Latin America: Week in Review, Mexico, North America

Peña Nieto Says Protesters Seek To Destabilize Mexico

November 19, 2014 By Staff

Top Story — Mexico’s President Enrique Peña Nieto on Tuesday accused “violent movements” of taking advantage of anger over the September disappearance of 43 students to sow unrest as discontent over the issue shows no sign of abating.

His remarks come as pressure builds over the missing students from the rural Ayotzinapa teacher training school in Guerrero state, who officials recently said corrupt local police arrested and turned over to a drug gang, which killed them and incinerated their bodies.

Also on Tuesday, some 500 education workers affiliated with the CETEG union seized a Guerrero state judicial building, holding employees there hostage for four hours to denounce the disappearance of the students and to demand the release of teachers arrested in recent protests. CETEG and other teachers’ unions have periodically staged disruptive protests over Peña Nieto’s reforms to the education sector in the past.

Peña Nieto said the groups, whom he did not name, had been affected by his economic reforms to the education and energy sectors, and were in turn seeking to destabilize the country.

Peña Nieto is also facing demands that he clarify his decision to strip a Chinese-led consortium of a $3.75 billion high-speed rail contract. A Mexican firm in that consortium owns a $7 million Mexico City house that Peña Nieto’s wife had been seeking to buy. When he returned from a trip to Asia and the Pacific on Saturday he said any he would address any allegations of wrongdoing, calling them “imprecise” and “baseless.” On Tuesday, he did not respond to the allegations expect by saying that his wife would publicly explain how she sought to acquire the house.

The day before Peña Nieto left for his Asia trip, protestors set fire to the front door of Mexico’s president palace in the capital’s central Zócalo square. Many demanded he cancel the trip. He condemned the violent protest from Anchorage, Alaska, where he was on a layover.

While he was abroad, Peña Nieto didn’t escape the controversy raging at home. He was targeted by Mexicans living in Australia, who staged protests over the missing students in several cities.

Headlines from the Western Hemisphere

North America

  • The Peña Nieto administration’s early response to the crisis in Iguala was “entirely consistent with the passive approach the Mexican government has taken to other human rights atrocities in recent years,” according to Foreign Policy’s analysis of the situation.
  • A Honduran-born undocumented immigrant moved into a church in the city of Philadelphia on Tuesday as an act of civil disobedience in protest of President Barack Obama’s delayed action on immigration reform.


  • Protests grew violent in Haiti today as anti-government demonstrators marching through the capital clashed with pro-government supporters, resulting in several shootings and other injuries.
  • Gunmen in Puerto Rico killed a U.S. Army sergeant and three of his family members on Tuesday.
  • The family of Jamaican reggae legend Bob Marley has launched Marley Natural, what they called “the world’s first global cannabis brand,” which will include cannabis-infused lotions, creams and accessories.

Central America

  • Costa Rica’s attorney general has said that Mexican drug gangs are increasingly giving weapons to Costa Rican criminal groups, as drug trafficking shifts to countries like Costa Rica that are less-prepared to combat narco traffickers.
  • Gang violence is the main reason why so many unaccompanied minors are migrating to the U.S., according to The Guardian.
  • Targeting the conditions that have driven a mass migration of Central Americans to the U.S. “is not merely a question of resources but one of smart investments with a human rights-based approach,” according to the Washington Office of Latin America, which outlined six key priorities for any plan hoping to address the issue.


  • Colombian troops continue to search for Gen. Rubén Darío Alzate, whom the rebel group FARC have confirmed that theykidnapped over the weekend, as peace talks between the parties remain suspended over the issue.
  • Peru’s police have cracked down on extortion of construction companies in the past month, dismantling several criminal groups and demonstrating the country’s “intent on confronting this growing, yet little-known problem,” according to InSight Crime.
  • Officials from Russia and Venezuela met on Tuesday to discuss joint proposals to counteract falling oil prices in the face of inaction by Saudi Arabia and other oil producers.

Southern Cone

  • Eike Batista, formerly Brazil’s richest man and No. 7 on Forbes billionaire list, went on trial for insider trading on Tuesday, a historic moment for a country where the rich and powerful have historically operated with impunity.
  • Argentina’s ongoing debt dispute with U.S. hedge funds could impact the country’s upcoming 2015 Presidential elections as well as reshape global finance as a whole, according to an article by NACLA.

Image: russavia, CC BY 2.0

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