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Human Rights

Citizens’ Tribunal Brings Charges Against Mexican President

MEXICO CITY, Nov 15 2012 (IPS) - Conservative outgoing Mexican President Felipe Calderón is to face a ballot again – not to compete for public office but to receive the verdict of a citizens’ trial that is accusing him of violating the constitution.

The citizens’ tribunal, set up by a platform of Mexicans discontented with the Calderón administration, which has less than a month to go, has collected individual and collective complaints and is preparing a list of charges to put to the popular vote from next Sunday Nov. 18.

The list is made up of 11 headings, such as violation of individual rights, establishment and promotion of a state of generalised violence, job elimination and reduction of workers’ rights, impoverishment and lack of attention to social problems, as well as permissiveness towards and fostering of corruption.

Since Oct. 18, when it was launched, the movement has received 78 complaints, 27 of them from Mexico City, nine from the neighbouring state of Mexico and eight from the southeastern state of Veracruz – the last two afflicted by escalating violence involving drug cartels fighting to supply the lucrative U.S. market.

One of the plaintiffs, and an applicant to be a juror in the trial, is artist Carlos Vigueras, the head of the Casasola Museum in Ciudad Juárez on the border with the United States, which is one of the most violent cities in Latin America.

“Calderón’s complicity in this bloody and warlike ruse to control Mexico’s resources is the payment he had to make to govern a vulnerable and occupied country,” Vigueras told IPS, alluding to the war against drugs launched by the president shortly after taking office in December 2006.

The campaign has left over 90,000 dead, at least 14,000 disappeared and some 250,000 people displaced from their homes, according to human rights organisations, journalists’ estimates and the offices of state attorney generals.

These appalling statistics, blamed by the government on the cartels, are the main basis of people’s discontent with Calderón, who will hand over the presidency on Dec. 1 to Enrique Peña of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which ruled Mexico from 1929 to 2000.

A total of 309 people have signed up on the tribunal’s web page to take part in the jury.

The tribunal argues that “there are known and sufficient reasons to doubt the fulfilment of the oath sworn by Mr. Calderón on Dec. 1, 2006,” referring to his promise to respect and enforce the constitution.

The charges, presented under any of the 11 categories, will form the basis of a legal action to be put to the popular vote.

Citizens will be able to register their vote individually on the web page, or collectively at polling stations set up in public squares on Sunday Nov. 18, or at neighbourhood, family, workplace, sporting or cultural meetings held to attract voters.

Spanish teacher David Porcayo filed a complaint.

“Now I’m just another unemployed person, thanks to Calderón, who has performed poorly as president and has not worked for the good of the country, as the law demands,” Porcayo, a bilingual teacher with a master’s degree in literature from the University of Georgia in the U.S., told IPS.

In Temixco, 95 kilometres south of Mexico City, Porcayo has a school to teach Spanish to foreign visitors since 2006, and runs a tour company with his brothers.

“But because of the ‘war on drugs’ and the violence it unleashed, university students from the United States have stopped coming. The universities no longer allow their students and professors to take my courses in Spanish, literature and history because of the violence and insecurity that is rife in our state (Morelos),” he said.

“Due to the impunity that prevails in Mexico, we know it will be very difficult to bring criminal charges against Calderón and those who are really responsible, beginning with our neighbours and their globalised barons,” said Vigueras, co-author of the book “Mexico: País de las maravillas” (Mexican Wonderland).

Calderón has already faced international charges. In November 2011 a group of activists presented a petition to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague to investigate the Mexican president and his ministers of public security, Genaro García, and national defence, Guillermo Galván, as well as the head of the navy, Mariano Saynez, to determine their degree of responsibility for the violence that is devastating the country.

The petition also includes Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, head of the Sinaloa cartel, the most powerful drug trafficking organisation in Mexico.

The plaintiffs argue that the ICC should investigate rights violations committed by soldiers, including killings of civilians in military detention, forced disappearances and torture, as well as attacks by drug traffickers on hospitals and rehabilitation centres, and mass murders of migrants.

“We know he is not the first president to have behaved in this way, but we are determined to establish, de facto, the right and the obligation provided in the constitution to sue the president when, as a society, we think the commitment he made has not been properly fulfilled,” the Citizen’s Tribunal says.

Calderón is reaching the end of his six-year term with a 49 percent approval rating, lower than that of his predecessors, according to a poll whose results were released Monday Nov. 12 by the BGC consultancy and the newspaper Excelsior.

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