Envío Digital
Central American University - UCA  
  Number 246 | Enero 2002



The Only Thing That’s Changed Is the Party in Power

After a year in office, the Fox government has yet to deal with corruption or impunity and is still implementing the same economic policies. Real change thus remains a distant goal.

Jorge Alonso

The first year of Fox’s government has been disappointing, to say the least. The course of events has demonstrated that although the presidential office changed hands, the promised, deeply desired changes are not taking place. Fox has continued to implement the same neoliberal policies as his predecessors, which have done so much damage to the vast majority of the population. And he has failed to deal with insecurity, corruption or impunity. Many very important tasks thus remain pending before we can begin to speak of real change.

It was impossible for Fox’s evaluation of his first year in office to be flattering. He recognized that the economic results had been mixed and that politically his image had deteriorated with the media.

A feared word: Recession

Fox celebrated some macroeconomic achievements. The government first announced that the inflation rate in 2001 was 4.4%, the lowest since this indicator was first measured in 1968. A few days later, however, the president of the Bank of Mexico issued a correction stating that the inflation rate had been low but not quite that low: he put it at 5.1%. Another achievement was maintaining a strong peso.

For good reason, Fox had to admit that important social tasks are still to be dealt with. The World Bank announced that 43% of Mexicans survive on only $2 a day. As in past years, the Mexican people have not felt the country’s "macroeconomic health" in their own pocketbooks. Fox initially promised a 7% economic growth rate, but with the economic crisis in the United States, expectations fell to 2.5-3%. By mid-year, the President’s public policy coordinator had to admit that the much-feared word could no longer be avoided: Mexico was going through a sharp economic recession. By then, the chief economist at Merrill Lynch was predicting that the growth rate would be only 0.6%. When September’s terrorist acts aggravated the US crisis, Mexico’s predicted growth rate fell to zero. Companies are warning that if prospects for growth do not improve, they may have to temporarily stop production and suspend payments. Not only were the new jobs promised for 2001 not created, but thousands of existing jobs were lost. At the beginning of January 2002, Fox set himself a year to resolve the lack of economic growth.

Corruption unchallenged

Insecurity and impunity are two other major issues that the government officially acknowledges are not resolved. Fox again promised to punish corruption. He had initially shied away from touching the former state party, the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), in what turned out to be the erroneous hope that he could count on its votes for the bills he presented to Congress. The new government has not only left corruption untouched this first year, it has also failed to dismantle most of the apparatus of corruption. Fox consoled himself by trying to explode the myth that a simple change in government can solve everything. But according to the surveys, people aren’t convinced: his approval rating has fallen steadily from 75% when he took office in December 2000 to 59% in mid-2001 to 48% in an important survey in January of this year. Those who argued in favor of a "useful vote" for Fox have been pained to discover their total lack of influence in promoting a progressive platform in the government.

A controversial fiscal reform

Fox proposed two important pieces of legislation in 2001 and was beaten in both. The first was the constitutional reform on indigenous rights and culture based on the legislative Peace and Harmony Commission (COCOPA) formulation. His own National Action Party (PAN), however, joined forces with the PRI to push a different bill through Congress, one repudiated by the indigenous peoples, and the executive branch demonstrated no will to fight for the more progressive COCOPA proposal.

Fox sent Congress the other important piece of legislation, a fiscal reform that he called a redistributive reform, in April 2001. Unlike the indigenous legislation, he waged an intense publicity campaign to win the population’s support for this one and lobbied legislators for their votes. But the Revolutionary Democratic Party (PRD), the Labor Party (PT), the PRI, and even some PAN members disagreed with the reform’s proposal to extend the 15% sales tax to food and medicine. Fox argued that this would benefit the poor, because they would be reimbursed, and indeed the first surveys suggested that the middle class would be most affected. But Julio Boltvinik, a specialist on poverty, insisted that the poor would suffer the most devastating impact, aggravating social inequalities. The proposed reimbursements would be hampered by several important factors, among them the lack of a comprehensive listing of poor people and the fact that the government’s listing includes only those enrolled in the official social assistance program, which does not cover people living in extreme poverty in urban areas.

A reform without consensus

Fox tried hard to sell his proposal to the political class, private enterprise, and leaders of civic organizations and unions. The banks supported the project and the World Bank announced that the 15% sales tax should be levied on all products. After two months of internal debates, the PAN agreed to support Fox’s proposal.

Governors representing the three opposition parties discussed presenting an alternative: lowering the sales tax to 13% and not charging income tax on families earning less than four minimum wages, but they failed to reach an agreement. The PRD insisted on taxing the resources of the wealthiest. Its alternative plan included revising the structure of public spending, taxing speculative transactions, stepping up the fight against corruption, putting an end to special privileges, reducing tax evasion, eliminating exemptions for the wealthiest classes and expanding the taxpayer base. It emphasized that while the government planned to tax food and medicine, it left juicy stock market profits tax-free.

Workers’ organizations also rejected the proposal to tax food and medicine. In September, some eight thousand workers marched to Congress from Mexico City’s main square, the Zócalo, repudiating the fiscal reform and the government’s economic policies and demanding increased taxation of both high-income sectors and stock market profits. An October study revealed that 90% of the population opposed any sales tax on medicine and food.

For the first time in history

The President proposed a pact with Congress to pass the fiscal reform. At the end of December, the PRI made signs that it would agree to pact with the PAN on Fox’s proposal, with some modifications. This appears to have been mere partisan maneuvering, however, since the PRI let the clock tick without reaching any agreement. The PAN had no other choice than to turn to the PRD, and the final modifications to the fiscal bill were hastily discussed and approved minutes after the legal deadline for making changes expired.

This haste produced shortcomings, omissions and even contradictions in the new fiscal law, as well as technical errors. The Senate announced that it would make the relevant corrections. The approved modifications focus mainly on income rather than consumption, with highly controversial results. Some taxes, like the one on soft drinks, affect people with low incomes. Furthermore, though the income tax rate for the highest bracket was reduced from 40% to 35%, the wealthy were angered by several items and threatened to seek legal protection. For the first time in their history, businesspeople accustomed to enjoying a direct line to political power faced a piece of legislation that did not serve their interests, and immediately launched a campaign to discredit the legislature.

Fox responded as he usually does, inconsistently. First he rejoiced that the new fiscal package would bring in new resources. Next he distanced himself from the reforms yet invited private enterprise to invest since some business sectors had threatened to stop doing so to protest the reforms. The Chamber of Commerce then withdrew its opposition and offered to make "sacrifices in solidarity" with those most in need while unions, farmers and civic groups stated their intention to form a united front against powerful businesspeople who sought to maintain their privileges. The PRD insisted that there would be no true fiscal reform as long as the rich were untouched, while its legislators described the defeat of the proposal to tax food and medicine as a victory for the people. Other progressive sectors celebrated the fact that the government’s tax proposal had been beaten in Congress by an alternative based mainly on income rather than sales.

In sum, of the two important pieces of legislation Fox sent Congress his first year of government, one responded to indigenous people’s demands but was disfigured by the PRI-PAN alliance and the other stirred up popular outcry and was finally undone by the pressure of time, making it possible for the PRD to find an emergency solution. In both initiatives, Congress won and Fox lost. The people lost in one and won in the other, although an angry business class waged an intense publicity campaign to try to make that victory appear to be a defeat for all.

Scandalous bank frauds

Fox won the elections by contrasting himself with the PRI’s historical corruption and promising to put an end to that scourge. Nonetheless, scandalous acts of corruption and diversion of funds recurred in 2001 in administrations under PRI control. In June, PAN legislators warned that their support for the bank bailout did not imply that investigations into the fraud should cease. They proposed reopening the investigation into the Bank Savings Protection Institute, taking back up that unfinished task.

If the government is to get out of its debt to its citizens, who are paying for the costly bank bailout, it must get to the bottom of Banco Unión’s fraudulent trusts, which financed the election campaigns of former President Ernesto Zedillo and former Governor of Tabasco Roberto Madrazo. The sale of Banamex revived the issue of the bank bailout. People are demanding that the bankers assume their responsibilities in the bankruptcies before the country sells any more state banks to foreigners.

Diverting funds and shredding files

Throughout the year, millions in improper payments by PRI officials in the Mexican Social Security Institute were uncovered. One beneficiary was the brother of Senator Emilio Gamboa, who headed the institute. In Chiapas, it was proven that several million pesos had been diverted under former governor Roberto Albores of the PRI. The comptroller general’s office accused Oscar Espinosa Villarreal—who was detained in Nicaragua—of embezzling millions when he directed the Department of Tourism. And evidence was found of the diversion of over a million into the PRI campaign of Madrazo’s successor in Tabasco.

PRI members still control Federal offices in many states amid accusations that corruption continues in a number of these offices. Few legal actions have been taken to set examples.

Comptroller Francisco Barrio said it would be demagogic to claim that all corruption could be wiped out in five years, adding that in the PRI’s lame duck period before Fox took office, the outgoing party worked hard to "clean up" files. Consequently, although the tracks of corruption and its effects are obvious, legal proof is often missing.

The head of Banco Unión was extradited to Mexico but, like Espinosa Villarreal, was spared time in jail by friends in high places. The mayor of the Federal District lamented that these two thieves are loose only because they have enough money to buy off judges. Meanwhile, investigations also continued into the diversion of public funds by former President Carlos Salinas on behalf of his older brother.

The stain of corruption

A nationwide study revealed that the judicial and security systems favor crime. While the former ombudsperson of Chiapas was detained in early November 2001 accused of embezzlement and protecting death squads, a judge exonerated two paramilitary leaders responsible for the Acteal massacre at the end of that same month. Another military officer accused of training paramilitary groups was also exonerated. At the end of 2001, journalist Andrés Oppenheimer commented that one of the pending tasks for Fox’s government is to investigate the big corruption cases that have stained Mexico’s recent past.

This year got off to an agitated start, as January 2002 brought more revelations of corruption. The comptroller’s office announced that it was investigating diversions totaling some US$110 million in the para-state petroleum company PEMEX, which may have been funneled into the campaign of PRI presidential candidate Francisco Labastida. In an attempt to prevent this investigation from damaging the PRI politically, some party members tried blackmail, proposing to negotiate impunity in exchange for stability. One PRI leader described the investigation as a "declaration of war against the PRI." Later, they also threatened to investigate the financing of Fox’s own campaign.

Enormous corruption at PEMEX

The discrepancies and contradictions soon appeared. Businessman Eduardo Bours claimed from his Senate seat that he had obtained the equivalent of just under US$100 million for Labastida’s campaign. This figure, however, amounted to some $43 million more than the party reported to the Federal Election Institute, and surpassed the legal limit for private contributions by some $65 million.

The renowned journalist Miguel Angel Granados Chapa implicated PEMEX’s former director and union leaders, who had organized the diversion of company resources under the cover of dubiously legitimate worker-management negotiations. The comptroller’s office succeeded in documenting the flow of money, confirming that it had been diverted from PEMEX to Labastida’s campaign. Journalists reported that not all of that money made it into PRI coffers since the union leaders apparently decided to take advantage of the illegal situation and kept part for themselves. Confronted by the evidence, the PRI called on its members to close ranks against what it described as "a Foxist assault" and turned up the pressure to protect its networks of complicity.

Fox and the PRI: To the bitter end?

The PRI, refusing to accept that impunity has ended, decided to take a harder line in its dealings with Fox. The attorney general tried to calm people down, pointing out that the comptroller’s information was incomplete. The secretary of government maintained that Fox’s government is not interested in war but rather in the law, that it would not negotiate impunity and that there had been no attack against institutions but rather investigations of individuals. The PAN leader declared that the PRI reacted in the style of "a mafia covering up its crimes," acting as a "band of delinquents" without the kind of vision befitting a party.
Fox decided not to discuss the case of the PEMEX diversions with the PRI, and the press was told that the President’s instructions were to go "to the bitter end." Naturally, some wondered whether this was any more than words, since doing so could mean, among other things, that the PRI would lose its legal standing as a party. In the PRD, the feeling is that this is a maneuver by Fox to prepare the way for deals with the old regime, and that in the best of cases, the investigations will touch only a few guilty people but not the leaders, who include former President Zedillo.

In this still-pending case as in so many others, citizens hope that a true battle will be fought against the intricate web of corruption. But if nothing comes of the scandalous revelations, if all of those responsible for fraud and diversions are not tried and punished, impunity will remain the norm to the detriment of justice.

Human rights: Three thick shadows

Fox promised exemplary respect for human rights. Nonetheless, during the first year of his government, three events cast dark shadows over his evaluation of his own government’s performance. One, the first political crime occurred and has not yet been resolved. Two, the army continues to trample the rights not only of the population but also of its own members. And three, what appeared to be progress in the attempt to settle accounts with a past in which political opponents were disappeared now seems as though it will not go very far, since everything remains subordinated to the will of the military.

Digna Ochoa

On October 19, 2001, lawyer and human rights advocate Digna Ochoa was assassinated, after receiving repeated threats since 1995. Beside her body was a note threatening the Miguel Agustín Pro Human Rights Center. At the time of her death, Ochoa was defending two peasant ecologists from Guerrero who had been jailed for their opposition to logging and two students accused of having put small explosives in banks. Over 80 civil society organizations demanded that Fox’s government promptly investigate her murder, declaring that the crime was a direct affront against the struggle to ensure respect for human rights in Mexico.

The Miguel Agustín Pro Human Rights Center described Ochoa’s assassination as "state terrorism," while the mayor of the Federal District said it threatened the country’s political stability. The secretary of government promised to support the investigation, and recognized that her death was a wrong felt by everyone who wants to live in democracy.

Ochoa legally confronted the army and judicial police on many occasions. In 1993, she defended a general against an illegal detention. The next year she took a case of extra-judicial executions in the massacre of imprisoned Zapatistas, and represented three indigenous Zapatista women raped by soldiers. The year after that she took the case of peasant farmers from Guerrero massacred at Aguas Blancas, and in 1997 represented the indigenous people killed in the Acteal massacre. In 1998, when the government tried to dismantle the autonomous Zapatista municipalities, Ochoa defended those jailed. She also worked against illegal detentions and denounced extra-judicial executions that year. She charged in a video that the judicial police were responsible for the threats against her.

On October 22, the US government condemned her "brutal murder" and expressed its hope that the Mexican authorities would identify and try those responsible. Only after this condemnation did Fox declare that the assassins would not go unpunished. The New York Times emphasized that his government’s credibility in human rights and the work of the ombudsperson was called into question by Ochoa’s assassination.

"Do not allow impunity
to reign in this crime"

On October 29, Bishop Raúl Vera of Saltillo celebrated a mass for Digna Ochoa in the Basilica of Guadalupe. In his homily he said, "Those who believe that the elections of July 2, 2000, marked the beginning of a change for Mexico have suffered especially sharp setbacks at two points. The first was the refusal to accept an indigenous law requested by the poorest of the poor, the indigenous peoples, so that they could live with full rights as Mexicans within their own cultures. And the second setback is this, as the pall of the assassination of a human rights defender falls over the country. These are eloquent signs of the continuing isolationism of those who believe that the world is theirs alone and they can continue to dominate it by using all means at their disposal, however dishonest they may be. Recalling the current President’s visit here to the Virgin of Guadalupe at the beginning of his term, we ask for her intercession so that neither he nor his collaborators in the executive branch nor those who serve the nation in the other two branches of the union will be influenced by those who, motivated by ambition, continue to block the progress of all Mexicans. A sign that they are free to govern a free country will be that they not allow impunity to reign in the crime against Digna Ochoa."
Amnesty International reported that the Mexican government had not responded to the repeated threats against Ochoa in the last two years and that the investigation by the Attorney General’s Office (PGR) had been slow and clumsy. It described the investigation into the assassination as a test for Fox’s government. The Inter-American Human Rights Commission demanded that the Mexican government act immediately to protect human rights activists, especially those threatened after Ochoa’s death. The PGR offered protection, but the director of the Pro Center rejected it, explaining that since it is headed up by a military officer, the presence of federal judicial police would amount to more of a threat than a form of protection.

Little progress

At the beginning of November, human rights organizations met again with the government secretary, who promised that those responsible for Ochoa’s death and for threats against human rights activists would be prosecuted. On November 9, before one of his trips to the United States, Fox gave the order to release the two ecologists imprisoned in Guerrero that Ochoa had been defending "on humanitarian grounds." The government secretary clarified that it was neither a pardon nor an exoneration. The two ecologists said that, although they were free, justice had not been done since their innocence had not been recognized. They also charged that they had been tortured by the army and demanded that their torturers and those who had used false evidence to imprison them be investigated and punished.

Ecologists in Guerrero continued to denounce threats against them and warned that the logging and homicides by local strongmen are continuing. Mario López Dareli, the Inter-American Human Rights Commission representative to the Inter-American Human Rights Court in San José, Costa Rica, argued that the crime against Digna Ochoa was the result of a whole framework of violence and impunity prevailing in Mexico. Over a month after the crime no one had been sanctioned, and the threats against Pro Center members continued. At the beginning of December, Amnesty International established the Digna Ochoa Award in California.

Guerrero: The center of the tangle

The first inquiries in Guerrero did not begin until two months after the murder, thus giving those responsible time to cover their tracks and hide the people involved. In mid-January 2002, the PGR admitted that its response to the threats against Ochoa contained unjustified omissions, but blamed them on the previous administration. Ochoa’s family said they had leads against military officers and insisted that the center of the tangle was in the state of Guerrero.

Three months after the crime, the investigation continues to move very slowly. The Pro Center believes that one obstacle lies in the Defense Department, which has not provided the information requested. In late January, the Federal District’s Office of Attorney General asked the Secretary of National Defense for photographs of the members of a battalion stationed in Guerrero, to compare them with verbal descriptions of people seen close to the office where Ochoa was killed.

Bárbara Zamora, the lawyer who took over most of Ochoa’s cases, charges that bureaucratic obstacles in the Government Secretariat have blocked full implementation of the preventative measures requested by the Inter-American Human Rights Commission in November 2001 to guarantee her life and physical integrity. It is clear to a majority of people moved by this crime that if it is not resolved and those who defend human rights are not effectively protected, impunity will gain even more ground.

The case of General Gallardo

In its 113th regular session on November 14, 2001, the Inter-American Human Rights Commission in Washington dealt with the case of General José Francisco Gallardo. The commission gave Fox’s government an ultimatum: either free the general by the 16th, or the case would go to the Inter-American Human Rights Court. For some time, the commission had been recommending that the Mexican government free Gallardo because it considers him a prisoner of conscience and also believes that the excessive number of charges against him damaged the imparting of justice.

Eight years ago General Gallardo had proposed the establishment of a military ombudsperson to monitor and evaluate the institution as well as represent its members. This proposal so enraged the army top brass that, in revenge, they imprisoned him on trumped up charges of financial misconduct. The general’s son recently declared that the army has a great deal of power within Fox’s government and lacks the political will to fulfill international human rights commitments.

In its session, the Inter-American Human Rights Commission also dealt with the Aguas Blancas massacre, a case in which the government pledged to reopen the investigation and find those responsible. In considering several cases in Chiapas involving human rights violations, threats against activists, the taking of indigenous lands and impunity, nongovernmental organizations testified before the commission that impunity continues and individual guarantees are constantly violated in Mexico. The past year alone, under the new government, has seen 15 documented cases, including 8 in Chiapas. The Pro Center reported on the serious problems in the justice system.

Bishop Vera said that the General Gallardo case would show whether the groups that resist change and persist in the political system—demonstrating their power with the approval of the indigenous law—are stronger than the executive. The Pro Center warned that if the commission’s recommendations are not followed, Mexico would reveal its inability as a state to respond to the indications of international human rights organizations.

Skirting conflicts with the military

In mid-November, Fox’s government insisted that Gallardo could turn to civilian courts. The general responded that Fox’s offer was a farce. Unjustly imprisoned, he had rejected a pardon offered him by the government, since accepting it would not have exonerated him of the crimes alleged against him and would have left those responsible for his imprisonment unsanctioned. Fox and the foreign minister denied having made Gallardo any such offer.

Gallardo accused Fox of deceit and of condoning human rights violations. He argued that Fox, as commander of the armed forces, had the authority to free him and if he did not do so it was because he did not wish to confront top military commanders. On December 20, the Inter-American Human Rights Commission asked Mexico’s government to take measures to protect the general’s life, but all the Mexican authorities had done by the end of January was transfer him to another prison.

Gallardo’s defense argued that article 133 of the Constitution obliges Fox to follow the Inter-American Human Rights Commission recommendation since it establishes that the international agreements signed by Mexico are law and must be respected. Gallardo sued Fox to get him to comply with the commission’s recommendation to free him immediately. In an effort to avoid a conflict with the military, the government continued trying to get around the commission’s recommendation. Finally, on February 7, Fox ordered Gallardo’s release by reducing his sentence to time served. Gallardo announced that he would continue working to establish his innocence, as human rights organizations called on the government to ensure that those responsible for judicial persecution are sanctioned and to implement the commission’s other recommendations as well.

The disappeared reappear

In early November, the National Human Rights Commission announced that it had files on 531 people who had been "disappeared" during the Echeverría government, 250 of whom had been executed. The group Eureka, led by Rosario Ibarra de Piedra, which has been demanding information about the disappeared for many years, expressed its concern that the commission’s report will cover up the military’s responsibility in these crimes.

At the end of the month, the head of the Human Rights Commission issued the report on the Mexican state’s responsibility in the dirty war of the 1970s. It named 74 people among those responsible. The secretary of government concluded that an authoritarian response had been given to a political issue during those years, and that groups within the security forces violated human rights. Fox received the report and promised to name a special prosecutor to investigate tortures and disappearances. "Doing justice does not discredit an army of the people," he declared.

Although proof of assassinations, disappearances and other human rights violations abounds, PAN Senator Diego Fernández defended the army’s acts, insisting that the institution is not obliged to be accountable to society. A general insisted that the massacre at the Tlalteloco Plaza in 1968, in which over 400 students were killed, should be forgotten.

In December 2001, the Senate approved international conventions to punish human rights violations, establishing that war crimes, crimes against humanity and forced disappearances are imprescriptible. They did this in such a way, however, that the conventions do not apply to the dirty war of the 1970s. The decision to approve international instruments with reservations revealed the political class’ lack of commitment to human rights.

A deficient, rigged report

Eureka leader Rosario Ibarra de Piedra questioned the report, pointing out that the Mexican government has appointed several special prosecutors who have not produced results. She criticized the attempt to blame the violations on minor, dead or imprisoned officials and charged that the Human Rights Commission had not carried out an investigation but had merely repeated what was already known. She rejected the notion that military or police officers had acted "on their own," as the commission tried to argue, and demanded that former Presidents be sanctioned. She also demanded that the disappeared be presented as they were and where they were found.

One question that could not be avoided was why the commission had hidden the information on political disappearances for nearly ten years. A first examination of the report revealed it as deficient and rigged. In addition to repeating what was already known, it provided false information, stating that people had died in combat who had in fact last been seen alive on military bases. Among other serious defects were not having looked at the army’s files, not naming those ultimately responsible and failing to clarify the fate of the disappeared. At the beginning of December, as a macabre joke, the Attorney General’s Office sent an official letter to Ibarra’s home subpoenaing 27 people who had been detained and disappeared to testify. She considered the gesture a mockery by the Attorney General, a military officer.

Is there any will to clear things up?

The official reports were limited to the presidential terms of Echeverría and López Portillo. Family members of people who were disappeared during the ensuing terms of Salinas and Zedillo began to press for the Human Rights Commission to report on what happened during these periods too, while the Eureka group noted that the report also ignored those who were disappeared during De la Madrid’s term. Eureka also asked why it did not look into three historic massacres: the Aguas Blancas and El Charco massacres in Guerrero and the Acteal massacre in Chiapas.

In early January of this year, the Fox government named a special prosecutor for the disappeared. Declaring that citing reasons of state for disappearing dissidents had been an immoral maneuver to abolish the legal order, he promised not to skirt the truth. He argued that it was better to clean up the army’s image and assured that he would investigate people and not institutions.

Many independent human rights organizations do not trust the new prosecutor or believe he has autonomy from the officer who heads the Attorney General’s Office. Ibarra insists that the current President bears responsibility as long as the cases of the disappeared are not resolved.

Subordinating military
to civilian power

At the end of 2001, Human Rights Watch warned Fox that military justice had encouraged and protected impunity, destroyed evidence and made it difficult to sanction military officers who tortured, raped, arbitrarily detained or disappeared people or carried out extra-judicial executions. For these reasons, the organization appealed to him to put an end to military jurisdiction over cases of human rights violations and reform the country’s justice system in order to control and subordinate the military to civilian power, thus ensuring that the military is made accountable for the serious human rights violations that have thus far been covered up rather than sanctioned.

In its annual worldwide report on human rights, Human Rights Watch praised Mexico’s change in attitude with respect to human rights. It warned, however, that a great deal of progress must be made to address abuses by military officers, since the state lacks the capacity to subject military officers to the law.

This is obvious to all Mexicans. Four years after the Acteal massacre, its intellectual authors continue to enjoy impunity. Nor have the military officers accused of raping indigenous women been punished. These cases have called into question the National Human Rights Commission’s actions. Fox continues to govern with the repressive apparatus of the old regime; he has not purged these structures or dismantled the paramilitary groups. Instead, he takes refuge in rhetoric.

Change has not come

There has been a change in government in Mexico, but democratic change has not yet come. As long as impunity continues and there is no proven respect for human rights, and as long as the neoliberal economic policies that impoverish the majority are applied and the PRI’s intricate networks of complicity are intact, the transition to democracy will remain a challenge on the horizon.

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