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Mexico: Foreign Artists Commenting on Internal Matters

During his last visit to Mexico in March, French musician and activist Manu Chao canceled one of his concerts in the city of Guadalajara because of a rumor of an investigation by the Mexican authorities for his comments on what happened in the Mexican city of Atenco in 2006.

Photo of Manu Chao at press conference in Guadalajara. Taken by Festival Internacional de Cine en Guadalajara and used under a Creative Commons license: http://www.flickr.com/photos/guadalajaracinemafest/3383035071/

Photo of Manu Chao at press conference in Guadalajara. Taken by Festival Internacional de Cine en Guadalajara and used under a Creative Commons license: http://www.flickr.com/photos/guadalajaracinemafest/3383035071/

According to Mexican newspaper La Jornada [es], the artist used the term “State terrorism” while referring to the civil unrests of San Salvador Atenco that occurred in 2006 in the State of México. Independent commissions found that the police sexually abused over twenty women and caused the death of two persons. The Mexican press reported that the authorities were investigating Manu Chao for violating the Article 33 of the Mexican Constitution, which reads that no foreign visitors should intervene (“inmiscuirse”, roughly translated as “deal”) in political matters of the country.

Last month, another well-known musician Peter Gabriel met with the President of Mexico, Felipe Calderón, to talk about another sensitive subject such as the hundreds of murders of female factory workers in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua. Gabriel defended Chao [es] and his responsibility to speak about these issues.

Article 33 of the Mexican Constitution is controversial because some see it as an opposition to freedom of speech, as well as its ambiguous text. Pablo Vázquez Ahued comments on his blog that Article 33 “tries to not recognize the supposed unalienable rights of certain human beings” and that the article is not relevant because of international treaties [es]:

Lo cierto es que todas estas movidas de la prensa y Manu Chao no quedarán más que en el anecdotario de este mes, y serán olvidadas aproximándose mayo. Lo realmente importante es que vuelve a salir a colación la indignidad del artículo 33 constitucional, cuyo segundo párrafo debería ser derogado lo antes posible dado que México ha suscrito tratados internacionales que sencillamente lo niegan, y estos tratados, según cualquier constitucionalista de primer año, tienen el mismo estatus que la Constitución.

The truth is that all this press movement and Manu Chao won’t be regarded except as stories of the month, and will be forgotten when May arrives. What is really important is that the indignity of the constitutional article 33 surfaces again, and its second paragraph should be repealed as soon as possible since Mexico has signed international treaties that simply denies it, and these treaties, according to any first year student of the Constitution, have the same weight as the Constitution itself.

Daniel Manrique also comments in his blog Tome Chango su Banana [es] that the government should worry about more important things:

Supongo que el siguiente paso será tener micrófonos en todos los restaurantes porque la política es un tema habitual de conversación y es un hecho que el pobre desempeño histórico del gobierno mexicano, y en particular de los gobiernos panistas que azotan con el fuete de su incompetencia al país desde el año 2000, siempre deja mucho de qué hablar, y no siempre en los términos más halagadores

I guess the next step will be to have microphones in all restaurants, because politics is a regular topic of conversation and it is a fact that the poor effort of the Mexican government, particularly the strong incompetence of the governments of the Partido Acción Nacional party since the year 2000, always gives people something to talk about, not always in flattering terms.

Blogger Marichuy of Luces y Sombras [es] comments about Article 33, remembering a situation two years ago

Las autoridades gubernamentales mexicanas se distinguen por su doble moral y doble rasero a la hora de aplicar la ley. En 2006, en medio de uno de los procesos electorales más controvertidos de que se tenga memoria, [el expresidente de España] José Ma. Aznar vino a hacer proselitismo electoral a favor de Felipe Calderón, algo que supuestamente contraviene las leyes de este país, diciéndonos abiertamente que debíamos votar por él.

(…)

Y la pregunta para las autoridades:

¿la ley solo se aplica -a su sabio entender, but of course- a quien dice las verdades que no les gustan?

Mexican governmental authorities are known for their double morality and double standards when it comes to applying the law. In 2006, in one of most controversial electoral moments that can be remembered, the former president of Spain José Ma. Aznar came to the country to campaign for Felipe Calderon in the presidential elections, something that goes against the to laws of this country, openly inviting us to vote for Calderon.

And the question for the authorities:

Does law only applies –following your wise calls, but of course– who is to say the truths that you don’t like?

User Yeyahualtic Metztli comments in a story in La Jornada [es] about the rumor of Manu Chao being expelled from the country:

Si se trata de expulsar, por que no hacerlo con las personas dedicadas al narcotrafico, trata de blancas, sacerdotes pederastas, secuestradores…y de mas malotes? Pocas son las personas que se ocupan de los problemas sociales de México.

If it is about expelling, why don’t they expel those persons involved in drug trafficking, human trafficking, pedophile priests, kidnappers and other villains? Few are those persons who deal with the social problems of Mexico.

On the other side of the story, Esteban Arce republishes his column for the Mexican newspaper Récord in his blog Yo soy Aquél [es] and questions the right of both artists to comment on the political situation:

Pues ambos [artistas] se animaron a declarar que el caso Atenco era un crimen de Estado. ¡Háganme el favor!, ¿qué saben ellos y qué autoridad tienen para hablar de lo que pase o haya pasado en México cuando en sus países suceden cosas peores? Como si en Francia no discriminaran a los inmigrantes, al grado que repelen las manifestaciones en Saint Denis muy al estilo Atenco y lo hacen varias veces al año; cuando los ingleses, junto con los Estados Unidos, terminaron con el pueblo iraquí, al grado del exterminio total… pero no, prefieren cruzar el océano Atlántico para reclamar causas ya juzgadas en nuestro país en todos los niveles, incluyendo la Suprema Corte de Justicia de la Nación.

Well both [artists] decided to say that the Atenco situation was a State crime. Gimme a break!, what do they know and what is their authority to talk about what happens or what happened in Mexico when worse things happen in their own countries? As if France does not discriminate its immigrants, to the point of repelling protests in Saint Denis as they did in Atenco, and they do it several times in a year; when the English, along with United States, finished the Iraqi to the point of total extermination… but no, they prefer to cross the Atlantic Ocean to talk about causes that have been already addressed in our country at all levels, including the Supreme Court of the Nation.

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