Sunday, October 26, 2014

Tlatlaya and the Parallel World of the President

My article of this week in El Universal. 

La versión en español la pueden ver haciendo clic aquí

Tlatlaya and the Parallel World of the President

The country is going through its worst crisis in human rights in recent years. With a few weeks apart, two different agencies responsible for protecting the population, the army and a local police, perpetrated acts of harassment and violations of human rights against it. In the first case, the Mexican army is accused of having carried out extrajudicial executions of at least 15 people in the community of Tlatlaya, State of Mexico. In the second, the municipal police of Iguala and Cocula are accused of involvement in the murder of 6 people and the disappearance of 43 students from the Rural Teacher Training School (Normal) of Ayotzinapa in Guerrero.

The first of these cases has already been the subject of an investigation and a first report of the National Commission of Human Rights. This report, released on October 21st, concluded that "the elements of 102 Infantry Battalion of the Ministry of National Defense violated the right to life." Moreover, according to the report, "this violation is compounded by the fact that the arbitrary deprivation of life was made in a deliberate way, according to the victims’ recount, i.e., intentionally and with no justification whatsoever. In addition, the victim’s vulnerability must be assessed, since they had surrendered, and they witnessed how some of their teammates were put to death, before themselves losing their lives." 

Finally: "The National Commission cannot fail to note the particular gravity of this case, given that three of the victims of the violence are adolescents (...). In this sense, the behavior of the responsible authority not only violates the right to life, but many international instruments (...) which places a duty on the State to adopt special measures of protection and assistance for children and adolescents under their jurisdiction." 

On October 22, i,e,, the day after the submission of the report of the National Commission of Human Rights, in a relatively unusual event, the President held a public meeting with senior army commanders. The justification of this meeting was, to say the least, unconventional. It was nothing less than the opening of a branch of the Military bank (Banjercito) in Apatizngán, Michoacán. There, the President made a glowing tribute to our armed forces
"To the Chairman of Banjercito, whom I thank for his message, which he has just now delivered, and that certainly leaves accredited how our Mexican army, our armed forces are loyal and devoted to good causes in our country."

"They are important to sustain the democratic institutions of our country. And they have been working precisely to support the work of the Mexican State in favor of Mexicans in various fields."

"And so, today, as President and Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, this space gives me occasion to let faithful testimony of the gratitude, recognition and pride that we Mexicans feel of having armed forces which are loyal and devoted to Mexico."

So, at the stroke of a pen, the President reiterated his confidence in the Armed Forces, recognized his loyalty and his contribution to good causes in the country and even its role in sustaining democratic institutions (whatever that means). Of course, in his speech the President did not make the slightest mention of the issue of human rights or the Tlatlaya case. No one should be surprised by this speech. On the issues of security, violence, and respect for human rights, the President seems to be living in a parallel world where nothing happens, where everything is under control, and where the army is a force loyal and devoted to the best causes of the country. It is a pity that not everyone lives there.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Iguala, Responsibility of the State

Iguala, Responsibility of the State

Some media and local authorities have tried to present the issue of the killing of 6 and the disappearance of another 43 Ayotzinapa’s students as something attributable to organized crime. They have even given names of the cartel that could have killed the students (“Guerreros Unidos”) and of the leader who gave the order to stop and kill them (“el Chuky”). This version, however, obscures reality. This is not another crime of the organized crime. No. The first student killings, the detention and subsequent disappearance of the other students, were the work of local commanding officers that were under the control of a local authority and, ultimately, of a state authority (in May, Iguala and other municipalities of the state of Guerrero signed an agreement, “Mando Único”, with the state government in order to unify the command of their local police forces). 

       Let's recap some of what happened that fateful September 26th. That day, the normalistas (students that are being trained to become basic education teachers) arrived in Iguala, where they seized some buses that were going to be used to travel to Mexico City to participate in the march on October 2nd (a march that is held every year in order to commemorate the student massacre of 1968). At some point, one of the buses was intercepted by a patrol and some students got out of the bus to try to remove it. Suddenly, a student was shot in the head. So fell the first student, cunningly shot by police. That student is still alive but in coma; if he survives he will be permanently impaired. The other students tried to escape, and several were arrested. One of them, Julio César Mondragón (20 years, father of a 2 months old baby), was arrested by policemen, witnesses said. The next day, the body of Julio César was lying in the street, with his face flayed and with the eye sockets empty. The image was chilling. That is, paradoxically, the face of violence in the country, senseless violence, full of cruelty and brutality. Worse, that repugnant murder was committed by police or by someone in collusion with them. It was an extrajudicial execution. The other deaths that occurred that night (there were six in total) and the disappearance of the other students are also attributable to policemen. These are, therefore, cases of abuse of authority and enforced disappearance and they should be treated and judged as such

      The tragedy of Iguala can only be explained in a context of impunity and state neglect of its most basic tasks. In this municipality, it was more than obvious the violence that existed in recent months. In March 2013, a PRD local representative (a Síndico), Justino Carvajal, was killed. A month later, Arturo Hernández Cardona, another member of the PRD and leader of the social movement Popular Unity (UP), declared in front of the mayor José Luis Abarca that the crime of Carvajal had been political and he blamed upon the mayor if something were to happen to him or to any member of his group: "the crimes of politicians do not occur as loose crimes, these crimes are authorized by another power, equal or greater, but political too." He added, "if we do not say anything now, we run the risk of being deprived of our life and then you are going to say that it was the same mechanism previously used, that it was the organized crime, and then there is going to be no investigation at all." Weeks after making these accusations, the social leader and several of his colleagues were kidnapped, tortured and killed. A survivor testified in front of a notary that it was the mayor himself who killed the social leader of two gunshots.
     The most amazing thing about this situation is the failure of state and national authorities as well as the passivity of the leadership of the PRD, who did not even react against the killing of members of their own party and that were unable to ask for a thorough investigation of what had happened in that municipality. That is why the governor as well as the hegemonic fraction of the PRD are also responsible (at least politically) of the tragedy that took place in Iguala.
    At the federal level there are no valid excuses either. The situation in the country has become very complex. Peña Nieto’s agenda was suddenly Calderonized. He can no longer avoid talking about security and violence issues and he cannot keep sweeping the problems under the rug. Extrajudicial executions in Tlatlaya by the Army and the abhorrent acts of Iguala should teach him that not talking about problems is not equivalent to solving them. The President should leave the ostrich policy that has characterized his government on these issues. It is complicated and sad, yes, but that is the reality that must be faced.

Iguala, Responsabilidad del Estado

Mi columna quincenal en El Universal: "Iguala, responsabilidad del Estado".