Inter-American Commission of Human Rights report on 53 Missing in Mexico


New Report Offers Most Plausible Explanation Yet For Attack On 43 Mexican Students
While federal prosecutors have yet to offer a legitimate motive, a new report by a panel of experts does.

Roque Planas National Reporter, The Huffington Post

Posted: 09/09/2015 09:04 PM EDT | Edited: 2 hours ago
Credit: Associated Press Demonstrators protest the disappearance of 43 students who went missing in Mexico last year. Tens of thousands marched on Mexico City’s main avenue demanding the return of the missing students.
The recent report on the 43 students who were abducted last year in Iguala, Mexico, released by the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights on Sunday, confirmed what most people following the case already knew: No one should take the Mexican authorities’ investigation into the case seriously. The panel of experts concluded that the government’s explanation is hopelessly marred and has no basis in forensic science — further discrediting an investigation already plagued by false public statements and the torture of key witnesses.

But the most important element of the report may be one that received relatively little attention in English-language media: The IACHR panel thinks the students may have unknowingly commandeered buses carrying heroin or drug money. Though by no means proven, the theory marks the first reasonable explanation offered so far for why Mexican security forces attacked the students in the first place.
The administration of Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto has offered two major explanations for the motive, neither of which are plausible. First, then-Attorney General Jesús Murillo Karam said in October that police attacked the students to prevent them from protesting at an event featuring María de los Ángeles Pineda, the wife of Iguala’s mayor.

The students, however, didn’t even arrive in the town until two hours after the event had concluded. In fact, surviving students say that they went to Iguala not to protest de los Ángeles Pineda, but rather to commandeer buses so that they could travel to Mexico City a few days later, to attend a mass rally commemorating the 1968 Tlatelolco student massacre on Oct. 2.

Murillo Karam then said in January that police, acting at the behest of the drug gang Guerreros Unidos, might have mistaken the students for rival gang members. This explanation, likewise, makes little sense.

We now know — thanks to the reporting of independent journalists Anabel Hernández and Steve Fisher, along with the IACHR report — that police and the military had been monitoring the students’ movements for hours before the attacks, and discussed their findings over a system called the C4 that coordinates communications between the military and federal and local police forces. The authorities knew exactly who the students were, and Murillo Karam almost surely knew that when he made the false statement in the first place.

The IACHR panel rejects both of the government’s previous explanations of the motive behind the attacks and instead posits a new theory: The students might have unwittingly ended up driving one or more buses carrying either heroin bound for the midwestern U.S. or drug money tied to the Guerreros Unidos gang.

“There’s an aspect that hasn’t been sufficiently considered until now,” the report says. “Public information shows that Iguala is a shipment and transport point for drugs, especially heroin, to the United States, and especially Chicago.” The report cites a criminal complaint filed against Pablo Vega, the alleged local boss of Guerreros Unidos in Chicago. Vega “worked with individuals in Mexico and the Chicago area to transport and distribute narcotics that were concealed in commercial passenger buses that traveled between Mexico and Chicago,” a Drug Enforcement Administration agent said in an affidavit last year.

While surviving students said they took five buses, which local prosecutors confirmed in initial reports, the IAHCR notes that the federal investigation only mentions four buses. The group alerted federal prosecutors about the fifth bus and insisted they interview the driver. The attorney general’s office complied, but without any of the experts from the IACHR panel present.

The driver said the students didn’t think the fifth bus was in good shape and got out shortly after leaving the station in order to go look for another one, according to the attorney general’s account of the interview, which the office provided to the panel. But the students who took the bus say they kept going until they were stopped by police and forced to get out, and then ran off looking for safety. The students’ version of events was corroborated by an eyewitness and the security forces’ own communications recorded through the C4 system, the IACHR panel says.

“They closed the whole city — they don’t want buses to leave,” Francisco Cox, one of the report’s authors, told The Huffington Post. “And then this bus disappears. We asked for the bus. The bus driver gives a version completely contradictory to the students who were in that bus … So we think there is something strange there that needs to be investigated.”

Though it was mentioned in the initial investigation carried out by local officials, the fifth bus was never examined as part of the crime scene. When the IACHR panel tried to examine the vehicle, they were given photographs of a bus from the same company, Estrella Roja. However, the photos differed from the description of the bus offered by the students, and from images captured by a security camera that the IACHR panel examined.

The attorney general’s office has not answered HuffPost’s requests for comment, but Murillo Karam has publicly defended his efforts to investigate the attack. Peña Nieto has instructed the current attorney general, Arely Gómez González, to cooperate with the IACHR panel and implement some of its recommendations.

The evidence offered for the IACHR report’s conclusion is tentative, as the authors readily admit.

“We can’t assert with the certainty that we have affirmed other things in the report that the motive of the attack is that they took the wrong bus,” Cox said. “We can’t say it’s the cause. But it has to be investigated.”

It’s already a much more plausible explanation than anything the Mexican government has come up with so far.


By Agustin Mango
September 28, 2015

Courtesy of Venice International Film Festival

A Silver Lion winner at Venice, the film broke the domestic record for best opening in Argentina.

The Argentine Film Academy announced on Monday that Pablo Trapero’s The Clan will be the country’s submission to the Oscars’ foreign-language category. The film will also bid for a nomination at the Spanish Goya awards in the best Ibero-American film slate.

Based on the true story of an infamous family of kidnappers, the film produced by K&S Films, Pedro and Agustin Almodovar’s El Deseo, Trapero’s own Matanza Cine and co-produced by Telefe and Telefonica Studios, won a Silver Lion for best director in Venice, and competed in Toronto’s new Platform section.

Trapero — who recently signed with CAA — headed Cannes’ Un Certain Regard jury in 2014, and has had two previous films selected to bid for a nomination in the same Oscar category (Lion’s Den and Carancho).

Released by 20th Century Fox, The Clan was a sure bet for both tickets, after breaking the box office record at home for best domestic opener, a mark previously held by the country’s latest Oscar contestant, Damian Szifron’s Wild Tales.

The film also topped Argentina’s latest Oscar winner The Secret in Their Eyes at the all-time box office ranking in Argentina, an expected performance for a high-budget film — for local standards — that tapped into a still-remembered crime story from the 1980s, casting both hugely popular comedian Guillermo Francella (The Secret In Their Eyes) as Arquimedes Puccio, and teen soap star Pedro Lanzani — on his first major film debut — as his son and accomplice Alejandro.

The Clan will be released in the US by Fox.

By Kamilia Lahrichi
September 28, 2015

Meat has traditionally been the linchpin of Argentine culture. Whether it’s in a backyard at the weekly family gathering, on an apartment building’s terrace in Buenos Aires or in a parilla (“steakhouse” in Spanish) on weekdays, the sacrosanct asado (barbecue) transcends cooking meat. It’s a ceremony, a passion and an art.

Local TV hosts won’t tell you if it’ll rain or shine on Sunday. They’ll tell you if you’ll be able to eat an asado outdoors or not. In a nation where there’s a religious reverence for meat, expats should thus bear in mind key rules to avoid faux pas.

More, Always More

First, expats should be prepared to eat a lot of meat. In 2014, Argentina topped the global ranking of beef and veal consumption, according to a 2015 OECD-FAO Agricultural Outlook. Each Argentine stomach consumed, on average, 41.6 kilograms of beef and veal, compared with 24.5 kilograms in the U.S. and 10.5 kilograms in the European Union the same year.

“Every beast that walks goes to the grill master,” goes the Argentine saying. (“Todo bicho que camina va a parar al asador” in Spanish.) Insatiable South Americans are cheating on their darling, though: they now eat more pork and chicken – which expats might be more used to seeing on the grill (parilla, which translates to steakhouse as well as grill.).

Regardless of their financial means, Argentines will budget for half a kilo of meat per person in an asado. It would be deemed a supreme shame not to serve enough flesh. Argentines therefore always cook more meat and keep the rest for later.

A Ritual

Expats should also know that an asado is, first and foremost, a ritual. It begins when the grill master (asador) ignites the fire on the parilla. The ceremony can last up to six hours. Argentines generally start eating between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. They can remain seated until 6 p.m., as several rounds of dishes are being brought to the table.

Unlike in American barbecues, there’s only one grill master in asados. Friends and family members gather around the parilla and while the grill master is slicing the meat, they open a bottle of wine – ordinarily a red Malbec. The Latin American country is known globally for its Malbec grape variety. They also eat snacks (picadas)– cheeses and sausages with bread.

“It’s very frowned upon that friends arrive when the meat is ready to eat because the magic of being with friends is lost,” explains Esteban Nigro, a savvy grill master from the Vicente Lopez neighborhood at the outskirts of Buenos Aires.

Almost every Sunday, the 35-year old geologist gets together with his parents, four siblings, grandmother, aunt and cousin in Tigre, a town 30 kilometers north of Argentina’s capital, where his parents live; There are always 10 people in attendance. Mr. Nigro usually roasts the meat, his mother makes the salads, and his female cousin and grandmother bring the dessert.

In this macho society, “men are proud to cook meat, while women whisper to them: it’s only about adding salt and turning the meat on its back,” says Mr. Nigro, bursting out laughing. “And they’re right!” he admits.

Women never get close to the grill. They chop vegetables and prepare the few leaves of salad Argentines consume. They also set the table. In a proper asado in Argentina’s countryside (campo), male friends would collect dry plants and grasses from the garden to set the fire.

As stomachs gurgle, the grill master will often feel the pressure to cook faster. Symbolic of Argentina’s lax adherence to punctuality, he might say: “we’re almost there” (“le falta un pocito y ya sale” or “cinco minutos y ya sale”) to buy time. Yet, he’s well aware there’s still half an hour left before serving the meat.

It’s All About Technique

For the expats who will take up the task of cooking an Argentine asado, it’s crucial to know how to heat the fire, how much coal to put on, when to turn the meat on its back — which can be a 600-gram beef joint — and in what order to serve the dozens of different cuts.

“Igniting the fire, waiting for the coal to turn red and sustaining the heat can take up to one hour,” says Pepe Sotelo, the grill master of the famed Don Julio restaurant in Buenos Aires’ upscale Palermo neighborhood. The place is so popular that chefs cook the equivalent of nearly two cows per day. You need to keep adding coal as it burns. About 15 to 20 minutes later, when the parilla is warm enough, you can start grilling the cuts.

A typical asado displays a medley of strip roast (asado de tira), roast (asado vacio) and bowels (entraña), which are the most traditional parts, according to Mr. Sotelo. Ribeye (ojo de bife), the more tender tenderloin (bife de lomo), sirloin (bife de chorizo) and T-bone (bife de costilla) are popular too, says the grill master, who has been cooking asados for the past 22 years.

“The order in which meat cuts are cooked depends on its texture,” says the sirloin aficionado, as Don Julio waiters set the tables to welcome clients. For instance, sirloin – a thick and juicy piece – can’t be cooked at the same time as the heart, which is very fine and hence takes less time. Rib eye and tenderloin can be laid on the parilla at the same time because they’re equally thick. They both require about 20 minutes to cook. Cured pork sausage (chorizo) and black pudding (morcillas) need more time because minced meat’s skin is thinner. Besides, it’s essential to grill it well to avoid germs.

An asado usually starts with the chorizo and morcillas. The grill master then cooks vegetables, namely potatoes, peppers and onions, on the grill next to the meat. Argentines enjoy fully tasting a steak’s flavors on their palate so they cook it with its fat.

Knowing when to turn the meat on its back also depends on how thick the cut is. You generally do so when there’s a bit of smoke coming out from only one side of the piece. You will then see blood juice. For meat aficionados who like it rare, you have to turn the meat on its back beforehand, when there’s more juice.

Most people in the South American nation eat medium-cooked steak (punto) and medium rare (jugoso). “I personally like it rare (vuelta y vuelta)” confesses Mr. Sotelo, a true meat pundit, as he grabs a knife to start chopping parts. He says he needs 12 minutes to cook a 300-gram steak on one side. He then turns it on its back, adds salt, and leaves it 8 more minutes.

Some Argentines will dare to douse their meat – especially sausages – with a chimichurri sauce, which is a mixture of garlic, red pepper, parsley, oregano and olive oil. However, most meat junkies will just add salt not to spoil the taste. Argentines are so steadfast in the simplistic art of the asado that the national team came in last at the 2015 World Barbecue Championship in Sweden because the Argentine cooks spurned the barbecue sauce, which competitors were asked to prepare.

Local differences

The debate over how to make the best asado is as old as the gaucho. Each province vyes for asado supremacy in the world’s eighth largest country.

In Cordoba, for example, about 700 kilometers northwest of Buenos Aires, the local culture is more provincial and easygoing, even though it’s the second-largest city. “It’s strange to eat an asado in a steakhouse — unless everyone is lazy and no one wants to cook,” says Juan Rizzi, a 31-year-old native from Cordoba.

“The atmosphere is more laid-back in a house. Friends play the guitar. That’s how the homemade asado is made in Cordoba,” he adds, in a reference to the peña casera that’s widely popular outside Buenos Aires.

Representative of the cultural skirmish between the capital and the country’s inland over the asado’s frequency, Mr. Rizzi is moving back to his hometown later this month, after working as a lawyer in Buenos Aires for two years. He misses the more regular get-togethers around a parilla with his friends. He also admits that Cordoba’s sausages taste better owing to the city’s stronger Italian heritage.

In Santa Fe, about 450 kilometers northeast of Buenos Aires, “people eat asados 70% of the time because distances between houses are shorter and people have more time,” says Raul Albiñana, a native santafesino. People care about “the marketing of the asado” because this tradition is paramount, he says on a sunny Saturday in Pilar, a town about 60 kilometers away from Buenos Aires and a weekend gateway for many capital residents.

“You always have to think about how to present the asado, my grandfather always told me,” Mr. Albiñana stresses, as he slices sausage and puts it on a wooden plate, while his friend Juan, the grill master of the day, tries to control the amount of smoke coming out of the parilla.

Challenging Gender Stereotypes

In an Argentine asado, women make the salad while men cook the meat.—Kamilia Lahrichi Though the asado has specific rules expats should follow, Argentine society is evolving and women are slowly getting closer to the grill.

Rosana Pellenc and her partner Ignacio Costa, both physical trainers, question Argentina’s gender roles in asados. In Miramar, a charming town on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean, about 450 kilometers south of Buenos Aires, Ms. Pellenc remembers that the first time the couple’s friends and relatives saw she was the one cooking meat, they mocked them and made sexist jokes.

“Since we met 22 years ago, no one has ever had a (gender) role in our (relationship)” she says. Eventually, they accepted the situation and enjoyed the asado all together.

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