08/18/14 (written by akearns) — The state governments of Chiapas and Puebla have taken steps recently to repeal controversial laws that “regulate” the use of police force and use of weapons against public protestors and demonstrators. While Chiapas has outright overturned its law, Puebla’s governor, Rafael Moreno Valle, called for his state law’s repeal, passing it to Congress for approval. Although the legislature voted overwhelming in favor of overturning the law (33-2-2), it will remain in effect until the end of the year while investigations, research, and discussions are held to explore the best steps forward to replacing or reforming the law.
The so-called “Garrote Law” (Ley de Garrote”) in Chiapas and the “Bullet Law” (“Ley Bala”) in Puebla have only been in effect for several months, having been approved May 15 and May 19, 2014, respectively. Since then, however, critics have called for the states to repeal the measures, arguing the unconstitutionality of the laws. Not only do they increase the risk of excessive police force in unwarranted, public situations, critics argue, but they also undermine the public’s freedom speech, deterring public demonstrations and protests for fear of the police’s crackdown. As Proceso explains in a Mexico Voices translation, “Miguel Ángel de los Santos Cruz, an attorney and human rights defender [in Mexico], questioned the [law’s] initiative, saying that it was a step backwards on the issue of human right.” For its part, Artículo 19, an “international organization promoting and defending freedom of express, had filed several legal challenges with the Federal Judiciary on charges that such legislation was unconstitutional.”
The Ley Bala in Puebla has been particularly controversial since its implementation. The Law to Protect Human Rights and to Regulate the Legitimate Use of Public Force (Ley para Proteger los Derechos Humanos y Regular el Uso Legítimo de la Fuerza Pública), as it is officially named, was passed by the state government under Governor Rafael Moreno Valle’s administration, allowing police to use “non-lethal incapacitating arms” against citizens, explains Milenio. Just two months after its approval into force, however, a young boy was allegedly killed by a rubber bullet fired by police during a protest. On July 9, citizens of San Bernardino Chalchihuapan, Puebla, blocked a portion of a nearby highway to protest against the Moreno Valle administration, specifically protesting the Ley Bala; the government’s proposed shut down of several auxiliary government offices, including the Office of the Registrar (Registro Civil); and more generally the state’s increased authoritarian rule. “The state of Puebla is in a period of high social and political vulnerability as a consequence of the gradual and consistent increase in the Executive Branch’s authoritarianism, and the absence of equalizing and balancing measures that should be exercised by the Legislative and Judicial Branches,” explained the protestors’ official statement. When police confronted the protestors to remove the blockade, reports indicate that police fired rubber bullets and arrested four participants, all of whom have since been released. However, José Luis Tehuatlie Tamayo (13), who was walking home from school during the confrontation, was allegedly hit by one errant rubber bullet, leading to his hospitalization and subsequent death ten days later.
According to CNN México, the mother of Tehuatlie Tamayo has spoken out against Governor Moreno Valle and the State Police, saying that the government tried to pay her for her silence on the matter. Luis Arturo Cornejo Alatorre, Puebla’s undersecretary of Political Issues and Civil Protection within the Ministry of the Interior (Asuntos Políticos y Protección Civil de la Secretaría de Gobierno), rejected those claims, as have representatives of the state government who argue that Tehuatle Tamayo did not die from a rubber bullet wound, but rather from being struck by a handheld explosive used by the protestors. Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission (Comisión Nacional de los Derechos Humanos, CNDH) has since launched an investigation into the boy’s death and the police’s use of force at the July 9 demonstration.
Although reports on the matter are not clear, Tehuatlie Tamayo’s killing nevertheless added pressure to the already building controversy surrounding Ley Bala and the citizens’ unrest with Governor Moreno Valle. On August 10, citizens marched in the city of San Bernardino Chalchihuapan protesting the boy’s death and demanding the governor’s impeachment. Protestors, which some estimates say numbered between 8,000 and 10,000, carried signs reading, “This is not Gaza, this is Puebla,” “Governor Bullet: No More Death OR Repression!” and “Indigenous Communities Demand Respect and Citizen Consultation!” among others. Such demonstrations seem to signify that as politicians await the CNDH’s investigation before moving forward with potential reforms to the Ley Bala, citizens will continue to protest against the government and demand political justice against Governor Moreno Valle.