Tag Archives: translation

God Does Not Exist (Javier Valdez Cárdenas, RíoDoce.mx)

This column first appeared in RíoDoce.mx on 2 February 2014. It has been translated without permission for the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP).

God Does Not Exist
By Javier Valdez Cárdenas

That’s what Cholo says: “God doesn’t exist. Just like my mother doesn’t exist, and neither do my father, family, or my house.” What Cholo has is a life lived on the street – since he was six years old. Street living has given him long hair, like the style worn by cholos in the ‘80s, with loose ringlets longer than the rest of his mane, baggy clothes, a sailor’s gait, a way of street talking.

Cholo shines shoes. He carries a wooden box with him and a backpack and a bag. Among his hiding places, he has a small knife that bears teeth when he brings it out. “So I don’t get fucked with,” he says. He has his clients and even a business card: luxury shoeshine, call me, guaranteed service, then a cell phone number.

It’s almost Christmas. For him it’s just winter. December without a 24th or 25th nor a 30th nor 31st. January without New Year’s. Christmas doesn’t exist. The cold on the street corner comes for those waiting for atole or gorditas, or a shot of brewed agave. All help them bear the cold’s brunt.

Cholo accepts everything. If it’s given, he’ll accept it. He’s in no position to refuse. From where he’s at, it’s a luxury to turn down a beer, a soft drink, some taco, a salted beef soup with chile and lime. “I can’t say no, especially if I haven’t eaten.” And already it’s six thirty in the afternoon. Cholo’s hands fly, polishing with the rag over and over again until the shoe and the rag both squeak, burnishing the shine.

His body carries a map of wounds. His life is a graveyard of injuries. Cenotaphs on his sides, on his arms. His head, inside and out, made from four punches, many kicks and cuffs, two blows that his absent father didn’t give him, several tons of forgetting, kilometers of heartbreak, nautical miles of I-love-yous, hugs, how-great-you’ve-comes, and don’t-go-I’ve-missed-yous.

The four punches came from hitmen, he explains. They punched him because they weren’t carrying axes in their hands. Punches and blows. They wanted him to betray another who had robbed them, fenced the product. But he did not know a thing. Yet they gave it to him bad anyway, so bad that he had to go to hospital, and barely recovered. The only thing he knew was that they found who they were looking for. And they knocked him off.

It’s December. “Is it Christmas?” he asks. The only thing he knows is that it’s cold and that he needs to find another coat. Drugs, matches, cigarette butts, broken glass from bottles, absences, a roof, his own bed, falling down, getting taunted and beaten up in jail, another set of hands: all of these wounds from a war that began when he stepped out on the street, and that still mark his mind, his skin.

He rubs and rubs, squatting. He’s been crouching his whole life, training for the world to end, which for him happens every day. “God?” he asks. And then he answers himself. “God doesn’t exist, and that’s why I don’t have any parents. I don’t want any.”

Journalist Javier Váldez Cárdenas edits RíoDoce, an investigative news website based in Culiacán, Sinaloa. He is a prolific author, with a new book, Con una granada en la boca (Aguilar, 2014) (With a Grenade in the Mouth — as yet unavailable in English). This Malayerba column for RíoDoce first appeared in Spanish under the title, “Dios no existe,” available at: http://riodoce.mx/noticias/columnas/malayerba/dios-existe.

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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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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Ecuador’s Communications Law aims for Cartoonist Bonil (Soraya Constante, El País)

This article first appeared in El País on 23 January 2014. It has been translated without permission for the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP).

Ecuador’s Communications Law aims for Cartoonist Bonil
by Soraya Constante (El País)

–        Cartoonist must testify about a sketch of a break in at home of journalist Villavicencio

Seven months after its approval, Ecuador’s Communications Law – which Human Rights Watch considers “restricting press freedom” – has come into force. The first person to appear before the Superintendent of Information and Communication is cartoonist Xavier Bonilla (Bonil). An internal report from this agency alleges that Bonil distorted the truth and supported social unrest when on 28 December he published a cartoon in newspaper El Universo about a break in at the apartment of Fernando Villavicencio, a journalist and an advisor to an opposition lawmaker.

The cartoon appeared with the caption: “Police and prosecutors raid the home of Fernando Villavicencio and carry off documents alleging corruption.” The cartoon used Christmas as a hook to narrate what happened on the night of 26 and morning of 27 December, according to those affected and media reports.

In its first three months, the Information Superintendent has processed 52 cases, of which 20 have been resolved. The agency’s head, Carlos Ochoa did not provide more information about its operation, and what little is known about it is thanks to an interview he gave to Noticias Andes, a state news agency. “We don’t analyze cases publicly. We inform the parties in the dispute, and after a legal process we asses whether the law has been violated or not,” Ochoa told the news agency.

Bonil’s case has drawn attention because President Rafael Correa mentioned it in a broadcast on 4 January. On his show, La Canallada de la Semana [Weekly Roundup] he labeled Xavier Bonilla “sick, a hitman who uses ink,” and threatened to enforce the Communications Law. “We’ll file a complaint because now we have the Communications Law defending us. Otherwise, cartoonists who dressed themselves up as comedians will just spew their hate.”

The first working day after Correa made these announcements, the Superintendent for Information and Communication, Carlos Ochoa, asked newspaper El Universo for copies of the cartoon, and its author’s identity. As a result, the cartoonist and his lawyer went public about the process. Last Tuesday they replied to the Superintendent with a seven-page submission explaining different ways to look at caricature. “At base and in essence, it rests on exaggerating and poking fun at reality … it’s graphic, humorous opinion, so it’s as subject to its creator’s perspective as it is to that of the person looking at it,” states the text. The cartoonist also cited the press reports where he drew information for the sketch.

Bonil’s lawyer explained that the next step is an appearance where the parties present evidence and documents relevant to the case. The Superintendent has five days to schedule that meeting and then two days to issue a sanction, or archive the case. The new regulations for the Communications Law guide this process. President Rafael Correa issued those regulations at the beginning of this week, saying that they clarified parts of the Communications Law passed in June 2013.

The regulations – made up of 89 articles and 4 transitional provisions – go even further than the Communications Law in a desire to control content. César Ricaurte, director of the Andean Foundation for the Observation and Study of the Media (Fundamedios), worries about the control of internet-based media, something that wasn’t part of the actual law but now appears in the regulations. “Legally speaking, it’s schizophrenic: one part of the regulations guarantees rights, but another article restricts them. Article 2 doesn’t place controls on content created by citizens and legal entities on their blogs, social networks, and personal, business, or institutional web pages. But Article 3 says that all Internet media are subject to the law. So that means Internet-based content is subject to control.”

Ricaurte’s team has been working since 2008 on a register of restrictions to press freedom. Just in the last year they report 174 threats against journalists and communications media. “State officials carry out the majority of the threats, abusing the powers of their office, and the principal aggressor is President Rafael Correa. He’s seen as responsible for 13% of the threats,” Ricaurte indicated. “The president continues a stigmatizing and systematic discourse inveighing against journalists and the media. He’s described journalists in the harshest terms. On his Saturday program he identifies them by name and broadcasts what they look like. He does that after he receives criticism, or with op-eds he doesn’t like.”

Add to those threats rulings against the media, journalists, and editorial columnists. Fundamedios counts 42 judgments since 2008, with an increase in the number of cases imitating the judgment Rafael Correa won against newspaper El Universo. Correa asked for USD$40million in damages. Last year, a former judge claimed damages against a media outlet in the border province of Esmeraldas, claiming payment of USD$30million. “When the President won against El Universo, he asked citizens to seek judgments against the media and reporters. As a consequence, there’s been an increasing in using the justice system to quiet journalists,” Ricaurte relates.

Correa has railed against international media. In October he took to Twitter to accuse the magazine The Economist of lacking impartiality based on an article it published about Texaco-Chevron operations. This year he has done the same with the magazine Newsweek and newspaper the Miami Herald. The magazine raised questions about the state’s role in the massacre of isolated indigenous people; while the newspaper referred to break-ins at the house and office of opposition lawmaker, Cléver Jimenez, and his advisor, Fernando Villavicencio. This issue has become untouchable for the government.

Human Rights Watch’s report on the Americas published this week agrees with Fundamendios. On the Communications Law, the NGO confirms that it contains “vague provisions that allow arbitrary prosecutions and censorship.” The organization warned that the rules “opens the door to censorship by giving the government or judges the power to decide if information is truthful.”

Newspaper El País has also been the target of attacks by Ecuador’s government. Today, it attacked the newspaper for publishing an interview with Fernando Villavicencio who is now in Washington, weighing an asylum request. The Ecuadorean government’s principal argument is that large media groups work against progressive governments.

Journalist Soraya Constante reports for El País from Quito, Ecuador. This article first appeared in Spanish on 23 January 2014 with the title “El caricaturista Bonil, primer señalado por la Ley de Comunicación de Ecuador,” available at: http://internacional.elpais.com/internacional/2014/01/23/actualidad/1390452426_870042.html.

Translator Patrick Timmons is a human rights investigator and journalist. He edits the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP), a pro bono translation service to provide distinctive, quality Spanish-language journalism to English-speaking readers.

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A Singer’s Murder Uncovers Police Corruption in Veracruz

Original version published in Spanish by El País on Wednesday 22 January 2014. Translated without permission.

A singer’s murder uncovers police corruption in Veracruz
by Juan Diego Quesada
translated by Patrick Timmons

–        The state government tried to close the case by blaming hit men, but the family alleges police involvement

The recent murder of Gibrán Martiz, a young singer who had just started his musical career, has highlighted the corruption of Veracruz police authorities, a state located just east of Mexico State. The singer was kidnapped in his house and reappeared, five days later, in the inside of a car with a bullet shot to the head. The police said they had found Gibrán’s body in a confrontation with the hit men who had taken him. It was a perfect crime scene. The guilty were dead and the disappeared had appeared, so the police tried to close the case.

Only at the insistence of the singer’s parents — who visited hospitals, police stations, and questioned the neighbors who saw their son kidnapped — are we beginning to know little by little what really happened. After a few days of official blandishments, the Veracruz state government has admitted that the case implicates seven police officers. “The people who took Gibrán and his roommate — also killed — were state officials. We only want to know what really happened, we don’t want a false explanation,” says Erick, by telephone, the brother of the singer who became famous thanks to a popular television reality show, La Voz de México.

Gibrán Martiz, 22 years old, was an unknown local singer until last summer when he won a Televisa competition to promote talented upcoming groups. When the show finished, he decided to go it alone. He had only been in his newly rented apartment in the state’s capital of Xalapa for one day when somebody kidnapped him and his roommate, a seventeen-year old youth. They had just started working together as models. It was 7 January. The family tried to contact them without success for a few days. Relatives became alarmed when they heard Gibrán did not turn up to a nightclub engagement. His brother denounced Gibrán’s disappearance on 12 January via Twitter.

Gibrán’s father, Efraín, went to Xalapa to try to find him. Social media picked up on Gibrán’s disappearance. Celebrities from the entertainment world got involved. His body appeared on 20 January in a remote place called La Ternera after an alleged shootout between police and criminals. The officers conducting the operation said that hit men were in the car, and along with the two bodies of Gibrán and his roommate they also found police uniforms, guns, and bulletproof vests. The officers suggested that the murderers had been passing themselves off as police officers. Veracruz’s attorney general, Felipe Amadeo Flores, accepted this version of events, and publicly broadcast its details.

The singer’s father is convinced they are trying to trick him. His son’s murderers are police officers, he alleges. Or, at the very least that officers played an active part in his death. Neighbors gave him the color and license plates of the car in which Gibrán was kidnapped and when he went to Internal Affairs to file a complaint, he caught sight of the vehicle in the parking structure. “I am not going to run away. I am one of those people who believe that in a war like this you have to put family, cousins, brothers and sons first. For things to change and for the country to improve. And if it’s up to me to find out what happened to my son, then I don’t care,” said the father in the past few days.

Bit by bit the story seems to be unraveling. As a result of the family’s investigations, relatives believe that for one reason or another they abducted two of Gibrán’s young friends. The boys had a history of stealing cars. At one moment, the police took the two boys to the apartment where Gibrán was with his friend. They kidnapped all four youths. The rest of the story is murky. State authorities have neither explained the role played by the police nor the motive for their murders. The only charges are extortion and abusing their official positions.

The Veracruz state government, and specifically Governor Javier Duarte have received harsh criticism for their security policy and the way they administer justice. Regina Martínez, a journalist for the magazine Proceso, who was investigating prickly subjects, was murdered in April 2012. The investigation into her death was accompanied by a campaign to discredit the reporter by covering up any sort of political connection to her murder. A possible culprit was identified later, a drug addict plagued by bad health. In prison he said he was tortured and the reality was that the only proof of his involvement was his own confession. He had to be released. In Gibrán’s case photos have already been circulating on social media showing him brandishing guns and drugs. Nobody seems to know where the photos have come from. In Veracruz, even the victims don’t rest in peace.

Reporter Juan Diego Quesada writes for El País. His original story in Spanish was published as “El asesinato de un cantante destapa la corrupción policial de Veracruz,” available at http://internacional.elpais.com/internacional/2014/01/21/actualidad/1390336606_155354.html.

Translator Patrick Timmons is a human rights investigator and journalist, and founding editor of https://mexicanjournalismtranslationproject.wordpress.com. Follow him on Twitter @patricktimmons.

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