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February 25 2014

February 23 2014

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February 13 2014

Another Journalist Dies in Mexico: Gregorio Jiménez de la Cruz

Mexican authorities have confirmed the murder of Gregorio Jiménez de la Cruz, aka “Goyo”.

The lifeless body of Jiménez de la Cruz was found in a clandestine grave on February 11, 2014, according to reports in El Universal [es] and La Jornada. [es] [Report in English by the BBC here]

The electronic version of the weekly Proceso [es] had previously reported the disappearance of the reporter, demanding answers from the authorities.

On Twitter, the hashtag #HastaQueAparezcaGoyo [es] was used to express support for the family and colleagues of Jiménez de la Cruz during the darkest hours.

The journalist Paola Rojas was one of the first to spread the word on Twitter:

The Special Prosecutor of Veracruz has confirmed that journalist Gregorio Jiménez was murdered.

The activist Jesús Robles Maloof asked for the resignation of the governor in Veracruz, where Gregorio Jiménez de la Cruz practiced his profession as a journalist:

It's time that Javier Duarte is removed from the government.

On the morning of February 11, the activist shared this photo:

Twitter user Másdel131 also shared a photo from the same protest:

From the Veracruz’ government's representation in the Federal District, journalists protest

While Pertaesus asked:

The demand raised in the hashtag #HastaQueAparezcaGoyo raises another equally painful question–how long until we get our country back?

“Mexico is one of the world’s most dangerous countries for journalists,” according to Reporters Without Borders. The organization adds that “more than 80 have been killed in the past decade, and 17 have disappeared”.  The death of Gregorio Jiménez de la Cruz must be added to this number.

In Mexico there is an atmosphere of uncontrolled war and violence, ever since the previous President, Felipe Calderón, launched an attack on drugs in 2006. Judging by the death of Gregorio Jiménez de la Cruz, the violence in the country continues under the administration of Enrique Peña Nieto.

February 05 2014

Do You Have What it Takes to be a Mexican Newspaper Editor?

On you can take “The Reportero Challenge”, a game inspired by the documentary Reportero which presents various scenarios that journalists and editors face in Mexico:

You have been offered the position of Editor-in-Chief at El Centinela-Investigador. Since its inception, the paper has stood up to the drug cartels and a corrupt government, and the decisions you make will affect the newspaper's credibility, its circulation and the safety of its staff.

Do you have what it takes? Take the challenge here.

February 01 2014

Memes to Confront Impunity in Mexico

David Sasaki shares viral videos and social media memes from Mexico to show how “the meme has been embraced by a Mexican middle class as a tool to confront the impunity of the country’s elite.” For example:

In the same way that literature inevitably builds on the books of the past, memes in Mexico are often inspired by their predecessors. The week after subway riders protested the fare hike, leftist legislators rallied against the proposed energy reform bill, which allows private investment in Pemex, the state oil monopoly. For some reason, one of these legislators decided to strip down to his undies in protest. Twitter users immediately dubbed this decision “#PosMeEncuero,” or “well, then, I’ll just get naked.” It’s a playful example of how Mexicans creatively address their feelings of powerlessness.

The almost-naked legislator then inspired the protesters of the metro fare hike who not only jumped the turnstiles, but did so in their underwear.

You can find more examples in his blog.

January 21 2014

Michoacán: The Right of Self Defense—Against Drug Cartels or the Mexican Government?

Leaders of self-defense groups at the entrance to Churumuco, a municipality in the state of Michoacán. The group has taken up arms to defend themselves from drug cartels and gangs that operate in the area. Photo by Armando Solís, Dec. 29 2013, copyright Demotix

In an attempt to restore peace in the state of Michoacán, the Mexican government has sent the military to disarm the groups of armed citizens, better known as “self-defenders”, who have taken up arms against organized crime to defend their land, their work, and their families.

The violence is nothing new in Michoacán. For several years this state in western Mexico has suffered the consequences of the lack of security due to the presence of drug cartels and the absence of any authority that can effectively protect its citizens. Added to this is the constant presence of armed forces for the so-called “war on drugs“, initiated by the ex-President Felipe Calderón Hinojosa  and continued by the current President Enrique Peña Nieto, which has not been able to prevent the traffickers from extorting, intimidating, kidnapping and raping the population. All of these factors have fueled the group of self-defenders.

While the civilian forces are operating within the law, the recent effort to disarm these groups by the military is a milestone that could change the course of the armed conflict.

The blog “Hazme el Chingado Favor” [es] sums up the government’s recent action:

Así las cosas finalmente el Secretario de Gobernación vuelve anunciar que se va combatir la inseguridad y se manda al ejército. Se anuncia con bombo y platillo que se dedicaran 250 millones de pesos para reforzar el programa de Prevención del Delito una cifra risible cuando se considera que tan solo para ganar las elecciones del 2012 el PRI regalo 701 millones de pesos en tarjetas Monex… ¡HECF!

So finally the Interior Secretary announces again that it is going to combat the insecurity and sends the army. It was announced with great fanfare that $250 million pesos [approximately US $19 million] would be dedicated to strengthen the Crime Prevention program, a laughable figure when you consider that just to win the 2012 elections, the PRI gave out $701 million pesos [almost US $53 million] in Monex gifts cards…

Twitter user and blogger Mauricio Ceballos [es] blames the politicians for the state in which Michoacán finds itself:

All the political parties, and politics in general in Mexico, are responsible for the situation Michoacán is in.

While the Twitter account ‘No más corrupción’ (“No more corruption”) published this drawing summarizing the situation:

The sad new map of Michoacán thanks to the inability of the government to bring security to the population

And others simply call it a civil war:

Don’t be afraid of the words, Michoacán is in a civil war.

With regard to the raid by federal forces in the area known as Tierra Caliente, the priests have made themselves heard—as they have done in other conflicts, like the Zapatista movement—with strong criticism of the government. The Bishop of Apatzingán, Miguel Patiño Velázquez, wrote an open letter [es] published on the Animal Político website. An excerpt follows:

Los hechos recientes, de este nuevo año 2014, han llenado de indignación a nuestro pueblo al cerciorarse de que ni los políticos, ni el gobierno dan muestras de querer solucionar el problema de Tierra Caliente. En lugar de buscar a los criminales que dañan a la comunidad, el ejército mexicano, por órdenes superiores, fue a desarmar a las autodefensas de Nueva Italia y Antúnez agrediendo a gente indefensa con el resultado de tres hombres muertos. La situación se les salió de control y al verse rodeados por la población comenzaron a disparar, primero al aire y después a las personas. [...] Apatzingán está desde el viernes pasado hundida en el miedo y la zozobra. [...] los enviados del crímen organizado quemaron autobuses, tráilers y camiones de carga sin que los federales ni los militares lo impidieran.  El crímen organizado sigue obligando a la gente a asistir a sus manifestaciones, sus líderes están plenamente identificados y no hay autoridad que los pare. [...] El pueblo está exigiendo al gobierno que primero agarren y desarmen al crímen organizado. El ejército y el gobierno han caído en el descrédito porque en lugar de perseguir a los criminales han agredido a las personas que se defienden de ellos. ¿No han comprendido que nos encontramos en un “Estado de necesidad”?

The recent events of this new year of 2014 filled our people with indignation to realize that neither the politicians nor the government show signs of wanting to solve the Tierra Caliente problem. Instead of looking for criminals who harm the community, the Mexican army, on orders from above, went to disarm the self-defense groups of Nueva Italia and Antúnez, leaving the people defenseless which resulted in the deaths of three men. The situation got out of their control and seeing themselves surrounded by people they opened fire, first in the air and then at people. […] Since last Friday, Apatzingán is mired in fear and anxiety. […] The envoys from organized crime burned buses, trailers and cargo trucks without the federal police or military doing anything to stop them. […] Organized crime continues to force people to attend their events, their leaders are fully identified and there is no authority to stop them. […] The people demand that the government first catch and disarm the criminals. The military and government are becoming completely discredited because instead of pursuing criminals they have attacked people who are defending others. Do they not understand that we are in a ‘state of necessity’?

Father Gregorio López, in charge of the Nuestra Señora de la Asunción parish of the same diocese, went ever farther in an interview with Red Noticiero quoted by the digital daily Sin Embargo [es] where he mentions the main bosses of the Templar Knights cartel by name, and accuses the government of knowing their whereabouts and protecting them:

Nazario Moreno ayer comió con ‘La Tuta’ [Servando Gómez Martínez] en un rancho que se llama La Cucha, aquí a unos kilómetros de Apatzingán, y el gobierno lo sabía. [...] La estrategia de enviar fuerzas federales a Apatzingán, Michoacán, es “una farsa, un teatro” porque incluso los elementos de la Policía Federal (PF) reciben su nómina del crimen organizado y el gobierno federal y estatal lo saben.

Yesterday Nazario Moreno ate with ‘La Tuta’ [Servando Gómez Martínez] at a ranch called the La Cucha, a few kilometers from Apatzingán and the government knew it. […] The strategy of sending federal forces to Apatzingán, Michoacán, is a “charade, it’s theater” because even members of the Federal Police get their pay from organized crime and the state and federal governments know it.

Many Twitter users share the priests’ point of view:

The Michoacan self-defenders are defending from kidnapping and extortion, Sr. Vallejo is defending the Templars.

Self-defense groups are the people defending their lives and their families. It’s criminal that the military is supporting the Templars in Michoacán.

Others went so far as to say that the “self-defenders” could be the start of a revolution:

#Yosoy132 [note: student movement] was chaos at the national level and it was peaceful; armed self-defense groups in Michoacán are going to be a revolution.

The actions of the federal forces caused doubt among netizens about the true reasons for disarming the ‘self-defenders’.

It doesn’t suit the government for us to attack their drug business, so they want to disarm the people.

On the other hand, several have expressed doubt about the financing and origin of the ‘self-defenders’:

It shouldn’t be possible for groups of dubious origin and sophisticated weaponry like the ‘self-defenders’ to be considered heroes by [journalist Carmen] Aristegui.

The self-defense groups, however, are gaining support from the public, mainly through actions like the one reported by the magazine Proceso: “Self-defense groups returned 265 hectares (654 acres) to their owners that the traffickers had taken from them.”

It’s not about making the self-defense groups of Michoacan martyrs or heroes, but as a group of human beings, they are a lot more respectable than the Mexican government.

For those interested in knowing more about the reasons that led to the creation of the self-defense group and its history, José Manuel Mireles, their leader, explains them in this interview [es].

[Translator's note: This interview is in Spanish. Here is another longer interview with subtitles in English, including one with Dr. Mireles on the same theme:]

To follow the latest events, follow the hashtags #Michoacán, #autodefensas y #MichoacánEnGuerra on Twitter.

January 17 2014

Mexican Filmmaker Alfonso Cuarón Nominated for Oscar for ‘Gravity’

Imagen compartida por la página oficial de Gravity en Facebook.

Image shared on Facebook by Gravity's official page.

Mexican director Alfonso Cuarón Orozco has been nominated for Best Director in the upcoming Academy Awards for the feature film Gravity, in which he also worked as producer, editor and writer.

In the same category, David O. Russel, Alexander Payne, Steve McQueen and Martin Scorsese were also nominated. The winner will be announced at the official ceremony to be held on Sunday 2nd March, 2014 in Los Angeles, California.

Entertainment news presenter, René Franco [es] had the following to say about Cuarón's work in the director's chair:

Gravity es extraordinaria, impecable en su dirección. Y Cuarón se merece el Oscar. Pero no solo dan Oscares por eso.

Gravity is extraordinary, impeccable in its direction. And Cuarón deserves the Oscar. But they don't give Oscars only for that.

Franco also reminded us [es] that the filmmaker is not the only one to have stepped into the spotlight of U.S. cinema in the last few months, at the same time as mentioning another of the reasons for which Cuarón should be given the statuette:

Además, es un gran año para los mexicanos en el cine gringo: Eugenio Derbez les llenó los bolsillos de dinero, y dejó muy en claro que en los centros comerciales de todo Estados Unidos, los mexicanos (legales o no) son los que llenan las salas comprando boletos para familias numerosas. Así que a Hollywood le conviene quedar bien con nosotros, no solo porque sean unos liberales que odian a los republicanos de Arizona y se suben medio borrachos a recibir sus premios, sino porque esos millones que genera un público tan agradecido y comprador, merecen una recompensa.

Furthermore, it's a great year for Mexicans in U.S. cinema: Eugenio Derbez filled their pockets with cash and left it very clear that in shopping centers all throughout the United States, Mexicans (whether documented or not) are who fill the movie theaters buying tickets for their numerous families. So it benefits Hollywood to get along with us, not because they're Democrats who hate Republicans in Arizona and who go up half drunk to the podium to receive their award, but because those millions of dollars that generate a thankful audience with buying power deserve a bit of compensation.

The blog Cine más pod [es] reminded us that Cuarón has already been recognized for his work on Gravity, with nothing less than a Golden Globe:

Apenas el domingo Alfonso Cuarón recibió el premio a mejor director en la entrega de los Globos de Oro y hoy ya tiene posibilidades de llevarse también el codiciado Oscar.

Just on Sunday Alfonso Cuarón won best director at the Golden Globes and today he's got the chance to pick up the much sought-after Oscar as well.

Enrique Lores on the blog CarlosDragonne [es] had this to say about Gravity:

Aunque algunos me dijeron que es una película lenta, a mí no me lo pareció en lo absoluto. De hecho se me pasó bastante rápido y terminó antes de que me diera cuenta. Y sí, estuve en la orilla de mi asiento, emocionado y angustiado, en más de un momento. También me hizo pensar sobre la fragilidad de la vida, la confrontación del duelo y dónde está el verdadero valor de la existencia en este universo del que somos sólo una pequeñísima parte.

Even though some people told me that it's a slow film, it didn't seem that way to me at all.  In fact, it went by quite quickly and finished before I knew it. And yes, I was on the edge of my seat, excited and anxious, in several moments. It also made me think about the fragility of life, confrontation [we face] in duels and where the true value of existence is in this universe in which we are such a miniscule part.

Reactions to Cuarón's nomination were also expressed in Twitter. The user Posmoderno (@LuisMendezPosmo) talked about his interest in seeing the filmmaker's work:

Now that they're premiering Alfonso Cuarón's new movie again, I'll go and see it. Perhaps it'll be interesting, perhaps they filmed it in space #Cuaron

For his part, Arturo balboa (@arturo_rdz94) made mention of the lack of opportunities for other filmmakers in Mexico:

[It's] huge what #Cuaron has achieved until now. A clear example of how if they don't give you opportunities in your country, you look for them in other places.

Luis Castro Salgado (@Wicho_kstro) spoke ironically about the fact that Eugenio Derbez wasn't nominated in the upcoming Oscars:

#Cuarón goes for 10 Oscars…Derbez is off for popcorn to watch the ceremony at home. #Oscars2014

Rodrigo Dominguez (@rodrigodomm) showed his pleasure at the news:

Really glad to see the 10 nominations for Gravity #Oscars #Gravity #Cuaron #OscarNominations

On a national level, Alfonso Cuarón has stood out for works such as Sólo con tu pareja [es] (1991) and the famed Y tu mamá también (2001). On an international scale he's known for his direction of Great Expectations (1998), Harry Potter And the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004) and Children of Men (2006).

Gravity will compete for more golden statuettes in the 86th Academy Awards, including Best Cinematography, Best Actress in a Leading Role, Best Film Editing and Best Film.

January 10 2014

Latin America's Black Metal Fans, Punks and Otakus

Santiago, Lima, Mexico City and Oaxaca have been some of the cities in which photographer Carla Mc-Kay has photographed punks, thrashers, transvestites, black metal fans, new waves and otakus, recording their everyday lives in their habitat.

Sentidos Comunes has published Carla Mc-Kay's photographs in a photo essay titled “Street Youth” [es].

January 06 2014

Putting a Social Spin on ICT with SocialTIC



[Links are to Spanish-language pages.]

SocialTIC [Social Information and Communications Technology] is an initiative by a group of young Mexicans who combine extensive experience in a variety of fields such as citizen journalism, social media, multimedia content, and open data. SocialTIC defines itself simply as “a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting and empowering social groups by helping them enhance their activities through the use of technology.”

The initiative was launched at the beginning of 2013, and since then its members have undertaken a number of activities worth highlighting. Here are a few examples, based on the fields of activity SocialTIC targets specifically. 

Research into putting ICT to work to attain social objectives

Under this rubric, Juan Manuel Casanueva discusses how creating video and radio content is as an effective means of introducing children to digital media and its uses. 

además de ser divertidos, la expresión multimedia desata una condición humana que culturalmente vemos que en gran parte de América Latina está dormida: la expresión individual y colectiva. Uno de los grandes retos para las nuevas generaciones de nuestro continente es ver el uso de los nuevos medios digitales como la posiblidad de que dejemos de ser consumidores de conocimiento y nos volvamos creadores de información, mensajes y conocimiento.

In addition to being fun, multimedia unleashes a human urge that, culturally speaking, is dormant in much of Latin America: individual and collective self-expression. One of the great challenges for the new generations on our continent is to see how, using new digital media, we can stop being passive consumers of knowledge and become creators of information, messages, and knowledge.

During Aldea Digital 2013 [a digital culture expo], the team from SocialTIC and a few volunteers gave themselves the goal of demonstrating how the Internet can facilitate civic engagement to people with no previous experience of social networks. Faeriedevilish recounts:

En uno de nuestros talleres, Bryan, chavo feisbuquero, le ayudó de la manera más experta y paciente a la señora Josefina, que usaba una computadora por primera vez.

In one of our workshops, Bryan, a young Facebook users, showed expert teaching and patience in helping Josephina, a senior, to use a computer for the first time.

Developing ICT skills for civil society, citizen activism and the public sector

Mexflow explains the eight good practices that ensure digital security for all. An example below describes how to backup information on your devices:

Podría parecer básico pero es común escuchar historias de personas que perdieron toda su información por una falla de algún componente de sus equipos. La mayoría de las personas no lo toma como una actividad importante, pero en un momento de falla o descompostura sabrán de su importancia. Un respaldo no tiene que ser algo complejo, realmente debe de cumplir unas reglas básicas:

  • Debe estar lo más actualizado posible, de preferencia no mayor a un mes
  • Debes respaldar lo más valioso o indispensable que consideres dentro de tus archivos.
  • Un respaldo es una copia de información, por lo tanto no es para uso diario de consulta.
  • Mantén el dispositivo de almacenamiento en un lugar seguro de robo o percances (agua, temperaturas variables, caidas o mal uso)

It may seem obvious, but we often hear stories about people who have lost all their information because one of the components in their equipment failed. Most people do not consider it an important activity, but when equipment fails or breaks down, they soon find out just how crucial it is. A backup does not have to be complicated; there are just a few basic rules:

  • The backup should be as up-to-date as possible, preferably no older than one month.
  • You should back up the file content that is most important or valuable to you.
  • A backup is a copy of your data, so it is not something you consult on a daily basis. 
  • Keep your storage device in a safe place where it cannot be stolen or damaged by water, variable temperatures, falls, or misuse. 

In the context of increasing government surveillance of communications, JM Casanueva talked to Luis Fernando García, a lawyer specializing in digital rights, about the debate over Mexico's Federal Code of Criminal Procedure (#CNPP). A few of the questions raised included:

  • ¿La intervención de tus comunicaciones se debe hacer en base a una orden de un juez basada en las pruebas de sospecha que presente la Procuraduría o sólo con que “lo considere necesario?
  • ¿La Procuraduría debería poder localizarte mediante el uso de tu celular cuando quiera o sólo bajo orden de un juez?
  • ¿Los concesionarios y servicios de telecomunicación deberían retener tus datos personales?
  • Should interference in your communications be based on a court order stemming from reasonable suspicion presented by the Attorney General's office or just on the fact that “it is considered necessary”?
  • Should the Attorney General be able to locate you at will using your cellphone or only on orders from a judge?
  • Should telecommunications providers and authorized dealers be able to store your personal information?

Supporting civic groups and organizations in the use of ICT to promote and increase the impact of participatory citizenship

In a workshop given by SocialTIC on ICTs and democracy at a UN regional conference for young people, the following topic arose: What would the Web be like if you took part in it?

A pesar de que coincidimos que nuestra primera reacción ante nuestra propia curiosidad y necesidad de obtener “conocimiento” es googlear, hubo un ligero descontento en cuanto al universo de la información en Internet. La pregunta que hicimos después fue: Si ustedes compartieran su conocimiento en Internet, qué temas abarcarían? Y así se ven las respuestas del grupo:


Despite the fact that we agreed that our immediate reaction to our own curiosity and desire to acquire “knowledge” is to turn to Google, there was some dissatisfaction about the universe of information available on the Internet. The question we followed up with was: “If you shared your knowledge on the Internet, what topics would you address?” And this is what the answers looked like.

[Tag cloud includes: Rights, Art, Indigenous peoples, Internet, Culture, Rural, Expression, Dance, Peace, Technology, Values, Discrimination, Abortion, Education, Environment, Sustainability, and more]

In another post, Faeriedevilish explains a basic truth that is often overlooked when it comes to supporting online campaigns: technology itself is useless until it is efficiently directed towards an objective.

¿Qué prácticas humanas, más allá de la tecnología, hay que considerar al acompañar una campaña online? Les compartimos las enseñanzas principales de nuestras experiencias:

La importancia de los sistemas de gestión. Resulta a veces que los mayores problemas de adopción de tecnologías poco tienen que ver con código, y mucho con temas de administración. ¿Qué pasa si el community de la campaña también tiene que contestar el teléfono y pagar las nóminas? ¿Cómo logramos que todos contribuyan a la página web? Hay que pensar en estrategias para lograrlo.

What human practices, beyond technology, need to be considered in support of an online campaign? We share some key lessons from our own experiences:

The importance of management systems. It turns out that sometimes the biggest problems in adopting new technologies have little to do with source codes and much more to do with administration. What happens if the campaign's community manager also has to answer the phone and pay salaries? How do we ensure that everyone contributes to the webpage? We have to think about strategies to accomplish this.

Advocating an ICT ecosystem for social purposes

JM Casanueva writes about the increased collaboration between traditionally distinct ICT communities and those involved in social projects. The following diagram “shows the purpose of different types of technology that are required depending on the degree of technological proficiency of a civic organization and the social action it performs.”

Si bien, es complejo determinar los niveles precisos de manejo tecnológico y acción social, se identifican tres áreas tecnológicas de oportunidad:

  • Básica: abarca el apoyo en la adopción e implantación de infraestructura para comunicación unidireccional y procesos transaccionales
  • Media: abarca el apoyo en la adopción estratégica, el desarrollo y customización de herramientas para la comunicación focalizada, la vinculación social y la lectura de la participación de usuarios en relación a las actividades de las organizaciones sociales.
  • Especializada: abarda el apoyo en la adopción estratégica, la innovación tecnológica y customización de herramientas para el acceso, respuesta y visualización en tiempo real de información, datos y reacciones de usuarios bajo contextos sociales y de interacción inducida.

Although it is difficult to determine the precise levels of technological proficiency and social action, three areas of opportunity can be identified:

  • Basic: covers support for the adoption and implementation of infrastructure for unidirectional communication and transactional message processing
  • Intermediate: covers support for strategic adoption, development and tool customization for focused communication, social links, and reading of user participation levels in relation to the activity of social organizations.
  • Specialized: covers support for strategic adoption, technological innovation, and tool customization for access, response, and visualization in real time of data, information, and user reaction in contexts of social and induced interaction.

One of the best known projects is the School of data, “an open site where all of us can contribute [...] we will be sharing experiences about the use of data in different Spanish-speaking countries as well as recounting the efforts of those of us who have taken on the mantel of spreading the mystical practice of using data.”

And it was during one of these open-data events in 2013 that I was able to speak to Sergio Araiza of SocialTIC about these issues:

You can learn more about SocialTIC's publications and follow their activities on their blogTwitter and Facebook.

The video in this post was transcribed by Fernando Rodríguez and subtitled into English by Tiago Miller.
Post originally published on the blog Globalizado.

December 24 2013

4 Women Journalists Defying the Odds in Mexico City

This post is part of our series on gender and sexuality in Latin America and the Caribbean in collaboration with North American Congress on Latin America (NACLA).

Despite the low salaries and the dangers that come with being a reporter in the most dangerous country for journalists in the Americas, some Mexican female journalists continue working and thriving in this profession.

In this post, we introduce you to four of these brave female journalists. With anecdotes about migration, politics, dreams and gender equality, these reporters have given us a glimpse into their lives to see what it's like to be a female journalist in Mexico City. 

Nicole Medgenberg

nacla_nicNicole, a journalist born in Germany, moved to Mexico City when she was starting her bachelor's degree. Today, she works for a non-governmental organization during the day, and at night she works as a freelance journalist covering mainly food and travel. She also started her own recipe blog, called La cocinera con prisa [es] (“A cook in a hurry”).

Her first encounter with journalism happened at age 12, when she designed a magazine with a friend. Nicole explains that her friend would look for pictures in magazines, while she wrote imaginary stories for each image. “I still keep that magazine with me”, she says proudly.

Nicole says that Mexico City has given her the same opportunities given to any man: “I was born in a generation and within cultures in which I no longer question whether I can vote, study or practice my profession any different than men. I am fortunate to have German and Mexican roots, which [my parents] are very open and supportive with my career.”

For her, the main problem journalism faces is low pay: “Some people need to understand that if they want someone who is dedicated and that has good experience, she or he should be treated as such, getting paid at the right time and [the right] amount. It is a profession that requires commitment and self-sacrifice, and sadly, it is not well paid”.

Follow Nicole on Twitter: @NicMedgenberg

Elia Baltazar

nacla_elia“I cannot say I've ever been subjected to any discrimination or preferential treatment for being a woman. I believe it has more to do with the consciousness of my own rights. I would not allow that to happen”, Elia replies when asked if she's been treated differently as a female reporter.

Born and raised in Mexico City, Elia works as a freelance journalist. She starts her day between 4:30 and 5 a.m., when she dedicates 30 minutes to reading a book of her interest (she does not have time later). She then reads the news and prepares her daily schedule. At 10 a.m., she is already interviewing people and investigating possible stories. She stops working at 10 p.m.

Elia always dreamed about being a journalist. She saw journalism as one of the most exciting jobs in the world, always relating it to far-away lands. During high school, she worked in her school's newspaper, and she got her first job as a journalist at age 18.

In her work with the network Periodistas de a Pie, she writes with a human rights and gender perspective: “I always prefer to write from the perspective of equal rights for all, and I just emphasize gender when it is clear that there was a violation of women's rights”. In her organization, they opt not only to write about complaints, but also to find examples of success stories that break the tradition of victims’ misfortune and empowers citizens with their own success stories.

Elia declares herself a feminist; although she's not convinced about all feminist theories, they are a part of her personal and professional growth. For her, the biggest challenge that journalists, both male and female, face in Mexico today are low salaries and labor conditions, “which make it difficult to do real investigations”.

Follow Elia on Twitter: @eliabaltazar

Sandra Apolinar

Nacla_sandyOriginally from Toluca, a city 40 minutes from Mexico City, Sandra is the editor of the music and technology section at Swagger [es]. A normal day for her in the newsroom consists of editing the articles for the website. She also investigates topics to suggest them as possible stories for journalists on her team.

“I am not a big fan of covering music scandals, things related to Justin Bieber or Miley Cyrus, but our audience is very interested in that and I have to write about it”, she confesses. Sandra wants to continue her career by reporting on sports. She is a big fan of the local football team Diablos Rojos, but she knows it might take more time to pursue a career as a woman in that field.

Sandra knew she wanted to be a journalist since she was in high school. She says she always wrote for herself, and when she was 16 she started to feel interested in writing for others. For more than six years, she has been traveling every day from Toluca to Mexico City and back, and even if she doesn't live in the city, she says she feels from ‘DF’ and there is no other place she would rather work as a journalist.

“The greatest challenge I see for journalists in Mexico City is that sometimes they forget to be truly objective, at least as much as they can. Journalism in Mexico will not have a big improvement if the ego of journalists keeps on growing”, she concludes.

Follow Sandra on Twitter: @sandiapolinar 

Daliri Oropeza

nacla_dali“I always try to balance the voices I write about. If I have interviewed four men, I try to look for the same number of women. I like to bring justice to my texts in those matters”, Daliri explains.

Born and raised in Mexico City, Daliri comes from a family that has worked in the circus industry for generations. She is the only journalist in her family, and she feels proud about it. Daliri has lived in many neighborhoods in Mexico City, from San Rafael to La Roma, from La Tabacalera to Buena Vista. She is in love with Mexico City, and even if she travels to other cities to study, she confesses that she will always come back to DF.

“I am a woman who likes to experiment with her work. I want to try new things, and I am always looking for new stories, new voices to represent.” Sandra has written several stories about the indigenous people from southern Mexico in the state of Chiapas.

For Daliri, trying to bring an equal number of male and female voices is her contribution to gender equality. “I am not a feminist, but I always want to write about women in my stories”, she says. One of her favorite and most recent stories looks at daughters of politicians who are also working in politics, an investigation she pursued to explore a “minority of a minority.”

“There are differences between men and women when we talk about journalism. Sometimes some men think you can't do a good job as a reporter, but you should not let those comments affect your work. These people are ignorant”, she emphasizes, concluding that working as a journalist is her passion and that there's no other thing she'd rather be doing.

Follow Daliri on Twitter: @Dal_air

December 17 2013

Mexico's Congress Approves Energy Reform Bill Ending State Oil Monopoly

Imagen del usuario diaper en Flickr, bajo licencia Creative Commons

Image by Flickr user diaper, under a Creative Commons license (CC BY 2.0)

Mexico's Senate has approved an energy reform bill that will end a 75-year state oil monopoly established under Presidente Lázaro Cárdenas (1934-1940), who expropriated the assets of British and U.S. oil companies in order to forge one of the largest state oil monopolies in the world. The reform was approved in the early morning hours of December 12, 2013, after a chamber session lasting some 20 hours. 

The energy reform bill lays the groundwork for a regulatory framework that will permit the investment of private Mexican and foreign capital for the first time in decades, making it the most important economic overhaul since the adoption of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)

The new legislation will change Mexico's charter, enabling corporations such as Exxon Mobil and Chevron to undertake exploration in an area with the largest crude reserves after those in the Arctic Circle. The parties supporting the reform (PRIPAN, Nueva Alianza and Verde) say that the measure will propel Mexico into the ranks of the top five oil exporting nations; those against the bill say it will channel profits directly into the pockets of investors.

According to Bank of America‘s chief economist in Mexico, Carlos Capistran, speaking by telephone to Bloomberg: ”The reform will provide the Mexican economy with energy.” 

A cornerstone of Peña Nieto's program

The reform was green-lit at the close of a year in which President Enrique Peña Nieto and his Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) won back the reigns of power after a 12-year absence. 

Image by Flickr user Alejandro Castro, under licence to Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Image by Flickr user Alejandro Castro, under a Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

The 47-year old head-of-state declared the energy sector would be the cornerstone of his administration, followed by educational reform aimed at assessing teacher performance, and a law to improve competitiveness in the telecommunications sector by means of increased lending. 

Ever since the free trade agreement with Canada and the United States came into effect in 1994, México has become one of the worlds most open economies. However, many industrial sectors continue to be dominated by individuals and conglomerates such as that of the billionaire Carlos Slim.

Traitors to the Nation

The leftist parties (PRD [es], PT, Movimiento Ciudadano [es]) accused the legislators who voted in favour of the constitutional changes of being “traitors to the nation,” asserting that those who support the bill were delivering not just the oil but the country's energy wealth.

It is a 180-degree turn from the existing 75-year old legislation. The oil expropriation of 1938, decreed by then president Lázaro Cárdenas, gave the state exclusive rights to energy production.

The reform amends articles 25, 27 and 28 of the Constitution, to allow the state to enter into contracts with both Mexican and foreign private entities. Moreover, it will enable Mexico to strike deals with companies regarding service, shared use and production, and licensing agreements; and in each case, the payment structure will vary.

Antonio García, a legislator from the PRD, stripped down to his underwear [es] while he voiced his criticism of the energy reform bill.  Karen Quiroga, also of the PRD, had an altercation with Landy Berzunza of the PRI, who rebuked the leftist legislators during their vote, going so far as to turn and make a crude gesture at opposition members. This culminated in a physical confrontation when Quiroga attempted to approach the area in which members present their objections, and Berzunza tried to stop her. The pair came to blows and the PRD congresswoman injured her opponent's left eye. 

Public Sentiment 

The Mexican public has issued a call to citizens to take to the streets of Mexico City to protest the energy bill approved by the Senate. 

The youth movement YoSoy132, for example, encouraged people to join demonstrations against the reform:

TODAY! 4pm #TodosALasCalles [everyone to the streets] You don't represent us @ManceraMiguelMX [Mayor of Mexico City]

 Valeria Hamel, a member of YoSoy132, tweeted:

No single party or group has a monopoly on defending #Pemex. Get out in the street, go to the Senate. Demonstrate. #NOalaReformaEnergetica [No to the energy reform]

Luis Fernando García ironically mentioned the inadequacies of the companies formerly controlled by the state, which are now in the hands of Mexican and foreign investors:

All privatized public companies are a marvel. Just look at how punctual Aeromexico is or the Internet by Infinitum [Internet service provider] from Telmex.

The Mexican Soul 

“The topic of oil is rooted in the soul of Mexico, in the Mexican tradition, in the history of Mexico,” says Jorge Chabat, a political scientist in the Center for Research and Teaching in Economics (CIDE), a university based in Mexico City. As it passed the review process in Congress, it “waged the mother of all battles by the Mexican government and will be one of the major accomplishments of Peña Nieto's administration”, he said in a telephone interview. 

Oil production is stagnant, in part because the energy sector has not received the competitive push of NAFTA that other industrial sectors have been given, said Duncan Wood, director of the Mexico Institute at the Washington-based Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

“What this reform does is to now expose the Mexican energy sector to national and international competition,” said Wood. “This marks a fundamental paradigm shift in the mentality of the energy sector. Today we are moving beyond 1938.”

November 26 2013

Global Voices Partners With Fundación MEPI

Global Voices has launched a new partnership with Fundación MEPI, an organization that promotes regional investigative projects in the Americas.

MEPI was founded in 2010 in Mexico, where news outlets’ lack of financial resources and attacks against journalists have stifled investigative reporting. In response to these challenges, MEPI seeks to promote freedom of the press and support “the development of the next generation of reporters in Mexico and Central America.”

Fundación MEPI

The MEPI website further explains:

The contemporary reader needs to understand how governments, public actors and agencies really work. It is these explanations that provide citizens of a democracy with the insight required to make informed decisions and procure a free and fair government. But the cost of producing quality information is rising and with the use of technology, so too is competition. With the help of donors, supporters and partners, Fundaciòn MEPI is committed to producing regional and cross-national investigations that use technology to illuminate corrupt practices, sleight of hand and impunity.

As part of their mission, MEPI aims to “link stories between the United States, Mexico and Central America and help explain transnational movements to readers across the globe.” MEPI's vision matches Global Voices’ mission to “build bridges across the gulfs that divide people, so as to understand each other more fully.”

Global Voices and Fundación MEPI will exchange content regularly. Sometimes we will break down their long-form investigations into series. We kick off this partnership with the article Machismo and Old Prejudices Keep Mexican Rape Victims Silent, which is also available in Spanish.

Machismo and Old Prejudices Keep Mexican Rape Victims Silent

Men and women march against sexual violence in Mexico. Photo by Say NO - UNiTE on Flickr under a Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Men and women march against sexual violence in Mexico. Photo by Say NO – UNiTE on Flickr under a Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

This article, written by Daniela Guazo for Fundación MEPI, was originally published on February 21, 2013. Rape and other kinds of violence against women continue to be a serious issue in Mexico. According to a recent report [es] by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), 47% of women in Mexico suffer from physical and/or sexual abuse during their lifetime.

The rape of six Spanish tourists in the resort city of Acapulco during the first long holiday season in Mexico sounded alarms in the country's tourist sector but it didn't do much to jolt authorities about the rate of assaults against women – with one being raped every four minutes, according to government statistics.

The crime, like violence in Mexico, has become more brutal in the last years, said Laura Martinez Rodriguez, director of one of Mexico City's oldest association for rape victims that is known by its Spanish acronym ADIVAC.

“Previously we didn't see or we didn't realize that there were burns or mutilations. We fortunately found women alive,” she said. “Now these women are killed.”

The Pacific seaside town of Acapulco is now considered the second most violent city in the world with a murder rate of 142 per every hundred thousand residents, according to a Mexican nongovernmental organization, Citizens’ Council for Public Security and Criminal Justice. And while the level of reported rapes were markedly lower than other states, with only 351 reported rapes in the Acapulco's home state of Guerrero, the figure likely masks a darker reality.

Experts say the majority of rape victims never report the crime to authorities. A strong culture of machismo discourages women from coming forward and many don't know where else to turn. A 2011 government survey found that an estimated 94 percent of rapes aren't documented.

Click on image to visit interactive map showing the rate of reported rapes per one hundred thousand women.

Click on image to visit interactive map showing the rate of reported rapes per one hundred thousand women in Mexico.

“There still exists places where people think that a woman wearing a miniskirt is provoking an assault and that's not the case. These are crimes that have nothing to do with the personality of a person,” said Erika Molina Carranza, who is head of the unit that investigates rape cases in Mexico City.

Further discouraging women, the perpetrator is often a friend or family member, as was the case of Abundio García Guadalupe, the 44-year-old accused of raping his 12 year-old-step daughter in the nearby state of Jalisco. She gave birth this January to his child. He claims that there was never a violation because he did everything with the consent of the child and his wife.

Even when women do report the crimes, they don't want to press charges. Molina said about half the women that file complaints don't follow through because the judicial process is often long and they don't want to confront their violators. It can takes a whole day just to provide a police report with victims having to write their whole report, sit with an illustrator to create a sketch of the victim and then meeting with a medical doctor who administers the rape kit.

“When they realize the gravity of the charges they don't want to go through with it,” Molina said.

In Mexico City, government and civil agencies that work with rape victims find that the most troubling barrier to confronting rapes is the countries’ own prejudices.

Many women don't even want to tell authorities because they think nobody will believe they were raped or they will consider them sluts, and some families pressure the victim not to bring shame to the family's name. The dismal rate of documented rapes are clear at ADIVAC's offices where roughly 400 victims come in every month, about 10 percent of them were assaulted by strangers. That number pales to the monthly reported rapes in the city, which averages about 70 per month.

Mexico City registers 18 rapes per 100,000 residents annually, a figure experts call far lower than the actual rate.

Click on image to visit interactive graphs showing number of reported rapes in 2005 and 2012,

Click on image to visit interactive graphs showing number of reported rapes in 2005 and 2012.

What troubles Martinez is that recently she has seen more violent and brazen rapes.

“We have seen it all. One time a woman was attacked at six in the morning on her way to work. The attacker grabbed her from behind as she crossed an overpass,” she said.

But authorities only hear about a fraction of them. In one case, a serial rapist was attacking women for more than one year in a poor zone in the south of the city before they could catch up with him. Molina said it wasn't until three women came forward, that police began to look for the suspect.

Download the data

November 25 2013

‘Las Patronas’ Receive Human Rights Award for Work Feeding Migrants

Las Patronas mural

Las Patronas mural. Photo taken by Dawn Paley in the house of Las Patronas, Amántlan, Veracruz. Image under Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Norma Vázquez Romero, a working-class woman who has lived a very simple life in the coastal state of Veracruz in Mexico, was given the 2013 Mexican Human Rights Award for dedicating the last 15 years of her life to feeding migrants from Central America and Southern Mexico who pass by her town on the train known as “La Bestia” (“The Beast”) with the goal of reaching the United States.

The area where Norma works with her family and other women to feed migrants is called La Patrona – which means “the female boss”. This group of women and Norma's family adopted that name for their group, and now they are locally known as “Las Patronas” (meaning “the female bosses”).

This short film released in 2009 shows the work of Las Patronas:

On Alterinfos Blog [es], Karolina Caicedo Flórez wrote about how the world came to know what Las Patronas do to help migrants in their arduous journey:

Durante más de diez años su labor estuvo casi que en el total anonimato, hasta que en 2005, gracias a un documental que narraba su labor diaria en defensa de los y las migrantes, el proyecto de Las Patronas comenzó a llenar las páginas de internet, los períodicos, revistas, festivales de cine documental y hasta los museos. Comenzaron a recibir por lo menos una visita a la semana, de periodistas, defensores de derechos humanos y curiosxs que deseaban conocer y apoyar personalmente su labor.

Over the last ten years, their work was almost done in total anonymity until 2005, thanks to a documentary chronicling their daily work in defense of the migrants, the project of Las Patronas started being featured on websites, newspapers, magazines, documentary film festivals and even museums. They began to receive at least one visit a week from journalists, human rights defenders and curious people that wanted to know and support their work.

Every day, Norma and her family prepare rice and distribute it in plastic bags for the migrants. Usually, these people have not eaten for long periods of time and they have not had water for entire days. Norma and her family also prepare black beans, bread and fill bottles with water in order to toss the supplies to the migrants on the train, which does not stop for one second.

A single ration. Photo taken by Dawn Paley in the house of Las Patronas, Amántlan, Veracruz. Image under Creative Commons license  (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

A single ration. Photo taken by Dawn Paley in the house of Las Patronas, Amántlan, Veracruz. Image under Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Karolina Caicedo explained in a blog post more about the stigma [es] that Las Patronas have faced when people know that they are helping migrants:

La estigmatización hacia Las Patronas también se ha hecho sentir: “locas, no saben ni a quien ayudan” son algunas de las palabras que utilizan desde los más católicos comprometidos con la iglesia (que va desde el padre hasta los feligreses de La Patrona) hasta los maridos de las mujeres que alguna vez quisieron apoyar este proyecto.

The stigmatization of Las Patronas has also been described as “crazy women who don't know who they're helping” – these are some of the words used from the most committed Catholics (from the priest to the parishioners of La Patrona town) to the husbands of the women who have wanted to support this project.

All over the web many celebrated their humanitarian work.

Frida Lopez described what these women do every day of the year:

Las Patronas are women who give food daily to migrants seeking the American Dream who are passing by on “The Beast” train.

Hibrain Vega expressed his desire to bring down international borders:

Down with the borders! With fraternal love #LasPatronas

 Deena, from the same state as Las Patronas, Veracruz, stated how their case brings her hope in people:

Las Patronas…this type of news give me hope! There are good people in this world… 

Ekhtaí Baruck Serran expressed his support by stating that Las Patronas are international role models:

The world needs more people like Norma Romero Vásquez, head of the group Las Patronas. National Human Rights Award 2013

Finally, Karolina shared what it feels like to be with Las Patronas and give out food to the passing migrants:

El momento preciso en el que el tren de La Bestia pasa por La Patrona, marca una serie de sentimientos a cualquiera que tenga un lonche en su mano para entregar a los migrantes: nervios (si es la primera vez que lo hace), estrés (al escuchar el fuerte ruido del tren y al percibir su alta velocidad), emoción (al ver las manos de los migrantes estirarse para agarrar uno de los lonches), alegría (al escuchar las palabras de agradecimiento) y en algunas ocasiones rabia, al darse cuenta que no todos los migrantes pudieron tomar la comida.

That moment when the La Bestia train passes by La Patrona town, brings with it many feelings for anyone with food to give out: jitters (if it is the first time that he or she does it), stress (to hear the loud noise of the train and to feel the high speed of its movement), emotion (to see the hands of all of the migrants stretching out to grab one of the lunches), joy (when you hear them saying thank you) and sometimes anger, to know that not all migrants were able to take the food.

After receiving so many tweets and comments in support of their work, Las Patronas thanked netizens for their words:

We thank everyone for your words and for your congratulations. We do everything to support the resistance of the migrants and their right to life. Hugs

November 18 2013

NACLA-Global Voices Partnership Tackles Gender & Sexuality in Latin America & the Caribbean

Women of Latin America and the Caribbean took to the Streets of Bogota on the the 12th International Feminist Meeting in 2011 to demand an end to violence against women and girls. Photo from Flickr user Say NO - UNiTE  (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Women of Latin America and the Caribbean took to the Streets of Bogota during the 12th International Feminist Meeting in 2011 to demand an end to violence against women and girls. Photo from Flickr user Say NO – UNiTE, under a Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

As part of the partnership between Global Voices and NACLA (North American Congress on Latin America), a team of five Global Voices authors from Latin America and the Caribbean will contribute weekly articles for a series about women, gender, and LGBT issues. We draw from failures and successes in Latin America and the Caribbean with an eye toward equality, advancement, and resistance for and by women and LGBT people across all borders.

We asked these five authors to tell us why they think that covering these themes in the region is important. We also asked them to share some of the online projects that they’ve discovered while covering LGBT and gender issues.


Sandra Abd'Allah-Alvarez Ramírez [es] is Cuban. She describes herself as “a bisexual woman who loves another woman with whom she is formally married.”

“I’m Cuban, and that’s the main reason why I insistently tackle non-heteronormative sexuality, because in Cuba we have much to accomplish in that regard,” she explains. Sandra, who had to move to Germany to marry her partner, is part of Proyecto Arcoiris [es], a group of activists who are fighting against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in Cuba.

Sandra pointed us to Pikara Magazine [es], a website where she often contributes [es] articles and interviews. Pikara Magazine covers news with a gender perspective, featuring people and stories that rarely appear in the media.

She also recommends visiting the blog Feminist Network Project, which seeks to “connect feminist activists around the world.”

Sandra blogs at Negra cubana tenía que ser [es] and tweets at @negracubana [es].


“I am the son of a wonderful single mother. [She is] a person with an indomitable character, an independent spirit, and has an enviable strength. That’s why I'm interested in issues of gender equity,” Ángel Carrión [es], a Puerto Rican musician and blogger, explains.

Ángel says he has always been interested in stories about people who are marginalized by society. He thinks that valuable knowledge and perspectives are lost when people are excluded. Furthermore, Ángel feels he has a duty to draw attention to “the invisible,” and to help educate and change mentalities about LGBT and gender issues.

He recommends several projects from Puerto Rico, like Proyecto Matria [es], an organization that seeks to help victims of domestic and sexual violence on the island. He also mentions the Committee Against Homophobia and Discrimination [es], a group that started at the University of Puerto Rico, and the LGBTT Community Center of Puerto Rico [es], which offers a variety of services (legal and psychological) for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual, and Transgender community.

You can follow Ángel on Twitter @angel15amc [es] and read his blog Diálogo Libre [es].

2013 pride and equality march in Santiago, Chile. Photo by Felipe Longoni, uploaded to Flickr by Movilh Chile under a Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

2013 pride and equality march in Santiago, Chile. Photo by Felipe Longoni, uploaded to Flickr by Movilh Chile under a Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)


Laura Vidal is a Venezuelan researcher exploring societies, their culture, and their stories. She currently lives in France.

In her opinion, “gender equality and the portrayal of movements defending the freedom of LGBT communities are fraught with misunderstandings—many intentional.” She adds that in Latin America, “the concept of gender is fiercely attacked by conservative ideas that have changed little over the years.”

Laura thinks that the debate about gender and LGBT issues in the region needs to improve, and that it is troubling to see how different parts of society dehumanize women and the LGBT community.

When asked about projects dealing with these issues, Laura mentioned the work of Coral Herrera Gómez [es], a Spanish scholar focusing on gender theory who Laura is interviewing for this series. She also mentioned the NGO Aliadas en Cadena, which organizes workshops for women affected by poverty in Venezuela.

Laura tweets at @lenguaraz.


Pamela Martínez Achecar [es], a Dominican economist and researcher, recognizes that although Latin America and Caribbean countries have advanced rapidly in economic development and in legislation to expand freedoms for its citizens, women and the LGBT community continue to struggle to receive the same treatment their male, often straight, peers receive.

She thinks that “it is therefore vital to guide the focus of public attention to these struggles, many waged in silence, to raise awareness and to highlight the great efforts of many who are fighting against inequality.”

Pamela recommends following the Center for Gender Studies [es] from the Santo Domingo Institute of Technology, a center “devoted to higher education, research, and advocacy on public policies from a gender perspective.” She also pointed us to the Dominican feminist organization Colectiva Mujer y Salud [es] (Women and Health Collective).

Pamela blogs at Pensando a contracorriente [es] and tweets at @LlamenmePam [es].


For Mexican journalist Andrea Arzaba, “gender equality doesn’t exist in Latin America, especially in rural communities.”

Andrea has met women from Southern Mexico who are not allowed to study beyond secondary school, “simply because they were born as women.” She has also witnessed cases of women who endure physical and psychological abuse because they are economically dependent on a man. “These are some of the cases that have inspired me to write about gender equality and to bring these issues to the online discussion.”

Andrea follows the work of World Pulse, a nonprofit social media enterprise that’s using digital media to give women from around the world a space where they can connect to each other and speak out about their issues. She also recommends following the blog Mujeres Viajeras [es] (Traveling women).

Andrea started The Sunflower Post, a blog covering news from around the world with a gender perspective, and is currently writing for several websites like Future ChallengesAnimal Político [es] and IJNET. You can read her personal blog at One Lucky Life and follow her on Twitter at @andrea_arzaba.


Global Voices’ mission is to shed light on stories that remain untold in the mainstream media. Women, gender, and LGBT issues are generally either invisible or distorted in public discourse around the world. This invisibilization is one of the reasons we have made the coverage of these important topics one of our priorities, and a part of our partnership with NACLA.

Stay tuned to read Sandra, Angel, Laura, Pamela, and Andrea’s posts during the following weeks!

Firuzeh Shokooh Valle contributed to this post.

November 14 2013

PHOTOS: Humans of Latin America

“She laughed, laughed and laughed while she waited for inter-provincial transportation. Tiraque, Cochabamba”.
Photo by Mijhail Calle for Humans of Bolivia, used with permission.

Inspired by photographer Brandon Stanton's blog Humans of New York (HONY), professional and amateur photographers across the world have created blogs and Facebook pages where they collect images and stories of people from all walks of life –and Latin America has not been an exception.

Stanton's idea has inspired Latin American photographers who want to showcase their country or city through portraits of its diverse people.

This is a brief overview of some of the “Humans of…” projects in the region.

Humans of Buenos Aires

“Come and visit me whenever you want. I'm sorry I can't offer you mate [local beverage] but I have no place to heat up water.” Photo by Jimena Mizrahi, used with permission.

Freelance photographer Jimena Mizrahi started Humans of Buenos Aires in May 2012, and her Facebook page has attracted over 11,000 likes.

Her project also caught the attention of a city official, which resulted in the first Humans of Buenos Aires exhibition. The Argentina Independent reports that “the exhibition ‘Micro historias del Microcentro’ featured displays of portraits of individuals who live or work in the city’s central business district”.

Jimena told The Argentina Independent that she does Humans of Buenos Aires “not only because I simply love interacting with people, but because each of these interactions is a lesson. Every person is a world.”

“-I can't believe it! A woman cab driver!
-Of course, do you think that women can't be taxi drivers? It's time to stop being surprised when women do things that aren't common for their gender, there aren't things for men or women.”
Photo by Jimena Mizrahi, used with permission.

Humans of Colombia and Humans of Bogotá

“A Wayuu girl, daughter of a restaurant owner in Uribia.”
Photo by Gábor Szentpétery, used with permission.

Humans of Colombia was created by designer Maurent Roa and architect Gábor Szentpétery. During their travels the couple met Mauricio Romero, who has joined the project and contributed some photographs. While traveling, they also noticed that many people didn't know much about Colombia or had a negative perception of the country; with this project they aim to show a different side of Colombia.

“The idea is to represent Colombia through its people because ethnic diversity in Colombia is incredible. It is a mixture of Amerindians, Spanish and African descendants, and that's what we want to show the world,” Maurent explains.

“Carmen Lorena grew up on a coffee plantation estate about three hours from Bogotá, but she thinks the city life is not for her, she prefers the countryside where she will stay after finishing her studies.”
Photo by Mauricio Romero, used with permission.

“What is your perception of love, and your favorite way to love?”
-”I think that love is everything, it makes up everything that surrounds us and I'd say that my favorite way to love is…breathing”.
Photo by John Cardona, used with permission.

For more photos from Colombia, you can also visit Humans of Bogotá, a page created in August 2013 by John Cardona and Jonathan Arévalo.

John and Jonathan are motivated by the response they've received, and by the chance to meet new people and hear stories that they can show the world through their page. They say that this movement “shows how we can all identify with someone, no matter how far they live.”

“One wish?
-Safety in all of Bogotá.
-Tranquillity and peace”
Photo by John Cardona, used with permission.

Humans of Bolivia

“In Sipe Sipe – Cochabamba, the man said ‘take this abroad'. Then he began playing his charango.”
Photo by Mijhail Calle, used with permission.

Created on November 3, 2013, Humans of Bolivia is one of the newest Facebook pages to mirror Humans of New York in the region. Estelí Puente and Mijhail Calle want to create the same empathy they saw in the New York project and similar projects like Humans of Amsterdam, “the feeling that humanity is formed by individuals with their own stories.”

Although Mijhail takes most of the photographs, they are reaching out to other photographers who can share images from different parts of Bolivia. “This dynamic is also allowing us to create a space to share and discuss the role of the image and photography in the construction of our identities, so for now it looks like this will be more than a series of portraits. We want it to be a reason to reflect about ourselves,” Estelí explains.

“There are not many amauta women, it's hard to be one, but I am. Now I'm part of the union”.
Photo by Mijhail Calle, used with permission.

Humans of Honduras

“My biggest desire is for politicians to turn a blind eye to the colors of their parties, and for their focus to be solely on the betterment and unity of their country. This is the only way in which Honduras will be able to move forward.”
Photo by Claudia, used with permission.

Claudia Elvir and Daniela Mejía “invite you to get to know Honduras through its people” on their Facebook page Humans of Honduras.

Claudia started following Stanton's blog and was impressed by how he not only “captured impressive photographs, but also used them to capture the humanity behind each portrait, and how each photograph told a story that resonated in the hearts of the readers.”

Her friend Daniela conducts the interviews. Claudia and Daniela want to change the violent and negative image that the world has about Honduras, and they also want to change the way Hondurans see their own country.

Through their photographs and interviews, Claudia and Daniela hope to show that Honduras is a country “full of hard-working people, people with dreams, ambitions, joys and sorrows just like in every corner of the world.”

“I asked him to smile and very amiably he said, ‘I would like to, but in this job you have to be serious.’ and with that he demonstrated how appearances are deceiving.”
Photo by Claudia, used with permission.

Humans of Guatemala

“Slow but steady! Yes, it´s a long way to go, but I will make it.”
Photo by Elmer Alvarez, used with permission.

Elmer Alvarez had already been taking photographs of people around Guatemala before starting the Facebook page Humans of Guatemala in September 2013. Wendy Del Aguila, who now writes the captions, told Elmer about Humans of New York and he felt motivated to start a similar page about Guatemala.

Elmer and Wendy seek to capture “spontaneous moments of these extraordinary people reflecting their smile, passion, curiosity, hard work, shyness, kindness and most important their uniqueness!”

La Teacher-

La Teacher-”Let Your Smile Change The World”
Photo by Elmer Alvarez, used with permission

More “Humans of…” projects

“Every morning Don Pedro has opened his taqueria in this small village for two years. He has the usual clients and he gives out free tacos to all the minibus drivers who stop their minibus near his stand. “
Photo by Humans of Mexico, used with permission

The image above comes from Humans of Mexico, a page created in March 2010. Also from Mexico, Humans of Mexico City seeks to create a “photographic census of Mexico City. One street portrait at a time.”

Humans of Costa Rica, a page created in July of 2013, has more than 1,700 likes.

In Brazil, the Humans of Rio de Janeiro Facebook page is one of the most active in the region, and has over 9,000 likes.

Some Facebook pages -like Humans of Nicaragua, Humans of Panama, and Humans of Santiago, Chile- ask users to contribute photographs to the project. Others -like Humans of Quito, Humans of Lima, Humans of Peru, and Humans of Asunción- have been created less than a month ago.

Have we missed any “Humans of…” projects from South or Central America? Let us know in the comments!

November 13 2013

Mexican Voter Data for Sale at

Elecciones en Baja, California, MX. Foto de Nathan Gibbs via Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Elections in Baja, California, MX. Photo by Nathan Gibbs via Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Mexican newspaper Reforma reported [es] that the website apparently has been harvesting information from the database of the Mexican Federal Electoral Institute (IFE) [es], the body responsible for organizing elections. This has left ample private citizen data accessible on the Internet.

On the webpage, users could access a citizen's voter password, an 18-digit code found in the voting credentials, as well as home addresses simply by searching a voter's last name. Citizen data could also be obtained through other identification records like the Unique Population Registry Code (CURP) or the Federal Taxpayers Registry (RFC), as seen in the screenshot below.

Screenshot of

The answer from Mexican authorities 

Following Reforma's November 6 article, the Institute for Access to Information, a body of the Mexican Federal Public Administration responsible for guaranteeing the right to accessing public government information and the protection of personal data, condemned the potentially unlawful treatment in a statement [es]. The body also indicated that it would open an investigation and agreed to file a complaint with the Attorney General's office against those responsible. The IFE filed a complaint as well.

Hosting for

We consulted the City Network hosting service, where is hosted, and asked those responsible for its administration why the website remained online and the nature of their relationship with the site.

One of their system engineers explained, “this site in particular is not violating the terms of use nor the Swedish law and we have no reason to shut it down,” stressing that they were affiliated with neither the website nor its proprietor.

He also noted that in order for City Network to act on a violation of this sort, the company would have to receive a judicial order from local Mexican authorities.

Server problems 

The website partially stopped working on the morning of November 8. The search functions have been disabled, since according to a message from its administrators, they are experiencing server problems and the searches will not be available until further notice.

Protection of personal data in Mexico 

In Mexico there are mechanisms like those offered by the Federal Law of Transparency and Access to Public Government Information [es], which establishes a guarantee for the protection of personal data in the hands of the government. Additionally, the Federal Law on the Protection of Personal Data Held by Individuals [es] mandates that anyone handling personal data is obligated to safeguard the privacy of that data, in order to ensure that the owners of that data can access and delete the information at any time or legally contest the way their personal data is handled by third parties.

One case among many? 

Statements from the IFAI and IFE followed Reforma's article and referred exclusively to the case discussed in the paper; yet this is not the only visible case online. There is also a site [es] that reports the sale of the Federal Electoral Institute database, which had been updated until 2012, an incident that authorities have not yet addressed.

November 12 2013

Cyber Stewards Network and Local Activists Investigate FinFisher in Mexico

Map of FinFisher products detected worldwide. Created by John Scott Railton and the Citizen Lab.

Map of FinFisher products detected worldwide. Created by John Scott Railton and the Citizen Lab.

The original version of this post appeared on Citizen Lab's Cyber Stewards site.

While the Mexican government has long been suspected of purchasing surveillance equipment, the frequency of these purchases and the level of public funds allocated to them are rapidly increasing. Last February,  the New York Times published an investigative report on USD 355 million in expeditures by the Mexican Ministry of Defense for sophisticated surveillance equipment. Six months prior to the Times investigation, Carmen Artistegui, a renowned investigative journalist in Mexico, published a report documenting five contracts from the National Secretary of Defense for the purchase of surveillance technologies. All five contracts were confidential and granted to a single company headquartered in the state of Jalisco called Security Tracking Devices, Inc.

In March of 2013, the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab published “You Only Click Twice: FinFisher’s Global Proliferation,” in which researchers conducted a global Internet scan for command-and-control servers of FinFisher surveillance software. Citizen Lab found FinFisher servers hosted by two Mexican Internet service providers: Iusacell, a small service provider, and UniNet, one of the largest ISPs in Mexico.

It was clear that the findings revealed potential legal violations. As part of my work investigating surveillance in the Northern Triangle for Citizen Lab's Cyber Stewards project, I shared this research with human rights groups and technology collectives in Mexico.

The findings were widely distributed via social networks and later translated by the online activist group YoSoyRed. Shortly thereafter, Mexican magazine Proceso published an investigative report on the harassment of human rights defenders online. The report  asked Iusacell  and UniNet to explain the presence of FinFisher on their servers. Neither of the ISPs responded to any of the magazine’s questions.

I connected with human rights activists in Mexico City and we worked together to raise awareness about civil society efforts in other countries that have resulted in legal action against the use of surveillance technology by repressive regimes, including cases against Amesys in France and Finfisher in Pakistan. A coalition of human rights lawyers and international experts, including Citizen Lab, ISOC Mexico, Privacy International, and other organizations, discussed the possibility of taking legal action to reveal the identity of those parties responsible for the purchase and deployment of FinFisher software in Mexico. At the time, however, we did not have enough information to present a strong case.

In May of 2013 Citizen Lab published “For Their Eyes Only: The Commercialization of Digital Spying,” which once again implicated Mexican ISPs in deploying FinFisher surveillance software. Two Mexico City-based human rights non-governmental organizations, Propuesta Cívica and ContingenteMx, requested a verification procedure regarding FinFisher’s presence in Mexico with the Instituto Federal de Acceso a la Información y Protección de Datos Inicio (Federal Institute for Access to Information and Data Protection or IFAI), Mexico’s privacy authority. Their filing cited Citizen Lab’s FinFisher research.

“For Their Eyes Only,” report by Citizen Lab.

IFAI is legally mandated to protect citizen data and investigate possible personal data violations by private sector entities, as provided by the Federal Law on Personal Data Protection Held by Private Parties. It is also mandated to impose sanctions if a law has been breached. IFAI has the ability to launch a procedure either on its own initiative or at the request of affected parties. If, after preliminary findings, the IFAI determines that there is sufficient evidence to proclaim that a data breach has taken place, a formal investigation and possible sanctions will follow.

IFAI subsequently opened an official preliminary inquiry asking ISPs whether they were hosting FinFisher servers and what measures they were taking to protect the data of their clients. At the same time, Federal Deputy Juan Pablo Adame proposed a resolution before the Mexican Senate and Congress encouraging IFAI to investigate the use of FinFisher with reference to Citizen Lab’s findings and the requests submitted by civil society to investigate the deployment of FinFisher (registered as IFAI/SPDP/DGV/544/2013 and IFAI/SPDP/DGV/545/2013). The Permanent Assembly approved Adame’s motion, thereby imposing an obligation on the data protection authority to answer all questions submitted by the government.

After the Congress and Senate passed a joint resolution, IFAI announced that it required further information from ISPs and government agencies with powers to acquire surveillance technologies before deciding whether it would open a verification process for Iusacell and UniNet. UniNet denied responsibility for any programs that clients run on their servers, while Iusacell made no comment.

Purchase of FinFisher confirmed by authorities

On July 6, following the Congressional resolution and an IFAI public statement announcing the inquiry, YoSoyRed published a leaked contract and other documents implicating the Mexican Federal Government in the purchase of FinFisher software. The Procuraduría General de la Nación (Office of the Prosecutor or PGR) purchased the surveillance tool from Obses, a security contractor, for up to USD 15.5 million. José Ramirez Becerril, a representative from Obses, unveiled details about the equipment provided to PGN and claimed that other Mexican governmental institutions purchased the software as well. Mexican authorities confirmed that the equipment was purchased directly rather than through the governmental bid system that usually characterizes defence contracts so as not to  “alert organized crime.”

The media heavily scrutinized the leaked FinFisher contracts. The press, however, was more concerned about the amount of public funds allocated to purchasing these technologies than about the technologies themselves. In circumventing the public bid procedure, FinFisher and another surveillance tool called Hunter Punta Tracking/Locsys were sold at an inflated price to Mexican authorities during the Felipe Calderon administration. In response, authorities indicated they would prosecute culpable individuals who conduct illegal surveillance activities. To date, no criminal complaint has been filed, despite strict provisions that prohibit the interception of communications unless authorized by a federal judge and a warrant. The full content of the contracts has not yet been made public.

As the scandal unfolded, Congress offered help to activists on the ground demand greater transparency and accountability. On July 11, the Mexican Senate and Congress passed a joint resolution in which they demanded a full investigation and disclosure of any contracts between the Secretary of Interior, the PGR, and any other relevant institution. They were asked to send a full report about the purchase of surveillance and hacking systems capable of monitoring mobile phones, electronic communications, chats, and geolocation data from Obses, Gamma Group, Intellego, and EMC Computer Systems, and its affiliates. Congress also called for laws to regulate and restrict purchases of surveillance equipment, extensively quoting the Citizen Lab report in their request. The commercial entities named have not yet responded. IFAI also informed Congress that they would continue the investigation.

Iusacell and UniNet continued to deny hosting FinFisher servers. Iusacell indicated that the servers were located in Malaysia. Further evidence indicates otherwise: Wikileaks’ and La Jornada’s Spyfiles 3 publication revealed that FinFisher developers visited and were active in Mexico.

All Mexicans enjoy a constitutional right to privacy according to the recently amended Article 16 of the Mexican Constitution and the Federal Law on the Protection of Personal Data held by Private Parties, a general privacy framework. IFAI’s mandate ensures full monitoring powers and verification of compliance with these laws. If IFAI fails to open a full investigation, criminal and constitutional complaints can follow and any failure to investigate will be challenged under the basis of flagrancy. Technical assistance is often necessary to test devices and find examples  of infected individuals to support any legal course of action.

IFAI’s investigation is currently ongoing. The Citizen Lab and Cyber Stewards Network will continue supporting the case and helping both the Mexican authorities and the citizens to understand how surveillance systems operates so that they can evaluate whether those employing them are breaking the law.

Renata Avila is a researcher with Cyber Stewards, an international network of South-based cybersecurity scholars, advocates and practitioners facilitated by the University of Toronto's Citizen Lab.


Relevant resources:

Mexican Government Purchased FinFisher Spyware, Daily Dot

Mexico: Advocates demand a full investigation of FinFisher spyware, Global Voices Advocacy

Propuesta Cívica y Contingente Mexicano presentan denuncia ante la Procuraduría General de la Nación por presunto espionaje a teléfonos móviles, Animal Politico

Mexico, en alerta por riesgo de espionaje digital, El Economista

Statement of support from Jacob Appelbaum, ContingenteMX

Privacy International solicita al IFAI que inicie investgación sobre FinFisher, ContingenteMX

November 01 2013

Unchecked Violence Continues in Michoacán, Mexico

In May 2013 Global Voices tackled the topic of the disproportionate violence that afflicts Michoacán de Ocampo, a state in the central-west zone of Mexico. Sadly, 5 months later, crime and attacks against the population continue to be in the news in the region.

Alberto Nájar from the BBC [es] recently referred to the wave of violence in Michocán territory in this way:

El estado vive una nueva ola de violencia que según especialistas y autoridades es parte de la disputa entre dos carteles de narcotráfico, a la que se añade el surgimiento de grupos de autodefensa civil.

El gobierno federal aplica en la zona una nueva operación que incluye el despliegue de cientos de soldados, infantes de la Marina y Policías Federales.

Hasta ahora su presencia no ha logrado evitar el enfrentamiento entre los grupos, ni tampoco los ataques a convoyes de policías.

The state is experiencing a new wave of violence that according to specialists and authorities is part of the dispute between two drug-trafficking cartels, to which is added the emergence of civil self-defense groups.

The federal government is implementing a new operation in the area which includes the deployment of hundreds of soldiers, Marine infantry and Federal Police.

Until now its presence has not managed to prevent conflict between the groups, nor attacks on police convoys.

For his part, the Mexican journalist Carlos Loret de Mola [es] gave a brief account of the events of the past few days in the state:

Grupos de autodefensa decidieron ir a manifestarse a Apatzingán [municipio ubicado en el oeste de Michoacán] con el argumento de que la gente de ahí les pedía gestionar más seguridad ante el asedio del cártel de Los Caballeros Templarios. El Ejército y la Policía Federal les dieron autorización para marchar siempre y cuando lo hicieran desarmados. En la plaza central, presuntos integrantes del crimen organizado los recibieron a balazos. Imágenes han comprobado que simpatizantes de los grupos de autodefensa también iban armados, a pesar de la advertencia oficial.

Self-defense groups decided to go and demonstrate in Apatzingán [municipality located in the west of Michoacán] with the argument that the people there asked them to provide more security against the harassment from the Caballeros Templarios cartel. The Army and the Federal Police gave them authorization to go ahead on condition that they did it unarmed. In the central plaza, they were met with gunshots from suspected members of the organised crime. Images have confirmed that supporters of the self-defense groups also went armed, despite the official warning.

Carlos continues:

Aparentemente en represalia por la coordinación de las fuerzas federales con las guardias comunitarias, criminales al parecer vinculados con Los Caballeros Templarios atacaron instalaciones de CFE [compañía de electricidad] y PEMEX [la corporación mexicana más grande, dedicada al petróleo]. ¿El saldo del fin de semana? Cinco cadáveres afuera de Apatzingán y versiones de que fueron hasta 23.

Ostensibly in retaliation to the coordination of the federal forces with the community police force, criminals who appear to be connected with the Caballeros Templarios attacked CFE [electricity company] and PEMEX [an oil company, and the largest company in Mexico] facilities. The weekend account balance? Five corpses outside Apatzingán and reports that there were up to 23.

This same number of deaths was reported by Blog De Izquierda [Left Blog] [es] on the October 29:

El Consejo de Policías Comunitarias de Tepalcatepec, Jospe Manuel Mireles, señaló que van 23 muertos por los enfrentamientos en Tierra Caliente en las últimas horas.

La violencia en México sigue fuera de control desde que Enrique Peña Nieto llegó al poder.

Tepalcatepec Community Police Council's, Jospe Manuel Mireles, pointed out that 23 are dead because of the conflicts in Tierra Caliente in the last few hours.

The violence in Mexico has been out of control since Enrique Peña Nieto came to power.

Héctor Tenorio, as guest author of Homozapping [es], pointed out:

La administración de Enrique Peña Nieto ya replanteó su estrategia en conjunto con el Gobierno michoacano, hará uso de la fuerza del Estado, se reforzó la seguridad en la entidad con 5 mil elementos del ejército ¿Será el nuevo modelo en la lucha contra el crimen organizado? ¿Es el reconocimiento que en muchas parte del país hay un Estado fallido?

En este contexto se debe entender que La Familia Michoacana, Los Zetas, Nueva Generación y los Caballeros Templarios, se disputan la entidad mientras las fuerzas federales no han sido capaces de descubrir las casas de seguridad del crimen organizado y hasta la fecha no hayan liberado a nadie cuando se cuentan por decenas las personas levantadas. ¿Será que no saben o no quieren? ¿Omisión o complicidad?

Enrique Peña Nieto's administration has already reconsidered its strategy together with the Michocán Government, it will make use of the State force, it has strengthened the security in the state with 5 thousand army members. Will it be the new model in the fight against organised crime? Is the acknowledgement that in many parts of the country there is a Failed State?

In this context it must be understood that La Familia Michoacana, Los Zetas, Nueva Generación and los Caballeros Templarios [cartels] compete for the state while the federal forces have not been capable of finding the organised crime safe houses, and to date they have not released anybody when those who have been abducted number in the tens. Is it because they don't know or don't want to? Omission or collusion?

As well as having used the delicate term “Failed State”, the author explained [es] the recent violent acts that have caused commotion:

Ahora bien, las imágenes del enfrentamiento armado en Apatzingán parecían escenas de una guerra civil, francotiradores dispararon y lanzaron una granada contra grupos de autodefensas cuando éstos realizaban una manifestación la cual se pactó con el ejército; en respuesta, los guardias comunitarios quemaron al menos seis camiones. Hubo un herido de bala y tres más de esquirlas.

So, the images of the armed conflict in Apatzingán would seem to be scenes from a civil war, snipers were fired and a grenade was thrown at self-defense groups when they carried out a demonstration which had been agreed upon with the army; in response, the community police burnt at least six trucks. There was a gunshot wound and three more were wounded by splinters.

On Twitter, the legislator of the conservative Partido Acción Nacional (National Action Party), Ricardo Anaya, shared the following message among his followers:

What has happened in Michoacán paints a full portrait of the consequences of decades of neglect, frivolity, corruption, collusion and negligence.

In a tone perhaps of resignation and with a bit of sarcasm, the user valentin lpz expressed the following:

one day I will make love to you under a shootout in #Michoacan

In the following message, Mire García explained who are the most affected by this situation:

There's a total collapse in the governability of #Michoacán and the citizens are the only ones who face it and endure it day-to-day.

Cockgrinding Post expressed his solidarity with the Michoacán citizenship:

Our solidarity from the #DF for the Michoacán people who suffer because of the ineffectiveness of the Fausto Vallejo government #EstadoFallido (Failed State)

In the presence of this climate of violence and absence of security and minimum guarantees for the citizenship, all eyes are on the various orders from government (local and federal) searching for a solution and a ceasefire which, it looks like, will be a long time coming while the number of victims contines to rise.

The photo featured in this post was shared on Twitter by Noticias MVS.
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