Supreme Court Finds Oaxaca Governor Ulises Ruiz Responsible for Human Rights Violations, Violence in 2006 and 2007

SourceMex Economic News & Analysis on Mexico, October 28, 2009 | Go to article overview

Supreme Court Finds Oaxaca Governor Ulises Ruiz Responsible for Human Rights Violations, Violence in 2006 and 2007


In mid-October, Mexico's high court (Suprema Corte de Justica de la Nacion, SCJN) dealt a major blow to Oaxaca Gov. Ulises Ruiz, blaming the state executive for human rights abuses during a deadly crackdown on protestors in 2006 and 2007. The SCJN decision, handed down in mid-October, does not mandate Ruiz's removal from his post.

And the governor, a member of the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI), has already said he will not resign. The animosity against Ruiz and the PRI is so strong that leaders of the conservative Partido Accion Nacional (PAN) and a leftist coalition led by the Partido de la Revolucion Democratica (PRD) have set aside their differences to run a single candidate in the 2010 gubernatorial race.

Court clears federal government

In a 7-4 decision, the SCJN exonerated the administration of former President Vicente Fox for the abuses, saying that the Ruiz government was entirely responsible for human rights violations against the protestors during demonstrations that took place between May 2006 and January 2007.

Members of the teachers union (Sindicato National de Trabajadores de la Educacion, SNTE) in Oaxaca initially organized the demonstrations, taking over the historic central plaza in Oaxaca City to protest low pay and poor working conditions. A coalition of human rights advocates, labor unions, and leftist organizations later joined the protests to support the SNTE and also press a list of grievances against the Ruiz government (see SourceMex, 2006-08-02 and 2006-09-13).

The Oaxaca government responded to the protests with force, resulting in the deaths of about 20 demonstrators. The incidents prompted both the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies to condemn the actions of the Oaxaca state government and urge Ruiz to step down (see SourceMex, 2006-11-01). Ruiz accused the legislators of overstepping their authority and filed a constitutional complaint through the SCJN. In late 2007, the high court dismissed Ruiz's complaint (see SourceMex, 2007-08-22).

The Ruiz controversy came before the court again when justices were asked to look into the matter, including investigating whether the federal government bore any responsibility for the violence. After months of deliberation, the court ruled on Oct. 15 that the responsibility was entirely on the shoulders of the Ruiz government. The SCJN determined that a general violation of human rights took place and blamed the Oaxaca state government, but it did determine that local and federal troops also bore some responsibility.

"The governor of the state of Oaxaca bears clear and plain responsibility" for what happened, the high court said.

Still, a minority of the justices sought to place greater responsibility on the Fox government. Justice Juan Silva Meza accused Daniel Cabeza de Vaca, who was Fox's attorney general, of covering up the participation of agents from the Policia Federal Preventiva (PFP) in three raids conducted without legal warrants. The dissenting justices also criticized the Secretaria de Defensa Nacional (SEDENA) for refusing to release names of soldiers who participated in operations headed by the PFP in Oaxaca.

Ruiz rejects courts decision, will not resign

Ruiz, whose term ends in November 2010, offered a diplomatic but firm response to the SCJN decision, saying he respected the decision of the justices but did not agree with their conclusions. "I would like to congratulate the justices for their good work. They conducted a very ample and valuable investigation," said the governor, adding, "In no way do I agree with the conclusions."

A defiant Ruiz also told reporters that he had no plans to step down. The governor received strong support from key leaders of his party, including PRI president Beatriz Paredes and Deputies Francisco Rojas and Eviel Perez Magana. Rojas is the PRI floor leader in the lower house and Magana coordinates the PRI deputies from Oaxaca state. …

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Supreme Court Finds Oaxaca Governor Ulises Ruiz Responsible for Human Rights Violations, Violence in 2006 and 2007
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