Mexico 28/11/2011

Mexican activists demand that President Calderón be investigated by the ICC; the discovery of 26 corpses in Guadalajara raises tensions as the city’s International Book Festival begins.

Mexican activists have presented a petition to the International Criminal Court (ICC) requesting an investigation of President Felipe Calderón and other high-ranking members of his government. They are accused of allowing subordinates to kidnap, torture and kill civilians in the country’s on-going drug war, in which 45,000 people have died since the end of 2006.

The petition, signed by 23,000 Mexican citizens, also offers a US$5 million reward for the head of the Sinaloa drug cartel, Joaquín Guzmán Loera. Otherwise known as ‘El Chapo’, the drug lord is implicated in alleged human rights violations, including torture and rape.

Netzai Sandoval, a Mexican Human Rights Lawyer, presented the document to the Hague last Friday. He has demanded that the prosecution ‘tell us if [the government] has committed war or human rights crimes and if the President and other high-ranking civil servants are responsible.’

The government has denied that Mexico is in a permanent state of armed conflict.  In response to the petition, the Secretaría de Gobernación (Segob) released a statement saying: ‘On one hand, the state is not at war, on the other, there is not a generalized or systematic attack against the civil population, neither is this a government policy.’

In Guadalajara 26 bodies were found in three abandoned vehicles last Thursday in one of the city’s most well-known locations, the Arcos del Mileno square. There is great concern that the violence and unrest so common to other areas in Mexico has now spread to what was one of the country’s most tranquil cities.

Local and federal authorities have announced an investigation and stated that the victims were between 25 and 35 years of age. Their bodies ‘had been painted with statements often used by the Milenium – Zetas cartel and it seems likely that they died of asphyxiation’.

Near the city of Juárez, at the U.S. – Mexico border, the Mexican army has confiscated more than US$15 million, presumably belonging to Joaquín ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán. The money was found in a van which authorities said was headed to a residence used by Guzmán and his cartel. This is the second time that a large sum of money has been seized since President Calderón came to power.

The twenty-fifth annual Feria Internacional del Libro (International Book Festival – FIL) has begun in Guadalajara and will continue until 4th December. Although the venue is just minutes from where the 26 bodies were found earlier last week, the event has thus far run smoothly.

Germany is this year’s guest of honour. Its cultural programme, presented by the Goethe Institute, will occupy one of the festival’s pavilions and give visitors the chance to learn more about German culture through art exhibitions, concerts, film cycles and other activities.

The festival was opened by Fernando Vallejo, a Colombian writer who has received the festival’s ‘Literature in Romance Languages’ prize for his original and prolific works in Spanish, including his best known ‘La virgen de los sicarios’ (‘Our Lady of the Assassins’). Nobel laureates for literature 2009 and 2010, Herta Müller and Mario Vargas Llosa, were also present.

This year FIL will be attended by more than 900,000 publishing houses from 43 different countries. Now the largest book festival in the region, it is hoped it will receive more than 600,000 visitors.