<i>"The Name of Our Country is América" - Simon Bolivar</i> The Narco News Bulletin<br><small>Reporting on the War on Drugs and Democracy from Latin America
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Supreme Court Overrides Justice Mariano Azuela´s Opinion

Ulises Ruiz Ortiz Judged Responsible for Violation of Rights in Oaxaca 2006-2007: No Penalties Need Apply


By Nancy Davies
Commentary from Oaxaca

October 16, 2009

With an historic 7-4 vote the Supreme Court of Mexico this week held responsible Governor Ulises Ruiz (URO) of Oaxaca for violations of human rights. Rejecting the opinion of Justice Mariano Azuela, the Court, for only the second time, blames a sitting governor for violating citizen’s individual rights. The one previous condemnation followed a massacre of seventeen campesinos in Guerrero in 1995. The governor later resigned.

The present ruling justifies the claims of violations of many civil society organizations, the APPO (Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca), and Section 22 of SNTE (National Education Workers Union). The teachers union now hold symbolic leadership of the struggle for social justice in Oaxaca.

The PAN-PRD-PT- Convergencia political alliance to oust the PRI in 2010 leaped into the moment of glory. Convergencia Party paid for a full-page ad in Noticias on October 15 to advise URO to resign for the sake of dignity. Ahem! The president of the Justice Commission of the Chamber of Deputies demanded that the PRD and the PAN not lynch the governor of Oaxaca, but since the PRI holds the majority in the state legislature, I assume that was rhetorical. The state government of Oaxaca (now, who could that be?) assured the public it would be “attentive to the conclusion”. Investigate itself for criminal acts? The PAN deputy Javier Corral Jurado urged that the Federal Attorney General respond to the judgment, and “place suitable penal and administrative responsibility.”

And there’s the rub. The Court’s decision carries no penalties other than political fall-out, and pressure. However, the PRI leader Beatriz Paredes, declares her support for Ulises Ruiz.

As is my custom I went down to the zócalo to see the crowds. No crowds. I saw only a petition table staffed by the PRD for citizens to object to the new federal sales tax. I was looking for placards painted “Ya Cayó!” and maybe even some dancing in the Alameda. Nothing. My guess is that after the initial announcement by Mariano Azuela, activists fell silent, despite teachers and APPO being photographed battling police in Mexico City outside the Supreme Court building. It felt like everyone is holding their breath. Or maybe the victory is worthless.

The Court members, whose reasons for objecting to the opinion of Azuela varied widely, did not include a condemnation of former president Vicente Fox (of the PAN, which is also Calderon’s party) and officials of Fox’s cabinet. Nor did they assign blame to Jorge Franco Vargas, “El Chucky”, who acted as Oaxaca’s Secretary of Government during the repression, or to the state attorney general Lizbeth Cano. Today the opposition politicos are howling for their heads to roll.

The justices decided only that URO did not fulfill his obligation to maintain public order and that his omission led to general disorder in the capital city and adjacent areas. In a session in which some of the justices changed their prior positions, the court rejected by a vote of eight to three the proposal to include Vicente Fox; Eduardo Medina Mora, ex-secretary of Federal Public Security; and Carlos Abascal, who was then Secretary of Government, as guilty of permitting a lack of governability in the state which allowed violations of fundamental rights.

The investigation solicited in 2006 by the Chamber of Deputies lasted a year and a half, and was ultimately resolved in two days of discussion. The decision jumbles the blame, especially for not sending federal troops into Oaxaca sooner in prompt response to the petition of URO and the state legislature to bolster local police forces. The Supreme Court did agree that a general violation of rights took place, finding guilty some commanders of the state police: director general of Public Security José Manuel Vera Salinas, director of Ministerial Police naval lieutenant José Moreno Rivas, and director of Auxiliary Police Joaquín Darío Berges. They also held responsible local and federal troops for using excessive force.

The contradiction about “governability”— APPO and Section 22 pleaded for a declaration of non-governability, which the justices now lament — was recognized in the context of URO failing to crack down soon enough against the social movement.

The Court also exonerated General Héctor Sánchez Gutiérrez, ex-coordinator of the Federal Assistance Forces, and Ardelio Vargas Fosado, ex-chief of the Federal Preventive Police (PFP), now a federal deputy.

Furthermore, the president of the Court, Guillermo Ortiz Mayagoitia, reproached URO for trying to transfer his state problems to the federal authorities. Justice Silva Meza alone argued that violations of rights continued after the inauguration of Calderon. Silva, clearly in the minority, was successful only in adding “the right to information” to the list of violated guarantees.

According to Justice Silva, the events in Oaxaca will blacken the history pages of Mexico. He accused Daniel Cabeza de Vaca, then Attorney General of Mexico, of having lied in his report regarding the repression by denying that federal agents participated in three warrant-less raids. He also censured the Army for refusing to release names of the soldiers who participated in operations headed by the PFP, when hundreds of Oaxacans were brutalized and arrested.

Silva unsuccessfully called on his co-justices to uphold the rights of victims to reparation, and to act against the public servants who had violated personal rights. He added another unsuccessful demand: the right to the truth, “understood as a mechanism of reparation of human rights, as a way to prevent repetition.”

He also pointed out that those in charge during the Atenco assault were the same Executive, the same Secretary of Government, the same head of Federal Public Security, the same Attorney General.

The resolution placing responsibility on Ruiz was approved by Justices Guillermo I. Ortiz Mayagoitia, Juan N. Silva Meza, José Ramón Cossío, Fernando Franco, Genaro Góngora, José de Jesús Gudiño Pelayo and Olga Sánchez Cordero. In its final form it will be sent to the President of Mexico, the Congress, the governors, the attorneys general (including the federal Attorney General) and to the heads of federal, state and municipal Public Security forces.

This court decision comes as a boon to the anti-PRI political alliance for 2010. We await what benefits it might bring to the local struggle.

Sources: Noticias, La Jornada

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The Narco News Bulletin: Reporting on the Drug War and Democracy from Latin America