More on the Acteal Massacre and CIDE

by Luís Hernández Navarro

Enrique Cabrero was the director of the Center for Economic Research and Teaching (CIDE) between 2004 and 2012. Sergio López Ayllón succeeded him in the position, and previously was the secretary general and the ex-director of the Legal Studies Division (DEJ). When they were at the head of the Center, it was actively involved in the defense of paramilitaries who were jailed for the murder of 45 women, men and elders that prayed for peace in Chiapas.

The case was not the brainchild of the professor of the institution and leader of the Social Encounter Party1, Hugo Eric Flores, but an institutional initiative. In August 2009, journalist Laura Poy, from La Jornada, asked both directors of the center how they were involved in the matter. 

At that moment —they responded—, Alejandro Posadas and Hugo Eric Flores were interested in the case, and it occurred to them to say: “Why doesn’t the center take up the defense of these people? The analysis was made, it was commented on and taken up, because it is a paradigmatic case of the problems of the administration of justice in Mexico.”

“In that period, Hugo Eric was a visiting professor. In fact, he didn’t even join the faculty, although he had sufficient academic credentials and abilities, but he did not involve himself in the clinic, his specialty was in government procurement, they pointed out.”

They added: “The issue is being analyzed in the second half of 2006, but the decision to take up the defense, once the lawyer had spoken with the defendants and they gave their consent, was not made until January of 2007″ (https://bit.ly/3sBJv2i).

The story begins earlier. In 1999, Hugo Eric Flores was an advisor to president Ernesto Zedillo. Although he denies it, he offered to the lawyers of the prisoners of the National Fellowship of Christian Evangelical Churches (Confraternice) to negotiate with the president and his private secretary. On August 17th 2009, the director of Social Encounter said, in an interview with Carmen Aristegui, that his interest in the case of Acteal stems from a visit that he made in 2000 to the chapel where the massacre took place. 

“Did you, at one time, speak with Ernesto Zedillo about the issue before, during or after your decision to investigate the case?,” Aristegui asked. “Never,” he responded. He affirmed that he did not discuss the matter with a member of the cabinet either..

However, pastor Arturo Farela Pacheco, of Confraternice, who was involved in the conflict from the beginning, has another version of the facts. He affirms that, since 1999, Flores began to concern himself with the matter as an advisor to Zedillo. That is what he said on August 24th, 2009, on the Relieves program of Radio Educación (Education Radio), hosted by Lenica Ávila. 

According to his testimony, in the first months of the last year of Zedillo’s term, Hugo Eric approached the Fellowship’s office who was handling the defense, to ask about Acteal. “We explained to him,” he says, “about a series of procedural violations, and he asked us to draw up a synthesis to take to Zedillo. At that time Hugo Eric was his advisor. We immediately agreed to give him three or four files where the specific procedural violations were detailed. He took them and said, ‘I will deliver them to doctor Zedillo and Liébano Sáenz immediately’.”

According to Farela Pacheco, Flores Cervantes assured them that the president received the files “that we gave him with all of the procedural violations, but ultimately preferred not to touch the matter, because he was about to hand over the presidency.”

In 2006, Social Encounter, led by Hugo Eric Flores, signed an electoral agreement to support the presidential candidacy of Felipe Calderón (in 2003 it allied with Convergence and in 2018 with the 4T). A central point of the pact was to revise the procedural status of the Acteal massacre files. Flores Cervantes, then professor of the CIDE, published, along with Alejandro Posadas, his boss at the Center, two articles in Nexos (June and December of 2006), that were the starting shots for a new version of the massacre, in which the encarcerated murderers were victims. A year later, the same magazine released a new chronicle of the facts written by Héctor Aguilar Camín, which reproduces the theory of Flores Cervante y Posadas (https://bit.ly/3pw3u0m).

One day before the 9th anniversary of the massacre, the political group Citizens’ Alternative 21 and the CIDE reported that they had assumed the defense of the Acteal detainees. “We want the Court to rule and revise the quality of the criminal sentences, guaranteeing the fundamental rights of due process,” said Alejandro Posadas, coordinator of the Legal Studies Division of the Center and promoter of the initiative (https://bit.ly/3H8xW6u). 

Finally, in August of 2009, the Corte ordered the immediate release of 20 of the paramilitaries guilty of the crime, because they were not given due process. Others followed later.

In the interview with Laura Poy, Cabrero y López Ayllón stated, “We found out about the meeting that he (Hugo Eric) had with Calderón some time later, but when we took the case, yes, there was a debate in the faculty, but the political consideration was never present.”

Curiously, the directors of a research center par excellence were not aware that the review of the files of the Acteal massacre prisoners they promoted, of enormous ethical, legal and political relevance, were part of an agreement between the President of the Republic and the professor of the CIDE that brought the case to them. Nor did it seem to matter to them that in reality they were advocating impunity and for the country’s jails to be full of indigenous people, those who in fact are unjustly imprisoned.

This article was published in La Jornada on December 28th, 2021. https://www.jornada.com.mx/2021/12/28/opinion/013a2pol English translation by Schools for Chiapas.

Footnotes

  1. The Social Encounter Party was founded in 2006 by Hugo Eric Flores Cervantes, a pastor of a neo-pentecostall church. It had previously been a “national political grouping”, which does not receive public funding. The party had early success in Baja California.