December 30, 2019

Mexican Police Chief Arrested in Mormon Massacre Case
CALI, Colombia—A municipal police chief in northern Mexico has been arrested for an alleged role in the deaths of three women and six children—all dual U.S.-Mexican citizens—on November 4.Fidel Alejandro Villegas, aka El Chiquilín (The Kid), is the police chief of Janos, Chihuahua. The municipality borders the U.S. and sits about 105 miles across the state line from the site of the massacre in neighboring Sonora. It’s also on the same route the families had planned to travel on the day they were ambushed.Why the Drug War Can’t Be Won—Cartel Corruption Goes All the Way to the TopThe victims were members of the LeBaron and Langford clans, which are part of a breakaway sect of Mormons long established in both Chihuahua and Sonora. Villegas, who was detained on Thursday, is now awaiting trial in Mexico City. He is the fifth person to be arrested as part of an investigation that has at times seemed scattershot, since the other suspects have all been picked up under questionable circumstances. Mexican federal officials claim the mothers and children were accidental victims in a turf war between rival crime groups. And prosecutors allege Villegas is tied to one of those groups, called La Línea, which is the armed enforcement wing of the Juárez Cartel and has a strong presence in Janos. Surviving members of the Mormon families reject the official “accident hypothesis” and claim they were targeted deliberately  on a remote stretch of highway last month, and family spokesperson Julián LeBaron says he was less than surprised by the alleged involvement of a high-level police officer in the region.“The entire northwest [of Mexico] has a reputation that all police officers work for organized crime,” he said in an interview with Aristegui News, shortly after Villegas’ arrest. “And that's what high school kids tell you. It’s not a mystery.”* * *‘ENDEMIC’ CORRUPTION* * *Villegas’ detention raises as many questions as it answers. How was a police chief from a jurisdiction more than a hundred miles away from the crime scene, and in another state, actually involved? So far authorities have released scant details.Robert Bunker, an expert on international security at the University of Southern California, told The Daily Beast that corruption among security forces in Mexico has “metastasized over decades” to the point where it is “endemic.” The most infamous case of cops working with organized crime was the disappearance of 43 students in Guerrero state in September 2014, when police and soldiers allegedly teamed up with cartel sicarios to do away with the victims.Bunker noted that a law officer like Chief Chiquilín Villegas could have provided “departmental resources—vehicles, uniforms, intelligence, weapons or even personnel—to help facilitate the ambushes.” Another possibility, as Bunker noted, is that the investigation of Police Chief Villegas will be used to expose people who have “more intimate knowledge of the cartel and its operations.”Emmanuel Gallardo, an independent Mexican journalist who specializes in organized crime, agrees. “They’re going to investigate his bank accounts and his financial history for evidence of bribes and paybacks and where they might have come from.”A similar background investigation led to another high-profile arrest earlier this month, when Genaro García Luna, the central government's former National Security Minister and mastermind of the country’s ongoing Drug War, was arrested by U.S. authorities on charges of conspiring with the Sinaloa Cartel.“First Luna and now Chiquilín,” Gallardo said. “This shows again the relationship the cartels have with the state. We cannot think of Mexican authorities and organized crime as separate entities. They are part of the same problem, part of the same world.” “This is why Mexicans are frustrated. Why they are afraid,” Gallardo said. “When a violent crime happens you can’t go to the police because there is a high probability the same cops who are listening to your complaint are working with drug traffickers and assassins. This is the reason that 98 percent of homicides go unsolved in Mexico.”* * *TORTURE, DEATH THREATS, STARVATION* * *Added to the persistent failure to nail the killers is the equally persistent inclination of authorities to round up “the usual suspects,” then let them go. The first man arrested in the LeBaron case, just two days after the shooting, already has been released. Three other men were rolled up in Janos the first week of December, amid government claims that they were high-ranking members of La Línea. But protests erupted after friends and family members claimed the men had been framed. Janos Mayor Sebastián Efraín Pineda also backed the families, telling news outlets he knew the arrestees personally and that “they’re not criminal leaders.” In that incident, authorities stand accused by the families of planting evidence and of trying to force confessions from the detained suspects.“Scapegoating to create guilty parties” remains a frequent problem in Mexico, journalist Gallardo said, citing the case of French national Florence Cassez, who was imprisoned for seven years in Mexico on trumped up kidnapping charges before judges overturned her sentence.“They can make you confess with several techniques,” said Gallardo. These including physical torture, death threats to loved ones, even starvation. “This is not like the States, where you can complain of human rights abuses. Here they can torture with impunity. They know how to push prisoners to say anything they want them to say,” Gallardo said. After the LeBaron killings, which made headlines around the world, the administration of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador is “throwing suspects at the problem as it engages in damage control,” said USC’s Bunker. “At this level of Mexican politics it is not about getting the perpetrators or championing the rule of law—it is about making the problem go away as quickly as possible.” * * *AN ALL-OUT CARTEL WAR* * *Whatever comes of Chiquilín’s involvement—or the lack thereof—the killing of those nine women and children continues to cause ripples throughout the Mexican underworld.The area of eastern Sonora where the attack took place is said to be controlled by a faction of the Sinaloa Cartel under the rule of Iván Guzmán, 36, and Alfredo Guzmán, 30. These two sons of jailed kingpin Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán are known collectively as Los Chapitos. The other principal bloc of the Sinaloa Cartel is dominated by Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada, a shadowy figure often referred to as “El Capo de Capos,” the Boss of Bosses, due to his power and longevity.As The Daily Beast reported shortly after the massacre, Zambada was none too happy about the bad publicity and the major heat brought down on the supposedly sovereign territory of the Sinaloa Cartel. The tension between El Mayo and Los Chapitos has continued to worsen, and could result in Mayo taking over the whole outfit from the Guzmán family.A source within one of the cartels that operate in the area, who agreed to speak only under condition of anonymity, described El Mayo as “an old-school man with Old Testament laws,” who has little time for the “Narco Juniors’” seeming frivolity. “A couple of weeks ago the little Chapo boys were supposed to attend a meeting [with Mayo] on the mountain. They were ‘too busy to go.’”Yet they have “plenty of time to post on Facebook about cars and pictures of money,” the source said, and added the Chapitos were “too impressed” with their position to be good bosses due to their “immaturity.”“They are getting weaker every day,” he said.Reporter Gallardo agreed with that assessment, saying: “El Mayo is respected. The Chapitos are young and spoiled.” Gallardo added that their growing vulnerability could have far-reaching consequences, in part due to a botched and bloody attempt to arrest two other, younger Guzmán brothers this fall. “The eyes of the federal government and of Washington are on them all now,” he said. “They can handle local authorities, but not the White House [or] joint operations with the DEA.”If Mayo, sensing weakness and ineptitude, moved against the younger faction, Gallardo said, the Chapitos “would just be killed. El Mayo has more resources and experience.” However, conflict like that could bleed both sides, and “open the door for other groups to move in and start taking over their territory,” including arch rivals like the Jalisco New Generation Cartel and La Línea’s parent group, the Juárez Cartel. Smelling blood, such enemies “would move in like hyenas,” touching off a kill-or-be-killed conflict between high-powered, paramilitary gangs, resulting in even higher levels of civilian deaths and collateral damage.“The last thing the Mexican government wants,” Gallardo said, “is an all-out cartel war.” But the savage murder of those women and children on a lonely road in northern Mexico could lead to exactly that.Trump Labeling Mexico’s Cartels ‘Terrorists’ Makes Things Worse
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Star Wars Director Says It's About Time A Woman Makes A Star Wars Movie
Jan 02, 2024
Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Sharmeed Obaid-Chinoy is directing an upcoming Star Wars movie that brings back Daisy Ridley in the role of Rey. Obaid-Chinoy will become the first woman to direct a Star Wars film, dating back to the franchise's origins in the 1970s. Speaking about this, Obaid-Chinoy told CNN that she is "very thrilled" to make the movie and create something that is "very special.""We're in 2024 now, and I think it's about time we had a woman come forward to shape the story in a galaxy far, far away," she said.Obaid-Chinoy won Best Documentary, Short Subjects Academy Awards for Saving Face (2012) and A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness (2015).In 2020, Lucasfilm boss Kathleen Kennedy told the BBC that a woman would eventually direct a Star Wars movie, saying that would "absolutely" happen, "without question." Victoria Mahoney was a second unit director on The Rise of Skywalker, but a woman has never claimed a top directing credit on a Star Wars movie.On the TV side of things, The Mandalorian has featured a number of female directors, including Deborah Chow and Bryce Dallas Howard. Chow went on to direct the Obi-Wan TV series, too.Another high-profile franchise that has never had a female director is James Bond. Producer Barbara Broccoli and Skyfall director Sam Mendes have both said they want to see a woman direct a future 007 film.As for Obaid-Chinoy's Star Wars movie, little is known about it apart from the fact that Ridley will come back to play Rey. It is expected that this film will be the first of the three new Star Wars films to come to theaters, possibly releasing in December 2025.According to a report, Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight is writing the Rey movie, taking over for Damon Lindelof and Justin Britt-Gibson.
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NBA Names Clare Akamanzi CEO Of NBA Africa
Jan 02, 2024 15:29
The NBA named Clare Akamanzi – an accomplished business executive and international trade and investment lawyer – as CEO of NBA Africa. Akamanzi will start her position on Jan. 23, 2024, and report to NBA Deputy Commissioner and Chief Operating Officer Mark Tatum. In this role, Akamanzi will oversee the NBA’s business and basketball development efforts in Africa and will be responsible for continuing to grow the popularity of basketball, the NBA and the Basketball Africa League (BAL) across the continent, including through grassroots basketball development, media distribution, corporate partnerships, and social responsibility initiatives that improve the livelihoods of African youth and families. For the last six and a half years, Akamanzi was CEO of Rwanda Development Board (RDB), where she spearheaded Rwanda’s economic development by enabling private sector growth. Under Akamanzi’s leadership, RDB implemented several business policy reforms and initiatives that led to significant investment and development for the country, including through partnerships with the BAL, Arsenal FC, Paris Saint-Germain FC, FC Bayern Munich and TIME Magazine, among others. “Clare’s business acumen, international experience and familiarity with basketball and the NBA make her the ideal executive to lead our business in Africa,” says Tatum. “NBA Africa and the Basketball Africa League are well-positioned for continued growth, and under Clare’s leadership we believe these initiatives will transform economies, communities and lives across the continent.” “I’ve seen firsthand how sports can positively impact businesses, families and communities in Africa, and the NBA and the BAL are a perfect example of that,” says Akamanzi. “The NBA has done an incredible job growing basketball and the economy around it across the continent, and I’m excited about the enormous opportunities ahead to build on that momentum.” Previously, Akamanzi was Chief Operating Officer of RDB and Head of Strategy and Policy Unit, Office of the President of the Republic of Rwanda. She has extensive international trade, business and diplomatic experience, having previously worked for the Rwandan Government at the World Trade Organization in Geneva, Switzerland and at the Rwandan Embassy in London, England. Akamanzi has worked or studied in seven different countries and holds an honorary LLD from Concordia University in Montreal, Canada, in recognition of her work in Rwanda. She earned a master’s degree in public administration from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where she was the recipient of three prestigious awards for academic excellence and distinguished contribution to the community: the Lucius N. Littauer Fellows Award, the Raymond & Josephine Vernon Award and the Robert Kennedy Public Service Award. In addition, Akamanzi holds a Master of Laws degree in international trade and investments from the University of Pretoria in South Africa, and a Bachelor of Laws degree from Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda. Akamanzi has served on several company boards, including the World Health Organization (WHO) Foundation, ECOBANK and Aviation, Travel and Logistics (ATL) company. She was recognized by Forbes as one of Africa’s Top 50 Powerful Women in 2020.
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