Latina Lista: News from the Latinx perspective > Columns & Features > Global Views > Texas’ planned execution of Mexican national against World Court ruling further soils U.S. reputation abroad

Texas’ planned execution of Mexican national against World Court ruling further soils U.S. reputation abroad

(Update: August 6: Jose Medellin was executed at 10 p.m. CST at Huntsville, Texas: Update: August 5, 9 p.m.: The Supreme Court has decided to review the request of Jose Medellin’s appeal for a stay. As such, his execution scheduled for 6 p.m. today has been postponed.)
LatinaLista — At 6 p.m. this evening, death row inmate Jose Medellin will be put to death for his confessed part in a brutal gang rape and murder of two teenage girls in Houston in 1993. Jose’s brother, who was 14 at the time and also a part of the same gang, is already serving a 40-year-sentence for his part.
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Elizabeth Pena, 16, and Jennifer Ertman, 14, were brutally raped and murdered by Jose Medellin and other gang members in Houston, TX for which Medellin will be put to death in Texas on Aug. 5, 2008.

By all accounts, what Jose, his brother and other members of that gang did to these girls was savage and sadistic. There’s no excuse for it — then or now. Not even claims of youthful stupidity can justify the torture these girls endured for only being at the wrong place at the wrong time. Each of these guys deserves to be behind bars for a long, long, long time.
Yet, an ongoing international debate has elevated this horrendous murder case into the poster child of legal cases when it comes to respecting international treaties and dealing with foreign-born criminals.
The ensuing conversation has lead to the question: Should the death sentence of Jose Medellin be delayed in order to comply with international protocol or should death by lethal injection continue as planned this evening?
The answer is an easy one.

The legal battle surrounding Jose Medellin has nothing to do with altering his guilty conviction in the murders of both girls. In fact, if he were tried again for the same offense, the same verdict would most probably be delivered.
Yet, what Medellin is benefiting from, along with other Mexicans on death row, is the fact that their lawyers and our judicial system failed to provide these people with “legal courtesies” as outlined in international treaties.
According to the mandates of the Vienna Convention, foreign-born people who have been arrested must have access to their home country’s consular officials. Nothing more and nothing less.
It’s something that we are certainly diligent in providing Americans who find themselves in the same situations abroad. It doesn’t mean that we are exonerating them of their crimes but we are providing them with advice on what their legal rights are, as well as, legal assistance.
The same is expected of each country for its citizens abroad. It’s been recognized that this was not done for Medellin and the other Mexican death row inmates. So, a ruling was passed by the International Court of Justice or World Court, that said in part:

1. Whereas in its Application Mexico states that in paragraph 153 (9) of the Avena Judgment the Court found “that the appropriate reparation in this case consists in the obligation of the United States of America to provide, by means of its own choosing, review and reconsideration of the convictions and sentences of the Mexican nationals” mentioned in the Judgment, taking into account both the violation of the rights set forth in Article 36 of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations (hereinafter “the Vienna Convention”) and paragraphs 138 to 141 of the Judgment; whereas it is alleged that “requests by the Mexican nationals for the review and reconsideration mandated in their cases by the Avena Judgment have repeatedly been denied”;
2. Whereas Mexico claims that, since the Court delivered its Judgment in the Avena case, “[o]nly one state court has provided the required review and consideration, in the case of Osvaldo Torres Aguilera”, adding that, in the case of Rafael Camargo Ojeda, the State of Arkansas “agreed to reduce Mr. Camargo’s death sentence to life imprisonment in exchange for his agreement to waive his right to review and reconsideration under the Avena Judgment”; and whereas, according to Mexico, “[a]ll other efforts to enforce the Avena Judgment have failed”;
3. Whereas it is explained in the Application that, on 28 February 2005, the President of the United States of America (hereinafter the “United States”), George W. Bush, issued a Memorandum (also referred to by the Parties as a “determination”); whereas it is stated in the Application that the President’s Memorandum determined that state courts must provide the required review and reconsideration to the 51 Mexican nationals named in the Avena Judgment, including Mr. Medellín, notwithstanding any state procedural rules that might otherwise bar review of their claims;

Nowadays, such a ruling from the World Court seems to carry weight in Washington and President Bush wants to comply and has asked that each state, that holds a Mexican national on death row, to review their case. However, it’s our own Supreme Court that is now disregarding international law and has ruled that Texas doesn’t have to comply with the World Court ruling and can go ahead and on schedule.
The only way to stop today’s death sentence is for the Governor of Texas to grant a reprieve and in a state that is known for putting the most inmates to death, and Medellin’s happens to be the first of two scheduled this week, it is highly unlikely that Texas will pay attention to the World Court ruling.
A last ditch effort by Medellin’s lawyers to get their client more time by requesting a reprieve and the chance to file new appeals was turned down on Monday by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Also, the Pardons and Parole Board turned down a request on the same day from Medellin’s lawyers to commute his sentence to a life sentence and to have a 240-day reprieve.
Critics accuse Medellin’s lawyers of just trying anything to save their client and, as lawyers, they’re doing their job. The unfortunate aspect is that no one paid attention to international treaty protocol when they knew they were dealing with foreign-born nationals.
The natural assumption is that Medellin’s lawyers hoped that by getting the Mexican government involved, the death sentence would be commuted since Mexico is against the death penalty and their involvement would carry more weight than the lawyers’ own request to the Pardons and Parole Board to commute the sentence to life.
But the Texas governor refuses to spend anymore time reviewing the Medellin case and it’s proceeding as planned this evening. The U.S. Embassy in Mexico sent out an alert to all Americans living in Mexico to avoid any protests that might be happening in Mexico regarding the Medellin case.
The major newspapers of Mexico are making the story frontpage news, quoting UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon’s admonishment of US policy by saying that as a member of the United Nations, the United States has an obligation to obey the decisions of the International Court of Justice.
And why don’t we?
Medellin has been behind bars for 15 years, what difference does a few more weeks or months make? Sure, Mexico and Medellin’s lawyers would try and get the sentence commuted to life in prison. The sad thing is, too few people in Texas have not learned that living behind bars for life, with no chance of parole, is a far worse sentence than being put to death, but in the end, either way, Medellin stays behind bars.
What does Texas get out of putting a guy to death today versus next month or confining him to life in prison? It may immediately appease the families of those poor girls but when it comes to the global forum of international justice, Texas’ action endangers all US citizens who travel abroad and must rely on their host country honoring the Vienna Convention rulings to ensure they receive fair justice.
Not to mention, Texas’ action further soils the international perception of this country that is increasingly seen as one that doesn’t honor international treaties or global opinion and is intent on flaunting how it carries out its own brand of justice.
It’s no wonder that the United States garners such little global respect these days, especially in light of an opportunity to turn a new leaf in international relations and show that we can be a team player.
All it takes is cooperation.

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  • Evelyn
    August 5, 2008 at 1:57 pm

    What does Texas get out of putting a guy to death today versus next month or confining him to life in prison?
    They get to be just like the killer.
    No human being has the right to take the life of another.
    Abolish the death penalty. It doesent deter people from committing murder like they said it would.
    Lock um up and throw away the key.

  • Horace
    August 5, 2008 at 5:33 pm

    “Should the death sentence of Jose Medellin be delayed in order to comply with international protocol or should death by lethal injection continue as planned this evening?”
    The answer is YES! This person has had due process under our Constitution and have been found guilty by a jury of his peers. That’s all that he’s entitled to, the opinions of the Mexico and the World Court notwithstanding. The Supreme Court has affirmed states rights to protect its citizens and mete out justice to this murderer. The World Court rulings are at best advisory, and the U.S. should not cede its sovereign right to enforce its own laws to foreigners who have an opposing opinion. The executions send a firm message of contempt to a Mexican government that we will not tolerate interference in our immigration policies or our crminal justice system. In a practical sense, delaying the executions is pointless, as the death sentence will ultimately be carried out anyway.

  • Brian McGinnis
    August 5, 2008 at 10:52 pm

    I hope he fries with a heap of Texas BBQ sauce on his head. He is a sadistic rapist and killer and the only reason why you assholes think he should get off is because he is a Mexican like you. You are as sick as him.

  • Michaela
    August 5, 2008 at 11:34 pm

    What does Texas get out of putting a guy to death today versus next month or confining him to life in prison?
    What Texans get is a release from paying for a murderer’s meals, TV and high priced room and board.
    No human being has the right to take the life of another.
    You are damn right there. How dare this vile piece of trash rape and murder these two indescribably beautiful teenage girls, who if they had lived, would now be in their thirties. They might have been doctors or educators or mothers.
    What a horrible, devastating, waste of two lives. God bless their parents for the agony and torture they have endured, God bless them. Justice has been served at long last. I honestly don’t know if I could have survived a tragedy like this.

  • Evelyn
    August 6, 2008 at 12:53 am

    Medellin Executed!
    Yes isnt this a travesty. the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, in a 7-0 vote, refused Medellin’s request for a 240-day reprieve.
    “The board has failed to support the United States in fulfilling its international legal obligations,”
    Stupid Stupid people, they have put the right of every American to call the American Consul If arrested in a foreign country in jeopardy.
    If The U.S. are pig headed enough to break a treaty they signed with the World Court which would protect thousands of Americans living and travelling to other countries then American citizens rights will not be respected in other countries.
    Dont whine when whites get mistreated in other countries!
    I dont condone the behavior of the monster that comitted this crime. Because Texas had waited all this time to execute him they should have waited the 200 days to protect our citizens. Texas acted like a school yard bully now the citizens of the U.S. will get treated as such.

  • Evelyn
    August 6, 2008 at 4:30 am

    Texas executes Mexican-born killer By MICHAEL GRACZYK, Associated Press Writer
    Tue Aug 5, 11:07 PM ET
    HUNTSVILLE, Texas – Texas has executed Mexican-born condemned prisoner Jose Medellin for the rape and murder of two teenage girls 15 years ago.
    The state carried out the execution late Tuesday night after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected his request for a reprieve in a split vote.
    The 33-year-old Medellin had claimed he was denied treaty-guaranteed help from the Mexican consulate when he was arrested.
    Texas authorities say he never invoked his consular rights until four years after he was arrested. By then, he had been convicted and condemned for participating in the attack on 16-year-old Elizabeth Pena and 14-year-old Jennifer Ertman.

  • Marisa Treviño
    August 6, 2008 at 8:26 am

    Brian, you are truly delusional to even remotely think that Medellin should have gotten off. What he should have gotten was a stay so that the formality of honoring international treaties could have been achieved. Now, it’s a moot point and just another example to the rest of the world that the US makes and breaks international laws as we see fit. Not a good thing to do in these times where we are getting more vulnerable (economy, national defense) every day.

  • R. Sites
    August 6, 2008 at 9:03 am

    He may be foriegn born but he was in this country illegally. Without porper papers indicating his citizenship, how are the law enforcement people to know to contact the consul. He chose to be in this country, he chose to to rape, torture and murder those girls and now he should be held accountable.

  • Irma
    August 6, 2008 at 12:18 pm

    Clearly this person is a monster and should be punished for his crime. But, if the USA
    wants our citizens to be treated fairly in all international courts, we must be fair to
    all non nationals who break our laws.

    August 6, 2008 at 1:33 pm

    NEWS FLASH–They already juiced the swine, exactly as they should have done long before now. If an individual makes the choice to enter a country illegally and commit a crime of this nature, he deserves to be held accountable by that country. The World Court is not the all powerful of the world and have no business making demands of any nation. The U.S. is not going to pander to any ethnicity that violates our laws and then expects to be bailed out by their nations council. An American in a foreign nation would have been treated no differently for such a horrilbe crime.

  • LP
    August 6, 2008 at 8:32 pm

    This guy is not a Mexican, he came here when he was a toddler and has no recolection of Mexico. He is an American and should be treated as one, including in terms of punishments. I’m opposed to the death penalty but this defense shouldn’t apply in his case. If an American citizen who moved to Germany when he was 2 raped and killed women as an adult in Mexico, they should do what they want with him. He’s a Mexican in all other aspects and should be treated as one.
    Mexico really has no right to but it’s busness into this case. He is only Mexican by birth. He doesn’t even remember Mexico, he’s American and we should be able to do as we seem fit.

  • Thomas
    August 7, 2008 at 5:47 am

    Yeah lets get rid of our constitution that held this country for over 200 years. A foreigner murdered our citizens in a horrible fashion and a foreign court wants to dictate our laws. The nazis are alive and well in the Hague. Texas didn’t give the American people the finger. It saved the constitution and our sovernigty. Texas is truly filled with patriots. Its time to place the military on our southern border. With the Mexican military making contract kills in Arizona and pulling guns on our border agents. Lets face fact people. We are at war with Mexico.

  • Evelyn
    August 7, 2008 at 9:50 am

    Evelyn said
    No human being has the right to take the life of another.
    M said
    You are damn right there.
    Are you confused? Or are those who took his life not considered human beings by you?
    Because of cases like this I believe we should abolish the Death Penalty. To err is human nature….
    Innocent Man Executed in Texas
    by Lise Olsen
    They were two teenagers who shared a deadly pact of silence: One grew up in prison tortured by a secret that might have stopped his friend’s execution, and the other went to his death without revealing what he knew.
    Ruben Cantu and David Garza’s teenage bond was forged in the unforgiving streets on the south side of San Antonio, where the only rule they learned to respect was never to snitch.
    When they were both arrested in 1985 for a neighborhood murder-robbery, Cantu, 17 at the time of the crime, insisted he was innocent and was condemned to die. Garza, 15, admitted guilt only to robbery — but not the murder — and got a deal.
    Now, Garza has broken a 20-year silence with a surprising story that would appear to clear Cantu and implicate another man. Garza says he was with another neighborhood teen on Nov. 8, 1984, when they broke into a home, shot and killed one man, and seriously wounded another.
    “Ruben Cantu had nothing to do with the murder, attempted murder and robbery of the two men at 605 Briggs Street. I should know,” Garza wrote in a sworn statement obtained by the Houston Chronicle.
    If his words are true, they provide some of the first evidence ever that the state of Texas wrongfully executed a man, who at the time of his crime was a juvenile.
    Garza, currently serving a prison term at the Stiles Unit in Beaumont for an unrelated burglary, argues that his attempt to clear Cantu’s name comes from a conscience long troubled by the betrayal of a best friend. Not once — from the murder trial to the day Cantu was executed — did Garza ever disclose who was with him inside the house on the night of the killing.
    Garza said Cantu also knew the truth about who had done the killing because Garza confided in him two weeks after the murder. Still, Cantu was unwilling to betray friends even to save his own life, Garza said.
    Even if Garza is lying, the Chronicle found other problems with Cantu’s conviction, a case that was built almost entirely on the account of a lone eyewitness.
    That eyewitness, Juan Moreno, was a 19-year-old illegal immigrant when, along with his friend, he was shot at least nine times during the Briggs Street robbery. Moreno survived; his friend did not.
    Now, Moreno, the accuser and key witness, has joined Garza, the accused accomplice, in telling the Chronicle that Cantu was never at the murder scene.
    “They put the blame on the wrong person,” Moreno said. Cantu “was innocent. I am sure.”
    Both men insist they have no reason to lie
    ”They stole my father’s life and no amount of money can change that.” Mervyn Mattan(1)
    It took nearly half a century to clear Mahmood Mattan’s name, but by then it was too late for him. This 28-year-old Somali sailor was hanged in the United Kingdom in September 1952. After a long campaign by relatives and others to prove his innocence, his murder conviction was overturned by an appeal court in 1998.
    In 1998 in the USA, the State of Illinois came 48 hours from executing Anthony Porter for a crime he did not commit. Unlike Mahmood Mattan, who had been under sentence of death for two months when he was killed, Porter had been on death row for 16 years without his wrongful conviction coming to light. By chance, a group of journalism students investigated his case as part of their university course and proved Anthony Porter’s innocence.
    This case – one of 13 in Illinois and over 100 nationwide – is one of the reasons behind the current moratorium on executions in Illinois. The 14-member Commission appointed by the governor two years ago to examine the state’s capital justice system, recently reported that it was ”unanimous in the belief that no system, given human nature and frailties, could ever be devised or constructed that would work perfectly and guarantee absolutely that no innocent person is ever again sentenced to death”
    Shame on the most powerful country for allowing itself to be on a list including the following countries.
    Saudi Arabia
    United States of America
    N Korea
    Countries who have still executed prisoners in 2008
    If third world countries can lock up their prisoners for life and afford it the U.S. could more then afford it.
    The Sounds of Racism
    Blatant racism is seen and heard too often in courtrooms around the country. In death penalty cases, the use of derogatory slurs kindles the flames of prejudice and allows the jury to judge harshly those they wish to scapegoat for the problem of crime. A few examples illustrate the intensity of this racism:
    Â¥ “One of you two is gonna hang for this. Since you’re the nigger, you’re elected.”3 These words were spoken by a Texas police officer to Clarence Brandley, who was charged with the murder of a white high school girl. Brandley was later exonerated in 1990 after ten years on death row.
    Â¥ In preparing for the penalty phase of an African-American defendant’s trial, a white judge in Florida said in open court: “Since the nigger mom and dad are here anyway, why don’t we go ahead and do the penalty phase today instead of having to subpoena them back at cost to the state.”4Anthony Peek was sentenced to death and the sentence was upheld by the Florida Supreme Court in 1986 reviewing his claim of racial bias.
    Â¥ A prosecutor in Alabama gave as his reason for striking several potential jurors the fact that they were affiliated with Alabama State University — a predominantly black institution. This pretext was considered race neutral by the reviewing court. 5
    Â¥ During the 1997 election campaign for Philadelphia’s District Attorney, it was revealed that one of the candidates had produced, as an Assistant D.A., a training video for new prosecutors in which he instructed them about whom to exclude from the jury, noting that “young black women are very bad” on the jury for a prosecutor, and that “blacks from low-income areas are less likely to convict.”6 The training tape also instructed the new recruits on how to hide the racial motivation for their jury strikes.
    Â¥ In Missouri, Judge Earl Blackwell issued a signed press release about his judicial election announcing his new affiliation with the Republican Party while presiding over a death penalty case against an unemployed African-American defendant. The press release stated, in part: “[T]he Democrat party places far too much emphasis on representing minorities . . . people who dont’ (sic) want to work, and people with a skin that’s any color but white . . . .”7 The judge denied a motion to recuse himself from the trial. The defendant, Brian Kinder, was convicted and sentenced to death, and Missouri’s Supreme Court affirmed in 1996.8
    These examples are symbolic of a more systemic racism, and they provide a sense of how damaging racial prejudice and insensitivity can be when someone is facing execution. Empirical studies which provide the national evidence of racism in capital punishment are critical to understanding that this problem goes far beyond individual examples of prejudice.
    Study I: The Increased Risks for Blacks Facing the Death Penalty
    When in Gregg v. Georgia the Supreme Court gave its seal of approval to capital punishment, this endorsement was premised on the promise that capital punishment would be administered with fairness and justice. Instead, the promise has become a cruel and empty mockery. If not remedied, the scandalous state of our present system of capital punishment will cast a pall of shame over our society for years to come. We cannot let it continue. -Justice Thurgood Marshall, 19909
    The Philadelphia Story
    More than half of the death sentences rendered in Pennsylvania are cases from Philadelphia, a city with only 14% of the state’s population. Philadelphia’s District Attorney, Lynne Abraham, has been called “The Deadliest D.A.” in a 1995 New York Times article.10 Eighty-three percent of those on death row from Philadelphia are African-American. But raw numbers of racial disproportion do not tell the whole story. In order to determine for certain whether race is a decisive factor, researchers must examine the outcomes in cases of similar severity with defendants of similar criminal backgrounds.
    This examination requires a statistical analysis which takes into account such factors as multiple victims, the deliberate infliction of pain, and the background of the accused. The ultimate question is: “Among similar cases, is race a factor in whether death sentences are imposed against black defendants?”
    Such a study was recently conducted in Philadelphia. 11The results are dramatic, particularly for a state outside of the deep south, a region where racial disparities in the criminal justice system have a long history. The researchers examined a large sample of the murders which were eligible for the death penalty in the state between 1983 and 1993. The researchers found that, even after controlling for case differences, blacks in Philadelphia were substantially more likely to get the death penalty than other defendants who committed similar murders. Black defendants faced odds of receiving a death sentence that were 3.9 times higher than other similarly situated defendants.
    The researchers used a variety of analytical tools to compare and validate their findings. They consistently found substantial race-of-defendant disparities. The results of this bias against black defendants in Philadelphia is estimated to be an excess of 38% in death sentences for black defendants compared to all other defendants for similar crimes.
    Now Call me an ‘American Hater’ for printing the truth or try saying I had a bad life or childhood and that is the reason I would print such facts. Your logic is twisted.
    These facts have nothing to do with how I was raised or what I have or havent suffered. These facts have nothing to do with me in any way and neither do all the others I post.
    If no one knows the true cause of illegal immigration. How can it be fixed?
    If no one knows the errors our government has made in the past how can we get people to elected officials who are not committed to making the same errors.

  • mygirlboo
    August 7, 2008 at 3:41 pm

    Thank goodness for Texas. You apologists for people of this caliber ought to be ashamed of yourselves. Mexico is a country full of Mexicans, run by Mexicans, and they’ve been doing things the Mexican way for centuries. Look at Mexico. Most of their people want to live here in the nice country we’ve made–not the sewer they’ve made. Yet they want to do things the Mexican way! How any woman could be proud to be the mother of an animal like this is beyond my understanding. Go home and take the products of your womb with you.

  • Publius
    August 7, 2008 at 5:51 pm

    LP said: “This guy is not a Mexican, he came here when he was a toddler and has no recolection of Mexico.”
    Substitute U.S. citizen for Mexican and United States for Mexico and think again. You’ve just declared children born of U.S. parents not citizens of their parents homeland.

  • Evelyn
    August 8, 2008 at 11:48 am

    Mygirlboo said
    You apologists for people of this caliber ought to be ashamed of yourselves.
    Are you on the same thread I am? Please point out the apologists for people of this caliber.
    Look at Mexico. Most of their people want to live here in the nice country we’ve made–not the sewer they’ve made
    They’ve made! You mean we made! Where is your proof that THEY are to blame? Here is mine that shows we are to blame!
    Stealing Mexico – Bush Team Helps ‘Floridize’ Mexican Presidential Election
    by Greg Palast
    George Bush’s operatives have plans to jigger with the upcoming elections. I’m not talking about the November ’06 vote in the USA (though they have plans for that, too). I’m talking about the election this Sunday in Mexico for their Presidency.
    It begins with an FBI document marked, “Counterterrorism” and “Foreign Intelligence Collection” and “Secret.” Date: “9/17/2001,” six days after the attack on the World Trade towers. It’s nice to know the feds got right on the ball, if a little late
    read more…
    “827,000 ballots without a mark for president” claimed by IFE 07.Jul.2006 13:22

    Palast on the scent, going to Mexico City link
    “And what exactly was the International Republican Institute, the imperial arm of the GOP, doing down there? Shouldn’t someone ask? Shouldn’t someone investigate?…As soon as I saw the “official” vote count, I booked a plane to Mexico City. I’ll be there to tomorrow to join our investigators on the ground – and to fill in the blanks.”
    And Palast is quoting yet another completely different “official IFE” total.
    Mexico – Ohio Con Salsa, Ken Lay’d To Rest & London 7/7
    By Greg Palast
    ‘Senor Blank-O’ Wins In Mexico
    And the winner in Mexico’s presidential contest is Senor Blank-O!
    The official count of the ruling party is: 36.38% for the ruling party and 35.34% for the challenger.
    Or, to put names and numbers to it: The Bush-o-philiac candidate, Felipe Calderon, collected 402,000 more votes than Bush-bashed Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. But the big winner was Mr. Blank — the 827,000 ballots without a mark for president.
    I smell something rotten eau d’Ohio, vintage 2004. In that state, as in Mexico this week, the presidential “winner,” George Bush, had victory margin smaller than the combined “undercount” (blank ballots) and rejected and mangled ballots.
    Blank ballots are rarely random – in the USA, nearly 88% were cast in 2004, notably, in minority areas, the result of bad voting machines. That is, Democrats’ ballots “spoil” and “blank out” a heck of a lot more often than Republican ballots. What about in Mexico?
    I intend to find out. As soon as I saw the “official” vote count, I booked a plane to Mexico City. I’ll be there to tomorrow to join our investigators on the ground – and to fill in the blanks.
    And what about the “spoiled” vote – ballots rejected, lost, mangled? Well, some are sitting in dumpsters in Veracruz State which is controlled by the old ruling PRI. (There’s a darn good chance that the PRI, hoping to stave off its extinction, played a bigger role than Calderon’s PAN in shoplifting votes from challenger Lopez Obrador.)
    In a prior missive, I noted that the Bush Administration, under the guise of a secret War on Terror contract, hired ChoicePoint Inc. to filch the voter and citizen files of Mexico. These are the same characters (the Bushes and ChoicePoint) who helped purge Florida’s voter rolls of African-Americans before the 2000 race. Were the Mexican rolls “scrubbed” with Dubya’s help?
    And what exactly was the International Republican Institute, the imperial arm of the GOP, doing down there? Shouldn’t someone ask? Shouldn’t someone investigate?
    Too many uncounted votes, too many blocked voters, too many statistics missing from the official tallies to jump to the automatic conclusion of US mainstream media, that this election was Mexico’s first “clean” vote. It may look clean and neat from the Intercontinental Hotel in Mexico City where reporters shuttle from bar to press conference. But sniffing into the garbage piles and ballot piles of Veracruz, it smells more like Ohio con salsa.
    U.S. Should Butt Out Of Mexicos Election
    Immigration Flood Unleashed by NAFTA’s Disastrous Impact on Mexican Economy
    by Roger Bybee and Carolyn Winter
    The recent ferment on immigration policy has been so narrow that it has excluded the real issue: family-sustaining wages for workers both north and south of the border. The role of the North American Free Trade Agreement and misnamed ‘free trade’ has been scarcely mentioned in the increasingly bitter debate over the fate of America’s 11 to 12 million illegal aliens.
    NAFTA was sold to the American public as the magic formula that would improve the American economy at the same time it would raise up the impoverished Mexican economy. The time has come to look at the failures of this type of trade agreement before we engage in more and lower the economic prospects of all workers affected.
    While there has been some media coverage of NAFTA’s ruinous impact on US industrial communities, there has been even less media attention paid to its catastrophic effects in Mexico:
    NAFTA, by permitting heavily-subsidized US corn and other agri-business products to compete with small Mexican farmers, has driven the Mexican farmer off the land due to low-priced imports of US corn and other agricultural products. Some 2 million Mexicans have been forced out of agriculture, and many of those that remain are living in desperate poverty. These people are among those that cross the border to feed their families. (Meanwhile, corn-based tortilla prices climbed by 50%. No wonder many so Mexican peasants have called NAFTA their ‘death warrant.’
    NAFTA’s service-sector rules allowed big firms like Wal-Mart to enter the Mexican market and, selling low-priced goods made by ultra-cheap labor in China, to displace locally-based shoe, toy, and candy firms. An estimated 28,000 small and medium-sized Mexican businesses have been eliminated.
    Wages along the Mexican border have actually been driven down by about 25% since NAFTA, reported a Carnegie Endowment study. An over-supply of workers, combined with the crushing of union organizing drives as government policy, has resulted in sweatshop pay running sweatshops along the border where wages typically run 60 cents to $1 an hour.
    So rather than improving living standards, Mexican wages have actually fallen since NAFTA. The initial growth in the number of jobs has leveled off, with China’s even more repressive labor system luring US firms to locate there instead.
    But Mexicans must still contend with the results of the American-owned ‘maquiladora’ sweatshops: subsistence-level wages, pollution, congestion, horrible living conditions (cardboard shacks and open sewers), and a lack of resources (for streetlights and police) to deal with a wave of violence against vulnerable young women working in the factories. The survival (or less) level wages coupled with harsh working conditions have not been the great answer to Mexican poverty, while they have temporarily been the answer to Corporate America’s demand for low wages.
    With US firms unwilling to pay even minimal taxes, NAFTA has hardly produced the promised uplift in the lives of Mexicans. Ciudad Juarez Mayor Gustavo Elizondo, whose city is crammed with US-owned low-wage plants, expressed it plainly: “We have no way to provide water, sewage, and sanitation workers. Every year, we get poorer and poorer even though we create more and more wealth.”
    Falling industrial wages, peasants forced off the land, small businesses liquidated, growing poverty: these are direct consequences of NAFTA. This harsh suffering explains why so many desperate Mexicans — lured to the border area in the false hope that they could find dignity in the US-owned maquiladoras — are willing to risk their lives to cross the border to provide for their families. There were 2.5 million Mexican illegals in 1995; 8 million have crossed the border since then. In 2005, some 400 desperate Mexicans died trying to enter the US.
    NAFTA failed to curb illegal immigration precisely because it was never designed as a genuine development program crafted to promote rising living standards, health care, environmental cleanup, and worker rights in Mexico. The wholesale surge of Mexicans across the border dramatically illustrates that NAFTA was no attempt at a broad uplift of living conditions and democracy in Mexico, but a formula for government-sanctioned corporate plunder benefiting elites on both sides of the border.
    NAFTA essentially annexed Mexico as a low-wage industrial suburb of the US and opened Mexican markets to heavily-subsidized US agribusiness products, blowing away local producers. Capital could flow freely across the border to low-wage factories and Wal-mart-type retailers, but the same standard of free access would be denied to Mexican workers.
    Meanwhile, with the planned Central American Free Trade Agreement with five Central American nations coming up, we can anticipate even greater pressure on our borders as agricultural workers are pushed off the land without positive, alternative employment opportunities. People from Guatemala and Honduras will soon learn that they can’t compete for industrial jobs with the most oppressed people in say, China, by agreeing to lowering their wages even more. Further, impoverished Central American countries don’t have the resources to deal with the pollution and crime that results from moving people from rural areas to the city, often without their families.
    Thus far, we have been presented with a narrow range of options to cope with the tide of illegal immigrants living fearfully in the shadows of American life. Should they simply be walled off and criminalized, as Sensenbrenner and House Republicans suggest? The Sensenbrenner option seeks to exploit the sentiment that illegal immigrants entering the US — rather than US corporations exiting the US for Mexico and China — are the primary cause of falling wages for most Americans.
    The Bush version is only slightly different, envisioning the “illegal immigrants” as part of a vast disposable pool of cheap labor with no meaningful rights on the job or even the right to vote, to be returned to Mexico upon the whim of their employers.
    Yet there is another well-known path of economic and social integration that has been ignored in the debates over immigration in the US: the one followed by the European Union and their “social charter” calling for decent wages, health care, and extensive retraining in all nations. Before then-impoverished nations like Spain, Greece and Portugal were admitted, they received massive EU investments in roads, health care, clean water, and education. The implementation of democracy, including worker rights, was an equally vital pre-condition for entry into the EU.
    The underlying concept: the entire reason for trade is to provide improved lives across borders, not to exploit the cheapest labor and weakest environmental rules. We need to question the widely-held assumption that what benefits American corporations benefits Mexican workers and American workers. An authentic plan for growth and development isn’t about further enriching Wall Street, major corporations, and a handful of Mexican billionaires; it is about the creation of family-supporting jobs. It is also about a healthy environment, healthy workers, good education, and ordinary people being able to achieve their dreams.
    The massive tide of illegal immigration from Mexico is merely one symptom of an economic arrangement where human needs — not maximum profits– are not the ultimate goal but a subject of neglect. Neither a massive, shameful barrier at the border nor a disposable guest-worker program will address the problems ignited by NAFTA.
    Programs providing stable, decent employment, modern transportation, clean water, and environmental cleanup are needed to take the place of the immense NAFTA failure and allow Mexicans to live decent, hopeful lives in their native land. But such an effort is imaginable only if the aim is truly mutual uplift for all citizens in both nations, instead of the NAFTA-fueled race to the bottom.

  • Michaela
    August 16, 2008 at 2:04 am

    Evelyn, I truly wish you would do something to help these “victims” instead of just ranting and raving and calling good Americans racist over and over and over. It is very tiresome and very childish. Get off your whiny, self-righteous ass, go to Mexico and help those people there. You are not doing anything here but pissing off good American people, of all colors, who are profoundly tired of being called names that simply are not true. Mexico has very strict laws that they damn well enforce, so why aren’t Americans allowed, in your skewed view, to enforce ours? Why are we racist for wanting to enforce our laws? Your thinking is so screwed up it is scary.

  • Mark
    October 15, 2009 at 7:04 am

    Im from the UK and I wish we had the death sentence, rapist, murdering scum like this dont deserve to live. Forget the whole its wrong to take a life for a life. If you act the way this scum has acted, they lose the right to life.

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