Thursday, August 15, 2002

Cuaderno Latinoamericano - Much is being made of the execution in Texas of one Javier Suárez Medina, especially in terms of its effects on U.S.-Mexican relations. The conflict seems to revolve around two issues: (1) that Mexico doesn't have the death penalty and considers the exercise of such illegal; and that (2) Suárez Medina was a Mexican citizen who was not advised of (and thus denied) his rights to legal support from the Mexican government under the Vienna Convention of Consular Relations. On the first point, it is technically incorrect to state unequivocally that Mexico doesn't have the death penalty. The death penalty is constitutionally provided for in Mexico, though it is true that the death penalty in Mexico is applicable only to specified crimes, such as treason, and would not apply to the case of Suárez Medina. Furthermore, this "de jure" provision is hardly ever exercised. It has been a long, long time since someone was put to death in Mexico under this law; and there is a real sense in Mexico that the legal death penalty as exercised with some regularity in the U.S. is morally unconscionable. The second claim is more troubling, in the sense that due process under international law seems to have been circumvented. This will not do much to convince other governments to act with such respect for international conventions when it comes to the case of Americans subject to execution via the death penalty in another country. To run roughshod over the expressed desires of a "friendly, neighboring" country under the mantra that "Texas/US law and sovereignty" trumps Mexico's request for due process under international conventions is simply bullyish.

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