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Women's Rights Groups Protest Mexico's New Attorney General

Frontera NorteSur, News Report, Staff Posted: Sep 14, 2009

If Arturo Chavez is confirmed as Mexicos new Attorney General, the lawyer from the state of Chihuahua will be in a pivotal role to influence, steer and direct the binational, anti-drug Merida Initiative between the United States and Mexico, as well as an expanded version of the drug war waged with Canada and other nations.

As Mexicos chief drug law enforcer, Chavez will be in charge of federal prosecutions for human trafficking, womens murders, product piracy and environmental crimes, among others.

But President Calderons nomination of Chavez to replace Eduardo Medina-Mora, has stirred up a storm of controversy.

Womens rights and human rights organizations and members of opposition political parties reject Chavez. They accuse the controversial lawyer of covering up the mass murders of women and the disappearances of many men in Ciudad Juarez as well as helping to fabricate a scapegoat, the late Egyptian national Abdel Latif Sharif Sharif, in the border femicides.

This is a bad piece of news, said Paula Flores, mother of 1998 Ciudad Juarez femicide victim Sagrario Gonzalez. It could be more of a political favor, because Chavez is a member of the PAN (National Action Party) and President Calderon is a member of the PAN.

Mexican press accounts allege Chavez concealed from the public a series of 1996-97 armed robberies in Chihuahua that could be linked to the PAN and a clandestine, ultra-conservative organization, El Yunque, that promotes a Catholic theocracy as the solution to Mexicos crisis.

Some opponents accuse Chavez of later having a hand in the 2006 repression against anti-government protestors in the state of Oaxaca, when he held a key post in Mexicos Interior Ministry under the late Carlos Abascal during the administration of Vicente Fox. Multiple Mexican media reports indentified Abascal as a member of El Yunque.

A graduate of the Tec de Monterreys Chihuahua branch, Chavez is associated with a Mexico City law firm that includes onetime PAN presidential candidate Diego Fernandez de Cevallos and current Interior
Minister Fernando Gomez Montt.

Informed about Chavezs nomination by a reporter, longtime womens rights activist Vicky Caraveo of Women for Juarez simply said, Jesus, I cant believe it.

From 1992 to 1998, Chavez variously served as the deputy state attorney general and then state attorney general for Chihuahua in addition to a stint as the delegate for the federal attorney generals office in the same state.

In his different capacities, Chavez was among the first state law enforcement officials to oversee the investigations of numerous sex-related slayings in Ciudad Juarez as well as the kidnappings of men
(and some women) said to have fallen out with the dominant drug cartel.

Both the womens and mens murder investigations were characterized by indifference, irregularities, lost files and evidence, threats against victims family members, and no credible prosecutions, in spite of credible leads.

In 1998, Mexicos National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) issued its Recommendation #44/98 that held Chavez and other Chihuahua state officials responsible for bungling the femicide investigations. Later probes by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Amnesty International, the
United Nations and others reached similar conclusions.

In another matter, Chavezs office was also found responsible by the official Chihuahua State Human Rights Commission for violating the human rights of indigenous members of the Monterde ejido who were brutally attacked by the Chihuahua state police while conducting an anti-logging protest in 1997.

Although the CNDH recommended investigating and sanctioning Chavez and other responsible state officials for dereliction of duty in the Ciudad Juarez cases, then-PAN Chihuahua Governor Francisco Barrio criticized the report as politically-inspired and took no action.

Today, Barrio is Mexicos ambassador to Canada and will work with Chavez again if the latter is confirmed as the new attorney general.

Chavezs nomination almost single-handedly revived the largely dormant anti-femicide movement in Ciudad Juarez and Chihuahua. In Ciudad Juarez, mothers of femicide victims organized a public protest last week, while in Chihuahua City, Women in Black and other groups staged a similar
demonstration. Scores of Mexican human rights and womens organizations have voiced opposition to the nomination. Relatives of femicide victims and their supporters announced plans to travel to Mexico City, where Chavez could render testimony as part of his confirmation process in the Senate on Tuesday, Sept. 15.

In a letter to the president of the Mexican Senates justice commission, Marisela Ortiz, the head of Nuestras Hijas de Regreso a Casa, a femicide victims relatives group based in Ciudad Juarez, took sharp exception to the Chavez nomination. The appointment, Ortiz contended, would enshrine
continued impunity in human rights violations and represent an insult to national and international human rights mechanisms.

News of the nomination quickly crossed the Atlantic, where the Green fraction of the European Parliament issued a statement requesting that the Mexican Senate deny Chavez the attorney generals post. Spanish Green Raul Romeva, who authored the European Parliaments 1997 resolution against
femicide in Mexico and Central America, said awarding the attorney generals post to Chavez would constitute a negative signal about the seriousness the government of Mexico in combating impunity. Approving Chavez, Romeva added, would put the fox in charge of the hen house.

Until now, there has been no mention of the Chavez nomination from the U.S. Congress, which passed its own anti-femicide resolution in 2006 and just released in $214 million in Merida Initiative funds.

Chavezs nomination comes at politically-sensitive moments for Mexico. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights is expected to render a judgment soon in a 2001 Ciudad Juarez femicide case that could result in a mandatory order for greater federal involvement in clearing up the womens murders. The Mexican attorney generals office is also pursuing a controversial murder case against a suspect in the slaying of U.S. journalist Brad Will during the 2006 repression in Oaxaca. The U.S.-based group Friends of Brad Will regards the prosecution as another instance of cover-up and fabrication.

Reaction to the Chavez nomination from the Mexican political class has been mixed. While making no public comments about his controversial nomination so far, Chavez was staunchly defended by members of his own party. Chihuahua Senator Maria Teresa Ortuno said Chavez possessed all the
right stuff for combating corruption and organized crime. Jose Gonzalez Morfin, general-secretary of the PAN, defended Chavezs 90s stint as Chihuahuas state top cop.

I believe he was a good state attorney general, even in an issue as complex and with such international impact as the murdered women of Juarez, Gonzalez said.

In the old days of absolute presidential power, the Chavez nomination would have sailed through without further adieu. But the Senate, which must ratify the nomination under Mexican law, is now dominated by opposition parties, especially the former ruling and resurgent PRI.

Mexican senators from the PRI,.PRD, PT, and Convergencia parties expressed a mixture of surprise, disgust and wait-and-see.

Chavez, however, has supporters within the ranks of the PRI, such as Fernando Rodriguez Moreno, coordinator of the PRI group in the Chihuahua state legislature, who called Chavez good people. Despite the femicides and the Monterde incident, there was no reason Chavez should not be
approved, Rodriguez said.

A group of mothers from Ciudad Juarez and Chihuahua will have a very different message to tell senators when they assemble in Mexico City on September 15, one day before Mexicos national independence holiday.

Sources: La Jornada/Notimex, September 8, 11 and 12, 2009. Norte, September 8, 9, 11, 12, 2009. Articles by Carlos Huerta, Jesus Batista, Manuel E. Aguirre, Ricardo Espinoza, and editorial staff. Cimacnoticas.com, August 18 and September 9, 2009. Articles by Lourdes Godinez Leal.

El Diario de Juarez, September 8, 2009. Lapolaka.com, September 7, 8, 9, 10, 13, 2009. El Sur/Agencia Reforma, September 9, 2009. Article by Efrain Klerigan and Erika Hernandez. Proceso/Apro, September 8, 2009. Article by Jesusa Cervantes. El Universal, September 8, 2009. Articles by Liliana Alcantra, Maria de la Luz Gonzalez and Ricardo Gomez. Terra.com/EFE, April 11, 2004.

Frontera NorteSur (FNS): on-line, U.S.-Mexico border news Center for Latin American and Border Studies New Mexico State University Las Cruces, New Mexico

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