Page 11


Texas Observer EDITORIAL Acts of Terror VOLUME 93, NO. 21 A Journal of Free Voices Since 1954 We were about to go to press when we received a chilling e-mail from a colleague in Mexico City “I’m sending you a word-for-word tran threat to five human rights defenders in Mexico,” he wrote. “Given the current climate, it is a serious threat since it can affect, and what is worse, reverse what’s been called the transition to democracy” “The current climate” is a reference to the October 19th murder of Digna Ochoa, the nation’s most prominent human rights lawyer, who was shot to death while working at a Mexico City law office. Her killers left behind a tantalizing set of clues: a rare, vintage Czech weapon, a pair of red latex gloves placed on her hands, and a note threatening the members of the Jesuitrun Miguel Augustin Pro Juarez Center for Human Rights, where she had previously worked. “Pro sons of bitches,” the note read, “if you keep it up, the same thing will happen to you. As this issue’s Las Americas column makes clear, if there was ever,a case of a death foretold, it was that of Digna Ochoa, who represented Zapatistas, campesino ecologists, and students accused of belonging to guerrilla groups. The 37-year-old lawyer had achieved international recognition for her willingness to fight the Mexican judicial system to the limits. Her bestknown battles were fought on behalf of Rodolfo Montiel and Teodoro Cabrera, campesinos from the state of Guerrero who organized anti-logging protests and were arrested by the army, tried by a military prosecutor, and remain imprisoned on trumped-up drugs and weapons charges. Ochoa’s murder was followed by a wave of condemnations around the globe. Disturbingly, President Vicente Fox initially referred to the killing as “a homicide, one more that has occurred in Mexico City.” It was up to the Mexico City government, he said, to investigate the crime. But Ochoa’s murder was not “one more” homicide in a crime-ridden mega-city. It was the first political crime of the Fox administration and a terrible setback for Mexico, which ended 71 years of one-party rule when Fox took office last December. Despite high hopes and an initial burst of rhetoric, so far the Fox administration has proven either unable or unwilling to place human rights and judicial reform high on its agenda. Fox’s Attorney General, Rafael Macedo de la Concha, a general and a former top military prosecutor, showed not the slightest inclination to pursue a serious investigation into the threats against Ochoathat was a matter for the previous administration, he told reporters. And as veteran human rights activist Sergio Aguayo has written, the current administration had also shied away from breaking up longstanding, repressive intelligence networks, preferring a policy of “appeasement” that has allowed those networks to become further entwined with organized crime in several regions of the country. On October 27, a letter sent to the Mexico City newspaper Reforma, which was not made public until days later, claimed credit for Ochoa’s mur der and singled out five other promi nent human rights workers, including continued on page 31 Founding Editor: Ronnie Dugger Editors: Nate Blakeslee, Karen Olsson Managing Editor: Barbara Belejack Managing Publisher: Jim Ball Circulation Manager: Candace Carpenter Graphic Designer: Julia Austin Poetry Editor: Naomi Shihab Nye Copy Editor: Roxanne Bogucka Development Director: Susan Morris Interns: Will Potter, Sandra Spicher, Chris Womack Special Projects: Jere Locke, Nancy Williams Contributing Writers: Gabriela Bocagrande, Robert Bryce, Louis Dubose, Michael Erard, James K. Galbraith, Dagoberto Gilb, Paul Jennings, Steven G. Kellman, Lucius Lomax, Jeff Mandell, Char Miller, Debbie Nathan, ohn Ross. Staff Photographer: Alan Pogue Contributing Photographers: Jana Birchum,Vic Hinterlang, Patricia Moore, Jack Rehm. Contributing Artists: Beth Epstein,Valerie Fowler, Sam Hurt, Kevin Kreneck, Michael Krone, Gary Oliver, Ben Sargent, Gail Woods. Editorial Advisory Board: David Anderson, Chandler Davidson, Dave Denison, Bob Eckhardt, Sissy Farenthold, John Kenneth Galbraith, Lawrence Goodwyn, Jim Hightower, Maury Maverick Jr., Kaye Northcott, Susan Reid. In Memoriam: Cliff Olofson, 1931-1995 Texas Democracy Foundation Board: D’Ann Johnson, Jim Marston, Bernard Rapoport, Geoffrey Rips, Gilberto Ocafias. The Texas Observer entire contents copyrighted 2001, is published biweekly except every three weeks during January and August \(24 issues profit foundation, 307 West 7th Street, Austin, Texas 78701. Telephone: E-mail: [email protected] World Wide Web DownHome page: WWW. texasobservenorg. Periodicals Postage Paid at Austin, Texas. Subscriptions: One year $32, two years $59, three years $84. Full-time students $18 per year; add $13/year for foreign subs. Back issues $3 prepaid. Airmail, foreign, group, and bulk rates on request. Microfilm available from University Microfilms Intl., 300 N. Zeeb Road, Ann Arbor, MI 48106. Indexes: The Texas Observer is indexed in Access:The Supplementary Index to Periodicals; Texas Index and, for the years 1954 through 1981, The Texas Observer Index. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to: The Texas Observer; 307 West 7th Street, Austin, Texas 78701. The Books & the Culture section is partially .frinded through grants front the City of Austin under the auspices of the Austin Arts CoMmission and the Writer’s League of Texas, both in cooperation with the Texas Commission on the Arts. 11/9/01 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 3