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Classic case of the pot calling the kettle black

Posted: 2015-02-25

This commentary appeared in the Albuquerque Journal, Feb. 22, 2015.

I am writing in outrage and disgust at the quote by Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto condemning "the disproportionate use of lethal force" by the Pasco, Wash., police against a Mexican citizen (Alb. Journal, "Officers call for calm after police shooting sparks march", Feb. 14).

No excessive use of lethal force is excusable, by police or anyone else. If excessive lethal force was used against Antonio Zambrano-Montes in the Pasco case, or in any case involving the Albuquerque Police Department, those involved should be investigated and appropriately punished.

But it is unconscionable that Pena Nieto should condemn anyone for "disproportionate use of lethal force" when his own government and police forces are soaked in blood.

The most recent, but hardly the only, gruesome case occurred only months ago on Sept. 26 -- the "disappearance," and likely brutal massacre and incineration of the bodies of 43 teacher education students from the rural Normal School of Ayotzinapa in the Mexican state of Guerrero.

This atrocity has received sporadic coverage in articles and editorials in the Journal.

Forensic pathologists from Argentina and a forensic lab in Austria have confirmed bone fragments from one of the "disappeared" students, but other incinerated remains are in such deteriorated condition as to be virtually impossible to identify.

These students, who were protesting the deaths the year before of several of their student colleagues, were arrested by police and turned over to a drug cartel. They have not been seen or heard from since. One of the students was killed at the scene of the arrest and pictures of his brutally mutilated body went viral on YouTube.

Mexico's government has been internationally condemned -- though the U.S. government has stayed largely silent -- for impunity toward hundreds of "disappearances" and documented massacres, as well as corruption at the highest government levels.

According to the UN's Committee on Enforced Disappearances at its meeting earlier this month, Mexico lives in a context of "generalized disappearances," in which government agents frequently participate in these acts of "enforced disappearance." In one report, the committee has expressed its "concern for the impunity toward the numerous cases that have been denounced."

It is unconscionable that Pena Nieto would issue a governmental decree regarding the Zambrano-Montes killing in Pasco to assure "a close monitoring of the investigation into this regrettable and outrageous occurrence." Since last September, Mexico has been roiled with continuous, massive demonstrations against Pena Nieto's government for its callous inattention and apparent cover-up of its own complicity in the "regrettable and outrageous" Ayotzinapa disappearance of 43 innocent students.

The message to Pena Nieto is this: Pasco and the American people can attend to their own issues of "disproportionate lethal violence." Our cases are grim and they deserve serious investigation, but they do not compare in brutal magnitude to your own. Hopefully, we have the will and the capacity to attend to our own violence; does he?

Pena Nieto has a country outraged, in the streets, demanding justice, the end of impunity and the return of the 43 students "alive just as you took them," if that is even still possible.

He should stay home and deal with his own extreme violence, unspeakable brutality and internationally condemned "disproportionate use of lethal force."

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