The 3rd of February 2010 marked the beginning of a nightmare for Israel Arzate Meléndez. His crime? In a stroke of bad luck he ran into a Mexican army unit just days after the Villas de Salvárcar massacre – an international scandal where 16 young people were killed in Ciudad Juarez. To take pressure off themselves, the Mexican government needed to uncover (or perhaps invent) the culprits of the killings.
Source: Juárez Dialoga
The 3rd of February 2010 marked the beginning of a nightmare for Israel Arzate Meléndez. His crime? In a stroke of bad luck he ran into a Mexican army unit just days after the Villas de Salvárcar massacre – an international scandal where 16 young people were killed in Ciudad Juarez. To take pressure off themselves, the Mexican government needed to uncover (or perhaps invent) the culprits of the killings. This is exactly what was done: they went looking for scape goats in the city’s poorest neighbourhoods.
Arzate’s case is paradigmatic as it reveals many weaknesses in the Mexican state, in examples such as the following: controversial torture techniques used for confessions; judges’ partiality in alliance with different levels of government; neglect brought about by a government inability to impart justice and protection to a society that lives in fear and is ignorant of its rights. Mexico’s history is riddled with acts of injustice and, as we move on into the 21st Century, Cuidad Juarez continues its trends of femicide and killings of young people. The country’s politics work hand in hand with the economy with complete disregard for human life (which has become disposable), in a world where citizens are treated as criminals according to their social class. Nobody lays a finger on the white collar criminals.
These terrible circumstances lay the foundation for a fascist state, whose consequences are made evident through the social cleansing by which the government takes advantage of the population, especially of those in vulnerable sectors of society which are more easily manipulated and abused. In a city such as Juarez where the police suspect everyone, this social neglect hits hardest in areas stricken by poverty and ignorance. Not only does poverty prove useful in elections when votes can be bought, but also in times of crisis when problems need “a solution.” These problems are in fact worsened, but it doesn’t stop the authorities from taking advantage of abusing as many poor and defenceless people as they can. These complications are no more than contradictions of a State trying to veil its violent nature and portray an image of an efficient Mexico.
Coming back to the Arzate case, what is most striking is his unlawful arrest conditions, although these are a common practice for Mexican policemen and the army. We also notice the faults in the charges against him: the most serious accusation being his involvement as an assassin in the Villa massacre. Rather than acknowledging their errors, the authorities adopted an unjustifiable and stubborn attitude with any excuse to keep him behind bars, denying Arzate a just trial and denying society, especially the families of those killed, a professional and ethical investigation. The arrogance of government officials knows no limits and the Mexican State is incapable of admitting its mistakes. They play with people like pawns in a political game in order to hold onto their positions of power.
The Villas de Salvárcar massacre case has been highly politicised and meddled with. It has a gaping hole in it where justice is missing; many of the neighbours affected have been bribed with gifts and money from the government (council, state and federal) or have been persuaded by NGO’s to accept the official story without getting down to the real facts. The ploy to capture offenders who later prove to be innocent is old news in “Juaritos” so no one believes the “authorities” when they claim to have “caught” someone. Sadly, Arzate Meléndez is yet another of these examples.
To become an enemy of the State in the blink of an eye, without prior warning and amidst the ignorance that the de-politicisation of society and self-absorbed individualism allows, is part of a tactical assault that the state carries out against people, who are chosen at random or selectively, in order for the state wipe its hands clean while coming down on the unlucky person with all of its power and resources, including the aid of various allies and interested groups. In Arzate’s case, the role of the mass media has stood out: some outlets declared him guilty before the authorities did, acting as allies to the state and influencing public opinion.
Why is the state so eager to go against Arzate? Perhaps Arzate’s greatest mistake was having the bravery to condemn the abuse and torture he suffered under the Mexican System of “Justice,” a mistake that caught the attention of national Human Rights organisations and serious and independent media. The state is incapable of recognising its repeated failures in imparting justice, it can’t see that social projects such as “Todos somos Juárez” (We are all Juarez) don’t work, that while violence has decreased, there continues to be homicides, femicides and assaults, and that the justice system (both the judges and the police) is completely untrustworthy.
The Mexican state has a long way to go in ensuring quality of life to men and women in Juárez. Even worse, its legitimacy continues to decrease due to its antipathy towards society linked to anything beyond obtaining votes. The state, the PRI and other parties may be able to buy a large part of society, but they can’t buy us all.
JuárezDialoga invited Carlos Murillo to collaborate with them, due to his experience as an academic in Cuidad Juárez and his commitment to an organised civil society. He is an activist in the “Otra Campaña” and has published the book “La Sociedad Anónima” along with other articles in different areas of the media. He worked as a researcher for COLECH in the city.