•DISAPPEARANCE: Claudia Uruchurtu, a Mexican-born British resident involved in civil rights causes, was last seen as she was being forced into a car by two subjects in a small town in southern Mexico on the night of March 26th. This occurred immediately after Ms. Uruchurtu took part in a protest against the municipal government of Nochixtlán, a town of just over 20,000, an hour’s drive from the colonial state capital of Oaxaca. She had moved to Nochixtlán in 2014 to take care of her mother. Ms. Uruchurtu had for long been a loyal believer in President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and the movement he led. Her views regarding the president’s MORENA political party soon changed, however, as the mismanagement of public funds by the local Nochixtlán government (now under control of MORENA) became evident. In a dark twist of fortune, members of the political movement she once so strongly supported may be responsible for her disappearance.
•CORRUPTION: For years Ms. Uruchurtu had single-handedly scrutinized and publicly denounced the large discrepancies in the finances of the government led by mayor Lizbeth Victoria Huerta, going as far as denouncing the mayor for the embezzlement of public funds and nepotism. According to documents obtained by Ms. Uruchurtu, the equivalent of US $450,000 in public funds were either unaccounted for or had been used to pay shell companies owned by people close to mayor Huerta. Those figures, staggering ones for a small rural town in one of Mexico’s poorest regions, were last updated more than a year and a half ago. Further, according to government documents, two of mayor Huerta’s siblings (along with other family members) were on the municipal government’s payroll. Ms. Uruchurtu’s inquiries into the malfeasance of local authorities sparked a formal inquiry by the state’s fiscal authorities in 2019. As mayor Huerta embarked on her reelection campaign, Ms. Uruchurtu became a thorn in her side.
•PARLIAMENT: Following Ms. Uruchurtu’s disappearance in March, her sister Elizabeth, a resident of Sheffield, England,who holds dual Mexican-British nationalities, reached out to the MPs in her constituency in the hope of provoking a diplomatic response. Nineteen days after Claudia Uruchurtu’s disappearance, Oaxaca state authorities had “made no progress on the investigation” according to Elizabeth. In stark contrast, the gears of the British state took little time to respond. On April 8th, Olivia Blake and Rebecca Long-Bailey, both Labour MPs, sent a letter to Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab expressing “grave concerns and implications about Claudia’s disappearance and safety.” In a comment provided to Mexico in Europe, Ms. Blake, MP for Sheffield Hallam, confirmed that “the British Ambassador in Mexico City wrote to the state prosecutor in Oaxaca on the 9th [of] April to raise our concerns and ask for support.” Ms. Blake also confirmed that the Foreign & Commonwealth Office requested that the Ambassador “raise Claudia’s disappearance with the federal authorities in Mexico City.”
•CORBYN: Building on the concerns of his peers, on April 15th, the former leader of the Labour Party (and close friend of President López Obrador) Jeremy Corbyn, sent an urgent meeting request to the new Mexican ambassador in the UK, Josefa González-Blanco, in which he expressed being “extremely anxious” over the disappearance of Ms. Uruchurtu whilst requesting, “as a matter of urgency, federal intervention” to ensure progress in the case. Mexico in Europe reached out to Mr. Corbyn and to the Mexican Embassy in London, both to no avail. It is not yet publicly known if this meeting has taken place or what was discussed in it. However, recent developments in the case suggests that the requests of Minister Raab and the Labour MPs were heeded.
•ARRESTS: At dawn on May 7th, mayor Huerta, along with two presumed co-conspirators, was arrested by the Oaxaca authorities with the assistance of the Mexican Army, suggesting intervention from the highest levels of Mexican federal government. Further, on a May 8th interview, the state Attorney General, Arturo Peimbert, confirmed that the three individuals were being held on charges of being the “intellectual and material perpetrators” of the disappearance of Ms. Uruchurtu after an investigation carried out by his office and the Federal State and Public Security Ministries. Although all three subjects are currently being held by the authorities, it is not yet known what occurred to Ms. Uruchurtu after the night of March 26th.
•JUSTICE: In a country where more than 73,000 disappeared or missing individuals are currently being searched for (of which at least 1,455 are foreign nationals), and where more than 92% of crimes and (90% of femicides) go unpunished, it seems it takes the relentless pressure of victims’ families to get authorities to act. In this particular case, it appears it required individuals in the post-industrial city of Sheffield and the backing of the UK government (or perhaps that of one of the President’s friends) for Mexican federal and state authorities to kick into action and do what they are required, and in the case of Ms. Uruchurtu were elected, to do.
•FRANCE: Le Monde, the most popular French newspaper, published an article and photo essay on a school north of Mexico City which has been converted into a migrant shelter for Central American children (some as young as 8) traveling, often alone, to the U.S.-Mexico border. Ricardo, a 15 year old Guatemalan kid interviewed for the article says “he no longer counts the number of times he has been extorted by police and gangs.”
•GERMANY: Deutsche Welle, the German state broadcaster, published an article on the unprecedented drought currently withering Mexico City. They argue the reason behind it is the country’s “failed environmental policy.” In a stark reminder of the impact of climate change in the region, the millenary glacier that was the namesake of Iztaccihuatl (nahuatl for ‘White Lady’), Mexico’s third highest volcano, has all but disappeared.
•SPAIN: El País, the Spanish daily, carried an article on President López Obrador’s intromission in the upcoming gubernatorial and legislative elections in Mexico, accusing him of directing inquiries into corruption only when they are focused on his adversaries, while keeping those of individuals closer to him and his government under wraps.
•CURVATURES: The FT carried a piece on Javier Senosiain, a Mexican architect whose work is described as “Bilbo Baggins’ Hobbit hole, crossed with the Teletubbies’ Tubbytronic Superdome, meets the modular bubbles of the children’s book Barbapapa”.