Mexico: Students march on Televisa
Protesters lay siege to media giant; Mexico regrets failure to curb global flow of arms; seven miners killed in Coahuila
Protesters affiliated with the student movement #YoSoy132, labour and campesino groups blockaded the Mexico City headquarters of media conglomerate Televisa on Thursday and Friday in a 24-hour action timed to coincide with the start of coverage of the Olympic Games in London.
A perimeter of some two thousand police officers was deployed to ensure access for Televisa’s employees and executives. No arrests were reported.
The students accuse Mexico’s leading media companies of representing the interests of the country’s elite political class and conspiring to ensure the victory of Enrique Peña Nieto in the 1 July presidential election. They have led a call in recent months for “democratisation” of the means of communication.
“We are here at the gates of this ignominious media company that has sought to misinform and manipulate the people of Mexico,” the students declared in a statement. “Televisa and TV Azteca are the most visible face and the principal instrument of the oligarchy that governs this country.”
Televisa and its smaller rival TV Azteca currently control essentially all broadcast television in Mexico and a significant share of the cable market. Mexico’s telecommunications watchdog Cofetel recently announced plans to auction two new broadcast television channels as early as 2014 in what’s seen as a bid to foster greater competition.
Televisa has been put on the defensive by a series of reports published by The Guardian newspaper in June, describing how the network was allegedly paid for producing biased coverage in favour of Peña Nieto.
The Guardian also published evidence that Televisa launched a shockingly disingenuous smear campaign to discredit leftist politician Andrés Manuel López Obrador in the run-up to the 2006 election.
Mexico laments failure on conventional arms treaty
The Calderón administration expressed disappointment and frustration on Saturday, after weeks of negotiations at the UN headquarters in New York failed to produce an international agreement to regulate the global arms trade. Mexico, where drug violence fuelled by smuggled American-made firearms has caused more than 50,000 deaths since 2007, had been among those countries pushing for a robust Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) that would make states accountable for curbing the flow of weapons to the black market.
The US, which is by far the world’s leading producer, seller and consumer of conventional arms, said on Friday morning that it needed more time to consider the treaty’s language. Other nations such as Russia and China then also pressed for more time.
The ATT “had generated great expectations for many countries and for civil society”, said the Foreign Ministry in a press release. “Mexico regrets that the requirement for ‘consensus’ that was imposed has made it impossible, on the grounds of the opposition of a minority of states, to reach agreement even where there is broad and evident support.”
The Foreign Ministry indicated it will press for the treaty to be taken up instead when the UN General Assembly meets this fall, where it could be passed with a two-thirds majority.
Mexico has consistently pressed its northern neighbour to do more to regulate the sale of firearms, complaining that 80% of guns confiscated by law enforcement here were purchased in the United States.
On the Sunday following the 20 July cinema massacre in Aurora, Colorado, that left 12 people dead and 59 wounded, President Calderón sent Americans a message via Twitter. “The US Congress should review its misguided legislation on arms control. It hurts us all,” he said.
Mining disaster in Coahuila
Seven miners were killed on Wednesday in a methane gas explosion at a coal mine in the northern state of Coahuila.
Media have reported the mine was operating illegally: regulators ordered the site closed on 22 June for failure to meet safety standards. Instead, say workers, the mine operator opened up parallel shafts in order to continue extraction. The company’s owner is a local politician affiliated with the PRI.
Flouting of safety regulations is common at small mines, or “pocitos”, such as the one in Sabinas, Coahuila, where 14 miners were killed in a gas explosion in May 2011 and a 15-year-old worker at the mouth of the mine was gravely injured.
The federal government concedes it has not done an adequate job of regulating the sector. There are too few inspectors, while fines issued are so mild that operators often prefer to pay for violations rather than make the necessary improvements.
In 2006, an explosion at the Pasta de Conchos coal mine in Coahuila left 65 miners dead in the worst Mexican mining disaster in recent times.
The writer can be reached at email@example.com.