Tag Archives: drug war

Why They Kill You In Veracruz (IGNACIO CARVAJAL, Journalist, Veracruz, Mexico)

Why they Kill you in Veracruz

By Ignacio Carvajal (Journalist based in Veracruz, First Published 13 August 2015)

The issue in Veracruz is not whether they kill journalists, lawyers, politicians, teachers, students…
There’s just one issue: they kill you.
You can be murdered in Veracruz for two reasons: insecurity and impunity.
That’s why they kill a child in the north and bury her like an animal.
That’s why there have been more than 65 murders of women in 2015.
That’s why they kill journalists and former journalists.
That’s why they threaten human rights defenders.
That’s why they plunder the rivers for whatever they want.
That’s why there are kidnappings, even though punishment has increased and there are special anti-kidnapping units.
That’s why mayors can send hit men out to kill, then turn and run from law enforcement.
That’s why there are so many dead, floating in the Río Blanco.
That’s why there’s a solemn silence surrounding the violence in Veracruz and Boca del Río.
That’s why the University of Veracruz students are brutally beaten to an inch of their lives.
That’s why there are so many desperate mothers searching for the missing.
That’s why there are graves, the ones that have been found and the ones that haven’t been found.
For all these reasons, and more besides, that’s why Veracruz is drenched in tears and blood.

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Nameless (Javier Valdez Cárdenas, RIODOCE)

This Malayerba column was published on 24 August 2014. It has been translated without permission for the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP).

#RememberingJim: This translation is dedicated to the memory of freelance reporter and photojournalist James Foley who, among other talents, graduated from Marquette University in History in 1996. PT

Nameless
By Javier Valdez Cárdenas (RIO DOCE)

Raúl felt like his eyes were filling with shattered glass. The tears didn’t beg permission. They began to fall. They ran down his skin. One of his children had been kidnapped. The police said it was an abduction. But he knew instantly that they were going to call to ask for ransom.

His cell phone rang. It rang to the tune of El palo verde. Its macabre sound during this tragedy made him feel ashamed. His sixteen-year old son. The middle child. He saw his wife bowled over, brought low, sat in an armchair with the pain of rushing salty tears drying her out. Fuck me, he muttered.

He hit the green button on the Motorola and let out an imperceptible tremulous hello. Look you son of a bitch we have your kid. He pointed the phone at the boy so that he could let out the terrified cry of dad. He asked for money in exchange for letting him go and he explained where and how to drop it off. When we know you delivered it we will let him go. I’ll fuck my mother if we don’t. He cried again. He begged him not to hurt his boy.

He got the money together and he delivered it. He didn’t tell the police because he was afraid. They are one and the same his wife told him. It’s not worth telling them. He waited and waited and waited. He hadn’t had news of his son for two days. On the third day they found his dumped body. Covered in bruises and holes. Colorless. Wasted. Eyes half shut.

They buried him as if the youth were still alive. The father spoke about him. He asked for remembrances. He demanded they get up. His mother was spent. She collapsed. And his other children absented themselves from the middle of a tearful deluge of blind bitterness. But life doesn’t stop and bad news never travels alone: a few months later they kidnapped his other son. The oldest.

This time he filed a complaint. The police followed his instructions. They focused their operation on his house. They monitored his phones. The police assigned a special investigative unit and installed paraphernalia for their masked men: automatic rifles, gloved hands, bulletproof vests. We are going to give it to them, sir, said the commander. He did not trust in any of it but he had to keep a handle on things. He couldn’t let this happen to his other son.

Again they rang his cellphone. El palo verde rang several times so that they could alert the agents monitoring the phone. The killer asked him for money. He promised to let the boy go when he had the money. The cops asked him to string the call out but the kidnapper didn’t give him a chance. He did everything he asked. The boy still hadn’t turned up.

More wailing. More cracks in the skin. More shards of glass in the eyes. Gloom. Yet more gloom. He shouted: pricks and assholes! A neighbor said that when a parent dies the child becomes an orphan. When a spouse dies, widowed. But when one’s child dies? That doesn’t have a name.

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, “Sin nombre,” and is available at: http://riodoce.mx/noticias/columnas/malayerba/sin-nombre.

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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St. Jude the Apostle (Javier Valdez Cárdenas, RíoDoce)

This Malayerba column was published in RíoDoce on 15 June 2014. It has been translated without permission for the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP).

Translator’s Note: This column contains strong, some might say foul, language. PT

 

St. Jude the Apostle

St. Jude the Apostle — A Recent Portrait

 

St. Jude the Apostle
By Javier Valdez Cárdenas (RíoDoce)

Get down. I will kill you if you turn around and look at me, motherfucker. Get down and don’t move. Now you are screwed, asshole. You are fucked. You’ll see what happens when you don’t pay. For going around and asking, asking, asking for money. Now you are going to pay because you are going to pay. You are going to pay, asshole. With your life.

Click. The man loaded a clip. There were three of them. One of them had him face down, black boots in his back, pressing on him, kicking him. It was seven in the morning when he left his house to walk in the park. They were on top of him in a blink of an eye and now he was face down, headed to who knows where.

Sweat. More sweat. On the car floor, with ears stuck to the dirty carpet, he seemed to hear the rocks and the tarmac. They are going to kill me. He knew it when the car began to bounce: they were going over dirt. We are going up the mountain. Hey you bastard, your time has come. His t-shirt was soaked and he hadn’t even been able to take his morning walk.

They are going to kill me. Now he wasn’t Fernando, Alonso, or César. He was just a hulk, a sack of potatoes. For these gunslingers he was just an object. A dead dog that was suffering because it knew it was going to be put down. He ignored what they were talking about and what they wanted. He thought that maybe there was some confusion but he changed his mind when they mentioned the man who wanted him taken: you are that guy, you live here, your wife’s name is ….

He shat himself. They pulled him out by his hair. They winded him by kicking him in the stomach. He thought they were going after his jaw or breaking three ribs. Click. He heard as an echo what he was seeing. He felt the gun barrel over his neck. Fuck. They are going to kill me. One of the killers told the man with the gun that they should get further away; otherwise they were going to get spattered.

That’s what was going on when the phone rang. It was their leader. Eight hundred thousand pesos. Eight hundred thousands pesos, but right now, asshole. Or you are going to get fucked. We are going to cut you down. They came to an agreement. He asked for the phone so he could speak with the manager of his business and with his wife. He told them to give them what they want. Give them everything. Everything they ask for. If you don’t give it to them, they will put me in the ground.

They wrote checks. They got the cash together. They sold this and that. A half hour later and nothing. The cell phone rang again. The guy who answered it said it was the boss. Eight seconds of talk. Okay. We are going to let him going. They are bringing the money. You saved yourself, asshole. You saved yourself and we are going to leave you alone.

Face down again. Drooling on the dirty carpet. Sweating the sweat of four days’ walk. They got to the city. Suddenly they stopped. Get out. Don’t look back and don’t look at the plates. A kick. He fell on the ground. You did it, shouted the one who drove. Now go and pray to St. Judas, asshole. And they left.

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, “San Judas Tadeo,” and is available at: http://riodoce.mx/noticias/columnas/malayerba/san-judas-tadeo/.

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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Torture in Mexico: Human Rights Organization Takes On Another Four Torture Cases from Ciudad Juárez (Martín Orquiz, El Diario de Ciudad Juárez)

This article was first published in El Diario de Ciudad Juárez on 10 June 2014. It has been published without permission for the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP).

Translator´s Note: The MxJTP is committed to translating articles about torture in Mexico. Along with the four new cases the subject of this article, the El Diario de Juárez also makes reference to the torture of the five people once accused of the 2010 car bomb in Ciudad Juárez. After more than three years in prison, those five torture victims were released in March 2014 – after they were released they interviewed about their experience by journalist Daniela Rea for newspaper El Universal. On a recent visit to Mexico, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture – who did not visit Ciudad Juárez – confirmed that torture is “widespread” in the country. And, for over the past decade, AnimalPolítico confirmed that not a single public official has been punished for this serious crime. PT

 

Torture in Mexico: Human Rights Organization Takes On Another Four Torture Cases from Ciudad Juárez
By Martín Orquiz (El Diario de Ciudad Juárez)

Defense attorneys from the Center for Human Rights Paso del Norte (Centro de Derechos Humanos Paso del Norte, CDHPN) have four other cases similar to those accused of extortion and freed after a court agreed Monday that their confessions were obtained under torture.

And, according to the organization’s spokesperon, Carlos Murillo González, another eight case files are under evaluation to determine if they share characteristics required to take on their defense.

Until now, three cases exist where it has been proved that police officers tortured people to “confess” their participation in various criminal acts. Among these are the cases of five border residents who were accused of detonating a car bomb in 2012 but who were later accused of carrying arms, drug possession and of links to organized crime.

The fourth case was not publicised to the same extent, according to the spokesperson, but it did share the same characteristics as the others: those accused were young men living in neighborhoods on the outskirts of Ciudad Juárez, tortured to admit their participation in criminal activities.

Murillo González added that these cases all share various features: the alleged perpetrators were taken from their homes by police officers from different forces but their reports state the arrest took place elsewhere and under different conditions.

In the cases currently under discussion, Carlos Murillo expects them to be successful because each undergoes a rigorous selection process before the CDHPN takes on their defense.

The CDHPN spokesperson referred to brothers Juan Antonio and Jesús Iván Figueroa Gómez who, along with Misael Sánchez Frausto, have been imprisoned on charges of extortion for two years and five months. However, a court has annulled the evidence presented by the Public Prosecutor, determining that it was obtained through torture.

Another person accusd in the same case, the underage brother of the Figueroa Gómez was declared innocent for lack of proof in August 2013. All of these accused were arrested on 18 January 2012.

As recently as last March, the Federal Attorney General (PGR) withdrew the charges against the five men arrested and accused of involvement in detonating the 2010 car bomb.

Noé Fuentes Chavira, Rogelio Amaya Martínez, Víctor Manuel Martínez Rentería, Gustavo Martínez Rentería and Ricardo Fernández Lomelí were freed after more than three and a half years in prison.

These five men tested positive for torture under the Istanbul Protocol, a diagnostic tool used to assess if a person was subjected to torture or degrading treatment.

Newspaper sources establish that on their arrest they were accused of organized criminal membership, crimes against the health code for possession of marijuana, and having firearms reserved exclusively for the Armed Forces.

Murillo González mentioned that these cases have a documented modus operandi by police: officers arrive at homes and detain men whom they consider belong to gangs.

“Those arrested are young and poor, that’s the way the police works,” he added.

In regards accusations of torture used for self-incrimination, Murillo González said that another four cases are still pending and another eight are in a CDHPN review process: each case is submitted to a selection process that can take several months to see if the human rights organization can take on their defense or not.

Among the people that the CDHPN is currently defending are those accused of extortion, robbery and belonging to organized crime.

Yet there are still many others who come to the CDHPN to request information, looking for help, Murillo González says. These people often decide not to continue with their cases because they are subject to police violence, receive threats, and refuse to go further. The CDHPN only acts when those affected want to file a formal complaint.

“They come for help but they don’t want to follow any further steps. But we’ve been able to put together a systematic view of the way the police work, they way they attack certain social groups, mostly against youth from poor neighborhoods,” he said.

The police officers, he added, arrest somebody and force them through illegal means to say who their accomplices were, then forcing them to identify them.

“At any hour of the day or night they invade their homes and remove the youth who are implicated. Then they use torture to make them confess, and this practice is something we frequently see,” he specified.

Murillo González, who is a sociologist, mentioned that on average each week about two or three people seek out psychological assistance because they have been experiencing threats or torture by the police. They tend to ask for help but then they don’t go any further.

There is no set protocol for the cases that the CDHPN accepts, but they do share the following features: the affected come from a vulnerable group and, if torture occurred, the CDHPN reviews the testimony to see if they coincide with the facts and they even investigate the person’s trustworthiness.

“We are accused of defending criminals, but we defend human dignity,” Murillo González emphasized during the interview. “It falls to the authorities to prove what the accused did; to us they are innocent.”

Journalist Martín Orquiz reports for El Diario de Ciudad Juárez. This article was first published with the title, “Defiende organización otros 4 casos de tortura,” and is available at: http://diario.mx/Local/2014-06-10_b9a41638/defiende-organizacion-otros-4-casos-de-tortura/.

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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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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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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Human Rights Abuse in Mexico: A Decade Without a Single Public Official Guilty of the Crime of Torture (Tania L. Montalvo, ANIMALPOLÍTCO)

This article was published on 24 April 2014 in AnimalPolítico. It has been translated without permission for the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP).

Human Rights Abuse in Mexico: A Decade Without a Single Public Official Guilty of the Crime of Torture
By Tania L. Montalvo (ANIMALPOLÍTCO)

– Investigations Exist but no Punishment for Public Officials in either Military or Civilian Jurisdictions

Over the past decade — and in response to public information requests — figures provided by the Federal Attorney General (PGR) and the Ministry of Defense (SEDENA) show that not a single official has been published for the crime of torture, neither in civil nor military jurisdictions.

The PGR’s General Inspector confirmed that from 2002 to 2012 there have only been 39 preliminary investigations into torture and that there have been no criminal proceedings or warrants issued.

According to the Military Prosecutor, since 2002 – and until the 2012 Supreme Court decision to impose limits on military jurisdiction – there were 142 preliminary investigations for “violence causing torture” and another 821 similar proceedings for “violence causing wounds” which might include torture. But of these 963 investigations, only six went to trial, and resulted in no criminal punishment.

The Ministry of Defense responded to a request for public information presented by the Tlachinollan Human Rights Center, Guerrero.

Notwithstanding these figures, Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) confirmed last October that between 2006 and 2012 there have been at least 7,253 cases of torture. SEDENA and the PGR are the federal agencies with most complaints against them for torture.

According to information from the CNDH, between 2000 and 2012 the Army was responsible for 75 cases of torture and 3,580 cases of cruel treatment. Meanwhile, the PGR is responsible for 34 cases of torture and 2,025 cases of cruel treatment.

No Protocols, No Effective Investigations

When Tlachinollan met with Juan E. Méndez, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture – who is visiting Mexico from 21 April until 2 May to evaluate the crime of torture in Mexico – the human rights organization explained that Mexico does not have protocols to avoid torture during detention. Nor does Mexico hold investigations as a way to protect victims.

SEDENA responded to another of Tlachinollan’s public information requests by saying that either protocols or mechanisms to help safeguard the physical integrity of the detained “do not exist.”

The PGR, for its part, confirmed that in torture investigations it applies a specialized Medical/Psychological Checklist, an adaptation of the Istanbul Protocol, an internationally validated test to determine if a person was the victim of torture and cruel treatment.

From 2002 to 2012, the PGR applied the Checklist on 302 occasions and in 42.3% of those cases it could determine “the existence of wounds possible derived from torture and/or mistreatment.” No penal sentences resulted against those responsible.

Civil society organizations have demanded that the Attorney General allow independent, expert application of the Istanbul Protocol, something the PGR rejects. Civil society organizations say that the Attorney General is not an impartial judge of whether its agents have committed torture.

Using the CNDH’s figures, Tlachinollan has pointed out that during Felipe Calderón’s period in office (2006 to 2012) complaints for human rights violations rose 453 percent, with a 235 percent increase specifically for the crime of torture.

Mexico is party to various international instruments to combat and abolish torture, such as the Convention Against Torture and Other Inhuman, Degrading, or Cruel Treatment. Mexico’s Constitution also prohibits these practices under Articles 19, 20, and 22.

Journalist Tania L. Montalvo reports for AnimalPolítico. This article first appeared in Spanish under the title, “Diez años sin un solo culpable por el delito de tortura,” available at: http://www.animalpolitico.com/2014/04/diez-anos-sin-un-solo-culpable-por-el-delito-de-tortura/#ixzz2ztSYK3aH.

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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Freeing Ourselves from the Past: President Carranza’s Legacy of Drug Prohibition (Froylán Enciso, MILENIO)

This article first appeared in Milenio on 6 April 2014 bearing the title, “Prohibir las drogas, herencia Carrancista.” It has been translated without permission by the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP).

The Teatro Iturbide in Querétaro, Mexico, during 1917 Constitutional Congress when doctor and congress member José María C. Rodríguez proposed the initiative. (Photo Credit, Special).

The Teatro Iturbide in Querétaro, Mexico, during 1917 Constitutional Congress when doctor and congress member José María C. Rodríguez proposed the initiative. (Photo Credit, Special).


President Carranza’s Legacy of Drug Prohibition
by Froylán Enciso

– President Venustiano Carranza’s personal physician proposed prohibition.

Mexico City.— Carranza’s presidency (1917 – 1920) provides evidence of the roots of drug prohibition in Mexico, arising from discussions during the 1917 Constitutional Congress in Querétaro. On the night of 18 January 1917, doctor José María C. Rodríguez, Venustiano Carranza’s physician, spoke in front of the Congress’s exhausted deputies, demanding “despotic” powers to initiate a social health program to eradicate dirtiness, alcohol and drugs from Mexico. And in that order. General Rodríguez read a long speech to convince deputies that Mexico’s national health depended on a General Health Department for the Republic. This agency should answer only to the President and nobody else, giving it far-reaching, even despotic power over Mexico’s states.

The basis of Rodríguez’s argument was that the nation’s hygiene demanded improvement consonant with U.S. and European standards. Mexico’s lack of hygiene, alcoholism, its intoxicating drugs and poverty had caused illness weakening the country: “For these reasons, from today onward the nation needs the current government to intervene, even despotically, into individual and collective hygiene.”

His high-handed ideas – some might prefer the adjective enlightened – revealed racism toward Indians, and were provoked by high rates of mortality and criminality. “Our primitive race is already degenerate and the mestizos are within their reach,” Congressman Rodríguez harangued.

Using questionable statistics he said Mexico City was one of the world’s deadliest places, deadlier than Paris, Vienna, and Berlin combined because of crimes committed by “our usual drunks and our commoners” under the influence of pulque [the slightly fermented juice of the maguey cactus]:

“There you have it, gentlemen. Children weened on pulque grow up poor and become habitual drunks, they then become alcoholic parents, producing degenerate children of inferior intellect, indifferent to social and political concerns, conditioned to criminality and fertile territory for the growth of whatever microorganism provided by Nature.”

For the rest of the day, Congressman Rodríguez did not return to the subject of drugs.

The following day he read his concrete proposal about addiction amending sub-section XVI of Article 73. He included the idea that the regulations and actions against “the sale of substances that poison the race” suggested by the Health Committee must be obligatory and that Congress could sanction them, but only once they were consumed. In his list of these substances he included opium, morphine, ether, cocaine and marijuana. He proposed that health authorities limit “commercial freedom for all these products.”

Congressman David Pastrana Jaimes of Puebla was the only person who spoke against the initiative: “Because of the broad powers it endows, the initiative can always violate state sovereignty.” Pastrana’s argument was reasonable; however, it was enough for Rodríguez to taunt him so that the criticism had no effect in the Constitutional Congress.

— Where does this congressman come from?

— From Guerrero, where there are no doctors! The Congress answered in unison.

— To me that explains why a Congressman from Guerrero, where medicine is barely known, should protest against health initiatives.

The subject, according to Rodríguez, was not to affect state sovereignty but to avoid racial destruction and degeneration. Rodríguez’s combativeness made Pastrana feel timid, and he answered as best he could in spite of the embarrassment he felt at being a pinto [someone with a skin discolouration that made him immediately identifiable as somebody from Guerrero.]

— Obviously I am a pinto from Guerrero. We don’t have any doctors there and the people shouldn’t die. Why can’t we object to being sent veterinarians? We aren’t horses.

The Congress erupted into sidesplitting laughter. Congressman Eliseo L. Céspedes, representative from Veracruz, tried to pursue Pastrana’s unexpected outburst. The Congress vociferously interrupted him.

— Let’s vote!

Congressman Rubén Martí, from the State of Mexico, spoke in the proposal’s favor. He said that the fight against against alcoholism was more necessary than land redistribution. Why should they give land to vice-ridden degenerate farmers?

With two speakers in favor and two against, the speaker called for a vote, but Congressman José Álvares angrily interrupted him.

— I want to take the floor so that I can correct a fact – Álvarez said.

— Whose? – asked the Congress’s president.

— I want only to say that I willingly cast my vote in favor of this proposal. We are convinced that if Moses’s laws were written in stone, then the Mexican Constitution should be written on two pieces of soap. (Laughter.)

 

Rodriguez’s proposal was accepted with 143 votes in favor and only three against. However since its administrative departments did not win approval, Congress established a General Health Council charged with going after drug trafficking in Mexico, until 1947 when it went from being a health issue to a police matter.

Without fear of being wrong, I think that during the Revolution the doctors who sought the prohibition of the drug trade never imagined that it would provoke civil wars. They tried to treat it as it should be considered: a health issue. They never wanted the Federal Prosecutor to have power over drugs, a change that has been in effect since 1947. And much less the Army. Neither did they imagine that they were creating the juridical and intellectual bases so that a health issue would become a concern of the police or a matter of national security.

Vital problems need to be rooted in historical analysis. Now that Mexico City’s legislative assembly is discussing new marijuana laws, the least we can do is to distance ourselves from the drama of drug prohibition – Carranza’s sad legacy – and to urge ourselves to:

Vote!

 

Author Froylán Enciso is a doctoral candidate in History at the State Univeristy of New York, Stony Brook, a visiting researcher at the Center for U.S.-Mexico Studies at the University of California in San Diego and a fellow of the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation. Follow him on Twitter: @elfroyenciso.

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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Drunk (Javier Valdez Cárdenas, RioDoce)

This Malayerba column was first published in RíoDoce on 16 March 2014. It has been translated without permission for the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP).

Drunk
By Javier Valdez Cárdenas (RioDoce)

They were getting shitfaced. He from the white aluminium can, sweating and iced, right by the cooler. The cans were putting up a fight: the transparent cylinders were playing in the water, swimming, fighting, shouting for help, screaming pick me, poking each other, bobbing under then surfacing for air.

His good-for-nothing friends looked tired and relaxed. It looked like they were competing to pile crushed cans wrinkled up like funnel cakes by their sides — a sign of their thirst, and that it was time to open another, then another, and another. The white plastic table in front of them trembled any time its occupants moved.

The sun was no longer high in the sky but its rays still seeped into everything. Like a ghost: you could feel it was there but couldn’t see it. Seven in the afternoon. Scorching the ground. Night was coming but didn’t shield anything. The ground was still hot. So were the leaves on the trees, the chairs, the walls. Summer in the city and its forty degree heat lasted through night.

One of the scoundrels took out a wooden box. They shuffled the black and white domino pieces on the tabletop. A woman, one of their wives, put some snacks out. Crispy corn sticks, potato chips, pork scratchings with salt and lime, jocoque (translator’s note: strained yogurt), bits of sausage and pitted olives, crispy tortillas.

The pieces danced noisily as they shuffled against each other. The four pairs of hands came out to select their seven. And then he felt the need to piss. He leaned over without getting up, trying to get the attention of the woman sat in front of the TV who had brought the snacks. A boy, barely two years old, sat on her lap. He could hear distant crying. He did not want to move. It seemed rude of him to go to the bathroom in the house. He felt awkward.

He crossed his legs. Then he opened them again, desperate. Crossed. Open. Like a strange folding fan. Damn desperation. He was always needing to piss, a cheeky bladder that filled with hardly anything. Hold on. Hold on. He looked at the dominoes.

He papered over his anxiety with a couple of jokes and a slow movement of the tiles. Bad play. He let out a “motherfucker” and retreated into quickly crossing and opening his legs. He took some sausage then cheese and olives and he spread jocoque over a crispy tortilla chip. When the game ended he told them he was going to his car. They took no notice.

Five steps and he was outside. On his right, four cars in a line. He passed them and heard some wailing. One of the cars moved but he thought it was his imagination. He went past the last car: he unzipped his fly and relieved himself. Ah, he said. Then he heard another ah, and another. As he went back he peered into one of the cars: on the floor, four men were tied up, bloodied, one on top of the other, stacked like tiles. He couldn’t take any more in, and he didn’t want to know. Shivers went up his spine and he went into the house. He asked for a cold one and started over again.

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

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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