sunset from behind the wire

sunset from behind the wire

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Mexico Tourism

This news is two weeks old so it's not really news anymore. I'm using the story to set up a point.

Carlos Muñoz Portal, age 37, was an experienced location scout for various film productions including “Sicario,” “Spectre,” “Fast & Furious” and “Apocalypto.”

He was scouting in Mexico for the fourth season of the Netflix series, "Narcos". 
Muñoz’s bullet-riddled body and car were found in a remote area  on a rustic road in San Bartolo, Actopan, near the borders of Hidalgo state, which is said to have the highest murder rate in Mexico. In July, 182 cases of homicide were reported in the densely populated state, a ratio of 12.2 for every 100,000 inhabitants.
Netflix issued the following statement: “We are aware of the passing of Carlos Muñoz Portal, a well-respected location scout, and send our condolences to his family. 

Muñoz’s murder raises doubts on whether the production will continue in Mexico or move back to Colombia where it began. Such a decision would imperil hundreds of jobs that the series’ production would have generated in Mexico.

Various leading narcos have what I refer to as 'black sites' (because no crime takes place there) where those people can hang out safely from the police, and the competition. All roads in and out are watched by halcones (falcons), who report suspicious movement. Enter Muñoz, who was running around taking photos.

And the narcos shot him to pieces. 

THIS is a lesson for tourists to Mexico. The country is controlled by cartels and Mexican journalists and spies (same thing) are slaughtered with disturbing regularity. Tourists look very much like a location scout, photographing points of interest. 

I'm repeatedly reassured by people who travel to Mexico that it's perfectly safe. That's simply not true. You could also make the case that attending a country-western concert outside the Mandalay Bay Hotel in Las Vegas isn't safe. The truth is that nowhere is safe, but you're a lot more likely to be killed flat-hatting around Mexico than you are in the US.

International News

Taiwan Dodges a (mainland) Chinese Bullet

No independence. Premier Lai Ching-te said on 3 October that President Tsai Ing-wen will not declare Taiwan independent. Tension with China should ease, though Chinese officials will never trust Lai. 
Singing the anthem of the Republic of China and waving the Republic of China flag are tolerable to the Communist Chinese because they embody the principle of “one China”, but under Nationalist governance. Neither are symbols of an independent Taiwan.
China Learns from the NFL

China has introduced a law making it illegal to “disrespect” the national anthem, punishable with two weeks in prison. The timing indicates that this is a consequential effect of protests by athletes in the US.


Nawaz Sharif rises again. The ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PMLN) party on Monday, 2 October, nominated ousted (corrupt) prime minister Nawaz Sharif as its leader. 

Sharif’s restoration to leadership means that he will not go into exile, following the example of former president and chief of army staff Pervez Musharraf. Sharif intends to fight the charges of corruption and to direct the policies of the governing party. He said he will not leave Pakistan if his legal situation deteriorates. HOWEVER, the Swiss bank accounts are in place and Pak leaders talk a good game until prison threatens. Sharif goes on trial next week for corruption.

For the record, all Pakistani leaders are corrupt.

The Kurds

Iraqi Kurdish leaders plan to hold presidential and parliamentary elections on 1 November, said Irbil-based Rudaw TV.

In the aftermath of the independence referendum, the elections could be construed as the first under an independent Kurdistan government. If the elections are held, they are likely to further aggravate the political confrontation.

Iraq's parliament will suspend Kurdish lawmakers who voted "yes" in the Kurdish independence referendum. A list of those who voted yes will be compiled, and their parliamentary status will be suspended until a court makes a final decision.
In Kirkuk, Kurdistan
Iraq’s prime minister on Tuesday warned the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) against mobilizing its armed Peshmerga forces in the disputed northern province of Kirkuk. Good luck stopping that.
Al-Abadi said, "I warn of the actions of the region’s military mobilization in Kirkuk; it is dangerous... The imposition of a status quo by force over the disputed areas is unacceptable."
The KRG sent Kurdish militia units to Kirkuk to prevent its seizure by the Islamic State. Despite numerous attacks and significant numbers of casualties, the Kurds held the city when the Iraqi and allied forces were fleeing the Islamic State.

Kirkuk province along with parts of the provinces of Nineveh, Saladin (northern Iraq) and Diyala (eastern Iraq) are disputed between Baghdad and the KRG and inhabited by a mixture of ethnic Kurds, Arabs, and Turkmen. Land ownership rights, historic ethnic lands and control of oil resources are three of the core issues that underlie the dispute between Irbil and Baghdad over Kirkuk.

Abadi has threatened to send Iraqi Army units to Kirkuk. The Peshmerga commander in Kirkuk has vowed to resist them by force. 
In Kurdish Syria
Syrian Kurds held elections. Asia Times analyst Sami Moubayed reported that three days before Iraqi Kurds held their independence referendum, the Syrian Kurds voted in local elections. On 22 September, the Syrian Kurds held elections for commune officials.

The elections occurred without incident or obstruction by the Syrian government in Damascus.

The local elections were the first of three elections to create an autonomous or semi-autonomous Kurdish region in northern Syria. On 3 November, the Syrian Kurds will vote for local councils. Parliamentary elections in the three Kurdish districts are set for 19 January. 

The Syrian government is opposed to the creation of a federal state in the north, but the Syrian Kurds say they are open to negotiation. The Syrian Kurds have been more low key and more flexible than their Iraqi counterparts. The Damascus government also has taken no actions and made no statements that create political instability. 

The Syrian government is deferring this political issue until after the defeat of the Islamic State. 


According to a UN report released on 3 October, attacks in Mali by militant Islamists against UN peacekeepers, Malian troops and French forces have surged over the past four months and inflicted heavy casualties on security forces.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres reported that the security situation had "significantly worsened” since June.

Extremist groups carried out 75 attacks: 44 against Malian forces, 21 against the UN's MINUSMA peacekeeping operation and 10 against the French Barkhane counter-terrorism mission. Most of the attacks occurred in northern Mali.

"These figures represent an increase of 102.7% for all attacks," compared to the previous four months, said the report to the Security Council. During those four months, six peacekeepers, one civilian and eight UN contractors were killed and 34 other UN personnel were injured. 

The heaviest toll, however, was sustained by Malian forces, with 39 members killed and 44 wounded. The Security Council is set to discuss the crisis in Mali on 5 October.

The deterioration in the security situation is not the result of a shortage of soldiers. The French have a thousand counter-terrorist forces in Mali as part of Operation Barkhane. The Malian armed forces include at least 7,000 soldiers and is being rebuilt.

For a variety of ethnic, cultural and economic reasons, the government in Bamako tends to focus on areas along and south of the Niger River more than the regions to the north, and east where most of the attacks take place.

You may ask why I report on Mali. You may ask if I care about Mali (I don't). It's like much of the rest of Africa and no matter how much blood or treasure that European (and US - AFRICOM) nations pump into the place, it won't be fixed. It's an exercise in folly.