Home' Greymouth Star : February 21st 2017 Contents Greymouth Star
4 - Tuesday, February 21, 2017
We appreciate the value of the Letters to the Editor
column as a public forum for West Coasters and
welcome your opinion and suggestions.
Letters may be submitted by post, fax or e-mail and
must include your name, address, phone number
and — except for e-mails — your signature. Noms
de plume are not accepted.
Please keep your letters honest, respectful and
within 300 words. Letter writers will generally not
be published more often than weekly. The Editor
reserves the right to edit or not publish letters,
especially those that are offensive or too long.
Post to PO Box 3, Greymouth, fax to 768 6205 or
e-mail to email@example.com
uLetters to the editor
1838 - American Samuel Morse gives the
first public demonstration of the telegram in
1885 - US President Chester A Arthur
dedicates the Washington Monument.
1916 - The Battle of Verdun in France begins
with a massive German artillery
bombardment. It is the longest and
bloodiest battle of World War One,
with more than one million killed.
1921 - Brigadier Reza Khan
overthrows Iranian government in
military coup and later becomes
1963 - Soviet Union warns the United States
that an American attack on Cuba would mean
1965 - Former Black Muslim leader Malcolm
X is shot and killed by assassins identified as
Black Muslims as he is about to address a rally
in New York City.
2015 - Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s first prime
minister, is admitted to hospital with severe
pneumonia at the age of 91.
uWest Coast yesteryear
uToday in history
John Henry Newman, English cardinal (1801-
1890); W H Auden, English poet (1907-1973);
Robert Mugabe, president of Zimbabwe (1924-
); Nina Simone, US singer (1933-2003);Ron
Clarke, Australian athlete and Gold
Coast mayor (1937-2015); Kelsey
Grammer, US actor (1955-); Mary
Chapin Carpenter, US country singer
(1958-); Christopher Atkins, US
actor (1961-); Michael McIntyre,
British comedian (1976-); Jennifer
Love Hewitt, US actress/singer
(1979-); Ellen Page, US actress (1987-); Ashley
Greene, US model and actress (1987-) .
“Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these
bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the
Word of the Lord.” — (Ezekiel 37:4).
“ You can’t separate peace from freedom
because no one can be at peace unless he has
his freedom.” — Malcolm X (1925-1965).
more lawless or is the
becoming over-zealous? This was the question
posed at last night ’s meeting of the Greymouth
Borough Council before any discussion was
quickly set aside by the Deputy Mayor Cr R L
Trainor, acting in the absence of the mayor.
Raising the subject was the chairman of
the reser ves committee Cr J F Forster. He
quoted two statistics: For the past two months
there were 330 offences reported. In the same
period last year there were 90. Though 155 of
these were against the new parking bylaws, Cr
Forster could not see why there could be that
big a discrepancy.
“Are they advising and warning people? Are
they suggesting to possible offenders that they
are running risks?” He contended that if there
was one charge for every four not prosecuted
this would represent a “colossal figure”.
He agreed with an aside from another
councillor that “over-zealous is perhaps the
A week without televison will turn
Greymouth into a botanical beauty spot. This
is the belief of Cr L M Schaef, who said at last
night’s borough council meeting that he had
noticed “all sorts of people” out cutting hedges
and mowing lawns on his way to the meeting.
They were out, he implied, because there is
no television through the Hokitika translator
being sent away for an overhaul. He said this
in support of his case for the NZBC in their
efforts to bring television directly to the Coast.
This was likely to happen in the next few
weeks, Cr Schaef said.
uFood for thought
Printed and published by the
Greymouth Evening Star Co Limited
3 Werita Street, PO Box 3, Greymouth
03 769 7900 (office)
769 7913 (editorial)
768 6205 (fax)
03 769 7913
03 755 8422
Christine Murray and
Joanna Zuckerman Bernstein
uards at one of Mexico’s
high security prisons
have to worry much
more about criminals
breaking in than busting
Despite a price tag of more than 2
billion pesos ($98 million), the Papantla
prison built for about 2000 men in the
eastern state of Veracruz does not have a
single inmate, and only a handful of staff
look after the site.
So it was not surprising that last year,
construction materials were stolen from
inside the prison perimeter.
“In reality, it ’s a white elephant,” Galdino
Diego Perez, the legal representative for
Papantla’s municipal government, said of
the enormous white and grey complex
outside of town.
The Papantla facility is the most
egregious example of wasted taxpayer
money under a 2008 prison-building plan
that aimed to solve chronic overcrowding
in Mexico’s prisons and house an influx
of new inmates as security forces cracked
down on drug cartels.
Under the plan, then-President Felipe
Calderon’s conser vative government gave
out some 176 billion pesos ($8.65 billion)
of no-bid contracts to open 15 facilities.
But years later, four of them stand only
partially built or are still not open.
Public policy experts say the idle
prisons reflect inadequate planning by
Calderon’s government, though the
facilities that were opened did help reduce
overcrowding in the penal system.
People involved in executing Calderon’s
plan blame current President Enrique Pea
Nieto’s administration for the delays.
Most agree, however, that Mexican
taxpayers lost out.
More than 2.5 billion pesos of public
money has been spent on two of the four
idle prisons — Papantla and another
in Monclova in the northern State of
Coahuila, according to public records.
The others are several years behind
schedule and contractors were promised
higher future payments under a new plan
of partial privatisation.
The long delays and wasted money
highlight broader problems plaguing
government infrastructure programmes in
Mexico: Congress provides weak oversight
of budgets and incoming presidents
typically seek to promote their own
“The appetite to build is always what
ends up motivating them,” said Manuel
Molano, an economist at the Mexican
Institute for Competitiveness, a think
tank in Mexico City. “It’s badly thought
out. It ’s a chain of stupidities, complicities
and errors from the legislative power to
Pea Nieto’s office declined to comment.
The prison agency, OADPRS, declined to
respond to questions for this story.
The enormous complex at Papantla
towers over an impoverished indigenous
community, where residents live without
drainage and cultivate corn under a hot
“How many billions of pesos invested
in this project ... with so much need, so
much poverty that there is,” Jose Simbron,
a local farmer said. “It ’s our money.
Everyone’s taxes are there.”
The prison was almost completed when
Pea Nieto took office in late 2012, said
Patricio Patio, who was prisons minister
Now the Federal prison authority, which
has had five different leaders since Pea
Nieto took office, has to decide whether
to finish off construction of the Papantla
prison and open it or scrap the project.
The decaying facility is an added
headache for an agency marred by
corruption and mismanagement,
underscored by the escape from prison of
drug lord Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman in
In the steel town of Monclova, a facility
with space for hundreds of inmates closed
just a few years after its inauguration. The
ill-fated prison, which cost more than
500 million pesos, will not reopen and is
instead slated to be turned into a training
centre for prison agency staff.
Of Calderon’s 15 facilities, seven were
regular construction contracts but the
other eight were part of Mexico’s first
experiment in privatising prisons.
Under the model, the contractors do not
manage security or health care. Instead
they had to find land, raise money, build
the prisons and then provide key services
like food, laundry and toiletries — but not
security or medical care — for 20 years.
Two of those are still not open.
Major security issues have plagued the
prison built by Mexican construction
firm Prodemex in Buenavista Tomatlan,
Michoacan, an area ravaged by drug gang
A former worker said an architect turned
up dead during construction, and local
news site La Silla Rota reported that a
drug cartel at one point took over the site.
Across the country, another prison faced
very different problems. In Ramos Arizpe,
Coahuila, financial and union troubles
weighed on contractor Grupo Tradeco.
A government-mandated location
change and decision to turn it into a
prison for men instead of for women
also held up work, Tradeco’s Chairman
Federico Martinez said in an interview.
Patio, the former minister, said Tradeco
was a “disaster” in Coahuila and it had
been an error to give the company the
contract as it could not meet construction
Mexico’s public administration ministry
last year barred a unit of Tradeco from
taking Federal government contracts,
The government has not said when
either of the two prisons will open.
Despite the delays, the companies will
be rewarded with larger payments than
Both Calderon and Pea Nieto’s
administrations raised the payments to
Prodemex for the Michoacan prison,
meaning the contractor will earn 20%
more than originally agreed upon,
according to records obtained in a
The records show Pea Nieto’s
government also increased payments for
the Ramos Arizpe prison by 18% just
before it was bought by United States
asset manager Black Rock Inc..
These moves added billions of pesos to
the total cost over 20 years, an additional
burden on a Federal budget depressed by
low oil prices.
The government declined to answer
detailed questions about the payment
hikes, Prodemex did not respond to
multiple requests for comment. Black
Rock declined to comment.
Overall, the prisons that opened have
added more than 20,000 spaces, creating
room for many Federal inmates who
would otherwise be housed in state
Mexico’s state and municipal prisons are
notoriously overpopulated, overrun with
violence and in some cases governed by
the prisoners themselves.
Although better, Federal prisons are
also understaffed, offer inadequate health
care and do not do enough to prevent
violence among inmates, the government ’s
National Human Rights Commission has
The partially-privatised prisons are no
“Despite the investment, it ’s no different
from a public prison,” Maissa Hubert at
Documenta, a group working for human
rights in the justice system said.
A CNDH report last fall documented
cases of physical abuse, lack of food and
some prisoners being locked in their cells
almost all day.
There were not enough guards at five of
At a women’s penitentiary owned by one
of billionaire Carlos Slim’s companies,
babies are housed with their mothers but
there was no paediatric care, the CNDH
This is the government ’s responsibility
and a spokesman for Slim’s company,
Ideal, says it complies with its contract.
On top of the human rights failings,
one major injustice persists throughout
Mexico’s penal system.
More than one third of all prisoners
have not been sentenced, according to
government statistics. Some spend years
locked up awaiting trial.
“The prisons system is the public policy
area most abandoned by the Mexican
state,” Elias Huerta, a criminal defence
lawyer who is head of Mexican lawyers’
association ANDD said.
“The solution is not more prisons,
the solution is a more efficient justice
system. ”— Reuters
Mexico’s empty prisons
A general view shows the Papantla federal prison, currently under construction, in Papantla, in Veracruz state, Mexico.
A new BBC drama that looks at what
would have happened if the Nazis had
won the Battle of Britain will send a chill
down viewers’ spines, its writers say.
SS-GB, which stars Sam Riley and
Kate Bosworth, will look at life in Nazi-
occupied London and will highlight how
close the British were to losing the war.
Writers Neal Purvis and Robert Wade,
the Bafta winners behind Bond films
Spectre, Skyfall and Casino Royale,
adapted Len Deighton’s 1978 alternate
history book of the same name.
Wade said: “It constantly makes
you think: ‘ What would I have done?’
This example of alternate history is
particularly interesting because it ’s so
close to what might have happened.”
“In SS-GB, the British are living
through the occupation. The game is still
not over. History is alive — and that ’s
what ’s particularly clever about this
“It’s very important that we talk
about this stuff. It’s become part of our
mythology that we stood alone. We did,
but it was a very close-run thing.”
Pur vis found one moment particularly
chilling on set.
“Seeing Lars Eidinger, who plays SS
officer Standartenfuhrer Oskar Huth,
coming into a church to arrest someone
— that was properly scary.
“ Watching a man in an SS outfit with
that distinctive long leather coat really
brings it home. Even though we know
they ’re actors and are just pretending, just
seeing a high-ranking SS officer inside a
British church is really chilling.”
Wade explained how the weather
contributed to the Allied victory.
“ We could have lost the Battle of
Britain if the weather had been different.
In fact, it was miraculous that we won
“Britain was alone at that period.
America wasn’t involved. They were
looking the other way. It was before Pearl
“ Winston Churchill’s great objective
was to bring the Americans into the war,
but for a long time he couldn’t do it.
“In 1941, Churchill wasn’t popular,
although he’s been borne out by history.
So SS-GB has a sophisticated plot
because as well as concentrating on a
murder, it’s also about how we got the
Americans to commit to the war.”
What if the Nazis had occupied Britain
Links Archive February 20th 2017 February 22nd 2017 Navigation Previous Page Next Page