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Jury acquits Mike V. Gonsalez By Gary Cartwright San Antonio If, say, Tijerina is Chicano No. 1 and Lee Trevino is No. 20, Mike V. Gonsalez would rank about tenth. But keep your eye on the charts. Until he was tried and acquitted in a federal district court in San Antonio last week on a trumped-up charge of smuggling liquor and cigarettes from Ciudad Acufia into Del Rio, Tex., Gonsalez was just another dark face on the frontier of the movement. He grew up in Uvalde. He was a star in football, basketball, baseball and track, captain of all four teams his senior year: he attended Howard Payne on an athletic scholarship, served five years in the Army and later graduated from the St. Mary’s law school in San Antonio. In the summer of 1968 he set up a law practice in Del Rio. Then things began to happen. According to the folkways in that part of the state white people did the thinking and brown people did the work and the system maintained itself like an army of -liver flukes. There was local government and state government and federal government, white and neighborly, inter-locking and inter-breeding, smug and prosperous. For example, one county commissioner represented 96% of the population while three other commissioners represented the other 4%. Mike V. Gonsalez filed a redistricting suit and won it. In the consolidated school system students were punished for speaking Spanish and forced to use segregated shower facilities. Mike V. Gonsalez filed suit. There was police brutality. Mike V. Gonsalez filed suit. The good white membership of San Felipe Country Club, which under a previous agreement had leased its land from the city of Del Rio for $1 a year, decided to buy the land outright. They got it from the city for a total consideration of $500: utilities cost another $15 a month. Mike V. Gonsalez filed suit. MIKE WAS WHAT they call a bad meskin. Someone set fire to his house and destroyed all his furniture. His credit was cut off. Word was circulated among his clients that Gonsalez was a Communist agent and a thief and a rascal and a walking timebomb. And Mike filed more suits. In the summer of 1968 while Gonsalez was getting his law practice started in Del Rio, he commuted between Del Rio and Uvalde where his wife Delia was working on civil rights projects and his kids were attending school. Mike and Delia rented a two-bedroom frame house with a garage in Del Rio, but most of their clothes and furniture remained in Uvalde. Under these difficult conditions, life went on as usual; or so Mike and Delia Gonsalez assumed. On Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 28, 1968, while Mike and Delia and their kids visited relatives in Uvalde, a well known smuggler named Ernesto Delgado-Cantu backed a blue and white pickup truck into the Gonsalez’ driveway and began unloading cases of liquor and cigarettes into the garage which was never locked and never used by the Gonsalezes. Then a most extraordinary thing happened: a U.S. Customs agent by the name of Cliff Wilson drove up and arrested Delgado-Cantu. Only Gonsalez didn’t know this. A couple of days later he and his wife returned from Uvalde, and a couple of days after that on Dec. 4, 1968 a U.S. Marshall knocked on the door and arrested Gonsalez for conspiracy, smuggling, and concealing smuggled liquor and cigarettes in his garage. Gonsalez said in court that this was the first time he ever heard the name of Ernesto Delgado-Cantu, also the first time he learned what had taken place in his driveway and garage on Thanksgiving Day. Five months later customs agents arrested a third “conspirator,” a prominent Ciudad Acuila liquor store owner named Mercede by all these developments, imagine the far greater surprise of Meche Beltran: Meche was a close personal friend of customs agent Cliff Wilson. NOW SMUGGLING IS a way of life in border towns. Meche Beltran bought American liquor and cigarettes at greatly reduced prices from the Ayoub & Wardy export house located approximately 100 yards on this side of the international bridge. The liquor and cigarettes were transported across to Meche’s liquor store, and, periodically, loaded back into Ernesto Delgado-Cantu’s pickup and smuggled to Del Rio and other border towns. Agent Cliff Wilson, who affirms he is a close friend to both Meche and Cantu a close friend, and also a customer \(Cantu operates day went by when he didn’t observe both Beltran and Cantu crossing the bridge into Del Rio. In at least Beltran’s case, this was an illegal entry since Beltran’s alien resident’s passport required that he in fact reside in Del Rio. For some reason, Agent Wilson added, this law is not enforced. And why wasn’t Cantu’s pickup searched? “We don’t indiscriminately search every vehicle that crosses,” Agent Wilson testified. So business blossomed. Beltran and Cantu delivered bootleg whiskey and cigarettes to ranchers, businessmen, law enforcement officers and other leaders of the Del Rio community. You know how it’s always groovy to invite a meskin to your party Meche was the pass-around meskin in Del Rio social circles. He knew everyone and everyone liked him. Including Mike Gonsalez, who was an occasional customer’ in Meche’s package store. But not just Gonsalez: Agent Wilson himself frequently took law enforcement officers and other friends to Meche’s home where they were permitted to buy whiskey and cigarettes at discount prices. “I saw nothing unseemly in this,” said Wilson. Sometime in September, 1968, Agent Wilson put Gonsalez’ home under surveillance. On Sept. 18, 1968 the date from which the part of the indictment alleging conspiracy stems Wilson and another agent were in a “surveillance van” Cantu and another man that Wilson did not recognize pulled into the Gonsalez driveway: as on each of the three dates named in the indictment, the Gonsalezes were not at home. It now seems possible that the man Wilson could not identify was Meche Beltran but we will never know: Wilson testified that when he tried to take a picture of the two, “the air conditioner was turned on in the van and it was vibrating so bad I couldn’t focus.” It was a hot day, he added. On each of the three dates no attempt was made to learn the whereabouts of Mike Gonsalez or his family, nor were they questioned about the strange goings-on in their driveway and garage. Meanwhile, the garage was never locked: frequently, both doors were open and children played there. About a year ago Meche Beltran and Ernesto Delgado-Cantu pleaded guilty to the smuggling charges. Sentencing was deferred pending what the judge called “the demeanor” of their testimony in the case against Mike Gonsalez. Someone must have told Meche that everything would be okay: a recent item on the society page of El Tiempo in Ciudad Acuila reported that Meche would shortly be taking”a vacation” to the state of California. In the same newspaper was a story about Agent Cliff Wilson. It said that Agent Wilson got drunk and shot up the town and otherwise acted in a way that would make him “no longer welcome” in Ciudad Acufia. Obviously angered at what he regarded as betrayal by his friend Cliff Wilson, Meche ordered several copies of this newspaper and got April 17, 1970 5