Thursday, December 14, 2006

Turicato, Michoacan, Mexico: A magnificent story.

The villagers of Turicato, Michoacán, had a problem. 40 heavily armed gunmen had been preying on them for a long time. Robbery, extorsion, rape and threats of death if they went to the authorities were all part of everyday life in Turicato. Turicato is in the mountains along the border with the state of Guerrero. Michoacan and Guerrero are two of the most lawless states in all of Mexico.

The villagers took up a collection that included nearly everything they had left that was of any value and sent a representative north, across the river into Texas. He found a man named Chris Adams in El Paso. Adams, former military, had a lot of time on his hands and not too much money. He agreed to travel to Turicato to see what he could do to help.

But Adams didn't go alone. He gathered a team of ex military men, bounty hunters and soldiers of fortune. Not much is known about them but they have been identified in documents found in Southern California as Adams, a man known only as Vin, Bernardo O'Reilly, a man known only as Lee, Harry Luck, a man known only as Britt and a German improbably named Chico. It is known that there were at least seven of them but that is all the records so far found seem to indicate that went along for the ride.

Only one or two of these men survived their trip to Turicato. It is believed that Chris Adams survived and possibly Vin and the German also. But they have disappeared and cannot be found. What is known is that they went to Turicato believing that the village had far more wealth and would be willing to pay them much more than originally offered to rid Turicato of the gang that had been terrorizing it for years. What is also known is that the group did, in fact, cut the gang to pieces. It is also known, or at least suspected by US and Mexican authorities, that almost all of Adam's crew died in the process.

Now, that all sounds like an interesting story, and if you're up on old movies, paragraphs 2, 3, and 4 above are actually the plot right out of a very famous Hollywood Western made in 1960. So none of that really happened at all. But the first paragraph is accurate. Unfortunately for the good folks of Turicato, there was no Magnificent Seven to ride to their rescue.

Several village members, among them Bartolo Eugenio Cruz, in March of 2005 sent a complaint to the PGR (federal attorney general) spellng out "death threats, terrorizing the community and abusing underage children". The PGR did nothing. The armed gang responded on the 15th of May, 2005, by gunning down Eugenio Cruz. The PGR still took no action.

After the death of Eugenio Cruz, the village lodged a formal complaint with the Comisión Nacional de Derechos Humanos (CNDH -- the civil rights commission) later that same month. The CNDH issued a recommendation to the PGR in March of this year that a criminal complaint be issued against "public servants for violations of human rights to due process, secure access to legal rights, access to justice and the rights of victims of crime". No mention made of terror, threats or child abuse. The PGR at last swung into action.

The PGR has issued an "administrative procedure" which will determine if the PGR official -- the Ministerio Publico -- who received the initial complaint way back in March of 2005 from the now deceased Eugenio Cruz, should "be sanctioned." As far as the 40 armed men terrorizing the village, I guess the army or the PFP will have to handle them. The CNDH and the PGR certainly do not seem willing to act in any capacity other than administratively.

I liked the movie a lot better.

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