes deeper than this.
Ruiz of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, is part of a long line of Mexican politicians who have looked after the rich and ground down the poor, he argues. The Oaxaca unrest, he says, is the beginning of a social upheaval akin to the unrest in Bolivia that culminated in the December election of leftist Evo Morales, the nation's first Indian president.
"Ruiz is just the detonator. We are living through a historic transformation in Latin America," Sosa said. "Our movement shows that Mexico is part of the south, like Bolivia, not part of the north, like the United States."
'Urban guerrilla'

Sosa's enemies, including Ruiz and Oaxaca's Attorney General Lizbeth Cana, describe the bearded, long-haired activist as a "terrorist," and an "urban guerrilla."
For five months, Sosa and his supporters seized the city center, keeping out state police and driving away tourists from one of Mexico's top destinations. They built barricades, burned buses and took over radio stations to broadcast calls for revolution.
The president on October 29 sent 4,000 federal officers backed by helicopters and water cannons to push the leftists out of the city center.
But the violence persisted elsewhere as federal officers clashed with protesters using gasoline bombs and fireworks packed with glass and nails. Last week, 30 people were injured in the confrontations with police.
Sosa claims the fighting is in self-defense.
Wanted by Oaxacan authorities, Sosa spends most of his time surrounded by supporters and hasn't slept at home in months.
He has asked the church to grant him asylum, citing persecution. Church officials have not responded.
"What are you supposed to do, when your enemies murder and carry out arbitrary arrests?" he asked.
The portly leftist also says Mexico needs a hard kick to bring about change.
As a young man in 1986, Sosa dropped out of his university to work as dishwasher in a New York diner.
"I went looking for the American dollar," he chuckled. "It was tough as an illegal migrant and I realized how little we have in my homeland."
Returning to Mexico in 1989, he helped found the Democratic Revolution Party, the nation's largest leftist group, and was elected to congress.
"I had high hopes we could make a difference through the ballot box," he said.
He left the party in 2000 to support former Coca Cola executive Fox in his successful bid for the presidency. In one photograph, Sosa and Fox appear arm in arm, their hands raised making the "V" for victory.
Sosa said that Fox was the best bet to end 71 years of PRI rule in Mexico. But he quickly became disillusioned with the outgoing conservative president, saying Fox just looked after rich businessmen and made deals with old power brokers.
"Instead of trying bring about real change, Fox lived with the dinosaurs and ended up trapped in a web of complicity," Sosa said.
Critics say Sosa is an opportunist who allies with the highest bidder. A profile of him in the Mexican magazine Reporte Indigo paints him as a pistol-packing thug who is using the Oaxacan movement to carve out a fiefdom.
Sosa laughs at the accusation.
"I wouldn't even know how to fire a gun," he said.
He also points out he is only one of many leaders in the assembly of leftist, trade union, student, Indian and neighborhood groups.
"We are all equal. But my big beard and big stomach have made me become the favorite leader of the press and the police," he said.
Interior Undersecretary Arturo Chavez, whom Fox sent to Oaxaca to negotiate with the leftists, acknowledged they have no chief.
"They are a very hard group to bargain with," Chavez said. "We talk to some leaders but then we are not sure if other leaders agree with them."
The grassroots nature of the movement empowers its followers, Sosa said, predicting it will grow to a national rebellion.
Three bombs in Mexico City on Monday, which caused property damage but no injuries, were claimed by guerrilla groups in support of the Oaxaca protest movement. Sosa said the assembly had no connection with the bombings, but did not condemn the blasts.
"Fox's ineptitude will bring about a new revolution," he said.
Well I can tell you this, Playa Del Carmen was awesome - no bombs, unless you're talking about the hot chics and plenty of GREAT tequila!

Was there all last week - pictures to follow.

US Expert Concerned About Turmoil in MexicoBy Greg Flakus
21 November 2006

In Mexico, President-elect Felipe Calderon has named the members of his economic cabinet, most of whom are well-known and respected figures both in Mexico and around the world. But before he can begin official work with his cabinet, Calderon will have to take the presidential oath in an inauguration ceremony that leftist opposition parties are planning to disrupt. VOA's Greg Flakus spoke with the top Mexico expert in the United States about what lies ahead for Calderon and filed this report from Houston.
Mexican presidential candidate Felipe Calderon, of the National Action Party, center, holds his hands up at PAN party headquarters in Mexico City, Mexico, Sunday, July 2, 2006Ever since he won the Mexican presidential election by the slimmest of margins in July, Felipe Calderon has been moving steadily forward with his plans, in spite of demonstrations and threats from political opponents. George Grayson, who keeps a close eye on Mexican politics from his academic position at the College of William and Mary, says Calderon's picks for his economic cabinet will meet with approval in Mexican business circles and in other parts of the world as well. "He has got a first-rate economic team. Agustin Carstens, who has been number two at the International Monetary Fund is well-respected internationally and his nomination is certainly being well-received by the financial analysts, not just in the United States, but around the world." he said.
Agustin Carstens will be Secretary of the Treasury in the Calderon administration. Others on the team are Georgina Kessel for Secretary of Energy, Eduardo Sojo, Economy, Luis Tellez, Communications and Transport, Javier Lozano Alarcon, Labor, and Rodolfo Elizondo, Tourism.
Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador at the Zocalo plaza in Mexico CityBut before Calderon or his team can accomplish anything, he will have to go from being president-elect to president, something his closest rival in the election is trying to prevent. On Monday, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who led a leftist coalition in the July election, declared himself president in a ceremony attended by thousands of his supporters in Mexico City.
Professor Grayson, who earlier this year published a book about Lopez Obrador, says the losing candidate's strategy is clear. "First, he is going to urge his followers to try to block Felipe Calderon's inauguration on December 1. Assuming he is unsuccessful in that, he will criticize every appointment and every program that the new president proposes, and he will move continually around the country in, what for him, is a moral crusade," he said.
Although he came close to winning the presidency, his recent actions have cost Lopez Obrador public support. Polls show more than 60 percent of Mexicans believe he has hurt the country by declaring himself president. Many Mexicans also worry about how their country will be viewed when leftist supporters of Lopez Obrador try to disrupt the inauguration.
George Grayson says presidential guards and police can protect Calderon from demonstrators outside the inauguration site, at the national congress building, on December first, but not from people inside. "What they cannot do is protect him from senators and deputies from the various pro-Lopez Obrador parties who are rightfully in the chamber and who will do everything possible to disrupt the ceremony. But it is likely to turn into absolute mayhem and that is going to be seen all over the world, not just through the eyes of the distinguished guests, but also on television. So I think the left is really shooting itself in the foot with a machinegun," he said.
Grayson says he believes Felipe Calderon will move quickly as president to address many of the major concerns of the left, to alleviate poverty and blunt the impact of Lopez Obrador's protests.
Mexican Lawmakers Get Physical on Congress Floor

MEXICO CITY — Lawmakers wrestled, slapped each other and tumbled across the floor of Mexico's Congress after opposition legislators threatened to block the inauguration of the incoming president, whom they accuse of stealing the election.

By late Tuesday, the brawl had turned into a tense standoff between congressmen of President-elect Felipe Calderon's conservative party — who want him to take the oath of office in Congress — and opposition leftists who have vowed to block the swearing-in ceremony.

Click here to view a photo essay of the brawl.,4644,1272,00.html

The battle showed how hard it could be for Calderon to unite a nation divided since he narrowly defeated opposition candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador in the disputed July 2 election.

Congress has seen plenty of degrading behavior, but Tuesday's brawl came as Mexico faces central questions on the effectiveness of its government, with escalating turf wars between drug gangs and bloody street battles in the southern city of Oaxaca, which was seized for five months by leftist protesters.

Calderon has pledged to reach out to the millions of people who didn't vote for him by building a coalition government that will include several of his rival's proposals to help the poor. But so far, he has stacked his Cabinet with militants from his own party.

The congressional chaos began after conservative legislators of Calderon's National Action Party, or PAN, took over the speaker's podium early in the day amid rumors that leftist lawmakers planned to seize Congress, as they did before President Vicente Fox's Sept. 1 state-of-the-nation speech.

Leftists from Lopez Obrador's Democratic Revolution Party, or PRD, quickly followed, and scuffles broke out.

Tired and bedraggled, the lawmakers ate fast food and occasionally broke out into fresh bursts of shoving and shouting late into the night. Nearly everybody in Mexico's political scene found the spectacle depressing.

"I'm sorry this had to happen, but we were forced to do it," said PAN Rep. Juan Jose Rodriguez Pratts, whose colleagues occupied the upper steps of the broad, raised speaker's podium, while opposition legislators formed an angry knot on the bottom steps.

Rodriguez Pratts said PAN lawmakers felt they had to take action to ensure that the inauguration would not be blocked by leftists.

"There were clear indications, latent threats to do that, and so what we did was head that off to guarantee Friday's ceremony," said Rodriguez Pratts.

The former ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party called the spectacle "shameful," and one of its leading members, Sen. Manlio Fabio Beltrones, suggested it would be "natural and logical" to simply hold the inauguration ceremony elsewhere if the congressmen refuse to leave before Friday.

"Our colleagues are going to stay there on the podium for the next 72 hours," vowed PRD national leader Leonel Cota.

Disputes over the July 2 elections are unlikely to go away. Lopez Obrador says he was cheated of the presidency by vote fraud, has declared himself the "legitimate president of Mexico," endorsed and led street protests and has refused to recognize or accept Calderon, whom he calls "the lackey" and "the spurious president."

On Tuesday, Calderon named Francisco Ramirez Acuna as his interior secretary, the government's No. 2 post in charge of domestic security and political affairs. The former Jalisco governor has been criticized for turning a blind eye as police detained dozens of protesters during an international summit in his state in 2004. In a report last week, the U.N. Committee Against Torture expressed concern about the arrests.

The U.S. Embassy said Tuesday that former President Bush will attend the inauguration of Calderon, who has promised to crackdown on drug trafficking and maintain close ties with the U.S.