jueves, 26 de febrero de 2009

2008 Human Rights Report: Mexico
Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
February 25, 2009

Mexico, with a population of 110 million, is a federal republic composed of 31 states and a federal district, with an elected president and bicameral legislature. President Felipe Calderon of the National Action Party (PAN) was elected in 2006 to a six-year term in generally free and fair multiparty elections. The country continued its fight against organized crime, which involved frequent clashes between security forces and drug traffickers. While civilian authorities generally maintained effective control of the security forces, there were instances in which elements of these forces, acted independently of government authority.
The government generally respected and promoted human rights at the national level by investigating, prosecuting, and sentencing public officials and members of the security forces. However, the following human rights problems were reported: unlawful killings by security forces; kidnappings; physical abuse; poor and overcrowded prison conditions; arbitrary arrests and detention; corruption, inefficiency, and lack of transparency in the judicial system; confessions coerced through torture; criminal intimidation of journalists leading to self-censorship; impunity and corruption at all levels of government; domestic violence against women, often perpetrated with impunity; violence, including killings, against women; trafficking in persons, sometimes allegedly with official involvement; social and economic discrimination against some members of the indigenous population; and child labor.
Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom From:
a. Arbitrary or Unlawful Deprivation of Life
The government or its agents did not commit any politically motivated killings; however, there were reports that security forces, acting both within and outside the line of duty, killed several persons during the year. A significant number of these incidents occurred at checkpoints associated with the government's efforts to combat organized crime and often reflected poor training.
On July 11, the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) issued eight recommendations concerning allegations of human rights violations committed by armed forces during counternarcotics operations. Three of the recommendations dealt with unlawful or arbitrary deprivation of life by armed forces members. The military accepted all eight of these recommendations and affirmed its commitment to collaborating with the CNDH on outstanding investigations. These recommendations related to the following cases:
• On January 11, soldiers from the 12th infantry battalion in Michoacan allegedly opened fire on a pick-up truck, killing a minor and injuring an adult passenger. According to the Human Rights Commission in Michoacan, the National Defense Secretariat (SEDENA) awarded civil damages to the family of the deceased victim; the criminal case against the soldier involved remained under investigation.
• On February 16, soldiers at the gate of a military installation in Reynosa, Tamaulipas, opened fire on a vehicle that failed to stop at a checkpoint, killing the driver and injuring a passenger. SEDENA assumed responsibility for investigating the case; no further information was available at year's end.
• On March 26, soldiers at a checkpoint in Badiraguato, Sinaloa, allegedly opened fire on a group of civilians, killing four and injuring another. On April 11, SEDENA announced the arrest of five army officials in connection with the case. No further information was available on this case at year's end.
Separately, the CNDH announced an investigation into an incident that occurred on June 8, when military officials in Chihuahua opened fire against a vehicle. Allegedly, the vehicle had failed to stop at a military checkpoint and ran over a soldier when its brakes failed. As a result of this incident, four persons died, including two occupants of the vehicle, one soldier, and another civilian who was near the area. SEDENA maintained that it had found weapons inside the vehicle and was investigating the case at year's end.
On July 22, soldiers in the state of Aguascalientes shot and killed 17-year-old Guillermo Soto Garcia as he was traveling in a vehicle with three other teenagers. The Aguascalientes Attorney General's Office was investigating the case at year's end.
The military had not completed an investigation of the June 2007 incident in which army soldiers allegedly shot and killed a civilian family of five at a checkpoint in Sinaloa. At year's end 19 soldiers remained in custody and were being held pending trial in a military court.
The state and federal investigations into allegations of official abuses or killings related to the 2006 political conflict in the state of Oaxaca, which directly or indirectly caused an estimated 26 civilian deaths, continued at year's end.
Four municipal police officers remained in custody on charges related to the 2006 death of Jose Gabriel Velazquez Perez in Chiapa de Corzo, Chiapas.
President Calderon remained committed to dismantling the country's narcotics trafficking cartels. The government mobilized more than 27,000 army troops and federal policemen in joint operations against drug traffickers in 10 states. According to the Attorney General's Office, rival drug cartels killed approximately 6,262 persons. SEDENA estimated that at least 522 civilian law enforcement and military personnel were killed in the context of fighting organized crime.
b. Disappearance
There were no confirmed reports of politically motivated disappearances. In several cases of reported disappearances, police had detained the missing persons incommunicado for several days. As in previous years, there were credible reports of police involvement in kidnappings for ransom, primarily at the state and local level. On April 1 the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights announced its decision to forward to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights for consideration the case of Rosendo Radilla Pacheco, a man who was a community leader of the Atoyac community in the state of Guerrero when he was allegedly detained by the military in 1974 and disappeared.
On April 24, members of the Popular Revolutionary Army (EPR) requested a dialogue with the government to discuss its investigation into the disappearance of two EPR members in 2007. Authorities created a commission consisting of academic and nongovernmental organization (NGO) representatives identified in the EPR communique. In August this commission urged the government to deepen its investigation into the disappearances.
Kidnapping remained a serious problem for persons of all socioeconomic levels. The Federal Attorney General's Office (PGR) registered 326 kidnappings committed throughout the country during the first five months of the year. Many cases continued, however, to go unreported, as families negotiated directly with kidnappers. The number of reported cases to authorities was believed to be far less than the actual number of kidnappings.
In June individuals kidnapped and killed Fernando Marti, the 14-year-old son of a prominent businessmen and his bodyguard when they were stopped by armed men dressed as federal police officers. On August 1, Fernando Marti's body was found in the trunk of a car. On September 8, authorities arrested three individuals in connection with the crime, two of whom were current or former members of federal police units.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
The law prohibits torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment and stipulates that confessions obtained through illicit means such as torture are not admissible as evidence in court; similarly inadmissible is any confession made directly to police. To be admissible a confession must be formally recorded before a prosecutor with the acknowledgement that it is being made voluntarily and after examination by a doctor confirming that the person has not been subjected to physical abuse. On June 17, President Calderon signed legislation containing a number of constitutional amendments to pave the way for far-reaching justice system reform. The reform legislation requires that confessions need to be made before a judge, thus providing for a substantially more transparent judicial process with a diminished reliance on confessions.
The government took steps to implement preventive measures against the practice of torture, including applying, at the federal level, the Istanbul Protocol, which contains guidance on investigating and documenting torture and other abuses. The National Mechanism to Prevent Torture, created in 2007, has authority to visit detention centers nationwide. From September 2007 to February 2008, representatives of this office visited more than 100 law enforcement facilities, including prisons and detention centers. Officials in 29 federal entities were trained by the PGR in the use of a medical and psychological certification process; as of 2007 SEDENA had provided training to 702 individuals through 20 courses on specialist medical examination of victims of torture and abuse.
Nonetheless, cruel treatment and physical abuse in particular continued to be a serious problem, particularly among state and local law enforcement elements. During the year the CNDH received 588 complaints of cruel and/or degrading treatment and 21 torture complaints, compared with 395 complaints of cruel and/or degrading treatment and four torture complaints in 2007. While law enforcement officials were punished for lesser offenses, human rights groups, who linked physical abuse to the pervasiveness of arbitrary detention, maintained that no official had ever been convicted of torture, giving rise to concern about impunity. Despite the law's provisions to the contrary, police and prosecutors often attempted to justify an arrest by forcibly securing a confession to a crime. The CNDH and NGOs also expressed concern about alleged human rights abuses committed by some military units deployed in counternarcotics operations and cited several incidents implicating military units in killings, illegal searches, rapes, and arbitrary detentions of individuals.
On March 31, army soldiers in Ciudad Juarez detained local police officers and took them to a local army base without providing any explanation. The police alleged that nine female officers were blindfolded and undressed in front of members of the military at the base. In July the Chihuahua state attorney general filed a complaint with SEDENA and the PGR on behalf of the alleged victims. No further information was available at year's end.
Five of the eight recommendations the CNDH issued on July 11 and a separate recommendation issued on November 28 involved six previously unreported 2007 allegations of arbitrary detention and physical abuse committed by soldiers in the states of Michoacan and Sinaloa.
The CNDH was also investigating allegations that three individuals detained by federal authorities in connection with the September 15 grenade attack in Morelia, which killed eight civilians, had been mistreated while in custody.
Although SEDENA accepted the CNDH's recommendation and agreed to investigate, there were no developments in a May 2007 case involving arbitrary detention and alleged torture of seven adults and one child by military officials at a military base in Michoacan.
There were no developments in the investigation by a National Supreme Court (SCJN) commission into the use of force by federal and state police forces during the 2006 confrontation in Oaxaca. According to one NGO, three individuals remained under detention dating back to the first series of Oaxacan disturbances between May 2006 and July 2007. With respect to the 2006 San Salvador Atenco confrontation between local vendors and state and federal police agents in Mexico State during which two individuals were killed and upwards of 47 women were taken into custody with many allegedly raped by police officials, the Special Prosecutor for Crimes against Women initially reported the indictment of 21 policemen, of whom 15 were expelled from the police force and six remained under investigation. On September 23, a superior court called for the dismissal of a 16th policeman, Doroteo Blas Marcelo, and ordered him to pay damages to one of the victims. The other five policemen were charged with abuse of authority and faced criminal proceedings.
Prison and Detention Center Conditions
Prison conditions remained poor. During the year the CNDH and other NGOs reported that corruption, overcrowding, alcoholism, and drug addiction were prevalent in most facilities. Health and sanitary conditions were poor, and most prisons did not offer psychiatric care. Poorly trained, underpaid, and corrupt guards staffed most prisons. Authorities occasionally placed prisoners in solitary confinement for indefinite periods; prisoners often had to bribe guards to acquire food, medicine, and other necessities. Prison overcrowding continued to be a common problem. In August the Senate's Commission of Public Security estimated 218,000 prisoners occupied the country's 441 penal facilities, approximately 30 percent above capacity.
Inmates in many prisons exercised significant authority, displacing prison officials and creating general insecurity, leading to inmate deaths, often at the hands of other prisoners. During the year at least five killings and a suicide occurred nationwide among the federal prison population. In September two prison riots in Tijuana, the first provoked by reports that guards had allegedly beaten to death one of the detainees, resulted in the death of 20 prisoners. Three officials in charge of the penitentiary system in the state, including the head of the Tijuana Prison, were removed.
Pretrial detainees were routinely held together with convicted criminals. The CNDH noted that conditions for women prisoners were inferior to those for men, particularly for women who lived with their children in prison. There were anecdotal reports of sexual abuse of women while in detention, although there were no authoritative studies on the scope of the problem.
The government permitted independent monitoring of prison conditions by human rights organizations. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the CNDH, and state human rights commissions visited detainees during the year. The CNDH reported making 240 prison visits during the year: 97 in response to complaints, 43 in response to requests from local human rights organizations, and 100 in conjunction with the National Mechanism to Prevent Torture. Separately, the CNDH opened 357 complaint cases based on concerns about human rights violations against prisoners, ultimately confirming 126 of the complaints.
d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention
The law prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention as well as sponsoring or covering up an illegal detention; however, security forces often ignored these provisions.
Role of the Police and Security Apparatus
The federal, state, and municipal police forces included approximately 500,000 agents. At the state and local level, police are generally divided into "preventive" and "judicial" police. Preventive police maintain order and public security and generally do not investigate crimes. Judicial police serve as the investigative force under the authority and direction of the public ministries (prosecutors' offices).
Similarly, at the federal level, uniformed officers, such as those who patrol the federal highways, have been under the command of the Secretary of Public Security (SSP), while investigating agents have been part of the PGR. The justice sector reform legislation passed in June called for a unified, centralized command structure of all federal police agencies under the SSP, but the legislation had not been implemented at year's end. The military is responsible for external security but also has significant domestic security responsibilities, particularly in combating drug trafficking and responding to natural disasters.
Corruption continued to be a problem, as many police, particularly at the state and local level, were involved in kidnapping, extortion, or providing protection for, or acting directly on behalf of, organized crime and drug traffickers. Impunity was pervasive and contributed to the continued reluctance of many victims to file complaints. Responsibility for investigating federal police abuse falls under the purview of the PGR and the Secretariat of Public Administration, depending on the type of offense.
The Congress enacted legislation establishing a four-year deadline to vet all of the country's 2,500 police forces. By year's end the government's anticorruption effort, Operation Cleanup, resulted in the arrest of Rodolfo de la Guardia Garcia, a former top official from the Federal Investigative Agency (AFI); Ricardo Gutierrez Vargas, AFI's director for international police affairs and head of Interpol in the country; and Noe Ramirez Mandujano, the former head of the PGR's Organized Crime Office (SIEDO).
The constitution provides for military jurisdiction for crimes and offenses against military discipline. In cases in which a member of the military is arrested by civil authorities, the military may request the immediate transfer of the case to military jurisdiction. Many NGOs maintained that human rights abuse cases involving military personnel were not handled transparently by the military justice system, giving rise to concerns about impunity in these cases.
The CNDH also can receive complaints, but its recommendations are nonbinding and carry no legal weight unless a government entity formally accepts the recommendation, in which case it is legally bound to take appropriate action. A similar mechanism exists with respect to the state human rights commissions, which maintain autonomy from the CNDH.
The CNDH provided human rights training for security and military forces, and the government continued professional training of its law enforcement officials. In 2007 SEDENA held 15 courses to train 1,066 personnel on human rights and international humanitarian rights and engaged an additional 59,880 personnel in 284 conferences on the same topics. Additionally, SEDENA routinely included in its operations directives to promote respect for human rights during operations.
In the first six months of the year, SEDENA recruited 723 women--four times the number recruited during the same period in 2007. In January SEDENA created the Directorate General for Human Rights to promote greater respect for human rights and address complaints by public entities and international organizations; its responsibilities include responding to requests from the CNDH regarding procedures and providing status reports on SEDENA's implementation of the CNDH recommendations. Human rights NGOs, however, complained about a lack of access to the new directorate and maintained it had done little to improve SEDENA's transparency on cases of human rights abuse.
During the year the SSP worked closely with the ICRC to train and certify federal officials on international standards of human rights. Additionally, SSP officials also conducted human rights training and workshops in conjunction with the International Organization for Migration, the CNDH, and experts from the International Criminal Court. In April the SSP began implementing Plataforma Mexico in coordination with the National Autonomous University of Mexico. Plataforma Mexico enhanced law enforcement information exchanges among police and provided distance learning training in the area of human rights to federal police officers throughout the country. PGR officials estimated 10,000 federal police officers had been trained through this initiative. The CNDH also provided human rights training to 6,757 military personnel.
On August 21, President Calderon met with the mayor of Mexico City, 31 state governors, senior legislators, judicial officials, and civil society leaders to reach agreement on a 75-point package of security measures to fight crime. In the following months, the government took steps to purge the security forces of senior-level corrupt officials, secure a significant increase in the security budget, and win approval of penal code reform legislation.
Arrest and Detention
Judicial reform legislation enacted on June 17 provides that defendants are innocent until proven guilty. In most cases persons must be presented to a judge, along with sufficient evidence to justify their continued detention, within 48 hours of their arrest. In organized crime cases (involving three or more persons who organize themselves for the purpose of committing certain crimes), suspects may be held for up to 96 hours before being presented to a judge. However, recognizing the complex nature of organized crime, the legislation stipulates that certain suspects may be held under house arrest for up to 80 days, with the approval of a judge, prior to the filing of formal charges. Human rights NGOs maintained that this form of pretrial detention violates due process, facilitates torture, and could potentially be applied to social movements.
The law provides time limits within which an accused person must be tried. However, due to caseloads which far exceeded the capacity of the current system, such time limits were often disregarded. In addition pretrial release on bond is only available in cases in which the charges are not considered a serious crime. As a result lengthy pretrial detention remained a problem, with the media reporting that accused persons were sometimes held several years without a trial.
While detainees were usually allowed prompt access to family members and to counsel, there were complaints that, in some cases, police held persons incommunicado for several days made arrests arbitrarily and without a warrant. The CNDH received 864 complaints of arbitrary detention during the year.
In December the Guerrero State Human Rights Commission traced the abductions of three union organizers to the Attorney General's Office in Acapulco.
Also in December Amnesty International issued an alert conveying concern about the safety of Javier Torres Cruz, a member of a grassroots environmental NGO in Guerrero, who had allegedly been abducted and released earlier in the month by military personnel.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
Although the judiciary is independent, weaknesses in the system make court decisions susceptible to improper influence by both private and public entities, particularly at the state and local level. Corruption, inefficiency, and lack of transparency continued to be major problems in the justice system. Criminal elements also attacked members of the judicial system. The federal court system consists of the Supreme Court, 91 circuit courts of appeal, 49 courts of appeal, and 185 district courts. State judicial systems consist of trial-level courts and appeals courts with jurisdiction over family, criminal, civil, and administrative matters.
The investigation into the 2006 slaying of federal Judge Rene Hilario Nieto Contreras in Toluca continued at year's end. Judge Nieto had handled cases involving the Gulf and Juarez cartels.
Trial Procedures
The legal system is a hybrid system. While it incorporates some aspects of common law and accusatory-style systems, it draws primarily from traditional European code-based, inquisitorial systems. A typical trial consists of a series of fact-gathering hearings during which the court receives documentary evidence or testimony. A judge in chambers reviews the case file and then issues a final, written ruling. The record of the proceeding is not available to the general public; only the parties involved have access to the official file, but only by special motion.
The law provides for the right of the accused to attend the hearings and challenge the evidence or testimony presented, and the government generally respected these rights in practice. In most cases court hearings were open to the public.
While the law provides defendants with the right to an attorney at all stages of criminal proceedings, in practice this only meant that authorities had to appoint a "person of confidence," who was not required to meet any particular legal qualifications, to represent a defendant. The public defender system was not adequate to meet demand, especially at the state level. Public defender services were placed either in the judicial or executive branch; there were no autonomous public defender services. According to Amnesty International, most criminal suspects did not receive representation until after they were placed under judicial authority, thus making individuals vulnerable to coercion to sign false statements before being presented to a judge.
Although the law provides for translation services from Spanish to indigenous languages to be available at all stages of the criminal process, this generally was not done. Indigenous defendants who did not speak Spanish sometimes were unaware of the status of their cases, and some suspects were convicted without fully understanding the documents they were required to sign.
Despite enactment of judicial reform legislation on June 17, judges reportedly continued to allow statements coerced through torture to be used as evidence against the accused, a practice particularly subject to abuse because confessions were often the primary evidence in criminal convictions (see section 1.c.). NGOs asserted that judges often gave greater evidentiary value to the first declaration of a defendant, often given in the absence of legal representation. This provided prosecutors an incentive to obtain an incriminating first confession and made it difficult for defendants to disavow such declarations. For their part law enforcement officials complained that defendants frequently made baseless claims of coerced confessions as a way to win acquittal.
The justice reform that the president signed into law in June also facilitates transition to an oral trial system, establishes strict guidelines on the use of confessions, allows consensual monitoring of telephone calls, and gives police more responsibility for conducting investigations. The reform stipulates that all hearings and trials must be conducted by a judge and under the principles of public access, immediacy, confrontation, and cross-examination, promoting greater transparency and allowing defendants to challenge their accusers. Constitutional reforms associated with the new justice system were ratified by the congresses of 24 states. All state and federal jurisdictions must conform to the new judicial system and implement oral trial procedures within eight years. Criminal procedural codes in the states of Chihuahua, Oaxaca, Zacatecas, Northern Baja California, and Morelos already permit oral trials for all crimes.
Political Prisoners and Detainees
There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.
Civil Judicial Procedures and Remedies
There is an independent and impartial judiciary in civil matters, including access to a court to seek damages for a human rights violation.
f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence
Although the law prohibits such practices and requires search warrants, authorities occasionally disregarded these provisions. The CNDH received 952 complaints of illegal searches through December 15.
Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
a. Freedom of Speech
The law provides for freedom of speech and of the press, and the government generally respected these rights in practice. The majority of newspapers and television and radio stations were privately owned, and the government had minimal presence in the ownership of news media.
While federal legislation eliminated criminal defamation, libel, and slander, journalists remained vulnerable to threats of imprisonment at the state level because most states have criminal libel laws that are not superseded by federal law.
Despite federal government support for freedom of the press, many journalists worked in a dangerous environment. Reporters covering the various organized criminal organizations and associated corrupt public officials acknowledged practicing self-censorship, recognizing the danger investigative journalism posed to them and to their families.
According to local NGOs, only 30 percent of attacks against journalists were reported to authorities, of which only 13 percent resulted in a trial. The PGR's Office of the Special Prosecutor for Crimes Against Journalists (FEADP) accepted jurisdiction over 248 cases since its creation in 2006. FEADP estimated that of the complaints it received from journalist or media outlets, 63 percent involved threats from private citizens, 21 percent from organized crime elements, and 16 percent from public officials. During the year six journalists were killed and three disappeared. NGOs called on the government to strengthen FEADP and provide it greater resources.
Prominent cases involving journalists included the following:
• On April 7, Felicitas Martinez and Teresa Bautista, reporters and commentators on a community radio station in rural Oaxaca, were shot and killed. Residents of their community blamed members of the local political party Popular United Party for the killing. An investigation into the case by FEADP continued at year's end.
• On June 19, police officers in the Benito Juarez Municipality of Nuevo Leon allegedly attacked six print and broadcast reporters covering a demonstration against the local government. Two police officers and one civilian were detained in connection with this case. An investigation into the case continued at year's end.
• On September 15, Federal Preventive Police (PFP) opened fire on journalist Carlos Solis Reina and his companion, Luis Alberto Salas, as they were driving in Matamoros, Tamaulipas. The gunfire hit and killed a young girl in the vicinity. The two were arrested for the girl's death; they alleged that they were tortured on the way to SIEDO offices. Solis had recently published an article critical of the federal police. • On November 13, Armando Rodriguez, a veteran police reporter with the newspaper El Diario, in the border city of Ciudad Juarez, was shot to death outside his home. One of the last stories Rodriguez covered was the prior week's discovery of a decapitated body hung from a bridge in Juarez.
An investigation continued at year's end into the April 2007 death of Amado Ramirez, an Acapulco-based correspondent for Televisa and Radiorama. A suspect detained in 2007 remained imprisoned at year's end.
In September the CNDH issued a report criticizing the federal and Oaxacan state investigations into the 2006 killing of journalist Bradley Will, who was covering the Oaxaca disturbances when an unknown assailant shot and killed him. The CNDH's report implicated Oaxacan state police officials. Meanwhile, on October 16, the government arrested three individuals for Will's killing, charging Juan Manuel Martinez as the gunman and Octavio Perez and Hugo Jarid Colmenares Levya with helping to cover up the crime. Perez and Colmenares Leyva were released on bail on October 18. A judge ruled separately there was sufficient evidence to detain Martinez pending trial.
Internet Freedom
There were no government restrictions on access to the Internet or reports that the government monitored e-mail or Internet chat rooms. Individuals and groups could engage in the peaceful expression of views via the Internet, including by e-mail. The International Telecommunication Union reported that in 2007 there were 21 Internet users per 100 inhabitants.
Academic Freedom and Cultural Events
There were no government restrictions on academic freedom or cultural events.
b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
The law provides for freedom of assembly and association, and the government generally respected these rights in practice. Groups that wish to meet in public areas must inform local police authorities in advance. Organized, peaceful demonstrations occurred frequently throughout the country. Several times during the year demonstrators clashed violently with police, and subsequent arrests led to complaints of arbitrary detention, use of excessive force, physical abuse, rape, and sometimes killings.
An October 3 confrontation between protesters and federal and state police in the state of Chiapas allegedly resulted in the deaths of six individuals and injury to 17 others. Protesters had taken control of Lagos de Monte Bello National Park in Chiapas and held 36 police hostage. As a result of the investigation by the Chiapas Ministry of Justice, the police officials involved were charged with criminal offenses ranging from abuse of authority to aggravated homicide.
In June the government signed an agreement with the ICRC on training and certification of Interior Ministry personnel in such areas as the legitimate use of force, the use of firearms, and arrest and detention.
c. Freedom of Religion
The law provides for freedom of religion, and the government generally respected this right in practice. Although social, cultural, and economic disputes sometimes took on religious overtones, particularly in the south, there were no reports of religious-based conflicts within or among communities during the year. However, poor enforcement mechanisms, local land disputes, and family traditions contributed to discrimination against some religious groups, especially in the south.
The constitution bars members of the clergy from holding public office, advocating partisan political views, supporting political candidates, or opposing the laws or institutions of the state.
Religious associations must register with the government to apply for official building permits, receive tax exemptions, and hold religious meetings outside their places of worship. Although the government may reject applications because of incomplete documentation, the registration process was routine.
Societal Abuses and Discrimination
In the central and southern regions, some leaders of predominantly Catholic indigenous communities regarded evangelical groups as unwelcome outside influences and as economic and political threats. These leaders sometimes ordered or acquiesced in the harassment or expulsion of individuals belonging chiefly to Protestant evangelical groups. Whether a group was displaced forcibly or left voluntarily to avoid harassment, it often found itself living on the outskirts of another local community in circumstances even worse than the extremely poor conditions common to the region.
If parties present a religious dispute to the General Directorate of Religious Associations (GDAR) in the Secretariat of the Interior, the GDAR attempts to mediate a solution. If mediation fails, the parties may submit the issue to the GDAR for binding arbitration. During the year the GDAR translated the Religious Association Law into 16 indigenous languages.
The Jewish community numbered approximately 50,000 persons. Although the GDAR received no reports of anti-Semitic incidents during the year, there were several unconfirmed incidents reported through local press sources
For a more detailed discussion, see the 2008 International Religious Freedom Report at www.state.gov/g/drl/irf/rpt.
d. Freedom of Movement, Internally Displaced Persons, Protection of Refugees, and Stateless Persons
The law provides for freedom of movement within the country, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation, and the government respected these rights in practice. The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to refugees and asylum seekers.
The law does not permit forced exile, and it was not practiced.
Protection of Refugees
The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status in accordance with the 1951 UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 protocol, and the government has established a system for providing protection to refugees.
In practice the government provided protection against the expulsion or return of refugees to countries where their lives or freedom would be threatened. The government received no request for asylum or refugee status during the year.
Although in many instances the National Migration Institute (INM) eventually released Cuban migrants, in some cases they were involuntarily returned to Cuba. In October the country signed a migration agreement with Cuba to facilitate the repatriation of illegal Cubans being detained, and in December, consistent with the agreement, the country repatriated approximately 41 Cubans.
The government provided temporary protection to individuals who may not have qualified as refugees under the 1951 Convention and its 1967 protocol.
On August 12, two Salvadoran nationals were granted humanitarian visas after being assaulted by members of the AFI in Tapachula.
Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government
The law provides citizens the right to change their government peacefully, and citizens exercised this right in practice through periodic, free, and fair elections held on the basis of universal suffrage.
Elections and Political Participation
The closely contested presidential and congressional elections of July 2006 were determined to be generally free and fair by the majority of neutral observers, including European Union representatives and local and international civil society organizations.
The September 2007 electoral reform bill prohibits all public and private funding of political advertisements on television or radio outside of time slots established by a respective state, requires placement of all political campaign advertisements through the Federal Elections Institute (IFE), and stipulates allocation of airtime among registered political parties based on their share of the vote in the most recent election. The law also prohibits negative campaign messages and establishes public spending limits for presidential elections. Recognition as a national political party by IFE is based on having won at least 2 percent of the vote in the last national election.
There were 24 women in the 128-seat Senate and 116 women in the 500-seat lower house. For the second session of Congress, a woman held the presidency of the Chamber of Deputies. Two female justices sat on the 11-member Supreme Court. There were seven women in the 21-member cabinet, compared with one in the previous administration. Many state electoral codes provide that no more than 70 to 80 percent of candidates can be of the same gender. All political parties continued their efforts to increase the number of women running for elected office. Some utilized quotas requiring that a certain percentage of candidates on a party list be female.
There were no established quotas for increased participation of indigenous groups in the legislative body. There were no statistics available regarding minority participation in government. The law provides for the right of indigenous people to elect representatives to local office according to "usages and customs" law, rather than federal and state electoral law. Traditional customs varied by village. In some villages women did not have the right to vote or hold office; in others they could vote but not hold office. In November 2007 the outgoing president of a municipal assembly in Oaxaca invoked "cultural customs" to throw out Eufrosina Cruz Mendoza's election as a woman to the municipal assembly. In the face of alleged death threats, Cruz took her case to the Federal Electoral Tribunal and Congress, where it remained under review at year's end.
Government Corruption and Transparency
The law provides criminal penalties for official corruption; however, the World Bank's Worldwide Governance Indicators and other indices reflected that corruption remained a problem at all levels of government, as some public officials continued to perpetrate bureaucratic abuses and some criminal acts with impunity. Corruption at the most basic level involved paying bribes for routine services or in lieu of fines to administrative officials and security forces, but more sophisticated and less apparent forms of corruption included overpaying for goods and services to provide payment to elected officials and political parties.
The INM reported that 196 migration officials had been involved in corruption networks and extortion of migrants since 2007. During the year seven INM officials were indicted on charges stemming from extortion of Cuban nationals in the state of Quintana Roo. On July 28, the CNDH issued a recommendation against INM officials in Nogales, Sonora, for allegedly extorting $4,000 from two undocumented Honduran nationals.
Two officials from the Secretariat of Agricultural Reform were also forced to resign from their positions after an organization created by their spouses received monetary resources from the office that were budgeted for youth training programs and the creation of rural businesses.
Despite significant institutional and regulatory changes increasing government transparency, access to information continued to be difficult in some states. The Federal Institute of Access to Public Information (IFAI) has received over 356,591 requests for information since its creation in 2003. All states have passed laws to comply with the July 2007 constitutional reforms regarding access to information. However, only eight of the 31 states have signed a formal agreement with IFAI to make the information system on government operations, Infomex, available for petitions for state government information.
Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights
A wide variety of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. The government made periodic attempts to engage civil society, particularly on security issues but also on human rights issues, by creating and reinvigorating a variety of mechanisms that encourage civil society's participation in policy debates and allow individuals to register complaints. Nevertheless, some NGOs complained that the government did not take their concerns sufficiently into account and that they were unable to engage in constructive human rights discussions with military officials. They also maintained that some state and municipal authorities harassed human rights defenders during the year.
UN agencies and other international bodies freely operated in the country and publicly criticized the government without restriction or sanction. The Office of the UN High Commission on Human Rights has an office in the country and in February signed an agreement with the government to extend the office's mandate until 2012.
The semiautonomous CNDH, which received full and generous funding from the federal government, has the authority to investigate allegations of human rights violations and did so in practice. The CNDH operated without government or party interference. During the year the CNDH issued 67 recommendations in connection with human rights violations. The CNDH's recommendations are nonbinding and without legal weight unless formally accepted by a government entity. While some recommendations were accepted and implemented, others were rejected. Some NGOs praised the CNDH for bringing to light noteworthy human rights abuses but criticized it for not pressuring the government sufficiently to comply with its recommendations.
The Organization of Indigenous Me'phaa People (OPIM), an NGO in the state of Guerrero, represents the interests of indigenous communities in the region. In March an OPIM member and four policemen were killed during a robbery. In April local authorities filed arrest warrants against 15 OPIM members and ultimately detained five on charges of premeditated homicide in connection with the killings. After its own inquiry, Amnesty International concluded the evidence against the five was fabricated and adopted them as prisoners of conscience.
Section 5 Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
The law prohibits discrimination based on race, gender, disability, language, or social status. While the government continued to make progress enforcing these provisions, significant problems, particularly violence against women, persisted.
The law criminalizes rape, including spousal rape, imposing penalties of up to 20 years' imprisonment. However, rape victims rarely filed complaints with police, in part because of ineffective and unsupportive responses by the authorities toward victims, fear of publicity, and a perception that cases were unlikely to be prosecuted. Domestic violence was pervasive and mostly unexposed.
A 2006 National Survey on Household Relationships suggested that 67 percent of women over age 15 had suffered some abusive treatment. According to the NGO National Citizen Femicide Observatory, more than 1,014 girls, teenagers, and women were killed in the 19 months ending July 31; 43 percent were between the ages of 21 and 40.
A total of 432 killings and disappearances of women were recorded in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, between 1993 and May 2008; an estimated 45 percent of them were resolved by courts, 17 percent were pending trial, and 33 percent remained under investigation. Gender-based violence continued in Ciudad Juarez, but at lower levels. There were at least 30 killings of women during the year; 14 of the cases remained under investigation, four suspects were awaiting trial, and four additional suspects were in prison awaiting indictments at year's end.
The law prohibits domestic violence, including spousal abuse, and stipulates fines equal to 30 to 180 days' pay and detention for up to 36 hours; however, actual sentences were normally lenient. A law (known as the General Law on Women's Access for Life Free of Violence) enacted in 2007 that obligates federal and local authorities to prevent, punish, and eradicate violence against women has been implemented in 23 of the country's 31 states.
During the year the Office of the Special Prosecutor for Violence Against Women broadened its mandate to include cases related to trafficking in persons, changing the name of the institution to the Office of the Special Prosecutor for Violence Against Women and Trafficking in Persons (FEVIMTRA). FEVIMTRA was staffed by 19 legal, administrative, and technical support professionals. No information was available regarding the number of domestic violence cases prosecuted during the year.
On the state level, laws sanctioning domestic violence, if in existence, are weak. Seven states do not criminalize domestic violence, and 15 states punish family violence only when it is a repeated offense. Victims generally did not report abuses for a variety of reasons, including fear of reprisal by their spouses, fear of becoming economically destitute if their spouses are imprisoned, and the general disinterest of authorities in prosecuting such offenses.
The government's cabinet-level National Institute of Women (INMUJERES) reported that its national hot line established under the National Plan for a Life without Violence received more than 22,000 calls during the year. Although there were some government-funded shelters, civil society organizations and women rights groups maintained the vast majority of available shelters.
Prostitution is legal for adults and continued to be practiced widely. While pimping and prostitution of minors under age 18 are illegal, these offenses also were practiced widely, often with the collaboration or knowledge of police. The country was a destination for sex tourists and pedophiles, particularly from the United States. There are no specific laws against sex tourism, although federal law criminalizes corruption of minors, which is punishable by five to 10 years' imprisonment. Trafficking in women and minors for prostitution remained a problem.
Federal law prohibits sexual harassment and provides for fines of up to 40 days' minimum salary, but victims must press charges. Sexual harassment is criminalized in 26 of the country's 31 states and the Federal District, but in only 22 of these is a punishment contemplated when the perpetrator has a position of power. Reports of sexual harassment in the workplace were widespread, but victims were reluctant to come forward, and cases were difficult to prove.
The law provides that women shall have the same rights and obligations as men and that "equal pay shall be given for equal work performed in equal jobs, hours of work, and conditions of efficiency." According to INMUJERES, women earned 8.8 percent less than men, compared with 12.6 percent less in 2004; however, in some occupations the disparity reached 30 percent.
The law provides labor protection for pregnant women, which some employers reportedly sought to avoid by requiring pregnancy tests in preemployment physicals and by continuing to make inquiries into a woman's reproductive status.
The government was committed to children's rights and maintained programs to support maternal and infant health, provide stipends for educating poor children, subsidize food, and provide social workers. Nevertheless, problems in children's health and education remained pervasive.
Child marriage remained a problem. Although there were no precise statistics, 12 percent of men and 27 percent of women married between the ages of 15 and 19, according to a 2003 report of the National Institute of Statistics and Geography.
The government estimated that more than 22,000 children were sexually exploited each year. Sex tourism and sexual exploitation of minors were significant problems in the northern border area and in resort areas. While a 2007 criminal code amendment increases the penalty for commercial sexual exploitation of children, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Sale of Children and Young People indicated that the country did not have an effective system to protect and provide assistance to children and young people who were victims of sexual exploitation or any form of trafficking.
Trafficking in Persons
While the law prohibits aspects of trafficking in persons, the country was a point of origin, transit, and destination for persons trafficked for sexual exploitation and labor.
The vast majority of non-Mexican trafficking victims came from Central America; lesser numbers came from Brazil, Cuba, Ecuador, China, Taiwan, South Korea, India, Argentina, and Eastern European countries. Victims were trafficked to the United States as well as to various destinations in the country. Women and children (both boys and girls), undocumented migrants from Central America, the poor, and indigenous groups were most at risk for trafficking.
Often poor and uneducated, trafficking victims were promised employment, but once isolated from family and home, they were forced into prostitution or to work in a factory or the agriculture sector. Other young female migrants recounted being robbed, beaten, and raped by members of criminal gangs and then forced to work in table dance bars or as prostitutes under threat of further harm to them or their families. Many illegal immigrants became victims of traffickers along the Guatemalan border, where the growing presence of gangs such as Mara Salvatrucha and Barrio 18 made the area especially dangerous for undocumented and unaccompanied women and children migrating north.
A 2007 law makes trafficking in persons a federal crime punishable by up to 12 years' imprisonment; the executive branch and Congress continued to discuss implementation procedures for the law.
There is no law related to interstate crimes of trafficking in persons, and the federal government does not automatically assume jurisdiction in cases of interstate trafficking. Twenty-one of 31 states criminalize certain aspects of trafficking. In addition to the provisions in the new federal antitrafficking legislation, the law criminalizes corruption of minors, exploitation of children for commercial sex, and child pornography; anyone convicted of a crime related to a minor under the age of 18 can be sentenced to five to 10 years' imprisonment. If the illicit activity involves a minor under age 16, the sentence is increased by one-third; if it involves a minor under 12 years of age, the sentence is increased by half. Persons who direct or facilitate such illicit activity for purposes of financial gain may be imprisoned for six to 10 years. When physical or psychological violence is used for sexual abuse or to profit from exploitation of a minor, the penalties are increased by up to one-half. The law also forbids forced or compulsory labor.
Securing convictions remained a challenge for the government. During the year the government pursued 14 trafficking cases, which involved a total of six minors. Although the Jalisco state attorney general dropped charges against Thomas White related to corruption of minors, he remained in state custody at year's end pending Mexican federal charges and a U.S. extradition request.
FEVIMTRA and the PFP are the lead operational and coordinating agencies for antitrafficking efforts. The INM, the PGR, the Center for Research on National Security, the CNDH, the Foreign Ministry, and the Integral Development of the Family (DIF) also played key roles in combating trafficking, protecting victims, and prosecuting traffickers.
There were credible reports that individual local, state, and federal police, immigration, and customs officials were involved in facilitating trafficking. There were no developments in the 2007 case of two INM officials who were arrested and accused by the PGR of leading an organized criminal group that trafficked persons, including undocumented workers.
While a partial framework existed to protect and provide social services to the victims of trafficking, undocumented migrants usually were deported before they could be identified and removed from the detention system. The government increased cooperation with NGOs and international organizations, such as the International Organization for Migration, to build a network of trafficking victims' services and to identify potential trafficking victims. Although not specifically related to trafficking in persons, the SSP permitted trafficking victims to make anonymous reports through two newly created hot lines. Victims could also make anonymous reports through an SSP-sponsored e-mail address. The government supported general trafficking prevention campaigns for children and women and administered special assistance programs for children repatriated to the country. The CNDH initiated an antitrafficking campaign through print media and radio.
The State Department's annual Trafficking in Persons Report can be found at www.state.gov/g/tip.
Persons with Disabilities
Although the law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical and mental disabilities in employment, education, access to health care, and the provision of other services, the government did not effectively enforce all these stipulations. Most public buildings and facilities in Mexico City did not comply with the law requiring access for persons with disabilities. The federal government stated that entrances, exits, and hallways in all of its offices had been made accessible to persons with disabilities. The education system fell short of providing special education for children with disabilities, serving approximately 400,000 students of an estimated two million with disabilities in 2004; only 42 percent of municipalities in the country provided special education. Although the government made progress in treating persons with mental health illnesses, government resources devoted to the problem remained inadequate.
The secretary of health collaborated with the secretaries of social development, labor, and public education, as well as with DIF and the Office for the Promotion and Social Integration of the Disabled, to protect the rights of persons with disabilities. The government established offices and programs for the social integration of persons with disabilities, including a program to enhance job opportunities and launch an online portal to disseminate information and assistance.
Indigenous People
The indigenous population has long been marginalized and subject to discrimination, particularly in the central and southern regions where indigenous people sometimes represent more than one-third of the total state populations. Indigenous communities remained largely outside the political and economic mainstream, due to longstanding patterns of social and economic marginalization. In many cases their ability to participate in decisions affecting their lands, cultural traditions, and allocation of natural resources was negligible. More than 130 NGOs were dedicated to the promotion and protection of indigenous rights.
Indigenous people did not live on autonomous reservations, although some indigenous communities exercised considerable local control over economic, political, and social matters. In the state of Oaxaca, for example, 70 percent of the 570 municipalities were governed according to the indigenous regime of "usages and customs" law, which did not follow democratic norms such as the secret ballot, universal suffrage, and political affiliation. These communities applied traditional practices to resolve disputes and choose local officials. While such practices allowed communities to elect officials according to their traditions, "usages and customs" laws tended to exclude women from the political process and often infringed on other rights of women.
The government generally showed respect for the desire of indigenous people to retain elements of their traditional culture. The law provides protections for indigenous people, and the government provided support for indigenous communities through social and economic assistance programs, legal provisions, and social welfare programs. Budget constraints, however, prevented these measures from meeting the needs of most indigenous communities, as severe shortages in basic infrastructure as well as health and education services persisted.
The law provides that educational instruction shall be conducted in the national language, Spanish, without prejudice to the protection and promotion of indigenous languages. However, many indigenous children spoke only their native languages, and the government did not provide a sufficient number of native language or bilingual teachers.
Some groups claimed that the security forces used the war on drugs as a pretext to occasionally harass indigenous groups. During the year the CNDH received 161 complaints about human rights violations of the indigenous population. By year's end it had concluded an investigation into 119 of these complaints; 42 remained under investigation.
Other Societal Abuses and Discrimination
The law prohibits several types of discrimination, including bias based on sexuality, and requires federal agencies to promote tolerance.
While homosexuals experienced a growing social acceptance, the National Center to Prevent and Control HIV/AIDS stated that discrimination persisted. Homophobic beliefs and practices were common, reflected principally in entertainment media programs and everyday attitudes. Reports of attacks against homosexuals and transsexuals were frequent.
On September 11 and September 23, the CNDH issued recommendations against the navy, the Secretariat of the Navy (SEMAR), and SEDENA for discrimination against military members with HIV; SEMAR and SEDENA accepted the recommendations.
There were credible reports that police, immigration, and customs officials frequently violated the rights of undocumented migrants, including committing rape. Undocumented migrants rarely filed charges in such cases because the authorities generally deported such persons who came to their attention. The INM has 48 detention centers with a total capacity of 3,958 specifically for undocumented migrants. The CNDH has an office in each of these facilities to ensure that human rights abuses are not committed against detainees. The CNDH received 227 complaints of violations of rights of migrants. Following his visit during the year, the Special Rapporteur on Migrants noted reports of corruption, violence against women, and trafficking in children.
There were no updates available in the January 2007 case of Jose Alejandro Solalinde, a priest, and 18 Central American migrants who were beaten and detained for seven hours by eight police officers in Ixtepec, Oaxaca.
Section 6 Worker Rights
a. The Right of Association
Federal law provides workers the right to form and join trade unions of their choice, and workers exercised this right in practice. According to National Census Institute, during the year there were 43.9 million workers in the workforce, with 15.7 million in the formal sector--those paying taxes to the Mexican Institute for Social Security (IMSS).
Approximately 25 percent of the formal sector was unionized. By law 20 workers can form an independent union with a formal registration. However, administrative procedures for registration are complex and burdensome, and government labor boards frequently rejected independent unions' registration applications on technicalities. A new union also must challenge the government-sanctioned union, if one exists, for control of the collective bargaining contract. Credible reports continued to note the use of officially sanctioned protection contracts, which consist of an informal agreement whereby the company pays a monthly sum to the union--which often exists only on paper--in exchange for industrial peace. Workers never democratically chose such unions, and exclusion clauses in these protection contracts gave promanagement unions the right to demand the dismissal of a worker expelled from the union.
Representation elections are traditionally open; management and officials from the existing union are present with the presiding labor board official when workers openly and individually declare their votes. However, on September 10, SCJN ruled that secret ballots are required when two or more unions compete for recognition as the legal bargaining representative.
The law provides for the right to strike in both the public and private sector, and workers exercised this right. However, only officially recognized unions can call for a strike; before a strike can be considered legal, a union must receive approval of a strike notice from the appropriate labor authorities. These lengthy procedural requirements resulted in a large backlog of strike notice requests at the state level. Although few formal strikes actually occurred, informal stoppages of work by both union and nonunionized groups were fairly common.
b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively
The law provides for the right to organize and bargain collectively, and the government protected this right in practice. Collective bargaining contracts covered approximately 7 percent of workers. There are no special laws or exemptions from labor laws in export processing zones. Management in the maquila (in bond export) sector and elsewhere sometimes used protection contracts to discourage workers from forming authentic unions at a company, in contravention of freedom of association principles. Such contracts were collective bargaining agreements negotiated by management and a representative of a so-called labor organization without the knowledge of the workforce, sometimes even prior to hiring a single worker in a new factory. Human Rights Watch attributed the problem to the lack of legally recognized independent unions that could negotiate strong and fair collective bargaining agreements.
One of the two remaining suspects at large in the April 2007 killing of migrant farm worker organizer Rafael Santiago Cruz of the Labor Organizing Committee office in Nuevo Leon was detained briefly by Mexican authorities in May after attempting to enter the United States but was later released.
c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
Although the law prohibits forced or compulsory labor, including by children, such practices commonly persisted in both the rural and industrial sectors. Migrants and children were the most vulnerable. There were numerous anecdotal reports of mistreatment and exploitation of Guatemalan and other migrant workers.
d. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment
The law protects children from exploitation in the workplace, including a prohibition of forced or compulsory labor; however, the government did not effectively enforce such prohibitions. The law prohibits children under the age of 14 from working, and those between the ages of 14 and 16 may work only limited hours with parental permission, with no night or hazardous work. According to the UN Children's Fund's most recent statistics, 16 percent of children between the ages of five and 14 were involved in child labor activities. Child labor was most prominent in the areas of sexual exploitation and agriculture.
The Secretariat of Labor (STPS), which is charged with protecting worker rights, stated that its mandate does not extend to the area of child labor. The Secretariat for Social Development, the Attorney General's Office, and the Family Development Institute each have responsibility for enforcement of child labor laws or intervening in cases where such laws are violated. Government enforcement was reasonably effective at large and medium-sized companies, especially in the maquila sector and other industries under federal jurisdiction. Enforcement was inadequate at many small companies and in the agriculture and construction sectors, and it was nearly absent in the informal sector in which most children worked.
During the year the Secretariat for Social Development and DIF carried out programs to prevent child labor abuses and promote child labor rights, including specific efforts to combat the commercial sexual exploitation of children. Nevertheless, it was not uncommon to find girls under the age of 15 working in prostitution. Trafficking in children for sexual exploitation was also a problem.
e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
The law provides for a daily minimum wage, which is set each December for the coming year. For the year the minimum daily wages, determined by zone, were: 52.3 pesos (approximately $5.15) in Zone A (Baja California, Federal District, State of Mexico, and large cities); 50.96 pesos (approximately $5) in Zone B (Sonora, Nuevo Leon, Tamaulipas, Veracruz, and Jalisco); and 49.50 pesos (approximately $4.80) in Zone C (all other states). The minimum wage did not provide a decent standard of living for a worker and family, and only a small fraction of the workers in the formal workforce received the minimum wage. The STPS is charged with protecting worker rights, including minimum wage provisions in the law.
The law sets six eight-hour days and 48 hours per week as the legal workweek. Any work over eight hours in a day is considered overtime, for which a worker receives double the hourly wage. After accumulating nine hours of overtime, a worker earns triple the hourly wage, and the law prohibits compulsory overtime. However, there were labor rights disputes filed with labor boards and international labor organizations during the year with complaints that workers did not receive overtime pay they were owed.
The law requires employers to observe occupational safety and health regulations, issued jointly by the STPS and the IMSS. Legally mandated joint management and labor committees set standards and were responsible for overseeing workplace standards in plants and offices. Individual employees or unions may complain directly to inspectors or safety and health officials. Workers may remove themselves from hazardous situations without jeopardizing their employment. Plaintiffs may bring complaints before the federal labor board at no cost to themselves.
While STPS and IMSS officials reported that compliance was reasonably good at most large companies, there were not enough federal inspectors to enforce health and safety standards at smaller firms.

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martes, 24 de febrero de 2009

El INAH: entre la dignidad y la ignominia

Gilberto López y Rivas
La Jornada
El 12 de febrero pasado, los tres sindicatos coordinados de trabajadores del Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia (INAH) –arquitectos, administrativos, técnicos y manuales, investigadores y docentes– efectuaron un exitoso paro de labores en todas sus dependencias en el ámbito nacional: museos, centros regionales, zonas arqueológicas, escuelas nacionales y oficinas diversas. En mantas, volantes, asambleas, foros, debates, mítines improvisados y diversas formas de comunicación de acera y mediática, estos trabajadores no protestaron por cuestiones económicas, condiciones de trabajo o prestaciones gremialistas en momentos en que la mayor crisis que se recuerde golpea dramáticamente las economías de los asalariados. No eran estamentos corporativos luchando por sus intereses que, siendo legítimos, buscarían en última instancia el beneficio propio. Ellos se manifestaron por la defensa del patrimonio arqueológico de la Nación (así, con mayúscula); por la memoria histórica de los pueblos que la conforman y le dan su impronta, que siendo multiétnica y nacional, es un tesoro universal amenazado por la barbarie del capital y sus asociados en los gobiernos trasnacionalizados, las burocracias enquistadas en las instituciones y en quienes se han rendido a sus requerimientos, cooptaciones o amenazas.
Estos especialistas en investigación, conservación y custodia del patrimonio cultural tangible e intangible, después de un análisis concienzudo del proyecto llamado Resplandor teotihuacano y del avance de su instalación, expusieron a la ciudadanía que dicho proyecto, aprobado por el Consejo de Arqueología (INAH) en septiembre del año pasado, no cumple con los requerimientos académicos y técnicos indispensables; carece de guión y sustento científico y no cuenta con la información suficiente para evaluar la posible afectación de los monumentos. Incluso, el propio presidente del consejo reconoció públicamente el pasado 12 de enero que en esa aprobación se cometieron errores.
Además de esta anomalía de origen, suficiente para cancelar inmediatamente el proyecto, se instalaron 3633 lámparas, para lo cual se realizaron 6575 perforaciones, dañando los monumentos y provocando filtraciones que afectan la estructura. Igualmente, la instalación eléctrica y las luminarias alteran la visual y volumetría de los monumentos de la zona; todo ello en violación de la Ley Federal de Zonas y Monumentos Arqueológicos, Artísticos e Históricos en su artículo 42, e implica una afectación tipificada como delito en el artículo 52.
Las acciones realizadas también violan el decreto presidencial de 1988 que declara a Teotihuacán Zona de Monumentos Arqueológicos, cuyo artículo 13 establece: “En la zona de monumentos definida en este decreto no se autorizan construcciones cuya función, diseño o ubicación alteren, afecten o distorsionen los valores monumentales o el uso educativo y de investigación a que la misma esta destinada”. El proyecto viola asimismo varias normas jurídicas y recomendaciones internacionales sobre conservación de monumentos: la Ley General de Bienes Nacionales, la Carta de Venecia, la Declaración de Patrimonio de la Humanidad emitida por la UNESCO, el documento de Nara sobre autenticidad, la declaración sobre la conservación del entorno de las estructuras, sitios y áreas patrimoniales. Más aún, en el proyecto no se consideraron las repercusiones sociales y su impacto en las comunidades circundantes, ni mucho menos se tomó en cuenta la opinión de las mismas.
El director general del INAH, Alfonso de María y Campos, ajeno a la institución y sin especialización en alguna de las diversas disciplinas del organismo, y quien se ha distinguido por su desprecio a los trabajadores del instituto y sus afanes autoritarios-elitistas, no posee por ley la atribución de otorgar concesiones ni establecer convenios con instancias públicas o privadas para la comercialización de zonas arqueológicas.
Las asambleas generales de los sindicatos del INAH por unanimidad resolvieron presentar las denuncias penales correspondientes y exigir la destitución del director y de las demás autoridades involucradas en la afectación del patrimonio de todos los mexicanos.
Reclaman la cancelación inmediata del proyecto, la reparación de los daños y el retiro de todas las instalaciones colocadas sobre las pirámides del Sol y la Luna. Ante el silencio cómplice de las autoridades máximas del Ejecutivo federal, incluyendo a su titular, los sindicatos han pedido al director que renuncie para evitar dañar más a una institución que recientemente cumplió 70 años. Sin embargo, De María y Campos se aferra a su puesto y hace caso omiso de las llamadas de la UNESCO y la Comisión Permanente del Congreso para suspender las obras y hacer un análisis pertinente del proyecto. Las autoridades del INAH y el gobernador del estado de México, que pretende ser candidato presidencial (¡uno de los responsables principales del crimen de Atenco!), se han empecinado en minimizar los daños, estigmatizar a los trabajadores del INAH y encubrir sus delitos y componendas corporativas en declaraciones maniqueas que refieren a la politización del caso.
Teotihuacán expresa nítidamente la dicotómica realidad actual de México. Por un lado, la dignidad de sus trabajadores que representan los valores e intereses nacionales y universales; y por el otro, la ignominia de quienes detentan el poder económico y político para beneficio de una colusión apátrida e insensible al clamor ciudadano. Por incompetencia en el desempeño de sus funciones y violación a los principios de la institución, ¡renuncie, señor embajador!

18 meses de huelga en las minas de México

El gobierno de Calderón toma partido por la empresa minera
Matteo Dean
Diagonal. Rebelión.
El 30 de enero los mineros del Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores Mineros, Metalúrgicos y Similares de la República mexicana alcanzaron los 18 meses de huelga en las tres minas de Taxco, Sombrerete y Cananea, en contra de la empresa transnacional mexicana Grupo México. Aún no se vislumbra en el horizonte una solución al conflicto. Comenzadas por causas meramente laborales, las huelgas se han convertido en asunto político a raíz de que el Gobierno federal mexicano se ha visto involucrado y ha tomado partido en favor de la empresa de Germán Larrea Mota Velasco, el todo poderoso empresario del norte del país que, aprovechando la pauta privatizadora emprendida hace más de 20 años, se hizo con la mayoría de las riquezas del subsuelo mexicano.
Las malas condiciones laborales, el deterioro de las cuestiones relativas a la seguridad e higiene, y la maquinaria obsoleta en riesgo del colapso, además de la negativa por parte de la empresa frente a la petición de revisión salarial, son algunas de las causas de esta huelga que se perfila como una de las más largas de la historia sindical mexicana. Los mineros denuncian que las condiciones laborales son efectivamente precarias: turnos de ocho horas a cambio de pocos pesos. En la categoría más elevada de las 20 que contempla el contrato colectivo firmado por las dos partes, un minero en México gana menos de diez euros diarios, es decir 146 pesos. Una cifra que rebasa efectivamente el salario mínimo establecido por ley (45 pesos diarios) pero que, sin embargo, se queda muy por debajo del salario mínimo real en el país. El sindicato, además, denuncia precarias condiciones de trabajo, señalando faltas en los sistemas de seguridad, maquinaria al límite del colapso, etc. La trágica prueba de ello ocurrió la madrugada del 19 de febrero de 2006, cuando una explosión dejó atrapados y segó la vida de 65 trabajadores en una mina de propiedad del Grupo México, ubicada en Pasta de Conchos, Coahuila. Hasta la fecha los cuerpos no han sido recuperados y nadie ha sido juzgado.
Sin embargo, el peor caso lo representan los trabajadores contratistas que la empresa ha comenzado a involucrar en sus actividades a raíz de su política de “reducción de costos”. Los sindicalizados explican que desde que existen contratistas en las instalaciones de la empresa, estos por contrato no pueden “realizar trabajos especiales”, es decir, los que comúnmente se definiría como peligrosos. Según testimonios recogidos, los contratistas son no obstante los encargados de realizar esas actividades: apertura de nuevos túneles, utilización de explosivos, etc. Todas, actividades que los contratistas llevan a cabo en turnos por lo regular de 12 horas, y en algunos casos de hasta 14 horas, por un sueldo base de menos de 50 pesos diarios. Por si esto fuera poco, los contratistas no gozan de ningún tipo de seguridad social y no tienen siquiera los instrumentos legales y burocráticos para exigir reformas: “si te quejas, te vas a tu casa”, explican. La existencia de un sindicato, impide actualmente a la empresa la contratación de un número excesivo de trabajadores contratistas, sin embargo ésa es claramente la tendencia, ya que permite a la empresa no solamente contratar y despedir según los esquemas modernos de la producciónjust in time, sino, en lo específico, le permite eludir cualquier otra responsabilidad fijada en la actual legislación laboral mexicana: no hay reparto de utilidades, no hay aguinaldo, no hay generación de antigüedad (gracias a los contratos temporales que se utilizan para los contratistas). No se ve solución a corto plazo al conflicto minero en México. La empresa, dicen los mineros, junto al Gobierno quiere acabar con su sindicato: “No les importan nuestras condiciones”, denuncian. Cuentan que a los diez días de comenzada la huelga, en la mina de Taxco hubo un derrumbe. “De estar nosotros trabajando hubiera habido unos 80 muertos”, señalan. Sin embargo, a la empresa no le importa, pues “lo veníamos denunciando desde hace muchos meses antes de empezar la protesta”, dicen los mineros, “y la empresa nos contestaba que prefería pagar la multa en lugar de parar la producción”.

Regresar a:http://barricadaoaxaca.blogspot.com/

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miércoles, 18 de febrero de 2009

Caso Contralínea llega a la ONU
Autor: Yenise Tinoco

15 Febrero 2009
El Centro Prodh entregó información al relator especial para la Libertad de Expresión de la ONU, Frank La Rue, acerca del hostigamiento que sufren periodistas de la revista Contralínea por parte de funcionarios y empresarios del sector gasero. Mientras, ante el organismo internacional, Gómez Mont mencionó como “logros” del calderonismo la presentación de una iniciativa en materia de libertad de expresión que está en la congeladora.

El Centro de Derechos Humanos Miguel Agustín Pro Juárez (Centro Prodh) hizo del conocimiento de la Relatoría Especial para la Libertad de Opinión y Expresión de la Organización de Naciones Unidas (ONU) el hostigamiento que viven el director y reporteros de la revista Contralínea, por considerar coartados los derechos de los periodistas y afectar a la sociedad mexicana en su derecho a estar informada.
El pasado 10 de febrero, en el marco del primer Examen Periódico Universal de México ante el Consejo de Derechos Humanos de la ONU, el Centro entregó la información con el fin de que el organismo internacional exhorte al Estado mexicano para que adopte las medidas necesarias para asegurar la integridad personal de los periodistas de esta revista y garantizar la libertad de expresión y el derecho a la información.
Desde hace varios meses, Miguel Badillo y Ana Lilia Pérez, director y reportera, enfrentan una serie de persecuciones por información difundida a través de Contralínea. Las investigaciones publicadas involucran a funcionarios, entre ellos al fallecido Juan Camilo Mouriño, exsecretario de Gobernación, en supuesto tráfico de influencias y abuso de autoridad en procesos de contratación de Petróleos Mexicanos.
El Centro Prodh señaló al relator Frank La Rue que se ha confirmado el acoso contra la revista, que consiste en la presentación de demandas y acciones legales que propician que profesionistas de los medios enfrenten juicios de imparcialidad aparente en situaciones de considerable desigualdad procesal y material.
A partir de sus investigaciones, Badillo y Pérez son objeto de actos de acoso, persecución, represión y amenazas de muerte por parte de personas implicadas.
El Centro Prodh incluyó en su relato que los periodistas denunciaron que las acciones emprendidas en su contra están relacionadas con la publicación de una serie de reportajes donde documentan supuestos beneficios a favor de la empresa Zeta Gas durante la actual administración, así como la existencia de investigaciones contra ese consorcio por hechos relacionados con la delincuencia organizada.
En su documento, la asociación defensora de derechos humanos informa al relator que el 5 de agosto de 2008 Ana Lilia Pérez fue víctima de seguimiento por parte de un individuo no identificado cuando se trasladaba de su domicilio a las instalaciones de la revista.
Agrega que ese mismo día, abogados del Grupo Zeta, junto con un actuario judicial y un perito irrumpieron en las instalaciones de Contralínea, acompañados por guardaespaldas armados y elementos de la Secretaría de Seguridad Pública del Distrito Federal.
El Centro explica a La Rue que durante estos hechos los periodistas supieron que se estableció un juicio promovido por la empresa Thermogas, una de las compañías del Grupo Zeta, contra las revistas Contralínea y Fortuna. Negocios y finanzas.
En agosto de 2007, dice el documento, se presentó una demanda contra los periodistas y las revistas por supuesto daño moral, por la publicación de las entrevistas realizadas a Jesús Zaragoza López, accionista mayoritario del Grupo Zeta.
El 30 de mayo de 2008, en una primera instancia, un juez resolvió en contra de Badillo y Pérez, quienes recurrieron a la segunda instancia. En septiembre de 2008 se confirmó la sentencia contra ellos. Ante esto, interpusieron un juicio de amparo, pero el 5 de enero de 2009 les fue negada la protección de la justicia federal por un tribunal colegiado del Poder Judicial de la Federación, por lo que se ordenó borrar la información publicada en las páginas de internet de Contralínea y de Fortuna sobre el Grupo Zeta.
El Centro Prodh considera que el acoso constituye un ataque contra la libertad de expresión, consagrado en el artículo 19 del Pacto Internacional de Derechos Civiles y Políticos, ratificado por el Estado mexicano el 23 de marzo de 1981.
Los reporteros acudieron a la Fiscalía Especializada para la Atención a Delitos cometidos contra Periodistas, la cual, el 15 de enero de 2009, declinó su competencia al fuero común respecto de la mencionada averiguación previa, sin notificación alguna a los peticionarios; también a la Comisión Nacional de Derechos Humanos sin que a la fecha haya respuesta de su caso.
Condena internacional
Durante la comparecencia de la representación mexicana ante el Consejo de Derechos Humanos de la ONU, encabezada por el secretario de Gobernación, Fernando Gómez Mont, el gobierno federal recibió críticas por parte de las delegaciones internacionales, quienes condenan la situación de peligro que viven los periodistas en México.
En particular, los países europeos pidieron al gobierno mexicano que garantice el derecho a la libertad de expresión y la seguridad de los comunicadores, erradicar la impunidad en los casos de agresiones, fortalecer a la Fiscalía Especializada para la Atención de Delitos cometidos contra Periodistas y crear programas de prevención contra agresiones y amenazas.
En su primera intervención, Gómez Mont destacó como “logros”, en materia de libertad de expresión, la despenalización de la difamación a nivel federal, sólo aceptada hasta el momento en 10 estados; la iniciativa que presentó la Procuraduría General de la República para federalizar los delitos contra periodistas, la cual se encuentra en la congeladora.
Además, el titular de Gobernación mencionó las medidas de seguridad emprendidas contra el crimen organizado, a quien el funcionario acusa como el principal perpetrador de las agresiones contra los periodistas.
Exige Europa a México detener crímenes contra periodistas
El gobierno de Noruega pidió a su homólogo mexicano ofrecer mayor protección para los defensores de derechos humanos y periodistas, en lo que se consideró el primer gran llamado de atención desde Europa para que México garantice el respeto a la libertad de expresión, tal como lo establece el artículo 19 de la Declaración Universal de los Derechos Humanos.
Ese hecho inédito ocurrió el 10 de febrero en Ginebra, Suiza, en el marco del Cuarto Consejo de Derechos Humanos de la Organización de Naciones Unidas (ONU) ante el cual compareció Fernando Gómez Mont, secretario de Gobernación, quien respondió a los cuestionamientos de la troika de relatores integrada por Sudáfrica, Pakistán y Nicaragua.
El responsable de la política interna de México evitó pronunciarse ante esa exigencia planteada por los representantes de los Países Bajos, Reino Unido, Austria, Alemania, Dinamarca, Suiza y otros Estados europeos, quienes exhortaron al gobierno de Felipe Calderón Hinojosa a “acabar con la ola de homicidios y desapariciones”.
El señalamiento tuvo como trasfondo la violencia sistemática contra comunicadores en México, así como el despliegue del Ejército para combatir a la delincuencia organizada, medidas que ponen en riesgo el respeto a los derechos humanos. Por tal razón, la organización Artículo 19 presentó un informe ante esa instancia internacional sobre la situación que prevalece en México en materia de libertad de expresión y lo que llamó “el estado de la impunidad en el país”.
Ésta es la primera ocasión en la que el Consejo de Naciones Unidas crea un mecanismo destinado a revisar el estado de los derechos entre todos sus miembros en materia de derechos humanos y también en lo que corresponde a la libre expresión.
A México se le considera como uno de los países más peligrosos en el mundo para ejercer el periodismo. El clima de amago es tan grave para los periodistas de todo el territorio nacional que el Consejo sometió al escrutinio el hecho de que en años recientes se incrementaron las amenazas y la violencia contra periodistas. Para las organizaciones civiles internacionales y mexicanas, resulta notorio que, de todos estos crímenes, ningún responsable ha sido llevado ante la justicia.
Esa situación obligó a la organización humanitaria Artículo 19 a considerar que la impunidad en México es una de las amenazas más serias, no sólo para el derecho a la libre expresión, sino para todos los derechos humanos. Por esa razón, la organización redactó un informe que contiene un recuento pormenorizado de los hechos que documentó en materia de agravios a los periodistas y sus medios, y que entregó el 10 de enero a la ONU. (Nydia Egremy)

La conclusión del informe de Artículo 19 indica que las mayores amenazas para la libertad de expresión en México son:
· El fracaso en combatir la impunidad que prevalece en el país y cuyo origen es la falta de voluntad política
· Tan sólo en los anteriores ocho años, 24 periodistas y trabajadores de los medios han sido asesinados, ocho están desaparecidos y muchos más han sido amenazados y han sufrido ataques sicológicos durante la práctica de su profesión
· La Fiscalía Especial para perseguir crímenes contra periodistas requiere una reforma urgente para fortalecer y clarificar sus facultades
· A pesar del hecho de que en los años recientes surgió un gran número de nuevos grupos de perpetradores de crímenes contra periodistas, las autoridades permanecen como los principales perpetradores de delitos contra periodistas y la libertad de expresión en México (Nydia Egremy)
La resolución
El Consejo de Naciones Unidas sobre Derechos Humanos pidió a las administraciones públicas invitar a las organizaciones de la sociedad civil que se dedican a proteger la libertad de expresión a trabajar en un diálogo constructivo, en las medidas que promuevan la protección y el gozo de este derecho fundamental.
En la rendición de cuentas del gobierno mexicano, en voz del secretario Gobernación, Fernando Gómez Mont, se admitió que “existe un grado de erosión importante” en la gobernabilidad del país. Ante la comunidad internacional, el funcionario anunció que el despliegue de las fuerzas armadas por el territorio nacional con el objetivo de combatir el narcotráfico es “temporal”.
Respecto a la impunidad, considerado como uno de los principales problemas de México en materia de derechos humanos, Gómez Mont aseguró que ese diagnóstico “es duro, pero usamos todos los recursos a nuestro alcance para terminar con ese problema”. A ese pronunciamiento, los países miembros recomendaron una “investigación exhaustiva” de todas las violaciones y que los hechos sean juzgados en el ámbito federal.

Allanan las instalaciones de Contralínea
Autor: Contralínea

15 Febrero 2009
A menos de un mes de la detención del director de Contralínea, Miguel Badillo, representantes del Grupo Zeta Gas, miembros de la fuerza pública del Distrito Federal y funcionarios del Poder Judicial allanaron las oficinas de esta revista.

El miércoles 11 de febrero de 2009, a las 15:20 horas, representantes del Grupo Zeta, que dirige Jesús Alonso Zaragoza López, allanaron de nueva cuenta las instalaciones de la revista Contralínea.
Acompañado por funcionarios públicos de Guadalajara y del Distrito Federal, el abogado de la empresa gasera, Diego Romero Velasco, exigía ingresar a los escritorios y archiveros de los trabajadores y de los periodistas. Su proceder fue apoyado en todo momento por tres actuarios o peritos, uno de ellos de nombre Alfonso Reyes; por Eduardo Yáñez, “representante de la Secretaría de Seguridad Pública del Distrito Federal”; 25 policías de esa misma Secretaría y de la delegación Cuauhtémoc, encabezados por Ricardo Toraya Oliva, y por cuatro guardaespaldas civiles.

Sin identificarse plenamente ni mostrar a cabalidad la supuesta orden de diligencia que traían, amenazaron al personal de Contralínea con acceder a los expedientes fiscales, financieros y periodísticos.
Durante 40 minutos, el abogado, los servidores públicos y los civiles amedrentaron a los reporteros y trabajadores, a quienes incluso encararon y empujaron. A las 16:00 horas se retiraron de las instalaciones.
Eduardo Yáñez, quien se identificó como miembro de la Dirección General de Mejoramiento del Centro Histórico, indicó a los trabajadores de Contralínea que él acudía como auxiliar de lo que el actuario Alfonso Reyes “disponga, porque él en este momento es la autoridad”.
Amenazó: “Si el señor así me lo solicitara, yo podría estar en la posibilidad de usar la fuerza pública para presentarlos ante el Ministerio Público, y que ahí mismo se dirima la controversia”.
El abogado de Jesús Alonso Zaragoza López, Diego Romero Velasco, era quien ordenaba a los supuestos actuarios y peritos que representaban al Juzgado 13 de Guadalajara y a los funcionarios de la Secretaría de Seguridad Pública del Distrito Federal lo que “debían” hacer. En repetidas ocasiones exhortó a que “continuara la diligencia”, con lo que policías y los cuatro guardaespaldas civiles iniciaban los empujones y jaloneos a trabajadores de Contralínea.
Denuncia ante legisladores
Al tiempo, Miguel Badillo y Ana Lilia Pérez, director y reportera de la revista, participaban en una reunión con la Comisión Especial para el Seguimiento a las Agresiones contra Periodistas y Medios de Comunicación, de la Cámara de Diputados, donde se abordaba el tema de la “libertad de expresión en México”.
Tras enterarse de los hechos, Badillo denunció el allanamiento ante legisladores de los partidos Acción Nacional, Revolucionario Institucional y de la Revolución Democrática y ante funcionarios de la Secretaría de Gobernación, de la Procuraduría General de la República y de la Fiscalía Especial para la Atención de Delitos cometidos contra Periodistas, que hace unas semanas declinó su competencia en la denuncia que desde agosto pasado presentaron Miguel Badillo, Ana Lilia Pérez, Marcela Yarce y Nydia Egremy.

Según se desprende de la escasa información que se dio durante el allanamiento, la orden podría derivarse de alguno de los juicios por daño moral que se ventilan en el Juzgado 13 de lo Civil del Primer Partido Judicial de Guadalajara.
Ésta es la segunda ocasión en que representantes del empresario gasero, accionista mayoritario y presidente del Consejo de Administración del Grupo Zeta, allanan las oficinas de la revista.
En agosto de 2008, los abogados Graham Alberto Zubía Félix, Francisco Cuéllar Ontiveros, Diego Romero Velasco, el actuario Juan Manuel Aguilar Maya y el perito auxiliar Sergio Guillermo González Pulido irrumpieron por primera vez en las instalaciones, acompañados por guardaespaldas armados y elementos de la Secretaría de Seguridad Pública del Distrito Federal.
Las acciones judiciales iniciaron el 16 de agosto de 2007, cuando Jesús Zaragoza López presentó la primera demanda –de las más de 80 que interpondrá en contra de la revista y de sus periodistas, según sus amenazas– por supuesto daño moral, ante el Juzgado 44 Civil del Tribunal Superior de Justicia del Distrito Federal.

Sería la primera de tres demandas que ya interpuso y el inicio de una campaña de acoso e intimidación iniciada por el consorcio empresarial contra Miguel Badillo, Ana Lilia Pérez y los trabajadores de Contralínea, que incluyen amenazas de “desaparecer” la revista.

El 16 de enero pasado, el director de esta publicación fue detenido por elementos de la Policía Bancaria e Industrial del Distrito Federal, quienes dijeron cumplir una orden de arresto emitida por el juez 38 de lo Civil. El motivo, que había supuestamente desacatado una orden judicial, la cual, en realidad, nunca le fue notificada al periodista. Miguel Badillo permaneció en el Centro de Sanciones Administrativas del Distrito Federal por alrededor de 11 horas. (Contralínea 119)

IR A:http://barricadaoaxaca.blogspot.com/

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jueves, 12 de febrero de 2009

150 años con Charles Darwin
Julio Muñoz Rubio*
Hoy se cumplen 200 años del nacimiento de Charles Darwin, científico inglés célebre por ser el autor de la teoría de la evolución de las especies del mundo vivo por medio del mecanismo de la selección natural. Ciento cincuenta años han pasado desde que propusiera esta teoría, hoy día universalmente aceptada en el medio científico.
En todo el mundo se preparan gran cantidad de actividades para celebrar el acontecimiento. No es para menos. La teoría darwinista de la evolución es una de las más importantes en la historia de la ciencia. La revolución que produjo en la concepción del mundo se suma a las producidas por Copérnico, Galileo, Newton, Marx, Freud y Einstein. La concepción feudal de un mundo estático y fijo ha recibido, de todos estos personajes, serios reveses desde el siglo XVII, y de ellos el darwinista es uno de los principales.
La teoría darwinista de la evolución es revolucionaria porque lleva a sus últimas consecuencias una explicación materialista y dinámica del mundo, argumentando que nada en el mundo vivo se encuentra en un mismo estado permanentemente, lo cual era admitido sin reservas por todos los naturalistas hasta finales del siglo XVIII. Si bien Darwin no fue el primer evolucionista (corresponde ese lugar a Jean Baptiste de Lamarck, quien en 1809 propuso su teoría evolutiva basada en los principios de uso y desuso y herencia de caracteres adquiridos), sí fue el que propuso el mecanismo más coherente para explicar la evolución. Con su explicación, Darwin abrió la puerta para incesantes y fecundas investigaciones que no sólo no han cesado hasta la actualidad, sino que se multiplican una y otra vez.
A partir de su método de investigación, aportó conocimientos nuevos y verdaderos, el primero de los cuales fue la demostración de la existencia de un proceso de cambio constante, de evolución en el mundo vivo. Pero además propuso un mecanismo: la selección natural, que, si bien no ha estado exenta de polémicas, como en toda teoría científica seria, ha mostrado enorme capacidad de resolución de problemas, produciendo numerosas líneas de investigación nuevas, que se unen con éxito a las existentes previamente, desde hace mucho inexplicables sin una concepción evolucionista: ecología, biogeografía, genética, biología molecular, embriología, paleontología, taxonomía, fisiología, anatomía comparada, entre muchas más. Ello llevó a afirmar al genetista Theodosius Dobzhansky, uno de los evolucionistas más destacados del siglo XX: “Nada en la biología tiene sentido si no es a la luz de la evolución”.
Hoy, los conocimientos evolucionistas se producen a velocidades frecuentemente difíciles de seguir. La cantidad de libros, artículos, congresos, conferencias, debates, actividades docentes y de difusión que esta teoría produce anualmente no tiene parangón con la de otras teorías científicas. Tan es así que en la jerga de los evolucionistas se habla de la Darwin industry, para dar cuenta de la enorme producción que en torno de esa teoría tiene lugar.
La teoría de Darwin ha sido aplicada a gran cantidad de campos del conocimiento humano: economía política, sociología, sicología, antropología, lingüística, filosofía (en particular la ética, la epistemología, la ontología y la estética). Incluso la literatura y el cine se han visto influenciados por el darwinismo. Si bien no podemos afirmar que en todas estas ramas el darwinismo haya triunfado o esté exento de polémicas y oposiciones, incluso desde el evolucionismo mismo, sí podemos aseverar que sólo esta teoría y la de Marx han gozado de esta aplicación casi universal.
¿Es perfecta la teoría de Darwin? No. La exigencia de perfección a la labor en la ciencia sólo la pueden hacer quienes ignoran lo que la ciencia es. Quizás la principal de las deficiencias de Darwin es haberse identificado tanto con los modelos de la economía política, fundamentalmente con las teorías de Malthus y de Adam Smith. A partir de allí se han generado una serie de elementos ideológicos que en muchas ocasiones la han limitado en su explicación del mundo, e incluso han intentado justificar puntos de vista racistas, misóginos y homófobos, pero tales deficiencias no son ni con mucho insuperables y dentro del evolucionismo contemporáneo se han desarrollado varias concepciones innovadoras que, basadas en la dialéctica, la teoría de sistemas o el holismo, intentan, con frecuente éxito, superar esas fallas.
Por encima de todo, debemos celebrar los 150 años de esta teoría porque ha logrado mejorar la condición humana enormemente. La condición humana siempre será mejor mientras busca saberes y verdades que cuando vive en medio de mentiras, falsedades, fetiches e ignorancia. Aunque esto sea incomprensible para derechistas de toda laya. ¡A tu salud, Darwin!
* Investigador de la UNAM

La teoría de la evolución resiste las embestidas creacionistas.
El debate intelectual se produce en las universidades de Gran Bretaña
La Iglesia defiende que creacionismo y evolucionismo son complementarios
Las iglesias anglicana y católica han sufrido un declive del 27% en asistencia a misa.

Doscientos años después de su nacimiento, la teoría de Charles Darwin sobre la evolución de las especies para explicar el origen de la vida goza de más respeto que nunca entre científicos e intelectuales, y soporta las embestidas periódicas de grupos religiosos –sobre todo en Estados Unidos– empeñados en desprestigiarla para justificar sus creencias y aumentar su base electoral e influencia política.

En una cuestión tan intrínseca a la naturaleza humana, es inevitable que exista un intenso debate que tradicionalmente ha enfrentado creacionismo y evolucionismo, pero al que se ha incorporado de modo reciente –en una hábil maniobra de organizaciones interesadas en difundir una explicación religiosa o pseudorreligiosa del origen de la vida – la llamada teoría del diseño inteligente.

Esta teoría no habla estrictamente de un dios, sino de un ser superior con capacidad para concebir y configurar el mundo tal y como lo conocemos. Aunque la primera línea de fuego en esa guerra entre evolucionistas y antievolucionistas está en los estados del Medio Oeste y el cinturón industrial de EE.UU. (como Ohio, donde el voto cristiano fue decisivo en las dos victorias electorales de George Bush), el principal escenario del debate filosófico e intelectual son las universidades y centros de estudios científicos y teológicos de Inglaterra, una sociedad mucho más laica que la norteamericana y donde el enfrentamiento no es ni mucho menos tan venenoso.

"Podría decirse que lo que en Kansas o Pensilvania es casi un combate sucio para que se enseñe el creacionismo en los colegios públicos a pesar del amplísimo apoyo académico a las teorías de Darwin, en el Reino Unido es un pulso entre caballeros de acuerdo a las más estrictas normas del fair play donde ni una parte ni la otra pierde los papeles", dice el profesor de teología Leo Bentley. Un ejemplo es que la campaña humanista con anuncios en el metro de Londres y autobuses de todo el país, bajo el eslogan Dios probablemente no existe, así que no te preocupes y disfruta, se ha desarrollado sin tan siquiera una décima parte de la polémica suscitada en Barcelona.

Ello no quiere decir que no existan opiniones contrarias, como demuestra una encuesta encargada por el think tank religioso Theos con ocasión del 200.º aniversario del nacimiento de Charles Darwin en Shrewsbury, que se celebra hoy, y 150.º aniversario de la publicación de su obra maestra El origen de las especies, efectuada por la firma de sondeos ComRes entre poco más de 2.000 ciudadanos británicos. Los resultados son difíciles de interpretar, por la manera en que se formularon las preguntas y el hecho de que mucha gente diera credibilidad tanto al creacionismo como a la teoría del diseño inteligente, en vez de escoger entre una y otra.

A la pregunta de "¿a qué atribuye usted el origen y desarrollo de la vida?", un 48% de los encuestados respalda la teoría darwiniana de la evolución, un 22% el creacionismo, un 17% la teoría del diseño inteligente, y el resto dice que no sabe. En cuanto a la pregunta de cuáles de estas explicaciones deberían formar parte del expediente académico de los colegios públicos de Gran Bretaña (con la posibilidad de optar por varias), un 69% dice que el evolucionismo, un 44% que el creacionismo, y un 41% que el diseño inteligente.

Además, un 51% está de acuerdo con la afirmación de que "la evolución por sí misma no es suficiente para explicar las complejas estructuras de algunos seres vivos, y por tanto debe haber sido necesaria la intervención de un diseñador". El problema es que la separación constitucional entre Iglesia y Estado constituye un obstáculo para la difusión de cualquier fe o precepto religioso en las escuelas estatales, y la creación por Dios del mundo en siete días, y de Eva a partir de una costilla de Adán, es uno de los pilares del cristianismo. "Tenemos suerte de que, comparados con EE.UU. y otros países, aquí no existe ningún grupo religioso o cultural de peso que se oponga a la enseñanza de la teoría de la evolución", señala lord Martin Rees, presidente de la Royal Society.

La cuestión en Gran Bretaña no es –como en algunos lugares de EE.UU. bajo presión de la derecha religiosa que contribuyó a auparaBush al poder– si el evolucionismo debería de dejarse de enseñar en los colegios públicos, sino si debería acaso ir acompañado del creacionismo o/y el diseño inteligente. A lo cual dos tercios de los maestros responde que no, y un tercio que sí.

La difusión por 60 escuelas británicas de un DVD creacionista procedente de Estados Unidos ha sembrado la alarma en el gobierno del Labour, que ha exigido su retirada porque ni el creacionismo ni el diseño inteligente son teorías científicas admitidas, y –en palabras del diputado Graham Stringer-"bajo ninguna circunstancia deben ser enseñados a la misma altura que la teoría de la evolución". "La atribución del desarrollo de la vida a una inteligencia superior es un sucedáneo religioso, una manera de envolver de una manera más neutra el concepto básico de que el mundo es obra de Dios", señala el teólogo Alfred Borthwick.

La Iglesia de Inglaterra es la primera que se aleja de las denuncias al darwinismo y quiere aprovechar el aniversario para difundir la noción (igual que el Vaticano) de que evolucionismo y creacionismo no son antagónicos sino complementarios, y la teoría del origen y evolución de las especies es perfectamente compatible con la intervención de Dios. "Dos siglos después de tu nacimiento, te debemos disculpas por haberte malinterpretado y animado a otros aque te malinterpreten", dice un mensaje póstumo a Darwin colocado en la web de la Iglesia anglicana.

La ausencia de un movimiento antievolucionista en Gran Bretaña se explica en el carácter cada vez más laico de la sociedad de este país, donde nueve millones de habitantes (un 15% de la población) son ateos o agnósticos, el grupo más importan después de los cristianos (un 71,8%, pero la gran mayoría de tipo social, es decir, que se definen como tales por tradición o pertenencia a un grupo cultural, pero sin compartir necesariamente los principios de la fe o tener una participación activa en la religión).

Todas las encuestas sobre religiosidad están llenas de contradicciones. Aunque un 75% de los habitantes del Reino Unido se consideran cristianos, musulmanes, judíos, budistas o sijs, al mismo tiempo un 66% afirma "no tener ninguna conexión práctica con la religión o la Iglesia", y menos de la mitad dice creer en Dios. Un sondeo realizado entre niños de nueve y diez años del condado de Cornualles, el más pobre de Inglaterra, concluye que sólo el 19% se ve a sí mismo como "religioso". Desde 1980 hasta ahora, las Iglesias anglicana y católica han sufrido un declive del 27% en asistencia a misa, y la única iglesia institucional que ha registrado un aumento de fieles es la ortodoxa griega y rusa, debido a la inmigración.

Para celebrar el 200.º aniversario del nacimiento de Darwin, mañana se abre al público como museo la casa de Orpington (Kent) donde el científico realizó sus experimentos y elaboró sus teorías, con una detalla explicación de su vida, trabajo y familia. El Museo de Historia Natural le dedica una exposición con el relato del viaje del Beagle,sus escritos personales y la ambientación de los invernaderos donde cultivaba sus orquídeas, y se han organizado congresos en Cambridge, Shrewsbury y otras ciudades.

Un momento trascendente para el conocimiento
La investigación actual refuerza la idea de Darwin de un origen común de los seres vivos.

Theodosius Dobzhansky, uno de los fundadores de la actual teoría sintética de la evolución, decía: nada tiene sentido en biología si no es considerado bajo el prisma de la evolución. La evolución de las especies es, pues, el denominador común de todas las materias que abarca la biología, y tiene su punto de partida en las ideas de Charles Darwin, un naturalista inglés que abrió y liberó nuestra mente, y nuestra concepción del mundo vivo, de las ideas creacionistas imperantes hasta el momento.

Precisamente hoy, 12 de febrero, celebramos el 200.º aniversario del nacimiento de Charles Darwin, al que podemos considerar padre de la teoría de la evolución. Sus trabajos, junto a los de otro insigne naturalista inglés de la época, Alfred Russell Wallace, dieron lugar a la revolucionaria teoría de la evolución por selección natural, mayoritariamente aceptada por todos los científicos actuales.

La idea de que los organismos vivos evolucionaban existía desde hacía tiempo entre los naturalistas del siglo XIX; lo auténticamente revolucionario fue darle la forma de teoría, explicándola a partir del concepto de selección natural. La trascendencia en aquel momento, tanto para la ciencia como para el pensamiento humano, fue que modificaba el conocimiento de la materia viva y ayudaba a interpretar los fenómenos vitales. Los seres vivos, decía Darwin, no son estáticos sino que se van modificando de generación en generación bajo la influencia del medio ambiente, y éste es el sustrato sobre el que actúa la selección.

Pero Darwin no sólo hablaba de los cambios que se producían en los organismos, sino que, además, señalaba que la Tierra también evolucionaba. Las aportaciones de Darwin a la Geología y la Paleontología también han sido muy valiosas para el conocimiento del mundo inanimado.

La misma biografía de Darwin es, de por sí, una apasionante lectura que enriquece a quien se acerca a él a través de sus libros. En ellos narra sus inquietudes desde niño por las ciencias naturales o su trascendental viaje a bordo del HMS «Beagle» que durante cinco años le llevaría, como naturalista meticuloso, a dar la vuelta al mundo. Ese viaje marcaría un hito, y sería la fuente de inspiración de la nueva visión de los seres vivos de nuestro planeta, incluidos los seres humanos. Pero además, no deberíamos olvidar, y podríamos destacar de él, su enorme capacidad de trabajo, su sensibilidad y su honestidad, que le llevaron a publicar sus ideas solamente cuando estuvo seguro de ellas, tras muchos años de investigaciones, reflexiones y dudas. Porque este año también se conmemoran los 150 años de la publicación de su obra más famosa, «El origen de las especies», en la que plasma su visión del mundo vivo. Y aún más allá, porque en 1871 publicó «El origen del hombre», en el que nos reveló el humilde lugar del hombre entre los seres vivos.

La investigación actual en las ciencias biológicas sigue aportando datos y conocimientos que refuerzan las primigenias ideas de Darwin como, por ejemplo, la primatología o la paleoantropología, que nos dejan constancia de la existencia de un antepasado común entre los simios y el hombre actual, consecuencia de una historia evolutiva común y paralela, que se refleja en aspectos paleontológicos, genéticos, bioquímicos, embriológicos, o etológicos. Y la evolución en nuestra especie continúa, y lo hace a un ritmo que, según demuestra la genética de poblaciones, se aceleró a partir del Neolítico con la aparición de la agricultura.

Actualmente los científicos aún siguen debatiendo y profundizando en algunas de las cuestiones que Darwin se planteaba ya en su época, y a las que intentó dar respuesta sin éxito; faltaban aún muchos descubrimientos para recomponer el puzzle evolutivo. Hoy su obra sigue siendo una constante referencia, influenciando el trabajo intelectual y científico de todos los biólogos y paleontólogos que trabajan en el campo evolutivo.

La obra de Darwin es algo vivo, algo en uso, algo que en su momento abrió las puertas al racionalismo en el pensamiento evolutivo y a la modernidad. Pero como además otras ramas de la ciencia también han ido avanzando en el conocimiento, Darwin seguramente se sentiría gratamente deslumbrado al ver los importantes avances científicos que su teoría ha inspirado, sobre todo de la mano de las investigaciones en la moderna genética y cuya aplicación práctica abarca, en la actualidad, desde el estudio de las plagas de los cultivos, al desarrollo de nuevos medicamentos, e incluso el análisis de las consecuencias que puede producir el cambio climático.

Belén López Martínez, Profesora titular de Antropología Física de la Universidad de Oviedo

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