Future Meetings are Proposed
February 6, 1993
By Yolanda Reynolds
Alarmed with the realization that time is running out for several death row inmates in prisons in Texas, several representatives of San Jose’s Committee in defense of Ricardo Adalpe Guerra met Monday, February 1st with San Jose Mexican Consul Arturo Balderas to press for more direct, official Mexican involvement in this and other similar cases pending in the United States.
Ricardo Adalpe Guerra, a Mexican national, was found guilty of killing police officer James Harrison in Houston, TX over 10 years ago. Adalpe Guerra’s companion, Roberto Flores was killed by police that evening. The State says that it has followed correct procedures and that Adalpe Guerra should die.
Legal public defenders, opponents of the death penalty, community advocates, and others say that the prosecution was faulty and that the execution should not take place.
Supporters of Adalpe Guerra say that there were three major flaws in his trial. They say that, 1) “The prosecution presented insufficient evidence to convict… and they suppressed evidence favorable to the defense.” 2) “Prosecutors engaged in misconduct in various trial tactics.” 3) “Prosecutors engaged in racism by taking to juror candidates about Adalpe’s ‘illegal’ status.” There are also claims that his dead companion was, in fact, the person who killed Officer Harris.
Maria Ortiz and Jose Ybarra, both Mexican citizens and spokespersons for the Committee in Defense of Adalpe Guerra, presented Sr. Balderas with a short list of demands, of which the primary demand was for direct official Mexican involvement, “similar to that applied in the release of Dr. Machaim, who was abducted from Guadalajara by the United States Drug Enforcement Agency.” In that case, Mexican President Salinas de Gortari threatened to cut off discussions of the Free Trade Agreement until the US returned Machaim to Mexico unharmed.
The group also demanded that the Mexican government write a letter to the United Nations and the US government demanding an end to “mass deportations and round-ups,” and “police brutality towards undocumented people and Mexican youth,” and calling the continuation of such conduct “violations of human rights.”
The Committee also wants the Mexican government to enter into discussions and negotiations over “employers’ treatment of the Mexican workforce on both sides of the border.”
Other concerns of the Committee spokespersons involved border crossing tariffs and a lack of concern by the local consulate of their appeals.”
Sr. Balderas said that on the contrary, he was very interested in working with the Committee. He explained that there are limits to what his office could do, both with regard to national Mexican policy and as a guest in another country.
Balderas went on to explain that the reason the Mexican government was able to take such an assertive position regarding Dr. Machaim was that, it was Mexican sovereignty that had been violated by the United States. He said that, when Machaim was taken from Guadalajara, a Mexican citizen was abducted by a foreign government (that of the United States) and brought here to be tried in the United States under US law rather than as a Mexican citizen – which he is.
Balderas explained that, if Machaim had been apprehended for crimes committed while here in the US and had ﬂed to Mexico, then the United States would be expected to follow the regular extradition procedures.
Regardless of the US suspicions regarding Dr. Machaim, not even many here in the United States supported the abduction. In Mexico and other Latin American countries, their views were almost unanimously unfavorable. If such acts were to occur without restraint, then no citizen of any country would be safe, since anyone could be abducted and tried by a foreign country. This would cause a total breakdown of diplomatic procedure between countries, and the tradition of national sovereignty would have no meaning.
Sr. Balderas greed to meet with the Committee and a date was set: February 17th at 12:00 noon. The exact location was not yet determined.
One of the contentious issues regarding the plight of the Mexican death row inmates is the fact that Mexico opposes the death penalty. If one violates the laws of a host country, however, it is those laws which prevail regardless of the person’s citizenship and the laws of his or her own county.
Sr. Balderas said that he shared the group’s concern for the treatment of Mexican nationals and American citizens of Mexican ancestry in the US.
Balderas asked that, for future meetings, the Committee be prepared with specific incidents and other pertinent data in order to be able to focus on the most pressing issues first.
At this time, in the United States, approximately 17 Mexican nationals await execution. It is thought by many that these prisoners await execution. It is thought by many that these prisoners await death not because they are guilty, but primarily because they had inadequate legal assistance.
Balderas suggested that, since many of their concerns involved issues other than those directly related to the Aldape Guerra case, it would be important to know the various group with which the Committee was working and include them in the discussions, as well.
Some mention was made that there had been complaints regarding services at the consulate, which prompted Sr. Balderas to invite the Committee to assign two volunteers from their group to come to the consulate, work there, and thereby inform themselves of the consulate’s operation. Balderas felt that it would be good for the general community to become aware of the services which the consulate provides. In all of La oferta Review’s visits to the consulate, there has usually been a steady stream of people coming and going.
Juan Haro, spokesperson for the San Jose State University based Direct Action Alliance, said that he came to the meeting to enlist the support of the consulate regarding one of the Alliance’s members who is also a Mexican national.
Direct Action Alliance has been effective in drawing attention to the conduct of the local police force in the Latino community. Several Alliance members, including Juan Haro, recently held a press conference to share with the community and press an experience they had with Officer Moreno of the SJPD. Direct Action Alliance and La Confederación de la Raza feel that law enforcement wields an especially heavy and arbitrary hand when dealing with the Latino community.
Direct Action Alliance is asking that the City establish at Citizens’ Review Board (CRB) in order to deal with misconduct by the police officers while in uniform. The issue has very strong support from many in the city. Among those supporting the creation of a CRB are the American Bar Association, The American Civil Liberties Union (a group dedicated to the protection of people’s civil rights), and La Confederación de la Raza.
The Chief of Police, the Police Officers’ Union, a number of citizens’ groups, and most of the city’s elected officials support a much weaker police auditor system instead of a Police Review Board.
After a lengthy hearing, City officials opted for the police auditor, but even so, the debate over a CRB has not ended.
Police behavior and the equity of the justice system in the United States are coming under increasing scrutiny, since the jails and prisons are filled primarily with people of color. In California, a very high number of Latinos are incarcerated at every level of the system.
With the escalation of the “war on drugs,” many feel that Latino and African-American communities have been targeted by law enforcement for particularly harsh treatment. At the same time, in those very communities, there is an absence of the positive. community-building presence of law enforcement, government, and community agency personnel.
Louis Cobarruvias, the Chief of Police of San Jose, has said that his objective for the police under his administration is to embark upon a program of community policing in order to reduce the friction between the police and the community.
Overall, the San Jose Police Department is held in relatively high esteem, but there have been speciﬁc complaints front the community at large. Some in the community view the selection of Story Rd. for the initial enforcement of the seat belt law and a new slower speed of traffic as arbitrary. They say that such laws should be uniformly enforced in the city and that no one section of the city should
become a special target.
For more information on the activities of the Committee for the Defense of Ricardo Adalpe Guerra, call 408 729-9052. Direct Action Alliance can be reached at 408-929-7042. The Mexican Consulate in San José is at 408 294-1954. © La Oferta Newspaper.