In more than half of Mexico’s prisons, inmates have taken control

Inmates in Mexico’s Topo Chico Prison Lived in Luxury Before a Deadly Riot.
Inmates in Mexico’s Topo Chico Prison Lived in Luxury Before a Deadly Riot.

By Ana Campoy / Quartz

Aquariums, sauna baths, digital TVs and more than 280 food stands, including a bar. Those are some of the perks dismantled by authorities at Topo Chico prison in northern Mexico, the site of a bloody riot earlier this month that left 49 inmates dead.

The pile of contraband, which had to be removed with heavy machinery due to its bulk, is not a sign of progressive corrections policy. Instead, it underscores the fact that criminals were running the jail in Monterrey, in the state of Nuevo León.

And that’s the situation in many of Mexico’s jails. Nearly 60 percent of state prisons are dominated by inmate self-rule, according to an evaluation of dozens of penitentiary centers by the National Human Rights Commission in 2014.

The agency found that inmate groups run many aspects of prison life, including family visits, the use of phones, and even what inmates are fed. The situation, it says in its report, leads to violence and power struggles.

Despite repeated calls for public officials to do something about the growing problem, experts say conditions haven’t improved in recent years.

“There’s a criminal society inside the jails, with its organization and privileges, and in which everything has a price,” Daniel Montero Zendejas, a criminal law expert, tells Quartz.

17 months later, Pena Nieto visits site of student disappearances

The Guardian – Nearly 17 months after 43 Mexican students disappeared following their abduction by local police, President Enrique Peña Nieto made his first visit to the city where the attack took place. But he avoided a meeting with the missing students’ families, instead overseeing a military ceremony to celebrate the national flag.

Charges dropped against Zapatista leader

Subcommandante MarcosFusion – A federal judge in Mexico has dropped terrorism and rebellion charges against Zapatista leader Subcomandante Marcos after a more than 20-year manhunt. Marcos, a swashbuckling, pipe-smoking rebel leader captured the world’s attention as a modern-day Zorro during the Zapatista uprising in 1994.

Mexico wants to expand uses of prickly pear cactus

Prickly pear cactusFresh Plaza – Mexico is the leading producer of fresh prickly pear cactus for human consumption worldwide with 12,000 hectares planted and a production of nearly 825,000 tons per year. Apart from human consumption, the product could be used in cosmetics, fodder for livestock, the generation of biogas and electricity or in the pharmaceutical industry.

That didn’t work as planned: Mexico’s monopoly ends, then oil tanks

Mexico’s crude output has been slipping for 11 years.
Mexico’s crude output has been slipping for 11 years.

By Adam Williams / Bloomberg

The timing couldn’t have been worse. The end of the 76-year Petroleos Mexicanos monopoly was supposed to unleash an investment flood with companies rushing to develop massive oil reserves. It was going to be historic, and then came the rout.

“It’s tragic that Mexico waited so long to open the sector and that when an administration finally passed a meaningful energy reform, the bottom just falls out of oil prices,” said Tim Samples, a Mexican-energy analyst at the University of Georgia in Athens. “The parade did not last very long.”

Now opponents of President Enrique Pena Nieto, who was accused in some quarters of treason when he denationalized the industry in 2014, are saying they’re being proven right. Some want to bring the monopoly back.

The sweeping energy-sector overhaul was designed to attract major outside investment for the first time since Mexico booted foreign oil and gas companies in 1938. But not as many new players as expected have come in. There’s concern low oil prices might hurt the appetite for deep-water leases to be auctioned later this year.

Mexico will ask for deep-water bids in December

Fuel Fix – Mexico will issue a call for bids on 10 lucrative deepwater exploration fields in early December, President Enrique Peña Nieto said. The announcement is the firmest date yet offered as the much-anticipated auction of Mexico’s deep-water resources approaches. The Gulf of Mexico fields are among the most potentially valuable and technically challenging opportunities the country plans to offer as part of its energy privatization.