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Why does Mexico have the world’s ‘most violent’ cities? | Mexico



In 2020, according to a report by the Mexico City-based Citizen Council for Public Safety and Criminal Justice, seven out of the ten “most violent” cities in the world were located in Mexico.

The organisation ranks cities with populations of 300,000 or more – which are not in declared conflict zones – based on official tallies of intentional homicides.

The city of Celaya in the central Mexican state of Guanajuato came in first with 109.38 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants, followed by Tijuana, Ciudad Juárez, and Ciudad Obregón. Guanajuato’s Irapuato took fifth place, while Baja California’s Ensenada took sixth. Uruapan in the state of Michoacán came in eighth.

For the country as a whole, 2019 and 2020 were the most violent on record, with more than 34,000 intentional homicides each year. Many critics of Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) have blamed his “hugs, not bullets” policy vis-à-vis the drug cartels for the bloody state of affairs.

But while AMLO is certainly deserving of more than a little criticism – particularly with regard to his appallingly dismissive attitude towards Mexico’s surge in femicides during the pandemic – he did not exactly create the current landscape of violence out of thin air.

For starters, although Mexico is of course not officially categorised as a global conflict zone, the country has had the grave misfortune to exist at the mercy of a United States-backed “war on drugs” since 2006, a full 12 years before AMLO assumed the presidency.

Since the start of militarised operations, some 300,000 people have been murdered, and more than 77,000 have disappeared.

In a hypocritical arrangement typical of Mexico’s nasty imperial neighbour, the US is itself responsible for not only the demand for drugs but also the criminalisation that makes their trafficking so lucrative and produces such violent competition in the first place – with poor civilians often caught in the crossfire.

And because the capitalist system thrives on the proliferation of strife in general and the marketing of superficial non-solutions to problems, the US response to the narco-showdown it created across its southern border has been to throw heaps of money at corrupt and violent Mexican security forces who are often in bed with – who else? – the cartels.

Furthermore, as a Washington Post article from 2020 notes, the “US-backed kingpin strategy” – whereby cartel leaders were killed or captured – merely caused criminal organisations to splinter and multiply rather than spontaneously cease to exist, as any remotely lucid person might have predicted.

Now, the array of armed groups continues to expand, and they have also diversified their activities to encompass everything from fuel theft and migrant trafficking to contraband cigarette sales and Fentanyl pill production. The drug war’s initial focus on large cities is another factor contributing to the groups’ diffusion throughout the country as they battle for trafficking routes and territory – and to the sudden emergence of little-known places like Celaya, Guanajuato, as global epicentres of violence.

Again, the Citizen Council for Public Safety and Criminal Justice study lists only cities that do not fall within official war zones. But as luck would have it, plenty of equipment designed for use in war regularly inundates Mexican territory from – you guessed it – the US.

Another Washington Post article from last year observes that the .50-caliber sniper rifle that has been “used by US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan to strike targets from nearly two miles away” – and that is “sold casually” in the US, as weapons tend to be – is “increasingly being used to target and terrorise Mexicans”.

Over the past decade, the article says, approximately 2.5 million illicit US guns have reportedly flowed into Mexico, and the “percentage of homicides committed with firearms has risen” accordingly.

From wars on terror that largely consist of terrorising civilians, then, to wars on drugs that do the same, the imperial dots seem pretty well connected. And the arms industry presumably is not registering too many complaints.

Dawn Marie Paley, author of Drug War Capitalism, commented in an email to me that the “militarisation of Mexico over the course of the last 15 years under the discourse of the war on drugs has led to an increase in violence” – the same “pattern we’re seeing in countries throughout the hemisphere, many of which are experiencing violence more extreme than during the military juntas of the Cold War”.

Naturally, not all countries of the hemisphere have had the precise honour of being co-signatories to the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which swiftly dispensed with millions of Mexican livelihoods on behalf of US agribusiness and other noble sectors  – while also causing many Mexicans to view their own integration into the drug trade as the only viable economic option.

But as Paley emphasised to me, hemispheric “violence on this scale cannot be properly understood as a consequence of criminal activity and state responses to it”. More accurately, she said, it must be understood as “neoliberal war, waged against poor and working-class people in the interest of maintaining an increasingly unequal social order”.

To be sure, unequal social orders are great in terms of generating the perpetual strife on which capitalism thrives. And the present violent Mexican panorama – in which cities like Celaya are transformed into veritable war zones – constitutes a link in a vicious but profitable cycle.

An ABC News article from May quotes penultimate US Ambassador to Mexico Christopher Landau on how Mexican president AMLO has “basically adopted an agenda of a pretty laissez-faire attitude towards” the drug cartels, which Landau claims “is pretty troubling to our government, obviously”.

But there are a lot more troubling things out there.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.

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New Zealand’s Hubbard selected as first transgender Olympian | LGBTQ News




Laurel Hubbard, 43, will compete in the super-heavyweight women’s event in Tokyo.

Weightlifter Laurel Hubbard will become the first transgender athlete to compete at the Olympics after being selected by New Zealand for the women’s event at the Tokyo Games, a decision set to test the ideal of fair competition in sport.

New Zealand Olympic Committee chief Kereyn Smith said 43-year-old Hubbard – who was assigned male at birth but transitioned to female in 2013 – had met all the qualification criteria for transgender athletes.

“We acknowledge that gender identity in sport is a highly sensitive and complex issue requiring a balance between human rights and fairness on the field of play,” Smith said in a statement.

Hubbard will compete in the super-heavyweight 87-kg category after showing testosterone levels below the threshold required by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

The 43-year-old had competed in men’s weightlifting competitions before transitioning.

“I am grateful and humbled by the kindness and support that has been given to me by so many New Zealanders,” Hubbard, an intensely private person who rarely speaks to the media, said in a statement issued by the New Zealand Olympic Committee (NZOC) on Monday.

Hubbard has been eligible to compete at Olympics since 2015, when the IOC issued guidelines allowing any transgender athlete to compete as a woman provided their testosterone levels are below 10 nanomoles per litre for at least 12 months before their first competition.

Some scientists have said the guidelines do little to mitigate the biological advantages of people who have gone through puberty as males, including bone and muscle density.

Advocates for transgender inclusion argue the process of transition decreases that advantage considerably and that physical differences between athletes mean there is never a truly level playing field.

Save Women’s Sport Australasia, an advocacy group for women athletes, criticised Hubbard’s selection.

“It is flawed policy from the IOC that has allowed the selection of a 43-year-old biological male who identifies as a woman to compete in the female category,” the group said in a statement.

Weightlifting has been at the centre of the debate about the fairness of transgender athletes competing against women, and Hubbard’s presence in Tokyo could prove divisive.

Her gold medal wins at the 2019 Pacific Games in Samoa, where she topped the podium ahead of Samoa’s Commonwealth Games champion Feagaiga Stowers, triggered outrage in the host nation.

Samoa’s weightlifting boss said Hubbard’s selection for Tokyo would be like letting athletes “dope” and feared it could cost the small Pacific nation a medal.

Belgian weightlifter Anna Vanbellinghen said last month allowing Hubbard to compete at Tokyo was unfair for women and “like a bad joke”.

Australia’s weightlifting federation sought to block Hubbard from competing at the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast but organisers rejected the move.

Hubbard was forced to withdraw after injuring herself during competition, and thought her career was over.

“When I broke my arm at the Commonwealth Games three years ago, I was advised that my sporting career had likely reached its end,” Hubbard said on Monday, thanking New Zealanders.

“But your support, your encouragement, and your aroha (love) carried me through the darkness.”

Olympic Weightlifting New Zealand President Richie Patterson said Hubbard had worked hard to come back from the potentially career-ending injury.

“Laurel has shown grit and perseverance in her return from a significant injury and overcoming the challenges in building back confidence on the competition platform,” he said.

Hubbard is currently ranked 16th in the world in the super heavyweight category.

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Apple Daily could shut ‘in days’ after Hong Kong asset freeze | Freedom of the Press News




Company adviser says action under security law means it cannot access some $50 million in funds to pay staff and vendors.

Hong Kong pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily will be forced to shut “in a matter of days” after authorities used the national security law imposed by China to freeze the company’s assets as it arrested the paper’s editor and four other directors, an adviser to jailed tycoon Jimmy Lai told Reuters on Monday.

Mark Simon, speaking by phone from the United States, said the company was no longer able to access its funds and would be holding a board meeting on Monday to discuss how to move forward.

“We thought we’d be able to make it to the end of the month,” Simon told the news agency. “It’s just getting harder and harder. It’s essentially a matter of days.”

His comments signal closure is imminent even after Apple Daily said on Sunday the freezing of its assets had left the newspaper with cash for “a few weeks” for normal operations.”

The news comes two days after editor Ryan Law, 47, and chief executive Cheung Kim-hung, 59, were denied bail after being charged under the security law with collusion with foreign forces.

Apple Daily’s editor-in-chief Ryan Law arrives back at the detention centre after he was remanded in custody on Saturday [Lam Yik/Reuters]

Three other senior executives were also arrested last Thursday when 500 police officers raided the newspaper’s offices in a case that has drawn condemnation from Western nations, human rights groups and the chief United Nations spokesperson for human rights.

The three have been released on bail.

Simon told Reuters it had become impossible to conduct banking operations.

“Vendors tried to put money into our accounts and were rejected. We can’t bank. Some vendors tried to do that as a favour. We just wanted to find out and it was rejected,” he said.

Speaking earlier to US news channel CNN, Simon said the company had about $50 million available, but was unable to access the funds.

The publisher has come under increasing pressure since its owner Jimmy Lai was arrested under the national security law last August, which marked the first time the company’s headquarters was raided. Lai, 73, is now jailed and facing trial under the national security law. In May, the authorities also froze some assets belonging to the longtime critic of Beijing has also had some of his assets frozen.

Three companies related to Apple Daily are also being prosecuted for collusion with a foreign country and authorities have frozen HK$18 million ($2.3 million) of their assets.

China imposed the national security law on Hong Kong last June saying it was necessary to restore “stability” to a territory that had been rocked by mass protests in 2019, some of which turned violent.

The broadly-worded law criminalises acts such as subversion, sedition, collusion with foreign forces and secession with possible life imprisonment, but critics have said it is being used to suppress legitimate political debate with dozens of pro-democracy politicians and activists among the more than 100 arrested since it was brought into force.

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Birmingham Classic: Ons Jabeur beats Daria Kasatkina to win first title




Tunisian second seed Ons Jabeur defeated Russia’s Daria Kasatkina in straight sets to win her first singles title at the Birmingham Classic.

World number 24 Jabeur triumphed 7-5 6-4 against the fourth seed to become the first Arab woman to win a WTA title.

In Berlin, Russian qualifier Liudmila Samsonova stunned Swiss fifth seed Belinda Bencic to win her first title.

The 22-year-old world number 106 battled back from a set down to win 1-6 6-1 6-3 in her first final.

Victories for Jabeur and Samsonova mean there have now been 10 first-time singles winners on the women’s Tour this year.

Jabeur broke Kasatkina’s serve three times to prevail in the first set, before successive breaks at the start of the second put the 26-year-old in control at 4-0.

Two-time Grand Slam quarter-finalist Kasatkina recovered to 4-3, but Jabeur held on to win a singles final at the third attempt.

It was a breakthrough week for Samsonova in Germany, during which she also defeated seventh seed Victoria Azarenka of Belaurus in the semi-final.

World number 12 Bencic won the first five games as she dominated the opening set, but Samsonova matched that feat in the second before completing her comeback with breaks in the first and ninth games in the deciding set.

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