Thursday, August 27, 2009

In my neighbourhood - Part III

Right next to Centro Prodh we have a wonderful old building of apartments, un vecindario. I love it.

Okay, maybe I am cheating on my rules. This is about 12 blocks from my house instead of about 10. Bosque de Chapultepec (like Central Park but bigger. The Mexican president lives inside this park, in his own forest. There are about 10 museums inside the park).
This photo was taken after having a 3 hour breakfast with my friend Javier. suffice to say we didnt jog like this guy.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Watch out...

There is a sequence here. Colombia > México. Uufff.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Se me está quedando bien

I had a few work friends and their partners over on friday night. Good times.

Here are some shots.

After a year in my apartment I have really started to feel it as my home, with a few touches: curtains, fun things, touches here and there etc, and I really like inviting people over to my little pad.

Monday, August 17, 2009

In my neighbourhood - Part II

I just love this old bicycle workshop. It is a real classic:

"Tonio and his friends"

Friday, August 14, 2009

Part 3 in the Infuriating Series on Women´s rights in Afghanistan!


Human Rights Watch learned today that the amended bill was published in the official Gazette on July 27, 2009 (Gazette 988), bringing the law into force.

"Karzai has made an unthinkable deal to sell Afghan women out in return for the support of fundamentalists in the August 20 election," said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. "So much for any credentials he claimed as a moderate on women's issues."

A copy of the final law seen by Human Rights Watch shows that many regressive articles remain, which strip away women's rights that are enshrined in Afghanistan's constitution. The law gives a husband the right to withdraw basic maintenance from his wife, including food, if she refuses to obey his sexual demands. It grants guardianship of children exclusively to their fathers and grandfathers. It requires women to get permission from their husbands to work. It also effectively allows a rapist to avoid prosecution by paying "blood money" to a girl who was injured when he raped her.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


Today, that was it.

We just put a big black banner on the entry to our website saying:


The Mexican supreme court balks at their opportunity.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Templo Mayor

I was almost eaten by Aztec serpents today. On a Sunday afternoon I found myself in Mexico City´s Zocalo (main square), walking through the ruins of the main Aztec temple of Tenochtitlan, the great Aztec city that the Spaniards destroyed in 1521.

There was a general hubbub in the Zocalo today that was more intense than normal. The Aztec drummers reached a united volume that I hadn´t before witnessed, thundering on the stones of the ancient city. The Zocalo seemed to sway slightly, swelling with people and street vendors, and for a few moments I thought that the underbelly of the plaza might double in on itself, and the bodies of smouldering Aztec warriers might burst out from beneath our feet.

It was as if a magician had passed a magic sheet over the plaza and it could at any moment become airborne, lifting itself up like a hot air balloon and floating above the ground, freeing the nine underworlds and Mictlantecuhtli, the Lord of the Underworld below. That at any second there would be blue-painted frogs raining on us to celebrate the goddess Tozozlontli, or someone might make a dash for my beating heart and place it on an altar as divine food to the sun.

As the Spanish conquistador Bernal Díaz wrote in his journals, the sight of Tenochtitlan was beyond words and awe. Men who had beheld cities such as Constantinople, great sites in France and Italy, had never seen a city such as this, and the Zocalo inspired many words from Díaz. Great temples rising as pyramids out of a city built on a lake island.
A Mexican girl standing next to me in the temple ruins exclaimed "Sons of whores. Fucking foreigners", referring to the Spanish who had destroyed Tenochtitlan and used the stones of relics and pyramids to build their city.

My head was filling up with incense from the drummers and dancers in the square. The drumming got louder, louder, and I was walking in the old temple, feeling slightly giddy from the insence and the cleaning products I´d inhaled during my morning spring clean in my house. But I had been transported so far away from anything domestic or familiar; I felt drunk. A plaza that I knew so well, loved so dearly, was almost about to caterpault itself from within the temple, the entrails of history trampling on mere mortals like me.

The sky became overcast and the drumming dimmed, overtaken by the chiming of bells from the Cathedral, the Spanish grey monolith overlooking the square. The magic and the underworlds began to retreat under the sound of the bells. A light rain began to fall on the square. The street vendors covered their goods and scurried to shelter, calling our for the last sales of the day. The incense dispersed. The crowds scattered under the raindrops. The Zocalo stopped swaying and the magician laid his sheet on the table again.
Just as well, as we were all on the point of being swallowed by giant serpents.

I walked through the rain, out of the Zocalo, and warmed myself with a hot chocolate and churros in the Churrería el Moro on Eje Central. I came back into the afternoon.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

My neighbourhood: Part 1.

I´ve decided to start a series on my blog dedicated to images of completely normal happenings, people and places within 10 blocks of my house.
The area I live in is very central - it mixes the old and the new, the foreign and the traditional of Mexico City.

There is a sculpture by José Luis Cuevas near my house.

Prostitutes on the corner a block from my house.

Early morning standing round a taco stall near a parking lot.

Front page of Washington post.....

It´s been a big week at our office..

Leahy Blocks Positive Report on Mexico's Rights Record
Skepticism About Conclusions Delays U.S. Anti-Drug Aid
By William Booth and Steve Fainaru
Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, August 5, 2009

MEXICO CITY, Aug. 4 -- A key senator rejected a State Department plan to issue a report this week affirming that Mexico is respecting human rights in its war against drug traffickers, delaying the release of millions of dollars in U.S. anti-narcotics assistance, according to U.S. officials and congressional sources.

The State Department intended to send the favorable report on Mexico's human rights record to Congress in advance of President Obama's visit to Guadalajara for a summit of North American leaders this weekend, U.S. officials familiar with the report said.

That plan was scrapped after aides to Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), chairman of the Senate Appropriations foreign operations subcommittee, told State Department officials that the findings contradicted reports of human rights violations in Mexico, including torture and forced disappearances, in connection with the drug war.

At stake is more than $100 million in U.S. aid under the Merida Initiative, a three-year, $1.4 billion counternarcotics package begun by President George W. Bush in 2007. The law requires Congress to withhold 15 percent of most of the funds until the secretary of state reports that Mexico has made progress on human rights.

"Those requirements have not been met, so it is premature to send the report to Congress," Leahy said in a statement. "We had good faith discussions with Mexican and U.S. officials in reaching these requirements in the law, and I hope we can continue in that spirit."

Soaring Violence
The State Department's failure to push through the report is a setback for the U.S. and Mexican governments at a time when drug violence in Mexico continues to soar and President Felipe Calderón has come under growing pressure to revise his U.S.-backed anti-narcotics strategy, which relies heavily on the military to fight the cartels.

State Department officials said they are considering whether to rewrite the report before submitting it to Congress, probably after it reconvenes Sept. 7.

Mexico is likely to lose some of the money if it is not released by Sept. 30, U.S. officials said. U.S. aid under the Merida Initiative is used to buy helicopters and surveillance aircraft, train police, and improve intelligence-gathering in the fight against the drug cartels.

But congressional aides and human rights experts expressed doubt that the State Department would be able to make a compelling case that Mexico has made sufficient progress.

"In the area of prosecuting human rights abuses and ending the impunity, I don't believe we have seen any real progress," said Maureen Meyer, who oversees Mexico for the Washington Office on Latin America, a human rights group that opposes release of the funds. "There is no sign that people are being held accountable. Every major human rights group has opposed releasing the money."

Push for Transparency
Mexican officials acknowledge that human rights violations have occurred in the fight against traffickers but say the cases are isolated.

The Mexican government is sensitive to U.S. criticism about rights violations because the military is a respected institution -- and many Mexican leaders say the U.S. government has not done enough to reduce consumption of illegal drugs in the United States or stem the flow of weapons and cash heading south.

In recent weeks, frustrated U.S. officials have pressed the Mexican government, including Defense Secretary Guillermo Galván Galván, to provide additional information, according to three officials involved in the campaign.

Late last week, after the report was completed, Mexican officials disclosed details of a number of cases in which they said soldiers had been tried on charges of human rights violations, according to a U.S. official. He said the State Department is trying to verify whether the soldiers were prosecuted and has not decided whether to include the new information.

"We are looking for the Mexicans to be as transparent as possible," said a U.S. official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the discussions. "We are pushing them to be more transparent than they think they can be. What happens when complaints are lodged? What do they do with them? What processes do they go through? What happens to individuals accused of abuses?"

A spokesman for the Mexican military said it would be unable to comment. Arturo Sarukhan, Mexico's ambassador to Washington, said Tuesday: "Mexico is unequivocally committed to ensuring the protection of human rights in the fight against drug-trafficking organizations." He added, "We are confident that this will be recognized by Congress."

140 Complaints a Month
Since Calderón launched his war against the cartels after taking office in December 2006, human rights complaints against the military have soared 600 percent, rising to 140 a month this year, according to government statistics. The National Human Rights Commission has issued reports on 26 cases involving the military since the beginning of Calderón's term, and it found evidence of torture in 17 of the cases.

In April, Human Rights Watch issued a report highlighting 17 cases, including several from 2007 and 2008, involving what it said were military abuses of more than 70 victims. The alleged abuses include killings, torture, rapes and arbitrary detentions. According to that report, "not one of the military investigations into these crimes has led to a conviction for even a single soldier on human rights violations."

On July 9, The Washington Post reported that the Mexican army had carried out numerous acts of torture, forced disappearances and illegal raids in pursuit of traffickers, according to court documents, political leaders and human rights monitors in Mexico's most conflicted regions.

With the State Department report imminent, many prominent human rights organizations in the United States and Mexico released advance statements saying that Mexico had failed to meet the Merida Initiative requirements and urging the U.S. government to withhold the money.

"Why is this so important? Because Mexico cannot win this fight against drug cartels without human rights protections. Human rights provisions are not a headache. They are absolutely critical to the success of the whole initiative," said José Miguel Vivanco, director of the Americas program at Human Rights Watch.

Carlos Cepeda, of the Miguel Agustín Pro Juarez Human Rights Center, said: "Mexico is not fulfilling the human rights requirements of the initiative and the government does not seem close to fulfilling them, and so of course it is a bad idea to release the funds. It would be a green light for further human rights abuses and for continued impunity for the military."

A Case Not Yet Made
Under Merida, the State Department is required to report to Congress on Mexico's progress in four areas: improving transparency and accountability; establishing regular consultations with civil institutions; ensuring that civilian and judicial authorities are prosecuting police and military officers credibly accused of violations; and prohibiting the use of testimony obtained through torture.

The most controversial of the provisions is determining whether the Mexican government is prosecuting human rights offenders. To date, the military has handled all allegations of crimes under its own justice system. U.S. officials and Mexican and international human rights groups say the Mexican military is secretive and hostile to scrutiny by outsiders.

Last month, amid growing allegations of abuses, Gen. Jaime Antonio López Portillo, head of the military's human rights office, held a news conference and announced that the military had prosecuted seven human rights cases dating to 1996, in which 12 members of the armed forces were found guilty of crimes, including homicide and kidnapping.

Only one of the completed cases appeared to date from the Calderón term. An additional 14 cases involving 53 troops were working their way through the military's judicial process, according to López Portillo.

The State Department had still intended to argue for the release of the Merida funds this week, U.S. officials said. But officials with the department's bureau of Western Hemisphere affairs got a chilly reception from Leahy's foreign policy expert, Tim Rieser, at a meeting last week. According to people familiar with the meeting, Rieser told officials that they had not made the case on any of the four areas required under Merida.

After receiving the additional information from Mexico, State Department officials went back to Rieser over the weekend to find out whether Leahy would support the report. He said he would not.

Next week Mexico's Supreme Court will address whether it is unconstitutional to try cases of human rights violations in military courts. The legal challenge, brought by the Miguel Agustín center, involves four civilians who were shot dead in Sinaloa state last year, allegedly by Mexican soldiers. Mexico's attorney general declined to take the case, and the military investigated the deaths instead.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

"¡Vacilón! ¡Vuelta! ¡Díle que no! ¡Peínala!"

After searching and trying different options, I have finally found the perfect salsa class. This may sound like a small thing but it really means a lot to me. I had been to some here and there, but I had became picky: one place taught Los Angeles style, which I don´t like (too showy, not enough feeling to it), another place was really basic in its level, or another place was just too incovenient. All great fun of course, but I began to get lazy, and before I knew it I hadn´t been to classes for many months, and that annoyed me. Well besides parties, which are the best learning experiences anyway.

Now I have finally found one which fits my level and above all, it is really Cuban salsa. The teacher is fantastic, and I am delighted at all the Cuban idiosynctratic names to their steps. A classic cross body turn is called "Díle que no!" or "tell him no!, because the girl has to kind of stop in her tracks like she is refusing the man, and then she retakes the floor once again to spin. Or, another favourite of the teacher is to call out the steps, and tell us to do a turn, and then he cries suddenly "MENTIRA", (lie!), which means you have to quickly stop your turn, clap twice, and then pivot back to your spot. If, like Simon Says, you dont do that and continue with your turn, the teacher makes fun of you and says "LIAR!" Of course he loves saying this to the girls. He says "ah women, of course, what do I expect". Its funny.
Last night in class we were doing a new step and I made a stuff-up and said to my partner "woops, sorry, that was me." The teacher jumped on my comment and said "No, it wasn´t your mistake, it is NEVER the woman´s mistake. The man is the one that carries and leads in salsa. It is men that make the mistakes". Interesting commentary there. This dance could only ever be Latin in origin.