143Libel Cases as Harassment in Mexico
- Jan 10, 2001This is a a translation of an article by
a Mexican attorney about two libel cases
in that country, one of them against a
columnist who criticized an ex president
and his actress wife, another against two
journalists who reported on the protection
of narco-traffickers by public officials.
In both cases there was no jury trial but
the journalists were declared guilty by
This reveals the kind of persecution that
Mario Menendez and the daily Por Esto!
faced for four years in Mexico even before
Akin Gump brought its harassing lawsuit
in New York.
Justice or Repression?
By Attorney Joel Sanchez Rodriguez
The journalist Isabel Arvide was sentenced by the 8th Circuit Court, on
third and final appeal, to pay five million pesos ($500,000 US dollars) to
Mrs. Alejandra Popovich (a.k.a. Sasha Montenegro), for the concept of
reparation of moral damages, that according to the judges, is owed to
reports she published in Impacto magazine in two articles edited in 1997.
In those texts, the journalist Isabel Arvide referred to �Sasha Montenegro,�
wife of ex- president Jose Lopez Portillo y Pacheco, as �a faded nude
actress�, while in the second article, she said that the children of the
�actress� and the politician were �illegitimate and bastards.�
Although the woman acted in dozens of films that are not at all recommended
and were not artistic, and that all the world knows it, and that the Oceano
and Larousse dictionaries define the word Bastard as �illegitimate, a child
born out of wedlock,� Sasha Montenegro said she was victim of moral damages
and with the political and economic power of her husband, she went to defend
her honor and that of her children, that, according to her, were discredited
by the journalist.
No middle aged person in our country doesn�t know that the grand part of the
work that Alejandra Popovich conducted as an actress, she did without
clothing or with very little clothing, and that the majority of her films
were rated �C�, and this is indisputable. However, it ought to worry the
Mexican People, the fact that in this case the judges acted not with the
spirit of justice, but that of repression and obeying political influence
more than the law.
It�s certain that the journalist used a very strong term to refer to the
children of the ex president and that the word bastard has a subjective
meaning in Mexico, but the law doesn�t have a subjective character and must
comply with the letter of the law and not in a subjective form. And the same
is true of morality.
It�s also certain that although many want to see it as an act of justice,
the sentence against the journalist is an act of repression, of reprisal for
what she wrote: the dictionary makes her right, but the judges punish her.
Based on the sentence that was dictated, and the journalist has already lost
since the end of September, her house, her car, her furniture and still the
amount that she must pay because the for the judges, there was moral damage
against the ex president, his wife and their children.
What happened with Isabel Arvide, lamentably, is not an isolated case of
repression against a communicator. In the city of Chihuahua, the journalists
Antonio Pinedo and Luis Villagrana of Semanario magazine are accused of
libeling and slandering the ex chief of Public Security for Juarez City,
Javier Benavides, who is a collaborator of President elect Vicente Fox.
Based on information published in other media, and in an investigation of
alleged drug crimes against the ex police chief, th journalists reported
that Javier Benavides and other high ranking police protected narco
For a court judge, this was sufficient to consider that Antonio Pinedo and
Luis Villagrana had committed libel and he ordered their arrests based on
the finding that they were already detained, although they obtained release
on bail and are subject to a process of waiting for the sentence to be
The judge, apparently obeying the political influence of Javier Benavides,
seemed to have the intention of punishing the journalists for doing their
job. This is not justice. It�s repression.
Supposedly in Mexico we live in a country of laws and enjoy freedom of
expression as an individual guarantee. But the cases cited here reveal an
apparatus of justice that is repressor, at the service of political and
economic interests and not of the law.
It seems that they are trying to return to the past and permit a subjective
�free� expression: �It�s free but don�t mess with the powerful, because they
accuse you of moral damage and libel.�
The Freedom of Expression that our Constitution guarantees in Article 7 is
the base of all the guarantees that we, the Mexican People, enjoy: to act
against the communicators for doing their job or expressing ideas cannot be
seen as an act of justice.
It is repression, dressed as justice. It�s a clear form of an attack on
liberty and is, at the time, a reversal for the system of justice and for a
people that want to be free. Now it proves that we continue being slaves of
whoever can do more politically or has more economic power.
It is proved that the courts don�t always make justice, at times they are
wrong, but the popular judgement is not and the people demand, and continue
demanding, that Freedom of Expression be respected in Mexico and that no
more should periodistas be punished for excersizing their rights.
(Originally published on Saturday, October 7, 2000, in the weekly newspaper
AVANZANDO in the city of Pachuca, de Soto, Hidalgo.)
Get Your Private, Free E-mail from MSN Hotmail at http://www.hotmail.com