May 16, 2009
Statewide Coalition Urges Senate Action on HJR 14
2/3 Vote Would Send Eminent Domain Constitutional Amendm
Austin, Texas—A broad coalition of Texas property owners and
property rights groups today20issued a letter (attached) urging the
Texas Senate to support House Joint Resolution 14. HJR 14 would
amend the Texas Bill of Rights to address the problem of eminent domain
for private development in the Lone Star State. If the Senate
passes HJR 14 by a two-thirds vote it will appear on the November
The coalition signing the letter is a diverse group with one common
interest: giving Texas voters the chance t o incorporate some of the
strongest private property protections in the nation into their
Constitution in November. HJR 14 would finally end the government
practice of using eminent domain to involuntarily take land from one
private owner and give it to another private party for
redevelopment. This practice was at issue in the 2005 U.S.
Supreme Court case Kelo v. City of New London, which sparked a national
backlash against eminent domain for private gain. Susette Kelo,
who lost her home to eminent domain after the Court ruled against her
5-4, also signed the letter. Governor Perry, Rep. Rob Orr and
Sen. Robert Duncan stood on stage with Kelo earlier this year and
promised to send a strong amendment to Texas voters this session.
In addition to Kelo, the letter was signed by five groups of Texas
property owners, all of whom are currently struggling with eminent
· Land Grab Opponents of El Paso and Paso del Sur are
fighting against a massive border-area redevelopment project that
threatens to demolish hundreds of homes and businesses and turn their
land over to a private consortium of billionaire developers.
· The San Antonio River North Improvement
Association (SARNIA) is combating San Antonio’s ambitious plan to
extend its River Walk northward by replacing existing businesses with
glitzy condominiums and upscale retail shops.
· Houston Corridors United is fighting a plan
in Houston that will allow the Metro transit authority to take land for
much more than merely train tracks and stations. Any home or
business within a quarter-mile of a light rail line can be taken for
condominiums, coffee shops or any other use the Metro authority deems
important to the success of light rail.
· Western Seafood Co. fought to protect its family business
from the city of Freeport’s plan to replace it with a luxury
Joining these groups are the Institute for Justice Texas Chapter, the
Castle Coalition, the Texas Conservative Coalition, Texans for Fiscal
Responsibility, Americans for Tax Reform, the National Taxpayers Union
and the Property Rights Alliance.
“We want the Senate to understand how important HJR 14 is to our
homes, businesses and livelihoods,” said Harper Huddleston,
President of SARNIA. “HJR 14 offers Texas a chance to
become a national property rights leader. We urge our Senators to
send the amendment to voters in November.”
“My family battled eminent domain for years,” said Wrig ht
Gore, III, of Western Seafood Co. in Freeport. “We want to
make sure that nobody in Texas ever has to live through the nightmare
of trying to defend what is rightfully yours just because your neighbor
is promising to redevelop it into something the city likes better than
your home or business.”
The property owners have also started a website to amplify their
message: www.NoMoreKelosInTexas.com. The website features updates
on legislation, real-world stories of families fighting eminent domain
abuse and research reports that examine the issue of eminent domain for
Matt Miller, executive director of the Institute for Justice Texas
Chapter, in Austin, has been working on strong eminent domain reform
throughout the 81st Legislative Session. He said, “HJR 14
passed the Texas House 144-0. There were no dissenters, which
sent a very strong message about the need for this amendment.
Rep. Frank Corte, the amendment9s author, worked hard to craft language
that is effective, while still allowing traditional uses like roads,
hospitals and police stations. Hopefully this letter is
unnecessary, and the Senate is already planning to resoundingly pass
HJR 14. But everyone who signed this letter felt it was important
to send the message one last time: Texans care deeply about ending
Kelo-style abuse of private property rights. The vital reforms
achieved in HJR 14 must be passed.”
Christina Walsh, the Castle Coalition Director for the Institute for
Justice, has worked on eminent domain reform across the nation.
She said, “Polls show that eminent domain reform is very popular
with voters. Texans would no doubt love to have the opportunity
to incorporate this excellent amendment into their Constitution.
We hope the Senate will give them that chance.”
Put the fate of your property in YOUR hands, and NOT in the hands of El
Paso politicians who are friends with developers who may covet your
We, as voters, might have the opportunity to vote on a state-wide bill
this November that would strongly increase property rights protection
Recently, the Texas House of Representative passed H.J.R. 14
However, for this bill to go before the voters this November, it must
be approved by 2/3 rds of the Texas Senate. And the Senate may vote on
this bill early next week (the week of 5/18/09).
If you live in the El Paso area, please take one minute to call Senator
Eliot Shapleigh's office TODAY at (512) 463-0129, to let him know you
support H.J.R. 14, and that you encourage him to vote in favor of it.
(If you do not live in the El Paso area, you can follow the link below
for contact information on your senator).
It would also be very helpful to call other border area senators, such
Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa from McAllen (512)463-0120 and Judith Zaffirini
from Laredo (512) 463-0121.
P.S. Please forward this information to as many people as you can ASAP.
Remember, the vote is most likely early next week.
You’ve all been waiting for this call to action on eminent doma
in. Now is the time! Please call your Texas Senators and
encourage them to support HJR 14. It’s now or never.
Encourage everyone you know to call, too. The Senate is the last
step in the process.
On Monday, the House unanimously passed H.J.R. 14, a constitutional
amendment that would end eminent domain abuse in Texas. If the
Senate passes H.J.R. 14 by a two-thirds vote, it will appear on the
November ballot, and you - the voters of Texas - will be able to vote
for better property rights protections.
Thousands of Texans, from Houston to San Antonio to El Paso, are
currently on the chopping block. They need your help. Now, more
than ever, it is critical that you make your voice heard and support
Call your Texas Senator and tell them you support H.J.R. 14
TODAY. You can find their contact information here:
2. Forward this link to all of your friends and family:
http://www.NoMoreKelosInTexas.com. Encourage them to take a few
minutes today to call their Texas Senator.
The Senate will vote soon. Please call immediately.
This is it. It's been four years since the Kelo decision.
The future of property rights in Texas rests in the hands of the Texas
State Senate. We have to let them know how important stopping
eminent domain for private gain is to Texans.
Thank you for continuing to stand on the frontlines of the battle
against eminent domain abuse.
Executive Director and Attorney at Law
Institute for Justice Texas Chapter
816 Congress Ave, Suite 960
Austin, Texas 78701
(512) 480-5937 (fax)
February 16, 2009
Court Lawyer Agrees to Represent Pedro Zaragoza Since His Own Lawyers
Don't Show Up
The residents of Lomas del Poleo and their various witnesses and
friends (such as Mothers of the Disappeared/Murdered Women), reps of
goverment agencies including the Juárez City Attorney, as
well as a non-lawyer representative of the Zaragoza brothers,
appeared at the hearing at the Agrarian Court in Chihuahua City this
past Friday. The judge from the last two hearings, Imelda Carlos
Basurto had called in "sick" and was replaced by a judge who postponed
the hearing to Tuesday, Feb. 24.
At the Jan. 21 hearing a lawyer from the Agrarian Court's attorney
general's office was assigned as the Zaragozas' lawyer since the
Zaragoza representative had come without a lawyer. At this
Friday's hearing the Agrarian Court lawyer agreed to represent
Pedro Zaragoza and the judge said that she has 5 working days to appear
and answer the lawsuit.
It was emphasized Friday that all the principals in the lawsuit must be
present on Feb. 24 or lose their rights to present their case.
Also ratified were measures of protection for the Lomas residents
[which had been repeatedly requested because of the continued violence
against the residents].
(Translated by Charlotte Lipson)
January 23, 2009
Zaragoza Uses Stalling Tactics in the Agrarian Court While His Guards
Continue to Harass Residents at Lomas del Poleo
ON JANUARY 21 the Lomas del Poleo residents appeared at the Agrarian
Court in Chihuahua City to attend the hearing postponed on January 8
[when the Zaragozas and lawyer didn't show].
Once again Pedro and Jorge Zaragoza Fuentes, succeeded with the help of
the judge Imelda Marcos to postpone the hearing until Tuesday, Feb. 3.
Pedro Zaragoza's representative handed over to the court a document and
a medical certificate saying that attorney Luis Salmon Flores, the
legal representative of Pedro Zaragoza, was suffering from
salmonella. The [Lomas] lawyer Barbara Zamora objected to the
certificate saying that Pedro Zaragoza [one of the richest men in
Mexico] could have sent another lawyer or come himself.
The judge's agreeing to accept the medical certificate and postpone the
hearing is evidence of the complicity of the court with the Zaragoza
The absence of Pedro Zaragoza and the machinations to postpone the
hearings are evidence also of the Zaragoza's lack of proof that they
own the property in question.
Two days before the hearing Fernando Carrillo Flores, Catarino del
Río Camacho y Jesús Manuel Alfaro, were threatening the
Lomas residents and filming their homes.
We keep raising money for transportation and expenses of the lawyers
from Mexico City and the residents and their witnesses to appear at
these hearings and now another postponement while the Zaragoza thugs
threaten the residents and demolish more homes. It appears that
Zaragozas have gotten to the judge who at the first hearing
that if they didn't appear this time there would be consequences.
again: I urge you to send letters of protest per the Amnesty
Charlotte (Lomas del Poleo Alliance, Las Cruces, NM)
January 17, 2009
del Poleo Legal Defense Fund Raiser
and Talk--Cena Platica--
Vierners 23 de enero, 2009 - Friday, January
23, 2009 at 6 p.m.
Contribución $25 - Suggested contribution $25.
The fundraiser will be held at:
Centro de los Trabajadores Agrícolas
201 East Ninth Avenue, El Paso, Texas 79901
Para mas información. For more
Support the struggle of the colonos of Lomas del Poleo!
Carlos Marentes (915) 873-8933
Pass this invitation along to all your contacts!
January 7, 2009
Thugs Beat and Tie Up Lomas del Poleo Resident.
ON DECEMBER 31 at 10:30 PM three Zaragoza guards entered the house of
Mr. Cruz Reza Saenz, hit him, left him tied up, stole his clothing,
boots, hats, wallet, cell phone, drivers license, keys to the house and
his truck and threatened to return. Cruz Reza, 71, says that a
few days before, Saturday the 27th at 8 AM, about 30 men came to his
house with two vehicles and a trailer intending to destroy his
home. He confronted them and together with other Lomas del Poleo
neighbors they were able to prevent the men, paid by Pedro and
Jorge Zaragoza, from tearing down the house in which he has lived
for 30 years. Cruz Reza lives sequestered alone in his home
without being able to leave. His wife died several years ago and
he knows if he leaves he won't be able to return.
Today, Wednesday, January 7, men paid by the Zaragozas destroyed the
House of Salvador Aguero. The villagers who tried to help him were
threatened to have their homes destroyed. Two women friends
Angeles Espino and Liliana Flores courageously confronted the
criminals. Liliana was hit by a woman who accompanied the bad
guys. Fernando Carrillo, an employee of the Zaragozas
ordered the men to hit Angeles, who ordered his goons to "hit the
old bitch." But neither beatings or threats have broken the
resistance of these two women.
In the afternoon the same gang was surrounding the house of Cruz Rez
Saenz, threatening him again with destruction of his home.
January 1, 2009
para apoyar a colonos de Lomas del Poleo
El próximo jueves 8 de enero de 2009, un grupo de habitantes de
la colonia Granjas Lomas del Poleo asistirán a una primera
audiencia en el Tribunal Unitario Agrario Número Cinco, en la
ciudad de Chihuahua, donde podrían demostrar, si es que el
tribunal actúa conforme a derecho, que las tierras donde viven
desde hace más de treinta años son propiedad de la
Nación. A esta audiencia este grupo de colonos y colonas
asistirán acompañados de sus abogados Bárbara
Zamora López y Santos García Díaz del
despacho Jurídico Tierra y Libertad.
Ante la gravedad de la situación que
prevalece en Granjas Lomas del Poleo (destrucción de casas,
hostigamiento, amenazas y la nula intervención de las
autoridades judiciales estatales y municipales) y ante el riesgo
inminente de que al salir las compañeras y compañeros de
sus casas, para estar presentes en la audiencia, éstas sean
destruidas por los guardias blancas pagados y al servicio de los
empresarios Pedro y Jorge Zaragoza, se hace una invitación a
todas y todos los compañeros que asisten al Primer
Festival Internacional de la Digna Rabia, convocado por el EZLN y
a quienes han acompañado esta resistencia en Ciudad
Juárez, en las Cruces Nuevo México, en el Paso, Texas, en
la Ciudad de Chihuahua y en otras partes de México, a que se
pronuncien en contra del DESPOJO del que están siendo objeto las
y los habitantes de Lomas del Poleo y a unirse (las y los que puedan) a
las Brigadas de Observación que se están
organizando para acompañar, el próximo jueves 8 de enero
del 2009, a las familias de Lomas del Poleo, a los abogados
y a los testigos , en una jornada que se llevará a cabo de
la siguiente manera:
1. Un grupo de compañeras y
compañeros que observen directamente en la entrada
de la colonia, que documente y con su presencia logre evitar una
destrucción masiva de viviendas, que es el propósito de
Pedro y Jorge Zaragoza Fuentes.
2. Un grupo de compañeras y
compañeros que asistan al Tribunal Unitario Agrario No. Cinco en
la Ciudad de Chihuahua, Chihuahua, que brinde protección a las
colonas, colonos, abogada, abogado y testigos. La audiencia se
llevará a cabo el jueves 8 de enero a las 10:00 de la
A todas y todos los que puedan acompañar ésta
iniciativa, les pedimos por favor escribir y confirmar al siguiente
correo, para coordinarnos en los horarios y lugares de reunión.
Para mas información: email@example.com
October 13, 2008
ARMY IS BEING USED IN PUSH TO DISPOSSESS RESIDENTS OF LOMAS DEL POLEO
(NMSU Government Professor
Neil Harvey, Director of the Center for Latin American &
Border Studies translated the Spanish account written by Juarez
activist Juan Carlos Martínez, October 13, 2008)
“Your time is up, stupid bastard!” the soldier yelled at
him, while aiming his gun.
“You are really screwed” he told him, kicking him straight
in his injured ribcage.
“Shoot, whatever, it was time,” the man replied, thrown on
the ground and blind-folded.
“Ah, so you are not afraid?” the soldiers carried on,
“You think you are really tough, you have ‘big pants’
“Yes, and after you kill me, I will lend them to you”.
Alfredo Piñón Valenzuela is 72 years old. For more than
30 years he has lived in the high part of Lomas del Poleo. Despite his
age, he is a strong man. Brave too, like the old desert people. (Listen
to his testimony in front of the Doña Ana
County Commissioners this summer.)
On Friday October 10, a group of between
ten and fifteen soldiers took him prisoner at his home. They arrived at
around five o’clock in the afternoon. They pushed the door open
and went inside. They asked him if he was Alfredo Piñón.
He replied that he was. They yelled at him, asking if he knew why they
were there. He told them that Zaragoza had “surely” sent
them. They turned over everything, including his bed. They searched
inside his improvised wardrobe and showed him a .45 caliber pistol and
a small bag with cocaine. A small and stocky soldier showed him a bag
with marijuana and a stone.
“Is this yours?” asked the soldier who seemed to be in the
one in charge.
“I don’t smoke that rubbish” Sr. Piñón
“But you sell it,” accused the soldier.
“You know quite well that it is not mine. That belongs to
you,” replied the resident, owner of just an old shotgun, 22
caliber, that he uses now and again to hunt hares in the desert.
“They pulled me out of the house, they blind-folded me and they
put me in one of the two trucks that they had arrived in,” Sr.
Piñón denounces, one day after his illegal arrest.
“On the journey they beat me. They kicked me in the ribs, but
they were careful not to hit my face.” After being driven around
the city, they took him to one of the dungeons at the military
barracks, near to the CERESO (civilian prison). They interrogated him
for hours. They asked him the same things over and over. They wanted to
know where he had got the gun that they themselves had planted on him.
Later, he remembers that some other men arrived, who took him
presumably to the offices of the Federal Attorney General
(Procuraduría General de la República, PGR), where the
torture continued. There he realized that another of his neighbors,
Martín Gabino, was also detained. Sr. Gabino had been dragged
from his house by force, despite the cries and resistance put up by his
wife. Martín Gabino was detained almost at the same time as Sr.
Piñón, but just a different group of soldiers.
In his declaration denouncing these acts,
Sr. Piñón said that he was blindfolded for all the time
after being pulled from his house, and therefore does not know if they
were soldiers or federal police, to whom he was supposedly handed over,
who, in the end, took him to a rubbish dump on the outskirts of the
city, near a PEMEX gas station, where they threw him to the ground and
pointed their guns. I thought they were going to kill me, but they just
kicked me again, laughed at me and left me there.” Alfredo
Piñón tells that he stood up as best he could and walked
a while until he reached a house that was lit up. There he asked to use
the phone to call one of his sons to come for him and take him home. By
this time it was 2 a.m. on Saturday October 11.
The story of Martín Gabino, another
resident of Lomas del Poleo, who was also detained in the same
circumstances, is a similar one. Just like Sr. Piñón, the
soldiers accused him of possessing guns and drugs. Neither of them were
even taken to the office that is responsible for investigating such
crimes, the Federal Public Ministry (Ministerio Público
Federal). Although Sr. Gabino was beaten less, he was tortured
psychologically. He was told that the same would happen “to all
the residents who do not want to leave.” Yet this threat would
not have any meaning if it were not for the fact that Alfredo
Piñón and Martín Gabino form part of a group of
more than fifty families that for over five years have been resisting a
brutal series of attacks perpetrated by the businessmen Pedro and Jorge
Zaragoza, who want to dispossess them of their lands.
Since that time the residents of Lomas del Poleo have had to put up
with a barbed wire fence that this powerful family erected in order to
enclose the community. Besides this suffocating fence, there are
private guards at the community who closely watch every movement of the
residents, denying access to providers of basic items and blocking
entrance to relatives and close friends. Now, with the illegal arrest
of Martín Gabino and Alfredo Piñón just last
Friday, October 11, another threat has closed in on this community, one
that is perhaps even more dangerous: the implementation by the foremen
working for Pedro and Jorge Zaragosa of a new strategy that would
consist of pinning federal crimes on the residents, particularly the
possession of arms and drugs, with the goal of getting the army to
enter the community, indiscriminately arrest the people there, and in
this way bring the resistance to an end. In this case, the soldiers
would take care of the dirty work that the can no longer be done
comfortably by the private guards, paid by this very wealthy family,
which has for several months been in the public eye. Despite
everything, the residents who still live up on the high part of Lomas
del Poleo say they are ready to confront this new assault.
October 13, 2008
Human Rights Activists are Harassed and Intimidated for Drafting Open
Letter to Governor of Chihuahua
Members of la Otra Campaña of Ciudad
Juárez Cristina Coronado and Juan Carlos Martínez wrote
this week that they have been targets of threats and intimidation after
helping draft the full page add that appeared in the Diario de
Juárez last week condemning the escalation of violence in
Lomas del Poleo that was signed by authors, academicians and
human rights activists from throughout Mexico, the U.S. and Europe.
"In the first week of September, while we
were on the phone with a resident of Lomas del Poleo, our call was cut
off, remained silent for a moment, then we heard the lyrics from a
popular narcocorrido—"they would have never imagined that
they were going to be brought down from there dead," Coronado and
Martínez wrote in a website dedicated to the Lomas del Poleo
struggle. "Then there was more silence before our call was
For the full account of other acts of
intimidation they've suffered recently read Alerta Lomas del Poleo!
October 4, 2008
Rise and So Does the Violence at Lomas del Poleo
“When there’s blood on the
streets, buy land.”
—Wall Street saying
The home of Estela
Plasencia, one of the leaders of the Lomas del Poleo
community, was razed
down last month by armed Zaragoza thugs.
ABOUT FORTY ARMED Zaragoza
paramilitary thugs have surrounded the Lomas del Poleo colonia for the
last three days, preparing for what human rights organizations say may
be further actions to violently evict the remaining residents on the
contested land targeted by binational developers. The
thirty-year-old home of a Lomas del Poleo couple who have been
outspoken in the Mexican national media was destroyed by the Zaragoza guards
on September 26, 2008. The last electric generator was forcibly removed
three weeks ago from the elementary school that has been up on the mesa
since the 1980s.
After Carlos López Avitia, the
attorney who represented the largest group of Lomas del Poleo residents
was assassinated two blocks away from the
Chihuahua City courthouse on June 20, 2008, internationally-renown
Mexico City human rights lawyer Barbara
Zamora has taken up the case of the colonos who continue to
resist violent attempts to displace them and has filed a lawsuit on
their behalf. Although the Agrarian Court in Chihuahua has been
stalling, it is believed they will formally accept her lawsuit against
the Grupo Zaragoza on Tuesday, October 7. The Zaragosas want to prevent
a legal solution which would deny their claims to control of this
property and have done everything within their power to obstruct this.
The pending legal action, as well as the
recent developments in the San Jeronimo-Santa Teresa
area—including the proposed rail crossing and the Taiwanese-based
Foxconn twin plant—appears to have
provoked the escalation of violence and the sense of urgency felt by
the Grupo Zaragoza and their hired guardias blancas (paramilitary shock
troops) to evict the remaining families.
Here is a short chronology of the recent
violence against the residents of Lomas del Poleo sent to us by
Juárez human rights organizations:
August 18, 2008—The
Zaragoza guards block elementary students and their parents from
entering the Lomas del Poleo neighborhood to attend classes at the
Alfredo Nava Sahagún elementary school that has served the
surrounding Anapra community’s children for more than two decades.
September 12, 2008—The
Zaragoza guardias blancas dig ditches (2 meters deep and 1.5 meters
wide) to block the public roadways leading to the Alfredo Nava
Sahagún Elementary School.
September 19, 2008—The guards, together with the
Comisión Federal de Electricidad, remove the electric generator
in Lomas del Poleo and leave scores of families without electricity or
September 20, 2008—In
a kind of carrot-or-stick approach, better known in Ciudad
Juárez as the plata o plomo (silver or lead) question, Zaragoza
“lawyers” begin making daily rounds to Lomas del Poleo
homes offering the residents about $5,000 for their 2-acre farms (a
miniscule amount of what the land is actually worth to developers.) The
“lawyers” wave the money in the faces of the residents and
urge them to accept it because they are going to be “kicked
September 23, 2008—The
only way the residents get water for drinking and their daily needs is
by buying it from trucks that make weekly rounds inside Lomas del
Poleo. Adela Plasencia and Vicente Estrada, two residents who are
represented by the Mexico City advocate Barbara Zamora are told that
water will no longer be sold to them. The truck driver informs them
that he has been told by the Zaragoza guards at the gate not to sell it
to them any more.
September 26, 2008—The
residents returning to their homes after attending a legal defense
meeting are not allowed to enter the gate. “Llegaron tarde
Cabrones!” (You’re too late fuckers!), they are told by the
That same evening a group of men
with bulldozers, pickaxes and shovels, led by Fernando Carrillo and
Catarino Del Río Camacho (Grupo Zaragoza overseers), raze the
home of Adela Plasencia. They destroyed her furniture and left in ruins
a home that she and her husband Vicente built thirty years ago on Lomas
del Poleo mesa. Both of them have been the victims of threats and
harassment recently, especially after they hired Mexico City attorney
Barbara Zamorra and decided to continue fighting for their homes
through the legal system despite the assassination of their previous
September 28, 2008—While
the colonos attend a mass at their chapel in Lomas del Poleo, guards
inside a black SUV with dark tinted windows park outside during the
mass as an act of intimidation.
August 25, 2008
Against the Wall
July 31, 2008
Peace and Unity March
Community United Against the Wall”
To the Residents of the Borderlands,
The people of the border share and are united by a history, a language,
a culture. While this land may be separated by an international
boundary, the people cannot be divided. As construction begins on the
proposed border wall, it stands to not only further divide the land but
to divide the people as well.
As the border wall cuts the land, it cuts the communities of the border
and tries to create differences among them. This wall, imposed upon us
by those who do not live on the border, is said to be a form of
“security” but there is no security when division and hate
are created. In order to protest the wall a Peace and Unity March will
take place on both sides of the border. Over four days, marchers will
walk from McNary to El Paso to display a united front against the wall.
Tentatively, the march will begin on August 26 to end on Labor Day.
We of the border are one community. We are all affected when our
neighbors are displaced from their homes, are all affected by waves of
violence, by unemployment and immigration. As the borderlands
experience a difficult time, we cannot be passive and simply hope for
change. We cannot allow our community to be divided and so it is for
our well-being that we must stand together in an act of solidarity. Now
is the time to act and create the change we want to see.
Those wishing to take part in the march can do so in a number of ways.
Marchers are invited to participate either for the entire four days or
for whatever time they can. Donations of food, water, and
transportation as well as monetary contributions are needed. Whether or
not you take part in any other way, everyone can help the march by
publicizing it and discussing the issues with your friends, family, and
neighbors. With this march, we will show the world that we are one
community united against the wall; one voice speaking out for peace.
Join the march! Let us know if you are willing to participate in any
On behalf of the Planning Group
More details and information will be provided next week.
July 12, 2008
Have No Leads on Assassination of Lomas del Poleo Lawyer
by Mexico Solidarity Network
"Carlos Lopez Avitia, an attorney representing about thirty families in
a land dispute in Lomas de Poleo, a barrio on the outskirts of Ciudad
Juarez, was assassinated on June 20 as he left the Agrarian Reform
offices in Ciudad Juarez. Lopez Avitia was a controversial figure. A
former employee of the Agrarian Reform, he spent four months in prison
and lost his job after accusations surfaced of negligence in his work
and illegal use of government properties. Lopez Avitia claimed the
legal consequences were payback for his defense of residents in Lomas
de Poleo who are fighting efforts by the Zaragozas, one of Ciudad
Juarez’s richest and most powerful families, to take over their
lands. But some residents claimed he was secretly on the payroll of the
Zaragozas and was misrepresenting the families. In 2004, US and Mexican
officials announced construction of a new international bridge that
would connect Lomas de Poleo with an El Paso suburb. Lomas de Poleo was
founded more than three decades ago on abandoned desert land. Until the
bridge announcement, there was no dispute over ownership. Mexican law
awards ownership to anyone who has lived at least seven years on a
piece of land without legal challenges, and the residents of Lomas de
Poleo have a strong legal case.
Nevertheless, the Zaragozas fenced in the land and posted armed guards
at the only entrance. They burned down dozens of houses and killed at
least three people, including two small children who died in a house
fire set by Zaragoza henchmen. The Zaragoza family owns beer and
bottled gas distribution centers, and has used its political clout to
convince local officials and police to stay out of the dispute. To
date, no one has been charged with the murder of Lopez Avitia, and
there is no indication that local police are actively pursuing the
investigation. Currently several of the Lomas de Poleo families are
represented by Barbara Zamora, perhaps Mexico’s best progressive
attorney regarding land tenancy.
May 17, 2008
Against Dispossession and Repression in Lomas del Poleo
Demonstration against represssion and
dispossession in Lomas del Poleo
Saturday, May 17, 2008 at 5 pm
Guadalupe Mission, Ciudad Juárez
April 9, 2008
Diocese of Ciudad Juárez denounces human rights abuses by
ARMANDO VILLAREAL MARTA, a farmworker
leader was assassinated on March 12 in Casas Grandes, Chihuahua. Carlos
Chávez, Villareal’s colleague was arrested for having
taken part in a demonstration at the international bridge in
Juárez. Cipriana Jurado, a social activist, was arrested by
masked men of the Agencia Federal de Investigación (Federal
Investigation Agency) and incarcerated at the CERESO prison on April 3
for the same reason. She was released on bond the next day.
The Procuraduría General de la Republica (Federal Attorney
General) has stated that it has arrest warrants for more than 40
leaders of different social organizations for having taken part in
Three police women accuse the military of having stripped them of their
clothing and sexually violated them. Several government agents targeted
as suspects say they have been tortured. City police officers have also
come forward with statements they they have been tortured in various
Soldiers have entered the homes of citizens without a search warrant or
without an explanation and left entire families—including
children, women, elderly—in a state of fear. As if this
weren’t enough, the soldiers have also been accused of stealing
The citizens of Ciudad Juárez want and demand security in our
daily lives. However, in addition to this insecurity now we are under a
state of intimidation, impunity, illegality, persecution and torture
that leaves many afraid to speak out since this situation has been
created by government forces.
We are for life, civil rights, justice and
dignity for every single person. One does not defeat organized
crime by killing the criminals, nor does one straighten out the police
by torturing them. Recent history in our city has shown us that torture
only led to accusing the wrong people for the murders of women.
We demand that the authorities correctly
perform their assigned duties. Their positions cannot continue to be
funded by public taxes if they do not stop the situation of terror our
city is suffering. What is needed is for them to carry out their
investigation and intelligence duties in a professional manner to
insure that accusations of criminal activity or police participation in
organized crime are backed up by solid evidence.
Those of us who call for human rights to be
respected DO NOT support criminals, although some illegitimate voices
are claiming that we do. Instead, we believe the violation of human
rights in fact supports criminal activity given that torture fabricates
false culprits and allows the true criminals to remain out in the
streets and in criminal organizations.
It’s also disturbing to hear
declarations that provide a justification for the violation of human
rights. We do not believe that “this is the price that must be
paid,” as some City Council representatives have stated; nor that
these are “necessary acts despite their illegality” as some
of the attorneys have argued; nor that “we are all responsible
for the violence” in our city as some of the media claim; nor is
it about “killing the criminals to reduce their numbers” as
one military commander stated.
The organizations and individuals who
support human rights and that subscribe to this declaration affirm the
WE WILL CONTINUE to struggle for a society
that respects the dignity of everyone.
WE WILL CONTINUE to denounce human rights
violations committed by the three levels of government.
WE WILL CONTINUE to express our concerns
and proposals not only because it is part of our mission, but because
the law itself gives us the right to defend human rights.
The Catholic Diocese of Ciudad Juárez
April 5, 2008
activist is arrested for blocking the Santa Fe Bridge in 2005
Cipriana Jurado during the Border Social Forum in 2006.
LONGTIME JUÁREZ ACTIVIST Cipriana
Jurado was arrested this week by federal officers wearing masks. She
was charged with "obstruction of communication" in connection with a
protest she helped organize along with dozens of other activists at one
of the international bridges in 2005 protesting the Minutemen. Over the
years, Jurado, a respected activist who helped found Centro de
Investigación y Solidaridad Obrera (CISO) in 1990, has advocated
for justice for laborers, the families of slain women and undocumented
workers in the United States.
Yesterday a group of human rights activists
including Ester Chávez Cano, Casa Amiga director, protested her
detention. "This is ridiculous and repressive," Chávez Cano told
a Juárez newspaper. "They arrest the poor and vulnerable women
who demand justice but they let the murderers of women in this city go
free." The protest by about 50 women was held at the offices of the
federal detention center in Juárez where she was escorted by 15
armed police agents and 20 soldiers who arrived in a Humvee behind the
police camper that transported her.
Relatives said Jurado's children were left
home alone after the officers took her away by force. She was returning
from the city morgue after checking on one of the femicide cases.
She is being held at the request of CAPUFE,
the Mexican federal agency that oversees federal highways and bridges;
its headquarters is in Cuernavaca, Mexico.
This arrests comes at the heels of of the
assassination of a farm worker leader three weeks ago and accusations
of human rights violations against the 2,500 soldiers recently sent by
Mexico's president to Ciudad Juárez to control narcotraffickers
in the border city. According to local activists, in the recent
weeks there has been "a wave of repression in Chihuahua against social
and civic movement leaders."
March 29, 2008
to Cesar Chavez March
The agricultural workers of the El Paso-Ciudad Juarez' region continue
to suffer poverty and neglect despite their valuable contribution to
the economy of the border region.
In 1993, the average annual income for the border agricultural
workers was less that 7,000. This was only a third of the Poverty
Income Guidelines of the Federal Government. But in the last 15 years,
the salaries in the fields have fallen dramatically. Today they only
earn half of the wages of 1993.
Unemployment affects more than half of the farm labor force. As a
result, seven out of ten farm workers don't have a place to live. The
majority lack access to health and medical services and only a few are
able to provide a basic education to their children. Additionally, the
border farm workers don't have the same benefits and legal protections
like the rest of the labor force. They don't have, for example, the
right to organize.
In order to demand justice and dignity we are having a march on Monday
March 31, the official state Cesar Chavez holiday. We will gather at
9:30 a.m. at the corner of El Paso and Sixth Streets, near the El Paso
del Norte International Bridge.
We invite everybody to join this march and support the struggle for
justice and dignity for the border agricultural workers and their
March 23, 2008
Council Changes Tune!?: – “No Land Grabbing in our
“The motion to deny permission
to the U.S. Corps of Engineers to cross city property came from West
Central city Rep. Susie Byrd, who also requested that the city base its
opposition in part of the lack of consultation regarding the fence
project with the city and its residents.”
NEWSFLASH! – the El Paso City Council
feels that is unlawful and morally repugnant for an outside entity to
come into specific parts of our city and dictate the future fate of the
land and property that currently exists. Ortega, Byrd,
O’Rourke and Lilly all agree that that putting up barriers that
would forever change the culture, landscape and relationships in a
specific area of our city is wrong and immoral. Collectively they
echo that survey’s that have been conducted in the area that show
evidence of widespread plan support are nothing more than bogus
examples of selective propaganda. These esteemed members of city
council also note that any plan to alter a section of our city that
excludes the direct input of the leaders and residents affected most by
this plan is absurdly illegitimate. It is great to see our
progressive City officials bravely protecting the rights and integrity
of our region’s many helpless victims who would inevitably face
displacement and irreversible personal losses at the expense of the
March 22, 2008
HIPSTERS ARE COMING!
There goes the neighborhood.
By JENNI BURTON
"PUSHING OUT YOUR NATIVES because
they’re not cool enough to bring in big time investment is a
crappy way to repay them for the hard work of making El Paso what it
is. I’m at a point in my life where that too-cool-for-school
attitude is just sickening, and I think it’s an absolute folly
that cities are actively courting a generation of
consumer-product-obsessed, substance-abusing, under-employed snobs so
they can replace a group of hard-working, family-oriented immigrants in
any given neighborhood so consumption-based industries can thrive and
raise property values." Read more...
Also click here to watch a recent episode of
"King of the Hill" in which a group hipsters infests Arlen and drives
up the rents in a traditionally Mexican-American neighborhood.
Will this happen to us once Sanders, Foster
and Hunt take over South El Paso?
March 19, 2008
Zaragoza Fuentes and Eloy Vallina sat on Binational Commission headed
by New Mexico governor in 2003
IN 2003, THE VERDE GROUP bought 21,000
acres in Santa Teresa, directly across from San Jeronimo. In that same
year, Eloy Vallina Lagüera, who owns 49,000 acres in San Jeronimo,
became a board member of the Verde Group. That's also the year the Eloy
Vallina and Pedro Zaragoza Fuentes became official "public members" of
the New Mexico-Chihuahua Commission that was
co-chaired by New Mexico governor Bill Richardson.
Stay tuned in future updates for more
connections between the major players behind the Santa Teresa-San
Jerónimo binational development project and the Lomas del
Poleo-Sunland Park binational crossing. See "Verde Denies Any Connection to Binational Development
PDNG MEMBER PLEADS GUILTY TO CORRUPTION
March 15, 2008
FORMER CITY COUNCIL REP and current Paso
Del Norte Group member Raymond R. Telles pleaded guilty
Friday to two counts of mail and wire fraud,
admitting he attempted to bribe El Paso County commissioners and
Socorro Independent School District trustees. He is the second PDNG
member, out of seven, to plead guilty of having bribed city, county and
school officials in exchange for contracts. The El Paso Times has reported
that PDNG member Bobby Ruiz, with the help of a fellow banker, obtained
more than $1.5 billion dollars worth of work through bribery. County
Commissioner Betti Flores has also pled guilty
to FBI charges that the C.F. Jordan construction firm, owned by PDNG
member Paco Jordan, paid her $10,000 to obtain a 20 million dollar
contract to build a parking garage downtown.
At least ten of the El Paso business
leaders who have been linked to the FBI corruption investigation belong
to the secretive group behind the Downtown-Segundo barrio
“redevelopment” plan. See list.
March 13, 2008
AN INOFFENSIVE DOWNTOWN
El Paso City leaders are doing what Porfirio Díaz did
By ENRIQUE MEDRANDO, ESQ.
THE CORE OF DOWNTOWN El Paso, the area
around San Jacinto Plaza, will change primarily as a result of the
relocation by Joyce Wilson of the downtown bus terminal away from San
Jacinto Plaza. The relocation of the downtown bus terminal is the key
to potentially realizing the desires expressed by those who partcipated
in the Glass Beach study and pined for Matthew McConaughey and Penelope
Cruz look-alikes to swarm downtown El Paso.
The 20,000 or so daily pedestrian border crossers from Cd. Juarez
(represented by the old Mexican, sombrero-wearing viejito in the Glass Beach study), whose buying power was
responsible for forming what the City rechristened as the "Golden
Horseshoe" between the two downtown international bridges and the
downtown bus stops at San Jacinto Plaza, will, for the time being, have
to make their way to the City Parking Garage and Trolley Terminal south
of the Civic Center on West Overland Street in the Union Plaza District.
In a recent article by Leon Metz on Porfirio Diaz in the El Paso Times
(March 3, 2008), he wrote: "In 1910-11, Mexico celebrated its
centennial of independence, Diaz inviting the world's most powerful and
wealthy to the capital, plying them with imported delicacies and
pageantry. This man, whose own blood was predominantly Indian, ordered
other Indians off the streets `less their poverty offend visitors'."
Those whose poverty may "offend visitors" are being relocated away from
San Jacinto Plaza. But hey, this is par for the course in redevelopment
and gentrification efforts throughout the country.
Mr. Foster's revitalization project will become a reality in terms of a
refurbished Mills Building, Plaza Hotel, and Centre Building (White
House Department Store building). Will he be able to fill his buildings
with tenants paying prime rental rates? Will his retail merchant and
food service tenants have enough customers to run their businesses in
the black long term?
It is time for City Council to scrap the Redevelopment Zone portion of
its downtown revitalization plan, or at least put it on the back burner
for at least five years. Let's see if the relocation of the downtown
bus terminal away from San Jacinto Plaza and Paul Foster's project
"revitalizes" the core of downtown El Paso.
If Foster's plan succeeds, City Council can revisit the need for a plan
which calls for forced redevelopment of the area around the core of
downtown using eminent domain. If Foster's plan doesn't succeed, it
simply means the redevelopment zone scheme, which is much more
grandiose, will never succeed.
March 12, 2008
Senator Bingaman Meets With Mexico’s Ambassador to the
United States to Discuss Border Violence and Lomas del Poleo
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman met yesterday with
Eduardo Medina-Mora and Arturo Sarukhan, the Mexican attorney general
and ambassador to the United States, respectively, to discuss violence
along the border and other important border-related issues.
“In recent weeks, we’ve seen an increase in violence in the
border region. Yesterday's meeting was an opportunity for me to convey
to the Mexican government that New Mexicans have serious concerns about
this violence and that it needs to be addressed right away,”
Bingaman presented the attorney general and ambassador with a
copy of a resolution passed yesterday by the Doña Ana County
Commission that raises concerns regarding the safety of residents of
Lomas del Poleo – a Mexican community just south of Sunland
Park. Lomas del Poleo is a colonia that is subject to an ongoing
land dispute where guards hired by powerful Juárez developers
known as Grupo Zaragoza have surrounded the neighborhood with
“I’m glad I was able to bring this issue to the attention
of the Mexican attorney general, and that he committed to looking into
the situation,” Bingaman said.
March 11, 2008
COUNTY COMMISSIONERS PASS RESOLUTION
THE DONA ANA COUNTY COMMISSION today
unanimously voted for a resolution asking for an amicable settlement of
the land dispute at Lomas del Poleo, emphasizing that they are not
"judging" the Mexican government and realizing they have no
Here is the resolution that was read
by County Commissioner Bill McCamley at today's meeting:
“Whereas the Dona Ana County Board of
Commissioners has heard the concerns of the residents of Lomas De
Poleo. And whereas the State of New Mexico U.S. Federal Agencies
and Dona Ana County are committed to investing in successful
bi-national development of our border for the benefit of all
residents. And whereas the Dona Ana County Board of Commissioners
believes that a successful bi-national community with manageable
immigration and border security requires that residents are safe and
healthy on both sides of the border. And whereas the residents of
Lomas De Poleo inhabit a parcel of land immediately adjacent to the
proposed Sunland Park/Anapra Port of Entry. And whereas the
Chihuahua State Human Rights Commission Paso Del Norte Center for Human
Rights and other organizations have documented the concerns of the
residents of Lomas De Poleo. And have taken an active role
in pursuing a resolution for the land dispute. And whereas the
Dona Ana County Board of Commissioners as a governing body immediately
adjacent to the Mexican Border; acknowledges its respect for the
Mexican Government and due process limits its direct intervention and
assistance to the residents. But asks that the public scrutiny of
this issue and public resources be directed toward a just and
expeditious resolution of the immediate needs of the residents.
Now therefore The Dona Ana County Board of Commissioners does hereby
respectfully request that New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, New
Mexico Senators Bingaman and Domenici, Bishop Ramirez and the council
of Bishops, local state and national leaders from the El Paso Texas and
Juarez Mexico areas and the human rights groups that have been noted
meet immediately to implement a peaceful and just resolution to the
situation in Lomas De Poleo including:
1. An expeditious
resolution of the land dispute that is pending the Mexican Judicial
2. Reinstallation of
electric power and a functioning potable water system for the community
to ensure that as due process procedures for resolution of this dispute
proceed, basic human necessities are available for residents.
3. An examination by the
US Delegation from New Mexico as to what international aid resources
may be available to assist in providing basic services to these
residents as this situation is being resolved.
Passed approved and adopted this 11th of March 2008
Today's resolution was considerably milder
than the original resolution: (see Feb. 26, 2008 update below).
According to a reliable source, the county commissioners all got
several phone calls and a bit of arm twisting from Governor
Richardson's office and from Juan Massey, director of Mexican Affairs
for New Mexico. They were warned not to support the resolution calling
for taking down the barbed-wire fence and respect for the human rights
of the Lomas del Poleo residents in order not to offend the government
of Mexico and to not jeopardize future binational development plans in
the region. After the vote Zaragoza attorney, Mario Chacon Rojo, was
the only person allowed to address the commissioners. One journalist
who regularly covers the commissioners meeting called this limitation
to one speaker during the open comment section of the consensus agenda
item an extremely rare occurrence. Chacon, on behalf of the
wealthy land developers who claims ownership of the area, invited the
Commissioners and sponsors of the resolution to visit Lomas del
Poleo. (Will rocks be thrown at them too from the guard towers?!)
"I would like to extend an invitation to
you so that you can see that the situation there is not as serious as
they say it is," Mario Chacon Rojo told the commissioners. "Personally,
I would like to recommend that Mexico City name New Mexico as Mexico's
favorite state, el estado mas favorecido de Mexcio, because of the
conduct and expressions of support by governor Richardson. "
March 8, 2008
OTHER PART OF THE REPORT
American Human Rights Delegation Connects Displacement at Lomas del
Poleo with the Segundo Barrio
"There is strong economic motivation
for displacement.” —NAHRD final report
HERE IS A PORTION of the final report of the North American Human
Rights Delegation that the local media
conveniently ignored, namely the part titled “Connections between
Lomas del Poleo and Segundo Barrio.”
Commercial Development to Support the
Movement of Goods
An additional crossing at Anapra is being advocated by interested
parties on both sides of the border (c.f. SP-026-06 letter from
Chihuahua Governor José Reyes Baeza Terrazas to Minister of
Foreign Relations Luis Bautista and letter from New Mexico Governor
Bill Richardson to Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice dated April 17,
The new international transportation hub is
projected to include an intermodal facility which would transfer rail
payloads onto heavy vehicles. Currently, Mexican railways are being
improved to leverage the possibility of increased traffic.
A border crossing at Anapra would lead into
Sunland Park, New Mexico. Any expansion of existing crossings, or
additional border crossings (e.g. Anapra), would substantially relieve
some of the traffic on El Paso’s international bridges while
potentially providing an economic windfall to Sunland Park’s
coffers. There is construction in Sunland Park, which points to this
area being one of projected growth and current development. Sunland
Park Racetrack Recreation and Casino is paying $12 million of the
infrastructure costs for a border crossing at Sunland Park,
anticipating a large increase in patrons.
It is here in Sunland Park that bi-national
economic interests converge. These interests include entities such as
the Verde Group, Zaragoza Enterprises, and the civic association known
as Paso del Norte Group. These groups share both the desire to profit
from conditions onthe U.S. and Mexican border and also, in some
instances, common corporate directors and officers.
William Sanders, CEO of the Verde Group,
owns 26,000 acres, 5,000 of them in Sunland Park.
Elloy Vallina, one of the board member of the Verde Group [joined in
2003], is one of the richest men in the state of Chihuahua. Mr. Vallina
was part of a bi-national commission exploring and advocating border
development called the 2003 New Mexico-Chihuahua Commission. Mr.
Vallina’s son, Eloy Vallina Garza, is member of the Paso Del
The Verde Group has been involved in the
advancement of two development plans, namely the Santa Teresa and San
Jeronimo plans. These trade zones would “create a niche between
the United States and Mexico where the best elements on either side of
the border can be accessed by companies.”
Connections between Lomas del
Poleo and Segundo Barrio
Displacement of poor local communities is
currently taking place due to potential industrial and corporate
development on both sides of the border. In addition to Lomas Del
Poleo, Segundo Barrio, one of the oldest neighborhoods in El Paso with
many historic buildings of rich cultural significance, is also at risk
of disappearing. the pedestrian bridges from Ciudad Juárez
currently terminate in El Paso’s Segundo Barrio. Segundo Barrio
has been called “a localized version of Ellis Island” for
the Mexican community crossing into the United States.
Much like Lomas del Poleo, residents are
being displaced by a closed and non-public process which benefits some
of the same developers. According to one resident, Maria Guadalupe
Ochoa, in lieu of violence, residents of the Segundo Barrio are faced
with dilemmas such as developers “offering $20,000 for your house
and you have to take it because your children have needs.” In
Segundo Barrio, the displacement would impact roughly 1,800 current
Again, like the displacement happening in
Lomas del Poleo, there is a strong economic motivation for the
displacement. Developers, like the Paso Del Norte Group stand to gain
huge profits from appropriating a portion of this neighborhood. The
proposed use of eminent domain to recuperate property for private
development is effectively a land grab, which benefits real estate
developers. Rather than being used for the common good, in this
instance the land being “reclaimed” would be turned over to
a private Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) whose goals are
determined by the trustees and not by the general public and thereby
not accountable to the community or city government. To a certain
degree, when faced with the possibility of losing their homes through
eminent domain, the residents are facing economic coercion.
According to Father Edwin Gros, residents
went to a City Council meeting to speak on a proposal that would limit
the use of eminent domain. The proposed ordinance would have limited
the use of eminent domain to declaring a specific building a blight,
but not a whole area. They were told to go home because consideration
of the proposal had been postponed. The Council then went ahead and
voted down the proposal after residents left. To add insult to injury,
residents said a City Council member who in the past had recused
himself on the issue due to conflict of interest voted against the
“The is the day we stopped living in
a democracy and started living a dictatorship,” an El Paso
The North American Human Rights Delegation
concludes that human rights violations are taking place against the
residents of Lomas del Poleo, with the tacit consent of the local
government. The land development driving the displacement of residents
in Lomas del Poleo is reflected in other areas of the immediate border
region, including Segundo Barrio in El Paso, Texas. Rather than being
isolated cases of displacement, the cases described in this report
appear to be interconnected.
March 7, 2008
American Human Rights Delegation to release report today on
displacement and dispossession on the El Paso-Juárez border
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Renee Saucedo, Esq. at 415.425.7575
March 6, 2008
Cuidad Juarez --The North American Human Rights Delegation has been
visiting the Cuidad Juarez/El Paso region February 29 through March 7,
2008 with the objective of observing and documenting the conditions in
which the inhabitants of Lomas del Poleo in Cuidad Juarez, Chihuahua,
and the Segundo Barrio of El Paso, Texas live. The delegation,
comprised by members of Amnesty International; National Lawyers Guild;
La Raza Centro Legal of San Francisco; "No More Deaths"; International
Civil Commission for the Observation of Human Rights; Concilio Latino
San Francisco Bay Area; Labor Council for Latin American Advancement of
San Francisco; Labor Council for Latin American Advancement of
Sacramento; La Alianzalatinoamericana; and Davis Religious Community
for Sanctuary (California) invites media to a press conference which
will occur Friday, March 7, 2008 at 11:00 a.m. in front of the
Municipal Palace of Cuidad Juarez.
At this press conference, the delegation will share their findings,
report, and conclusions based upon their meetings with diverse
stakeholders in these border communities. Stakeholders
interviewed include governmental representatives, settlers of Lomas del
Poleo, non-governmental organization, and others involved in the
current disputes taking place in Lomas del Poleo and Segundo Barrio.
Municipal Presidency of Cuidad Juarez
Friday March 7, 2008
Verde Group Subsidies Until it Straightens out its Mexican
By DR. JAMES KADLECECK (New Mexico
THE DOÑA ANA COUNTY Board of
Commissioners heard a tragic presentation today from citizens concerned
about the human rights violations going on just across our border in
Lomas de Poleo. This little village sits right in the path of
development for the bi-national city that some wealthy Mexican
developers want to develop in partnership or collaboration with the El
Paso-based Verde Group. The commission listened attentively as
citizens, a priest, the bishop’s representative and others
recited the list of horrors that have been inflicted upon the humble
residents of this village (homes being torn down or burned, several
deaths, their village fenced in with armed guards, etc).
The politically well-connected Mexican
developers say they own the land, and the residents (who have lived
there for more than 30 years) say they do. The issue is in the Mexican
courts, but the developers are impatient and have been allegedly
committing these atrocities to force the people off the land.
Our commissioners unanimously expressed
outrage but failed to take any action, citing process as their excuse.
They did agree to contact the governors of New Mexico and Chihuahua and
write letters of protest. Here’s my suggestion on what they can
do: Tell Verde that there will be no action on its request for public
subsidies until it straightens out its Mexican collaborators. We
don’t want to do business with people who commit such acts of
violence and violations of human rights.
February 26, 2008
DOÑA ANA COMMISSIONERS EXPRESS
OUTRAGE AT BINATIONAL DEVELOPMENT ABUSES
DOÑA ANA COUNTY COMMISSIONERS today
heard Father Bill Morton, colonos from Lomas del Poleo and a room full
of supporters from Las Cruces, El Paso and Juárez ask that they
pass a resolution calling for a stop to binational development plans
until the Grupo Zaragoza ceases the violation of human rights in Lomas
del Poleo. The resolution titled “Resolution of the Dona Ana
Board of County Commissioners Regarding Lomas del Poleo” read as
Whereas: The state of New Mexico,
US Federal Agencies, and Dona Ana County are committed to investing in
successful bi-national development of the Santa Teresa, San
Jeronimo, El Paso, Juarez metropolitan area for the benefit of
all of their citizens.
Whereas: A successful bi-national community with manageable
immigration and border security requires that citizens are safe on both
sides of the border.
Whereas: The Dona Ana BOCC is committed to protecting the human
rights and property rights of all residents of Dona Ana County, and
allowing violations on the Mexican border to go unresolved will
undermine the confidence of Dona Ana County residents in that
Whereas: The owners of Grupo Zaragoza have claimed ownership of
Lomas del Poleo, a critical parcel of land at the intersection of the
San Jeronimo / Santa Teresa project and the proposed Anapra
/ Sunland Park port of entry.
Whereas: Grupo Zaragoza, against the wishes of residents who have
lived at Lomas del Poleo for up to 30 years, continues to surrounded
the area with a barbed wire fence, guard towers and entry gates, and
pays armed guards to control access to the community.
Whereas: The beating death of Luis Alberto Guerrero, destruction
of Jesus de Nazaret Church and many homes by the guards, death threats
and numerous injuries inflicted by guards, and the deaths of 3 year old
Maria del Carmen Cassango, and 4 year old Magdeleno Cassango in a
suspicious house fire have created an atmosphere of fear that is
driving residents out.
Whereas: The Chihuahua State Human Rights Commission, Paso del
Norte Center for Human Rights, and other organizations have documented
these violations, and failure to remedy the situation opens US
government organizations and business interests alike to charges of
complicity in human rights violations.
Whereas: The owners of Grupo Zaragoza, a Verde Group board member
and New Mexico and Chihuahua government officials have served together
on Governor Richardson's New Mexico – Chihuahua commission
promoting bi-national trade and border development.
The Dona Ana County Board of County Commissioners urges New Mexico
Governor Richardson, New Mexico Senators Bingaman and Domenici, and the
Verde Group to immediately begin working with Mexican government
agencies and the Grupo Zaragoza to insure a peaceful and just
resolution to the situation in Lomas del Poleo by doing the following:
1. Remove all fencing and allow unimpeded access into
and out of the community.
2. Remove all private guards and militia from the
3. Vigorously investigate and prosecute all acts of
violence and intimidation.
4. Expedite a transparent and fair legal process to
determine land ownership rights in the community, and reinstate rights
where residents have been induced to leave through coercion.
The County Commissioners expressed their
outrage and voted unanimously to officially take action on this at the
next County Commissioner meeting within two weeks.
Click here listen to a KRWG radio broadcast of
February 24, 2008
A CALL FOR ACTION!
"Successful development on the
U.S. side hinges, in part, on taking Lomas de Poleo as part of the
larger section of land the Mexican developers lay claim to. They
are going after Lomas not just because they want that specific plot of
land, but because allowing [Lomas residents] to keep it will undermine
their claim to the whole area they say they purchased from the
state/feds. The Lomas situation reveals symbolic, class, and
other practical problems with binational development. So, the U.S. is
implicated in economic and moral/human rights terms: the more we want
the U.S. side developed, the more we place Lomas in the center of the
INVITATION TO DOÑA ANA COUNTY
I FREQUENTLY SEND you notices of
meetings which I hope you will attend. This time I PLEAD
with you to attend: Tuesday, Feb. 26, 9 AM. the regular
Doña Ana County Commission meeting at County headquarters,
845 N. Motel Blvd in Las Cruces, New Mexico (go west on Picacho
until you come to Motel Blvd., then turn left). There will
be a brief presentation about the horrors happening at LOMAS DEL POLEO
just across the border in Juarez. The Commission will be
given the opportunity to make a difference in the life of the residents
Lest you think this doesn't affect you I urge you to read
Pulitzer Prize winner ('92 for national reporting) Eileen Welsome's
narratives of the corruption, violence and billions of dollars
developers stand to make for the proposed bi-national development
affecting Juarez, El Paso and Dona Ana County. The proposed
mega-development will affect all our lives. The recent huge Las
Cruces land annexation is very small potatos next to what is projected.
For information on the Lomas del Poleo dispute download this
hourlong movie: http://www.archive.org/details/Poleo_Speaking
PLEASE COME on Tuesday and show the County Commission that you care
about your quality of life! And please urge everyone you know to
Charlotte Lipson, Las Cruces Quality Growth Alliance member
February 23, 2008
Sin Fronteras Organization Celebrates
25 Years of Struggle
YOU ARE CORDIALLY INVITED to our 25th Anniversary celebration on
Saturday February 23, 2008, at the Farm Worker Center, 201 East Ninth
Avenue, El Paso, Texas 79901, starting at 2:30 p.m.
We begin our celebration with matachines, a brief religious act and an
Aztec ceremony. Then, we will recognize some of the founders, followed
by mariachis, cake, piñata and the Folkcloric Ballet. And of
course, music to dance until we get tired.
We will have great food, natural drinks and good company. Please,
invite your families, friends and co-workers. For your convenience, you
can park in the empty lot on Ninth Avenue, right across the Farm Worker
Sin Fronteras Organizing Project was officially founded on February 23,
1983. For 25 years we have been fighting for the rights of the border
farm workers and their families and we have a lot to celebrate. But we
want you to be part of this celebration. We will see you on Saturday.
Carlos and Alicia Marentes
February 20, 2008
Zaragoza Guards Impede Chihuahua State
Human Rights Official from Carrying out Inspection
PARAMILITARY GUARDS hired by the Grupo
Zaragoza attacked Gustavo de la Rosa Hickerson of the Comisión
Estatal de los Derechos Humanos (Chihuahua State Human Rights
Commission) yesterday during an official inspection to monitor human
rights abuses in Lomas del Poleo.
The human rights inspector told the Diário de Juárez that around
11:30 a.m. yesterday he arrived at the gate entering Lomas del Poleo to
conduct a scheduled observation of the Anapra neigbhorhood surrounded
by barbed wire. The gate was open, but when he attempted to enter, he
was immediately stopped and shoved back by several Zaragoza guards, two
whom witnesses identified as Ramiro Luna and Fernando Carrillo.
(Carrillo was identified as the guard responsible for causing injuries
to Lomas del Poleo resident Guadalupe Pineda a few weeks ago.) When De
La Rosa was about ten meters inside the gate, one guard ran to shove
him back and others to attack him with blows to the face and the body,
the human rights official told the Diario de Juárez.
De La Rosa said he was then pushed back to
the gate that was locked to prevent him from leaving. He was not
allowed to use his cell phone, but was forcefully detained inside the
compound for about 15 to 20 minutes until the Zaragoza guards received
orders to release the human rights official.
De La Rosa, said the police refused to
intervene on his behalf despite the fact that he is a government
official. He had informed the Juárez police of his scheduled
observation at Lomas del Poleo and asked for them to send protection
during his inspection, but although one policeman showed up, De La Rosa
explained he “practically refused to intervene and had orders to
In addition to being a human rights
observer, Gustavo de la Rosa is an attorney who is the father of Leon
de la Rosa, the film maker who shot the documentary "Poleo
Speaking"—a video testimony to injustice and human rights
violations taking place behind the barbed-wire fence at Lomas del
There have been many documented cases in
the past where Ciudad Juárez police officers have stood by while
Zaragoza guards physically threaten residents of Lomas del Poleo and
members of human rights organization. (See "Forum at Lomas del Poleo is blocked"
One member of a Juárez grass roots
organization who helped organize the first two forumas at Lomas del
Poleo said, “If the Zaragoza people can get away with attacks
against a member of an official Mexican government entity, imagine what
they can get away with in regards to the Lomas del Poleo residents. We
see again that the Zaragozas have absolute impunity in this
February 19, 2008
AN ACTUAL ENVIRONMENTAL THREAT
at Texas refinery renews fears of El Paso plant
YESTERDAY’S HUGE EXPLOSION at
the Big Spring, Texas refinery (see Reuter video
of explosion) renewed fears of about the safety of the Western Refining
plant near the San Juan and Lower Valley neighborhoods in El Paso.
There are thousands of working- and middle-
class residents who live in the neighborhood surrounding the refinery
in Trowbridge street. About 2,500 people live immediately within a 1.5
mile radius of the plant, according to the El Paso City-County Office
of Emergency Management.
“It’s scary that this can
happen with the refinery but we can’t afford to move. We are
stuck,” Rebecca Delgado, 56, told the El Paso Times.
The El Paso newspaper reported that,
“The last major fire at Western Refining was in November when a
hydrogen leak sparked a blaze that took firefighters hours to
According to the Diario de El Paso:
“Neighbors have complained
for decades about the contamination produced by this plant right in the
middle of one of the most highly populated areas in El Paso. They say
they have seen health problems ranging from headaches, to respiratory
problems to lead poisoning.
“My son was diagnosed with high levels of lead in his blood. This
was two years ago and every six months doctors have to check his blood
to see if his lead levels are high,” said Lourdes Medina, who has
lived four years on Seville street near Western Refining.
Medina attributes her son’s health problems to the toxic smoke
and ashes spewed daily by the El Paso refinery.She said that from 8 pm
to dawn, the noxious smell and heat (in addition to loud noises that
come from the inside of the refinery) makes life rather unbearable for
her and her family.
Raul Quiñonez, another resident in the area and former Western
Refining employee said that a tanker that was transporting oil blew up
near the plant, and spewed chemicals on dozens of homes and cars in his
After this, he explained, a hotline was set up by Western Refining to
take complaints. However, when residents call to complain they get a
voice message or “non-responses,” Quiñonez said.
“They tell us that they have the permit to spew these chemicals
during the night time and that nothing can be done about that.
Sometimes, they just hang up the phone and don’t respond,”
said Mariano Medina, also a resident of the neighborhood surrounding
the refinery. He said that during the last accident the affected
residents were paid $250 each so that they would keep quiet about it
and not go to the news media.
The El Paso refinery is co-owned by Paso
Del Norte Group members Paul Foster and Bill Sanders. Both are major
contributors to Republican causes at the local, state level and
national level. Foster recently donated $25,000 to right wing candidate
Dee Margo, a personal friend of president Bush. They are also major
contributors to the self-designated “progressive” local
leaders such as Mayor Cook, city rep O’Rourke and state senator
Shapleigh who are leading the efforts against ASARCO because the
smelter plant will potentially cause major pollution if reopened.
Even critics who support the closure of
ASARCO, believe these city leaders are using the legitimate
enviromental concern as a "populist fig leaf to conceal their own
hidden agenda," namely, the seizure of the ASARCO land for their
binational mega-development projects driven by the same big money
players funding their campaigns.
A government funded study in the 1990s
showed that Fort Bliss and Western Refining are currently the two major
causes of pollution in El Paso. While the city leaders have spent
nearly a million dollars in their fight against ASARCO and to study
what City will do with the land once it is expropriated from the
smelter, no funds have been spent to gauge the environmental harm on
the communities surrounding Western Refining.
February 18, 2008
El Paso Community College Will Host Forum
Against Binational Displacement
AN EDUCATIONAL FORUM against displacement
and land seizures in Lomas del Poleo and the Segundo Barrio will be
held on Tuesday, February 19th at the El Paso Community College
Administrative Center auditorium. Several documentaries including
Poleo Speaking by Leon de la Rosa and El Segundo Barrio No Se Vende by
Paso Del Sur will be shown at the forum. Panelists include residents
from the Lomas del Poleo and the Segundo Barrio, Sacred Heart pastor
Edwin Gros and Father Bill Morton, a Columban missionary who was
deported from Mexico for his work on behalf of the colonos of Lomas del
Poleo. There will also be a photography exhibit by Bruce Berman. The
forum is free to the public.
Where: EPCC Administrative
Services Center Auditorium, 9050 Viscount.
When: Tuesday, February 19 at 6 to 8 pm
February 17, 2008
PDNG Speculator Finally Cashes in on the Downtown Plan
THE PASO DEL NORTE GROUP Mike Dipp Jr.
finally cashed in on the downtown plan he so
fervently supports. He just sold his Plaza Hotel to fellow PDNG
oil refinery mogul Paul Foster was recently named “Man of the
Year” by the El Paso Times. Mr. Dipp, a local land speculator who
has owned the Plaza Hotel for decades without doing a thing with it,
was able to reduce his taxes on his buildings more than $150,000 last
year after a protest at the Central Appraisal District. The hotel was
appraised last year by the El Paso Central Appraisal District at
$894,965, and reduced to $731,532 after a protest. There’s a bit
of hypocrisy here since the whole misinformation talking point of the PDNG
supporters is that downtown merchants don’t pay their fair of
taxes. Although Central Appraisal District research done by attorney
Enrique Medrano has shown that most of the downtown businesses actually
pay more taxes foot per foot than those outside this area, it seems to
actually hold true for some of the major PDNG players. PDNG founder
William Sanders, who also owns several buildings downtown, also is in
the habit of fighting property valuation increases at the Central
Appraisal District. One of his Verde properties in the Lower Valley was
lowered in value by one million dollars after he protested. (Those
developers sure like to protest, don’t they?)
The new owner of the Plaza Hotel, Paul
Foster, who is also the owner of one of the top two major polluters in
the city, Western Refining, now owns three vacant Downtown office
buildings: the 16-story Blue Flame building; the 12-story Mills
Building; and the Luther Building. Foster bought the Blue Flame
building right before City manager Joyce Wilson announced that City
Hall is considering selling out its present structure and possibly
plans to purchase Foster Blue Flame building as its future site.
Doesn’t that sound a bit like insider trading?
Foster’s message to the City
politicos is clearly—mi casa es su casa. This will give the term
"embedded politicians" a whole new twist.
February 12, 2008
Segundo Barrio-Lomas del Poleo Forum at the University of
What: Forum: What Side of the
Fence Are You On? Lomas del Poleo-Segundo Barrio: Two Communities Under
Where: Universidad Autonoma de Ciudad
Juárez, Sala Francisco R. Almada, edificio "I" en ICSA
(Instituto de Ciencias Sociales y Administración)
When: Wednesday, February 13 at 6 pm
February 11, 2008
IS BILL SANDER'S BUILDING BLIGHTED?
The "sign of the
changing times" can't withstand a strong wind.
A FEW MONTH ago the El Pasoan, a glossy
magazine owned by the fervent plan booster and TIRZ board member Keith
Mahar, (who also owns NPT), ran a short article listing the new blue sign put up by
Bill Sanders on the roof of the Chase Bank building as a wonderful
example of Downtown “revitalization” and as a “sign
of the changing times.” The headquarters of the Verde Group and
the Paso Del Norte Group are located inside the Chase Bank building
that was bought last year by Bill Sander’s Borderplex REIT as the
first acquisition of the Downtown plan.
Apparently the signs of revitalization
can’t stand up to a strong wind.
In January 7, 2008, the El Paso Times
reported that “firefighters have closed a section of Main Street
in front of the Chase Bank Building Downtown because some aluminum
sheets at the top of the building have become loose because of the wind
and possibly may fall off, according to firefighters at the scene. A
section of Stanton Street near Chase Bank has also been blocked off
because of the potential danger.”
A month later, the street is still closed.
Recently, community groups have approached
the City Council in support of an ordinance to make sure that only
buildings that are genuinely a threat to the community should be
condemned as “blighted.” O’Rourke and three other
City Council reps voted the ordinance down because they prefer a
free-for-all defintion in which all buildings in the TIRZ zone can be
declared blighted not because they are truly blighted but because
Sanders and his Borderplex REIT need those property for their own
private development projects.
Ironically, Sander’s own building has
proven to be the greatest threat in the area. No one, however, expects
O’Rourke to use this incident to show that the Chase Bank
building is a “danger” to the community. That argument will
be used by Mr. O’Rourke only against his own political enemies,
not against his own father in law.
Question: If Sander’s revitalized
sign can’t withstand a strong wind will the signs of his
“revitalization plan” withstand the downturn in the local housing market and
the bust of the REITS at a national level?
More on that at a later date.
February 7, 2008
claims 2007 election gave him mandate from Segundo Barrio
AFTER TUESDAY’S SUCCESSFUL action at
City Hall by a group of Sacred Heart Parishioners, barrio residents and
their supporters from various organizations demanding that City rep
Robert O’Rourke acknowledge his conflict of interest in his vote
against the proposed eminent domain ordinance, O’Rourke held a
press conference to defend himself. According to NPT:
“O’Rourke believed the
protest to be a ‘ruse by the Paso Del Sur Group to make it look
as though Segundo Barrio is united in protest against what we’re
doing at the city.’ He stated that he believes a majority of
South El Paso residents approved of what he is doing in office as they
re-elected him as the city representative last year’ ...If you
look at the election returns from 2007, that’s just not the
case,’ he said.”
Here's our response to Mr. O’Rourkes
claims and misinformation.
Claim #1: Tuesday’s protest was
“a Paso Del Sur ruse.”
The protest was not organized by Paso Del
Sur but by a newly formed Segundo Barrio neighborhood committee called
“Voces Del Barrio” that has been organized with the help of
Sacred Heart pastor Edwin Gros and organizers of the Paso Del Norte
Civil Rights Project. They hold their meetings on a regular basis at
Sacred Heart Church. Mr. O’Rourke, like most self-proclaimed
members of the elitist "Creative Class," apparently does not believe
the Southside residents and parishioners of Sacred Heart Church are
capable of protesting and thinking for themselves.
Claim #2: The 2007 city election gave
Robert O’Rourke a mandate from the Segundo Barrio residents to
proceed with the demolition plan
To respond to O’Rourke’s claim
we must first examine what exactly are the returns for the May 2007
election that O’Rourke is citing as evidence of El Segundo
Barrio’s alleged support for him and the PDNG plan.
The one polling booth in South El Paso,
precinct 35 at Padre Pinto (about 10 blocks away from the
“redevelopment zone” in the heart of the Segundo Barrio)
saw a total of 158 voters last May. Only 86 barrio residents out of
2,800 registered voters in the Segundo Barrio voted for O’Rourke.
The total population of the Segundo Barrio is more than 15,000.
O’Rourke outspent his opponent almost
nine to one. Thanks to heavy political contributions from more than 170
members of the Paso Del Norte Group and their spouses—including
major developers, bankers and CEOs from the region—O’Rourke
raised $60,283. His opponent, Trini Acevedo, raised $7,100. While his
Acevedo didn’t even have money to put up a single poster in the
Segundo Barrio, O’Rourke managed to decorate the freeway with
large billboards showing his face. Despite this huge inequity in
support from the city’s major developers and CEO’s (a
handful of them who have been mentioned as targets of the FBI’s
corruption investigation for offering county and city officials bribes
in exchange for public contracts) Mr. O’Rourke only beat his
opponent in the Segundo Barrio by 14 votes!
In other words, only 3% of all registered
Segundo Barrio residents voted for O’Rourke. Only 86 out of a
total population of 15,000 residents hardly constitutes an overwhelming
The real question here is why do so few
barrio residents bother to vote at all? Could it be that they feel that
it makes no difference? After all, the plans that deeply affect their
own communities are always presented as “done deals.”
It’s the experience of barrio organizers that many barrio
residents express feelings of “impotence.” They feel
incapable of standing up against that powerful business and political
interests. Many of them are disgusted by the political corruption they
see. When some of them get enough courage to participate and go speak
before City Hall, as we saw last Tuesday, those in power (such as Mr.
O’Rourke) do everything to make sure the residents feel
insignificant and incapable of affecting the outcome of decisions that
affect their community.
Historically, everything has been done by
the ruling class in El Paso to make sure that the residents of the
Segundo Barrio continue to be as disempowered as possible. That
explains why the district represented by O’Rourke is one of the
most gerrymandered districts in the entire country.
Any politician who claims to have an
overwhelming mandate to demolish the heart of a neighborhood because 86
out of 15,000 of its residents voted for him in the last election is
either disingenuous or outrageously deluded.
February 6, 2008
A CALL TO CONSCIENCE
"You cannot do this
to people," Father Edwin Gros, Sacred Heart pastor tells City
A GROUP OF Sacred Heart Parishioners who
call themselves (Comite Voces del Segundo Barrio) and their supporters
from the Paso Del Norte Civil Rights Project, Paso del Sur, Anunciation
House and other organizations addressed city council yesterday asking
them to reconside their vote prohibiting the misuse of eminent domain
on non-blighted property. They asked that O'Rourke recuse himself due
to conflict of interest.
Watch the video.
AN UNETHICAL VOTE
City Rep Robert
O’Rourke casts deciding vote despite admitted conflict of interest
ALTHOUGH CITY REPRESENTATIVE Robert
O’Rourke has signed sworn affidavits in the past admitting to
conflict of interest regarding all issues related to the
Downtown-Segundo Barrio “redevelopment plan,” he failed to
recuse himself during yesterday’s vote on an ordinance that would
disallow “blight” condemnations on buildings that are in
perfect condition. Instead he cast the deciding vote with the 4 to 3
majority of City Council that wants the local government to have broad
powers to condemn and forcibly confiscate any building it wishes within
the “redevelopment zone” even if the building is
well-maintained. The homes and small businesses that are thus
expropriated will be handed over to private developers including
O’Rourke’s father-in-law William Sanders. As owner of
the Verde Group, the Borderplex Community Trust (that is currently
buying property within the redevelopment zone) and founder of the Paso
del Norte Group, Sanders is the major driving force behind the plan to
demolish a 30 acre-zone of the Segundo Barrio and displace more than
1,800 residents from this historic neighborhood.
Since December 2006, O’Rourke has
consistently recused himself because of admitted conflict of interest
from votes related to the redevelopment zone, a 302-acre area also
known as the TIRZ (Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone) that includes the
heart of the Segundo Barrio. For instance in October 17, 2007, he
signed a sworn affidavit stating that “I, and or a person or
persons related to me have an interest in property in the proposed TIRZ
district.” Oddly enough, instead of admitting the obvious
conflict of interest involving his father in law who is currently
buying up land in the TIRZ zone, O’Rourke states that “my
wife’s employer is a landowner in the proposed district.”
In other affidavits he states that his wife, Amy Sanders
O'Rourke, works for the La Fe Community Development Corporation,
a for-profit entity that owns apartments and several businesses within
the TIRZ zone. Ms. O'Rourke is currently the executive director of the
La Fe Preparatory charter school.
The executive director of La Fe Clinic, Sal
Balcorta is a member of the executive committee of the Paso Del Norte
Group that developed the PDNG plan and charted the zone within the
Segundo Barrio where residences and small business could be forcibly
O’Rourke gave no explanation why, if
has signed sworn statements in the past admitting to conflict of
interest in the TIRZ zone, he believes it is ethical to cast the
deciding vote on a matter related to this same zone.
Was it that O’Rourke felt he could
safely recuse himself from votes in the past where the outcome was
safely on the pro-eminent domain side, but now things have changed with
the recent resignation of former city rep Alejandro Lozano?
Yesterday’s vote would have resulted in a 3 to 3 tie if
O’Rourke had chosen to continue to abstain and the Mayor would
have been forced to cast the tie-breaking vote.
In the past, Mayor John Cook has stated
publicly that he supports the use of eminent domain condemnation only
against “specific properties” that fit the definition of
blight and not properties whose only crime is to have the misfortune of
being located within a TIRZ zone. If Cook had been forced to break the
tie, it would have been a lose-lose situation for the pro-PDNG crowd.
Either Cook would have been forced to drop his mask of being against
forced expropriations for non-blighted properties, or he would have
cast the winning vote for the ordinance to limit eminent domain abuse.
O’Rourke could not afford either of
these scenarios. That’s why he now has to explain why one day he
swears to conflict of interest and another day, although nothing has
changed, he decides his sworn statements no longer apply.
A Real Bad Taste in Their Mouth:
The voice of the Segundo Barrio
residents is squelched again.
Why can’t we at least pretend
there’s a democracy here? one speaker asked O’Rourke at
City Council chambers yesterday. “Some Segundo Barrio residents
were told the vote on the ordinance was postponed for a week and they
left. It’s not going to hurt you to postpone it for a week. You
should always err on the part of the citizens. You’ve obviously
already made up your mind how you’re going to vote anyway. But at
least let them speak before you cast your vote. Please postpone it for
a week. It’s not going to hurt anything. Otherwise the people
will go with a real bad taste in their mouth.”
The speaker, who is a regular at City Hall
meetings, spoke in support of a group of Segundo Barrio residents who
had shown up at City Hall on Tuesday morning to sign up to speak on the
eminent domain ordinance but left after they were told that the vote
and discussion on the issue had been postponed for a week.
“We arrived at City Hall at 8:30 in
the morning to sign up to speak and we were told by a City employee at
the sign-up table that the issue was postponed for a week,” say
Gaby Garcia of the Paso Del Norte Civil Rights Project. “She
showed me a postponement notice that said “postpone one week as
per representative Castro.”
Segundo Barrio resident Lupe Ochoa was also
told the vote on the issue was postponed but then she found out the
City Council decided to rescind the postponement. When she found out
she rushed back to City Hall, but this time by herself because it was
too late to inform the other residents.
Both Lupe Ochoa and Gabby Garcia returned
and asked the council members why they had been told that the eminent
domain abuse ordinance vote was postponed but now they were actually
going to vote on it. “Could you wait until next week so that the
Segundo Barrio residents get a chance to speak? Or at least put it back
a few items on today’s agenda so that we can call them and they
can come back today” Gabby Garcia asked.
Representative Melina Castro, who
introduced the ordinance on forced expropriations, apologized whatever
misunderstanding occured and moved to postpone the vote for a week to
give the barrio residents a chance to speak.
O’Rourke responded with a clear-cut
no. “I’m ready to hear and decide on this issue now. I
represent the residents of the Segundo Barrio. I met with them a
numbers of times to the point of going door to door. I’ve met
with groups of barrio residents twice. Once at the Boys and Girls Club
and another time I met at Sacred Heart Church where I was ambushed by
the Paso Del Sur Group. [editors note: The meeting that took place in
the summer of 2007 was in fact organized not by Paso Del Sur but by the
church and a group of lawyers representing the residents.] You can see
my meeting with the residents there on YouTube.
We’ve heard this issue ad naseum for two years and I’m
ready to vote on this. I moved to deny this proposed
postponement,” he said.
Guadalupe Ochoa approached the podium and
addressed O’Rourke, “Why are you excluding us from your
plan again? Many of the people of the Segundo Barrio were here this
morning but we were turned away, then I find out you’re going to
vote today after all. Why can’t you understand that we love our
barrio and we’re happy there before your plan came along? Why
can’t you fix our homes and property rather than destroy it? We
are willing to defend our barrio because we love it. But I know not
everyone shares this love for it. Remember (looking at O’Rourke)
that you are where you are because we put you there, so think carefully
before you do what you intend to do.”
At this point, O’Rourke interrupted
Mrs. Ochoa and asked, “Señora Ochoa, is it not true that
you live in Eighth Street outside the redevelopment zone? [Mrs. Ochoa
actually currently lives on Ninth Street but lived on Mesa Street for
close to 20 years.] I have many projects to repave that street and add
additional lighting and security there.”
Mrs. Ochoa responded: “I’m not
here to fight only for my street. I’m here to fight for my barrio
and my people."
The City voted 4-3 to deny the request for
postponement. O’Rourke again cast the deciding vote.
“The residents are free to come back
next week and address the council if they wish during the open comments
period,” O’Rourke told Mrs. Ochoa. He did not inform her
that next week whatever the residents have to say will not affect City
Council's vote on Segundo Barrio expropriations. That vote has already
January 28, 2008
ANOTHER ATTACK BY CATARINO DEL RIO'S GOONS
The Violence Against Lomas del Poleo Residents Continues to
Zaragoza thugs armed with sticks and chains threaten human
observers during a forum in December 2007.
LOMAS DEL POLEO
AN ARMED PARAMILITARY group led by Zaragoza
representative Catarino del Río violently attacked the residents
of Lomas del Poleo at 10:45 am on Monday, January 28. Two days before
this, Catarino del Río had threatened Guadalupe Pineda, one of
the leaders of Lomas del Poleo, with the destruction her home and that
of her son Margarito Cervantes.
Yesterday, Del Río returned with a
group of 20 thugs armed with bats, pick axes, shovels and crow bars to
keep his promise. They would have destroyed most of Margarito
Cervantes’ home had it not been because a group of colonos
interfered with them. In the ensuing confrontation, Lomas resident
Esther Gómez was beaten with a club in her right hand and arm.
The Juárez police, who have consistently taken the side of the
powerful Zaragoza family, arrived at the scene but refused to take a
report of the assault. Instead they dismissed the incident as a mere
“verbal confrontation between the residents.”
The only way to get into the neighborhood
surrounded by barbed-wire is through a gate controlled by the Zaragoza
guards who do not allow family members, friends or human rights groups
who support the residents to enter. When the newspaper and television
media showed up this morning at Lomas del Poleo, they were turned away
at the gate by the guards who “informed” them that
“nothing had taken place.”
At 12:30 pm, Guadalupe, Esther and
Margarito went to the offices of the Chihuahua State Department of
Justice to file charges against Catarino del Río for assault and
theft of property. They remained at these offices for twelve hours, yet
the state authorities refused to initiate an investigation into the
Meanwhile, Margarito Cervantes’ home
is partially destroyed and his furniture and possessions are strewn in
the road in front of his home and Esther Gómez arm is in a
January 27, 2008
THE LATEST ILLEGAL EVICTION THREAT BY GRUPO ZARAGOZA
A PRESS CONFERENCE will take place at noon today, Sunday (1-27-08) to
denounce yesterday’s attempt by Catarino del Río,
representative of Pedro Zaragoza, to destroy the home of Lomas del
Poleo resident Margarito Cervantes Pineda. Margarito is the son of
Guadalupe Pineda, one of the community leaders resisting the Grupo
Zaragoza’s violent eviction campaign. When Guadalupe Pineda
intervened, Catarino del Río promised to come back with a group
of armed Zaragoza guards to carry out the illegal demolition. All
supporters of the Lomas del Poleo residents are invited to attend the
press conference at the Tonantzin Women’s Center in Anapra,
Ciudad Júarez at 12 noon.
For the latest updates on the Zaragoza eviction campaign read ¡Alerta Lomas del Poleo!
January 25, 2008
JUST A BUNCH OF ILLEGAL ALIEN HUGGERS
Anti-immigrant group congratulates El Paso City
Council for “reclaiming your city.”
AMERICANS FOR LEGAL IMMIGRATION, a website dedicated to the
criminalization and mass deportation of undocumented Mexican immigrants
in the U.S., congratulates the pro-PDNG political leadership of El Paso
for their support of the demolition plan of the heart of the Segundo
“I say KUDOS to you El Paso for
attempting to reclaim your city! Proud home of Fort Bliss,”
writes one forum participant who identifies himself as a truck driver
whose youngest child formerly attended Aoy School in South El Paso.
“What do you want to bet a greater (sic) percentage of (those who
oppose displacement in the Segundo Barrio and Lomas del Poleo) are
I(llegal) A(lien) huggers and smugglers. Many of them.”
January 24, 2008
A REASONABLE AND JUST PROPOSAL
City ordinance is introduced that will prohibit
condemnation if your home or small business is well-maintained
AN ORDINANCE WAS INTRODUCED at the El Paso City Council on Tuesday that
would make it illegal for the city of El Paso to condemn viable,
non-blighted properties in Downtown and the Segundo Barrio that are in
the PDNG plan “redevelopment zone.” The ordinance will be
voted on within the next two weeks. Although Sysie Byrd has stated
publicly in the past that she only supports the use of eminent domain
to condemn and expropriate blighted property, she was one of three City
council reps—including former shopping mall manager Ann Morgan
Lilly and Byrd's good friend Steve Ortega—who voted against the
introduction of the ordinance. In other words, they don’t even
want the ordinance to be dicussed. The vote approving the
introduction passed 4-3.
While many El Pasoans believe that the eminent domain condemnations
will only be used on “slum buildings,” the PDNG
demolition plan in fact envisions the condemnation and demolition of
well-maintained properties in order to create the “critical
mass” of empty land necessary for the construction of big-box
retail stores and strip malls.
Read the PDNG’s website and their response to the questions
“Why can’t you salvage some of the better properties in the
“This plan calls for a total
REDEVELOPMENT of the District. If the plan is to achieve critical mass
and create a ‘state of the art’ environment for existing
businesses as well as new businesses it is important that the Plan be
For those who have read the PDNG rationale
carefully, "critical mass" is and has always been the true motive for
the threat of eminent domain condemnations. "Blight" has always been a
pretext, a racialized codeword used by the pro-plan politicians to hide
their true motives and confuse the public. Stay tuned for more efforts
on their part to sabotage the ordinance prohibiting the condementation
of viable, well-maintained properties...
January 23, 2008
THE CHICAGO CONNECTION
GROUP THAT INSPIRED THE PASO DEL NORTE GROUP IS STILL WREAKING HAVOC IN
by BRIAN ROA
I AM CURRENTLY a public high school teacher in Chicago who is
considering taking a teaching position in Clint. I was doing research
and it seems like the Paso Del Sur group is doing good work. While I
was looking up info on PDNG I saw that the PDNG
was created in the image of the Commercial Club of Chicago.This group
wrote the privatization-gentrification-union busting scheme to bust up
Chicago's public schoools that goes by the name of Renaissance 2010.
that explains why Teachers for Social Justice opposes the Commercial
Club of Chicago’s privatization plan:
— Renaissance 2010 is not just a school plan. It is part of a
much larger plan for
gentrification and for moving out low-income African Americans and some
prime real estate areas, in fact from the city altogether. These are
the areas where the
proposed school closings are concentrated. Gentrification is a central
source of profit for
developers, banks, and investors and a key element in making Chicago a
global city of
increasing inequality in housing, income, quality of life, and use of
— Renaissance 2010 is a plan developed by powerful business and
political interests. The
plan the mayor announced in June was clearly spelled out by the
Commercial Club of
Chicago over one year ago in its report titled, Left Behind, dated June
Commercial Club is an organization of the most powerful corporate,
political leaders in the city. That is why there has been no meaningful
the communities affected. This plan was devised a year ago by the CCC.
announced Renaissance 2010 at a Commercial Club of Chicago event. A
plan to sell
Renaissance 2010 to the public, the communities affected, teachers, and
was developed and rolled out by AT Kearney, a corporate consulting
firm, that is
providing “thought leadership” to CPS officials. The plan
Renaissance 2010 and getting “buy in” was presented at a
CPS planning meeting on May
6, 2004, before any public hearings to supposedly get community
So the question is: Who will decide what kind of education our children
should have, the
Commercial Club of Chicago, mayor Daley, and the big real estate
parents, communities and teachers?
January 20, 2008
FROM RUMOR TO REALITY
disheartening to watch as these and other rumors fly about the streets
of El Paso following the March 31 rollout of the Downtown Plan. Worse,
some people apparently believe this crap.”
—El Paso Inc. owner and publisher Tom Fenton
A FEW WEEKS after the Paso Del Norte Group demolition plan was unveiled
in 2006, El Paso Inc. owner and publisher Tom Fenton wrote an angry editorial that dismissed
any idea that Insights Museum will be the future site of a hotel.
This is just a “rumor” spread by “loud mouths,”
Fenton wrote in his April 30, 2006 editorial. (Mr. Fenton conveniently
forgot to disclose in his piece that he is also a member of the PDNG.)
Other “misinformation” the El Paso Inc. publisher accused
the “ugly, vindictive, vicious, and mean-spirited”
plan opponents of spreading included:
—“The plan was devised in secret so special interest groups
could work behind the scenes to position themselves for windfall
—The plan is “a new way to strip land from the poor.”
—”The greedy people who are proposing using a real estate
investment trust as the mechanism to capitalize the plan stand to make
millions when it happens.”
“It is disheartening to watch as these and other rumors fly about
the streets of El Paso following the March 31 rollout of the Downtown
Plan,” the PDNG executive complained. “Worse, some people
apparently believe this crap.”
Mr. Fenton, perhaps the reason people believe this crap is because
it’s all turning out to be true.
NPT reported that at last
week’s City Hall meeting, City manager Joyce Wilson “said
it is a strong possibility that the current city hall building could
become a full-service hotel with convention accommodations. She also
said the city-owned land fronting Santa Fe Street, which is currently
hosts a City Hall employee parking lot and Insights Science Museum,
could be converted into commercial and retail space.”
No one has any problem with selling out City Hall and moving the
politicos all out of there.
But what is note-worthy is
that it took a year and a half for the PDNG and their politicians to
finally admit that what they had formerly been calling “an
outrageous rumor” had in fact been part of the plan from the
When will they finally own up to the other “misinformation”
on the Mr. Fenton's list?
January 15, 2008
!ALTO AL DESPOJO!
Historic two-city simultaneous protest before
the U.S. and Mexican consulates
Yesterday residents of Lomas del Poleo outside the U.S. consulate
shouted the slogan "La Tierra no se Vende, se trabaja y se defiende!"
(Our land is not for sale! It is ours to work and to defend!") They
carried signs bearing the letters of the Segundo Barrio, but they were
also protesting for for their own community as well...Read more.
January 12, 2008
A CALL TO ACTION!
A SIMULTANEOUS DEMONSTRATION ON BOTH SIDES OF
anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
—Martin Luther King Jr.
A SIMULTANEOUS BINATIONAL PROTEST for Lomas del Poleo and the Segundo
Barrio will be held in front of the U.S. consulate in Juárez and
the Mexican consulate in El Paso at noon on Monday, January 14.
Demonstrators will denounce the displacement and civil and human rights
violations taking place in these two border neighborhoods as a result
of binational redevelopment schemes supported by local and state
At the Mexican consulate in El Paso, Segundo Barrio residents and
concerned citizens from this side of the border will call for the
government of Mexico to enforce human rights laws and demand an
immediate end to the acts of terror and intimidation that the residents
of Lomas del Poleo are subjected to on a daily basis. They will present
a letter to the General Consul of Mexico asking for the immediate
dismantling of the barbed wire fence, the guard towers and the
paramilitary squads that have been hired by powerful Juárez
developers to force the residents to accept relocation from their homes.
At the American consulate in Ciudad Juárez, the colonos of Lomas
del Poleo and Juárez NGOs will protest the City of El
Paso’s plan to displace more than 1,800 residents of the Segundo
Barrio, destroy scores of buildings that are part of the the cultural
and historical patrimony of all Mexicans, and expropriate
people’s homes and properties using racist, anti-Mexican
advertising campaigns to justify their "redevelopment" plan.
The reason for the simultaneous binational protest is because same
group of binational developers that is carrying out the
“despojo”—the theft of their lands—in
Juárez are also many of the same ones who are carrying out a
plan that will ultimately displace hundreds of Segundo Barrio families
without respect for their civil and human rights.
The Mexican consulate is located at 910 E. San Antonio Street.
Join us in our call for human rights and against displacement and
dispossession on both sides of the border.
¡Alto al despojo binacional!
For more information call Antonio Lopez at
January 9, 2008
FIRST GLASS BEACH, NOW PROMATURA
Another racially offensive, tax-payer-funded
PDNG study sells us the plan
THE PASO DEL NORTE GROUP and the City of El Paso have teamed together
again to fund a study telling us what is wrong with our city and to
sell us on the Downtown-Segundo Barrio “Redevelopment
Plan.” Our tax dollars paid $15,000 for the study and another
$176,000 will pay for the startup of the retiree attraction program.
The PDNG solicited the study and paid $15,000 as well.
On Tuesday, January 8, the City heard a report from ProMatura
Group—a consulting, research and marketing firm based in
Mississippi. According to the report, the Paso del Norte Group began
studying “Retiree attraction” in 2004. In June 2007, PDNG
and the City hired ProMatura to conduct a study and develop a plan to
create a retiree attraction program.
According to the PDNG-solicited study, “the Paso del Norte region
will be a premier retirement destination location chosen because of its
quality of life, climate, lifestyle and opportunities for 50+
Number 1 on ProMatura’s list of “opportunities” in
the Paso del Norte region is…no surprise: The Downtown
"Revitalization" Plan. In other words, senior citizens from all over
the U.S. can’t wait for a Starbucks, strip-malls and a Wal-Mart
to come to the Segundo Barrio once the natives are kicked out. Some
might find that a bit difficult to believe. We have no problem
belivieving, however, that our tax dollars are paying for a
self-serving report, solicited and financed by the Paso del Norte
Group, which justifies the PDNG’s demolition plan as good for the
The report focuses on El Paso, with frequent references to the Paso del
Norte region, which they define as El Paso, Juárez, and
Doña County—particularly Santa Teresa. The region, not
unexpectedly, is the same tri-state, bi-national area that Paso del
Norte members, particularly Bill Sanders and Eloy Vallina, have their
sights on and own a huge chunk of.
Similar to the GlassBeach Study, the ProMatura report states that
“The Paso del Norte region is somewhat rough around the edges,
lacks attractive streetscapes and suffers from the perception that it
is a dusty border town” (read “ dirty Mexican border
town.”) Also, the report finds that senior citizens
don’t like our city because “some people in El Paso have
accepted the status quo.” (Again, it seems highly unlikely that
elderly Anglos throughout the U.S. would adopt the exact same jargon
and talking point of the local "progressive" pro-PDNG plan crowd.) They
also point out that many neighborhoods “have a ghetto-like
appearance” (read “barrio-like appearance,” as if
that in itself is a terrible thing. Then again, for the retirees from
New Jersey and Arizona the Republican Bill Sanders wants to attract to
town, it probably is.)
The ProMatura report echoes of the previous, also self-serving, report
created by GlassBeach firm that characterized El Paso as “gritty,
dirty, lazy, speaking Spanish, uneducated.” Just like the
GlassBeach report called for a new kind of El Pasoan (using images of
Penelope Cruz and Matthew McConaughey to represent the new, beautiful
people who would move to El Paso), the ProMatura report also points to
the new El Pasoans. The new El Pasoans envisioned by ProMatura and PDNG
are 55 and over with average home prices of $180,000.
The report concludes that the City should create a four year start up
retiree attraction program with a budget of approximately $176,000
(David Crowder of the El Paso Times—a newspaper heavily
subsidized by the PDNG—misreported this figure as $156,000).
When will the City pay for a Paso Del Sur Group study—or any
other home-grown study for that matter—that will document how an
alternative vision that is based on our community’s true needs
and it’s underappreciated cultural vitality can eliminate the
stifling big-box-infested blight of urban mediocrity that is pervasive
throughout our city?
Probably not until the local political class is no longer in the
pockets of the Paso Del Norte Group.
January 5, 2008
THE FIRST ASSAULT OF THE YEAR
Zaragoza Guards Rob and Demolish Several
Homes in Lomas del Poleo
Activists and human rights observers put a
stop to Zaragoza thug actions (for now)
del Poleo resident Guadalupe Pineda waits
outside the Juárez police station. She is pressing charges
against the Zaragoza representatives for theft and injuries caused to
her during yesterday's illegal forced evictions by groups of Zaragoza
THE RESIDENTS OF LOMAS DEL
POLEO suffered their first attack of the year yesterday by paramilitary
groups contracted by the Grupo Zaragoza to forcefully evict them from
their homes. Throughout the night on January 4, 2008,
“guardias blancas,” armed thugs hired by Zaragoza
overseer Catarino del Rio, broke into the homes of several colonos
opposing relocation to rob them of their possessions—furniture,
refrigerators, cables, plants, etc.—and tear down their fences.
At sunrise about 40
Zaragoza guards, their faces covered by bandanas and carrying shovels,
pickaxes, and crowbars surrounded a house next to the home of Guadalupe
Pineda and Antonio González to raze it down. The "shock troops,"
as the colonos call them, began tearing down Guadalupe and
Antonio’s fence as well. Several colonos gathered at their house
and a verbal confrontation took place between the residents and the
Zaragoza guards. Guadalupe Pineda rushed up to a van that was carrying
away part of her own belongings to demand that they return them.
Instead of stopping, the driver of the van hit the gas pedal hard and
Guadalupe's clothing was caught by some trees sticking out from the
rear of the vehicle. She was dragged several yards before managing to
break free. Guadalupe was injured, but the thugs inside the van only
jeered and insulted her while she was being dragged behind the vehicle.
The driver of the van with
license plates EAEB2827 is Fernando Carrillo, a former employee of the
Housing Authority Department of the City of Juárez who now works
for Jorge and Pedro Zaragoza Fuentes.
About half an hour after
the incident, Carrillo returned to the site accompanied by city police
and claimed that it was he who had suffered attacks at the hands of the
colonos. Carrillo claimed he had been hired to “clean up” a
property by one of the home owners who has recently accepted to be
relocated to the “campo de reubicacion” (relocation camp)
built by the Zaragoza family.
The residents identified
Carrillo to the police as the man responsible for causing injuries to
Guadalupe Pineda. Guadalupe’s husband, Antonio Gonzalez, went
with the police station to file a report. Instead of allowing him to
file the report, Antonio was placed under detention for allegedly
"disturbing the peace." Antonio González, who two weeks ago was
one of the leading voices against the closure
of the elementary and kindergarten school at Lomas del Poleo, was not
allowed to communicate with any of the members of the community and
human rights organizations supporting the residents of the
In the meantime, the
Juárez press and Channel 26 of El Paso, appeared at Lomas del
Poleo to cover the story of forced eviction. Because of the media
attention—as well as an immediate gathering of community groups
in support of the colonos—the demolitions ceased for now and the
Zaragoza overseer withdrew the charges against Antonio González
Guadalupe Pineda pressed
charges against Zaragoza employee Fernando Carrillo for theft and
assault with injuries at the Procuraduria Estatal de Chihuahua (the
Attorney General’s Office of the State of Chihuahua). The hearing
for this case will be held at 4 pm on Tuesday, January 8, at the
Procuraduria Estatal offices.
A website published by La Otra Campaña of Ciudad Juárez
explains that the binational development scheme headed by Bill Sanders,
Eloy Vallina, Carlos Slim and Jorge and Pedro Zaragoza is scheduled to
begin in the first quarter of 2008. This is the reason for the rushed
onslaught against the residents of Lomas del Poleo who live right in
the middle of the proposed binational development project. Read article in Spanish.
January 1, 2008
A NEW YEAR'S MESSAGE
To our friends:
May the seeds you plant
this year bear fruit.
To those who aim to
destroy our communities:
We have just begun to
December 26, 2007
THE MASTER NARRATIVE OF
Disaster Capitalism in New Orleans
by NAOMI KLINE
ONE OF THE MOST SHAMELESS examples of disaster capitalism has been the
attempt to exploit the disastrous flooding of New Orleans to close down
that city's public housing projects, some of the only affordable units
in the city. Most of the buildings sustained minimal flood damage, but
they happen to occupy valuable land that make for perfect condo
developments and hotels.
The final showdown over New Orleans public housing is playing out in
dramatic fashion right now. The conflict is a classic example of the
"triple shock" formula at the core of the doctrine.
- First came the shock of the original disaster: the flood and the
- Next came the "economic shock therapy": using the window of
opportunity opened up by the first shock to push through a rapid-fire
attack on the city's public services and spaces, most notably it's
homes, schools and hospitals.
-Now we see that as residents of New Orleans try to resist these
attacks, they are being met with a third shock: the shock of the police
baton and the Taser gun, used on the bodies of protestors outside New
Orleans City Hall yesterday.
Democracy Now! has been covering this fight all week, with amazing
reports from filmmakers Jacquie Soohen and Rick Rowley (Rick was
arrested in the crackdown). Watch residents react to the bulldozing of
their homes here.
And footage from yesterday's police crackdown and Tasering of
protestors inside and outside city hall here.
That last segment contains a terrific interview with Kali Akuno,
executive director of the People's Hurricane Relief Fund. Akuno puts
the demolitions in the big picture, telling Amy Goodman:
"This is just one particular piece of this whole program. Public
hospitals are also being shut down and set to be demolished and
destroyed in New Orleans. And they've systematically dismantled the
public education system and beginning demolition on many of the schools
in New Orleans--that's on the agenda right now--and trying to totally
turn that system over to a charter and a voucher system, to privatize
and just really go forward with a major experiment, which was initially
laid out by the Heritage Foundation and other neoconservative think
tanks shortly after the storm. So this is just really the fulfillment
of this program." Read more
December 25, 2007
PUBLIC CORRUPTION & THE PDNG:
A COUPLE OF QUESTIONS
THE U.S. ATTORNEY, Paso Del Norte Group member Roberto Gerardo Ruiz
bribed several City Council representatives. Who are they?
the El Paso Times, El Paso Mayor John Cook and City rep Robert
O’Rourke (both of them former PDNG members) had their phones
tapped by the FBI in 2007. Why?
THE US DISTRICT COURT, El Paso Division (12-21-07)
THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY CHARGES:
“ROBERTO GERARDO RUIZ conspired and agreed together with others
known, but not charged herein, and others unknown, to commit offenses
against the United States, that is to knowingly devise a scheme and
artifice to defraud the government and the citizens of the City of El
Paso and the right to the honest services of elected El Paso City
Council Representatives, in the affairs of the City of EL Paso; and
conspired to knowingly devise a scheme to obtain money and property by
means of material false and fraudulent pretenses, representations and
promises; that is, the defendant and others agreed to pay cash money to
elected El Paso City Council Representatives, and said Council
Representatives agreed to receive cash money in exchange for the
Council Representatives’ support and vote in their official
capacity as El Paso City Council Representatives, in violation of their
fiduciary duty as elected representatives of the City of El Paso, for
agreements between the City of El Paso and vendors seeking business
with the City of El Paso; and in furtherance of the scheme to deprive
the City of El Paso and its citizens of the honest services of the
elected El Paso City Council Representatives, and to obtain money and
property by material false and fraudulent pretenses.
December 21, 2007
PDNG Member Pleads Guilty to Bribing City reps
Ten out of twenty-two targets
of the on-going FBI corruption investigation belong to the Paso Del
TODAY, PASO DEL NORTE GROUP member Roberto “Bobby” Ruiz
pled guilty to four counts of
conspiracy to commit mail, wire fraud and a scheme to defraud the
citizens of their right to the honest services of City Council reps,
county commissioners, and elected officials of the EPISD and El Paso
Ruiz is one of ten members of the PDNG who have been
targeted by the FBI’s public corruption investigation. Read more
December 20, 2007
THE OTHER ALLIANCE
Activists from El Paso, Juárez and Las
Cruces meet to discuss a common foe
Activists and residents from
Las Cruces, El Paso
and Ciudad Juárez
at NMSU discuss the
negative effects of the
LAS CRUCES, NEW MEXICO — Activists and residents from Las Cruces,
El Paso and Ciudad Juárez met yesterday at the Center for Latin
American & Border Studies at NMSU to discuss the negative effects
of the Verde Group binational development plans in the region. They
included residents of Lomas del Poleo and South El Paso, faculty
members of UTEP and NMSU, as well as members of Paso Del Sur of El
Paso, La Otra Campaña of Ciudad Juárez and the Quality
Growth Alliance of Las Cruces.
Verde Group binational development project.
December 18, 2007
The Downtown Development Dictatorship vs. La
LA MUJER OBRERA has survived by its "boot straps" for over 25 years as
Justice Sandra Day O'connor commemorated with that organization a
couple of years back. They have proven that they will persevere against
all odds. Now that they have become a little more sophisticated and
have a concrete plan for their Centro Mayapan, that will promote our
Mexican heritage and provide income for our city and the residents of
that area, plus they returned one hundred thousand dollars to the city
coffers (very suspicious action) their request goes unheeded.
I am truly dismayed by the antics of our city leaders.
For some in El Paso this organization must represent some sort of
political threat because the "feasibility" study is always a convenient
smoke screen to deny a project. Among the many questionable decisions
our city council has made over the years the denial of support for this
group would be among the top regrettable actions ever.
I'm sure the Downtown Development Dictatorship would not be hurt with
the 150 thousand less in its pockets that La Mujer Obrera is asking for
at this time. I'm saddened that even with the emergence of new youthful
leadership of our city the not so youthful or benevolent political
interests still taint our city politics. It boils down to political
clout that La Mujer Obrera obviously is lacking and wherever a
political vacuum exists those sectors will be either ignored
irrespective of their proposals or exploited in the name of "progress"
for the alleged greater good.
December 17, 2007
What about those of us in the "Non-Creative
images were part of a
City-funded marketing study that reveals the
kind of "Creative Class" people the El Paso elite would like to replace
the Segundo Barrio residents with. Is there anything wrong with this
BRINGING THE EXPATRIATE young professionals who fled to Austin back to
town might do wonders for the El Paso coffee house business or the
political base of our own local upwardly mobile politicians but will it
do anything to create a more socially just community? Is this "Yuppie-Come-Home!" project
and the $100,000 "Creative Class seminars"
something our City should be spending tax-payer money on? Couldn't that
money be better spent on promoting the creative potential of Segundo
Barrio artists, activists and home-grown visionaries who never left? Or
are the working-class people of our community too "uncreative"' for our
If they've read the Rise of the
Creative Class carefully, they know that even its author
Richard Florida (the darling of the Paso Del Norte Group crowd in El
Paso) concedes that
“the crowding of creatives into
gentrifying neighborhoods might generate inflationary housing-market
pressures, that not only run the risk of eroding the diversity that the
Class craves but, worse stifle, could smother the fragile ecology of
creativity itself. He reminds his readers that they depend on an army
of service workers trapped in “low-end jobs that pay poorly
because they are not creative jobs,” while pointing soberly to
the fact that the most creative places tend also to exhibit the most
extensive forms of socioeconomic inequality. Ultimately, though, since
it is the creatives’ destiny to inherit the earth, it is they who
must figure out how to solve these problems, in their own time and in
their own way, as part of what Florida characterizes as their 'growing
up.' The uncreative population, one assumes, should merely look on, and
learn." Read more.
Also The Curse of the Creative Class.
December 16, 2007
GRADUALLY, PEOPLE in the community began to gather together to discuss
the pending developments in their neighborhood. The Bronx Center
project, a local community group, held a public meeting in which
homeowners, tenants and businesses united in their anger over the lack
of consultation on changes that would affect all aspects of their
lives. They felt betrayed by the elected officials and the city's
agencies. The neighborhood residents decided one crucial thing - they
were not going to allow the city to roll over them, and they were going
to become an active part of the development in their area...Read more.
December 14, 2007
TERESITA URREA-ONE WOMAN PLAY
December 14, 2007
Time: 5-8 pm
Elena D. Bjorkquist
A Chautauqua is a living history presentation. The format for a
Chautauqua is for Elena D. Bjorkquist, in the character of Teresa
Urrea, the Mexican healer and political activist who lived in Segundo
Barrio in 1896, to speak about her life then answer questions from the
audience. For the final portion of the program, Elena and David Dorado
Romo, author of Ringside Seat to a Revolution, will answer questions
about the life of Santa Teresita.
December 14, 2007
2000 Texas Avenue
El Paso, Texas
Free and Open to the Public
Special Performances by:
Mariachi los Caporales
Ballet Folklorico Nahui Ollin
For information call Nancy Green at 564-9218
See Pulitzer Finalist Says "Save
Also now available!
Her medicine is still
strong: Teresita Urrea, la Santa de Cabora (English version)
Su medicina es aun
fuerte: Teresita Urrea, la Santa de Cabora (Spanish version)
This chapbook honors the life of Teresita Urrea, a revolutionary
curandera who lived in El Paso in the 1890s. The daughter of an
indigenous Mexican woman and an hacendado, revolutions were started in
her name. Thousands came to her for healing.
She is a part of our history.
Chapbooks are available for a beginning donation of $5.00.
To order one or for more information, contact Yolanda at
Produced by Circulo Zihuatekpahtzin and
Paso del Sur
December 10, 2007
A CALL TO ACTION!
The residents of Lomas del Poleo need your
help to denounce the closure and relocation of the community-built
elementary school—Alfredo Nava Sahagún
TOMORROW, Tuesday December 11 at 10 am, there will be a protest at the
Government Officies on Eje Juan Gabriel.
The Secretaría de Educación Pública (Department of
Public Education) has threatened the illegal relocation and closure of
the federally registered elementary school in Lomas del Poleo. The
residents of Lomas del Poleo and the social and political organizations
that support them will gather at the Oficinas de Gobierno to protest
this arbitrary action.
It’s important that the border community know that behind the
relocation efforts by the Secretaría de Educación
Pública lies the intent to not only destroy an educational
effort created by the money and efforts of the residents of Lomas del
Poleo, but also the municipal government has decided to back up the
economic interests of the land developers Pedro and Jorge Zaragoza who
have been waging a campaign of violence and intimidation against the
inhabitants of this neighborhood to forcibly strip them of their homes.
December 7, 2007
THE PLAN KEEPS GETTING BIGGER AND BIGGER
City wants to expand the eminent
area from 168 to 302 Acres
THE TIRZ BOARD, chaired by Paso Del Norte Group plan zealot Veronica
Escobar, has recommended that the boundaries of the TIRZ zone—the
area that has been declared “blighted” by City Council
where major demolitions and future eminent domain will take
place—be expanded. The expanded Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone
would include the “Historic Incentive Zone” which was
previously exempted from the threat of eminent domain under the initial
PDNG plan. The TIRZ expansion will be introduced to the El Paso City
Council on December 11, 2007 [see ordinance]. [see TIRZ
board meeting agenda]
The number of acres where the City will have expanded powers to use
eminent domain has gone up from 168 acres to 302. This just goes to
show that many of the past promises by the pro PDNG-plan
politicians— that certain properties were safe from the threat of
forced expropriation—have proven to be exactly that. Nothing but
It’s also becoming increasingly clear to many residents of the
border that, unless we put a stop to it, “The Plan” will
slowly keep threatening to swallow more and more of our homes,
businesses, neighborhoods, roads, water and resources.
December 6, 2007
Lipan Apache Land Under Threat of Eminent
Domain to Build The Border Wall
TODAY WE HAVE serious news to share and to update on the situation
unfolding in the traditional lands of the Lipan Apache communities of
the Mexico-US militarized border region.
Chertoff announced plans to force occupation of South Texas families
who refuse to allow the government access to their
lands. See the story in the Houston Chronicle (Dr.
Eloisa Garcia Tamez comments at the bottom of story.)
United States occupation of South Texas people refusing Homeland
Security access to their traditional lands is EMINENT. 'Refusers'
such as the Lipan Apache Land Grant Women Defense, led by my mother,
Dr. Eloisa Garcia Tamez (Lipan Apache, Basque-Apache) have
frustrated the NSA, Border Patrol and Army Corps of Engineers officials
for over two years, and increasingly in the last two months.
Using tactics such as public announcements over the news service, used
as intimidation and as psychological warfare--NSA/Chertoff exploits the
press to prepare the nation to invade South Texas--and indigenous
peoples--who are being 'architected as the perpetual enemies of the
United States." This is an old story.
This scenario played out before, in 19th century, in 20th
century. And now the 21st. My mother, and the ancestors of
'the place where the Lipan pray', played a huge role in all three
occupations against settler society in those 3 periods.
My mother indicates that she is prepared to receive national and
international support for our small community on the peripheries of
Today we are submitting our comments to the Environmental Impact
Statement authorities, and parallel to that we are submitting an
indepth case study of our histories under U.S., Mexican, Spanish,
Vatican and corporate domination to the International Indian
Treaty Council shadow report to be submitted to the U.N. Convention on
the Elimination of Racism and Racial Discrimination in December.
(Lipan Apache, Jumano Apache)
December 5, 2007
AN ALTERNATIVE TO THE PASO DEL NORTE GROUP
Mayachen does not involve eminent domain, displacement, exclusion and
secret deals with ruthless binational developers. That's exactly why
City Hall doesn't like it...
does not exclude anyone."
—Irma Montoya, Mujero Obrera director
LA MUJER OBRERA'S model for women’s economic development, Centro
Mayapán, is in great need of your support. Whereas the City of
El Paso has supported other plans and projects it has yet to help with
Centro Mayapán. On December 11th La Mujer Obrera will go before
City Council to seek their assistance. We are asking you to help by
attending the meeting and by calling or writing the Mayor and your City
Representative in support of La Mujer Obrera’s efforts to better
the lives of women workers.
During the City Council meeting we will ask for a response to our four
requests for needed action to be taken by the City of El Paso in
support of Centro Mayapán:
· Approval of $250,000
to enable La Mujer Obrera to finalize operational systems for opening
· Assistance in
implementing Centro Mayapán
· Include Centro
Mayapán as a component of the City of El Paso
’s development plan
· $2 million to open
Centro Mayapán by our target date
The support of the city government is essential to making Centro
Mayapán a reality. Although Centro Mayapán is
located in the South Central area of El Paso , it will have a positive
impact for all of the City of El Paso . Our plan does not exclude
anyone and this has been proven in the development of all its
components. This is why it is important and necessary to defend and to
support Centro Mayapán as residents of the City of El Paso
. It is also important to understand what Centro Mayapán
means for us in order to defend it. Centro Mayapán is not
a private business; it is our right to a community with dignity, a
stable economy, capacity building and quality education, a space free
of danger for our children. It is our right to learn using all of
our senses, our culture, cuisine and our history.
Our South Central Community has the right to exist, with dignity, we
have the right to escape poverty, but also to define how we do that, to
have a space to learn, but with the adequate structures where women
workers can develop completely to create their identity, to develop
their skills and respect for our customs.
The women workers are the most appropriate people for this task since
no other economic plan that has been proposed by institutions and
professionals with a higher level of education have been able to
address the poverty we live in. Our experience, our practice and
work has been an example that our plan is valid and is capable of
changing the conditions in which we live. However, it still has
not been publicly recognized as a viable plan. Instead it has
been questioned numerous times, and we have concluded that it is not
our projections, nor our work plan, that is not clear but rather the
social aspect of our model that has not been understood, or simply is
not the priority for investment. In order to give displaced
workers an opportunity for complete development it is necessary to
provide adequate training and build their capacity.
The annual cultural events in Centro Mayapán, Rayito de Sol
Childcare and Learning Center, the Uxmal Apartments, Mercado
Mayapán, the Orientation Center, CDBES (Center for Bilingual
Development and Social Enterprises), the Media and Technology Center,
are all economic projects with a social purpose for the community where
we can learn and work toward breaking the cycle of poverty. These
are projects where children and adults can have a cultural space free
from danger while learning from our heritage and culture. Working
together these projects provide a space where workers and their
families can have an alternative to the educational system that now
exists, a space where technology can guide them and expose them to new
types of communications media, where they have an opportunity and an
economy with dignity. These same projects have served as a guide
to development for women by the women who have lived through the
failures of other programs and have now created a new model of
development that works for our community.
La Mujer Obrera
December 4, 2007
WATER, WATER...BUT NOT A DROP TO DRINK
The privatization of our water in the El
you know that a group of 5 billionaires intend to drain our water with
their mega-development projects then corner the water market once our
aquifers dry up?
DID YOU KNOW that secretive Verde Realty Company—owned by
the ubiquitous William Sanders—obtained the water rights to
billions of gallons of water to supply his new “company
town” in Santa Teresa yet, thanks to governor Bill
Richardson’s intervention, there was never any kind of public
Denver multi-billionaire Philip Anschutz and his El Paso-based partner
Woody Hunt are currently developing a plan to tap the water under the
West Texan Dell City to sell it at a profit to El Paso and
Eloy Vallina, board member of the Verde Realty Company, owns the plot
of land known as San Jerónimo (opposite Santa Teresa, NM”)
about the size of the entire city of Juárez where the invaluable
Conejos Medanos aquifer is located. The underground water source will
serve as a reserve basin when the current Hueco Bolson that supplies
Ciudad Juárez and El Paso dries up within the next two decades.
According to the Paso Del Norte Task Force study it will dry up by the
And now the richest man in the world, Carlos Slim, is in on the act to
monopolize what in our desert is known as “liquid gold.”
[Read Frontera Norte Sur’s article “Carlos Slim Stages a Border Water Coup.”]
His project—which will be the main source to meet the water needs
for the future San Jeronimo-Santa Teresa projects—will affect the
water supply on both sides of the border.
Why hasn’t anybody reported on the effects of mega-development
projects known as “master planned binational cities” by
Sanders, Vallina and their fellow developer-water merchants are going
to have on the water supply for the rest of us?
It’s all part of their fast-track plan to privatize our roads,
public lands, neighborhoods, international crossings and now, even our
Our binational communities in Juárez, El Paso and Las Cruces
must wake up to their plans before the well runs dry. And this
might turn out to be much quicker than any of us expected.
December 4, 2007
Working for Justice in El Paso
by Luis Mendoza, Journey Across Our
MY TIME IN El Paso was short but intense at multiple levels. It was
made particularly productive and easy by the presence of friends and
family. I spent Friday evening and part of Saturday as guest of UTEP
Chicana historian Yolanda Chavez Leyva and her artist- photographer
friend Lucia. Over a wonderful home-cooked breakfast on Saturday
morning I interviewed Yolanda about her work with Paso del Sur, an
emergent organization founded to resist the urban renewal plans crafted
by the city’s political and business elites who crafted a
redevelopment plan for the downtown area and the historical segundo
barrio that sits adjacent to it. The plan was developed and
subsequently adopted by the city council without input from residents
and has proven to be quite controversial because it involves the
displacement of numerous people and re-design of the neighborhood that
would destroy the barrio’s structural and historical integrity.
December 3, 2007
The Second Forum at Lomas del Poleo is Blocked
hired by the Grupo Zaragoza block access road to the Second
Forum at Lomas del Poleo.
SIX WEEKS AGO the residents of Lomas del Poleo in Ciudad Juárez
invited grass-roots organizations from both sides of the border to a
human rights forum at an elementary school inside their besieged
community but the groups were stopped at the gate by armed paramilitary
"guards" hired by the Grupo Zaragoza. That day the colonos—who
were not allowed outside the fence—and their supporters from
“la sociedad civil” held the forum across the barbed wire.
On Saturday (December 1, 2007) they planned to hold the second
“cultural-political” forum to denounce the state of siege
of Lomas del Poleo on a small farm on the desert mesa just outside the
barbed-wire fence. The Zaragoza group blocked them again, but this time
about a quarter of a mile away from the colonia.
The colonos had set up a tent with a stage and a microphone for the
participating speakers, poets and musicians from Juárez and El
Paso planning to arrive that morning, but a group of thugs hired by the
Zaragoza family carrying sticks, bats and other concealed weapons
planted themselves on the only access road to Lomas del Poleo and
stopped several automobiles and a bus full of forum participants from
going through. The Zaragoza guards led by a point man holding a
menacing pit bull on a chain were backed by several dozen
counter-demonstrators holding signs telling the binational civil and
human rights to go home. Read more...
November 28, 2007
The Second Forum at Lomas del Poleo
political-cultural event for land rights and against dispossession
1. The Forum will take place on December 1, 2007 in front of the
barbed-wired fence at Lomas del Poleo startng at 10 a.m.
2. Accreditation will take place in the following sites on Saturday,
December 1 at:
Farmworker Center in El Paso at 8 am (Corner of 9th and Oregon)
AltaVista Preparatoria at 8:30 am. (A bus will leave from 9:30 am to
Lomas del Poleo)
Tonanzin Women’s Center: 9:00 am - 10:00 am.
Lomas del Poleo: 10:00 am
3. Everyone is asked to bring folding chairs. The event will last about
4. The colonos will have food for sale at the event.
5. Because of the precarious situation of the colonos, we ask that
everyone help insure that the event be carried out in a wholly peaceful
and non-violent manner.
6. The following musicians and poets will participate at the
Rogelio Rangel Music
Arminé Arjona Poetry
Daniel Malacara Mime
Radio La Chusma Music
Collectivo Revuletas Poetry
Mónica Guerra Music
Profe Fernando Installation Art
—Alerta! Lomas del Poleo
November 24, 2007
La Otra Campaña of Ciudad
Juárez Responds to City Rep Susie Byrd
"I think they
(the Paso Del Sur Group) are being intellectually dishonest. The armed
militias are really depriving people of their human rights, and that's
not comparable to anything in Segundo Barrio."
THE MEMBERS OF La Otra Campaña in
Ciudad Juárez who have joined together with the colonos of Lomas
del Poleo along with other social and political organizations of the
border not only share, but publicly espouse, the position of Paso Del
Sur regarding the connection between the struggle against land theft
and displacement that is taking place today on both sides of the
This natural relationship that has been created recently between the
colonos of Lomas del Poleo and the residents of the Segundo
Barrio—who are fighting from below to save their lands,
properties and livelihoods—is the beginning of a trans-border
movement in the Ciudad Juárez-El Paso area similar to those
taking place in other parts of the world.
It is “intellectually dishonest” to think that behind this
nascent movement there are individuals or organizations that are merely
inventing this connection. The true source of this connection are the
very people who, in the name of a false development and a primitive
notion of progress, endeavour to change the face of our cities in order
to fill their pockets with cash.
We ask City representative Susie Byrd if it is not
“intellectually dishonest” to believe that the residents of
the Segundo Barrio and Lomas del Poleo can’t think for themselves
and thus need others to invent the idea of “ binational
connections” for them?
We must ask City representative Susie Byrd if it is not
“intellectually dishonest” to be on the side of wealthy
investors who endeavour to erase a large part of this history of this
city through real estate expropriation?
—La Otra Campaña de Ciudad
(For other responses to Susie Byrd's attack on Paso Del Sur click here and here.)
November 22, 2007
A CALL TO ACTION!
The Second Forum at Lomas del Poleo
We invite you to attend a forum
on December 1 to be held outside the fence Lomas de Poleo in Ciudad
Juárez at 10 a.m. Those of us on the American side of the
boundary will meet at 8:30 a.m. in South El Paso at the Border
Farmworkers Center at the corner of 9th & Oregon Street. From there
we will all cross the Santa Fe Bridge to the Alta Vista High School in
Ciudad Juárez where there will be transportation provided to the
Second Forum at Lomas del Poleo.
The event will be a cultural political
event in support of the residents of Lomas de Poleo who are fighting
for their lives and their homes. We call the poets, the artists, the
musicians, and all voices for humanity to join us. We want the world to
know that the people of Lomas de Poleo are not alone.
If you wish to participate please email us at
firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information please see http://alertalomasdelpoleo.blogspot.com/
LAST MONDAY NIGHT over 200 people attended a forum held at UTEP,
“What side of the fence are you on? Lomas de Poleo and Segundo
Barrio under Siege.” The gathering brought together residents of
both communities who find themselves threatened by the plans of wealthy
developers and businessmen on both sides of the border.
Many of us are familiar with Lomas de Poleo because of the femicides.
What many of us are not aware of is the fact that the powerful Zaragoza
family continues to use violence, armed guards, arson, and murder to
force the people out of their homes. They have put up a barbed wire
fence around the community and posted guards. While residents are at
work, men hired by the Zaragozas destroy their homes. There have been
several deaths associated with these efforts to displace residents.
(See "A Human Rights Forum Across Barbed
Monday night’s testimony of the residents, as well as two
Catholic priests who have witnessed the on-going threats and harassment
against our neighbors, was heart breaking. We learned that Monday
morning, a university professor and his forty students, including a
pregnant woman, who had assembled outside the fence at Lomas de Poleo
were physically and verbally assaulted by Zaragoza’s guards.
Why do the Zaragozas want the land at Lomas de Poleo? Because the land
sits on the proposed site of a huge highway that will be built as part
of an international crossing. Lomas de Poleo finds itself caught in
between the bi-national development plans of Bill Sanders (Santa Teresa
and Sunland Park, where he owns 21,000 and 5,000 acres respectively)
and Eloy Vallina (San Jeronimo) as well as the the Zaragoza Group
(Lomas del Poleo).
The links between developers on both sides of the border are striking.
Bill Sanders, father-in-law of city representative Robert
O’Rourke whose district includes el Segundo Barrio, is founder of
the Verde Group as well as the Paso del Norte Group (PDNG). The PDNG is
the force behind the “downtown plan” that includes the
displacement of Segundo Barrio residents and the demolition of a large
part of the barrio.
Sanders, working with powerful Mexican businessman Eloy Vallina, is
also behind a bi-national development plan that runs the length of the
U.S.-Mexico border. Sanders and Vallina both sit on the board of Verde.
They are both members of the Paso del Norte Group.
Vallina, his family and their businesses are directly responsible for
the extensive logging that has destroyed the environment of the Sierra
Tarahumara. Illegal logging, often connected to narco-trafficking, has
forced thousands of Raramuri people out of their homes in the Sierra
and into Ciudad Chihuahua and Juárez where they struggle to
maintain their language and their culture, in the face of poverty and
unemployment. Raramuri activists have been jailed for organizing
against the huge logging interests in la Sierra; others have been
for a 2003 article on Tarahumara activists arrested for their
The politicians and the wealthy developers try to tell us that there
are no connections but we, as people of conscience, know that we are
connected to our sisters and brothers on both sides of the border.
We hope to see on December 1 at 10:00 a.m. at Lomas de Poleo.
Spread the word—let all of us speak for justice.
If you have questions about the event you can email us at
—Yolanda Leyva, on behalf of the women of Zihuatekpahtzin
November 20, 2007
The Residents of Lomas del Poleo and the
Segundo Barrio Connect
“It’s the same plan on both
sides of the border. It’s the same land speculators who sit on
each others boards and who are carrying out large-scale displacement
and land grabs. If the powerful are organized at a binational level,
then those of us at the bottom also need to join together. We need to
form binational coalitions against el despojo—against the theft
of our homes and our barrios—that is being carried out in the
name of regional development.”
—Cristina Coronado, Juárez activist from La Otra
Lomas del Poleo resident Petra Medrano (left) and Segundo Barrio
resident Lupe Ochoa were two of the panelists at yesterday's
UTEP Forum: "Lomas del Poleo-Segundo Barrio under siege."
TWO HUNDRED PEOPLE attended a UT El Paso
forum Monday evening where they witnessed a unique, and perhaps
historic, conversation between residents of two neighborhoods located
across the international fence from each other that are fighting
against very similar threats to their communities.
Panelists Petra Medrano, who has lived in Lomas del Poleo in
Juárez for 15 years and Lupe Ochoa, who has lived in El
Paso’s Segundo Barrio for about an equal amount of time, shared
common stories of struggle against developers from both sides of the
border who want to move their communities out the way to make room for
binational redevelopment projects.
Petra Medrano described the feelings of anger and fear that she and her
neighbors have experienced at the hands of armed guards hired by
powerful Juárez developers who have systemically terrorized them
for the last four years to force them to accept relocation. “We
lived in peace Lomas del Poleo for 12 years until recently when the
Grupo Zaragoza showed up... Now we are under much pressure. One of our
neighbors, Luis Alberto Guerrero, was beaten to death by the guards
while the guards were razing a home...We feel so powerless...I know I'm
a target now, but I must speak out. Maybe only a miracle will save us."
“Why now?” Ms. Mendoza asked. “Why have they decided
to kick us out of there now after we were there for so long?” [video of testimony]
The sentiments of Lupe Ochoa echoed those of Medrano. “We used to
live happily in our barrio, even with all of its defects, but now this
[Paso del Norte Group] plan has us all living in a state of
fear,” she said. “The residents of the barrio have been
selling their homes because they're afraid that they will be forced out
by this plan.
"I think the biggest connection between Segundo Barrio and Lomas del
Poleo is the love for our neighborhood and for our people,” Ms.
Ochoa said. “And the love we feel for our homes that we built
with great sacrifice, either on this or that side of the border. And I
say this love is what will unite us. Segundo Barrio es igual a Lomas de
Poleo...The people that are doing this to our neighborhoods either on
that side or this side are not invincible. If the tallest trees have
been toppled, why shouldn't we be able to topple these powerful groups
even with all their money. Even though they say power is all about
money. But they don't have the heart that we the poor have,” Ms.
Ochoa said. [Ms. Ochoa video.]
"It's the same people who are responsible for what is happening to us
at Lomas del Poleo— Héctor Murguía [former
Juárez mayor who is a member of the Paso Del Norte Group] and
Eloy Vallina [board member Verde Realty Group] who now want to take
over the Segundo Barrio," said Medrano. "It's the same group of
businessmen who are threatening us. They're the same ones that want to
take away our lands."
During the screening of short documentaries about both communities at
the forum—including “Poleo Speaking” and
“Voices of Dissent: The Segundo Barrio
is Not For Sale!”—the the residents of both
neighborhoods used almost identical phrases to describe their feelings
in the face of displacement and the seizure of their land. Several of
them said they felt “powerless” or “impotent”
but that they were willing to fight for their homes “come what
The videos also linked the struggles in other ways. The "Grupo
Zaragoza," Eloy Vallina's "Grupo Chihuahua" and Bill Sander's "Grupo
Verde" in Juárez have all targeted the northwestern zone in
Ciudad Juárez for binational redevelopment projects that, those
interviewed in the videos argue, have excluded the people that
are currently living in that zone. Father Bill Morton, one of the
panelist at the forum who was pressured to leave Mexico in 2006 because
of his work on behalf of the colonos, made the connection between these
developments and the state of siege of the Lomas del Poleo residents in
the documentary Poleo Speaking.
"It's a project between Anapra, Sunland Park, New Mexico, San Jeronimo,
Santa Teresa, El Paso and Juárez that involves billions and
billions of dollars. It's all part of the whole enchilada," Morton
But beyond anything said at the forum, that very direct and palpable
connection that we witnessed between Petra Medrano and Lupe Ochoa and
the other residents of our binational neighborhoods under siege, was
the most important thing that came out of Monday’s forum.
It was the first time that many of them became aware of each
other's situation. It was also an evening where voices that
hadn’t been heard before were heard for the first time.
For the first time, neighbors from both sides of the fence connected.
And just that in itself was an important victory for the binational
movement against displacement and despojo—the theft of our homes
(Note to our readers: If you attended
Monday's forum and would like to share your comments about the event
please write us at email@example.com.)
November 19, 2007
WHAT SIDE OF THE FENCE ARE YOU ON?
Lomas del Poleo-Segundo Barrio Under Siege
"If the powerful are organized at a binational level, then those of us
at the bottom also need to join together."
—Cristina Coronado, Juárez activist
DON'T MISS TODAY'S forum at UT El Paso—"What Side of the Fence
Are You On?"
It will be held at the El Paso Natural Gas Conference Center, inside
the Commons Room (Across from the Main Library at Wiggins Rd.)
There will be music by Radio La Chusma, poetry by "La Rana," bilingual
documentaries about Lomas del Poleo ("Poleo Speaking") and about the
Segundo Barrio ("Voices of Dissent") and opportunity to hear speakers
directly involved in the struggle against displacement and despojo
(land theft) on both sides of the border.
It starts at 5:30 pm.
Hope to see you there.
is going on in Lomas del Poleo?
• For more than four years the residents of this colony, who
lived in peace for 30 years, have been placed under siege by one of the
richest families in northern Mexico—the Zaragoza Fuentes family.
• The neighbors of Lomas have their own economic project: they
work their land and plant their orchards. However, these land
developers are part of a binational plan that wants to develop these
lands no matter what the social cost.
• The government has encouraged the harassment and destruction of
this community, by backing in a servile manner those who see themselves
above the law and are carrying out this great injustice.
• The colonos have resisted peacefully all of these years. The
master blow the Zaragozas are planning in their battle against the
working-class residents is to destroy their elementary school in order
to force them to accept an illegal relocation.
November 14, 2007
POEM OF THE DAY: FENCES
by everton Sylvester
Fiah fi di man who build di firs fence
An im fren who sign paypa as evidence
Spin doctors assuring innocence
We might as well swallow; you think that we should
With a name like democracy it’s got to be good
Fiah fi di man who build di secan fence
Trick poor people wid im innocence
Only think about im own existence
Imparting what god said cause he understood
With a name like democracy it’s got to be good
Fiah fi di man who build di tird fence
Fatten im belly from violence
Rule power an glory an consequence
Cain destroyed Abel because he could
With a name like democracy it’s got to be good
Fiah fi di man who build di fourt fence
Sell poison wid indifference
Entrepreneur minus conscience
Who seize the free market in my neighborhood
With a name like democracy it’s got to be good
Sylvester immigrated from Jamaica to New York City and become involved
in the spoke word scene associated with the Green Card Poets as well as
the NuYorican Caf?. Sylvester is the author of the poetry collection,
"Backyard in Bed-Stuy" (2002), and has been featured on the PBS series,
"The United States of Poetry," in the video "Slammin'" (1996), and in
the film, "Prince of Central Park" (2000). Sylvester received a 1993
James Michener Fellowship, and was a Sundance Screenwriters fellow in
1997 and 1998. His screenplay "Tambourine" was a top five finalist at
the 2002 Urban World Film Festival. In 1999, he was in residency with
the Tumblewords Project in El Paso, Texas for two weeks.
November 14, 2007
PHOTO OF THE DAY:
Juarez's Centro Historico
"Musicians in Times of Redevelopment"
November 10, 2007
WHAT SIDE OF THE FENCE ARE YOU ON?
Lomas del Poleo-Segundo Barrio Under Siege
"If the powerful are organized at a binational level, then those of us
at the bottom also need to join together."
—Cristina Coronado, Juárez activist
FACING THE PROSPECT of losing their homes that many have lived in for
decades, residents of Lomas del Poleo in Juárez and the Segundo
Barrio in El Paso have joined community activists from both sides of
the border to denounce the binational redevelopment schemes that are
threatening their communities. They have organized a forum to be
held at UT El Paso entitled “Which Side of the Fence Are You On?
Lomas Del Poleo - El Segundo Barrio Under Siege.” The
purpose of this forum, scheduled for November 19, 2007, is to
“expose the connections between the powerful land developers on
both sides of the river who have put our communities under siege.”
Since 2003, binational developers such as William Sanders of the Paso
del Norte Group in El Paso and Eloy Vallina of Ciudad Chihuahua ( both
of them are the driving forces of the Verde Realty Group) and the Grupo
Zaragoza, one of the most powerful families in Juarez, have charted
binational redevelopment plans aimed at transforming the El Paso-Ciudad
Juarez-Sunland Park-Santa Teresa region. At Lomas del Poleo—a
colonia that is now surrounded by barbed wire fences and paramilitary
guards hired by the Zaragoza Fuentes group—the human rights of
the residents have been continually violated in order to pressure the
people to accept relocation. In El Segundo Barrio, the threat of the
future use of eminent domain and forcible relocation has already
frightened many to leave their neighborhood.
“It’s the same plan on both sides of the border” says
Cristina Coronado, a member of La Otra Campaña in Ciudad
Juárez. “It’s the same land speculators who sit on
each others boards and who are carrying out large-scale displacement,
land grabs and violation of human rights. If the powerful are organized
at a binational level, then those of us at the bottom also need to join
together. We need to form binational coalitions against el
despojo—against the theft of our homes and our barrios—that
is being carried out in the name of regional development.”
The speakers of the forum will include Fr. Bill Morton, a Catholic
missionary who was deported from Mexico in 2006 because of his advocacy
work on behalf of the Lomas del Poleo colonos; Lupe Ochoa, a Segundo
Barrio resident and Sacred Heart Church parishioner who has organized
against the planned demolition of the heart of the barrio to
construct a “big-box retail store;” Leon de la Rosa,
filmmaker and director of the documentary “Poleo
Speaking;” Petra Mendoza, a resident of Lomas del Poleo;
and Fr. Oscar Enriquez, director of the Paso Del Norte Human Rights
Center in Juárez.
The panel discussion, will be moderated by authors Willivaldo
Delgadillo and David Dorado Romo.
The forum will be sponsored by the UTEP History Department, ALDEA,
Amnesty International, Paso del Norte Civil Rights Committee, LUS,
CAUSA, Paso Del Sur, Comité Universitario de Izquierda, Circulo
Zihuatekpahtzin and the Committee for the Second Forum at Lomas del
Natural Gas Conference Center
(Inside UTEP Commons, Wiggins Rd.)
Schedule of Events:
5:30-6 pm Music by Radio La Chusma & La Rana
Photography, art & written word exhibit
6:00-6:30 Documentary Clips
“Poleo Speaking: Video Testimonies of a Community Within Barbed
“Voices of Dissent Against the Segundo Barrio Demolition
6:30-7:30 Panel Discussion
7:30-8:00 Question & answer session
8:00-8:15 An invitation to the “Rompamos el Cerco”
forum at Lomas del Poleo by Juárez human rights organizations.
November 9, 2007
Click on image for larger view.
November 6, 2007
CONNECTING THE DOTS:
Eloy Vallina, Digna Ochoa, the proposed
destruction of the Segundo Barrio
BY BRYANT HOLMAN
THE LINK BETWEEN the developers of the project to destroy the Segundo
Barrio in El Paso and the murder of Digna Ochoa:
The main protagonist in the investment package which is being added to
the mass of funds which will be used in the building of a ritzy
shopping district on the slated-to-be-bulldozed historic Segundo Barrio
in El Paso, Eloy Vallina [of the board of directors of Sander's Verde
Group], was involved up to his gills in the destruction of the forests
of the Sierra Tarahumara through illegal logging. In this article, it
is pointed out that the famous Mexican human rights lawyer, Digna
Ochoa, was assassinated during the height of her defence of the
Tarahumara Indian activists who had been illegally tortured and jailed
for resisting these narco/oligarchs: READ MORE...
October 31, 2007
Human Rights Monitoring to Continue Despite
Harassment by Zaragoza Guards
AT A MEETING held at the Tonantzin Women’s Center in Anapra on
Sunday, October 28, the colonos of Lomas del Poleo and NGO’s from
Juarez and El Paso decided that the observation rounds carried out by
human rights monitors had a positive effect on decreasing the
harassment suffered by the colonos. This despite the fact that members
of Tonantzin and Las Hormigas were harassed during their observation
rounds by the guards last Thursday and Friday.
Concerned citizens of the international border community are invited to
participate as human rights monitors. The following regulations must be
followed by all human rights monitors:
1. Do not go into the fenced area of Lomas del Poleo during the
2. The monitoring must be done only from outside the fence.
3. Do not take photographs in front of the guards.
4. Do not allow yourselves to be provoked into confrontations.
5. Send your written reports about your observations to
6. Set up your observation round by contacting Ms. Guadalupe Pineda at
7. You vehicle must have a sign that reads “Human Rights
Monitor” on its windshield.
8. All human rights monitors must carry an I.D. tag on their person.
For more information contact: firstname.lastname@example.org. or
read Alerta Lomas de Poleo!
UPCOMING FORUM—DECEMBER 1, 2007
The next Forum at Lomas del Poleo “Rompamos el Cerco”
will be held on Saturday, December 1, 2007 at 10:00 at the entrance of
Lomas del Poleo.
A general call is being made to the binational community and especially
to musicians, poets, and artists who wish to show their solidarity with
ther residents of Lomas del Poleo.
October 30, 2007
Alert: Human Rights Observers Harassed at
Lomas del Poleo
MEMBERS OF HUMAN RIGHTS organizations and journalists who have been
monitoring human rights abuses in Lomas del Poleo in the last week have
been threatened or attacked by private guards. A car carrying a group
of human rights observers was pelted with stones and one journalist was
surrounded by several vehicles loaded with former gang members hired by
the Zaragoza Fuentes family.
Residents say an unidentified journalist driving a car with Texas
license plates that stopped outside the barbed-wire fence at
Lomas del Poleo recently was immediately surrounded by armed guards.
When several residents from the neighborhood approached the scene, the
guards drove away.
One human rights observer, a member of Las Hormigas community center in
Juárez, said that while she and two other former nuns who belong
to the social service organization were taking photographs of the
guards to document conditions several guards yelled at them:
“Vayansen a la chingada!” (Get the fuck out of here!) One
of the men who was in the guard tower ran down and placed a plastic
goat mask over his head to mock the observers.
The NGO groups monitoring human rights conditions in Lomas del Poleo
are asking members of the press or other organizations not to attempt
to go into the community without an invitation from the residents. This
is for their own safety and the safety of the residents.
October 23, 2007
JUAREZ MAYOR SAYS HE WILL NOT STOP THE SIEGE
OF LOMAS DEL POLEO
Lomas del Poleo locked behind a gate and barbed wire were
prevented from meeting with members of human rights organizations from
both sides of the border this weekend. Their movement was blocked by
private guards hired by Pedro and Jorge Zaragoza.
Source: Juan de Dios Olivas, El
Diario de Juárez
AFTER RESIDENTS OF Lomas del Poleo and
called for an end to the state of siege and daily intimidation they
live under at the hands of private guards, [Juárez] mayor
José Reyes Ferriz said yesterday that he will not intervene
until the State Human Rights Commission and the courts reach a verdict
in the matter.
The colonos denounced civil rights violations and other allegedly
criminal actions that they have suffered during a forum for
“Resistance and Land Rights in Lomas del Poleo” this
weekend that had to be carried out between barbed wire because private
security guards under the direction of Catarino del Rio, a former PAN
[National Action Party] city official, blocked their entrance.
The participants at the forum—many of them members of human
rights and social organizations from both sides of the
border—proposed to denounce human rights abuses before
international organizations, especially the precarious conditions
experienced by children; to bring in food to the families that have
been cut off by the barbed wire fence set up by the Zaragoza guards;
and to hold other forums in the future with international participation
to bring attention to the conditions suffered by the colonos. They also
resolved to ask both mayor Reyes Ferriz and Chihuahuan governor
José Reyes Baeza to intervene on behalf of the residents.
The mayor, however, has already decided not to take such action.
“We will wait for the State Commission on Human Rights to resolve
the issue,” said mayor Reyes Ferriz. “We live in a nation
that abides by its laws and this matter must be resolved by our courts.
We cannot carry out justice by bringing in international organizations
to intervene in questions that can easily be revolved through the
judicial process,” he said.
The organizations that participated in the forum will continue to bring
to light the human rights violations suffered by the residents of Lomas
del Poleo at an international level, said Willivaldo Delgadillo, a
member of Pacto Para La Cultura [Pact for Culture.]
“We will form a permanent commission to investigate anything that
can be constituted as a human rights violation,” said Delgadillo.
The case of Lomas del Poleo will be brought up before the United
Nation’s “Dialogo Nacional en Mexico” commission. He
said they will focus attention on the conditions of school children in
the community who have been blocked off from their school and "the
precarious psychological conditions they live under as a result of
being enclosed within barbed wire.”
October 21, 2007
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
forgive me for saying this, but I hear you talking of Lomas del Poleo
and nobody has had the courtesy to tell us what is going on in Lomas de
Poleo. I heard Tobi mention it, sort of, while we were at the Lerdo
bridge in Juarez [in November 2006]. And we heard about some other
problem in Anapra, and we didn’t even know what that was. And if
The Other Campaign in Juarez doesn’t let us know what is
happening in Lomas del Poleo and Anapra, then who will?”
October 19, 2007
AN URGENT CALL TO ACTION!
Armed groups stop human rights forum in Lomas
THIS EVENING, on October 19, 2007, the streets of the Lomas del Poleo
neighborhood in Ciudad Juárez are presently surrounded by 150
armed men—paramilitary groups who have been paid by Pedro and
Jorge Zaragoza to block a peaceful forum convened by the colonos of
Lomas de Poleo and by various social organizations and human rights
groups from Juárez, El Paso, Las Cruces and Mexico City.
This forum, scheduled for Saturday, October 20, has been convened in
order to denounce the extremely serious conditions of siege and
intimidation that the inhabitants of Lomas de Poleo face on a daily
basis at the hands of Pedro and Jorge Zaragoza—powerful
developers who want to forcefully and violently displace residents who
have been living in these lands for more than 30 years.
In the midst of the escalating violence against the Lomas del Poleo
neighbors, one resident has been murdered, and two children have been
burned to death inside a home purposely set on fire as part of the
demolitions of more than 40 homes by the Zaragoza guards.
The Lomas del Poleo inhabitants have been cut off from the rest of the
city and are currently within a state of siege at the hands of the
powerful developers mentioned above.
We make an urgent call to all the social, political and human rights
organizations on both sides of the border and the rest of the world so
that together we may put a stop to this escalating violence and so that
we may carry out our forum against displacement and destruction.
The following organizations hold Pedro and Jorge Zaragoza, and all
three levels of the Mexican government responsible for any physical
harm inflicted on the residents of Lomas de Poleo and the participants
of this forum.
of Lomas del Poleo
Norte Human Rights Group
Trabajadores Agricolas Fronterizos (El Paso)
Paso Del Sur
Group (El Paso)
of Mothers of the Disappeared
The Pact for
and 11 other organizations
MAS INFORMACION EN: http://alertalomasdelpoleo.blogspot.com/
Click here watch the movie
(English subtitles) about the human rights violations suffered by the
Juárez colonia targeted for binational redevelopment titled Poleo Speaking.
October 9, 2007
Stop Demolitions and Human Rights Abuses in
Lomas de Poleo!
THE BINATIONAL BORDERPLEX redevelopment scheme is being carried out
against the residents of Lomas de Poleo in a brutal and violent way.
The most powerful developers of Juarez (some of them who actually sit
on the Verde Realty board or the Paso Del Norte Group) have recently
begun redevelopment schemes targeting Anapra and San Jeronimo that hook
up to William Sander's "Verde Group" projects on the U.S. side. To make
these projects work, hundreds of working-class families have to be
evicted from their homes. Because many of these families don't want to
be pushed out of the way, the developers have taken matters into their
In Lomas de Poleo—right across from Sunland Park, NM—three
hundred families have been terrorized by paramilitary groups hired by
Pedro Zaragoza Fuentes, one of the richest men in Juárez.
Zaragoza Fuentes has been investigated in the past by both the U.S.
Drug Enforcement Agency and the Mexican federal government for
narcotrafficking, money laundering and his family connections to the
Juarez drug cartel. In order to carry out their "progress" and
"development" schemes, the Zaragoza Fuentes "guards" have surrounded
the residents with barbed wire, burned down homes and a church,
poisoned animals and committed other acts to inflict terror on the
Lomas de Poleo colonos. One resident, Luis Alberto Guerrero, was beaten
to death with picks, pipes, and shovels by Juarez gang members paid
$200 US dollars for every home they tear or burn down. Two children
died in a fire after Lomas de Poleo residents reported a Zaragoza guard
pouring gasoline on their paleta home. Scores of homes have been
demolished or burned down illegally already. This has been part of a
normal day's work in order to carry out the grand visions of binational
redevelopment conjured up by some of the most powerful men on both
sides of the border.
The only thing the people of Lomas de Poleo have done to deserve this
treatment is to live in a part of Juarez that sits right in the middle
of a proposed freeway that will lead to a a future international
crossing between Anapra and Sunland Park, New Mexico.
Various Juárez community and human rights groups are asking you
to help them call for an end to the terror being perpetrated by
powerful Juarez families (with the full complicity of El Paso and New
Mexico politicians and developers) in the name of binational
For more information on a two day forum in Ciudad Juarez on October
19-20, 2007 read Alerta Lomas de Poleo!
October 7, 2007
The Heritage of the Segundo Barrio
Belongs to All of Us
By Dr. Roberto Calderon
WHAT THE TRANSNATIONAL forces engaged in demolishing an important
(naypriceless) part of El Paso's architectural and social history, that
of El Segundo Barrio, are doing is a crime against humanity. It
ought to be denounced from the highest international courts of justice
and from the podium at the United Nations.
Unlike here in the North Texas region, where cities invest literally
millions of dollars to preserve and maintain and even refurbish their
more dilapidated historic builidings, courthouses, and historic
residential districts, on the border, in El Paso/Juárez, our
supposed leaders pretend to do the opposite. Why does one measure of
justice apply here in North Texas and another in El Paso?
What's the difference?
Why did the State of Texas in partnership with local and regional
government entities and private funds provide upwards of $3 million in
the past two or three years just to remodel and upgrade the county
courthouse? Why is that courthouse that dates from the late 1800s,
merit a different standard of preservation than the architecture of
Segundo Barrio? Is it a matter of ethncity? Class? Protected interests?
Who decides and why which architecture is worth beans, and which is
worth a keeping for posterity? Troubled waters, those on the Rio Bravo
at El Paso del Norte.
The right thing to do is give justice a chance. I vote for preserving
our history, for it belongs to all of us not just those who physically
live in El Paso. Segundo Barrio is my barrio too. Too many barrios have
already fallen by the wayside to so-called redevelopment schemes, and
they didn't make many if any of its residents rich or wealthy. Rather,
that wealth was reaped mostly by outsiders to the communities that were
literally and figuratively disappeared.
Stop barrio demolition! Reinvest in its posterity! Promote barrio
(Dr. Roberto Calderon is a history
professor at University of North Texas. He can be reached at
September 29, 2007
The El Paso Times Deceives Again
“LEE TREVINO EXTENSION on hold until 2035” reads the
headline by the local newspaper that his heavily subsidized by the PDNG
and City Hall. This is another not so subtle attempt to confuse and
deceive the public. What actually has happened is that the Lee
Treviño Extension, which will likely be a future toll road, has
been put on the 2035 Master Transportation Plan. If you read between
the lines, all that means is
that the project—which, according to a federal study commissioned
by the state, will destroy 67 culturally or historically significant
Tigua-owned sites—will become a reality as soon as the
politicians feel the opposition is out of the public eye. Thanks to the
heavily slanted local media, that could happen any time soon.
In 2005, at the City Council's request, the Metropolitan Planning
Organization board removed the Lee Treviño extension from its
thoroughfare plan because of overwhelming opposition from residents and
the cost of acquiring and demolishing 100 to 270 houses for right of
way, depending on the chosen route. But then the same politicians who
took it off the plan two years ago—beginning with District 7
“representative” Steve Ortega— decided, despite the
overwhelming opposition of their own constitutents, to put it back on
the plan. (For information on the Steve Ortega recall by the District 7
Recall Committee click here.)
Through very crafty use of headlines, the El Paso Times is doing
everything it can to confuse the public while backing the privatization
of our roads for the profit of powerful business interests, i.e. the
PDNG. The whole reason the local politicos are pushing so hard for this
road—disregarding the majority's will—is because eminent
domain will be used to benefit future private toll road owners,
the same people who are greasing the palms of the Cook and the
pro-eminent domain majority on City Hall.
The polls show that a majority of El Pasoans oppose toll roads and
eminent domain for private profit, yet the same local rag that paid for
those polls is a major cheerleader for both of these. Isn't this
sort of strange?
Eminent Domain can happen to you!
September 26, 2007
City Council Votes for Tax Rebate for the
By Absurdity in the Pass
THE THEFT BEGINS, THE LIES CONTINUE
ISN'T ALL OF the land in the redevelopment area going to be stolen,
err, I mean "bought" by the PDN? Why do we need to FURTHER (further in
that the stealing of the land and "selling" it dirt cheap is the first
subsidation) subsidize the millionaires of the PDN? Read more...
September 22, 2007
PROGRESS! PLASTIC ADOBE! GET YER CHURROS!
By Luis Alberto Urrea
EL PASO'S CITY council is planning
to demolish the historic Segundo Barrio
where much of the Mexican revolution was
plotted and planned, where Pancho Villa
ate ice cream cones and his men got drunk and went to
church, where Francisco Madero plotted & where
Mariano Azuela finished the classic novel, Los de abajo. And
where Teresita and Tomás went to live after the
older city council forced them out of their house
up on the hill for attracting too many unsavory Mexicans.
Same as it ever was.
So now the city wants to tear down the historic
Mexican village in the heart of the city and at the heart of the
history of both countries, and they want to replace it with
a “Lifestyle Center.” A shopping mall. I was sad when my
Susie Byrd explained: They will tear down the Mexican village
to build a faux representative Mexican village!
Teresita’s house, for example, will be a parking lot.
Plastic adobe! Clean authentic Chinese
Mexican paving tiles! Burbling fountains!
Sanitary “Mexican” restaurants serving the best
blueberry margaritas and processed cheez-food
mega-nachos! La Gap, La Banana Republic,
El Tower Records Superstore selling the latest in
peasant music and fashions! 7-11 could concoct a new
authentic “Mexicanny” guava Slurpee! No beaners in sight!
No unsavory smells of caca, frijoles, dogs, goats,
history, or cigarettes. No borrachos. No putas. No friggin’
lowriders, though the lowriders could probably get a gig
taking tickets at the Teresita parking facility.
Wandering Puerto Rican and Guatemalan mariachis!
Chocolate shops selling cowshit and burroshit
joke chocolate patties! T-shirts of Pancho Villa
hanging out where there is no trace of his having been anymore
or ever again! Go, El Paso, go!
I wondered aloud if they were going to install
animatronic Mexican robots. They could have robot
women nursing android babies and old fiberglass cobblers hammering
nails into rubber cowboy boots, bandido droids
rolling by at 10:30, Noon, and 3:45
on solar-powered electric hybrid
Churros! Git yer churros rat cheer!
We walked miles in the heat while Romo and his compadre Carlos
Showed Susie Byrd all the historical buildings. No doubt
The barrio is rough and tumble. Winos and crack-heads
squat on corners and steps of rooming houses. Ugly muffler
shops & crumbling bodegas. Yes. It’s true. But also
our history. Our ghosts. Our legacy—all of ours. It’s
America, after all.
Then we got to 500 S. Oregon St. (If anyone reads this
& is a Hummingbird fan, get down there before it’s
demolished, because it’s the last place on earth still standing
where Teresita and her father lived. All other sites are gone.
Gone. And the tractors are coming.)
is the ugly red brick rooming house where she lived. Here,
where she did miracles for the pilgrims who would not let her be.
Where she greeted reporters from around the world and sat for interviews
and was often insulted by the wise-ass bigoted U.S. press of the day.
where she looked out the window—that window right there—
held the curtain back with her hand as she looked upon El Paso and the
that had followed her. Same hills in the distance. Same colors.
There was still a painted sign on the
wall, fading: ROOMS $1. It was chilling.
I lay my hands on the walls. Listened for voices
between the bricks. “Tía!” I whispered. Teresita,
can you hear me?
Across the street was a vacant lot where her
followers had set up their tents. And now—
there they were again, the same Mejicanos, all rascuaches in the same
dirt lot, nothing changed. Tents. Motley colors. Now the camp
is a swap-meet and flea market. It could have been (was) still 1896.
I was standing in two worlds at the same time.
I looked at what she looked at: Mexicans gathered in bright tents,
primary colors, the sun-seared mountains behind. Barring
skyscrapers and cars, it was exactly the same view.
She could have been standing beside me.
Maybe she was.
The owners of the building had poured
filthy motor oil on the steps
to keep the dope-fiends from sitting
on the stoop. But they sat there anyway,
oil soaked into their butts. What was a little oil
to them? Their pants were already dirty.
And nobody thought of the ancient anointings with oils.
Some kind of strange new sacredness.
The doors were splintered from kicks
and bad history, splinters of wood peeling off.
I collected a bundle of fragments,
I had to have physical evidence of her presence, not just
words or old pictures, not just stories but hard splinters
where her shadow had fallen.
Stupid bits of wino flophouse about to be demolished?
I said to Susie,
“Can’t you at least save Teresita’s house? Make it a
gallery or something?” She snapped,
“Are you going to raise the funds?”
shirt pocket full of wood,
I walked away.
The upstairs windows had white curtains.
The window at the front corner: the curtain
Was pulled back as if by a hand, as if
By someone watching us go.
“Vato!” Romo said.
“Look at that!
is looking at
(This is an excerpt from Luis Alberto
Urrea's The Wastelander's Notebook, 2006. Urrea, 2005 Pulitzer Prize
finalist for nonfiction and member of the Latino Literature Hall of
Fame, is a prolific and acclaimed writer who uses his dual-culture life
experiences to explore greater themes of love, loss and triumph.
Urrea's most recent book, The Hummingbird's Daughter, is the
culmination of 20 years of research and writing. The historical novel
tells the story of Teresa Urrea, sometimes known as The Saint of Cabora
and the Mexican Joan of Arc. )
September 17, 2007
FOLLOW THE MONEY: Why does the PDNG &
pro-Eminent Domain politicians want toll roads so badly?
By Absurdity in the Pass
IF YOU INTRODUCE tolls, a whole lot of businesses are going to want to
get a piece of that action—the building of new roads, the running
of the toll systems, the selling of the technology, the selling of the
roads. We all know how the business class in El Paso "lobbie$"
for what it wants.
Be careful folks, fight the tolls every step of the way! Don't believe
their lies. It’s not about transportation or new roads,
it’s about pols getting their palms greased—and we the
people getting the short end of the stick.
(Click here to read “The
Trans-Texas Corridors, Eminent Domain Abuse, and the Texas Toll Road
September 17, 2007
Steve Ortega Should Be Recalled
STEVE ORTEGA, Susie Byrd, Beto O'Rourke, now joined by Ann Morgan Lilly
and John Cook have no problem increasing our property tax burden.
Their attitude is that if you can't afford to pay the property taxes
needed to finance their "progressive" agenda, then sell your property
to someone who can afford to pay those taxes. They believe that those
of us who are struggling to make ends meet and have to do without
essentials in order to pay our property taxes are "holding back
progress in El Paso" by voting in representatives who do not support
their expensive (and wasteful) "progressive" agenda and who do not
support their proclivity to increase property taxes.
The Lee Trevino extension is not needed. The proof can be found in the
fact that Yarbrough is not congested from I-10 to the Border Highway.
The congestion at Gateway East and Zaragosa will not be lessened by a
Lee Trevino extension. The congestion at Gateway East and Lee Trevino
will not be lessened by a Lee Trevino extension. That congestion exists
because there is so much traffic that turns left from Gateway East to
Zaragosa and to Lee Trevino, GOING NORTH, not south.
When Steve Ortega stated that the traffic congestion at these two
intersections would be lessened by a Lee Trevino extension, he was not
being truthful. Just like he did with regard to the property tax
production in the downtown "Revitalization Zone", he distorted the
facts in order to deceive the public. He should be recalled.
September 16, 2007
The Paso del Sur—Ysleta del Sur
Eminent Domain Could Happen to
You, Wherever You Are
"What worries me is just the message we
are sending: If we want something, we are going to do it no matter who
is in our way."
—City rep Rachel Quintana
FOR QUITE A while those of us
involved in fighting cultural destruction in the name of a "big-box
retail store" have warned the citizens of El Paso that the same
high-handed, top-down techniques of expropriation that are being
directed against South El Paso will sooner or later be used against
other parts of the city as well. "Eminent domain can happen to you," we
warned. Politicians such as Steve Ortega and Susie Byrd called us
"fear-mongers" for even making the suggestion. And now our predictions
are coming true.
becoming obvious to the rest of the city that the profiteers and
politicians who are planning the takeover of 130 acres in South El Paso
and downtown —regardless of the opposition of the church, the
farmworker center, residents and local business people—have now
set their sights on East El Paso and the Mission Valley as well.
The pro-eminent domain politicians subsidized by the Paso del Norte
Group developers are now adopting the same methods they used in the
Segundo Barrio to ram their plan down the throats of residents of the
Mission Valley. Here too they will destroy culturally and historically
significant sites in order to create a road that will connect with a
toll road project planned by and for the sake of the PDNG profiteers. (The toll road project is being reported as a "done deal" by
the local press although an El Paso Times/KVIA ABC 7 Poll done in
February 2007 showed that 59 percent of El Pasoans oppose toll roads as
a way to pay for expensive transportation projects while 38 percent
favor them. That is the same percentage of opposition as in the
Times’ 2004 poll.)
Associated Press article published in the Dallas Morning News yesterday
stated that "maps of the area (targeted for the extension), including
at least one drafted by the Texas Department of Transportation, are
dotted with historic and culturally significant sites. Among them is a
Catholic monastery whose parking lot would likely be demolished if the
road is built...Rachel Quintana said she worried that destroying the
Tigua site was "setting a precedent that we aren't sympathetic to their
culture, their religion. I don't know how we are going to be looked at
as a city," Quintana said. "What worries me is just the message we are
sending: If we want something, we are going to do it no matter who is
in our way."" Read the Associated Press article.
Mission Valley as in the Segundo Barrio, the whole story has not been
told of just how extensive the planned takeover of the city by the
powerful special interest group that goes by the name of the PDNG is.
Hopefully El Pasoans will become aware of it and connect the dots
before it's too late.
September 12, 2007
The Elephant in the Room:
Race, Roads and El Paso Politics
color blind. I don't see racism."
—City rep Steve Ortega
EL PASO MAYOR John Cook broke two 4-4 tie votes at Tuesday's City
Council meeting to approve putting the extension of Lee Treviño
Drive back on the city's master thoroughfare plan. Similar to the
Segundo Barrio demolition plan, this plan will include the use of
eminent domain to expropriate more than a dozen homes, ranch lands and
will destroy important Tigua cultural and ceremonial sites. Not
surprisingly, the invisible hand of the predominantly Anglo Paso Del
Norte Group is behind this “master plan.” The Lee
Treviño extension will connect to one of the PDNG's pet
projects—the proposed Border Highway toll road. The major winners
of this new comprehensive road plan will be PDNG moguls such as Woody
Hunt and the owners of Western Refining—Paul Foster and William
Sanders—who will get an expedited road all for themselves.
An environmental study done in the 90s showed that Western Refining is
one of the top two polluters in El Paso. Yet the obscenely wealthy
individuals who own Western Refining are the major contributors to the
political campaigns of the same politicans—Byrd, O'Rourke,
Cook—who want to expropriate ASARCO's property for harming the
environment. How does one explain this paradox?
Notice the racial division of the Lee Treviño extension vote:
Every single Anglo on City Hall—Byrd, O’Rourke, Lilly,
Cook—cast the pro-let's-tear-it-down-eminent domain vote.
(Playing his usual role as loyal Hispanic Yuppie to the Anglo voting
block is Steve “El Coconut” Ortega—who has stated in
the past that he agrees with the Glass Beach study that our
city’s image should be “modernized,” in other words,
bleached lilly white. Apparently "color-blind" Ortega doesn't believe
white is a color.)
The city reps who voted against the plan—Holguin, Castro,
Quintana and Lozano (who recently shaved his moustache and now, we
guess, is growing it back)—are all Mexican American, in other
words, the losers.
Paso’s population is 81 percent of Mexican ancestry.
"the losers" when it comes to who controls the economic, political and
cultural power in this city for more than a 100 years.
August 18, 2007
PULLING A FAST ONE:
Mayor Replaces Dissenter with Cheerleader for
Toll Roads and Eminent Domain
AS PART OF the ongoing "fast-track" monopolization of land, water and
roads in the El Paso region in the hands of what the Texas Observer has called
a small “cabal of profiteers,” the local pro-PDNG
politicians have ramped up their next project, the Camino Real Regional
Mobitility Authority, by getting rid of the only dissenting voice in
NPT reports that “on
July 31, 2007, in a little noticed procedural move, El Paso Mayor John
Cook, with the approval of City Council, removed city Rep. Eddie Hoguin
from the Metropolitan Planning Organization....Cook is straightforward
about his reasons for replacing Holguin, stating that it makes sense to
have a supporter of the CRRMA on the MPO, and someone who has shown the
predilection to support policies that weigh the risks of taking a
chance, and decide the risk of going for it is better than the risk of
“In [Holguin’s] place, Mayor John Cook appointed city Rep.
Susie Byrd.” If the mayor wanted a cheerleader for the
project, he chose the right person. Ms. Byrd is known for wearing
T-shirts with the slogan “I’m a Shaplite” on them, a
reference to her unquestioning support of PDNG member Sen. Eliot
Shapleigh, a major proponent of the privatization of roads. Senator
Shapleigh recently made sure that El Paso was exempt from the
state-wide two year moratorium on the controversial Texas toll road
projects. Read Texas Observer's "The
Highwaymen: Texas Rushes to Privatize its Roads.
One of the major initial RMA projects will focus on creating roads that
will benefit Woody Hunt’s military housing project—a
$300-million highway that will connect Biggs Army Airfield with new
housing at Fort Bliss and the El Paso airport.
The Camino Real Regional Mobility Authority, now bereft of any dissent,
has the power of eminent domain in its hands. Critics say the
introduction of for-profit toll roads will result in serious
disinvestment of the public free roads. Mexico, where the public
non-toll roads are full of potholes while the cost of toll roads
becomes outrageously expensive, is a prime example of this kind of
Since the project involves potentially billions of dollars worth of
projects that will directly benefit a small handful of private
individuals and companies, not including the land values those
projects enhance, it is evident why the PDNG mayor would want nothing
but cheerleaders on the decision-making committee.
NPT reports that the toll road project is "a done deal," codespeak for,
"public participation or debate is neither necessary nor wanted."
August 14, 2007
Today's Political Cartoonery:
"THE NEW RIDE"
on image to
by Peter Viola
August 8, 2007
Public Corruption, "Luxuristan" and the PDNG:
A New Name and an Old Name
way to spend a million bucks, huh? But what else was I gonna
do—buy myself another boat?”
—Chris Balsiger, PDNG member indicted
for a $250 million fraud scheme
HECTOR ZAVALETA JR.’S name has been added to the list of Paso Del
Norte Group members publicly linked to
the ongoing fraud and corruption investigations by the FBI in El Paso.
Today’s El Paso Times reported
that Zavaleta, former vice president of First Southwest Company who has
been the bond counsel “to the city of El Paso and the county in
numerous bond-sale transactions involving hundreds of millions of
dollars in recent years, has been cooperating [with the FBI corruption
investigation] concerning various ‘government entities and
officials.’” According to the El Paso Times, it is not
clear if Zavaleta is cooperating with the FBI under the advice of his
attorneys to get a lighter sentence."Maybe he did something wrong and
the lawyers are starting as right now to put a good spin on their
client," William Pizzi, a criminal law professor and public corruption
About a dozen PDNG members (see below) have been publicly linked to the
FBI investigations involving bribery, fraud and influence trafficking.
So far only one of them, Thomas Chris Balsiger, has been indicted for
an alleged $250 million coupon fraud scheme and for threatening whistle-blower
employees. Despite having his assets seized by the FBI, which included
a Mercedes, a Lexus, a Rolls Royce and a yacht as well as a vacation
home in Alto, he’s still managing to live it up.
The El Paso web magazine, Newspaper Tree, currently has the following
short celebratory piece on Balsiger’s luxurious vacation at the
foot of Mount Everest under the heading: “Living Large in
Luxuristan, Mount Everest.”
“El Pasoan Chris Balsiger is fairly well-known in El Paso social
circles for his mountain climbing exploits,” NPT declares.
“In the July issue of Outside Magazine, he is quoted in an
article about the base camp at the foot of Everest. The camp is divided
into clusters – one is known as Schmoozistan, for example.
Balsiger’s camp was in Luxuristan, described in the article like
this: “At the top of Luxuristan's pyramid was a special
expedition run by Mountain Link, an American firm with about a dozen
Sherpas, seven guides, a $400,000 budget, and only one client. Chris
Balsiger was a sandy-haired, 54-year-old multi-millionaire from El Paso
who was hoping to polish off the final piece in his Seven Summits
campaign. Balsiger and his entourage enjoyed elaborate meals prepared
by a chef who'd brought in 38 coolers stuffed with fresh vegetables,
jars of salad dressing, and steaks.” [article] Later in the
article, Balsiger is quoted after his climb stalls: “’What
a way to spend a million bucks, huh?’ he quipped later, keeping a
sense of humor about it. ‘But what else was I gonna do—buy
myself another boat?’”
The NPT article ended with an understated tidbit of information, that
by the way, Balsiger “is under a fraud indictment. [background]”
The list of politicians
that Chris Balsiger has contributed to include the major proponents for
the PDNG demolition plan on City Council—Robert O’Rourke
and Susie Byrd. Despite being under federal indictment, Balsiger and
his associates recently contributed to New Mexico Governor Bill
Richardson's presidential campaign— money that Richardson has
not yet returned. In the past, the PDNG entrepreneur also campaigned heavily for Ray Caballero.
County Commissioner Veronica Escobar, a pro-PDNG politician who
initially rejoiced that her political enemies were among those under
suspicion of receiving bribes, recently went to bat for Zavaleta,
calling him a "victim." Now that those doing the bribing are
increasingly among her list of Paso Del Norte Group allies, she has
called for an end to the federal investigation. "Folks need a sense of
closure," Escobar told the El Paso Times.
August 1, 2007
WHAT A DEAL:
WOODY HUNT AND HIS NEWEST SCHEME
contractor should be able to get away with such shabby construction at
—U.S. Attorney Karen Schreiber, refering to developer Woody Hunt.
IT HAS BEEN called “an
unprecedented process that will provide almost a generation’s
worth of land to a single purchaser.” Woody Hunt’s
development corporation, “Hunt Communities,” is on the road
to acquiring 5000 acres of public land north of Fort Bliss. Hunt, who
was the first chairman of the Paso Del Norte Group in 2003 when it was
called the “El Paso Leadership Council," has bid $130 million on
Public Service Board land that has been estimated to be worth more than
$340 million. The only other bid on the land was lower. If City Hall
approves Hunt’s bid—which it probably will since it has the
enthusiastic support of City rep O’Rourke and his allies—it
will mean the transfer of public land owned by El Paso taxpayers to a
single developer at a $210 million dollar "discount."
A few years ago the Hunt Building Corporation, an affiliate of Hunt
Communities, was sued by the U.S.
Department of Justice for $45 million dollars for violating federal law
in the construction of a military family housing complex in South
Dakota. The lawsuit alleged that Hunt’s houses for U.S. soldiers
were so shoddy they “broke apart in the wind.” Other
violations included— according to a Department of Justice
statement—installing fake pipes “to make it look like
mandatory sewer clean-outs had been installed.” The Austin
American-Statesman reported that residents of apartments that Hunt
Building owned in minority Austin neighborhoods repeatedly complained
about being left without basic utility services.“No contractor
should be able to get away with such shabby construction at taxpayer
expense,” said U.S. Attorney Karen Schreiber.
Yet Hunt continues to get millions of dollars worth of contracts. In
fact, his construction company is the nation’s largest builder of
housing for U.S. military personnel.
Why does Woody Hunt continue to get such juicy deals?
Might it have something to do with his hundreds of thousands of dollars
in “contributions” to the political campaigns of George
Bush and Rick Perry, as well as his offerings to the piggy banks of
several local politicians including Mayor Cook and City rep. Robert
O’Rourke. [Read Texas for Public Justice
profile on Hunt.]
July 30, 2007
A WEB OF VOLUNTEERS?
PDNG names linked to ongoing fraud and
proud to have been a member of the Paso Del Norte Group. It's a
non-profit group of volunteers who have only the city’s best
interest at heart.”
—District 8 rep. Robert O’Rourke, PDNG founder
William Sanders’ son-in-law
want the public to have great confidence that their elected officials
are making decisions based on the best information and the best ideas,
not on who contributed to whose campaign.”
—City rep. Susie Byrd, PDNG
Here is a list of Paso Del Norte Group members publicly linked by the
FBI and the media to ongoing fraud and public corruption investigations:
Chris Balsiger- former president of the International Outsourcing
Services. Current PDNG member.
Balsiger has been indicted for a $250,000,000 international coupon
fraud scheme. The criminal indictment alleges that Balsiger and 8 other
defendants submitted millions of dollars worth of coupons that had
never been legitimately redeemed in connection with the purchase of a
product. He is a contributor to the political campaigns of City reps
Robert O’Rourke and Susie Byrd who recently signed a “No
Corruption Pledge” near El Paso’s Scenic Drive. Read FBI indictment.
2. Charles F.
“Paco” Jordan-Founding owner of C.F. Jordan construction
company. Current PDNG member.
County Commisioner Betty Flores was paid $10,000 in exchange for a
favorable vote on a contract for the $20 million El Paso County Parking
Garage Annex, and to advocate change orders to the contract. The
contract was awarded to C.F. Jordan in May 2004. The former county
commissioner’s son Adrian Pena, worked for CF Jordan. His phone
was tapped by the FBI. The C.F. Jordan company has completed nearly $4
billion in projects including border patrol stations, health care
centers, processing centers, hotels, resorts, medical facilities,
industrial plants, warehouses, sports complexes, apartments, airports,
zoological facilities and military defense projects. Other works
include Sea World in San Antonio, the Insights Science Museum in El
Paso, and Hotel ZA ZA in Dallas. It is a 300 + million dollar a year
company. Chairman Charles "Paco" Jordan started the firm in 1988. The
company has satellite offices in Dallas, San Antonio, Tucson Arizona,
and Hawaii. C.F. Jordan contributed $3000 to Texans for Rick
Perry. He is one of more than 70 current PDNG members who contributed
to the Robert O’Rourke campaign.
Woody-President and CEO of C.F. Jordan construction company. Current
He has denied charges by a former county commissioner that his company
was part of the $10,000 bribe she received in exchange for awarding a
20 million dollar contract to his company, C.F. Jordan. He told the El
Paso Times (7-10-07): "At this time, we do not know the facts
surrounding Ms. Flores' information or even if they involve our company
or its employees. We are attempting to ascertain more information at
this time." Darren Woody contributed $1500 to Texans for Rick Perry. He
is also an O’Rourke contributor.
“Sonny” Garcia Jr.- owner and president of LKG Enterprises.
Current PDNG member.
El Paso Times reports that the FBI suspects him of having bribed
officials to protect him and LKG "from a referral for criminal
activity, repayment to the County of El Paso of over $600,000 of
fraudulently obtained federal funds and a lawsuit by the county." The
company was dumped by the county earlier this year for not providing
services that were paid for and required for the Border
Children’s Mental Health Collaborative.
Apodaca-President and CEO of Access HealthSource, city’s leading
administrator for public health benefits. Current PDNG member.
Frank Apodaca, is an apparent target of the FBI and U.S. attorney's
office public corruption investigation in El Paso,” the El Paso
Times wrote on 7-9-07. “In one of those [six conspiracy] charges,
Flores pleaded guilty to taking a bribe for her vote to extend the
county's contract with Access HealthSource last year. Access' parent
company, Access Plans USA, put Apodaca on paid leave last week and
warned stockholders of a potential $2 million loss if Access lost its
government clients in El Paso. According to Access' public documents,
the company managed more than 700,000 claims for more than 60,000
public employees and dependents last year totaling more than $400
million. The FBI has conducted searches of Apodaca's Access offices and
his home. Apodaca, whose assets along with two cars and a motorcycle
have been seized by the FBI, was recently placed on paid administrative
leave by Access' parent company, the publicly traded Access Plans
USA.” Frank Apodaca contributed $2250 to state senator
Roark- El Paso school district trustee, Executive Director of Hospice
El Paso. Current PDNG member.
“In June, the U.S. attorney's office leveled the first
allegations at Access and its contracts with school districts,”
reported the El Paso Times (7-9-07) “Charles Roark, an El Paso
Independent School District trustee and executive director of Hospice
El Paso. Hospice was searched by FBI agents in April 2006. Court
records filed by prosecutors last month claim Roark is connected
through ‘a free-rent scheme’ provided by NCED for Hospice."
He received a $500 contribution from fellow PDNG member and huge
contributor to Republican causes, Stanley Jobe, whose wife has also
been named as part of the FBI investigation.
7. Raymond Telles- public finance lawyer
and former City Council representative. Current PDNG member.
His name appears on a search warrant issued by Federal Judge Frank
Motalvo as part of the FBI’s public corruption investigation.
8. Roberto "Bobby" Ruiz- Managing director
of Bear Sterns financial services company. Current PDNG member.
His name appears on a search warrant issued by Federal Judge Frank
Motalvo as part of the FBI’s public corruption investigation.
Bear Sterns is the financial service company for Thomason Hospital.
Thomason president James Valenti denies charges by ex-County
Commissioner Betti Flores that she sold her vote to award " financial
advisory contracts at the county and for the Thomason bond initiative."
Jim Valenti, also a current PDNG member, told the El Paso Times he made
the decision to hire fellow PDNG member Roberto Ruiz' financial
advisory company, a decision that was approved by the Thomason hospital
Bernard-current PDNG member.
Bernard is the chairman of the El Paso law firm —Scott, Hulse,
Marshall, Feuille, Finger & Thurmond, P.C.—that is being
investigated for possible ties to the IOS international coupon fraud
scam. According to the El Paso Times (7-30-07): “Prosecutors have
told U.S. District Judge Patricia J. Gorence of Wisconsin that federal
investigators are looking into the possibility that lawyers for
International Outsourcing Services, or IOS, may have obstructed justice
by giving false information to officials, that some lawyers were used
to harass one or more government witnesses and that some witnesses were
coached before they were interviewed by federal investigators.”
July 23, 2007
The Influence Traffickers:
Governor Perry & the Paso Del Norte Group
El Paso multi-millionaire Woody
Hunt: A PDNG executive committee member, land speculator, and major
league Republican contributor to both George Bush and Rick Perry.
Nine PDNG Governor Perry
Appointees to State committees and agencies contributed more than
$711,200 to the Texans for Rick Perry Committee between 2001 and 2006.
Does a $100,000+ "contribution"
buy you a state appointment?
Does it buy you the governor's
veto against eminent domain reform legislation?
1. Woody Hunt, Hunt Building
Appointed by Governor Perry to the University of
Texas System Board of
Regents, 1999-2005. He gave Perry $130,301 between 2003-2006.
2. Lawrence Federic
“Rick” Francis, Francis Holdings Ltd.:
Appointed by Perry to the Texas Tech University Sytem Board of Regents,
from 2003-2007. Gave Perry $110,000 between 2001-2005.
3. Paul Foster, Western
Appointed by Perry to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board,
2004-09. He gave the governor $305,238 between 2001-2006.
4. Robert Brown, Desert Eagle
Perry Appointed him to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission,
2003-2009. He contributed $129,513 to Perry.
5. Ted Houghton Jr., Financial
The governor's appointee to the Texas Department of Transportation,
2003-2007. Gave Perry $12,160 between 2002 and 2005.
6. Gen. James P. Maloney,
Appointed by the governor to the Texas Military Preparedness Commission
2003-2005. Gave $400 to Perry.
7. H. L Bert Mijares, The
Mijares Group Architects,
Appointed to the Texas Public Finance Authority- 1999-2005.
8. Paul Braden, Delgado,
Acosta, Braden & Jones:
Appointed by Perry to the State Pension Review Board, 2004-2005 . Gave
Perry $3,250 between 04-05.
9. Patrick Gordon, Gordon
& Mott PC:
Appointed to the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs,
03-00. Gave $20,500 to Perry between 2003-2006. (He also gave David
Dewhurst Committee $28,000 and Tom Craddick $10,500.)
July 17, 2007
Mayor Cook and the Influence Peddlers
What's the difference between an
illegal and a legal bribe?
THE ANSWER TO the question of
whether or not contributions are bribes always comes back to the
subjective ‘eye of the beholder.
Anyone can review the campaign reports of sitting elected officials at
the city website. Mayor John Cook has raised over $60,000 in a 2-month
period from January 16 - March 10, 2007. The money was raised
almost exclusively from individuals listed as members of the
“Paso Del Norte Group (PDNG).” There are a total of 91
contributors on Cook’s list; 39 are also listed on the membership
roster of the “PDNG.” Cook himself is listed as a member of
An examination of the 53-day snapshot, of Cook’s $60,000-plus
campaign fundraising effort ($1,000 a day), reveals the following
contributions (see www.ci.el-paso.tx.us/muni_clerk/ _documents
Cook has received:
• $2,500 from PDNG leader and downtown investor Robert Brown;
$2,000 from PDNG leaders and downtown investors Douglas Schwartz and
$1,000 from Scott Schwartz. The brothers are developers and partners in
old-time El Paso developer, Foster/Schwartz and its spin-offs;
• $500 from Woodley Hunt (contributor to Governor and President
Bush) and $500 from his lobbyist, Ted Houghton. Hunt’s interests
in El Paso are many including being a major player in the PDNG and
downtown. He has a well-documented track record seeking PSB land
creating a virtual monopoly interest in developable land;
• $1000 from El Paso Electric CEO Gary Hedrick and his wife, plus
$500 from EP Electric lobbyist, Hector Guitierrez. EP Electric recently
had their franchise agreement contract renewed by the mayor and city
• $1,000 from Jim Scherr and $500 from his law partner, Sam Legate
(Thomason Board). Scherr received a huge tax abatement 2 years ago from
the mayor and council for the International Hotel he now owns;
• $2,000 from Joe Rosales, owner of JAR Concrete, a regular
contract recipient of city street and concrete work from this mayor and
• $1,000 from the Texas Gas Service PAC. Texas Gas Service
recently had their franchise contract with the city renewed;
• $1,000 from the law firm of Delgado, Acosta, Braden,
Jones—bond counsel for the city of El Paso who received a record
number of certificates of obligation bond orders from this mayor and
• $1,000 from C.F. “Paco” Jordan, contractor named in
the recent “information” document from the FBI regarding
• $1,500 from David Escobar,
• $1,000 from Martie Jobe and
• $250 from Luther Jones. The latter three are former elected
officials singled out by the FBI in “information” documents
signed by Travis Ketner.
Are these bribes masquerading as political contributions?
July 10, 2007
THE NEW OWNERS OF EL PASO
by Border Observer
THE MAN FROM CHICAGO
Bill Sanders is an El Paso born real estate speculator who specializes
in Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs). A REIT is a consortium of
investors who provides funds for real estate speculation under the
supervision of a manager of such activities such as Bill Sanders.
Sanders began to circulate around town after the Kelo decision speaking
to small groups of wealthy El Pasoans about the opportunity to buy
cheap property in downtown and around the site of the proposed Texas
Tech Medical School expansion and turn it into millions of dollars in
The Sanders Plan was adopted formally by the city of El Paso and
renamed the “Downtown Plan” complete with an unveiling of
the newly renovated Plaza Theatre in front of a group of mostly west El
Paso elite and other status seekers who formed a group called the Paso
Del Norte Group (PDNG). In addition to the long list of west side
status seekers, the group also contained some heavy hitters, such as
Woody Hunt and the hired gun, city manager, Joyce Wilson who became the
WOODLEY "WOODY" HUNT
Woodley “Woody” Hunt has been the most well connected
political financier in El Paso County for close to 20 years. He
reportedly has made hundreds of millions of dollars through military
housing contracts. Hunt campaign donations flowed to mostly Republican
office holders who support military expansion, and, in turn, has gained
massive amounts of tax dollars spent building housing for the military.
After some pretty lean years of military housing due to the reduced
need for military housing resulting from the collapse of the Soviet
Union and the “peace dividend” through the Clinton years,
the entry of George W. Bush onto the national scene was a welcome sight.
Hunt had been a big contributor to Bush when he was Governor of Texas,
serving on the controversial Board of Regents during that time. Much
was written about the Board of Regents having a “price of
admission.” If someone gave in excess of $100,000 to then
Governor Bush, a contributor was rewarded with the prestigious
A shrewd political player, Hunt gambled his investments in Bush as
Governor would pay off if the GOP golden boy could make it to the White
Hunt’s instincts proved right, and Bush has come through with
wars built on false premises along with the most massive military
expansions in the history of the country, with billions flowing from
his office for the production of military housing—Hunt’s
bread and butter. In the last 5 years, Hunt has expanded activities
into land speculation and development in El Paso. The massive push to
monopolize land and political influence seems driven more by power than
money at this point. Hunt began buying up massive amounts of land
around El Paso and took a prominent role in the PDNG Group. In
addition, his lobbyists became the most visible and regular mainstays
at city hall. The Gang of 5 regularly receives visits and
contributions from Hunt political operatives Gary Sapp and Mark Smith.
There are no records of any Hunt requests being denied.
June 15, 2007
Court Decision States that "Underused
Property" is not "Blighted Property"
By GEOFF MULVIHILL Associated Press Writer
June 13,2007 | MOUNT LAUREL, N.J. -- In a victory for private property
rights, the New Jersey state Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that local
governments can't seize land against the owner's wishes simply because
the property is underused.
The court ruled unanimously that only "blighted" areas are authorized
under the state Constitution, and that the Legislature did not intend
for eminent domain to be used when the sole basis is that the property
is "not fully productive."
Government watchdogs have argued for years that eminent domain is being
used too liberally by governments nationwide to advance development.
The backlash has grown since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2005 that
a Connecticut town could take over private homes on behalf of a real
The New Jersey case centered on a 63-acre tract in Paulsboro made up
mostly of wetlands just across the Delaware River from Philadelphia
The family that owns the land started using it more than 100 years ago
to dock boats carrying produce from southern New Jersey to
Philadelphia. Over the last decade, though, the small industrial town
of Paulsboro has been courting redevelopment, and in 2003, it included
the property on a redevelopment plan.
The town planner at that time told the planning board that there was no
activity on the land and that the community would be better served by
having something there. The owners sued to keep the land, and the high
court sided with them.
"The New Jersey Constitution does not permit government redevelopment
of private property solely because the property is not used in an
optimal manner," Chief Justice James R. Zazzali wrote in the unanimous
Critics of eminent domain -- many of whom were outraged a U.S. Supreme
Court decision two years ago that governments may seize property for
private development projects -- applauded the ruling.
"It is going to go a long way to preventing eminent domain abuse," said
Ron Chen, the state public advocate.
The New Jersey Assembly has advanced a bill that would restrict eminent
domain use, but the bill is stalled in the Senate.
Read the supreme court opinion
June 11, 2007
Shame on Cook and Other Mayors Who Want Perry
to Veto Eminent Domain Bill
EL PASO MAYOR John Cook has written a letter to Gov. Perry to veto the
eminent domain bill. So has Fort Worth Mayor Mike Moncrief and several
other city and county officials throughout the state of Texas. They
don't seem to care that EVERY state representative and state senator
from this 16 county COG region voted for the bill (HB 2006)! They don't
seem to care that the people who elected them (and must re-elect them)
support this bill! They don't seem to care that the citizens of Texas
are hopping mad over the changes to the Texas eminent domain law
enacted in the 78th and 79th legislature prompted the Legislature to
give careful consideration to what they'd done a couple of years ago
and to pass HB 2006 to rectify some of them!
Local and county officials who write the Governor urging veto of this
bill will be remembered when they run for re-election. The people are
mad. The people are uniting. The people have long memories when elected
officials strip our property rights away and refuse to allow citizens
fair treatment when property is consficated through eminent domain.
This bill levels the playing field. It does not prevent legitimate
exercise of eminent domain. It will not prevent construction of
necessary public infrastructure. Any elected official who tries to tell
the public that passage of this bill prevents construction of necessary
roads and public buildings is a liar! That is absolutely not true.
Necessary roads and public buildings have acquired property through
exercise of eminent domain since Texas became a state. This bill merely
restores some equity which was robbed from private landowners to the
benefit of rich developers who seek to exercise eminent domain for
private profit over current landowners.
June 10, 2007
El Paso Times Misleads on Rachel Quintana and
by Absurdity in the Pass
SUNDAY'S EL PASO TIMES announced Rachel Quintana's victory in the
runoff election for the District 5 city rep seat with an article
titled, "Opponent of eminent domain use wins runoff". This is
Rachel Quintana is not opposed to the use of eminent domain for public
use as the U.S. Constitution allows (5th amendment, "nor shall private
property be taken for public use, without just compensation"). And how
do I know this? Well one has only to read this article in which Rachel
Quintana wrote, "Key to the downtown redevelopment initiative is the
City’s plan to use its powers to take private property (lawyers
call it eminent domain) and deliver it to a real estate investment
trust headed by members of the Paso del Norte Group. As your
councilperson, I will strongly oppose the use of eminent domain to take
private property for purely private financial gain because, if it can
happen to downtown, none of our homes or small businesses will be safe.
A previously published statement inspires me from the wisdom of retired
Justice of the Supreme Court, Sandra Day O’Conner, expressed in
her dissenting opinion in the Supreme Court case authorizing forced
“The beneficiaries of eminent domain are likely to be those
citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political
process, including large corporations and development firms. As for the
victims, the government now has license to transfer property from those
with fewer resources to those with more.”
Proponents of the downtown plan often obfuscate the historically and
accepted use of eminent domain, which is the taking of private property
for public use with the taking of private property for private use;
there is a world of difference between the two. This is done either
delibrately or out of ignorance.
Why does the EP Times do it?
June 9, 2007
Ten Ways to Lose Credibility
Some of the strategies used by public and
private sector reps.
1. Don't involve people in decisions that directly affect their
lives. Then act defensively when your policies are challenged.
2. Hold onto information until people are screaming for it.
While they are waiting, don't tell them when they will get it.
say, "These things take time," or "It's going through quality
3. Ignore people's feelings. Better yet, say they are irrelevant
and irrational. It helps to add that you can't understand why they
are overreacting to such a small risk.
4. Don't follow up. Place returning phone calls from citizens at
the bottom of your "to do" list. Delay sending out the information
you promised people at the public meeting.
5. If you make a mistake, deny it. Never admit you were wrong.
6. If you don't know the answers, fake it. Never say, "I don't know."
7. Don't speak plain English. When explaining technical
information, use professional jargon. Or simplify so completely that
you leave out important information. Better yet, throw up your hands
and say, "You people could not possibly understand this stuff."
8. Present yourself like a bureaucrat. Wear a three-piece suit
to a town meeting at the local grange, and sit up on stage with seven
of your colleagues who are dressed similarly.
9. Delay talking to other agencies involved. Or other people
involved within your agency, so the message the public gets can be as
confusing as possible.
10. If one of your scientists has trouble relating to people, hates
to do it, and has begged not to, send him or her out anyway. It's
May 30, 2007
TEXAS LEGISLATURE PASSES EMINENT DOMAIN BILL
But Governor Perry Is Considering a Veto
AS YOU MAY know, over the weekend the Texas legislature passed H.B.
2006, historic and well-deserved eminent domain reform. Among its
important provisions, it would require the government or general public
to own and occupy property acquired by eminent domain. Roads,
schools and courthouses will still be built, but local governments
would not be able to acquire property for so-called blight removal or
to increase tax revenue.
The bill now awaits Governor Perry's signature, so there's still a
chance that the beneficiaries of eminent domain abuse could dissuade
him from signing the legislation into law. We encourage you to
contact his office TODAY and urge him to sign H.B. 2006. You can
contact him via his website at http://www.governor.state.tx.us/contact
or by phone at 800-252-9600.
Please let us know if you have any questions. Thanks!
Castle Coalition Coordinator
Institute for Justice
901 N. Glebe Road, Suite 900
Arlington, VA 22203
May 27, 2007
Pro-plan politicians lie about
Downtown-Segundo Barrio taxes
CITY COUNCIL POLITICIANS and the supporters of the Paso Del Norte Group
plan have repeatedly claimed that the Downtown-Segundo Barrio
businesses and residences only pay $414,000 in taxes. They want the El
Paso public to believe that this is the total amount taxes generated by
the area although they know the real amount they pay is much higher.
The true figure that includes the total taxes for this
business-residential area is more than 1.8 million dollars per year.
When the pro-plan politicians compare the downtown-Segundo Barrio taxes
to other parts outside the redevelopment zone, they only use the City
tax figure (25% of all taxes) for downtown-Segundo Barrio. Yet they use
the tax figures that include taxes paid to all entities (100% of all
taxes) to areas outside the redevelopment zone. In other words, they
have been comparing a quarter of an apple to a whole orange. These
politicians have been engaging in an outrageous and fradulent campaign
In fact, the commercial and apartment properties within the
"redevelopment area" pay more in property taxes per square foot than
comparable commercial properties in other parts of the city. For
instance, while the El Paso Limousine Express facility on S. Oregon is
valued at about $14 per square foot, the Verde Realty (Bill Sanders')
facilities out near the Zaragosa bridge are valued at about $10 per
square foot. Verde Realty goes through the process to fight property
valuation increases at the Central Appraisal District. One of the Verde
properties was lowered in value by one million dollars in this process.
This is exactly what you can expect once Bill Sander's controls the
land in Downtown and South El Paso.
The claim Downtown-Segundo Barrio residents and property owners as a
whole are not paying their "fair share of taxes" is an outright lie. It
has been used as a justification to whip up support for the
expropriation and impending demolition of a large sector of our
What lie will the city come up with next? Weapons of mass destruction? Read article
See comments about this city deception on the Strelz forum topic Dishonesty by Lilly and O'Rourke Re
May 26, 2007
Anglos in El Paso Voted Along Racial Lines in
the Recent Election
AN ANALYSIS OF the May 12 election demonstrates Anglo El Pasoans,
“voted almost universally on the basis of race to reelect Anglo
politicians,” says an Anglo political observer. “The
Mexicans better wake up to the fact that while they may think they are
American, Anglo Americans don’t think so and reject them out of
hand.” Another Anglo political observer noted, “The Bank of
the Whites" were orgasmic at having shown the Mexicans they will be
thrown out of downtown. That’s what cleaning up downtown
means. They are not interested in picking up trash. They are interested
in cleaning up downtown of Mexicans.”
A third Anglo political observer noted, “I spoke to Republicans
and while they are whopping mad about taxes, they voted along race
lines. Don’t be naïve, its about race in El Paso and the
Anglos are out to prove they can still control this town, its banks,
its schools and its institutions. In their mind, this is America and
America does not include Mexicans.”
Taken aback by the comments by Anglo political observers, I asked if
they were suggesting that people should organize around race lines.
This strategy goes against everything I stand for and given the
diversity within my own family and friends, seems counterproductive.
One of the observers responded, “I know how you feel. I feel the
same way. We are so way beyond racialism but do you honestly think
Anglo conservative voters on the Westside voted for O’Rourke and
Lilly because they support higher taxes and open spaces? No. They voted
for them because they are white and they needed to send a message to
the Mexicans they are in charge of this town and will never give it
up." Read more
May 26, 2007
More Eminent Deception
NOT TOO LONG ago, a member of my family received via mail a flier
prepared and sent by an organization called "Somos El Paso" asking
"What's the real threat in our community?" followed by some pictures,
five in total.
According to this group, the threat is the "status quo." Unfortunately,
this piece of propaganda is not only misleading, and misplaced, but
insulting to the people of El Paso. Of these five pictures, only one is
under the planned 130-acre- plus redevelopment area. The rest are
clearly outside of this particular zone; in fact, one of the pictures
shown is from a downtown Juárez street.
As a person who has not publicly supported or opposed this particular
plan, it is troubling that some from within our community would see fit
to distort facts.
—George Salom Jr.
May 25, 2007
QUOTE OF THE DAY
"WHITE PEOPLE HAVE always had a
divided theory of property rights in this country. If it's white
property, the right of ownership is almost absolute. But if it's black
property, the rights of ownership are something less. Hence Dallas,
like most American cities, has seen waves of property
seizure—sometimes called slum clearance, sometimes called flood
control, whatever—in which eminent domain has been used to seize
black-owned property. Black Dallas hates eminent domain. In Southern
Dallas, eminent domain is a phrase only slightly less odious than the
old man himself, Jim Crow."
—Jim Schutze, Dallas Observer
May 24, 2007
Texas Senate Strengthens
Eminent Domain Abuse Legislation
by the Texas Public Policy
AUSTIN – Senate amendments added to HB 2006 and HB 3057 earlier
this week significantly strengthen both property owners’ rights
and limit the abuse of eminent domain.
“We have waited for these bills since the Kelo ruling almost two
years ago,” said Bill Peacock, director of the Foundation’s
Center for Economic Freedom. “If the House adopts the Senate
provisions, Texas will once again be known as a state that understands
the importance of protecting private property rights.”
HB 2006 by Rep. Beverly Woolley defines public use and bans the taking
of any property unless it is for a public use, levels the playing field
when it comes to determinations of public use, and allows property
owners to buy back their property if it is not used for the intended
HB 3057 by Rep. Bill Callegari makes significant changes to existing
law dealing with blighted areas that will reduce the ability of
government entities to engage in Kelo-style takings in Texas. This
includes changing the way in which properties may be designated as
blighted, and requiring that such designations be made on a
“Thanks to the efforts of Sen. Kyle Janek, the Senate's version
of HB 2006 is the fairest deal possible for property owners this
session,” Peacock explained. “Going to conference will only
benefit the traditional opponents of property rights, who are still
jockeying to undermine and strip the fundamental property rights of
For more information
contact: David Guenther, (512) 472-2700
and press release on statewide eminent domain reform that the El Paso
Times will likely not touch with a 20 foot pole unless it's heavily
spinned, sanitized and camouflaged: [Dallas Morning News article]
and [Institute of Justice press release]
May 22, 2007
CHILDREN'S ART WORKSHOPS IN THE SEGUNDO BARRIO
MANY OF US have committed
ourselves to empowering the Segundo Barrio
community in one way or another. As part of this ongoing commitment I'm
suggesting a summer art workshops for children ages 7-12. The
structure, educational content and dates for the workshops will depend
on volunteer participation and availability. This will also depend on
art supplies and any other materials we might have donated.
On Tuesday 22nd there will be a meeting in the Sagrado Corazon
Gym (Father Rahm and Mesa Street) at 6:30 pm to see how we can make the
workshops a reality. I hope to see everyone there and please pass the
word to anyone who might be interested in helping out.
info contact Francisco Delgado at: email@example.com.)
May 17, 2007
Memory as Resistance:
THE OLD COUPLE lived in downtown
El Paso, slightly north of El Segundo Barrio, the area of the city that
passed for the poor district. Yet it was not really poor like Harlem or
South Boston; it was only comfortable and familiar. The proper and
proprietary sons and daughters of the city could not understand the
concept of a neighborhood, and they certainly could not understand this
neighborhood. They lived in the suburbs that sprung forth from
the desert with the guiding hand of the developer. The matching
barbeque pits, rock walls, and cactus landscapes betrayed a cold and
barren land where people merely existed next to each other. A nastifly
self-righteous individualism pervaded the fashionable new
The Literature of South El Paso
and rightfully freeway restaurants and drive-up gas stations engulfed
But the area of El Segundo Barrio lay, as did all of downtown El Paso
and central Juárez, at the ancient pass that cut through the
pyramidal Franklin and Chihuahua Mountain. The heart of El Paso had
always been at this mountain pass.
The history that created the progressive Sunbelt city from the Old West
town of mining and railroads was eagerly overstepped by the modernist,
and only El Segundo Barrio lived reluctantly with this whole history.
Red brick warehouses, cracked streets, and abandoned apparel factories
were girdled by clothing-by-the-pound stores, foreign exchange houses,
and tenements. Old people abounded: grandmothers, grandfathers,
viejitos, and solitary oldsters. Some owned modest homes that were
built forty or fifty years ago, while others stayed in goverment
housing or inexpensive apartments. Here in El Segundo Barrio, the
street life burst with a peculiarly patient mortality forged out of a
life that was present as history. This life expected and understood the
present as if this moment was at once disarmingly familiar and, yet,
still alive with a newly aroused power. At any second, it seemed, the
mortality of the barrio could hurl itself heavenward, into laughter, or
toward death. Each way could just as easily rip away the looming
seriousness. And only then could history seize the present.
Troncoso, The Last Tortilla,
May 16, 2007
Then You Wonder Why People Don't Vote
CITYWIDE, ONLY 7 PERCENT of the registered voters even bothered to show
up at the polls last Saturday. About 150 out of 2,800 registered voters
in the Segundo Barrio voted. That’s because everything has been
done by our local corrupt ruling class to exclude them from major
decisions that affect their lives and their neighborhoods. In our city,
what rules is the politics of exclusion and disenfrachisement. When
people are in the way of the mega-developers and the powerful, you
simply uproot them and move them out of the way, whether they want to
move or not.
When it comes to getting involved in the political process, the
overwhelming majority of El Pasoans shrug their shoulders and ask,
“Why bother! They sell their plans to us as done deals before we
even get a chance to speak. There’s nothing we can do to stop
There's also not much of a realistic choice. The politicians who are
backed by the schemers have lots of money behind them—Republican
money, Democratic money, all kinds of money. They've honed their skills
well in the arts of deception and spin control. The newcomers that have
kept their hands clean and naively want to "tell it like it is" don't
stand a chance in hell of getting elected. And even if some of them do,
as soon as they get into power, most of them sell out as quickly as you
can say "PDNG."
Of course, it’s all blamed on the “apathy” and
“ignorance” of the local community. But what is never
brought up is that historically everything has been done—from
racist gerrymandering practices in the Segundo Barrio, to urban renewal
dispersals, to city charter manipulations, etc.—to make sure the
majority of El Pasoans remain powerless.
When you occasionally do get a group of active citizens that wants to
participate in these decisions, City Manager
Joyce Wilson sends out emails to the politicians
and City Hall staff informing them how to "neutralize the losers." To do this City Hall politicos strip the microphones
from these citizen's hands (which happened during the summer 2006 PDNG
monopoly game “chirades” while Mayor Cook and rep. Ann
Morgan Lilly were present). They mock them, demonize them, threaten
them with economic or professional retaliation, sic the cops on them,
and if all else fails, they simply ignore them.
Then you wonder why people don’t feel their voice matters.
May 11, 2007
Who Needs Another Plastic City?
are some of the comments that were submitted to us by those of you who
recently signed our petition.
Putting big-box stores in or near Segundo Barrio or downtown would
itself be antithetical to the idea of downtown re-vitalization. Such
development would drive many of the smaller downtown shops out of
business, and it is these that help keep downtown and its environs
vibrant and walkable. Big-box stores and other types of auto-only
development would only put huge expanses of black asphalt into the
heart of the city, assualting the same Progressive and New Urbanist
notions that the city supposedly seeks to advance.
Additionally, Segundo Barrio is a long-established community that helps
make El Paso special and unique. Keeping it would greatly benefit the
city as a whole and help preserve our local culture. We can still
attract outsiders and investors without selling ourselves out to them
at the drop of a hat.
—Aaron A. Edstrom
El Segundo Barrio is my home. Please dont let them destroy it!
—Raul Antonio Velez
Greetings and peace. Eminent Domain is truly NOT American. This is
about America and true Democracy of the people, by the people, for the
people. A VERY FIRM stand must be taken to STOP this dead in it's
tracks. If a free society cannot help (and thus defend) the many who
are poor, it (surely) cannot save the few who are rich( Kennedy, 1961).
— Carlos Humphreys
I support petition that will keep a historical place that I grew up in.
It became a place of goals and dreams that allowed my life to become
what it is and made me who and what I am. To destroy this historical
place will shatter my inner-self as well as my heart. It is a part of
me and will be for ever. Bless this place.
Give thanks to the Texas Observer for bringing the truth out. Growing
up in the Eastside, it's hard for me to realize the troubles of people
in other parts of the city. Even I'm convinced. I wholly support your
The proposed Wal-Mart and the adjoining strip mall are an arrogant
undertaking, to say the least. I find this initiative downright
offensive and racist. Taking advantage of any specific ethnic/cultural
group because of their perceived powerlessness is simply disgusting.
The draw of the barrio is its historical heritage, which can not be
maintained with modern chain-affiliated retailers!
Who needs another plastic city?
Stop cultural genocide!
SAVE SEGUNDO BARRIO! Let me know what I can do to help even though I
live on the other side of the country now.
—Tiffany N. Smith
I grew up in El Paso and still go back to shop Downtown. I will always
love the area and am fighting for this cause.
—Brooke Sloan Guerrero
La lucha sigue!
Please do not this great historic beauty for mere money!
Hijos de puta u better save segundo barrio.
Los apollo con lo que hacen. Arriba el Segundo!
The Segundo Barrio was once the home of my family and many memories are
left behind as well as being created everyday in many people's lives.
One thing is for sure we will stand together to keep our land and no
matter how many machines they bring or how many men come after us we
will defend it!!!
Wal-Mart is a disease for our community and we need to keep it off of
these historic grounds!
I wish you guys good luck in keeping Segundo Barrio alive. Don’t
I believe in social justice, equality and fairness in public policy. I
do not support the destruction of the historic heart of the Segundo
Barrio in El Paso. Hopefully this will make some difference.
This is just wrong.
Bryan R. Reitsma
May 9, 2007
El Paso Times Finally Reveals Result of Poll
Majority of El Pasoans Oppose
Eminent Domain Abuse but Mayor Wants to Keep it as a Threat
THE EL PASO TIMES, one of the loudest cheerleaders for the PDNG
demolition and displacement plan, finally revealed the results of its
eminent domain abuse poll. It took them more than a week to do so. The
Times/KTSM poll shows that 62% of El Pasoans oppose eminent domain to
strip the Downtown-Segundo Barrio owners of their property to hand it
over to super-wealthy developers. (It is likely that if the poll had
been conducted by media outlets that were not as heavily subsidized by
the PDNG, the anti-eminent domain result would probably be even
higher.) Nevertheless, this bit of information was uncomfortable enough
that the Times refused to report these results in their first story
about the poll more than a week ago. Of course, once it finally came
out in the open today, the pro-plan newspaper did everything to spin it
in favor the the pro-Eminent Domain city council majority.
The Times reports that El Paso mayor John Cook wants to keep the
eminent domain weapon in their arsenal, as a threat, cocked and well
aimed, just in case they need to use it.
El Paso Times misinformation.
Crowder claims that the Times poll showed that a majority of El Pasoans
backed the PDNG plan. Last year’s El Paso Times poll, however,
never even asked the question of whether they supported the Paso Del
Norte Group plan. It only asked whether people thought “Downtown
redevelopment was a high priority for El Paso?”
Of course, if you ask people if it’s important to have a better
downtown, most people will say yes.
But ask them if barrio residents should be forcefully removed from
their homes, fewer people will be as enthusiastic.
Ask them if they would like their own homes and properties stripped
from them and handed over to Wal-Marts and Targets because politicians
and profiteers spread the lie that your community doesn’t pay
it’s “fair share” of taxes and an overwhelming
majority will say no.
Which is exactly what is happening.
Plus, how much journalistic integrity is there in rehashing an old poll
and suggesting it still applies today? It would be like that saying 92%
of the American public support Bush’s war in Iraq today because
some polls said so a few years ago in the midst of a concerted campaign
of government deception.
A year later, people have become more aware of the myriad of conflict
of interests involved with the plan, the lack of inclusion, the
corruption of some of the PDNG members (see Chris Balsiger coupon fraud
scheme), the lack of serious studies investigating the social and
environmental impact of the plan, and the injustice of eminent domain.
More are becoming aware of the campaign of deception
regarding downtown taxes that our local politicians have spread. They
are seeing through the well financed-PDNG ad campaigns that trash our
community. They are understanding the human rights violations, physical
intimidation, arson and even murder that has been committed by those
behind the binational redevelopment schemes in places like the Lomas de
Poleo sector of Juarez.
Slowly the fronterizo community is waking up to the true nature of this
beast that is taking over our communities on both sides of the border.
May 6, 2007
SHAPLEIGH PLAYS BOTH SIDES ON EMINENT DOMAIN
Contributor Stephen Adler does his bidding
STATE SENATOR ELIOT SHAPLEIGH has spoken publicly against eminent
domain abuse. Behind the scenes, however, he is backing up his good
buddy’s efforts to make El Paso an exception to any statewide
curbs on eminent domain abuse. Stephen Adler, a major campaign backer
and good friend of Shapleigh, has floated some vague and deceptive language for the state's
eminent domain reform legislation that
would create loopholes in the law. (Adler
personally guaranteed a $150,000 campaign loan to Sen. Shapleigh in his
race against Dee Margo last year.) If the
Shapleigh/Adler duo have their way, the city would be able to condemn
any private property if it was "reasonably essential for the successful
operation of a public project..." (i.e. the PDNG Plan). The
Adler-Shapleigh loopholes would in essence protect most of Texas,
except for El Paso, from having their property condemned and
handed over to well-connected developers.
Adler, a legal expert on eminent domain condemnations, spoke
before the House Land and Resource Management Committee on March 21,
2007, calling for these exceptions. That good news it that so far his
proposals have been rejected by the state legislature committee.
But don't be surprised to see Shapleigh push the Adler proposal as a
floor amendment when the senate takes up eminent domain abuse
legislation this summer. In fact, the language Shapeligh introduced
during the special session in 2005 on eminent domain replicates almost
verbatim the Adler language on . (See Section 2B of the Shapleigh proposal). What
the Shapleigh addendum means is: Even if your property is not blighted,
the City should be able to forcibly expropriate it from you if they
feel it is "reasonably needed" by the rich developers for their plan.
In 2005, Shapleigh was only one of five Texas senators to vote against
Senate Bill 7, a piece of legislation that placed restrictions on
eminent domain abuse in the state. Shapleigh is a member of the Paso
Del Norte Group. The major proponents of the PDNG demolition plan in
city Hall—O’Rourke, Byrd and Ortega—are all his
protégées. If the legislation reforms at the state level
pass requiring cities to condemn only specific properties as blighted,
but not entire areas, the landgrab designed by what the Texas Observer
has called "a cabal of profiteers and
politicians" would be in serious trouble. The PDNG plan
requires non-blighted properties to be razed in order to create
sufficiently large parcels of land to bring in a Wal-Mart or an arena.
May 4, 2007
The Campaign and Deception
MEMBERS OF THE city council who favor the Downtown-Segundo Barrio Plan
are engaging in a continuing pattern of deception to drum up public
support. For example, Representative Ann Morgan Lilly distorts the
truth by repeatedly implying Cielo Vista Mall paid millions more in
property taxes than owners of properties in the redevelopment zone.
However, public records show
downtown owners paid more property taxes to the city than did the mall
in 2005. Ms. Lilly improperly compares taxes paid only to the city in
2005 with the total amount of taxes Cielo Vista paid to all taxing
authorities in 2006. This just shows the extent some public
officials will go in distorting the truth and misleading their
Rep. Lilly also dismisses public objections to the Downtown-Segundo
Barrio Plan by characterizing opponents as a small group of ‘nay
sayers’ intent on hijacking El Paso’s future. This is a
complete slap in the face to well-respected community leaders such as
Bishop Armando Ochoa, County Attorney Jose Rodriguez, former County
Judge Alica Chacon, and former Thomason Hospital CEO Pete Duarte who
have condemned the plan as unjust and divisive.
The fact is that even Channel 9 News, reported that a recent poll
carried out by them and the El Paso Times showed 62% of El Paso voters
opposed eminent domain for the PDNG plan. Sixty-two percent hardly
constitutes a small group of naysayers. Yet the loudest cheerleader in
town for the PDNG landgrab, the El Paso Times, refused to mention the
results of their own poll regarding eminent domain abuse in its recent
front page article about the poll. Is this bit of
information too incovenient for them? Read more.
May 3, 2007
If the PDNG Plan Doesn't Frighten You, I
Don't Know What Else Will
by Ric Schecter, Candidate for District #1
Downtown-Segundo Barrio Plan
One of the most important issues is the downtown plan. If you think
back over the last fifty years in El Paso, there has probably not been
an issue that has divided the city as much as the downtown plan has.
It’s divided people in district eight, it has divided people in
district one, it has divided people all over the city and it has
divided city council.
The reason for this is simple: it was done wrong.
The previous administration had a policy that redevelopment needed to
be done by private enterprise to be done right. The council at that
time decided to give $250,000 of taxpayer money to the Paso del Norte
Group (PDNG) to fund a plan for the redevelopment of downtown.
PDNG is a private enterprise. They came to city council and said they
were putting up $250,000 of their own money and had obtained a grant
from the federal government to supply another two hundred and fifty
thousand dollars and they wanted the city to kick in a match.
Rep. John Cook came to council with a large stack of plans and argued
that El Paso had fifty-three plans for downtown. He argued that we
should go back to all of the old plans and pick out those parts that
were good and devise our own new plan because the work had already been
done and El Paso had already paid for it. He voted against giving PDNG
The plan was late arriving. Unfortunately what also happened, during
those six months, was that Mayor Wardy and a lot of the council members
got shown the door and the representative from district four, Mr. Cook
became our mayor.
Sudden About Face
One might think that since the new mayor would have opposed the plan.
However, all of a sudden, Mayor Cook thought the plan was the greatest
thing since the invention of the wheel. My question is: how did
that happen? What do you think persuaded now Mayor Cook to support the
plan? He’s now a member of PDNG. How did it go from we
don’t need this plan to everybody in the city should get behind
it because it’s terrific and there is nothing wrong with it?
There are a lot of things wrong with it. It was privately done,
it didn’t have public input, eminent domain is in the plan, which
I am opposed to for private development. There is not another area of
the country that has been redeveloped that has allowed one individual
or group acquire 127 acres of prime downtown real estate. If that
doesn’t frighten you, I don’t know what else would. I hope
you consider this critical issue.
I can’t answer why eminent domain has not been taken off the
table in downtown. It seems like the current majority on council wants
to maintain some kind of friction, some kind of ongoing battle to
divide with other members of council. My question is how much in taxes
is being generated by the historic district? I would bet the same
disparity exists because of the building being left abandoned. Those
buildings that have been left abandoned are in the historic district.
Somehow, the historic district is being portrayed as not having the
same problem. The way the downtown plan was laid out, the owners in the
historic district are favored because if you look at the list of people
who are in the PDNG, you’ll find that many of them are owners of
buildings in the historic district. Read more
April 20, 2007
Conquest and Brutality Should Be Denounced,
Attention all people concerned with justice:
El Paso community members, the Southwest Indigenous Alliance and the
people of Acoma Pueblo invite you to participate in a protest against
the Juan de Oñate statue.
This Saturday April 21st, 2007 at 10:00 a.m. the city of El Paso and
the 12 Travelers Memorial of the Southwest will publicly dedicate and
celebrate the man that is responsible for the murder of hundreds of
native peoples, the enslavement of women and children, and a number of
atrocities including ordering the feet of 24 men from Acoma to be
chopped off. The City of El Paso should not be celebratiing brutal acts
of conquest and spending over a million dollars to build a shrine to
Now is the time to voice your opposition to the statue. Do the people
of our city want El Paso to be represented to the world by a violent
Spanish colonizer who was even rejected by his own country because of
Now is the time to show the city that people of El Paso stand for
justice, human rights and dignity.
Join us at 8:30 a.m. this Saturday April 21st at the north corner of
Boeing and Airway to make our call for justice heard..
In the spirit of peace and unity we ask that participants in the
1. Remain calm and peaceful at all times.
2. Refer questions from the media to Dr. Yolanda Chavez Leyva and the
spokesperson(s) from Acoma and the Southwest Indigenous Alliance.
3. Pick up your trash- respect the earth.
4. Wear red and black to symbolize our call for justice.
Spread the word- memorializing Juan de Oñate is memorializing
April 17, 2007
Remembering Our Roots,
Building Our Future
The Paso Del Norte Civil Rights Project (no relation to
cordially invites you
to join us in celebration of our first year Fiesta Fronteriza:
Our Roots, Building Our Future
Help us celebrate the legacy of
civil rights struggle in the Paso Del Norte region and honor
individuals who carry on that tradition by working to protect and
defend human rights in our community today.
2000 Texas Avenue El Paso,
Date: May 31st , 2007
Registration begins at 7:00
pm Dinner served at 7:30 pm
This Year's Awards and Honorees
Thelma White Courage
Award: Hilda Sotelo of Austin High School
Rubén Salazar "Speak
Truth to Power" Award: Diana Washington Valdez, author of Cosecha de
Dr. Lawrence Aaron Nixon Social
Justice Advocacy Award: John R. Karr
Lifetime Achievement in Civil
Rights: Hon. Albert Armendáriz, Sr.
Distinguished Speakers Include:
José Rodríguez, El
Paso County Attorney
Fr. John Stowe, OFM Conv, El
Paso Diocese Moderator of the Curia
Frank López, Director of
the Non-Profit Enterprise Center
Jim Harrington, Founder and
Director of Texas Civil Rights Project
We would be honored to include
you among our guests. To RSVP please fill out and print the attached
registration form and mail it to the address listed below by May 5th.
We look forward to seeing you at
a very special Fiesta Fronteriza!
Civil Rights Project
att: Emily Warming
2211 E. Missouri
El Paso, TX 79903
April 13, 2007
Let's Unite Across the Country
I AM A CHICAGO native with ties to El Paso, more so to El Segundo
Barrio. My grandparents lived in the Barrio years ago when they first
crossed with my mother and her siblings. Then my grandparents and
parents came to the Midwest in search of work, but much of my mother's
and father's family stayed in El Paso and Juárez. I still have
family there that I do not keep in contact with, but I wish I did. I am
sadden by the attempt to destroy a piece of this country’s
history, but not surprised. I have witnessed similar events and
situations here in Chicago and other neighboring cities like Aurora,
Waukegan, Elgin, Cicero, etc. All these cities are located in Northeast
I watched the videos on your site and "si tienen razon," we must fight
as one to continue to up hold our culture and our homes.
All in all the time will come when the developers will realize that we
our not the minority and the people will not stand for this. I hope
that this message will encourage you all to continue and don't give up.
On that note I think we should unite and create a vast network(s) of La
Raza issues so that these issues will by brought to the forefront of
everybody’s mind, across the country and across the world.
April 9, 2007
O'Rourke Refuses to Respond to Question About
City's Demeaning Ad Campaign
AS A SUPPORTER of “Refurbish the Segundo Barrio, But Don’t
Destroy It,” I have sent emails regarding the racist ad that
depicts an elderly Mexican/Chicano man as” “Old Cowboy,
50-60 years old, Gritty, Dirty, Lazy, Speaks Spanish, Uneducated”
to both City Rep. Robert O’Rourke and El Paso Times editor Don
Flores. I also sent an email to editorial page editor, Charlie Edgren
to complain about the fact that the Times is not playing fair. Flores
only responded by saying that he did not belong to the PDNG when I
challenged him about his membership. As a newsman myself, I believe
that it’s a huge conflict of interest for the editor of the major
newspaper in town to support and promote only one side of this
particular story. In this case, the ad that depicts our people in every
negative way should be brought forth for the community to see where we
are being bamboozled and maligned. O’Rourke, of course,
hasn’t responded. To me, this means that he agrees with the
depiction, otherwise he would be raising hell about the way his
constituents are being portrayed. By not responding, this means that he
agrees with the racist assessment of our elderly people.
El Sin Fin
April 5, 2007
The Antidote to Sanders?
BIG DEVELOPERS MOTIVATED by a sense of social mission do exist. One
great example is Jair Lynch. The Jair Lynch
Companies in Washington, D.C., are both for-profit and
mission-based; its portfolio includes numerous successful
urban-redevelopment projects in D.C. designed "to revitalize and create
healthy neighborhoods holistically by creating live/work/play/learn
environments in which communities can stand and grow on their own."
Says Lynch Companies, "We create 'whole' neighborhoods that are
socially, economically, and racially diverse, with places to live,
work, play, and learn."
"How do you honor the soul of a place?" is a lead question on the Jair
Lynch Web site. El Paso would do well to ask that same question –
and require a stellar response – of any developer reshaping the
city in which we live.
April 4, 2007
Radio La Chusma is Banned from La Fe
EL PASO REGGAE musician Ernie
Tinajero and the Radio La Chusma band have been added to a long list of
artists who are now officially banned from La Fe Clinic by orders of
its director Sal Balcorta. [Other banned artists] Several La Fe employees, including former La Fe cultural
programs director Frank Varela, have also been fired by
Balcorta—a member of the PDNG Executive committee—because
of "disloyalty" or because of their opposition to the PDNG displacement
of barrio residents.
Radio La Chusma played in front of the Sin Fronteras center at the end
of the Cesar Chavez March this Saturday where more than 400 people
marched in celebration of the farmworker leader and in opposition to
the destruction of the Segundo Barrio.
April 2, 2007
Question to O'Rourke about Glass Beach
You know I was really disappointed that you used the race card in your
last email to me (scroll down to February 28, 2007 update). I’ve
been pondering how to use that, because you really did offend me. Why
should I be afraid to meet with you because of your ethnicity? Do you
think that you’re the only Anglo I’ve ever dealt with in my
life? If that’s what you think, you’re sadly mistaken. I
have four grandkids who are half Anglo and half Mexican. But, anyway,
you used the race card to your detriment.
But, that’s not why I’m writing to you. I am today writing
to you because of the way Glass Beach disrespected
Mexicans when it came up with that idea to make fun of our people by
denigrating our viejitos. You know what I’m talking about. They
picture an elderly gentleman walking down the street, and this is the
way Glass Beach describes him:
*Old Cowboy – as opposed, I guess, to a New Cowboy;
*Male – well, he certainly looks male;
*50-60 years old – maybe even 70;
*Gritty – from working the fields, you think?
*Dirty – again, from working the fields, you think? Although he
does look clean as he strides down the street;
*Lazy – Now, how in the heck does Glass Beach know that the old
gentleman is lazy? Do you remember when social scientists and the like
would say that we Mexicans were lazy, bereft of ambition, and stupid?
*Speaks Spanish – yes, he’s probably bilingual too,
although nobody asked him;
*Uneducated – maybe he doesn’t have book knowledge, but he
certainly has knowledge of life, don’t you think?
Mr. O’Rourke, this depiction of my people, people whom you
allegedly represent, is very offensive. Yet, why are you not coming to
the defense of this elderly gentleman and others like him? I thought
you said you represented all the people in your district. Do you or
don’t you? Or doesn’t it bother you that Mexicans in El
Paso have been disrespected? I’ll tell you what. It bothers me
tremendously. Strange, though, the Times hasn’t even touched that
stereotype. I wonder why? Do you know why?
(Joe Olvera, former El Paso Times reporter and USA Today columnist, was raised in the Segundo
Barrio and was the first Chicano television reporter in El Paso. His
column was syndicated in 64 newspapers across the U.S.)
March 26, 2007
Paso Del Norte Group Member Under Criminal
every great fortune, there is a great crime.”
THOMAS CHRIS BALSIGER, who is
under investigation for a $250,000,000 coupon fraud scheme, is a member
of the PDNG and a contributor to
the political campaign of City rep Robert O’Rourke. [O’Rourke contributors]
Those are just two little inconvenient truths that the local
media—that are for the most part owned and financed by the
PDNG—have left out of their coverage. (Instead, KVIA prefered to report
the highly significant piece of information that Mr. Balsiger has a
passion for high-altitude mountain climbing!)
The criminal indictment alleges that Balsiger and 8 other defendants
submitted millions of dollars worth of coupons that had never been
legitimately redeemed in connection with the purchase of a product.
The indictment further alleges that Chris Balsiger, the CEO of the
International Outsourcing Services:
1 “Advised employees to destroy records, to discontinue the
use of certain internal reports that tracked the scheme, and to take
certain electronic data home each evening;
2. To further conceal the scheme, Balsiger and others took steps to
keep IOS employees and others with knowledge of the scheme from
law enforcement and to retaliate against those who provided information
to federal authorities
These steps included:
a. Attempting to condition severance benefits for departing employees
on the employee's agreement not to speak to law enforcement;
b. Suing, threatening to sue, and threatening to financially
harm employees who cooperated with law enforcement; and
c. Directing a private investigator to attempt to forcibly obtain
evidence held by a witness in Mexico
Read more about the PDNG
member’s international scheme.
March 24, 2007
Republicans, PDNG Fat Cats and a
Criminal Defendant Sponsor O'Rourke
HERE IS THE INVITATION sent out
for a fundraiser hosted by some of the City's top Republicans, several
PDNG fat cats including Dee Margo and Woody Hunt and at least one
criminal defendant. Chris Balsiger is the Chief Executive Officer of
International Outsourcing Services and a lead defendant in a current criminal investigation
against his corporation. Balsiger, along with three other El Pasoans
and seven other individuals, were indicted in a binational coupon fraud
scheme that allegedly bilked providers out of more than $250 million.
No Segundo Barrio
residents who are about to be forcibly relocated from their homes are
included in this illustrious list of hosts. For some inexplicable
reason, tonight's event was canceled at the last
Aw shucks! We wanted to go.
March 23, 2007
Invitation to the Cesar Chavez March
struggle is not easy. Those who oppose our cause are rich and powerful
and they have many allies in high places. We are poor. Our allies are
few. But we have something the rich do not own. We have our bodies and
spirits and the justice of our cause as our weapons."
We invite those of you who wish
to show solidarity with the Segundo Barrio to participate in another
event that will demonstrate the people's opposition to the downtown
On Saturday March 31 a march will be held to celebrate Cesar Chavez Day
and to call for social justice in El Paso. This is another opportunity
to voice your dissaproval of the downtown plan and to support the
people of Segundo Barrio who are facing displacement.
We would like to organize a large group of students to participate in
the march and demonstrate the support and awareness that exists on
campus. If you would like to participate in the march please join
us at the Conquistador Lounge at the UTEP Student Union on Weds. March
28 at 4:30 pm to make posters and banners for the march. Thank you.
El Segundo Barrio No Se Vende!
March 21, 2007
They Can't See the Log in Their Eye
every great fortune, there is a great crime."
EMINENT DOMAIN BRAT PACK and the Paso Del Norte Group propaganda rags
have decided that the whole issue of eminent domain abuse and the
displacement of hundreds of families in the Segundo Barrio boils down
to Luis Rosenbaum. Mr. Rosenbaum is a holocaust survivor whose family
was stripped of their business by the Nazis in 1933. Today he owns
several businesses in South El Paso that are under the threat of
eminent domain. One of them is a piece of property that he rents out to
poor Mexicanos who can’t afford their own Wal-Mart—in other
words, people who sell their wares at an open-air flea market. Mr.
Rosenbaum and his sons, according to City rep Susie Byrd, are
responsible for all of the blight in El Paso. City
Rep Steve Ortega—who is very proud that his best friends on City
Hall, i.e. The Three Amigos, all come from very good
schools—alleged at Tuesday’s City Hall meeting that people
probably even sell stolen goods at the flea market. (Dear God! Quick!
Let’s tear down all the swap meets all over the City!)
Therefore—according to the principles of higher logic that only
such highly refined and well-educated minds such as that of Mr. Ortega
can grasp—300 buildings in South El Paso and Downtown should be
razed and handed over super-wealthy developers.
In other words, if there’s a flea market near you where there are
allegations of pilfering, then your own property or home, even if
it’s in good condition, should also be torn down. Especially if
it’s within the same block or in the same 130-acre demolition
zone that rich developers are lusting after. Guilt by association with
no chance of appeal.
“Wow!” Is that what they teach you at Emory these days?
While we’re on the subject of illicit activities and other
allegations, have these well-educated individuals looked into the
alleged illicit activities committed by the members of the Paso Del
Norte Group and the Verde Realty Company—the driving force behind
several binational redevelopment schemes throughout the border? Or is
that something our highly-schooled leaders would rather not look into?
March 19, 2007
It Also Happens in China
DEVELOPERS HAVE TURNED a house into an
island in China after the owner refused to sell...read more
March 16, 2007
The Millionaires Behind O'Rourke: So What's
AN EL PASO newspaper reports that on
March 24, Dee Margo—a member of the Paso Del Norte Group, a close
friend of George Bush and perhaps the highest profile politician
supporting extreme right-wing causes in El Paso—will be one of
the sponsors of a fundraiser for O’Rourke’s reelection
campaign. It will take place at 504 Russet Street.
O’Rourke, who likes to call himself “a Progressive,”
has become the political darling of the racist ruling class in El Paso.
According to the Border Observer, the other
conservative Anglo fat cats sponsoring the March 24th event include
Woody Hunt, Chris Balsiger, Rick Francis, and Tripper Goodman.
Many believe O’Rourke has become the “Great White
Hope” of the local ruling class. His campaign
billboards—which apparently have already been the targets of
graffitti even in the Westside—claim he has only one agenda.
It’s clear what the agenda of O’Rourke’s and his
obscenely wealthy supporters is—$$$$$$! Lots and lots of it, at
whatever social cost to the community and by whatever means necessary.
March 15, 2007
POEM OF THE DAY
Segundo Barrio Rezizte!
I drift through Oregon Street in the Segundo Barrio
And run into Mariano Azuela as he writes “Los de
He’s still writing for the oppressed, the same people he used to
Those who still live with a noose around their neck.
He writes as if the revolution were still going on today
Against rich developers and land-grabbers
Who see themselves as owners of the world,
Who don’t give a shit for history.
I cross the street and pass through many eras and enigmas
And on the other side
I see Teresita of Cabora
Aiding the cause with her metaphysical powers.
Everywhere I see “Segundo Barrio Rezizte” painted on the
And thousands of doves appear like flames.
“The Segundo Barrio is Not For Sale” is now tattooed on my
I stay in the Denver Hotel where the Cristeros stayed.
Their struggle is my own.
I converse with Magonistas. They too oppose this. They want to fight
The lucha is catching fire, like the trees in Armijo Park.
The parking meters are ablaze.
The Segundo Barrio resists. With its history, with its origins, with
It will not be torn apart.
They shall not tear out the heart of El Paso.
Don Tosti and his Pachucos
With their kick ass tramos, and their tandos and their lima,
Wnd their spit-shined calcos, bien machín ese, looking good!
And now they want to throw it all away
For a Wal-Mart and some tourist shops.
I turn the corner on Father Rahm
And find myself before the mural of la gente
With the holy image of Jesus crucified,
The priests who founded the church,
The street preacher cursing the night
As one would pitch a baseball into the darkness,
The Bowie High School matachín,
Praying before the Virgencita de Guadalupe,
The tiny luchador wearing his magic mask with pride,
Our general Pancho Villa eating some Chico’s Tacos
And all who have been part of this very real, magical history.
Extraordinary, like a Chekhov story or a poem by García Lorca.
I continue walking, never tiring, admiring and honoring the barrio.
Today I’ve decided to defend this barrio,
To the last breath of the last Chicano.
(Osvaldo is a lucha libre-poetry slam performance artist
and will be one of the featured poets at the Border Book Festival on
April 20, 2007 at Mesilla, New Mexico.)
March 9, 2007
PETITION: Don't Tear it Down!
THE DEMOLITION plan is still strong. If anything, the momentum against
it is on the rise as community groups continue to organize and spread
the word. In the last two days alone (March 7-8), 44 people have signed
our petition. Here are a few
of their messages:
My mother was born and grew up in the Segundo Barrio in the 1920's -
'40's and shared with me her stories of life there. The community is
still alive, still thriving! What the world needs is communities that
live and breathe, that remember their history and build towards their
futures. What the world DOES NOT need are more strip malls and huge
chain stores. Please don't touch the Segundo Barrio.
My father grew up in Segundo
Barrio. I would hate to see it go.
I was born and raised in El
Paso. You cannot oppress the people! This cannot occur.
Keep Segundo the way it is!
Clean it but don't tear it down!
I agree 100% with saving
"Segundo Barrio." That is where our roots came from. El Segundo Barrio
shows our history and our true culture. Why would we want to destroy
It's ridiculous how "disposable" the heritage and history of this city
is to the administration running it. We may not be the richest, or the
best, but we have our culture, and we have our unity as a PEOPLE of
culture. Don't let them take that away from us!
It’s so strange why now
after all these years they want to raze the Segundo Barrio. It has been
there for generation after generation. And now, all of us who have
grown in the Segundo Barrio will see it vanish. As it never
existed! Let’s save it and make it better for the upcoming
As a prior resident of Segundo
Barrio for 11 years, I agree with the petition stated. I believe that
the historical buildings should be restored, but not demolished. Such
buildings are appreciated by tourists and even El Paso residents
themselves. The historic parts of this town should be left standing so
that future generations learn from them.
I hope we get enough signatures.
I would hate to lose our history to Wal-Mart.
Stop the empire...at every turn!
March 7, 2007
QUOTE OF THE DAY
"FIRST THEY CAME for the Jews
and I did not speak out
because I was
not a Jew.
Then they came for the Communists
and I did not speak out
because I was
not a Communist.
came for the trade unionists
and I did not speak out
because I was
not a trade unionist.
came for me
and there was no one left
to speak out
-Pastor Martin Niemöller, Nazi concentration camp survivor
March 4, 2007
EMINENT DOMAIN ABUSE BY ANY OTHER NAME...
Deception and confusion—the name of the game at City
Eminent Domain Brat Pack will present a counter-counter ordinance"
BEFORE THE OPPONENTS of eminent
domain abuse in El Paso have a chance to present their ordinance in the
coming days at City Hall, the Mayor and the PDNG-Bordeplex special
interest coalition at City Hall have come up with pro-eminent domain
abuse ordinance of their own.
The anti-eminent domain abuse ordinance that will be
introduced by City rep Eddie Holguin
• Limits eminent domain
authority to traditional public use projects;
• Stops the taking of
• Outlaws using eminent
domain to force the transfer of private
• Protects homes and
established small businesses.
On the other hand, the pro eminent domain abuse counter-counter-ordinance
cooked up Mayor Cook (Juan el Cocinero) and by Los Chavos del Eminent
• Allows eminent domain for
economic development purposes;
• Permits condemnation of
private property regardless of of condition;
• Enables eminent domain
authority to benefit well-connected
• Places the interests of
"Big Box" chains and wealthy investors ahead
of residents, homeowners and established businesses
All we have to say to this is:
Eminent domain abuse by any other name (no matter how many
counter-counter- counter ordinances you concoct) is still eminent
February 28, 2007
Robert O'Rourke plays the "reverse racism" card
points out institutional racism must be biased himself!"
CITY REP O'ROURKE who recently has been campaigning furiously in the
wealthy sector of his district—hundreds of his campaign posters
are up in this part of town although the election is months
away—and has completely ignored the part of the Segundo Barrio
that is threatened with demolition—exactly zero
campaign posters in this neighborhood—responded
to Olvera's open letter (see previous update).
O'Rourke's response to the assertion that the Segundo Barrio community
has been the victim of institutional racism, displacement and neglect
by the City for decades is rather predictable. O'Rourke essentially
claims that if you point out the institutional racism in our city, you
must be a "reverse racist" yourself.
Here's O'Rourke's response to Joe Olvera:
"I am open to your suggestions on how to
improve things and how I might improve my efforts (you'll have to do
better than suggesting breakfast locations). Can you see beyond your
own biases and think about working with me and helping me to help South
El Paso or is my ethnicity getting in the way?"
February 27, 2007
From an "Open Letter to Robert O'Rourke":
been used and abused for decades..."
FIRST OF ALL, let me say that I used to admire your father very much.
We weren't exactly friends, but we respected each other—he as the
County Judge and me as a reporter/columnist for the El Paso Herald-Post. I've been
keeping a real close eye on the events that would decimate El Segundo
Barrio. Although I agree that change is badly needed in that part of
town, I don't agree with the way the plan was created before it made
its way to the peoples' conscience. We don't do things like that in El
Paso. We don't make plans that will interrupt peoples' lives before we
tell them what's going to happen. That was your and your group's
largest mistake. You're relatively young and you didn't grow up in
Chicano barrios as I did, and as many who oppose your plan did as well.
Again, I think it's okay to refurbish parts of El Segundo, but you guys
went about it the wrong way. Maybe you'll learn from this for future
reference. We Chicanos have been used and abused since time
everlasting, actually, since El Paso incorporated as a city circa 1881.
Chicanos have always lived in barrios, and we grow attached to them
because they are our hunting grounds, our security enclaves—where
we are allowed to live without interference from the ruling
WHAT I FIND disconcerting about your representing residents of El
Segundo is that you're not truly representing them. On the contrary,
you are merely representing those constituents of yours north of the
freeway. Why are all your meetings held at the Village Inn on Mesa? Why
don't you hold some meetings at El Jalisco Café, or some other
venue in El Segundo? Or have you? Tell me, don't you relate well to the
people there? Have you been frightened by the opposition to your plan?
What's up? When the streets were flooded in El Segundo and Chihuahuita
during our monsoon, where were you? I didn't see you there, among the
residents, helping them during their hour of need and turmoil. Somebody
said you were out of town. Well, couldn't you have returned immediately
to provide leadership? I'm somewhat bothered by what I believe is your
lack of concern for El Segundo residents. Holding your meetings at
Village Inn might seem safe and innocuous to you, but not to me. To me,
it's like you're hiding from the people, and that just won't do. Either
you represent everyone, or you represent no one...
JUST ONE THING in mind. Chicanos have been used and abused for decades,
your actions and the actions of the PDNG remind me of earlier periods
in El Paso's history, when Chicanos weren't consulted about anything
having to do with their lives. The actions were taken, without regard
to how those actions impacted on my people. Nobody cared whether we
agreed with those actions or not. Witness the location of "Dizzyland,"
that foul-smelling contraption located on Delta near the Coliseum.
That's a clear case of environmental racism. The odors emanating from
that site were horrendous. But, nobody asked our community if we wanted
it placed there. It just was placed there, without any repercussions.
That's just one example of the environmental racism that has been
perpetrated against us. So, you see, we've been there before. Why
should we trust you and the rest of your PDNG group? Have you earned
our trust? Have you accepted us as an intelligent community? Have you
tried to work with us on issues which can have negative impacts on our
community? I don't think so. To me, it's more of the same old same old,
do whatever you want to Chicanos - they're used to it. Well, Mr.
O'Rourke, those days are gone. If you want to be a representative, then
represent all the people. And, I do mean all the people. Orale.
email to the Paso Del Sur Group
I WONDER WHERE the PDNG has been all these years. They appear suddenly,
with what they think are majestic plans to improve the barrio, but
where were they when Jonathan Rogers and his cohorts were trying to
destroy El Segundo by turning it into a warehouse district? The late
Richie Telles used to say that land in El Segundo was worth more than
in any other part of town, including Coronado, and other parts West and
East. Richie should know, he was one of the worst slum lords in the
city. But, Richie had a rhyme and a reason for having those slums. He
used to tell me that if he fixed them up, he would have to charge
higher rents, which the people couldn't afford. Thus, his justification
for never completely refurbishing the buildings he owned. Well, I don't
know about that, but I guess one can justify anything. Similarly, the
PDNG has taken it on its own to create a new Segundo, but without
consulting with the people who have lived there for decades. While I
agree with some aspects of the plan, I don't agree with the way it was
presented to the people. They justify their actions by saying that we
need to ignore our past and our antepasados and climb on their
bandwagon to create a new, modern, money-making Segundo...
I stand behind the efforts to prevent El Segundo's destruction. Now, I
know I'm going to make enemies from the other side—those who
agree with the demolition. Oh, well, such is life.
(Joe Olvera, former El Paso
Times reporter and USA Today columnist, was raised in the Segundo
Barrio and was the first Chicano television reporter in El Paso. His
column was syndicated in 64 newspapers across the U.S.)
February 26, 2007
FROM OUR READERS:
"Are these people from La Luna?"
I FIND IT thoroughly
appalling and nauseatingly vicious that they want to demolish the
Second Ward in order to make downtown “improvements.” What
in the world are they thinking? Are these people from La Luna?
Can’t and don’t they see that history is
El Paso’s future?
Although I don’t reside in El Paso right now, I am very much a
part of it—as a 6th generation born and raised there. My maternal
grandmothher was the first and best historian for me in El Paso when I
was growing up. She used to take me on walks around Downtown, and show
me all of the buildings that are now under threat. I know the history
behind them as well. In fact, the one with the massive, beautifully
majestic Indian Head (located on Overland St. behind JCPenney's) used
to be an apartment/boarding house, where my own stepfather used to live
(1945-1947) prior to marrying my mother. I remember it
I already feel “raped” by what they intend to do and they
haven’t even done it yet! Please keep me informed about
your efforts to save the barrio.
— Teresa Hidalgo-Giron
THIS IS INCOMPREHENSIBLE,
to move people out of their homes under the guise of creating more jobs
and a better economy. The whole purpose of a good economy is to have
stable homes and families, in allowing families to be displaced under
the pretext of more economy to the city, we let ourselves be led by money instead of our families.
THE CURRENT LEVEL of resistance
to the Downtown Plan is steady. Is somebody gonna have to die before it
is realized that the people don't want it? If there is now a total
disregard for what the people are thinking and feeling then what more
can the people do to stop this?
photograph by Bruce Berman)
February 21, 2007
Those Displaced by Eminent Domain Pay a High Price
by the Baltimore Examiner
RESEARCH SHOWS THOSE displaced
by eminent domain pay a high price.
Historically, urban renewal schemes disproportionately uproot blacks
from their homes and businesses, triggering a host of other losses. A
new study by Dr. Mindy Thompson Fullilove, professor of clinical
psychiatry and public health at Columbia University, outlines them. The
Institute for Justice, a nonprofit that legally represents home and
business owners whose property has been seized through eminent domain,
published the report.
Under the Federal Housing Act, in force between 1949 and 1973, urban
renewal projects “displaced 1 million people, two-thirds of them
African American,” writes Fullilove. Given the disproportionate
number of blacks affected by eminent domain, Fullilove sees the policy
as part of chain of events starting with slavery that “have
threatened African Americans’ lives homes, and family.”
It’s hard not to agree.
Segregation policies in place during part of the time the Federal
Housing Act was in place made finding a new home more difficult. That
issue does not exist today, but the other losses are still very much in
effect. They include separation from family, friends and political
organizations, the need to pay more for a new home in a different
neighborhood, increased risk for depression and heart attack, and loss
of respect for government.
A better solution for renewing cities would be to make structural
reforms such as improving schools and lowering property taxes to make
the city attractive to the professionals it wants. Cities must not
perpetuate the legacy of displacement.
February 20, 2007
Texas Eminent Domain Reform Needs Your Help!
WENDESDAY, FEBRUARY 21
(tomorrow), the Texas House Land & Resource Management Committee
will be holding a public hearing on H.J.R. 11, a constitutional
amendment introduced by Representative Frank Corte that would limit the
use of eminent domain to traditional public uses. We encourage
you to contact the members of this committee and urge them to support
this vital legislation. Here is the proposed amendment:
JOINT RESOLUTION proposing a constitutional amendment to limit the
public taking of private property.
BE IT RESOLVED BY THE
LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF TEXAS:
SECTION 1. Section 17,
Article I, Texas Constitution, is amended to read as follows:
Sec. 17. (a) No person's
property shall be taken, damaged or destroyed for or applied to public
use without adequate and just compensation being made, unless by the
consent of such person, and only if the taking, damage, or destruction
is necessary for the possession, occupation, and enjoyment of the
property by the public at large or by the State or a political
subdivision of the State; and, when taken, except for the use of the
State, such compensation shall be first made, or secured by a deposit
of money; and no irrevocable or uncontrollable grant of special
privileges or immunities[,] shall be made; but all privileges and
franchises granted by the Legislature, or created under its authority,
shall be subject to the control thereof.
(b) The State or a
political subdivision of the State that takes, damages, or destroys
property must prove by clear and convincing evidence that the
contemplated use of the property is public and necessary at the time an
attempt is made to take, damage, or destroy the property. Whether
the contemplated use is in fact public and necessary shall be a
SECTION 2. This proposed
constitutional amendment shall be submitted to the voters at an
election to be held November 6, 2007. The ballot shall be printed
to permit voting for or against the proposition: "The
constitutional amendment to limit the power of the state and political
subdivisions to take property in certain circumstances where the use is
public and necessary, which shall be a judicial question."
If you are near Austin, we also
encourage you to attend and show your support for this reform:
Here are the phone numbers for the members of the committee:
Rep. Anna Mowery (Chair): (512) 463-0608
Rep. Robert "Robby" Cook: (512) 463-0682
Please let us know if you have any questions.
Castle Coalition Coordinator
February 20, 2007
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
"BEHIND EVERY GREAT fortune, there is a great crime."
February 19, 2007
SANDERS WILL USE SEGUNDO BARRIO PEOPLE AS SO MANY TRINKETS
Former employee of William Sanders speaks out
AFTER HAVING LIVED for several years in Santa Fe, I know that
rampant slash and burn revitalization does not always need to happen.
Re-use the buildings, modify, and always, always include the current
residents in the planning for a targeted area. To me, that is the way
It is scary what one man thinks he can do (by way of enticing
historical areas. The entire heart and soul of the Segundo Barrio and
Downtown area is in danger of becoming another mini-mall for the rich.
will use the people of the
Segundo as so many trinkets to give the place
ambiance and charm. The overriding feeling I have when I hear this
man's name is dread. The dread comes from my
previous employment of William Sanders's various
REITs. From late 1997 through 2001, I was a web designer and worked
for several of his companies including ProLogis, Archstone, Homestead,
SC-US Realty, CWS Communities, and of course, Security Capital.
When I was working for
Security Captial my Dad sent me an article about Sanders that he'd
clipped from the Wall Street Journal. That was back in the heyday of
the REIT market, yet the Wall Street Journal reporter was openly
sketpical of Sanders' plans. He pointed out the strange secrecy that
surrounded Sanders' Santa Fe office, in a building without any company
name on it or other identifying features. That's rather odd for a
company that (a) doesn't have large amounts of cash, gems or precious
metals on site; (b) doesn't have a big art collection; and (c) isn't
populated by Hollywood stars.
Remember the underlying
sub-plot of "Pretty Woman?" "So, you don't make anything and you don't
build anything? What do you do, Edward? What do you do?"
This plan of Sanders is not
new. As I said earlier, I worked
for his company, Security Capital (and its subsidiaries) for just
years. If you want to understand more about this project,
look to his blueprint—particularly, his former real estate
investment company, Urban Growth Property Trust. In 2002, another of
his companies owned 98.8% of Urban Growth—U.S. Realty. All are
defunct now. Urban Growth Property Trust
eventually was combined with Interpark,
which is only interested in developing parking facilities and reducing
The thing to remember about Sanders is that his companies are all
tied together—rental properties for multi-family complexes, rental
properties for retail, at times, hotels, manufactured housing
and of course, the almighty parking garage. In addition to the
“Binational City” Sanders is currently planning for Santa
Teresa, in other locations, particularly Arizona, communities are now
being developed as all-encompassing gateds with the residences behind
Overall, I think Sanders will try to get the ball rolling, get big city
and foreign investors in on the downtown plan, then cash out. He will
not see the project to fruition. He will move on to something else and,
because of his track record, I don't think that will work for El Paso.
February 17, 2007
FROM OUR READERS:
THIS PLAN KILLS THE HEART OF THE CITY!
NO CREO JUSTO que la
ciudad y sus representantes traten de sacarnos de nuestras casas en
donde hemos vivido por muchos años.
SUCH A SHAME to dismiss the culture of the Segundo Barrio for
moderization. The Segundo Barrio has a life and feel of it's own that
cannot be replicated. Though I have never lived in the Segundo Barrio,
my family history is there. A modernized downtown will not tempt me to
visit the area when I visit El Paso, hence, you will not get my
dollars. The rich heritage of the Second Ward needs to remain for those
currently there and for those of us who's family histories remain there.
THE PLAN KILLS the heart of the city, the heart of the immigrant, and
what I thought the heart of the mission for this country was; to
embrace and not to erase our greatest differences. Let's work to enrich
our city population with education on the roots of this city and why
south El Paso should be celebrated and not eradicated.
WE NEED TO STOP the large Businesses and the City from extorting the
people of the 2nd Ward for their own financial gain.
I am thinking of purchasing a small house in El Paso in the downtown
area. This revitalization plan gives me pause.
(If any of our readers wish to send
letters to the Paso Del Sur website, please email them to
February 16, 2007
The 21st Century Conquistadors Award Goes To.....
The politics of hypocricy
and the ridiculous at El Paso City Hall
AT TUESDAY’S CITY COUNCIL meeting our “progressive”
city leaders decided that they would change the name of the million
dollar Oñate statue from the generic "The Equestrian" back to
"Don Juan de Oñate" again. [See El Paso Times article] The statue of the Spanish conquistador was first renamed by
City Hall a couple of years ago as “The Equestrian” to make
it seem less controversial. It is the largest equestrian statue
in the world dedicated to the bloody conquest of North and South
America. The City Council
is excellent at renaming things to try to pacify as many people as
possible. Once the controversy subsides they admit that the orginal
name was the correct one. (Kind of like when
they decided that that heart of the
Barrio is no longer the Segundo Barrio but rather the "Golden
Horseshoe" or that displacement is not "displacement" but just "moving
the poor out of the way a little.")
In July 2006, El Paso City
Manager Joyce Wilson hid the item deep in the agenda to place the
monument of the brutal conquistador at the El Paso airport. It was put
on the list of voting items with other routine airport matters. With
little discussion, the City voted to dish out an additional $50,000 for
a concrete base to set up Oñate at the international airport.
There, all visitors will be able to see El Paso’s proud history
Because nobody knew about the vote that time around, there was no
opposition. A year before hundreds of people—including a large
contingent of residents of Acoma Pueblo—showed up at City Hall to
protest this monument to genocide.
The City Hall vote was a brilliant act of subterfuge. Of course, no one
is saying that is was as brilliant as Juan Oñate’s
surreptitious invasion of the Acoma Pueblo where he massacred hundreds
of villagers and chopped of the right foot of all the male survivors.
You can’t even compare it to another secretive and brilliant
hostile takeover of our city that is being perpetrated by the
neo-conquistadores and their supporters on City Hall who call
themselves the Paso Del Norte Group.
But to make matters even
more surreal, the same group of 21st century Conquistadores on the City
Council are now saying—8 months after they surreptitiously
erected Oñate at the airport—that they don't like this
piece of artwork after all. (Oh, how progressive of them!) City rep
Susie Byrd even called for the foot of
Oñate's horse to be chopped off while Robert O'Rourke just
coughed and nodded his assent. Poor horse, what did he do? (By the way,
El Paso Times, it wasn't 12 people that were killed at Acoma Pueblo.
More than 500 were massacred. But then again, the erasure of memory is
the whole raison d'etre for your rag ain't it?)
that in the near future our progressive leaders will erect a statue of
“El Gran Conquistador William Sanders The Big Honcho of the
Southwest” right next to Oñate. Juan will sit on an
anatomically-correct horse while "William El Grande" will sit on the
largest bulldozer in the world. Maybe Robert “Oñate”
O’Rourke will be sitting on a smaller bulldozer right next to his
daddy-in-law. Susie "It's-only-15 percent" Byrd can sit on her little
bulldozer as well. [Read Byrd's anti-Oñate
to mention the other Oñatitos who want to forcibly relocate the
downtrodden indios for the sake of a superior civilization. Sal Balcorta will sit on a little burro next to them. They will all ride behind "El Gran Billy". Oh yeah, and
let's not forget Veronica "La Malinche" Escobar riding on her own
little mule. After all, every group of Conquistadores needs a
Will Joyce Wilson have to hide “The Conquistadores on a
Bulldozer” monument deep in the City Hall agenda as well?
A ver que pasa.
(We first printed a version of this in a
pasodelsur.com update in July, but since the issue keeps reappearing in
an odd assortment of different disguises, here it is again in case you
missed it the first time.)
February 15, 2007
KEEP UP THE FIGHT!
MY MOTHER, ESPERANZA, grew
up in Segundo Barrio, and I grew up hearing her wonderful
stories. She's turning 86 years old on Monday and I
wish I could say that she's still telling me her stories but
Alzheimer's disease has taken all of her memories from her. I
know she would care deeply about what her people
are going through right now and she would be proud and grateful to you
for the work you are doing to save the barrio.
SEGUNDO BARRIO REZIZTE!!
—Mala Hija de Esperanza,
February 14, 2007
WHAT THE SANDERS PLAN IS REALLY ABOUT
CITY REP STEVE ORTEGA has stated
publicly in support of Bill Sanders' plan that one of the Payless Shoe
Stores in downtown El Paso ranks number one in
the country, among all Payless Shoe Stores, in gross sales. The
McDonalds on Paisano ranks number five in the world, among all
McDonalds franchises, in gross sales.
I would say that these facts bely the claims that downtown El Paso is
economically dead. In fact, downtown El Paso is a volcano of economic
activity driven by the reliable foot traffic of those thousands of
individuals with a few dollars in their pockets who cross the downtown
international bridges on a daily basis.
The area defined by El Paso Street from the El Paso Del Norte bridge up
to Overland Street then East to Stanton Street, then South to the Stanton bridge, has been
rechristened as the Golden Horseshoe by plan
Why do they call this area "Golden"? Because it is a goldmine of
economic activity, not
through stores such as Niemen Marcus, Starbucks,
The Gap, and the other such stores that the
Yuppies who consider themselves part of the "Creative Class" pine for,
but through the stores selling
the merchandise that people with a few dollars to spend can afford.
Steve Ortega stated that the intent of the "downtown revitalization"
plan adopted by the City (Bill Sanders plan) is to fill in the "Golden
Horseshoe." In other words, to convert South Oregon Street and South
Mesa Street from a primarily residential area to a retail area. (Would
the citizens of Kern Place tolerate a Plan to extend the Cinncinnati
Street club and restaurant area east a few blocks?)
Will Bill Sanders and his investors make money from leasing out retail
spaces in the Golden Horseshoe area targetted for takeover by Bill
Sanders' Real Estate Investment Trust through the threat of eminent
domain? Absolutely, and it does not matter to Bill Sanders and his
investors if the customer base for retail spaces controlled by their
Real Estate Investment Trust are the same people with
a few dollars to spend who have made this area so economically vibrant.
It is extremely doubtful that the Yuppies from the Creative
Class will ever see their playground stores, restaurants, and clubs in
downtown El Paso under Bill Sanders' plan.
It may be that in other cities' downtowns that were truly economically
dead, that were full of empty storefronts, that were populated only by
vagrants, land development worked to creat a vibrant economic area. BUT
THIS IS NOT THE CASE IN EL PASO.
Study the City's plan. There is nothing in this Plan to ensure that the
area just south of San Jacinto Plaza, between Mills and Overland
Streets, which is the core of Downtown, is converted to a retail area
which would cause the Yuppies of the "Creative Class" to swoon and rush
to with their credit and debit cards. This area is not subject to
takeover by Bill Sanders' Real Estate Investment Trust. Why? Could it
be that converting downtown El Paso into a Yuppie Paradise is not what
Bill Sanders' Plan is really about?"
(These comments were submitted to
Paso Del Sur by Historiano.)
February 11, 2007
CITY REP. SUSIE BYRD CALLS CATHOLIC CHURCH "FEARMONGERS"
TODAY’S EL PASO TIMES article said very little
about one of the best pachangas the barrio has seen in a long time.
Yesterday’s Sacred Heart Mural dedication and street festival
brought more than 600 people throughout the day to watch a classic 40s
Car Show, lucha libre, poetry, matachines, Chicano ska and Latin Jazz
bands, art exhibits, and documentaries—all in a spirit of
celebration of Segundo Barrio culture and resistance against the
planned destruction of the community. [Click here to watch video of
Instead of covering the historic event, the local rag dedicated about
half of its coverage to uncritically parroting Susie Byrd’s
claims that there will be no displacement of Segundo Barrio residents
and small business owners. The El Paso Times did not bother to ask the
the pro-plan politician how there could be no displacement if the Paso
Del Norte Group plan that has been approved by the city shows that
there will be a big-box retail store and a strip mall-Marketplace
in a 30-acre area south of Paisano Street where hundreds of South El Paso
residents and business owners currently live and own property.
Since supposedly no one will be displaced, Ms. Byrd blamed the turnout
at the church-sponsored cultural festival on “fearmongers.”
Here is a short list of some of the “fearmongers” belonging
to the Catholic church whom Ms. Byrd is referring to who have publicly spoken out against the
projected displacement envisioned as part of the Paso Del Norte Group
plan. The list includes:
Rev. Rafael Garcia (pastor, Sacred Heart Church)
Rev. Ronald Gonzalez (pastor, Sacred Heart Church)
Rev. John Stowe (Vicar, Catholic Diocese of El Paso)
Rev. Armando Ochoa (Bishop, Catholic Diocese of El Paso)
Rev. Vincent Peterson (pastor, San Antonio de Padua)
In addition to this group of Catholic church leaders, hundreds of other
concerend citizens throughout El Paso have also publicly spoken out
against the plan that envisions forced relocation of thousands of
people who live within the 118-acre redevelopment-demolition zone.
Yet the pro-eminent domain majority that Ms. Byrd belongs to have
decided to spread the rumor that residents will not be displaced. They
probably figure no one is paying close attention to the facts.
They’re hoping no one has bothered to look at the the map
approved as part of the PDNG
redevelopment plan that shows that there will be
a strip mall-retail market and a big-box retail store (click on image)
in about a nine block area in South El Paso. How can you build a Wal-Mart where someone’s home is presently
located without displacing them or forcibly relocating those that
don’t want to want to move? If forcible relocation isn’t
envisioned, why did the city pass out information on the
“Relocation Act” as well as an "Eminent Domain Fact Sheet"
to South El Paso residents when plan was first made public?
Maybe (we’re just guessing here) what Ms. Byrd—who is so
good at playing word games—means is that the people won’t
be “displaced from the area”.... just “moved out of
the way a little.” If the Segundo Barrio residents are only
forced to move a mile or two...er..um.. that’s not forcible
relocation...um... like say...er.... the Cherokees were relocated or
anything, right? Is that clear?
Who’s telling the truth? Who's trying to pull a fast one here?
The church or the politicians?
February 6, 2007
BE NICE TO YOUR LOCAL FAT CATS!
Commissioner Veronica Escobar warns county
government not to alienate the Paso Del Norte Group
THE COMMISSIONERS COURT passed a
resolution yesterday to
support state legislation and a constitutional amendment that would
prohibit the use of eminent domain to enrich private developers by
using the existing loophole of “blight eradication.”
The term “blight eradication” is another way to say it is
okay to use eminent domain to strip your land and hand it over to some
politician’s obscenely wealthy father-in-law as long as your
neighborhood is in a poor or middle-class neighborhood and not in an
The resolution passed with a vote of three to two. The loudest voice against this
resolution to ban eminent domain abuse came from Commissioner Veronica
Escobar. "Instead of looking for areas of division we need to look for
areas of unity," Escobar said. "Now we need to repair some damage with
people who do support the Downtown plan."
All we can say to that is : “Ha!”
How is it that Ms. Escobar—who up to now has multi-tasked as the
behind-the-scenes "I-must-go-negative" campaigner, the female Karl
Rove, and the cultural translator for her good
friends on City Hall, otherwise known as the
“Eminent Domain Brat Pack”—is suddenly very concerned about not creating division in our city?
What is she
talking about? “Division” is the Paso Del Norte
Group’s middle name.
Since the PDNG plan
first went public in April 2006, Escobar has engaged in vindictive,
personal attacks and slander campaigns against anyone who has voiced
opposition to the plan. She has even managed to alienate several prominent figures in the city who
have also spoken publicly against it who once
figured as her political allies. Several of these individuals have told us that she continuously badgers them with emails and official letters asking them to recant their statements.
Ms. Escobar is extremely concerned about “repairing the
damage” with the multi-billionaires who have gotten their
feelings hurt because many El Pasoans don’t think it is right to
expropriate properties from local mom-and-pop stores and barrio
residents by force to hand them over to a Wal-Mart.
Ay, pobrecitos! We wouldn’t want to create any divisions among
the “Reverse Robin Hoods” would we?
January 31, 2007
FIGHT GENTRIFICATION RAZA!
Greetings from Boyle Heights, East Los Angeles
La lucha sigue—en East Los
Boyle Heights y En Segundo Barrio. La batalla
esta "EN ESTE LADO," en nuestras communidades, en nuestros
establecimientos commerciales, por nuestras viviendas, por nuestros barrios. We on the eastside of Los would like to strech our unity bridge to El Paso
so we can join together on the battle for our barrios!
—Save Boyle Heights, East Los Angeles
January 29, 2007
PASO DEL NORTE CONQUISTA CONTINUES
THE FAT CATS of the Paso Del Norte Group continue with
their modern-day conquest of the Segundo Barrio through backroom deals.
They're currently passing around the hat among their good buddies to
raise loads of cash for their international redevelopment and
displacement schemes. They’ve formed a “foreign REIT”
—that is one that is incorporated in the State of
Maryland rather than Texas—in order to get away with
as little public oversight as possible. Originally the Paso Del Norte Group required its
members to dish out $1,800 a year membership fees just to be part of their gang. Now, if you
want to join their downtown-Segundo Barrio REIT you must make at least
$200,000 and/or have a net worth of $1,000,000.000. [See the Borderplex Community Trust
The El Paso Inc., whose owner is a card-carrying member of the PDNG,
hints at the behind-the-scenes dealings of the 21st century
conquistadors. Read more››
January 27, 2007
SAME THING HAPPENED IN SAN ANTONIO
THE SAME THING
that is happening to the Segundo Barrio and Downtown El Paso has
happened to our downtown area. They have homogenized Mexican/Chicano
culture to make it palatable for the tourists. Unfortunately the
cultural brokers of San Anto would like to see the same thing happen in
During Fiesta the powers that be package our cultura and attempt to
sell it back to us at a 500% mark up. We're so hungry to be included in
anything that we buy it right up.
—Deborah Vasquez, San Antonio resident
January 25, 2007
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
IS HE who dares courageously to defend what he loves."
January 22, 2007
PRIVATIZATION, PRIVATIZATION, PRIVATIZATION!
THE SAME PEOPLE who are behind
the Paso Del Norte Group plan are also the major cheerleaders for
setting up privately-owned toll roads in our city and throughout the
state. Believe it or not, William Sanders’ group is even pushing
for what can only be called the privatization of a proposed
international border crossing at the Sunland Park-Lomas de Poleo area.
In exchange for the state of New Mexico giving his people a toll road
leading up to the crossing, they promise to pay all the infrastructure
costs for the international checkpoint. (More on that in future
articles.) It seems major developers and corporations, with the full
acquiescence of our bought-and-paid-for political ruling class, have
declared war on our public spaces—our barrios, our roads, our
international bridges. Our public roads and spaces will get neglected
so that the superrich who own the private roads can get richer at our
expense. (Of course, eminent domain will also be used to transfer the
land to these private mega-corporations who will own the toll roads.)
Read the article entitled “Toll Road Fever No Bargain for
Consumers” to get a clearer idea of what’s up
with these privatized toll road schemes.
January 18, 2007
Imagine if City Hall "Redeveloped" Rim Road
THE SEGUNDO BARRIO has a lot of
history and memories. You can tell the people who are not native to El
Paso when they need to ask "What Barrio?" when reference to the barrio
is made. I was not raised there. I was born in El Paso but raised in
the Clardy Fox area. However, my primos were raised there en los
presidios. Many people are not aware that Fort Bliss extended to
that area and that the presidios were military barracks. There is much
history in El Segundo. It is the soul of El Paso.
would happen if the crazy council people decided to do their redevelopment along Scenic Drive? (Actually a shopping
village would work well there.) Hijole, no!
Que...desorden! The resident's cry would be heard
all across El Paso, Juarez and Las Cruces! They would probably employ the word "soul."
They would talk about all the history and about
their family lineage there. It's the same thing for the barrio. That
old adage, "walk in my shoes," would ring true.
There is so much talent in the Barrio. Artists, singers, actors,
dancers, writers, artisans, you name it. Why not give them autonomy.
Beautify it by allowing the residents to express their creativity. Can
the mighty buck pass to their hands too? The situation calls for a
paradigm; a new beginning.
I know this is a "long shot" but since we are disseminating
information, why not pass on the information that as Mexicans we are
indigenous and can exercise our right as such. Can we imagine what it
would be like? As it is, El Pasoans, go to the Barrio for Bowie Bakery,
Uhhhhmmm bread. We go the Armijo and to special events at the Boys
Club; we go to reminisce and get away from all the boisterous illusions
of the city. There could be Dance at the Park (Danzon Contest on
Saturday Nights out at the Armijo Park). I'm an Aztec Dancer and we
have danced numerous times at the Armijo Park and The Boys Club.
The Barrio clinic? La Fe Clinic is a good thing but the
administrator and his friends have got to shape up. I think ship out!
De veras, talk about self-serving; they've forgotten the vision and
mission, which is la gente. Get some decent people up there and a good
board of directors to keep a close eye on them; no nepotism. A good
many projects have not been realized because the CEO and his gangita
(sorry but I don't beat around the bush) brush them off. Hijole, no. As
the United Farm Workers' slogan goes-"Si Se Puede." We need to take a
new, fresh breath of air, oxygen into our system—the
Barrio—and exhale that hot, thick air that has been used up and
no longer serves any purpose, except making us feel a bit nauseous.
I could go on and on, but I will stop now and ask you to help us with
ideas as to how we may come together and carry out a good
effort to maintain our spiritual place, El Segundo Barrio.
January 17, 2007
El Paso City Council Pats Itself on the Back for Saving an
COUNCIL meeting, city reps voted 6-1 to save a 23-acre arroyo in
Thunder Canyon, in an affluent West Side neighborhood of El Paso made
up of “high-end homes.” West Side city Rep. Ann Lilly was
ecstatic. “Today is a big proud day for me,” she said.
“The people of El Paso are saving an arroyo.”
We too applaud our City
reps for their noble, nature-loving sentiments, but how about giving a
damn about people? While our city “leaders” save 23
uninhabited acres in the rich part of town, they’ve voted to
carry out large scale demolitions in 130 acres in South-Central El Paso and flush away people’s
lives and livelihoods in the process. Thousands will be affected. Just in the 30 acres of the Segundo Barrio alone, more than 1,800
residents will be forcibly displaced.
While the City and the
local newspapers praise the beauty of the arroyo, they show complete disrespect to working-class
residents of South El Paso and denigrate its rich historical and
cultural legacy as nothing but trash. The City-funded Glass Beach marketing study calls our
people lazy, dirty and uneducated. El Paso Times editorialist Joe
Muench asked why we should save a building just because Pancho
Villa’s horse took a dump there, while William Sanders, the
driving force behind the PDNG demolition plan, recently called the
entire Southside neighborhood “nothing but a pile of shit.”
Beyond this lack of
respect, there’s a great culltural and economic divide in our
city. City Hall almost always favors one side over the other, saving
the arroyos and other pet projects of the rich, while while getting rid
not only of the landmarks of the poor, but the poor themselves.
Will El Paso’s monied
ruling class ever get its priorities right? Don’t bet your home
January 13, 2007
Dr. Alicia Gaspar de Alba:
AS A NATIVE of
El Paso and a writer and scholar of the border, I beseech the powers
that be to save El Segundo Barrio. It is crucial to our history as well
as to the continuity of our community. Instead of threatening to
demolish an important piece of El Paso's history, funds should be used
not only to improve the living conditions and increase the safety for its
residents, but also to establish a
city-funded community center with arts programming that would create a
space in which to remember and preserve the history of El Segundo.
Artistic techniques for remembering and
preserving through the visual and literary arts
could be taught to residents by any of a number of native sons and
daughters who have "made it" as artists in the world (myself
included), and who could offer workshops and platicas/dialogues to begin the process of healing from historical amnesia. Don't destory
this vital community in El Paso. Artists, writers, scholars, and
builders for our future reside there.
Don't Destroy This Vital
Que viva El Segundo Barrio!
Dr. Alicia Gaspar de Alba
Professor of Chicana/o Studies and English, UCLA
January 12, 2007
El Paso Media Silent on Anti-Eminent Domain Movement
WHILE THE MOVEMENT against
eminent domain abuse is catching fire throughout the country, the El
Paso City Council majority—also known as "Los Chavos del Eminent
Domain" or "The Eminent Domain Brat Pack"—have recently gone
berserk using the threat of land seizures every chance they get. They
probably see themselves as courageous crusaders for forced
expropriations in the name of, what some are calling, a "reverse Robin
Our local company rags, like
the El Paso Times and the El Paso Inc.—run by publishers or
owners who belong to the secretive PDNG—have kept absolutely
silent about the grass roots movement against eminent domain abuse.
Thank God for the internet. Check out today's editorial in the Ruidoso
News entitled "Eminent Domain Should Not Be Used for Gain:"
"Since last year's U.S. Supreme Court's
infamous Kelo v. City of New London decision, citizens across the
nation have declared, in no uncertain terms, their support for private
property rights and opposition to the use of eminent domain for private
"Alarmingly, we discovered some of New
Mexico's eminent domain laws are so broadly written that currently
every property in the state is at risk for a Kelo-like taking.
"Local governments are
free to use New Mexico's incredibly broad condemnation authority to
take virtually any property in the state and hand it over to private
"While most people
recognize the need for eminent domain to accomplish traditional public
uses, such as schools, roads, utilities and so on, based on the public
comments our Task Force received, the overwhelming majority (99
percent) of our citizens made their position undeniably clear:
"New Mexico should
respect the rights of individuals to keep what they have worked so hard
to own, and should protect its citizens from eminent domain abuse.
"New Mexicans are not
alone in this situation. This fall, voters passed every one of the 10
proposed ballot measures solely reforming state eminent domain laws.
"All told, 34 states have seen fit to
better protect their citizens from the use of eminent domain for
January 10, 2007
Once It's Gone, We Can't Get It Back
WHEN I HEARD
that the corridor including Sacred Heart Church would be razed for the
new development, I knew immediately that I would oppose this plan.
Furthermore, I realized that the people behind it do not really care
about people. Sacred Heart Church is at the heart of the religious and
social community of Segundo Barrio. Probably those who had drawn up the
plans had never been to Sacred Heart Church, had never sat quietly
inside, had never observed the people coming and going in the streets.
Then, Sacred Heart was grudgingly taken off the demolition list.
That is not enough. In other cities, revitalization took place in abandoned warehouse areas, i.e.
Ghirardelli Square, warehouse district in San
Diego, and warehouse district in Minneapolis.
It was a different matter for areas with people in them. Other cities
carefully garnered their old buildings and
refurbished them, besides adding new buildings that matched the
character of the old in between. They saved their neighborhood.
My husband and I have traveled extensively and have actually visited
old towns across the country. These are San Diego—but in its Old
Town district; Albuquerque; Charlestown, NC; Savannah, GA; Boulder, CO;
New Orleans' French Quarter, New Orleans' Garden District; Detroit's
Greek Town, Lexington, KY, etc.
El Paso's Old Town is a living community, full of human beings who have
built their lives and their relationships in their district. It is not
an empty warehouse district.
We cannot in all fairness be so insensitive as to bulldoze everything,
including people's lives, setting up "modern" buildings. How about
carefully preserving and restoring the exteriors and remodeling the
interiors of the brick buildings? Tourists don't want to see another
shopping mall, even if it is decorated with attractive planters and
street lights. Tourists want to see how people in another part of their
country lived and live. It might take longer to do it that way, it may
not be finished in "our lifetime," but it is worth doing carefully and
I once heard it said that Mayor Cook was interested in moving the rail
yard and putting rail lines underground. Wouldn't that be the perfect
place, in contact with downtown, for a modern shopping area? No
one would be negatively impacted. An eyesore would be removed and
downtown expanded. The centerpiece would be the charming train station,
just east of the El Paso Times Buiilding. It would be a win-win
situation. Then the remodeling of the Segundo Barrio could take place
at the proper pace and with an eye to preservation, not demolition.
Once it's gone, we can't get it back again. As the old rock song goes,
"Don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you're got 'til
it's gone. Pave paradise and put up a parking lot."
(Photograph by Emmy Perez)
January 7, 2007
THOUGHT OF THE DAY:
LANGUAGE OF REVITALIZATION, recycling, upgrading and renaissance
suggests that affected neighborhoods were somehow devitalized or
culturally moribund prior to gentrification. However, it is often true
that very vital working-class communities are culturally devitalized
through gentrification as the new middle class scorns the streets in
favor of the dining room and bedroom. The idea of “urban
pioneers” is as insulting applied to contemporary cities as the
original idea of ‘pioneers’ in the US West. Now, as then,
it implies that no one lives in the area being pioneered—no one
worthy of notice at least.”
Revitalization or "Cultural Devitalization"?
Smith, The New Urban Frontier
January 5, 2007
No more Public Spaces, Only Yuppie Malls
WISH FOR mom-and-pop stores in mixed neighborhoods that no longer fit
well in the electronic, transnational world we live in today... At the
same time, themed environments grow more tangible. Clearly, between now
and 2019, almost no public spaces will be built, or even renovated,
except as privatized malls. We watch the future emerging like an
air-conditioned unit designed to obscure the poverty and confusion that
lie only a few blocks away."
—Norman Klein, author of The History of Forgetting: Los Angeles
and the Erasure of Memory
January 1, 2007
Another Year to Fight for Justice
HAPPY NEW YEAR to everyone. May our
New Year's resolution be to fight against the forces of destruction
that threaten our binational community. May we do it with creativity
and persistence. Let's fight for a new vision of what our city and our
neighborhoods can be like; a vision that is not based on displacement,
arrogance, usurpation and division. Let's demonstrate that the Segundo
Barrio community too has a vision for how to better itself through art, culture and
community-inspired revitalization projects that include
everyone—residents, artists, small business owners and all who
want to show solidarity in a spirit of respect. The year 2007 is the
year that our community has to present a "counter-narrative" of itself.
Not one that is based on the Glass Beach study or the
racially offensive $100,000 Paso Del Norte ad campaign that presented
our community as nothing but trash. Our vision will be based on
bringing out the creativity of the community, showing respect for the
voice of the powerless, and not squashing and trivializing it as the
City continues to do. Creativity might just be
the best weapon against destruction and hatred.
Talking about hatred, check out the blog of one of the Paso
Del Norte plan proponents to get an inkling of what we mean. It's
called "Time to Shit n'Get BUMS!!!!"
Here are a few excerpts:
El Paso is starting to get off of it's ass and kick our lazy residents
in the nuts. Yesterday our wonderful City Council voted 5-3 to
redevolope (sic) downtown and pretty much get the hoodrats out of our
beaten up downtown...Of course the status quo losers that live in
segundo are up in fucking arms because their hood is going to go from
old and busted to new hotness, but hey man... why the fuck do you want
to stay poor, gang related, criminal bastards when you can have so much
more in life? I generalize when i say, but, these people that
live in segundo NEVER leave their neighborhood... they NEVER strive to
be something better or do anything positive with their lives. Most of
the kats (sic) that live there partake in the riff-raff, tattoo
something on their goddamned necks, shave their heads, buy dickies and
40s with their drug money, and knock chicks up, and that's about it.
Most graduate high school, never enter college, and stick around the
place where they grew up. It's sad, but true. Maybe a
little kick in the nuts of motivation in the form of tearing their
shitholes down will get them to do something with their lives."
If this were just some
isolated rant by a rambling lunatic we wouldn't waste our time on it.
Unfortunately, it's just a less articulate version of the kind of
thinking we've been hearing from Paso Del Norte ad campaigns, talk show
hosts and even a couple of Yuppie politicians on City Hall who own
stock in Wal-Mart and like to call themselves liberals.
(Photograph by Bruce Berman.)
December 30, 2006
A Saint in St. Louis, Victim of Eminent Domain
THE CITY OF SAINT LOUIS has sued a convent, a saint, a nun and an
elderly woman in a wheelchair who has a 999-year lease seeking to use
eminent domain to condemn a property in a district scheduled for
City officials hope the area will be a hip entertainment district one
day, but first they have to forcibly expropriate land owned by tenants
and landowners who refuse to sell including a piece of church property
owned by the Convent of the Sacred Heart. The condemnation suit names
property owners from centuries ago and their heirs, including John
Mullanphy, said to be St. Louis' first millionaire, a nun and
"Philipini Duchesne." St. Rose Phillipine Duchesne founded a school for
the Society of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in a cabin in St. Charles in
1818. She died in 1852 and was canonized in 1988.
The lawyer who filed the expropriation suit said the defendants were
based on the property's title records. The newphew of the elderly woman
who has a 999-year lease on her property and might now be evicted said:
"My poor aunt, I think, is being taken advantage of. But she's one of
thousands being displaced from their property … on behalf of
someone who has more friends and more power. It's just not right."
December 28, 2006
Shapleigh to Los Chavos Del Eminent Domain: "Cool It for a While!"
STATE SENATOR ELIOT SHAPLEIGH advised the City Council on Tuesday to
stay out of the brewing fight in the Texas Legislature over the use of
eminent domain. "The issue of eminent domain is going to be very hot,
and I'm not sure you want to get into it," Shapleigh said.
He predicted that the Legislature will curb the ability of cities to
use eminent domain powers to to strip property from local owners if it
is going to sold to private developers—exactly what the Paso Del
Norte Plan proposes to do. Paradoxically, Shapleigh was one of only
five senators in the entire state to vote against Senate Bill 7 last
year, a bill that placed restrictions on eminent domain abuse.
Shapleigh has claimed that he voted against this bill because it didn't
go far enough. Critics claim this is a disingenious argument for he
could have easily proposed an amendment to address the bill's
shortcomings if this were the case. They say it is more likely that he
is trying to play a complicated political game which balances his own
political needs, i.e. his priority to establish the Medical School at
Texas Tech University with the needs of his political protegees on the
City and County Government—including O'Rourke, Byrd, Ortega and
Escobar ("Shaplites" as they like to call themselves)—who are all
major proponents of eminent domain expropriations for the sake of
private development. Many are calling this group of
pseudo-liberal young (and not-so-young) Turks the "Eminent Domain
Five"—or "Los Chavos del Eminent Domain."
December 23, 2006
Company Rag Gets it Wrong Again
specter of condemnation hangs over all property. Nothing is to prevent
the State from replacing any Motel 6 with a Ritz-Carlton, any home with
a shopping mall, or any farm with a factory.”
—Supreme Court Justice
Sandra Day O’Connor on the Kelo case
THE EL PASO TIMES has done it again. Yesterday the three geniuses who
write the company rag’s editorials praised City Hall for
postponing the use of eminent domain which, according to them, "is basically the government taking
private property for public use.”
All we can say is : “Como están péndejos!”
The whole argument, not only in El Paso, but in the entire United
States focuses exactly on the fact that the type of eminent domain that
is envisioned by the PDNG plan is eminent domain for private commercial
development, not “public use.” They’re not talking
about building schools or hospitals. Instead, they want to strip
property from the local mom-and-pop stores to hand it over to a
Wal-Mart or to REITS set up by William Sanders and his buddies. This is
not “public use.” It doesn't take a rocket scientist to
realize that exactly this has been the main point of contention up till
Is that why your newspaper hasn't published a single article about the
recent laws passed by more than 30 states throughout the U.S. curbing
eminent domain not for public but for private use? Because the three
town stooges—Joe Muensch, Charlie Edgren and Don
Flores—can't quite get it?
The abusive and unjust
use of eminent domain to throw thousands of locals out of their homes
and businesses to make way for a private development project that
excluded the community from the planning process shouldn't only be
postponed. It should be eliminated altogether.
December 21, 2006
Hostile Takeover in the Works
Works Behind the Scenes to Screw Over the Locals
THE PASO DEL NORTE GROUP brain trust sees tax credit apartments as the
way to replace Segundo Barrio. The El Paso CAD has been instructed to
"re-evaluate" downtown real estate within the TIRZ, with unspoken
orders to raise the values of these properties significantly.
This will, of course, raise the taxes of people who own property in the
TIRZ, which will be used by the TIRZ to begin "infrastructure" work.
Community Trust, the REIT organized by Sanders, has already raised
a substantial amount of money. The REIT's first acquisition is
going to be the Chase Bank Building (where Sanders and the PDNG have
their offices). Sanders intends to leverage this asset and money
from future investors to buy more properties downtown. Steve
Ortega attended at least one of these meetings for potential investors.
December 20, 2006
Sanders: A Stingy Kind of Guy
Estate Mogul has a History of Fighting Tax Increase on his REITS
CITY COUNCIL JUST enacted the Downtown-Segundo Barrio TIRZ which
assumes that the properties in the zone will increase in value in the
future. It assumes that the Real Estate Investment Trust run by
Bill Sanders will just accept the increasing property valuations over
the years. However, the truth is that Bill Sanders will fight any
property valuation increases every year. Bill Sanders' company,
Verde Realty, owns many other properties in El Paso County, primarily
near the Zaragosa bridge and Loop 375. Examine the history of
property valuation protests with the CAD on those properties in the
past. If Bill Sanders has a history of fighting property tax
increases, doesn't this serve as an indicator of what Bill Sanders will
do when he gets control of the downtown properties through his Paso Del
Norte Group Plan? How will the CAD be able to fight his army of
appraisers, accountants and lawyers every year?
Another point related to this TIRZ creation that the media refuses to
investigate arises from the City's dependence on the CAD rating for
individual properties within the TIRZ to characterize the area as
"blighted." Using this criteria, is the area designated the
Historic Incentive District also "blighted"? If so, why weren't
the Historic Incentive District properties included in the TIRZ and
subject to eminent domain and demolition? After all, most people
in El Paso want to see a change in the area immediately surrounding San
Jacinto Plaza, because that is the area most El Pasoans regard as
"downtown." Yet the City's "downtown revitalization" plan does
not provide for any definite change in that area, other than
"incentives" to property owners to improve their properties (which the
owners may or may not take.)
December 19, 2006
City Reps Yawn, Vote to Set Up TIRZ
will Allow City to Take Properties Whether Blighted or Not
CITY HALL PASSED the Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone by a vote of 5 to
2 today. The TIRZ sets the stage for eminent domain to be used on any
property—blighted or not—within the 188 acre zone.
As a result of today’s vote, for the next three decades, all
increase in property tax revenue within this zone will be diverted to
the Real Estate Investment Trusts and away from the other city, county
and school districts that normally receive them. Cities cannot use the
TIRZ monies to pay for operations, public safety or maintenance, which
are by far the largest share of municipal budgets. That part of the tax
increment that would have gone to the city's general fund will now be
lost, and will now be mostly for the benefit of the new super landlords
in the so-called redevelopment zone. After you bring in the TIRZ, the
city will have money to build a stadium, strip malls and big box
retail stores, but less for police, fire fighters and librarians. El
Paso taxpayers will have to make up the rest. For info on Tax Increment zones
nationally click here.
During public comment period, many of the city reps yawned, left their
seats to go to the bathroom, get a cup of coffee, stretch their legs,
etc. (O’Rourke recused himself from the vote and left the
chamber. It’s not clear why he feels he does have a conflict of
interest on the TIRZ zone, but not on the Paso Del Norte Plan as a
whole!?) Except for the very expressive Steve Ortega, who was grimacing
and shaking his head while citizens opposed to the plan spoke, the rest
of the politicos seemed rather bored by the whole affair. After all,
the vote would have been 5 to 2 no matter what anyone said. We could
have predicted this six months ago. The only surpise was that Alejandro
Lozano not only voted for the TIRZ zone but has now changed his tune on
eminent domain abuse as well. A few weeks ago he was the leading voice
on City Council against eminent domain abuse that transfers ownership
of mom and pop stores from local business owners to national
chain stores. It seemed that he was staunchly opposed to this kind of
abuse based on firmly held convictions. Suddenly today, he said this
kind of forced land seizures might be OK if the city pays
“replacement value.” Representative Presi Ortega praised
Lozano for his “transformational politics.” (Recently
Lozano has been meeting with William Sanders. We can only gue$$ what
induced the "political transformation" of Mr. Lozano and so many other
city council reps who now support the politics of exclusion,
displacement and expropriation.)
The City also voted to put off the use of eminent domain for another
year. One member of the public compared this reprieve “to telling
a condemned prisoner that his execution will take place at 3 a.m.
rather than midnight.”