Monthly Archives: May 2014

VOICES FROM THE GRAVE: A MURDERED SOCIOLOGIST WARNS ABOUT THE MAQUILA AND MODERNITY IN CIUDAD JUÁREZ (MANUEL ARROYO GALVÁN, EL NORTE DE CIUDAD JUÁREZ)

This article was published in El Norte de Ciudad Juárez on 30 September 2001. It has been translated without permission by the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP).

The translation of this article is dedicated to Dr. Alfredo Limas Hernández, professor at the UACJ.

VOICES FROM THE GRAVE: A MURDERED SOCIOLOGIST WARNS ABOUT THE MAQUILA AND MODERNITY IN CIUDAD JUÁREZ (MANUEL ARROYO GALVÁN, EL NORTE DE CIUDAD JUÁREZ)

The late Manuel Arroyo Galván (44) was assassinated in Ciudad Juárez on 29 May 2009. A sociology professor in the Faculty of Social Sciences (ICSA) at the Universidad Autónoma de Ciudad Juárez (UACJ), Arroyo Galván was also a well-known social activist. His friend and colleague Carlos Murillo G. wrote at the time of his murder that Arroyo Galván was, in the early 1990s, one of the first sociology graduates at the UACJ. He was also a former maquila worker who later obtained a doctorate and entered university teaching, developing a profound commitment to social activism. According to news reports, he was shot in his car when he stopped at a traffic light on Av. Gómez Morin and Manuel Clouthier in Ciudad Juárez at 1700 on a Friday afternoon. The murder of Arroyo Galván has never been explained, and continues in impunity.

The following article published in 2001 – never before translated into English – offers a glimpse of the depth of what Ciudad Juárez lost when Arroyo Galván was murdered. In this article, the reader will observe that Arroyo Galván had already identified what the destruction of Juárez’s social life and alienation meant. In 2001, long before the drug war violence that erupted during Felipe Calderón’s sexenio, Arroyo Galván made a spirited argument in favor of restructuring the city’s “social fabric.” Then, nobody seemed to listen. Today, with many thousands dead, and a city destroyed and him dead because of it, if we choose to ignore his words we do so at our own peril.

Between 2008 and 2010 three UACJ professors were murdered – José Alfonso Martínez Lujan, Gerardo González Guerrero, and Manuel Arroyo Galván – as well as three students at the University: Jaime Alejandro Irigoyen Frías, Juan Gerardo Pérez and Alfredo Portillo Santos. Their murders are included in the 11,451 people murdered in Juárez during the sexenio of Felipe Calderón Hinojosa. (The MxJTP gratefully acknowledges that the cumulative murder count for Calderón’s sexenio comes from records provided by Molly Molloy at New Mexico State University.) PT

The Maquiladora Model
By Manuel Arroyo Galván (El Norte de Ciudad Juárez)

People who reside in this region complain about the accelerated pace of the shifts suffered by the local maquiladora industry – changes that stem from events in the world system. We are quick to reflect on the significance of how the maquila has affected the trajectory of this region. But the speed of changes overturns the routines of people who have come to live in this city. Our capacity for learning and adjustment can be overwhelmed and this weakens our ability to build responses relevant for the new times that are coming.

Sometimes we think that the maquila has rooted itself in this region. And with that thought we wish to dispel the experiences of the “easy-to-flee businesses” of the 1970s. But the local effects of the North American recession and China’s full integration into the world market prove the contrary. The easy exit of the region’s maquila factories and the consequent reduction in employment don’t obey the evil wiles of the factories’ directors, but are a characteristic intrinsic to them: “The businesses belong to people who have invested in them: not to their workers, their suppliers, nor even to the region where they are located.”

During the period of the maquila’s presence in our city, the global dynamics that govern production processes have marked the rhythms of the region’s life. We have not only experienced a sustained migration from different parts of the country but subsequently the factories have developed a process of differentiation for employees: as winners or losers they are assessed and positioned in front of their futures and their own trajectories.

Throughout this time, the life of the city has been divided in two: industrial, business and financial areas that share space with high-income neighborhoods. At the same time there has been a growth of low-income neighborhoods on the city’s outskirts, with large segments without running water and a huge low-income population earning much less than even two minimum wages.

Everything indicates that working does not guarantee a better quality of life. Even though we have the world’s largest concentration of factories, ours is a city that not only appears in national statistics with a high level of well-being but also in international news reports about murders of women and drug trafficking.

The rhythm imposed by the maquila export system has unleashed processes of change and modernity that have overtaken the region’s abilities. These processes have demanded quick self-learning by employees, changed how family members relate to each other, and required forms of social integration which did not exist before the arrival of these changes in the city.

In a short-time period, there has been a deep restructuring in the local system that quickly makes practical experiences and the mental outlook of a great part of the population obsolete. This restructuring amplifies generational fissures. It makes it difficult to build communication between these different points and to shift towards new realities.

THE REAL CITY AGAINST THE VIRTUAL CITY

The urbanization process results from pressure exerted by the pattern of situating the industrial export factory, and land speculation by real estate moguls. This has shaped an urban landscape that privileges the use of the city by productive export processes and business dynamics that revolve around those processes. But it’s forgotten that a city must also be a place where people live.

A resident in this city must travel enormous distances to undertake life’s necessary activities. The absence of public spaces weakens social ties and undercuts feelings of social belonging and social identity. All of these issues produce empty feelings in the activities that are only developed for the “economy” but they don’t construct people, human beings. This situation needs to be contrasted with the experience of what it is like to be inside the maquila, what it is like to be a part of its managerial team. Inside is where one feels the sense of belonging to an elite, belonging to a vanguard that allows people to participate in the world’s most dynamic of production processes, of being in touch with the conditions that shape progress. This contrast of situations accentuates the physical and social polarization lived in the city, provoking an experience of the sense of living in two cities that sometimes correspond to each other but that more often than not and for most people, are actually opposed to each other and compete between themselves: the real city anchored in local, daily dynamics – that of the majority of the population; and the virtual city, globalized, frenetic and changeable, inserted into the world’s productive processes.

Added to these dynamics, the fundamental issue is that people make the local reality – they are not only the base for processes of production but are linked to the desires that brought them here in the first place: the great majority of the city’s residents left the communities we originally came from.

Those desires breathe life into our dreams and allow us to resist the ravages of the individual’s experiences of living here. But at the same time these desires also raise individualism to its extreme.

The result weakens our social support networks and loses sight of shared objectives, straying away from community projects that attempt to recover the social power of being from another place. These projects should be able to channel individual desires in defense of our collectivities, permanently reconstructing our immediate communities.

Along with the advantages that the industrial export maquilas bring to the city – such as the obvious sign of its modernity – there are situations of weakness that foster processes of social marginalization. These reinforce the sense of weakness that stems from an uncertain future. We are okay, but we feel bad. Something is going on.

Everything seems to suggest that we have taken care of how the local economic system works, for interests where its basic functions are enough to create wellbeing for its population. But we are still waiting for the expected spillover effects. The local economy is deficient because it does not cover the whole population and fails to ensure equitable access to services.

THE THREAT OF EXCLUSION

When the market fails to satisfy certain recognizable signs of integration – once covered by the state – exclusion is lived daily, as a threat.

The fear of the criminal – which far outstrips actual rates of criminality – is a symptom of other fears. It reflects “our” weakness. Collective identities have lost their material and symbolic anchors, and their place is occupied by a withdrawal to the home and a “negative individualism.” But individual and familial strategies are no substitute for sociability. Thus, internalizing competition and precariousness as vital experiences sharpens the sense of solitude and absence of contact.

Groundless fear produced by daily experiences — stress, pollution, drug addiction, aggressiveness — reflects the chaos of social life. That experience is sharpened by fear of the future. The lack of a long-term horizon complicates cultivating a sense of order. As customary reference points — family, school, business, nation — lose their strength of meaning, individuals find it difficult to elaborate a “meaning for their lives.”

People perceive that they do not belong to a modernization that seems to support them, nor do they benefit from new opportunities. In this way, a weakened subjectivity endangers the social base of the modernization process.

The challenge, then, is to ensure that functionality converges with economic growth in the sense that it fosters the sociability necessary, and inherent in, human beings. The reconstruction of a “collective” capable of influencing the forward march of various working systems and developed alongside their collective hopes and social capital.

In sum, what’s required is a rebuilding of the region’s social fabric. For this city, having an identity looking out towards the world is a strategic task. It’s an urgent response to the emptying out of the local that has provoked a functional economy turned towards the outside with globalizing agents as its only interlocutors. To live in this city it is necessary to give the local a sense of its own existence.

Promoting the value of social capital proves indispensable to achieve the goals of overcoming poverty, becoming internationally competitive, or retaining the position we have already achieved.

Promoting development cannot continue by forgetting the urgent need of reconciling duality and growing polarization produced by the accelerated development of the maquiladora in this locality. We must make the real  city – rather than the virtual, globalized, and functional – visible. The challenge is to redefine the relationship between the local and its transnational partners. We must optimize what the city has to offer. And what this city has to offer is its people.

Sociologist Manuel Arroyo Galván (44) was a professor at the Universidad Autónoma de Ciudad Juárez. This article first appeared in Spanish under the title, “El modelo maquilador,” and is not available publicly on the web.

Translator Patrick Timmons is a human rights investigator and journalist. He edits the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP), a quality selection of Spanish-language journalism about Latin America rendered into English. Follow him on Twitter @patricktimmons.

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The Business Meeting (Javier Valdez Cárdenas, RÍODOCE)

This Malayerba column was first published in RíoDoce on 18 May 2014. It has been translated without permission for the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP).

The Business Meeting
By Javier Valdez Cárdenas (RÍODOCE)

They were invited to a meeting. But they went with reluctance. Okay, see you there. They were in Bogotá: they did not want to work but poke around, walk about, watch the girls, get drunk, make an occasional pass. They had gone to walk through downtown and then they went to the miradero. Afternoons in the Colombian capital are rainy and fresh but they were wearing light clothes – they had just fled the forty-five degree heat of Culiacán, Sinaloa.

They arrived on time because they wanted to leave early. It was a large house, a mansion: white, two floors, tiled roof, and a park-sized patio filled with amusements, a swimming pool, a fountain, some pavillions where people could meet to talk and party. Five luxury vehicles in the garage. A fireplace. An army of employees.

Come in. Anything else. Those were the two words they were accustomed to hear when people from Bogotá said hello. The other most repeated word was calm: a strange word in a region punished by violence between the cartels and the government, and provoked by the guerrilla. Stay calm, keep calm. Pacifying words in periods of war without decibels. That’s how things were solved or calmed down.

They stepped in and an army of waiters descended. They wanted to take their jackets and umbrellas, pointing them to a small, open salon where the meeting would take place. They said good afternoon, offered them a tray with glasses of rum or champagne, directed them to a chair, gave them an aperitif. Just a little bit of rum. Not too much because I don’t want to miss tequila.

They had on sandals and wore tee shirts. Sweating, one of them in a baseball cap, and the other with ruffled hair. Both in shorts, showing off hairy legs and clipped nails, reached by the faint cries from the city, and the morning mist that lingered through the day. They sat almost lay down on the chair. Before them the host, formally attired. He was happy to have them there and told them so. He asked his staff to bring them tequila, for his Mexican friends.

One by one the others arrived. A couple of gringos from Washington: tall, cold, overbearing. Three from Cali and from elsewhere. All besuited or in smoking jackets. All with dark clothing. All with shined shoes, sparkling. All with kempt, short hair, and straight-backed, like columns in a monastery. Serious, at first very serious. They exchanged niceties then they wanted to talk business.

Before we start I want to introduce you all. The host spoke about the gringos, then those from Cali and roundabouts, and finally he presented the Mexicans. They had traveled from Culiacán, Sinaloa. When he said that, the others piped up. They shouted: From Culiacán. My respects. Partners, friends. How amazing, what a great job you do. Then they felt trusted. So they began to do business.

Journalist Javier Valdez Cárdenas is the founding editor of RíoDoce, an online news outlet based in Culiacán, Sinaloa. He is the author of various books, including Con la Granada en la Boca (Aguilar, 2014). This column was first published under the title, “La Reunión,” and isavailable at: http://riodoce.mx/noticias/columnas/malayerba/la-reunion.

Translator Patrick Timmons is a human rights investigator and journalist. He edits the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP), a quality selection of Spanish-language journalism about Latin America rendered into English. Follow him on Twitter @patricktimmons.

 

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“With a heavy heart, but…”: A Murdered Criminal Defense Lawyer Speaks From the Grave (Salvador Urbina Quiroz, EL DIARIO)

This article was first published in EL DIARIO DE CIUDAD JUÁREZ on 14 April 2005. It has been translated without permission for the Mexican Journalism Translation Project.

The late Salvador Urbina Quiroz – affectionately known as Chava Urbina – worked as a celebrated and widely respected criminal defense lawyer in Ciudad Juárez. The city’s prosecutor says that his life had been threatened on at least two occasions. Two gunmen murdered him and Cesar Cordero, a lawyer and juez de barandilla (magistrate of the peace) in his office on 26 May 2014 at 1720 on that Monday afternoon. A sometime contributor to various news outlets, especially to the city’s foremost newspaper El Diario de Juárez, Urbina Quiroz wrote the following, prescient column – posthumously translated into English by the MxJTP – on the occasion of the murder of his colleague, Victor Villar Chavarría, in April 2005.

It is estimated that around 20 lawyers have been murdered in Juárez in the last decade or so, a tragic statistic that now includes Cordero and Urbina. The day of their murder, seven other people were murdered in Juárez, marking it as 2014’s bloodiest day. PT

“With a heavy heart, but…”: A Murdered Criminal Defense Lawyer Speaks From the Grave
by Salvador Urbina Quiroz (EL DIARIO)

To my dear Ciudad Juárez, and to officials in the three levels of government charged with the difficult task of guarding our security, that of our family, friends, and our community, this current occasion proves difficult. So, with tears in my eyes, yours truly tells you this story from my home, inflamed by the tragedy of the craven murder of my colleague and friend, Lic. Victor Villar Chavarría. Víctor was fulfilling his duty when he was executed for gain in a premeditated and treacherous manner. The cowardly murderer shot him to death outside his office, a place where he had worked as a litigating lawyer and a harbinger of the law in this border town for several years until he had the audacity to take on public service work in the State Government as Chief Liquor Inspector. Together with Araceli Mercado, he promised to put the screws on the nightclubs, many of whose owners had turned our city into a huge cantina, operating them as pimping holes, brothels, and dens for drug dealing.

This administration tried to put a stop to such excesses: the long opening hours, and the protection of powerful, dark interests of the tsars monopolising these businesses. As proof, in the last four months the administration closed and shuttered more nightclubs than in previous years. Now there is no tolerance for violating alcohol laws and legal procedures that regulate those controversial and disorderly businesses.

But, as always, even in our mourning, while Villar’s family grieves, some gutter journalist has dared to suggest that Víctor was involved in “something.” So, without informing themselves, or even with due regard to professional ethics, reporters raise groundless questions that cause irreparable harm, worsen the tragedy for the man’s family, permit public officials to discredit the victim, and which justify those officials’ inability to identify those responsible for this cowardly crime.

One thing is certain: while they continue to create more police bodies, more super-prosecutors and super-police forces, these multiplications just add to the rivalry between agencies. Such competition only increases the value of seeking acclaim through photo opportunities: prosecuting and imparting justice continue to fail.

The worst thing is that, while unable to discharge the functions each body or agency has, they try to amass more powers, and under the pretext that they can’t act in such and such a circumstance. That’s what has happened with municipal police forces: they are looking for powers to investigate drug smuggling even though we all know that, instead of discharging their official duty of prevention, many protect those places where drugs are sold by the dose.

The community bears enormous mistrust against these police, meaning that there’s an apathy and lack of respect for legality. It’s worse when that apathy and disrespect begin with those same authorities. Juridically this is untenable. As the saying goes, it’s as if “God didn’t give scorpions a tail.”

Now that people are asking for the Mexican Army to add guard duties to its tasks in this city and in the state of Chihuahua, what the local authorities are revealing is their inability to confront wrongdoers. Local authorities have failed in their duty to provide public safety to our community – preventing crimes and, prosecuting them when they occur and delivering justice.

Local authorities have not been able to complete investigations. The monopoly of the power to punish that falls to these institutions – lacking, deficient, and corrupt – adds to the ineffective work of judges and magistrates, and amounts to just one thing: IMPUNITY. While our authorities fail to fight impunity by coordinating themselves, organized crime knows that its members won´t be punished or prosecuted. So, members of either common or specialized organized crime find ongoing motivation for continuing to commit crime. Meanwhile, as citizens we fail to do what we should: request results from our officials or demand their immediate resignation.

Police chiefs, prosecutors, directors, secretaries, delegates – whatever they want to call themselves – all of them are public servants. And if they don’t serve, they should give way to people who have that vocation, preparation and, above everything else, the disposition to bring our beloved Ciudad Juárez out of its public insecurity. Anything contrary to reducing insecurity means that we will have to resort to vigilantism, bringing us to the extreme of “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.”

As I said at the outset, my heart is heavy. But I have the insides, the courage, and the feelings of somebody from Juárez. I share in the grief of the family of Victor Villar Chavarría, including that of the daughter of my beloved friend.

The late Salvador Urbina Quiroz (52), a widely celebrated criminal lawyer with three decades of experience, practiced in Juárez up until his violent murder on Monday 26 May 2014. The original article – published on 14 April 2005 as “Con el corazón en la mano… pero,”  is not available publicly on the web.

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Drugs/Love (Javier Valdez Cárdenas, RÍODOCE)

This Malayerba column was first published on 9 February 2014. It has been translated without permission for the Mexican Journalism Translation Project.

Drugs/Love
By Javier Valdez Cárdenas (RÍODOCE)

For Federico Campbell. With bursts of vitamins and hope.

The woman was driving the truck very carefully. She takes the wide boulevard, three streets from her house. She turns right. Up ahead, two blocks. Then left. She relaxes her fingers on the steering wheel. Slowly she opens and closes her legs, then moves the indicator. She lets off on the accelerator and gently moves her right foot to the brake.

She raises her right arm, opens the compartment above the sunshield and presses the button on the remote for the electric gate. She moves to some music. Low volume: Joan Sebastian sings just for her: my sadness begins today, you are already gone, packed away in your bags, you take my joy with you, how I love you like I have never loved before, nor will I love this way again.

But she wasn’t humming. She only let out a thin sound, lips sealed.

Maybe because it was Monday in the morning. Maybe because that song was on a CD in the player. Or because she was going to go for coffee with friends at 1100. Or it was nothing. But she was relaxed, absentminded, flirting between her truck’s dashboard, the songs, the voice, the nostalgia, and that peaceful morning.

That’s probably why she never saw the white car that had been following her and that stopped tailing her two blocks before she arrived. She didn’t see that car, and didn’t observe the two guys inside. One of them was talking and talking on the phone. Nor did she register the others in a grey car, in front of the railings, a few meters from her house. And she didn’t notice that a cloud had blocked the already blistering rays of the eight AM sun.

She moved the truck into the garage. She braked as if she was diving into a welcoming sofa. She stopped but sat back in her leather seat, in front of the steering wheel, with an mmm-ing sound coming from her closed lips. That mouth, cracking a smile.

Behind her, a man gets out of the grey car. He has something dark in one of his hands: he hangs up, it flashes, he puts it away, rubs his hand on the denim of his thigh, advances in the direction of death – life’s only certainty – makes a fist and walks hurriedly, in a way that does not lose rhythm or time. He slips in before she pushes the button on the remote that closes the garage door.

She pushes the button on her safety belt. She does not let go of the steering wheel. Instead she hits it in time to the ballad. Joan Sebastian tells her that he is sad, but she travels far and with eyes wide open. She doesn’t see what’s behind her, to one side, that blind, dark eye of the thirty-eight. It spits over her shoulder, her head, and her face.

Three blocks away, and half an hour later, two women are in the convenience store. The Oxxo. You know already. They killed Karla. So beautiful, that girl, and so kind. And all that. What would it have been for, what reason. Well you can guess: maybe it was because of the narco, or something to do with love.

Journalist Javier Valdez Cárdenas is the founding editor of RíoDoce, an online news outlet based in Culiacán, Sinaloa. He is the author of various books, including Con la Granada en la Boca (Aguilar, 2014). This column was first published under the title, “Narcopasional,” and isavailable at: http://riodoce.mx/noticias/columnas/malayerba/narcopasional.

Translator Patrick Timmons is a human rights investigator and journalist. He edits the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP), a quality selection of Spanish-language journalism about Latin America rendered into English. Follow him on Twitter @patricktimmons.

 

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Criminalizing Childbirth in Mexico: The indigenous woman prisoner who wants to remember what the weather is like in the free world By Rodrigo Soberanes (TODOS LOS CAMINOS)

This blog post was first published on Todos Los Caminos on 27 April 2014. It has been translated without permission by the Mexican Journalism Translation Project.

Criminalizing Childbirth in Mexico: The indigenous woman prisoner who wants to remember what the weather is like in the free world
By Rodrigo Soberanes (TODOS LOS CAMINOS)

A twenty-three year old indigenous woman gave birth alone, in the half-light. Nobody even knew she was even pregnant. Her mother-in-law heard the child’s cry from the bedroom. And then the baby died.

Eight years after that sad dawn, Reyna asks from her cell what the weather is like outside the walls of Veracruz’s Zongolica Prison. “Is it hot outside?” and then there’s a brief silence, since nobody understands the logic of her question.

The thermometer crests 30 degrees, inside and out. The temperature doesn’t change behind bars, just the rest of the reality. After years of being locked up, only Reyna knows how her life has changed.

“I hope I can go soon,” the now 31-year-old woman says.

Reyna Panzo was accused of aggravated homicide and sentenced to 35 years in prison. An appeals court reduced her sentence to 20 years.

The events occurred in the community of Tzacuala in Tehuipango, one of the country’s poorest townships. Reyna’s husband had migrated to the US, fleeing from the misery in this part of Veracruz.

According to the case file, Reyna’s mother-in-law realized the baby had died and told the young woman’s parents who took her to the township’s leader. He then took her to the Public Prosecutor.

The woman’s lawyer asserts that, for obvious reasons, she did not want her in-laws to know she was pregnant. But she also says that how she became pregnant has never been documented.

Reyna was born and grew up in a region where women’s rights are never fully applied, and there’s systematic violation of women’s access to justice.

Adriana Fuentes Manzo, lawyer to the NGO Equifonia explains things in the following way:

Her mother in law assumed the baby was the result of an infidelity and that Reyna killed it. That’s what she told her parents. They assumed the same thing and they took her to a public official.

That official took on judicial functions and took Reyna – who does not speak Spanish – to the Public Prosecutor. She was never given a translator. In her preliminary statement, she was unable to provide a clear version of what had happened.

“Nobody cared about her health. No value was placed on presuming her innocent. Did they giver her due process? There’s no explanation of the circumstances. There are many doubts. Far from whether they did this or didn’t do that, nobody guaranteed her rights. From the moment she went before officials, they made value judgements. She had no right to the presumption of innocence,” the lawyer told this reporter.

Brain surgery on the baby indicated the cause of death was a traumatic head injury. It also states that the recently born baby had a wound on its face caused by scissors.

Equifonia’s laywer – who works to protect women’s rights – believes that if Reyna had wanted to lose her baby, she wouldn’t have waited for nine months.

Having just taken on Reyna’s legal defense, this non-governmental organization will try to prove that the Public Prosecutor did not provide the accused woman with a translator and deprived her of her right to be presumed innocent.

They never placed any weight behind the idea that the indigenous woman had an accident and that the then twenty-three year old was presumed guilty by the judicial system. “The main point is trying to find out if her rights to due process were guaranteed,” Adriana Manzo explains.

Reyna has two other children. One was born before she was locked up and another who is five years old who she gave birth to inside prison.

Sat on a plastic seat beside her bed, the woman has been turned upside down by the judicial system that has imprisoned her. She can’t understand why she has been locked up for eight years. She wants to leave.

“It’d be better if I could I leave already,” she says in a shaky voice. A guard watches her as she talks with Equifonia’s legal team.

Journalist Rodrigo Soberanes is based in Mexico. Follow him on Twitter @rodsantin. This article first appeared on his blog, Todos Los Caminos, under the title, “La mujer indígena que quiere recordar cómo es el clima fuera de la cárcel,” available at: http://todosloscaminospa.blogspot.mx/2014/04/la-mujer-indigena-que-quiere-recordar.html.

Translator Patrick Timmons is a human rights investigator and journalist based in the Americas. He edits the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP)Follow him on Twitter@patricktimmons.

 

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Human Rights in Mexico: Marines Besiege Human Rights Defender in Tamaulipas (Gloria Leticia Díaz, PROCESO)

This article first appeared in Proceso on 15 May 2014. It has been translated without permission for the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP).

Human Rights in Mexico: Marines Besiege Human Rights Defender in Tamaulipas
by Gloria Leticia Díaz (PROCESO)

MÉXICO, D.F. More than 100 Mexican Marines deployed to Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas (on the Mexico-U.S. border) have surrounded the office of the city’s Comité de Derechos Humanos (Human Rights Committee, or, CDHNL). The civil society group’s president, Raymundo Ramos Vázquez, calls it an act of “intimidation and threat.”

In a telephone interview, the human rights defender complained that since 0900 on Thursday 15 May, the marines have sealed off the La Joya neighborhood, where his office is located, without letting residents come or go, “breaking into houses without a search warrant, alleging that they are conducting an operation, and threatening to enter my office, that has now been closed.”

The CDHNL is the only civil society organization defending human rights in Tamaulipas that has managed to survive the violence resulting from the “war against drug trafficking” and the territorial dispute between the Gulf Cartel and the Zetas.

The CDHNL has documented cases of enforced disappearance, torture and extrajudicial executions committed by the Marines and the army. These documentation efforts have brought threats against Ramos Vázquez who is meant to receive protection from the Protective Mechanism for Human Rights Defenders and Journalists.

During the recent visit to Mexico of Juan Méndez, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Ramos Vázuez presented several abuse cases committed by Mexico’s armed forces – Proceso published these cases in issue number 1957.

The human rights defender asserted that at 0900, Marines sealed off the neighborhood. “They parked an unofficial vehicle outside my office,” and minutes later they turned up to “ask for some human rights leaflets which my secretary, Hilda Muñiz, gave them. I arrived later and they did not let me enter.”

At 1330, a Marine officer – who did not identify himself – called Ramos Vázques to inform him that he wanted to enter his office “to learn how it works and to review the files related to the documented abuse.”

The human rights defender refused to authorize the Marine’s entry to his office and ordered his team to leave the office and close it. Ramos Vázquez noted that there are seven vehicles belonging to the Marines in the neighborhood and six unofficial vehicles dispersed through its streets, accompanied by at least 150 marines.

“A lawyer friend approached the Marines to ask them what was going on and why they wanted to enter my office. The Marines did not identify themselves. They gave the explanation that they suspected that criminals were hiding out there,” he said.

Ramos Vázquez believes that the Marines’ actions amount to a “threat and intimidation” against the CDHNL’s activities.

“We presented the abuse cases to the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture at the end of April, and then on Mother’s Day we carried out a demonstration commemorating the disappeared. This Thursday we were going to hold a press conference in my offices to join the CDHNL to Amnesty International’s worldwide campaign against torture,” he said.

Ramos Vázquez also recalled that this is not the first time that he has been threatened by members of the armed forces, acts he attributes to his work as a human rights defender.

Journalist Gloria Leticia Díaz reports for Proceso Mexico’s foremost – and most critical – weekly news magazine. This article first appeared under the title, “Marinos asedian a defensor de derechos humanos en Tamaulipas,” available at: http://www.proceso.com.mx/?p=372308.

 

Translator Patrick Timmons is a human rights investigator and journalist. He edits the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP), a quality selection of Spanish-language journalism about Latin America rendered into English. Follow him on Twitter @patricktimmons.

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The Story of Papa Mayito: Journalist and Kidnapping Victim (Verónica Calderón, EL PAÍS)

Mario Segura, Mexican Journalist (Photo Credit: Artículo 19)

Mario Segura, Mexican Journalist (Photo Credit: Artículo 19)

This article first appeared in El País on 11 April 2014. It has been translated without permission for the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP).

The Story of Papa Mayito: Journalist and Kidnapping Victim
by Verónica Calderón (EL PAÍS)

– The first reporter registered under Mexico’s protective mechanism for journalists and human rights defenders denounces its malfunctioning

Mario Segura is a short man with brown hair. He smiles a lot. He is 52 years old. From the very first moment of meeting him he seems pleasant. He is a journalist but he also performs with his family as a clown. On stage they call him Papa Mayito. He is the editor of the magazine El Sol del Sur, and the muckraking blog, Alerta Oportuna, based in Tampico, Tamaulipas (in Northeast Mexico). That’s why he was kidnapped. They let him go eight days later. He is the first journalist registered under the government’s Protective Mechanism for Human Rights Defenders and Journalists. He is blowing the whistle on the mechanism: it didn’t help him at all. When he’s asked if he wants his photograph taken for this newspaper, he responds forcefully, “Of course. I have never been a journalist who wants to hide. I am not one to publish and then hide. I am also a person. I have a face. I exist.” Mario Segura is alive and he is a survivor of the war in Tamaulipas.

Mexico’s Congress approved the Law to Protect Human Rights Defenders and Journalists in June 2012. The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Mexico welcomed the law’s passage. But Segura complains that even though the letter of that law includes the Mechanism to Protect Human Rights Defenders and Journalists, it’s not effective. “It’s meant to protect me in three different ways: psychologically, legally, and take care of my safety.” He asserts that it has not fulfilled its obligations in those three areas.

Since 2012 the Mechanism’s budget has amounted to 300 million pesos (almost USD$23 million), and it has failed to process 57.8% of its cases. Of the 152 applications it has received, NGOs complain that it has not even reviewed 88 of those. People who have been threatened are meant to receive some sort of response from the government in less than ten days. Some cases have not been reviewed in more than eighteen months. These cases concern people whose life has been threatened or who have been kidnapped.

The Interior Minister, Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong, recognizes that the initiative is “a failure.” He has promised to restructure it, but has not provided a date when that will occur. Mexico is one of the most dangerous countries to practice journalism, according to Reporters Without Borders (RSF). Since 2010, 31 journalists have been murdered.

Mario Segura – the first journalist registered by the Mechanism – explains that he quit the government’s provision of psychological assistance because the appointments were disorganized, forcing him to move through the vastness of Mexico City. The legal aid was more like “having a chat.” He says he attended talks where a lawyer explained what he had to do, but the state would never pay for legal representation. Lastly, in regards security, he comments that he was provided with a phone number that, in theory, was meant to be a “panic button” but Segura was never sure if it would function. He has not received any type of special protection, even though after the kidnapping, he has been explicitly threatened. He was also offered medical coverage, but when he went to check his sugar levels (he suffers from diabetes) he discovered that the center he was sent to did not have the means to measure glucose levels.

Segura’s via crucis began two years ago, in August 2012. The journalist had performed at a children’s birthday party with his wife and children. They called their troupe the “Family Clowns’ Show.” He was on his way to this engagement when a colleague called to tell him that he had to take down an article published on his website because “it had angered” a criminal group. They kidnapped him the next day. They pointed a gun at him and they beat him, locking him up for eight days in a room smelling of “dirt and marijuana.”  They beat him with a board. They told him they were going to kill him and that “they were going to cut up [his wife and children] into little pieces.”

His kidnapping was a culminating event, but he explains that the threats began in 2010. Alerta Oportuna was a site with thousands of visits per day, consulted by users like a web of warnings and denunciations. Segura is convinced that they kidnapped him because he accused politicians of corruption and the government’s ties to drug traffickers that, he asserts, are common in Tamaulipas. Former governor Tomás Yarrington stands accused in the United States of accepting bribes from warring cartels in Tamaulipas, and of money laundering. Yarrington, who was active in the PRI – Mexico’s ruling party – before his suspension in 2012, asserts that the accusations are “political persecution.” The U.S. Justice Department and Interpol consider him a “fugitive.”

The journalist regrets “the pain that he has caused” his family and explains that he has felt guilty for a long time. But at the same time he recognizes that the spiral of violence afflicting Tamaulipas, a place that has suffered disputes between the Gulf Cartel and the Zetas, and also their own internal disputes, is “impossible to ignore.” He assuages whatever guilt he feels by telling himself that “being a journalist is not an excuse” and that those responsible for his loved one’s pain are those who ordered his kidnapping – a crime that remains unpunished, along with 98% of crimes committed in Mexico, according to the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH)l

Segural left Tamaulipas with the help of the NGO, Artículo 19. They paid for his flight and his hotel for three months. He rues the “lack of solidarity” among Mexico’s journalists. “Officials think its better to buy off the media and use them to undermine our complaints,” he says. “What happened with Goyo was something exceptional. I hope it can happen again. There are so many of us…” He’s referring to Gregorio Jiménez, a humble journalist kidnapped and murdered in Coatzacoalcos (Veracruz) this February. The crimes against Gregorio provoked a wave of unexpected indignation among Mexico’s journalists. A group of independent journalists a few weeks ago presented a report that identified multiple problems in the investigation.

Does he regret publishing? Again, he replies with conviction: “No.” He explains that he is tired of having to stay quiet and that the severity of the situation in Tamaulipas demands speaking out. “I miss Tampico very much. My parents, my pals, my friends. But I can’t stay quiet. We can’t shut up.” Since he left Tamaulipas, Mario Seguro has not been able to find work as a journalist.

JournalistVerónica Calderón reports from Mexico for El País. Follow Calderón on Twitter @veronicacalderon. This story first appeared with the title, “La historia de Papa Mayito: periodista y secuestrado,” available at: http://internacional.elpais.com/internacional/2014/04/11/actualidad/1397250509_404092.html.

Translator Patrick Timmons is a human rights investigator and journalist based in the Americas. He edits the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP). Follow him on Twitter@patricktimmons.

 

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Mother’s Pride (Javier Valdez Cárdenas, RíoDoce)

This article was first published in RíoDoce on 27 April 2014. It has been translated without permission for the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP).

Mother’s Pride
by Javier Valdez Cárdenas (RíoDoce)

His mother followed him everywhere. At secondary school, she pulled him from the lure of the smokers, the ones who had already started to swig from bottles, downing beer. She pushed him to study, goading him to improve his grades. She made him do chores so he wouldn’t hang out in the street.

The years passed. The ones who once smoked Raleighs now hit on weed and listened to AC/DC. The pungent smell of pot traveled in the air, permeated patios, bedrooms, the primary school, and basketball courts. His mother still followed him around, pulling him away from them. She did it for him and when she did it she never said a word. She took him by the arm and tugged at him, dragging him home to the living room, sitting him down on the couch. She told him off. Curtly.

Study. Work. Get a hold of yourself, Betito. That’s what his thirty-year old mother told him. She still looked like she was twenty-five. Selfless. Undergraduate and postgraduate degrees. A housewife and university professor. At work she acted like a professional but at home she was a mother.

Betito hit back, dug his heels into the floor. Kicking the sofa and the little wooden table, punching the door. You’re always moaning at me. Get out your homework and do better at school. Bring yourself down a peg, he warned. But she didn’t calm down: he came out with a handgun that she saw immediately. She took the gun and in minutes she had disarmed it, put it in the trash. Then she threw it out.

Betito was dumbstruck, mouth ajar. His mother knew about guns. A few days later he came home. She found him with a bag with white powder. She hid it. He didn’t know where. The next day, Betito desperately hunted for it. He threw himself on the ground and began to wail. Mom, if I don’t hand it over, they’re going to kill me. It was worth a lot of money. She warned him what would happen. When she finished, he promised her that he would leave it all behind.

One day his boss called him. The big cheese needs to see us. We’re owed a bonus and so we’re going to see the old guy. The gang got into the truck and the boss looked them all over. We’re going unarmed, he said. Surprisingly, he told Betito to get out. Why? Kid, your mother always looks for you. We’ll catch you later. He cursed his mother. He kicked and screamed.

He didn’t go home for two days and then some. He disappeared with his friends, drowning himself in bottles: downing one after another, then another. When he finally went home, his mother kissed him, rapidly smothering his cheeks and his forehead. Back in the living room they learned that everybody from the truck had turned up that morning, beheaded. He left the gang. And went back to school. But she still followed him around.

Journalist Javier Valdez Cárdenas is the founding editor of RíoDoce, an online news outlet based in Culiacán, Sinaloa. He is the author of various books, including Con la Granada en la Boca (Aguilar, 2014). This column was first published under the title, “A toda madre,” and is available at: http://riodoce.mx/noticias/columnas/malayerba/toda-madre.

Translator Patrick Timmons is a human rights investigator and journalist. He edits the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP), a quality selection of Spanish-language journalism about Latin America rendered into English. Follow him on Twitter @patricktimmons.

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Hypocrisy in Juárez: PAN Councilmember Doubles as Evangelical Minister (Gabriela Minjáres, DIARIO DE JUÁREZ)

PANgelical

PANgelical: Ciudad Juárez Councilman José Luis Aguilar Cuéllar at work praising the Lord (Photo Credit, El Diario de Juárez)

This article was first published in El Diario de Juárez on 20 January 2014. It has been translated without permission for the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP).

This translation is dedicated to the memories of Mexican photojournalists Guillermo Luna Varela, Gabriel Hugé Córdova, and former photojournalist Estebán Rodríguez Rodríguez, and media worker Ana Irasema Becerra Jiménez who were brutally murdered together in Boca del Rio-Veracruz on World Press Freedom Day 3 May 2012. The State of Veracruz is possibly the most dangerous place in the Americas to practice journalism.

Hypocrisy in Juárez: PAN Councilmember Doubles as Evangelical Minister
by Gabriela Minjáres (DIARIO DE JUÁREZ)

Translator’s Note: For reasons of history and politics stretching back to the nineteenth century civil wars between liberals and conservatives, and beyond the violence of its twentieth century revolution, Mexico has sought to maintain a strict division between Church and State. Mexico’s federal constitution prohibits religious leaders from holding political office (Article 130, subsections D and E). And yet, as Gabriela Minjáres’ article demonstrates, a burgeoning alliance exists between the country’s politicians and its religious institutions — historically this alliance has been with the Catholic Church, but in some places, such as Juárez, it now involves powerful evangelical Christian movements. PT

Although he is registered with the Federal Interior Ministry (SEGOB) as a religious minister, pastor José Luis Aguilar Cuellar is currently one of the PAN’s leaders in Juárez’s city council. The holding of public or political offices by religious leaders is prohibited under Mexico’s Constitution, under the principle of Church-State separation.

Information from the Interior Ministry’s Director General of Religious Groups shows that Aguilar Cuéllar is registered as a religious minister and representative, or as the legal representative of a group called Rescue Mission de Mexico, located in Ciudad Juárez and registered under code SGAR/2285/97.

Those facts appear in the directory of religious ministers and religious groups, and may be found via the Internet at: www.asociacionesreligiosas.gob.mx.

When questioned about these facts, the councilmember asserts that he has neither asked for nor signed any documentation to confirm his status as a religious minister, although he concedes that he comes from a religious background and maintains a religious affiliation. That is why he helped form Rescue Missions, which is also established as a civil society organization.

“Yes, I helped establish this religious group. But I have not signed an application establishing that I am a religious minister. That’s the appropriate question, and that’s the appropriate answer,” he declares.

The councilman argues that if he had been registered as a religious minister he could not have run as a PAN candidate for city council on the ticket headed by María Antonieta Pérez Reyes during last year’s local elections. And the State Electoral Institute (IEE) could not have confirmed him during and after the elections, when he was confirmed as councilmember via proportional representation.

However, the PAN and the IEE assert that the councilman did not report his religious occupation and was unaware that he was officially registered by the Interior Ministry (SEGOB) as a religious minister.

The city’s Mayor, Enrique Serrano Escobar, also says that he was unaware of this matter and even showed his annoyance and surprise. He commented that he had not received any information about this case, nor had he analyzed it.

“This is an odd case. I haven’t thought about it. But it’s something that I did not do. Nor did I propose his candidacy. I did not choose him, but there he is,” he says.

After the Mayor personally checks the information on his own computer, he does not govern alone and that he does not have the power to place the council member on leave. Instead, the councilman and the party that backed him must resolve this situation according to the law.

Article 130 of Mexico’s Constitution establishes that unless a religious minister resigns from their position, they cannot hold public office or hold elected positions.

Article 14 of the Religious Groups and Public Worship Law indicates that while Mexican citizens who are religious ministers do have the right to vote, they cannot stand in elections for public office, nor can they undertake higher public duties, “unless they have formally, materially, and definitively resigned their ministry five years before election.” For higher public duties the time limit is three years, and for other public functions six months is sufficient.

However, up until now José Luis Aguilar Cuéllar has not distanced himself from his ministry, a role that has been fully documented by witnesses and using newspaper archives.

The pastor currently presides over the Rey de Gloria evangelical church, located in the Granjas San Rafael neighborhood, at kilometer 33 on the Casas Grandes highway. At his church he has developed a large social project focused on helping children and families.

Councilman Aguilar Cuéllar in fact participated in last Sunday morning’s religious service at the Rey de Gloria evangelical church. He took to the pulpit and directed the assistants. El Diario documented these activities.

In this marginalized neighborhood, residents identify the pastor with his good works over several years. His wife, Alma Guerrero, leads religious services on Wednesdays and Sundays, as well as holding conferences and Bible study.

The pastor is also identified as the director of this neighborhood’s social center. For the past 14 years he has directed the Centro Familiar Ayuda civil society organization, a shelter for youth and also participates in a children’s center based at the some location.

Newspaper archives show that from 2000 to 2011 Aguilar Cuéllar identified himself as a minister. As President of the Evangelical Pastoral Alliance in Ciudad Juárez, he signed an open letter on 9 June 2009 addressed to then Governor José Reyes Baeza Terrazas.

“Groundless Claims”

Even with a lengthy social and religious trajectory, José Luis Aguilar asserts that he finds strange – and disavows – his formal inscription as a religious minister in the Interior Ministry’s registry. He queries his registration because apparently it is not up to date and he has never been provided with evidence of his registration, such that it is.

“I won’t say how it was. I participated in a civil association with its own constitution and in that religious association the minister is Lupita Varela de Páez, followed by José Ramón. I buried José Ramón about eight years ago because he died. So I think it could be that the Interior Ministry’s registry is not up to date. But I am not also going to say that the Interior Ministry is not doing a good job -although Talamás Camandari also appears on the list and he was the late Catholic bishop,” Aguilar Cuéllar explains.

José Luis Aguilar appears with six other people appear in the Interior Ministry’s registry for Rescue Missions de Mexico: these include Guadalupe Varela de Páez and José Ramón Macías Majalca.

But in a keyword search of the religious groups’ directory, José Luis also appears in the same grouping as a representative or legal agent alongside Aurelio Páez Varela and Guadalupe Varela Uribe.

And, as the councilman indicated for the case of Monsignor Manuel Talamás Camandari, his name still appears in the list of religious ministers under the diocese of Ciudad Juárez. Camandari died in May 2005.

The deputy director of Attention to Religious Groups for the Interior Ministry, Arturo Aguilar Aguilar reported by telephone that the registry “takes time to update.” In José Luis’s specific case he said that they would undertake a special review since the minister asserts that he has never registered himself.

Article 12 of the Religious Groups and Public Worship Law stipulates that religious ministers are “all those people over the age of majority whose religious group confers such status,” and that they should notify the Interior Ministry.

If religious associations, such as churches or religious groups fail to notify, “then it will be understood that religious ministers are those whose principal occupation is directing, representing, and organizing the group.”

The regulations associated with this law mention that to recognize a person as a religious minister requires specification of their nationality and age, as well as attaching an official copy of a document specifying their position within the group.

It adds that only the interested party can certify the ministers of the religious institution.

According to Jesús Antonio Camarillo, doctor in Law and political analyst, the Interior Ministry’s registry clearly demonstrates a conflict of interest and that José Luis Aguilar should not discharge his functions as an elected member of the council.

“The law is very clear: if there is convincing evidence that he is a religious ministers in his own association, he cannot hold elected office,” Camarillo says.

When Questioned…

Since his registration as a PAN candidate for city council in March 2013, José Luis Aguilar Cuéllar was questioned about his role as a religious minister. Since then he has asserted that his wife was the minister and he was only a social worker, a fact that does not legally prevent him competing for public office.

María Antonieta Pérez Reyes, a contender for mayor of Ciudad Juárez during last year’s election, said the same thing: she asserts that nothing impeded Aguilar from being on her ticket. He was not registered as a religious minister and he was chosen fro his community work.

Hiram Contreras Herrera, the PAN’s local leader, conceded that they did not check if he was or was not registered as a religious minister because it is not a procedure regularly undertaken in the selection of candidates. In José Luis’s case, they favored him for his lengthy trajectory of social work.

“José Luis is a man well known for his social work, so we never focused on that. We did not know that he was a practitioner, actively working as a pastor,” he comments. So after winning the party’s primary, José Luis registered with the electoral authorities but he also overlooked his religious affiliation.

The State Electoral Institute’s spokesperson, Enrique Rodríguez Vázquez also mentions that they did not check the background or religious occupation of any of the candidates, including Aguilar Cuéllar.

“We only check their age, that their voter registration is current, and their place of residence. The rest remains to be investigated by petition, not as a matter of course. In this example, nobody challenged his candidacy,” he adds.

However, he mentions if there is evidence of this situation, the councilman must withdraw from his post and a stand in must take over which, in this case, is Daniel Ajuech Chihuahua.

The councilman dismisses whether he will request leave from his post. But he asserts that he will ask his legal counsel to investigate his situation with the Interior Ministry to confirm his legal status. He repeats that he has never requested registrations as a religious minister.

— When he is asked: Are you, or are you not, a religious minister?

— I am not registered as a religious minister because I have never personally requested that I should be identified as such.

— In practice, have you ever been a religious minister?

— Sometimes I give classes. Like every religious person who wants to practice their religion, I give conferences and talks. If that constitutes an illegal act then the Constitution has to define if I am a religious minister. But legally, registered legally then I should have made a personal application, and I have never done that.”

Journalist Gabriela Minjáres is a staff reporter for El Diario de Juárez. This article first appeared under the title, “Regidor panista aquí es ministro de culto,” available at: http://diario.mx/Local/2014-01-20_634668a3/regidor-panista-aqui-es-ministro-de-culto/.

Translator Patrick Timmons is a human rights investigator and journalist. He edits the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP), a quality selection of Spanish-language journalism about Latin America rendered into English. Follow him on Twitter @patricktimmons.

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Human Rights Abuse in Mexico: Widespread Torture in Mexico Confirmed by UN Special Rapporteur (Verónica Calderón, EL PAÍS)

This article was first published in El Pais on 2 May 2014. It has been translated without permission for the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP).

Human Rights Abuse in Mexico: Widespread Torture in Mexico Confirmed by UN Special Rapporteur
by Verónica Calderón (EL PAÍS)

– The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment spent 12 days in Mexico, and confirms that almost “every Mexican police force” abuses detainees

Torture in Mexico is a widespread practice throughout almost all of the country’s police forces. Cases exist where a Mexican man or woman has been arrested by a plainclothes officer. Without a warrant. Officers have entered homes without a judge’s order, and relatives have been threatened. Then, they have been carried away. They have been blindfolded and insulted. They have been beaten. With fists, with feet. Kicked. They have bee prodded with a cowpoke, an instrument used to administer electric shocks on the genitals. It’s also possible they have suffered some type of sexual violence. In some cases they have been paraded before the media as criminals, even without judicial proceedings. And sometimes they have not even been allowed to speak with their defense attorney. That’s the substance of complaints gathered by the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, preliminary conclusions delivered in Mexico City this Friday as he finishes an almost two-week visit to the country.

“I have the obligation to tell the Mexican Government, and also Mexican society, that there is an endemic type of torture here that must be corrected,” the Special Rapporteur announced. This devastating diagnosis is the product of a 12-day visit that he called “intense, but productive.” He interviewed officials, civil society, and victims. He visited prisons, a psychiatric institution, a juvenile detention facility and a migrant detention center. He visited the Federal District and the State of Mexico, in the center of the country; Nayarit, on the Pacific Coast; Nuevo León, in the northeast; Chiapas, on the border with Central America and Baja California Norte, his last stop, in the far northwest, on the border with the United States.

He acknowledged the Government’s cooperation as he set about his work, but he lamented that, in a single incident, he was denied access to the Nuevo León’s State Prosecutor’s Office, “especially since I received several complaints of torture committed right there.” The accusations he received during his visit, he clarified, are against almost “all the forces that make arrests in this country.” This comment includes municipal, state, and federal police forces, the Army, and the Navy.

Mexico is one of the few countries in the world where a detainee is guilty until he can prove otherwise. Responding to a reporter’s question, the Special Rapporteur emphasized that he had criticized the Mexican security forces’ practice of parading detainees, presumed guilty, in front of the media without any type of criminal proceedings against them or granting them access to their defense attorney. Méndez called the practice “a humiliation.” The World Justice Project, an NGO dedicated to studying respect for the rule of law, ranks Mexico 79th out of 99 countries. Above Mexico, for example, are China, Kazakhstan, Albania, Burkina Faso and Ecuador.

Even though the Special Rapporteur insisted on the “complexity” of determining whether torture affected a social group in particular, he did clarify that the worst affected were the country’s most vulnerable: the poor, indigenous people, women, and adolescents. He insisted about the seriousness of the problem: “In Mexico there still exists a widespread use of torture and mistreatment.”

The UN Special Rapporteur said that he felt “alarmed” by the “ongoing militarization” of some regions of the country and he lamented that his visit did not include other states where he had received complaints of torture, like Guerrero, Tamaulipas, Oaxaca, and Michoacán.

The UN official also announced that the majority of cases of torture remain “completely unpunished”, and many of these crimes or complaints are stranded in judicial proceedings. “There are dozens, scores of delayed processes.” He also said he was preoccupied by the creation of a new crime such as “abuse by authorities,” a crime punished in Mexico of up to eight years in prison; he confirmed that in reality this crime hides those who are responsible for torture and who actually warrant more severe punishment.

His final report will be delivered to the federal government in three or four weeks and will come accompanied with a series of private recommendations to the executive branch headed by President Enrique Peña Nieto (Institutional Revolutionary Party, PRI).

The Special Rapporteur thanked the Mexican Government for its invitation, and for the “excellent support” that it had provided him throughout his work. “I would have liked to say that torture is isolated in Mexico […] that it’s an aberration that can be corrected quickly… but it is in the process of being corrected,” he concluded.

JournalistVerónica Calderón reports from Mexico for El País. Follow Calderón on Twitter @veronicacalderon. This story first appeared with the title, ““Naciones Unidas afirma que la tortura en México es ‘generalizada’” available at: http://internacional.elpais.com/internacional/2014/05/03/actualidad/1399075278_040694.html.

Translator Patrick Timmons is a human rights investigator and journalist. He edits the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP), a quality selection of Spanish-language journalism about Latin America rendered into English. Follow him on Twitter @patricktimmons.

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