Tag Archives: human rights

Real Stories of Mexico’s Missing — Searching for His Sister: Carlitos Looks Among Human Remains in Mexico, by Javier Valdez Cárdenas

Real Stories of Mexico’s Disappeared: Carlitos and the Search Among Human Remains for His Missing Sister

By Javier Valdez Cárdenas, Correspondent (La Jornada)

JVC_Missing

Around 60 search party members from 11 states in Mexico look for missing or disappeared people in the towns of El Quelite in Mazatlán and Sataya in Navolato. Photograph by Javier Valdez. Published in La Jornada.

Culiacán, February 8, 2017—Carlitos says that he loves his sister and that he is not going to leave her unprotected. At his tender age he already feels guilty for something he did not do, for having failed to take care of and protect Zoé Zuleika. She has been missing for a year.

Carlitos – that’s what we’ll call him – is barely eight years old and he searches for missing people: a searcher of human remains who carries a small staff and pickaxe. His grey and black striped sweater keeps him from the morning chill. He is Mexico’s youngest searcher of the disappeared.

When you ask him what he is going to say to his sister when he sees her again, the boy answers: That I love her; that I am going to protect her. Around the Navolato community of San Pedro, in the deciduous forest, the little one looks among whoever’s human remains, but really he’s searching for his sister.

With blows from his staff and still more from his pickaxe he looks for Zoe like someone who knows he will find her. His lively, black eyes light up like fireflies and he smiles when he thinks about her.

The last time he saw her, he remembers, was a year ago in his father’s truck, in Soledad, a town in San Luis Potosí.

He says that when he finds her he is going to protect her, including from his father whom he suspects took her. Carolina Gómez Rocha, 40, is mother to both children. She comes from San Luis Potosí, and she searches for missing people, even though she realizes it is unlikely she will find Zoé in the state of Sinaloa.

I do these searches to strengthen the families who are here searching, not to find my daughter. I know that she is alive. I am her mother and my heart tells me so. I am here to support the cause. It has been an immense experience, and yes it does help me, it strengthens me, she says. She’s a few yards from the Culiacán River, between the sand sifters and the cornfields.

She has four children: 8, 18, 20, and Zoé, 6. The youngest worry her and give her hope. The day Zoé disappeared Carolina’s family had gone to a party. They went at the insistence of her father in law.

The girl, who was already tired, fell asleep in her father’s truck. A few minutes after midnight they decided to leave but the young girl was not there anymore.

Safety Belt

Carolina and even Carlitos suspect his father. He does not ask about the girl. He has not joined in the searches or gone to the authorities even after they filed the criminal complaint. Her husband’s family acts just the same: indifferent. That’s why they don’t dismiss the idea that they have Zoé or know where she is.

Less than a kilometer from where the search party is looking, the prosecutor set up a roadblock. Two women police officers approach, ask questions in a friendly way, and allow or deny entry. Few get close. Further on, where they are conducting the search, there are four federal police patrol cars. They have dogs with them, dogs trained to search for human remains, and experts with their kit.

About thirty members of the Third National Search Party have come together to excavate and ask questions. This search will last two weeks. A Catholic priest is participating, as are many young women and several members of the Marabunta organization. Most of them wear white shirts with black text: Where are they?

According to statistics from the state prosecutor, around 2,200 people disappeared in Sinaloa during the last six years, the period when Mario López Valdez was governor. His term ended last December.

Some searchers look near the heavy machinery. Others go to another site in the truck belonging to the prosecutor’s forensic team. Still others seek shade under the poplars.

They laugh. They poke risqué fun at the young priest, circling in on each other. Even during the search there is time for fun yet memories still weigh heavy.

They are more than 60 searchers from 11 states. Right now they are looking for human remains in two graves: in El Quelite in Mazatlán, and in Sataya, Navolato. They have managed to unearth one body. It still has not been identified.

Some yards away, in an overgrown corner, Lucas, the police dog, digs again and again. So much so that it looks like he’s playing. The agents say he lifts his ears and his tail goes straight and he goes stiff when he finds human remains. He doesn’t do any of that today.

There’s Carlitos. With his staff and his pickaxe. Sometimes he wants to leave and attaches himself to his mother’s skirt. The two bob through the mess of dry branches, big leaves and uneven earth. It looks like they are crossing a swamp but they emerge clean.

After his sister disappeared, the boy went through a bad time at school. He enjoys math: but his grades went from 9s and 10s to 6s and 7s.

He carries himself aggressively. He locks himself in his room. He throws himself on his bed and cries, all the while clutching a photo of Zoé. He speaks to her. He cries over her. That’s why he goes to therapy. He falls down and het gets up. Here he raises his staff and plunges it into the ground.

– When you speak with your sister, what will you tell her?

– I will tell her I love her and I miss her and that I will protect her. That I can take care of her. That I won’t let my father leave her in his truck.

Award winning Mexican journalist Javier Valdez Cárdenas was murdered on May 15, 2017 just after leaving Ríodocea newspaper he helped establish in Culiacán, Sinaloa. He was 50 years old. He published this story in La Jornada on February 8, 2017. His most recent book (previously published in Spanish as Levantones), appears in English translation and with an introduction to Sinaloa by Everard Meade as The Taken: True Stories of the Sinaloa Drug War,  published earlier this year by University of Oklahoma Press.

Translator Patrick Timmons is a human rights investigator in the Americas, an investigative journalist, and historian. NACLA, the CPJ BlogThe Texas Observer, and CounterPunch have published his writing.

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When the Zetas are Your Editors (Marta Duran de Huerta, EL TOQUE)

This article first appeared in El Toque on 10 February 2014. It has been translated without permission for the Mexcian Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP).

The Zetas’ Editorial Line
By Marta Duran de Huerta

– “Their press releases come via a sub-editor. The Zetas carefully monitor everything that is published and whose byline is on the story,” an exiled Mexican journalist reports.

“We are journalists displaced by violence. First they put a car bomb at the entrance to my husband’s newspaper. Later, I had to leave the state,” says Raquel Suma*, a Mexican journalist forced to flee abroad.

“I used to be the editor of a Tamaulipas newspaper, an area fought over by two of the largest organized crime cartels. To save our lives, my whole family had to leave,” she adds.

A survivor of several attacks, Suma explains “the Zetas are in Ciudad Victoria, Tamaulipas. The Gulf Cartel (Cartel del Golfo) is on the northern border. We used to think that we could be safe while the Zetas weren’t in the state capital. That nothing would happen. But when car bombs started arriving at the entrance to newspaper offices and at the big broadcasters like Televisa we exclaimed, “Holy shit!” That’s when we knew the Zetas had arrived.”

Organized Crime has a News Agenda

Raquel Suma is young and stands out for her investigative journalism in Mexico: “from 2010 — and as much as I was able — I spoke out on the media and in meetings about how the Zetas use the media. Here’s how things work: the Zetas call you by phone; they have all your numbers: cell, office, and house phones. They usually contact a reporter who speaks for the crime beat. They send a press release that can refer to any subject.”

She goes quiet, then continues her story: “They can also order you not to publish anything. Their press releases come via a sub-editor. The Zetas carefully monitor everything that is published and the byline the story carries. They check to make sure if you followed orders and published what they ask,” the journalist explains.

From her exile, this Mexican reporter specifies that if the Zetas find out that you didn’t publish what they wanted you to, “they round up the journalists and hit them with large, rough, meter-long pieces of clapboard with nails in them, just like a faquir’s “bed”. They beat you until you pass out. Zetas never ask. You have to publish what they want or “they order you.”

Seated, she begins to drum her fingers on the table. “It’s difficult for me to overcome the jitters,” she explains, adding: “At first they asked for news about police matters. Now they want news about their events: from baptisms, to first communions for their children. They want these things in the newspaper as if they were big news. If it’s useful to them, they even want coverage of citizens’ protests.

If the Zetas want a spotlight on the sporting achievements of some team or athlete who is part of their group, it has to be done. “Of course they don’t pay for this coverage. If there’s a confrontation between them and they don’t want anybody to know, nobody is going to publish a word. But if they kill one of their enemies, well, you have to publish that,” says the reporter.

Voice breaking, she continues with her story: “While I worked at the paper, I tried to avoid the Zetas’ instructions. So, if they wanted a piece of news to stand out on the front page of the crime section, I used to shrink it, and hide in the newspaper’s last page. I used to say, “They can’t kill us! Maybe that’s what enraged the Zetas,” she says.

She doesn’t go into details. Raqul Suma limits herself to explaining how she became filled with fright and had to flee Mexico, taking her children but leaving everything else behind. She is thousands of miles from home and has no way of going back. The young journalist continues: “As editor-in-chief, I had to call the newspaper’s owner to tell him what had happened. I used euphemisms but I told him: The kingpins want this thing… and he always used to say to me: You know the routine. Do what you have to do. So I picked up the phone and called all the editors from the other outlets to ask if they had received the same instructions, and if they would run what they’d been told to print. If everyone accepted, then we would publish it, too. Our families’ lives depended on that.”

Politicians Pay the Zetas

Raquel picks up her story where she left off. Even though the interview’s being conducted in a safe place, the reporter doesn’t stop looking around.

“The worst thing about the last two years is that politicians pay for protection from the Zetas. That means that journalists can´t reveal any scandals about local officials in cahoots with organized crime.”

 “We can’t even report on protests about the rise in energy prices, or a neighbourhood protest where residents demand resumption of their water supply. Nothing. Zetas have managed to make money in unimaginable ways,” says Suma.

What’s even worse is that Zeta’s have the backing of officials from the three levels of government: local, state, and federal. “They even have the loyalty of the governor, the public prosecutors, the mayors, all sorts of officials,” the journalist maintains.

“Reporters in Ciudad Victoria, Tamaulipas, won’t publish a thing – either for or against organized crime – save for obligatory news items. Conversely, on the border, all the news goes against the Mexican Army. There’s a marked anti-Army line and the Gulf Cartel is behind it. The Cartel even uses the media to attack the Army. But the Zetas do not. The Zetas are timely and snappier. They have it very clear who they are going to attack and who they will defend.”

“When you see some news from the south or centre of Tamaulipas that complains about Army abuse and the violation of civilians’ human rights, you can rest assured it has nothing to do with investigative journalism. That story won’t even be put together by the newspaper, but comes straight from the Gulf Cartel. Since 2009, one or other of the organized crime cartels has determined news coverage,” Raquel Suma concludes.

*Raquel Suma is an invented name. The journalist is under threat from the Zetas and lives in exile.

Journalist Marta Duran de Huerta is a Mexican sociologist who has published seven books. This article first appeared under the title, “La mesa editorial de los Zetas,” available at: http://eltoque.com/texto/la-mesa-editorial-de-los-zetas?fb_action_ids=291984727617323&fb_action_types=og.likes&fb_source=other_multiline&action_object_map=%5B814827085200141%5D&action_type_map=%5B%22og.likes%22%5D&action_ref_map=%5B%5D.

 

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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Missing in Mexico: For Victims of Disappearances, Farce over Narco-graves Provokes Rupture with Coahuila’s State Government (Inés Santaeulalia, EL PAÍS)

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

For Victims of Disappearances, Farce over Narco-graves Provokes Rupture with Coahuila’s State Government
by Inés Santaeulalia (EL PAÍS)

–        Relatives of the disappeared clash with authorities in the northern Mexican state after an alleged operation to find missing people

Mexico is missing 26,000 Mexicans. The anguish of their families puts a face to a debt blighting the country: Mexico has as yet been unable to explain its disappeared peoples’ whereabouts. The latest blow to victims comes from Coahuila State, in the country’s north, a place punished by violence from organized crime between 2006 and 2012. The recent discovery of various narco-graves with human remains resurrected families’ hopes and fears, but it’s been accompanied by confusing, even contradictory information from the state government, causing victims’ patience to evaporate. The United Force for Coahuila’s Disappeared (Fuundec), the country’s largest such association, decided to cease its dialogue with authorities for the first time in four years. “It has all been one big farce,” summarized Rosario Villanueva. She has been looking for her son since 2009.

In Coahuila, a photo in last week’s newspapers stirred up the victims’ tense wait for word about their loved ones. Families learned through the press that the state government had found several narco-graves. Nobody wants to talk about it, but an awful question popped into peoples’ heads: “Could it be my relative?” The authorities – even including Governor Rubén Moreira – sat down last week with Fuundec’s members to inform them about what the press was reporting as “the first large-scale national operation” to look for missing people. By Monday, he had changed his message: Moreira now talks about “small finds.”

“The governor was asked if they were following the appropriate search protocols, and he said they had been taking care with the remains, but that’s all a lie,” explains Villanueva. Images spring to mind of heavy machinery working the ranches where organized crime supposedly buried the victims — the US Spanish-language channel, Univision, filmed the operation in Allende (about 60kms from the US border). “Do you know what they do when they find dinosaur remains? They use brushes and a great deal of care so as not to break anything. Here they turn over the ground when they look for people,” complained Raúl Reyes who has been looking for his thirty-four year old son Raúl Ignacio since April 2009.

The deputy prosecutor for missing people, and the head of the alleged operation, Juan José Yáñez, told this newspaper that 250 people were participating in the operation. The personnel were drawn from the state and federal police, and the army “to comb” an unknown number of ranches in 11 townships. Coahuila is the country’s third largest state and occupies 150,000 square kms. Yáñez stated that the procedure used was to “prick the earth” with sticks so that sniffer dogs could smell for human remains. The operation also used radar for underground mapping.

Last Wednesday EL PAÍS traveled to Coahuila on the state government’s promise to provide access to the operation then underway in the city of Monclova. But unexpectedly the day before our arrival, the authorities said that the operation had finished. In spite of a request, officials would not provide a map of the work areas and they refused to show any discovered remains that had supposedly arrived that same day in the forensic medical service (SEMEFO). This newspaper could find no evidence an operation existed beyond the testimony of state authorities.

The state’s attorney general and the deputy prosecutor explained that they found bones, burnt remains, and various drums that criminals used to make bodies disappear by reducing them to ashes. This information contradicted information given by Coahuila’s governor on Monday. “There are bodies that are never going to be identified,” Yáñez remarked. The DNA analyses of the supposed human remains will take months but the families’ mistrust of the authorities began in no time. “Even if they say they are ours, we won’t accept it because we need proof. We don’t just want bodies returned to us to make the problem go away. We want to know about everything right up until the end: who disappeared them, and why,” said Mr. Reyes.

Coahuila’s government says that the graves were discovered as a result of information obtained during interrogations and detentions, from statements made by mayors, former mayors, and officials from the 11 townships under search. Citizens sent in anonymous tip offs in response to a flyer asking for cooperation in locating the disappeared.

Media outlets slowly leaked news about the operation until last Saturday when the newspaper, El Siglo de Torreón, published the deputy prosecutor’s statement that 500 human remains had been discovered in graves. The very same Yáñez then denied that information to this newspaper. “I never spoke of numbers. The bones could come from just one person,” he said in a phone call.

Coahuila has a population of 2.7 million inhabitants, and lived through an escalation of violence during Humberto Moreira’s governorship (2006 – 2011), brother of the current incumbent and nominated as national PRI president in 2011. Months later Humberto Moreira was removed for an illegal increase in the state budget during his term in office. State authorities say the violence began to decrease in 2011 and that the region has calmed. The state attorney general, Homero Ramos, remembers that in 2011 they fired 33percent of the state police force for corruption and ties to the narco. “Previously we had to combat organized crime. Now we are going after common criminals,” he says.

The debt to the disappeared remains outstanding. The state purports to be one of the few in the country that has “recognized the problem.” As such, in 2011 it created a deputy prosecutor’s office for missing people. It says that it has a full database of the missing, that it has gathered DNA samples, and that it meets twice a month with victims’ families to inform them of any advances in the search for their loved ones. The last of these meetings occurred on Saturday. After the meeting, Fuundec decided to get up from the table and issued a press release. “Fuundec categorically rejects the operation, doubts its results, and is suspending meetings with the state until those responsible … explain publicly and transparently what happened.”

“We feel deceived by the authorities. They make promises, but they never investigate. In three years and nine months they have never offered a single result. We don’t want dead people, we want them back alive,” says Mireia Villareal, the mother of the Cantú brothers. Villareal pounded on the trucks that carried her sons away early one morning in 2011. The two twenty-year olds, Lauro and his brother Jorge, were abducted from their home in Torreón, Coahuila by some men “dressed like soldiers” as their mother wept disconsolately after them.

Others simply disappeared without even a “so long or goodbye.” Four years ago, José Alberto Cerda left his house one morning to head for Monterrey to fix his car. Claudia Risada (25) left her son with her mother and said she was going out to eat with her boyfriend one night in 2011. One afternoon in 2009, Antonio Jaime Aldaco (40) went to buy some cigarettes a few blocks from his house in Saltillo. That’s how they were last seen. In Coahuila there are 1,665 lives on hold.

Journalist Inés Santaeulalia reports on Mexico for El País. This article first appeared under the title, “ Las victimas rompen con el Gobierno de Coahuila por la “farsa” de narcofosas,” available at: http://internacional.elpais.com/internacional/2014/02/10/actualidad/1392064501_991971.html. A photo gallery by staff photographer Saúl Ruiz accompanies the story.

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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“We Demand the Return of the Kidnaped Mexican Journalist” (EL PAÍS)

This article was published in El País on 10 February 2014. It has been translated without permission for the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP).

“We demand the return of the kidnaped Mexican journalist.”

By El País Mexico Reporters

– Colleagues from around the world show their support via social media for abducted reporter Gregorio Jiménez

Five days algo some gunmen took journalist Gregorio Jiménez de la Cruz from his home in the Mexican state of Veracruz. His whereabouts have been unknown since then. Colleagues across the world have expressed their solidarity with his situation and that of local journalists whose reporting threatens criminal groups. Using hashtag #QueremosVivoaGoyo,  thousands of messages have flooded social media, demanding his freedom and insisting that the authorities fulfil their responsibility to find him using all the means at their disposal. In the last decade, 29 reporters have been killed in Mexico. No case has resulted in a guilty sentence.

Goyo Jiménez (40) works as a freelance reporter in the city of Coatzacoalcos – in southeast Mexico – for two regional dailies, Diario Notisur and El Liberal del Sur. But the outpouring of solidarity from the media has quickly gone beyond the state’s borders. On Sunday, messages multiplied on Twitter and Facebook, many of them directed at Javier Duarte, governor of Veracruz, and Mexico’s President Enrique Peña Nieto. The messages called for colleagues to post pictures of Jiménez and videos demanding his release. Journalists have become protagonists in a news story demanding Goyo’s wherabouts, but they also want to stop the persecution and harassment of their colleagues. Pictures began to arrive from farther afield than Coatzalcoalcos: not only Juárez, Tamaulipas, and Mexico City… but also from Spain, Costa Rica, Argentina, Germany, the United States and Egypt.

This Monday, the mobilization moved from the web, pushing out onto the streets, particularly in some Veracruz cities. Coatzacoalcos, Xalapa – the state capital – and Veracruz, among the most well known places. The web campaign has not stopped and the hashtag has turned into #HastaQueAparezcaGoyo (Until Goyo Reappears), a phrase that distills the reasons for the protest. Whether on the web or in the streets, the campaign will continue even when the news is part of yesterday’s paper.

Periodistas de a pie, a grass-roots association of Mexican reporters, has put its resources behind the case. The organisation has distributed the journalist’s image on a red background bearing the words, “We want Gregorio Jiménez de la Cruz back alive.” Journalists from Peru, Chile, Ecuador and El Salvador, among other countries, responded to the call. They posted photos of themselves beside Goyo’s image. The lack of safety for reporters is an endemic problem throughout many Latin American countries.

Argentine reporters at Infojus Noticias posted a photo of themselves with each member holding up the Mexican reporter’s image and a message of support: “We want Goyo back alive.” Carlos Dada, an editor at El Faro; Alejandra Xanic, a Pulitzer prize-winning Mexican journalist; Jacobo García, El Mundo’s correspondent; and Peruvian journalist Jacqueline Fowks, an EL PAÍS contributor, voiced their support for the campaign. Father Alejandro Solalinde, the Mexican priest dedicated to the protection of Central American migrants crossing the country to reach the United States, is yet one more person who has put his voice to the campaign.

Article 19 – an organisation that documents abuses and threats against media workers – issued a press release demanding that the Federal Special Prosecutor for Crimes Against Freedom of Expression (FEADLE) must take charge of investigating Jiménez’s disappearance. The organisation also asked for measures to protect reporters in the area “after signs from a group of the region’s reporters confirming that, in the aftermath of Gregorio Jiménez’s enforced disappearance, adequate conditions do not exist to practice journalism.”

EL PAÍS’s team of Mexico reporters has joined the campaign with a video in support of Gregorio Jiménez.

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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No Sugarplums for Christmas: Torture, Democracy and Memory in Argentina (Cecilia González, Crónicas del Espacio Memoria & CounterPunch)

WEEKEND EDITION FEBRUARY 7-9, 2014 from CounterPunch


No Sugarplums for Christmas

Torture, Democracy and Memory in Argentina

by CECILIA GONZÁLEZ

Translator’s Note

This article about the ongoing trauma of Argentina’s dictatorship by Cecilia González won first prize in a contest organized by the former Navy Mechanical School (ESMA), Argentina, which is now the Space for Memory. The purpose of the competition is to contribute to the construction of material that promotes collective memory and the meaning of democracy within society. As González describes, Argentina is the only country in the world that, after some uncertain starts, has systematically tried crimes against humanity of a past regime.  – PT

Carlos Loza didn’t celebrate Christmas in 1976 with a sugarplum.

There was no roast, no cold veal, and no nougat. Not even a fruit salad for pudding. No possibility of celebrating a toast with wine, champagne, or cider. He only swallowed one sugarplum, something he’d hardly been able to hold in his shackled hand, and he couldn’t even see it because the hood covered his eyes. Carlos was being held in the Navy Mechanical School (ESMA), and there he spent the bitterest year’s end of his life.

For Carlos the lonely, tiny piece of candy revealed the depths – in all the word’s meanings – his tormentors could reduce him to at any moment. He was 23 years old and his family did not know what had happened to him. He lived with his mother in Villa Tesei. She spent the holidays searching for him, in desperation. His brother had been stationed in Campo de Mayo, performing his military service. The sugarplums the guards gave to all the prisoners seemed to be a sick joke: after that they did not know if they were going to kill them.

Carlos was taken to the Navy Mechanical School (ESMA) early in the morning on 17 December 1976. The day before, in the afternoon, a gang of youths had kidnaped him from the Communist Party branch offices in Barracas, together with some fellow port workers from Buenos Aires. They bound their hands, covered their heads, and piled them into an ambulance. On arriving at the extermination center, they were given identification numbers. Carlos Loza: 738; Héctor Guelfi: 739; Rodolfo Picheni: 740; and Oscar Repossi: 741. A basement torture session served as their welcome to ESMA. They lost track of time.

Today, almost 37 years after his kidnap, Carlos is a diligent witness to the hearings in the third court case about the crimes committed in Latin America’s most emblematic of clandestine prisons. Usually he sits in the public hearing room. He listens attentively to every testimony. He weaves together the victims’ stories. Above all else, he is part of the group making sure the guilty face justice.

“I have been able to know in greater detail the stories of the fallen compañeros of the ESMA,” says Carlos one morning with a proud smile that intensifies a heavenly, wide-eyed expression.

***

By the middle of 2013, Argentina had concluded 104 trials for crimes against humanity. Among eleven still ongoing trials, there is one known as ESMA III, a case that involves the largest number of victims (789), torturers (68), and witnesses (930). The first ESMA trial, ESMA I, began in 2007 but was suspended because of the cyanide poisoning of the only person accused, prefect Héctor Febres. By contrast, the second ESMA trial, ESMA II, finished in 2011 with life sentences against twelve torturers, thanks to the testimony of 160 witnesses (Carlos among them). Another four were found guilty and sentenced to prison for 18 to 24 years, with acquittals for two more.

This sixty-year-old man – who always carries a folder or notebook under his arm – testified in the third ESMA trial. Focused, he told the story yet one more time. A story about kidnap and torture that he doesn’t think of as just his own, but of belonging to society.

“Around the 23 December 1976 we managed to figure out what the day was,” he recalled at court – because I knew the dates of the final football championship. When I heard someone say that Boca had one, that’s when I knew what day it was.”

Days in the ESMA revolved around the darkness of the torture chambers, the guards’ unending shouts and threats, the pain from the handcuffs on the wrists and the shackles around the ankles. Resting was impossible. The prisoners sucked on bread because they had been so badly beaten up they could not chew food. For Carlos and his compañeros sleep came from exhaustion, but uncertainty never left them. Sometimes they spoke, when they were transferred to the “Capuchita” where there were fewer prisoners. If the guards caught them whispering among themselves or with other prisoners, they would hit them. In captivity Carlos came to know Hernán Abriata, a member of the Peronist Youth in the Faculty of Architecture. “I am a prisoner like you all, as you’ll find out,” said the young, still disappeared man. He was trying to console them: they wore hoods of a different color to his, a sign they weren’t going to be killed.

“We spoke to each other to find out our names, who we were. There was a tacit agreement: whoever gets out of here has to tell the story. We promised each other because you had to see how it was to not become terrified. That’s what the killers wanted. There’s a place where they can’t win, and it’s called the mind, so you shouldn’t infect others with fear. Not everybody managed it. Some left the ESMA terrified. They even forgot their own names. They quit working, stopped being activists. But we felt we had to tell what we’d seen because it concerned our dignity.”

The kidnapped lived through things that would give them nightmares for the rest of their lives. Carlos once heard a prisoner say, “Nothing’s going to happen to you because you’re pregnant.” Today the port unionist is still investigating who that woman might have been.

From his interrogators he learned of a young priest with a bright future. The priest was told he should collaborate because his father was dying and his family tremendously missed him. That he could go free if he revealed what he knew, giving up his compañeros’ names. Many years later Carlos managed to find out that the priest was Pablo María Gazzarri whose disappearance forms part of the ESMA case.

On 6 January 1977 a guard called Carlos and his compañeros by number. He told them they were going to be set free. He removed their shackles, handcuffs, and hoods. Carlos and Rodolfo were put together in a grey Falcon. Héctor and Oscar went separately, in two other vehicles. The workers from Buenos Aires thought they were being freed but they also feared a trick to kill them. They left them in different parts of Buenos Aires, after telling them they had ended up in ESMA for collaborating with the Montoneros.

Carlos withdrew from activism for a few months. He was afraid. But bit-by-bit he began to meet up with his compañeros from the port. In 1979 they were already calling for strikes and a return to politics. That’s what resistance was like until 1983, when Argentines resurrected their democracy.

***

Democracy brought with it faltering first steps to bring the torturers to justice. Judgments came down against the governing juntas, followed by pardons and decades of impunity. The stalemate continued until 2003 when Congress and the Supreme Court struck down the End Point and Due Obedience Laws, meaning that the judicial processes could restart, now en masse, against many more accomplices, not just against those at the top of the chain of command. Ever since then, Argentina has been the only country in the world to systematically try crimes against humanity.

For each trial to end with a guilty verdict, survivors’ testimony proves crucial. It’s never easy for any of the survivors, even those who are experienced human rights activists. It’s not easy to testify in the presence of torturers and murderers.

“Their sitting in front of us is a new torture. It makes you feel uncomfortable, threatened,” Carlos adds.

When the unionist appeared at hearings for the second ESMA trial, Ricardo Miguel Cavallo, a former marine and director of the clandestine prison, sat just a few steps away. Cavallo was engrossed in his computer screen, bearing the evasive attitude he maintained at every hearing. At the third ESMA trial, Carlos spoke in front of Juan Carlos Rolón, but he only realized it later after he had accused him of being a rapist, an allegation that would weigh against the former lieutenant more than torturer or murderer.

The trials afford relief, an easing for the witnesses.

“They help us mend,” recognizes Carlos, “but in a contradictory way. Justice has come very late and what’s happened cannot be repaired. When they issue rulings, you celebrate, but you also think that it would be better if the murdered or disappeared compañero could be by your side. It’s a pain that nobody can heal.”

The ever-present pain prevents many survivors from even getting close to the Navy Mechanical School (ESMA).

Carlos was one of those. After his kidnapping, he always avoided walking down those streets, especially if it was night. Things changed on 24 March 2004 when Nestor Kirchner offered the state’s apology in front of thousands of people, ordering that the clandestine prison should be turned into a Space for Memory. On that day Carlos braved entering the place where he had been kidnapped and tortured, together with his friends. Overcome by tension, by the memories, but supported by his wife and their two children, he walked about Capucha and Capuchita. He observed a change in the color of a window, the stairs, and the back of the water tank where he spoke to Hernán Abriata, the disappeared man who gave him hope during his captivity. He baptized his only son in honor of Hernán.

Carlos’s tour around ESMA was sufficient. He will never go back. It was too heavy on his spirit. It had been terrifying remembering that in this place neither justice, nor God. Nothing existed there, only the remains of a human being, civilization in retreat.

“It provokes deep thought. The concentration camp diminishes a human being, so one values little things like being able to move your hands around your body. A lot of pain comes with the retreat to primordial times: fighting for food, the loss of dignity, behaving like an animal.”

Carlos recognizes that part of Argentina’s society does not understand the importance of trials for crimes against humanity. There are those who insist that this is past history. Yet all the while the victims, their family members, human rights organizations and other groups have constructed a historical narrative that explains those crimes from the perspective of those who were involved.

That’s why Carlos attends most of three-times a week hearings held in Comodoro Py. He takes note of the testimonies. He looks over the witness lists. He puts together lines of investigation. He discovers the names and numbers of victims whose files can be joined to future processes. He describes operations, dates of kidnappings and names. He uncovers photos of the disappeared. He criticizes the defense witnesses. He proposes measures to speed up the trials, like grouping cases into one procedure, analyzing events according to chronology, to line them up with dates of captivity in the ESMA. Patiently he waits for the judgment to be handed down, by the latest at the end of 2014.

***

Carlos can tell many stories about the twenty-one days he spent in the Navy Mechanical School. But there’s one that scarred him.

One prisoner was delirious. He wouldn’t eat, and he took off his hood, so they hit him. He asked to see his father. “First officer, Montonero, doctor,” he shouted to identify himself. A guard kicked him until he killed him. He covered his corpse with a blanket, leaving it for hours beside Carlos and his friends. Five years ago Carlos got to know a woman named Alejandra Mendé who told him about the disappearance of her bother, Jorge. When they started to piece things together, they discovered that he was the same man that he and his friend had seen die. There hadn’t been many doctors who were first officers in the Montoneros.

Rodolfo Picheni, the port worker freed in the same Falcon as Carlos, never overcame his kidnapping and torture, nor of being an impotent witness to Mendé’s murder. Depression pursued him and worsened every time a new anniversary of his kidnapping came around. On 5 December 2012 a little after the third ESMA hearings began he hanged himself. “Now I am going to be number 30,0001. I’ll be taking care of them,” he wrote in a note.

Since 1976, end of the year celebrations have always been particularly nostalgic for Carlos. But his friend’s suicide last year saddened him. He didn’t let it overcome him. He celebrated Christmas and the New Year with his family, as is his custom. He dined. He toasted. He laughed.

He did all those things. But he’s never tasted a sugarplum again.

Cecilia González is a foreign correspondent for NOTIMEX based in Argentina. Her book, “Narcosur: la sombra del narcotráfico mexicano en la Argentina,” was published by Marea in 2013. This prize-winning article first appeared in Spanish under the title, “Sin confites de navidad,” available at: http://www.espaciomemoria.ar/noticia.php?not_ID=378&barra=noticias&titulo=noticia.

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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Officials Investigate Family of a Journalist Critical of Chiapas Authorities (Luis Pablo Beauregard, EL PAÍS)

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

Officials Investigate Family of a Journalist Critical of Chiapas Authorities
by Luis Pablo Beauregard (EL PAÍS)

–       State prosecutors act on criminal complaint about 2013 allegations

The Attorney General of the State of Chiapas (in southeast Mexico, bordering Guatemala) on Tuesday ordered V.S. to give a statement about allegations of extortion. The person under investigation is the sister of Sandra de los Santos and Patricia Chandomi, two journalists critical of state authorities led by Governor Manuel Velasco of the Partido Verde and the PRI. One of the accused’s sisters has called it “an intimidating tactic” since officials have only just begun to investigate a criminal complaint dated June 2013.

Sandra de los Santos edits the webpage Chiapas Paralelo, a leftist electronic media outlet. “The page is very outspoken. The truth is that they’ve tried to buy us off, but we haven’t been bought,” the editor said. This Tuesday the website published an open letter to the governor. The text of the letter states, “there are a series of irregularities [in the judicial investigation]. The point of this action is to threaten the freedom of expression of Chiapas Paralelo’s staff.”

Authorities called V.S. to appear because she could be linked to a June 2013 attempt to extort by telephone. On those calls she is supposed to have asked for amounts from 400 pesos (USD$30) to 1,500 pesos (USD$113). De Los Santos commented the allegations are “groundless” because the alleged victim has not filed a complaint. A third party, assumed to be the father of the victim, made the complaint. “The person who allegedly carried out the extortion can’t be found and bank deposits or payments to V.S. don’t even exist,” states the letter’s text.

The crime is under investigation by the Prosecutor for High Profile Matters, charged with pursuing political cases or those of great social impact. “What’s this case doing with them?” Santos has asked. The reporter says that her 34-year old sister is a domestic help, and works as a receptionist in a business: “she has nothing to do with the media” and she’s neither linked to politics nor social activism. The letter states that the prosecutor, Raciel López Salazar, told them that the investigation was just “a routine matter.”

Article XIX – an NGO that oversees global freedom of expression issues – issued an alert on 25 January for judicial “harassment” against the family of De Los Santos. “The journalist sees this action as attempt to pressure both the outlet’s and her editorial line,” read the NGO’s alert.

This case isn’t the first attempt to intimidate journalists critical of Chiapas’s government. During Juan Sabines’s governorship (2006 – 2012), officials tried to link Isaín Mandujano, a reporter for newsweekly Proceso, with an attack on another journalist. They accused him of attempted homicide. Under pressure from national media outlets and human rights organs, the state’s prosecutor had to withdraw the charges, admitting that no evidence existed to link Mandujano with the case.

In November 2010 authorities detained a young reporter named Héctor Bautista after they received an anonymous tip off naming him as author of “negative comments that attempt to undermine good government.” The public prosecutor tried to tie Bautista to thousands of images of child pornography. Bautista was in charge of the webpage Infochiapas.com, dealing with touchy subjects for state authorities: the inexplicable increase in Chiapas’s public debt – in a few years it went from USD$66million to USD$1.8billion. The young reporter spent 40 days in prison and was freed only thanks to pressure from civil society.

Bautista’s and Mandujano’s cases occurred during the preceding governor’s administration. At that time, Raciel López was chief prosecutor. In Manuel Velasco’s administration López has continued in the post despite criticism identifying him as responsible for the persecution of journalists and political adversaries during Sabines’s governorship. Among other things, he is investigating 56 former officials.

At the beginning of this month, El País questioned Manuel Velasco about this controversial person. “He’s one of my security officials. We are one of Mexico’s three safest states. He’s not there to persecute anybody. During my first year we haven’t gone after anybody,” said the young governor.

This unofficial translation has used corrected dates concerning the alleged extortion in June 2013.

Journalist Luis Pablo Beauregard reports for El País from Mexico. This story first appeared with the title, “El Gobierno de Chiapas investiga a la familia de una periodista crítica,” available at: http://internacional.elpais.com/internacional/2014/01/29/actualidad/1390965135_877269.html.

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

 

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The Crime of Marijuana Smoking in Mexico (CounterPunch)

The Crime of Marijuana Smoking in Mexico
By Carole Simonnet
(Translated by Patrick Timmons)

Translator’s Note

This text is an unauthorized translation of an article that first appeared in Spanish on 13 September 2013 in a Mexican investigative news magazine Enfoque. The now defunct magazine used to accompany the newspaper Reforma. Carlos’s story stands out because Simonnet’s investigation offers a rare, first-hand glimpse into the human consequences of Mexico’s contradictory drugs policies. PT

Carlos faces a criminal sentence for smoking marijuana. He’s the embodiment of the consequences of Mexico’s contradictory public drug policies.

Carlos bought the marijuana for 25 pesos, about four grams, so he could smoke two joints with a couple of friends. After smoking the joints he was arrested and sent to the public prosecutor. He spent 55 hours locked up. To avoid being fingerprinted, the authorities extorted the family. Even though the family paid 4,000 pesos, Carlos was arraigned on charges of endangering public health by trafficking in drugs.

Carlos is living proof of the consequences of Mexico’s contradictory public drug policies. It’s legal to carry and use small doses of the drug (up to five grams of cannabis), but its cultivation and distribution constitute a criminal offence.

The young man tells his story of what happened on 18 June 2013 under the pseudonym of Carlos. He won’t give his real name because he’s going to appear before a judge to clarify his legal situation. He fears reprisals.

He’s already filed a complaint describing this story with Mexico City’s human rights commission (CDHDF). If the judge finds him guilty he’ll face a prison sentence between ten to thirty-six months, and a fine of up to eighty days of minimum salary. If things don’t go so badly, the judge could commute the sentence to rehabilitation through treatment.

Carlos is eighteen years old. While he talks, his skinny body moves with agility in his light blue jeans, a white shirt, a black sweater, and some tennis shoes made by a U.S. brand. He’s wearing silver hoops in his ears, and he has a piercing in his lower lip. He finished secondary school, but he stopped studying because he was rejected twice from schools to prepare for college. He works in a car supply store.

Around three thirty in the afternoon on the Tuesday of his arrest, two judicial police officers drove up on motorbikes, stopping Carlos and two friends as they stepped out of a park in Coyoacán. They were a couple of blocks from the store where they illegally bought the drug. The three youths had finished sharing the joint. Their stash of the drug was in an open bag hidden in their clothing.

Hey, come here! You look like you’re doing something suspicious. Tell me what you are carrying before we search you,” one of the police officers said to them.

“I told them that I had a small bag enough for two joints of marijuana that cost us 25 pesos. I also told them that we’d used before, so they might give us a break. The officers told us, ‘Let’s see, How much cash are you carrying?’ So I told them that we only had 50 pesos.” Carlos told me this in an attempt to recreate the dialogue with the two police officers that he calls Judases.

“No, that’s not enough for me. I’ll need at least 100 pesos from each of you. I don’t know how you’ll find it, but that’s not going to put me off,” the same officer said to them.

Over the last five months, they had been stopped by police officers on two other occasions, but each time they made a “contribution for soft drinks” and the officers let them go. This time the extortion took on an added dimension. The police officers rejected the 50 pesos, taking them to the local magistrate, and leaving them waiting for hours in a police truck. Finally they let Carlos’s friends go and they took him to the local prosecutor.

In 2009, at the height of the drug war, Felipe Calderón’s government passed legislation reforming the Federal Health Code. Part of the reform stipulated that consumers caught with less than five grams of marijuana would not face criminal charges. But the changes brought in with the new law also instructed police to send users to prosecutors for addiction treatment. Treatment is compulsory after three detentions.

The health code reform also made Mexico’s states and Federal District (Mexico City) responsible for seizing marijuana if the trafficked quantity is less than five kilograms. Identifying these crimes is the job of local authorities, who then send the detained on to prosecutors and local judges.

“I knew on Tuesday night that they had planted something on me because one of the police officers told me so. But it wasn’t until Thursday night that they released me under caution after they had asked me to sign a sheet petitioning for my rehabilitation,” Carlos remembered. He stressed that the authorities never took his statement, only asking him three questions: was he carrying the marijuana, where did he buy it, and how long had he been using.

An officer advised him to lie about where Carlos obtained the product, telling him that in Coyoacán the sellers would come for his family. Instead the officer suggested Carlos identify Tepito (— translator’s  note: an infamous downtown neighbourhood in Mexico City well-known for selling contraband). The officer said Carlos should also say he’d been using for about two years, instead of the accurate figure of five months. The higher figure would indicate Carlos was drug-dependent.

Carlos’s mother was present at our interview. She continued with the story. The officers called her and her husband to frighten them. When they arrived at the police station, they showed them a Ziploc bag with about twenty to thirty grams of cannabis a quantity much greater than the amount Carlos had been carrying at the time of his arrest. The officers told Carlos’s parents that his criminal background included violent robberies. She answered that wasn’t true, only that Carlos and her other son had filed a complaint against an assault they’d experienced months before. Fearful that Carlos would spend a night in the cells, the couple agreed to the officer’s suggestion that they pay 4,000 pesos so that they could take the cannabis out of the bag to bring it under the legal limit of five grams.

The police officers looked the other way and let Carlos’s parents take some of the marijuana out of the bag, giving them a scrunch of paper to hide it. Carlos’s mother threw the paper and its contents in a bin when she left the police station. However, the next day she learned that Carlos would be detained for possessing 9.2 grams of cannabis.

Carlos’s mother asked for help from a friend in the local government offices, who put her in charge with officials at the police station. Her attempt to arrange things had been counterproductive. The officials demanded she post bond of about 11,000 pesos. One of the officials asked her to bring 2,000 pesos that very day, otherwise they would send Carlos straight to prison.

Eventually Carlos left jail on Thursday night after posting bond. Now free, the officers called Carlos’s mother on her cellphone to make a new offer. They would “kill the case” for 30,000 pesos, a sum she has never had. In despair, Carlos’s mother sought legal advice and filed a complaint with Mexico City’s Human Rights Commission (CDHDF).

Criminalisation

Carlos is one of the 4.7 million cannabis users in Mexico (according to 2011’s National Survey of Addictions) who have to turn to the black market. Underground dealers are linked to drug traffickers who are always pushing to sell addictive drugs like cocaine and heroin. Police officers lie in wait for easily preyed upon users.

Last year, Mexico City’s human rights ombudsman, Luis González Placencia suggested that marijuana users are still criminalised and stigmatised in Mexico.

“It’s true that consumption isn’t penalised, but the way consumption has been treated has always involved the violation of consumers’ human rights. One reason is that authorities maintain there is a thin, blurred line between consumption and sale thinking that users are also dealers.” Placencia, who left the Ombudsman’s office in late 2013, stressed “the other reason is that possession of more than 5 grams is penalised, sending a mixed signal.”

According to the 2012 Mexico City Survey of Illegal Drug Users conducted by CuPIHD — the Colectivo Unido por Una Política Integral Hacia las Drogas – a non-profit drug policy organisation that promotes regulation with a focus on preventing risk and harm – two of every three illicit drug users have been arrested or extorted by the police or other authorities.

CuPIHD’s president, Jorge Hernández Tinajero, observes that the 5 grams limit for possession doesn’t reflect the realities of the market. A frequent user would have to buy every week. The purchase of a greater amount would expose them to prosecution as a dealer.

Between January 2009 and May 2012, according to CuPIHD’s investigations, the Ministry of Public Health for the Federal District referred 26,233 cases and sent 28,463 people to the district attorney for prosecution for violating the health code. The number of people prosecuted per case averaged 1.1, suggesting to CuPIHD that police arrest users for an obvious violation rather than as a result of a crime that by definition would involve at least two people: the buyer and the seller.

The majority of people in Mexico’s federal prison system (60.2 percent) were sentenced for crimes contravening the health code. Of that number 58.7 percent were sentenced for a marijuana-related offences, according to the results of a 2012 study – the First Survey of Federal Penitentiary Centers – conducted by Catalina Pérez Correa and Elena Azaola, two researchers at CIDE, a social sciences university in Mexico City.

The study shows that 79.2 percent of those sentenced for crimes against the health code were prosecuted for transporting or carrying drugs. Only 29.2 percent were convicted for trafficking and dealing.

Regulation Under Debate

The six years of Calderón’s presidency witnessed an explosion in violence and an increased consumption of illicit substances among youth. In a number of national meetings over the past few months, there’s been a discussion of the possibility of regulating the use, production, marketing, and sale of marijuana for medical use and recreational purposes. At the urging of the Federal District’s government and its Legislative Assembly, the last of these meetings took place from 2 – 4 September 2013. At the end of September 2013 this discussion will move to the Federal Congress – shepherded by the Organising Committee of the Drug Policy Forum – and led by the Revolutionary Democratic Party’s (PRD) Fernando Belaunzarán.

Such meetings have occurred within the global framework of finding alternatives to the prohibitionist and repressive public policies in place since the signing of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotics Drugs (CND). Along with the 1971 and 1988 drugs and psychotropic substances conventions, the CND is considered one of the three pillars of the international system’s controlled substances’ regime.

Since 2011 the Global Commission on Drug Policy has supported the new approach. The Global Commissions is made up of four past Latin American presidents (Ernesto Zedillo of Mexico, César Gaviria of Colombia, Henrique Cardoso of Brazil, and Ricardo Lagos of Chile), and three former high-level U.S. officials.

Colorado and Washington’s recent approval for regulating marijuana for recreational use, the Uruguayan government’s decision to regulate the production, marketing, and sale of marijuana for recreational purposes, as well as an Organisation of American States (OAS) study of May 2013 has made the region more receptive to a paradigm shift.

Meanwhile in Mexico the Federal Government has not participated in the debate. Until now, only ex-president Vicente Fox and a group of intellectuals and academics have promoted a new politics of drug policy based on their own perspectives and interests – notably their ranks include former foreign minister Jorge G. Castañeda, the writer Hector Aguilar Camín, and more recently they have been joined by the Mayor of Mexico City, Miguel Ángel Mancera, and the Governor of Morelos, Graco Ramírez.

A handful of PRD lawmakers – Belaunzarán in the lower house, Mario Delgado in the Senate, and the Mexico City assembly members Manuel Granados, Esthela Damián, Efraín Morales, Vidal Llerenas, and Daniel Ordóñez – have argued that regulation must orient itself towards protecting users’ rights. They want to increase the current weight limits for possession, reduce the violence unleashed by the drug war, free up jail space, and offer therapeutic treatments for the sick.

Cultivation for one’s own needs, medical dispensaries, Coffee shops or cannabis clubs under control of the authorities are all up for public debate thanks to this group of lawmakers. At the same time the elected representatives also want a significant change in the politics of risk and harm prevention so as to keep minors and young people away from the consumption of marijuana.

Assembly member Esthela Damián confirmed that the current legislation is “imperfect” because it continues to criminalize consumers and does not guarantee users’ access to marijuana.

In response, Belaunzarán has been promoting an initiative to regulate the production, processing, distribution, sale, and consumption of marijuana. He presented it last November, emphasizing that the measure would take an important market out of the hands of criminals, helping to repair the social harms done by this illegal activity through taxes applied to its legal regulation.

Although other politicians in favor of regulation don’t speak for their parties, some prominent legislators also support regulation, such as the Panista Roberto Gil and the former head of the lower house in the Federal Congress, the Priista Francisco Arroyo.

This approach has been put in question both by international organizations in Mexico – including the UN and the World Health Organisation – and state and federal health officials. The National Commission Against Addictions (CONADIC), the Centers of Youth Integration (CIJ) and the Institute for the Attention and Prevention of Addictions in the Federal District (IAPA) have all warned of marijuana’s noxious health effects. Among other negative symptoms, these institutions stress problems of memory loss, increased risk of psychosis if use begins at an early age, and damage to the respiratory system.

The Official Position

In an interview, the General Director of Mexico’s juvenile rehabilitation centers (CIJ), Carmen Fernández Cáceres warned of the possible rise in youth consumption because she considers that regulation will bring greater supplies of the drug.

“Consumption rises, that’s what we have seen. From 2009 until the present, the consumption among school-age children in junior high and high schools has gone from eight to twelve percentage points. There’s evidence from every Latin American country where they have discussed this issue: where youth perceive a lowered risk, consumption rises.” She added, “We have seen this before with alcohol and tobacco.”

In 2009, Fernández Cáceres opposed decriminalising small quantities for personal use. She remembers that the National Survey of Addictions reported that more than half of the people who admitted smoking marijuana did so before they had reached eighteen years of age.

She holds a similar position to that of the head of the National Commission Against Addictions (CONADIC), Fernando Cano Valle. At a presentation in Morelos on 5 August 2013 Cano Valle expressly rejected regulation as the basis of a new drug policy declaring it catastrophic: “If you legalize today, in eight or ten days you will already have a group of people with brain damage. Not in ten years but in ten days, eh!”

While the debate rages, Carlos’s life has changed. He no longer smokes. He appears nervous and worried. He admits that he won’t leave the house unless somebody comes with him. He fears that if he does something “that people don’t like” he’ll end up in prison.

Carole Simonnet, a Mexico-based journalist works at magazine RevistaR, distributed with Mexican daily newspaper Reforma. The original text of this story appeared on Monday 9 September 2013 in Enfoque, published by Reforma. It has been translated without the permission of Reforma or that of the author.

Patrick Timmons is a human rights investigator and journalist based in the Americas. He is the founding editor of the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP), a pro bono translation service to translate Spanish-language journalism about Mexico into English so that they reach the widest possible audience. MxJTP may be found at mexicanjournalismtranslationproject.wordpress.com. You can follow Timmons on Twitter @patricktimmons.

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The Fausto Effect: Sidelining Veracruz Governor Javier Duarte

This article first appeared in La Razón. It has been translated without permission for the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP).

The Fausto Effect: Sidelining Veracruz Governor Javier Duarte
by Salvador Camarena
(Translated by Patrick Timmons)

Mexico’s President Enrique Peña Nieto has a special technique to sideline a state governor. The uselessness of Michoacán’s governor Fausto Vallejo was obvious and unsupportable (translator’s note: the President sent federal troops to Michoacán last week to try to calm an acute dispute between organized crime and the popular militia). To capitalise on the time the president has left in office, the tactic is to swap the issue of violence for the theme of progress.

Other state governors in Mexico – like Veracruz – should take note of what just happened in Michoacán. A new scandal is brewing in Veracruz that will likely hobble the state: the official version of events has cracked under pressure from the victim’s story.

The weekend discovery of two bodies in Veracruz has become immediately notorious because one of those found dead participated in a popular television show. That fact crucially explains why this crime, instead of getting lost in the sea of infinite crimes, has drawn national attention. The fleeting fame enjoyed by one of the victims isn’t the only thing that makes this case different. The father of singer Gibrán David Martiz Díaz made a timely and brave complaint that showed up the so-called state government of Javier Duarte: before the two youths turned up dead, Veracruz state police kidnapped them.

What defies logic is that exactly when these crimes were occurring – the kidnappings happened on Tuesday 7 January – one of the country’s best-informed officials went to Veracruz as the representative of Mexico’s federal government. In a fawning speech, Mexico’s Interior Minister eulogised Veracruz’s security.

At a police graduation on the night of 14 January, Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong emphasized, “today we already have results in Veracruz. There’s a show of force and of promise here. It’s always possible to make speeches but the important thing is the result. What’s said in a speech has to be backed up by facts.” Osorio went even further: “Today I want publicly to recognize the governor for his work. The people of Veracruz long for better security forces, and the governor is making good on his promise. Governor Javier Duarte, you have the federal government’s recognition. I want to end by saying that Veracruz’s accredited state police force provides a benchmark for the transformation of policing in the country. It has turned itself into a secure, trustworthy, efficient force.”

The police force once praised by the Interior Minister as a “benchmark” now finds itself mired in major scandal. And we mustn’t assume that this case in an isolated one. Not in Duarte´s Veracruz.

“Results are the most important thing,” said the man from Bucareli one night in Veracruz. (Translator’s note: Bucareli is the Mexico City street where the Interior Ministry is located.) If Javier Duarte re-reads the words of the country’s security chief, he would know that he’s in trouble. The news of the singer murdered in confusing circumstances hasn’t just shown Duarte up – his government had dismissed the complaints by the singer’s father but now the governor has to investigate his own police officers. The case has also attracted international attention, something President Enrique Peña Nieto did not want just as he arrives in Europe. The sidelining of Michoacán’s governor Fausto Vallejo offers a lesson to all. So let’s see who learns and who doesn’t.

Journalist Salvador Camarena contributes to Spanish newspaper El País and is a columnist for Mexican newspaper, La Razón. You can follow him on Twitter @salcamarena or email him at salvador.camarena@razon.mx. This column appeared in Spanish in La Razón on 22 January 2014 with the title, El Faustazo y Javier Duarte at http://www.razon.com.mx/spip.php?page=columnista&id_article=203219.

Translator Patrick Timmons is a human rights investigator and journalist. He edits mexicanjournalismtranslationproject.wordpress.com. You can follow him on Twitter @patricktimmons.

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