Category Archives: corruption

They are going to kill you, by Javier Valdez Cárdenas

Friends, family, and colleagues warned him: Take care, man. Those guys have no limits. They are bastards. But in his column in one of the local papers he kept criticizing and complaining, using his keyboard, his words, to pelt corrupt politicians for conspiring with criminals, police at the mafia’s command.

He’d been a reporter for some time, experienced in investigative work. There was never a shortage of subjects to cover, but those paths, hidden by thorny plants, led to gunpowder or a waiting trigger, to the bosses’ glassy stares, to escape routes without exits, to streets that only led to hot smoke, wisps dancing in the wind after the gun shots.

But he wore a bulletproof vest across his chest. To him the moon looked like a lantern that could even light up the day. Pen and notebook were his escape, therapy, crucifixion, and exorcism. He wrote and wrote onto a blank page and spat it out onto the screen with his fingers, from his mouth, splattering everything. He bawled into his columns with anger and pain and sadness and wrath and consternation and fury, talking about the shit-covered governor, the mayor flush with funds, the smiling lawmaker who looked like a cash register receiving and receiving wads of cash and pinging when taking in another million.

The business dealings of the powerful were his subject. How they took advantage of everything and fucked over the common people. Destitution, like garbage, grew and spilled over sidewalks and street corners. Brothels overflowed. Hospitals never lacked sick people but neither were there beds nor doctors. That’s right, the prisons overflowed and an empire of smoke covered everything. Black clouds covered the starry skies, filling the heads of the region’s residents, making them sick yet not indignant. But he wasn’t going to give in. No way, he repeated to himself. He started to write.

A report put a lawmaker at the center of a hurricane. He joined those criticizing the lawmaker’s might and his ties to those at the top of political, economic and criminal power. Few were the legislators’ detractors and almost nobody wrote about it, but he would not shut up. On FaceBook he posted ferocious, brave words. They told him: Hey man, tone it down. Those bastards are out to get you. They will kill you. He shrugged it off with a harrumph. They won’t do anything to me. They can go fuck themselves.

Three hours after that post on social media they caught up with him and shot him point blank so as not to miss.

Award winning Mexican journalist Javier Valdez Cárdenas was murdered on 15 May 2017 just after leaving Ríodoce, a newspaper he helped establish in Culiacán, Sinaloa. He was 50 years old. He published this Malayerba column on 27 March 2017. His most recent book (previously published in Spanish as Levantones), appears in English translation and with an introduction by Everard Meade as The Taken: True Stories of the Sinaloa Drug War,  published earlier this year by University of Oklahoma Press.

The Abducted Journalist and the Mayor of Medellín, Veracruz By Ignacio Carvajal (SinEmbargo)

This article was first published on 9 January 2015. It has been translated without permission for the Mexican Journalism Translation Project.

The Abducted Journalist and the Mayor of Medellín, Veracruz
By Ignacio Carvajal (SinEmbargo)

(The first journalist abducted this year Moisés Sánchez of Veracruz, Mexico, was taken by armed men from his home in Medellín de Bravo on 2 January 2015. He has not yet been found. The Committee to Protect Journalists issued a press release summarizing the facts of Sánchez’s disappearance, demanding his return and the prosecution of his abductors. Veracruz is one of the most dangerous places in the Americas to practice journalism: CPJ reports that since 2011 three journalists have disappeared and the organization has documented the murders of nine other journalists.

Prior to Moisés Sanchez’s disappearance the mayor of Medellín had threatened the journalist. Days after Sánchez’s disappearance, the Associated Press reported that the entire municipal police force of Medellín de Bravo had been brought in for questioning by the Veracruz State Prosecutor with three of those officers detained.

Journalist Ignacio Carvajal reports from Veracruz on the story of the friendship and the fight between the journalist and the mayor of Medellín. – PT)

As a candidate he kissed children. He said hello to farmers and housewives. He walked the muddy streets of Medellín’s villages. He wore out his shoes and got thorns in his clothes in the rural areas. He promised that if he won he would jail his predecessors: Rubén Darío Lagunes and his putative political offspring Marcos Isleño Andrade, both of the Party of the Institutional Revolution (PRI). And he promised one more thing. Omar Cruz Reyes offered all the directorships and executive appointments to those born in the township: “Medellín for people from Medellín,” he used to say. But he did not fulfill that promise. Most of his cabinet was filled with people who lived in the Port of Veracruz and its bordering neighbor Boca del Río.

Omar Cruz is not a dyed-in-the wool PAN-ista. He became a candidate for the PAN thanks to efforts by his sister-in-law Hilda Nava Seseña and her uncle and aunt, Salustia Nava Seseña and Maurilio Fernández Ovando. The aunt is former president of the DIF [Mexico’s Children and Families Department] and the uncle is the former PANista Mayor of Medellín. Hilda was Maurilio Fernández’s personal assistant when he served as mayor.

At the same time, Omar Cruz Reyes created an organization bearing his initials (Organizando Contigo el Rumbo – literally translated as Organizing the Future With You) to work with the residents of the new subdivisions, like Arboleda San Ramón Puente Moreno and Casa Blanca. Both places bring together thousands of voters, mostly from Veracruz and Boca del Río).

Before the 2010 local elections, and to keep himself on the lips of voters, Cruz began a media campaign demonstrating against mayors Marco Isleño Andrade (2010 – 2013) and Rubén Darío Lagunes (2007 – 2010); primary school students made fun of Lagunes at school events because he dallied when he gave speeches.

There were at least three protests where Omar Cruz attacked Marcos Isleño Andrade for absent public works, missing support and neglect by the municipality. Invariably the journalist Moisés Sánchez attended these protests. He saw Omar Cruz – when he entered politics he was just 27 – as without bad political habits, without “a tail to be tugged”, well spoken, educated, from the working middle class and a rousing speaker against Marcos Isleño and in favor of citizens. The men clicked. And Moisés Sánchez began following him through the streets and writing stories about his promises and his projects. At last a young person from El Tejar – Medellín’s most important area – was willing to fight back against the corrupt politicians.

In the spirit of “Medellín for people from Medellín,” Omar Cruz offered Moisés Sánchez the position of press officer if he made it into the mayor’s office. That’s what Sanchez’s colleagues said; it was his big dream back in those days: to be his town’s press officer at city hall.

CRUZ TURNED HIS BACK ON THE PAN

He had just won office as mayor when Omar Cruz turned his back on the PAN and his campaign promises, remembers a city employee who preferred to remain anonymous. Photo: Special

He had just won office as mayor when Omar Cruz turned his back on the PAN and his campaign promises, remembers a city employee who preferred to remain anonymous. Photo: Special

He’d barely won but he started reneging on his promises. He gave the post promised to the journalist to a person from the port of Veracruz. The salaries weren’t what he had promised. Neither were the responsibilities, nor the secretaries and support staff. The important posts stayed in the hands of citizens from the conurbation of Veracruz-Boca del Río and did not go to the professional activists in Medellín’s Partido de Acción Nacional (National Action Party, or, PAN). This young businessman’s promises were soon spent and many sunk. “Many people support him but it’s out of necessity, because their salaries aren’t enough,” said one city employee who commented on condition of anonymity.

On the campaign trail Omar Cruz was a different person from the one he became when mayor elect. He stood on the same platform as Julen Rementería and Oscar Lara, respectively the former mayor of Veracruz and a former PAN-ista legislator. This couple are credited with bringing Omar Cruz over to Governor Javier Duarte, to the PRI and to “red PANism” – the term, panismo rojo is a colloquial expression for a bloc of PAN-istas who fight the government of Veracruz with one hand but with the other support every move by Javier Duarte as governor. (Translator’s note: the PAN’s color is blue.)

The gap between Omar and the PAN-istas in Veracruz’s state capital, Xalapa, and with the Yunes [a political family in Veracruz with links to both the PAN and the PRI] soon widened. On one day he was seen close to Raúl Zarrabal, PRI legislator for Boca del Río on Wednesday when visiting his constituents, the next day he was with the PRI-ista side of the Yunes and the following day he was with a representative of the government of Veracruz.

Omar Cruz’s ties to Governor Duarte grew stronger because of the issues surrounding the Metropolitan Water and Sanitation System (SAS), a para-municipal organization that regulates and administers sanitation and water supply in the Veracruz-Boca del Río-Medellín conurbation. Its management of millions of pesos of resources has always been opaque.

In the middle of 2014, the mayor of Boca del Río, Miguel Ángel Yunes Márquez threatened breaking away from the SAS so that his city could administer its own municipal infrastructure. Independently of this threat, Yunes Márquez had provided evidence of the overwhelming corruption in the SAS since Yolanda Carlín’s time as its director. There were dozens of Carlín-friendly journalists on her payroll, leaders of PRI neighborhoods, among others. But the real debacle began when José Ruiz Carmona arrived on the scene. Carmona was a PRI-ista who had held many public posts and had concluded an undergraduate degree in record time. Governor Javier Duarte modified the law so that Ruiz Carmona could manage the SAS.

Ruiz Carmona ended his time at the top of the organization with blackouts for failure to pay bills, protests over uniforms for workers and complaints made to its union by pilots, lovers, wives and family members belonging to both the PRI and the PAN, all of whom were on the payroll or well-connected. Javier Duarte ignored the financial shambles left by Ruiz Carmona and brought him into his cabinet, naming him undersecretary for Human Development in the Ministry of Social Development (SEDESOL).

In this context and so as to establish order in the SAS, Yunez Márquez was waiting for support from Omar Cruz against the only PRI-ista on the organization’s board, Ramón Poo, the mayor of the Port of Veracruz. Instead, he deserted Yunes Márquez to support the SAS plan to create another organization, passing over Ruiz Carmona and other former directors.

Omar Cruz attended every event in the Port of Veracruz and Boca del Río at which Duarte appeared, looking for a moment, even if just a hello, with the governor.

Around Medellín, Omar Cruz assumed a friendship with Javier Duarte. “We understand society’s problems because we are both young,” he was heard to say. Now the governor won’t even answer his phone calls.

Back in 1812, in this municipality, army officer and ex-President Nicolás Bravo spared the lives of 300 Spanish combatants who had fallen prisoner in the Wars for Independence. That’s why Medellín is called Medellín de Bravo. It doesn’t look like Omar Cruz is going to have luck similar to that of the Spanish.

In Veracruz the worst state to practice journalism in the Americas, a place toxic for reporters, Moisés Sanchez’s abduction is the first time a high profile culprit has been accused of a crime against freedom of expression. The PRI-ista state government of Veracruz sees an opportunity to strike a blow against the PAN in the conurbation of Veracruz-Boca del Río-Medellín as it prepares for the 2015 federal elections.

Today, up to press deadline, not one PAN-ista heavyweight has spoken out in support of Omar Cruz. Not at the state level and there’s not a peep from Julen Rementería or Oscar Lara. Medellín’s PAN-istas have withdrawn into themselves, mute, watching everything and letting the guillotine fall into the hands of the prosecutor, Luis Ángel Bravo, who is aiming for Omar Cruz’s neck.

THE ABARCA OF MEDELLÍN’S MANGO ORCHARDS

Since the disappearance of Moisés Sáncez, people in Veracruz have compared Mayor Omar Cruz and his wife, Maricela Nava to the Mayor of Iguala, Guerrero and his wife. Photo: Twitter @HaytodeMedellin

Since the disappearance of Moisés Sáncez, people in Veracruz have compared Mayor Omar Cruz and his wife, Maricela Nava to the Mayor of Iguala, Guerrero and his wife. Photo: Twitter @HaytodeMedellin

Since the disappearance of Moisés Sáncez, people in Veracruz have compared Mayor Omar Cruz and his wife, Maricela Nava to the Mayor of Iguala, Guerrero and his wife. Photo: Twitter @HaytodeMedellin

Another person passed over by Omar Cruz says, “The best jobs and salaries went to his friends. He sidelined the current PAN-istas and he gave them lesser jobs with low salaries. That was the constant complaint. In my case I left because of the pay. He promised me 12,000 pesos a month as a director (US$820) but I got half that. When I complained about the shortfall to Omar Cruz he wouldn’t talk to me. He sent me to his wife, Maricela Nava Seseña, the DIF president.”

Since what happened to Moisés Sánchez, both Maricela Nava and Omar Cruz have been compared to the Abarca, the mayor and his wife from the state of Guerrero [alleged to have masterminded the disappearances of the 43 student teachers of Ayotzinapa]. In this Veracruz municipality of major mango cultivation, Cruz and Nava ruled during the day and night, and people from the state have labeled them “the Abarca of the Mango Orchards.”

Inside the municipal building, in fact, they say that Omar Cruz does not decide anything without first going through Maricela Nava and her sister, Hilda Nava Seseña. Omar Cruz made his sister in law the municipal secretary.

The three live under the same roof in the Residencial Marino in Boca del Río where the cheapest houses sell for 1.5 million pesos (US$100,000) — and that’s the price of some of the more austere properties. The upscale residential neighborhood is five minutes from Plaza El Dorado, currently one of Veracruz’s most exclusive malls, frequented by those Veracruz magnates who arrive in their yachts – it has a marina – to buy cinema tickets for a matinée or to lunch in one of its restaurants.

The neighborhood is lined with beautiful trees. It is connected to the highway with panoramic views of the beaches in Vacas-Boca del Río. There are mansions, large salons for special events, estates with country houses and staff on hand for a relaxing weekend, all lining the backwater of the River Jamapa.

Omar, Maricela and Hilda ride around in this year’s trucks. The three use bodyguards and together they attend sessions with spiritualists.

“In the first few days after taking office, several spiritualist consultants – witches – arrived to cleanse the place,” the source says.

They focused their efforts on expelling the bad vibes from the mayor’s office, occupied for six years by PRI-istas. They placed quartz, burned incense, copal and every sort of mélange making it smell like a market.

Once the bad spirits had left, the mayor ordered a giant portrait hanged: underneath the image in large letters appears the name, “Javier Duarte de Ochoa, constitutional governor of Veracruz.”

In that office, on another wall, another black and white image bearing large letters: OMAR CRUZ, PRESIDENTE MUNICIPAL.

And decorating the surrounds in his office are numerous photos of Cruz along with his wife and sister in law.

In the mayor’s office, they say, Maricela Nava Seseña – known as the Queen of Medellín – became accustomed to issuing instructions and telling off campaign workers.

“Why are you asking for so much money from my husband? Are you really so great or are you his lover?” That’s what the first lady of Medellín said to staffers who complained about the low level of their salaries to Omar Cruz.

When dealing with labor issues, the mayor did not personally deal with them. He hung up the phone, referring them to his wife or his sister-in-law.

That’s what the former DIF director, Paula Aguilar Tlaseca experienced. She was one of the first to jump ship because of the poor treatment, low salary and little professional recognition from the Abarca of Medellín de Bravo.

When dealing with complaints in citizen-related issues, the protests did not mean much to them. “Protest all you like. I am the mayor,” Cruz replied when his staff advised him that social problems such as the new annual charge for public cleaning were turning into flash points of unrest.

Omar Cruz offered Moisés Sánchez the position of press officer if he won election as mayor. However, a little after the election the conflicts between began until, according to one witness, the mayor threatened the journalist. Photo: Special.

Omar Cruz offered Moisés Sánchez the position of press officer if he won election as mayor. However, a little after the election the conflicts between the men began until, according to one witness, the mayor threatened the journalist. Photo: Special.

In Moisés’ last protest outside the Medellín municipal building in the middle of last December he complained about this new municipal tax and the increase in common crime. It was a bitter encounter with Omar Cruz. A strange thing, too, since the mayor never confronted his critics.

“Why are you protecting criminals?” Moisés dared to ask Omar. It has been forty-eight hours since the owner of a convenience store had been murdered, his truck taken.

“I am not protecting them. I am fighting them. I asked for help from the Mando Único [the unified state command of public safety agencies] and the Marines,” Omar Cruz replied. But Moisés was not satisfied and continued in a loud voice with his criticism until one of Cruz’s staff, Juanita León slapped Moisés Sanchez several times on the cheeks.

Omar Cruz did not do anything else. But he left without offering Moisés an apology and failing to scold his employee who had hit him. Instead, a friend of Moisés told his family that the mayor threatened the journalist…

“Take care. Omar says that he wants to frighten you.”

Ignacio Carvajal is a prize-winning journalist working in Veracruz. Follow him @nachopallaypaca on Twitter. In Latin America Carvajal is recognized as a skilled practitioner of the crónica, a form of reporting news by telling a story. Check out hisRanch of Horror” in translation for the Mexican Journalism Translation Project. This article was first published under the title, “Aliado de Duarte, cliente de “brujos”, el Alcalde del PAN puso la mira en periodista,” available at: http://www.sinembargo.mx/09-01-2015/1212468.

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. The MxJTP has a Facebook page: like it, here.

 

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SILENCING DISSENT IN MEXICO: Atilano Román Slain, Leader of the Picachos Community (Miriam Ramírez, Riodoce)

Recently Murdered Octavio Atilo Román, Picachos Reservoir community leader.

Recently Murdered Octavio Atilo Román, Picachos Reservoir community leader.

This article was first published on 11 October 2014. It has been translated without permission for the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP).

Translator’s Note: Atilo Román led the communities displaced by the construction of the Picachos reservoir in Sinaloa. He was imprisoned on trumped up charges by State Police in 2012 and 2013 when the Picachos communities were in ongoing protest against the government of Mario López Valdez of the PRI concerning the development, construction, and effects of the Picachos reservoir in Sinaloa. This summer he opened and promoted the new 750-person Picachos ecotourism community to a security-conscious clientele of Mexican and U.S. fishermen, stressing that the Picachos region was unscathed by violence between organized crime and government forces. Recently Atilo Román had returned to protesting corruption in the state government’s fisheries agency because it had failed to issue commercial fishing licenses to Picachos community members.

Newspaper El Sol de Mazatlán –- which has yet to report Atilo Román’s death in its radio station — is one of 70 newspapers in Mexico owned by Organización Editorial Mexicana. PT

SILENCING DISSENT IN MEXICO: Atilano Román Slain, Leader of the Picachos Community
By Miriam Ramírez (RIODOCE.COM)

A shot to the face from two armed men killed Atilano Román, leader of the Picachos community. The men burst into the station belonging to newspaper El Sol de Maztlán.

The attack took place at 10:40 in the morning just as he was being interviewed in a studio in the station. The two men came in carrying handguns; one of them shot Atilo Román point blank.

Seriously wounded, Atilo Román was taken to a hospital in Rafael Buelna Avenue where he died.

Local investigative agents of the Attorney General’s Office are currently in the southern region. They are investigating and questioning witnesses to the murder including reception area workers who allowed the alleged attackers to enter.

Recently the members of the Picachos Reservoir community, led by Atilo Román, had returned to demonstrations because of delays in licensing commercial fishing in the reservoir. CONAPESCA failed to deliver these licenses.

Atilano Román had complained about the interests of CONAPESCA officials for granting licenses to people outside the Picachos community.

In February 2013 the community’s leader and several of its members were arrested and arbitrarily imprisoned by officers of the State Prosecutor’s Police. They had announced they would enter the Carnival procession to stage a parody of Governor Mario López Valdez. They accused the governor — who belongs to the PRI, Mexico’s ruling party — of not fulfilling promises towards those communities displaced by the reservoir.

After those arrests the Human Rights Commission of the state of Sinaloa warned that the State Attorney General had abused the community members’ rights by detaining them without legitimate reasons and only to stop their demonstration during the Carnival.

But this wasn’t even the first time they had been arrested. In May 2012, the leader of thirty community members –- men, women, elderly people –- were detained by officers from the State Prosecutor’s Police as they walked down the Culiacán to Mazatlán highway in protest against the Governor of Sinaloa, López Valdez.

The community members have been fighting for more than five years, ever since construction began on the Picachos Reservoir. It displaced six towns in the Mazatlán and Concordia mountains.

The communities’ members have staged countless demonstrations. They have been imprisoned for demanding the state government provide compensation and fulfilling its promises.

 

Journalist Miriam Ramírez reports for Riodoce in Culiacán, Sinaloa. This article first appeared under the title, “Asesinan a Atilo Román, Líder de los Picachos,” available at: http://riodoce.mx/gob-politica/asesinan-a-atilano-roman-lider-de-los-picachos.

 

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. The MxJTP has a Facebook page: like it, here.

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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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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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Ciudad Juárez’s Perverse Development: Knowledge City — Between Scholarly Pursuits and Private Interests (Sandra Rodríguez Nieto, EL DIARIO DE JUÁREZ)

From the Center of Ciudad Juárez to UACJ's CIudad Universitaria. (Courtesy Google Maps)

From the Center of Ciudad Juárez to UACJ’s CIudad Universitaria. (Courtesy Google Maps)

This article was first published in El Diario de Juárez on 11 October 2011. It has been translated without permission for the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP). There is no web accessible version of this article.

Translator’s Note: The translation of this article is dedicated to the memory of Regina Martínez Pérez, fearless Proceso reporter based in Xalapa, Veracruz, and documenter of public malfeasance, murdered on 28 April 2012. Her murder continues unpunished and is an ongoing source of embarrassment for authorities in the State of Veracruz, Mexico. PT

Ciudad Juárez’s Perverse Development: Knowledge City — Between Scholarly Pursuits and Private Interests
By Sandra Rodríguez Nieto (EL DIARIO DE JUÁREZ)

Even though his classes begin at 0800, David Valles, 19, and a resident of Colonia Monumental, has to get up before 0600 so that he can take the Indiobús at 0640 from the Zona Centro. From there it takes him more than an hour to arrive at the Autonomous University of Ciudad Juárez’s (UACJ) new southeast campus, 16kms from the southern limits of the border city.

Cristina Durón, 18, lives in Colonia Toribio Ortega, in the city’s southwest, and she also has to wake up around 0500 so that she can take a bus to the Centro Histórico. From there, she takes a bus that takes her to Avenida Tecnólogico and from there she jumps on another bus that takes an hour to get to the new buildings, located in what’s also known as “the City of Knowledge.”

According to UACJ administrators, the distance these students have to travel to the Ciudad Universitaria is a cost. But it’s also the only way the institution has to increase participation, minimize its educational shortfall, and increase enrolment rates from 28 to 55 percent of applicants.

For urban development experts, however, the UACJ’s location in that zone, bordering on private lands, is more a product of obeying the expansionist whims of politicians and realtors bent on Ciudad Juárez’s urban growth.

“The logic of expansionism and growth towards that zone explain its location in that zone. Its construction fails to consider costs related to infrastructure, equipment, commuting and security. The city cannot satisfy those needs,” said Pedro Cital, architect, private consultant in urban development and former deputy director of the city’s research and planning institution (IMIP).

According to Cital, one example of Knowledge City’s real-estate value is the stretch of highway to the new campus. Instead of building a 5km link to the existing Panamerican Highway, they built a new highway to the southeast, right beside land owned by private real estate developers.

“To build in this area, yes I think other interests were taken into consideration. The closest freeway connection for the University would be the Panamerican Highway, and the most logical route would be to open a street from there to the UACJ’s land. But that’s not what they did. Instead, they built a road from the southeast towards the university. So, it was built to power growth, bringing services and infrastructure that would make that area more viable for development,” Cital explains. For years he has questioned the expansionist model epitomized by Juárez’s development.

The new campus houses 2,500 UACJ students and 550 students from the Technological Institute of Ciudad Juárez (ITCJ).

According to José Antonio Lozoya, general coordinator of the UACJ’s new campus, the students must commute a total of sixteen kilometers to reach the campus.

Desert dominates that region’s landscape, where the opening of the Electrolux plant in 2005 accelerated urbanization. It’s interspersed by industrial parks, separated by deserted lots that, in the majority, remain empty and vandalized.

Around Fundadores Boulevard, almost total desolation exists, save for a few almost entirely vacant housing complexes.

The UACJ and the ITCJ provide free transport to students from various parts of the city. But Abigail García, IMIP’s planning coordinator, said that commuting times must be avoided, and should have been taken into consideration in the urban planning process.

“The students are the ones paying the price – because of the distance. We are trying to generate less commuting, so the people don’t spend so much time traveling. Look, they are young people, so they have to bear it. But it’s a high price to pay, and they have to be there all the day, in a place where there’s only the university,” García said.

Manuel Loera de la Rosa, director of Planning and Institutional Development at the UACJ said that the three hundred hectares owned by the University is just the first phase of the Ciudad Universitaria (CU) and that it was the only option to house an ambitious project to boost the enrollment numbers that Juárez requires.

He added that no other place turned out to be as cheap as that area, donated to the UACJ in 2001 by Chihuahua’s state government.

“Universities always have costs to bear. At the CU the great benefit is being able to offer education spaces in a timely fashion, opportunities that would not have emerged any other way,” Loera insisted in an interview.

‘Pressure, Juárez’s History’

UACJ’s location — as well as that of the ITCJ and other educational institutions in Knowledge City – is part of the San Isidro-Zaragoza development plan, totaling about 4,367 hectares. Promoted by the state government, the plan was approved by the Ciudad Juárez Council in 2007, during the first period in office of Mayor Héctor Murguía.

That year, 2007, also saw approval of the Eastern Development Plan (PPO XXI-II), broadening the city’s population distribution. The PPO XXI-II permitted urbanization and construction of residential areas seventeen kilometers from what were then the city’s limits.

These two development plans added to another three plans that had been approved since 2004: El Barreal and San Jerónimo in Juárez’s northwest, bordering New Mexico; and, the first stage of East XXI, in the southeast.

In total, and in just two years, the five plans added more than 14,600 hectares for possible urbanization, 66 percent more than the 22,123 hectares available in 2003. In every case the local government argued the need to provide housing for an estimated population rise of 100,000 people per year destined to work in the maquiladoras.

With the passing of the years, however, and just as the town planner’s had prophesied, a 2001 recession in the maquiladora lowered the population. The IMIP warned at the time of no evidence for so many homes, many of which now stand vacant.

The politics of Juárez’s expansion has been questioned by officials since 2003, when the Urban Development Master Plan established the need for greater density. The Master Plan says that the spread of the city has made it expensive and unsafe, and based on unsustainable resources for its infrastructure and equipment. This has generated problems for its identity and decayed its social structure.

“The logic behind investment behaviour in our region sees urban space as disposable. When investment moves to new, more prosperous, lucrative business districts, urban areas are left totally abandoned. In this context, the capital that’s left is underutilized or just abandoned. And with its desertion, the city’s image loses vitality and deteriorates,” the Master Plan says.

In terms of security, the same document states, “the accelerated growth of the city impacts the capacity to prevent crime.”

From the period between 2005 and 2007 when the majority of the development plans were approved, various sectors of the population warned that such expansion obeyed the interests of landowners with property ripe for, or close to, urbanization projects. As in San Jerónimo’s case, where the state and municipal governments have granted millions for investment in services, overwhelmingly in road construction.

Since 2007, an El Diario investigation has documented that along with land from state government and from the UACJ, there are more than 1,000 hectares owned by families of two former mayors: Manuel Quevedo and Jaime Bermúdez. In 1977 Quevedo was mayor and Bermúdez the city’s treasurer and they acquired thousands of hectares in the city’s southeast. In the last thirty years, Juárez’s urbanization has been directed towards that region.

According to César Mario Fuentes, a PhD in regional development and director of the Colegio de la Frontera (COLEF), the model used by the government to pay for public services like water, drainage, light and roads on far removed roads that result in “big business” for those types of landowners.

“I am unaware if there’s that intention, but unfortunately it has always been this way. It’s obvious that it has been a strategy traditionally employed by Ciudad Juárez’s large landowners who take advantage of public authority,” Fuentes said in 2007. The COLEF director is also the author of numerous academic studies about the region’s land market.

According to Loera, the first stage of the new UACJ campus required an inversion of 498 million pesos for the “basic infranstructure work” – drainage, light, water, roads – in addition to the construction and equipping of three buildings.

The director of the city’s land registry, Antonio Artalejo, estimated this week that the investment would spark a real estate “boom” and the construction of housing, services, and industries.

“If the 2008 economic crash had not happened, housing construction would be at its apogee about now,” Artalejo said.

In spite of the economic downturn, about five residential communities have been constructed in the area – all completely distant from each other – and in the public property registry land transfers have already occurred.

That is what entry 15 of book 5363 registers. In July 2011, the families of Quevedo and Bermúdez sold 37 hectares, located in the environs of Knowledge City – to a real estate company called HOH.

“Opening different areas of the city has definitely had much to do with pressure from landowners,” Cital said.

“It’s an obvious fact about the history of the city’s growth: one can identify the pressures that lead to growth,” the expert added.

Yesterday, the former mayors mentioned in this article could not be reached for comment.

‘Human Cost’

The Ciudad Universitaria coordinator said that 70 percent of the students come from southeastern neighborhoods, and that only 750 students come from father afield, like the west of the city.

But the distance is of such importance, Lozoya said, that upon it depends almost all the planning decisions, like class timetables and possible extra-curricular activities.

To support the students, the UACJ has contracted three transport companies that will carry 90 percent of the students in 27 old vehicles from nine points around the city. The most distant point is the one located by the Juárez Monument.

The ITCJ, on its behalf, will transfer the majority of students in four vehicles (of a more recent vintage). This service will only leave from Campus Uno, located on Avenida Tecnológico.

Even though they are free services, the UACJ students who live in the west of the city must occasionally wait for more than an hour because the only bus that goes to the city center quickly fills. If they have to leave campus early they have to wait for hours because the buses from the CU leave at two times: at 1400 and 2000.

The jokes arising from the distance have motivated a campaign by the CU coordinators who have taken phrases they can print on posters as a way of “fostering identity.”

So, students write: “When my mother told me I would go far, I didn’t know that she was referring to the CU.” Or, among other witticisms, “Typical: you are new in CU and when they ask you where you are from, you say: from Ciudad Juárez.” But the time spent in commuting, Abigail García says, is a human problem that, rather than being funny, diminishes the quality of personal and collective life.

“Principally, it undermines rest, the time you need to recuperate and that as far as we know, it damages health. The other thing that gets shunted aside is family life. Commuting takes up much of the day… We complain to ourselves that there’s a need for social cohesion, that there’s no neighborly integration, and that certain factors rupture this spirit of living together, and commuting is one part of that subject,” García said.

The need to find a place in Juárez at an institution of higher education is so great that not one of the students, even the most critical, expressed a desire to withdraw because of the distance.

Daniel Valles, for example, said that he hopes to change campus since his degree program is offered in the Institute of Social Sciences and Administration, about ten minutes from his home.

Cristina Durón added that one day she hopes to own a car. But Armando Salas, 19, also a Psychology student and a resident from the Avenida Las Torres neighborhood – near to CU – warned against owning a car: “I spend fifty pesos a day on gas, and because of the economic crisis that sucks.”

Prize-winning Journalist Sandra Rodríguez Nieto is currently a Neiman Fellow at Harvard. Her first book, La fábrica del crímen, relates the story of impunity in Ciudad Juárez during the height of the city’s recent violence. This article was first published under the title, “Ciudad del Conocimiento: Entre el interés escolar y el privado.”

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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“I didn’t know that a human could take so much pain” (Daniela Rea, EL UNIVERSAL)

This article was published in El Universal on 15 March 2014. It has been translated without permission for the Mexican Journalism Translation Project.

“I didn’t know that a human could take so much pain”
by Daniela Rea (EL UNIVERSAL)

The first thing that springs to mind for Gustavo Martínez Rentería about the torture he and his friends suffered at the hands of the Federal Police, whose officers forced them to admit to being criminals, is the moment when the uniformed agents opened the door to the room where they had been hitting them for several days. At that moment, the officers asked if they wanted to say anything, as it was going to get worse.

The door opened. They were in a giant warehouse, bound hand and foot, in front of TV cameras that were pointing at them. To one side was Luis Cárdenas Palomino, then spokesperson for the Federal Police, saying that they were narcos, responsible for planting the car bomb in Ciudad Juárez on 15 July 2010.

“When I saw myself in front of the cameras, the world stopped turning and the only thing I thought was: ‘Holy shit, we are done for’” says Gustavo, now free, after spending three years and seven months in prison accused of a crime he confessed to under torture, along with four childhood friends: Rogelio Amaya Martínez, Noé Fuentes Chavira, and brothers Víctor Manuel and Ricardo Fernández Lomelí.

“I didn’t understand what was going on, they had beaten us so much… you don’t know what’s truth and what’s a lie. They even make you doubt yourself,” he says during a conversation with EL UNIVERSAL.

Gustavo was 24 years old when he was arrested. He was working in a bar in Ciudad Juárez. Like his friends, he looks like he just came from another world. He walks gingerly, like he’s trying to recognize the ground.

“The only thing I can ask for is patience from my people,” he says.

To prove the youths’ innocence, their defense – headed by the Paso del Norte Human Rights Centre (Centro de Derechos Humanos Paso del Norte) and the Collective Against Torture and Impunity – implemented the Istanbul Protocol, an international test that comprises assessing bodily and emotional damage done to victims of torture. The test demonstrated that they suffered beatings to both body and face, electric shocks, simulated murder and suffocation with plastic bags and water, threats of being raped, or their families being raped, and that they were made to watch their friends being abused or hearing their torture. Subsequently, the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) confirmed these results in recommendation 75/2011.

— Gustavo is asked, “How do you see yourself now that you are out of prison?” He closes his eyes, and tries to imagine.

— I see a skinny guy, hobbled, spent, who walks slowly, nervously… on the ground are the bits that they broke off: dignity, self-esteem, strength, patience, confidence, a whole life.

Rogelio Amaya, one of the arrested youths, looks at himself and is surprised to have discovered personal strength. “I didn’t know that I could bear so much, so much pain. How is it possible that a living being can tolerate so much pain? I see somebody who thinks he’s now stronger than he was [before the torture].

We Come Back Damaged

On 13 August 2010 the Federal Police brought the five youths accused of the Ciudad Juárez car bombing in which four people died before the media. The defense alleged that they were tortured to admit their guilt, and even the Federal Attorney General withdrew its criminal complaint, and freed them on Friday 7 March.

“During Felipe Calderón’s presidency, we witnessed the fabrication of criminals through torture. The government needed to find the guilty and so it fingered these young men. The Federal Police tortured them in Ciudad Juárez, then when they were transferred by plane and in the hangar, and later at their Iztapalapa base. They had them for five days so that they could do unthinkable things to them,” says Javier Enríquez of the Collective Against Torture and Impunity at a press conference on 11 March in Mexico City as he announced these youth’s release. The young men were present at the press conference.

The defense has begun a judicial process against the police officers who arrested the youths. They hope for sanctions against federal agents Manuel Calleja Marín, Víctor Aquileo Lozano Vera, Manuel Granero Rugerio, Federico López Pérez, Adán Serafín Cárdenas Cruz and Luis Alberto González Gutiérrez and for reparations agains the damaged caused to the youths and their families.

The first night that Mayra and Rogelio spent together, after his freedom, they talked without stopping, trying to bring each other up to date. “We didn’t come back from a holiday, Mayra, we returned damaged, bitter,” Rogelio said to her at one point, when the certainties of the “return to life” began bit by bit to fall into place.

Days later, in Mexico City, he would remember and reflect upon that scene: “We went three years and seven months inside and suddenly realized… Starting over again is going to be difficult, and I spoke to her a lot so that she can be patient with me.”

Mayra sits by his side. The wife who has been with him over the past eight years has to get used to the idea that her husband is now different from who he used to be.

“I see that he has changed. He has a different look. A lot of courage and insecurity, of sadness. In his eyes he is always on alert. Before, he used to look normal. I don’t know how to explain it… it’s also in the way he walk, as if he’s being watched, always turning back, surprised that a guard isn’t following him.”

The results from the Istanbul Protocol reflect how the torture has marked them: insomnia, nightmares, frightened of going out, of being alone, of closing their eyes, unexpectedly reliving the torture, of wanting to be dead, lack of appetite, migraines.

Mayra knows what the psychologists have told him: these are normal feelings coming from an abnormal situation. “We need to talk a lot. He was a prisoner there, but out here a lot of things have happened. I want to understand, to know how to get close to him again,” Mayra says.

“What do you want to know? How they tortured me? What it’s like to be lock…” he replies.

Rogelio worked in a Soriana warehouse before his arrest. He leaves sentences unfinished. That’s how he came out: he doesn’t speak very much, or he interrupts himself. For the press conference the youths agreed that he would speak for his friends. Once again, TV cameras were pointed at him, but now they want to hear the truth. He couldn’t talk.

One aim of torture is to extract words. The youths had words taken from them when they were fored to confess to crimes they didn’t commit. And they had words taken from them again when, in front of the cameras, they couldn’t talk about the torture. Now free, words seem to be beyond them. Words stuck in their stomachs, in their throats, in their mouths. It’s like the words want to come out but they drown in teary eyes that, it seems, don’t belong to them.

Back to Life

It was 1430 on the afternoon of Friday 7 March when Rogelio and Noé left prison in Tepic, Nayarit State. Meanwhile, in the south of the country, Gustavo, Víctor and Ricardo left the prison in Perote, Veracruz. Hours later, for the first time since their arrest, the five would reunite in Mexico City. They were never allowed to communicate.

“We didn’t recognize each other. Noé and Gustavo were really skinny,” Víctor jokes, the youngest. When they put him in prison he was 19 years old and he was about to become a father. His son was born two weeks after he went to prison and he only met him last year when his lawyers managed to obtain permission to visit the maximum-security prison. That time they saw him through glass. They couldn’t touch.

“The first time that he said “daddy”…” he says, and his face lights up.

Rogelio also became a father again when he was a prisoner. Prior to that he had a four year-old son and his wife Mayra was about to give birth to a girl. When he regained his freedom on Friday, the first thing that he did was to run to embrace her. The girl was unsettled and began to cry. She didn’t know who he was. As the days went by, she has been getting used to his arms, to his smiles.

“What’s it like to be free again? It’s like being born. There’s no way to describe it,” and a smile appears on Rogelio’s face.

To be re-born, that’s what freedom is for them. Rogelio, Gustavo, Víctor, Noé and Ricardo know they have been broken, but the torture made them discover something about themselves they did not know.

“I always thought I was a strong person but this has told me that ‘I’m great’.” It’s let me know that I can pick myself up,” Gustavo exclaims.

“I have matured a lot. I realize that I am a person who can behave like a father, like a man,” Víctor adds.

Family is their bulwark, what sustains them. They want to regain lost time, to find a job, to build a business, to show themselves and others that they can keep on going.

“The greatest payback for what they did to me is to take the life they stole from me and show them that I can go on. I want to move on and leave everything behind,” says Rogelio, summing up how he and his friends feel.

They are hungry to get back each of the 1,305 days they spent in prison. Their families know that’s a tall order, to carry all that on their shoulders. To pick up the pieces and to get back to full strength is going to be a slow, painful process.

Mayra, Rogelio’s wife, can feel it already.

“I tell him that the most important thing is that he believes it, and that he is back with us and that we are going to move forward.”

Journalist Daniela Rea reports for newspaper El Universal. Follow her on Twitter @danielarea. This article first appeared in Spanish with the title, “No sabía que un ser humano podía aguantar tanto dolor,” available at: http://www.eluniversal.com.mx/nacion-mexico/2014/impreso/-8220no-saba-que-un-ser-humano-poda-aguantar-tanto-dolor-8221-213959.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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Tales of Torture and Impunity in Ciudad Juárez: Judge Orders Five Accused in 2010 Car Bombing Must Be Freed (Reporting Staff, El Diario de Juárez)

This article was first published in El Diario de Juárez on Tuesday 11 March 2014. It has been translated without permission for the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP).

Tales of Torture and Impunity in Ciudad Juárez: Judge Orders Five Accused in 2010 Car Bombing Must Be Freed
By Staff (El Diario de Juárez)

– Their Torture Documented, Human Rights Attorney Demands Reparation for Five Victims of Official Abuse; Spent more than 3 years in jail, charges now dropped

Mexico’s Federal Attorney General has withdrawn charges against five men who were detained for involvement in the detonation of a car bomb in 2010 in Ciudad Juárez.

Noé Fuentes Chavira, Rogelio Amaya Martínez, Víctor Manuel Martínez Rentería, Gustavo Martínez Rentería and Ricardo Fernández Lomelí were released last Friday after three and a half years in prison, according to attorney Diana Morales of the Centro de Derechos Humanos Paso del Norte.

Morales added that the five proved positive under the Istanbul Protocol, a manual designed to determine if a person was subjected to torture or degrading treatment.

Journalist reports establish that on being detained, they were accused of organized crime, crimes against health for marijuana possession, and of carrying arms for exclusive use by the Armed Forces. At the time, the Federal Ministry of Public Security (SSPF), headed by Genaro García Luna reported that Fuentes Chavira revealed that he had participated in the attack against the Federal Police on 15 July 2010 as an informer of La Línea. He was placed in preventive detention in the Federal Investigation Center while they investigated the evidence against him.

Morales explained that the people detained on 11 August 2010 were accused of federal crimes but not terrorism. That is to say, not for detonating the car bomb on Avenida 16 de Septiembre that caused the death of Doctor José Guillermo Ortiz Collazo, Federal Agent Ismael Valverde Solares and civilian César Gabiño Aviña, along with injuring 11 other people, among them six Federal Police agents and a camera operator for television station Canal 5. A judge in Guadalajara ordered the five be restored to freedom after receiving indication that they no longer stood accused of criminal charges.

“The Attorney General withdrew charges because we sat down to dialogue with them, letting them know that there were only two pieces of evidence against the accused: the confessions taken under torture and the words of the federal agents. When we applied the Protocol of Istanbul to these youths, one could see that their testimony was extracted under torture and yielded a document that demonstrated the officers were lying. They said the youths were detained on 12 August, but really the arrests occurred on 11 August. A document exists that proves this fact,” said the attorney.

That proof is a notice issued by the Federal Police to the agency’s juridical arm in Mexico City, stating that five people were detained on 11 August. That date was changed in the record to an arrest date of 12 August, Morales explained. During that 24 hour period the five were subjected to torture.

The attorney for the accused said that the Attorney General only had proof from the same agents that detained them, and the five youth’s confession “extracted under torture.”

“They accused them of organize crime, guns, and drugs, but they couldn’t prove any relation to the car bomb,” confirmed Morales.

The defense requested application of the Istanbul Protocol to prove torture, thereafter corroborated by the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH), which prompted the Attorney General to issue is recommendation number 75/2011.

After that point, the attorney said that in a meeting Mexico’s current Attorney General, Jesús Murillo Karam promised to apply other tests under the Istanbul Protocol, and if at least one test came back positive then they would all go free. All five tested positive.

“The Attorney General kept his word. He is saying that these people had nothing to do with organized crime, or with drugs, and the accusations were baseless. This means that there were no charges to pursue against them,” Morales confirmed.

She added that the Attorney General arrived at these conclusions last Thursday, and the judge freed them on Friday. The same day the five left their respective prisons.

The CDHPN spokesperson, Carlos Murillo, said that after being freed, the five met in Mexico City where they gave a press conference. Tomorrow, Wednesday, they will arrive in Juárez accompanied by their families.

The human rights attorney added that the Federal Police also abused their right to due process because it took two and a half days to deliver them to the Federal Public Prosecutor.

More than one year ago, the now-freed prisoners filed a complaint with the Federal Public Prosecutor documenting their torture. The CDHPN hopes that the federal agents who committed these crimes will be punished.

“We expect them to punish those agents. The Attorney General seems to be acting in good faith. Not only did he recognize the abuse suffered by the youths for something they did not do, but he also has the will and the obligation. Torture is a crime and the Attorney General must continue his investigation,” he added.

The people who are still under investigation for crimes of terrorism, homicide, attempted homicide, and the use of a stolen vehicle in connection with the car bombing occurring on the border in 2010 are listed in penal process 218/2012 at the Mesa I of the Sixth District Court: José Iván Contreras Lumbreras, “El Keiko”; Jaime Arturo Chávez González, “El Jimmy”; Mauro Adrián Villegas, “El Blaky” or “El Negro”; Fernando Contreras Meras, “El Barbas”; Martín Pérez Marrufo, “El Popeye” or “El Gordo”; Lorenzo Tadeo Palacios, “El Shorty” or “Shorty Dog”; Jorge Antonio Hernández, “El Chapo” or “El Chapito.”

José Antonio Acosta Hernández, alias Carlos Martínez Pérez, “El Diego” or “El Uno” or “El 10” is also listed in the criminal complaint but he will not go to trial as he is imprisoned in the United States.

Leticia Chavarría, member of the Security Committee, and friend of one of the victims who died in the explosion, said that it is important that five of the accused in this case have been freed.

“There was insufficient proof to declare them guilty, and that is very serious,” she said.

She added that if these people are innocent, and they were wrongly imprisoned, then the justice system is failing.

“For us, the most important thing is to see justice served. If they are innocent, where are the people who are really responsible,” she asked.

The CDHPN requested the Justice Department (PGR) continue its investigations so that those responsible for the crime of torture against the five wrongly accused can be punished.

Also, the Federal Police should continue to comply with the CNDH’s recommendation 75/2012 and provide integral reparation to the victims.

To guarantee non-repetition, the Mexican state must instruct its police forces and investigative units not to torture and mistreat detainees, as established by Mexico’s Constitution and the relevant international treaties.

It must also eliminate preventive detention. At the instant that somebody alleges being victim to torture, they must immediately see the Public Prosecutor, with any confession then voided. The independent experts that apply the Protocol of Istanbul must be accepted and recognised.

After the car bomb attack on 15 July 2010 – unprecedented for the border – the Federal Public Security Ministry released a communique indicating the attack was in reprisal for the arrest of Jesús Armando Acosta Guerrero, “El 35,” the leader of La Línea, a local criminal gang. “El 35” was a subordinate of Jose Antonio Acosta Hernández, “El Diego” who was second in command in La Línea and under the direct control of Juan Pablo Ledezma, “El JL,” a lieutenant of Vicente Carrillo Fuentes.

The attack occurred when Federal Police agents arrived at the intersection of 16 de Septiembre and Bolivia in response to an attack on a municipal officer. First-aid responders also arrived on the scene, as did different media outlets.

A doctor from a nearby surgery, José Guillermo Ortiz Collazo, was already on the scene attending to the supposedly injured municipal police officer. As they arrived at the location, federal officers reported that a vehicle had been tailing them for blocks, so they requested backup.

At the scene, the three squad cars slewed as did a recent model green Ford Focus with license plate 853 SHF6. Two men suddenly stepped from the car, prompting the police officers to open fire.

After the shots, there was an explosion. According to the report provided by sources within Chihuahua’s Coordinated Operation, a fragmentation grenade was activated intentionally to end the lives of the police officers.

The explosion could be heard from kilometers away. Flames from the car bomb and the squad cars could be seen across the city.

Windows of houses, car windshields, sidewalk concrete, and asphalt, as well as metal from the car bomb were strewn for meters around the blast site.

The case attracted U.S. investigators with expertise in terrorist acts collaborated with Mexican authorities in the investigation of the car bomb. (Staff/El Diario)

Case Highlights

•A car bomb exploded on 15 July 2010, at the intersection of 16 de Septiembre and Bolivia, Ciudad Juárez. The bombers used terrorist tactics.

• Dead in the blast: Doctor José Guillermo Ortiz Collazo, Federal Agent Ismael Valverde Solares and civilian César Gabiño Aviña.

• Six federal police officers and a television camera operator were injured in the blast.

• U.S. anti-terrorist experts collaborated with Mexican authorities in the investigation.

• According to the Federal Public Security Ministry, the attack was in reprisal for the arrest of the commander of La Línea, Jesús Armando Acosta Guerrero, a subordinate of “El Diego,” second in command of the group under the direct control of Juan Pablo Ledezma, “El JL”, lieutenant of Vicente Carrillo Fuentes.

This article was reported in Spanish by Reporting Staff at the newspaper El Diario de Juárez, in Chihuahua, Mexico. El Diario is a daily newspaper known for hard-hitting coverage, and its journalists are always at risk. The article appeared under the title, “Libres, implicados en bombazo aquí,” available at: http://diario.mx/Local/2014-03-11_b971ab2c/libres-implicados-en-bombazo-aqui/.

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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Day Laborers (Javier Valdez Cárdenas, RÍODOCE)

This Malayerba column was first published in RíoDoce on 9 March 2014. It has been translated without permission for the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP).

Day Laborers
By Javier Valdez Cárdenas (RíoDoce)

The teacher taught his classes with reluctance. Tired of the transactions with the secretary – of asking, going, and coming for two months back pay. Tired and bad-tempered. One of the townspeople knew that the teacher was in need and approached him: I will pay you four months of salary, but occasionally just let me loose with the kids.

He looked at him a moment and his look instantly revealed all: he had poppies flowering, bulbs swollen. He needed to begin scoring them, collecting the harvest of opium sap. The teacher looked at him and then looked again. He didn’t blink: between the eyelashes, piercing, bloodshot eyes. And what with his need for money, overwhelmed by it all, he accepted.

It wasn’t just a couple of days. It was the whole week. The children in the furrows: short, skinny, small-handed and still delicate, they were just what the red carpet of poppies, bulbs, and the sticky substance needed. Bulkier types, with clumsy hands, brusque movements, bigger people, they would have ruined the heavenly harvest that seemed swelled by profit, the sure sell.

The teacher took advantage of the opportunity to take a breather. He took care of the school’s administrative business, since he was also its director, janitor, teacher and even the parent-student counsellor. He renewed his attempt to get paid, now without the pressure of empty pockets, his lips no longer tight around his mouth.

The children arrived, put down their bags then went to work. Into small cylindrical containers, they collected the slow, dense fluid that came from buttons on the plant. One, two, three marks. Several trips to the same furrow: squeezing that natural toy with the care of a vascular surgeon, that beautiful part of the poppy, and cutting, cutting, cutting until it bled.

The harvest ended and classes resumed. That man, in the three-peaked hat with the commanding voice, he let the little ones go and thanked the teacher. Whenever, he replied. The weekend came swiftly and the children asked if they could go to the nearest town, out on the junction with the state highway.

Among the shops, restaurants, homemade bread stalls, pharmacies, convenience stores, and hardware stores they ran, looked, inquired, wanted: this thing, that, another. An older boy approached a man eating eggs with machaca, drinking coffee. Hey, mister, don’t you want to sell me something. Like what, asked the adult. Something, whatever.

Intrigued, the man put down his fork and pushed his cup away. Let’s see, let’s see what’s up. What have you brought with you? The child put his hand in the right pocket of his pants. He pulled out a fist of notes: dollars and more dollars, jumping out, banded together, lively. What’s that about kid, he asked, taken a back. I just got out of work. He insisted: are you sure you don’t have a gun to sell me.

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, “Jornaleros,” and is available at http://riodoce.mx/noticias/columnas/malayerba/jornaleros.

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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Complaint Filed in Disappearance of Veracruz Reporter (Regina Martínez, PROCESO)

Proceso first published this article on 23 September 2011. It is being translated as part of the MxJTP’s attempt to publish the late reporter Regina Martínez’s work in English.

Translator’s Note: Under international and regional human rights law, an enforced disappearance is an ongoing crime until the person’s whereabouts, or remains, have been located. In February 2014 the state of Veracruz reopened its investigation into Manuel Fonseca´s disappearance. But it should never have been stalled, or closed, in the first place. PT

Complaint Filed in Disappearance of Veracruz Reporter
By Regina Martínez (PROCESO)

JALAPA, Veracruz.- Relatives of Manuel Fonseca Hernández filed charges about the cimre reporter’s disappearance. The journalist worked for newspaper El Mañanero in Acayucán in the south of Veracruz.

According to family members, Fonseca Hernández disappeared on Saturday 17 September when he left his home to cover a newspaper event. He did not return home, nor did he call his editors.

The young reporter’s father, Juan Fonseca Aguirre, filed a complaint with the Public Prosecutor in Acayucán since he does not know his son’s whereabouts. “We are afraid that something bad has happened to him,” he said.

The judicial complaint is registered under the number for preliminary investigation (averiguación previa) ACA/621/2001.

Journalist Regina Martínez was murdered in Xalapa, Veracruz on 28 April 2012. Even a cursory review of her articles reveals that Martínez was covering stories deeply unpopular to Veracruz authorities. Although one man was prosecuted for her death, months later he was released since his confession had been produced under torture. Since her death, four reporters have been murdered in Veracruz, according to CPJ data. This article first appeared under the title, “Denuncian desaparición de un reportero en el sur de Veracruz,” available at: http://www.proceso.com.mx/?p=282251.

Journalist Manuel Gabriel Fonseca continues disappeared, his whereabouts unknown. In January 2014, his elderly mother went missing, but then reappeared in Acayucán. Until February 2014, journalists reported the family has received no attention from authorities since Fonseca’s disappearance.

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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