Mexico’s Judiciary Defies Reason — Yet Again

3 May

 

Teresa and Alberta sold rag dolls just like these in Santiago Mexquitlan market.

 

Back in Mexico and doing research for both an article and a new book, one particular news item has caught my attention. It has to do with the recent pardon two indigenous women from Queretaro received from Mexico’s Supreme Court. Teresa Gonzalez, 25, and Alberta Alcantara, 31, had been charged – incredibly – with kidnapping six Federal Investigation Agency officers back in 2006. Even more incredibly, they were actually found guilty.

Set up as frontline police in the fight against corruption, the AFI was a well-paid elite force that was supposed to do a better job than the myriad local and national police forces that suffer from such a great lack of confidence here. In March 2006, however, a group of them invaded a small marketplace in Santiago Mexquitlan with neither uniforms nor warrants, and began to confiscate the vendors’ goods without handing over the corresponding documentation. In other words they went in to harass or rob the vendors, who reacted angrily and attracted the attention of local state police. Months later, the AFI arrested Gonzalez, pregnant at the time, and Alcantara,  along with another woman, Jacinta Francisco, who happened to be walking by. She managed to not so much prove her innocence as have a judge believe it and was freed last September.

But Gonzalez and Alcantara were found guilty in spite of the officers’ conflicting testimony, the failure of one to them to even show up – and in open defiance of all logic – and given 21-year prison sentences.

The case, while far from unique, exposes serious problems in Mexico’s policing and judiciary. The AFI was disbanded and reformed under a new name last May, after it was found that about one third of its members were involved in crime. As far as the judges and Attorney General staff who found merit in the bizarre accusations, they continue in their positions. Both bodies are referred to by Refugee Board members as examples of state protection as they routinely turn down Mexicans seeking asylum in Canada. In fact, it is significant that neither of the women have been declared innocent, merely pardoned and freed. 

The real evidence here shows how both policing and legal protection continue to be totally arbitrary in Mexico. The poor are at greatest risk of injustice, but in the end, no one is immune. While organized crime continues to indulge in violent mayhem and Mexico’s governors continue to swear by the integrity of their ‘institutions,’ more and more Mexicans will fear for their lives and flee for somewhere safe. But as Canada turns down more than 90 per cent of refugee claims, and refuses to stop calling Mexico a “non-refugee-producing country” they are not likely find help from a nation that once seemed to pride itself on doing the right thing.

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