Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Asylum For Those In Fear For Their Lives

Maybe Not

As a winter resident of southern Arizona the past few years, the most dangerous thing about being there is that Mexico is only a little over an hour away. While we are there, we live in a gated over 55 recreational vehicle community in southwest Tucson. What is totally unexpected here, happens there on a regular basis. Regularly our sleep is disturbed by sirens in the night, and about once very couple of weeks we hear gunfire somewhere not too far off. Although we get used to it, we are watchful, and there are signs that the drug war we hear about up here in Canada as existing in Mexico, filters over into the US states that border that country, particularly Texas and Arizona. In the couple of years that we have spent much of our winter there, we have NEVER gone near Mexico, and the thought is repellent to us. The local Tucson news keeps us informed of the drug and corruption related violence that goes on south of the US Mexico border, and the signs that we see in Tucson and surrounding areas is sufficient to keep us prudent.

So, this morning when I read in the Globe and Mail that "Senior Mexican police officer Gustavo Gutierrez Masareno says he came to Canada after gunmen threatened his family," I could empathise with his plight. As a police veteran who fought against corruption, he finally had to flee Mexico with his family in fear that he was about to be next in line to die. Corrupt officers have a reasonable life expectancy in Mexico, probably why they allow themselves to be bought off. Honest ones, not so much. And their enemies are the drug cartels, of course. Yes, that and the army. The army? Yes, the army. Here from the Globe article is Officer Masareno:

Gustavo Gutierrez Masareno was the model Mexican law-enforcement officer.

His portrait was displayed on billboards in Ciudad Juarez as the new face of authority: trustworthy, respectful of human rights.

He had been honoured by the state governor of Chihuahua for solving cold-case murders of women and girls in a region notorious throughout the world for its feminicidios - more than 400 femicides in the past 10 years alone linked to sex crimes.

He could boast that everyone in the female-homicide unit of the state police that he commanded was incorruptible.

Why is he here in Canada?

Mr. Gutierrez, 38, fled Juarez after he confronted the army on civil-rights abuses and began receiving death threats. The Chihuahua Attorney-General's office advised him to go into hiding because it couldn't protect him, he said.

He said he came to Canada with his family after men with guns appeared outside his home, one of them pointedly asking his wife about the couple's children.

That's what he says, and I believe him, because that is what I read in Tucson, and read about and heard in southern New Mexico, and northwestern Texas, particularly near Las Cruces NM, and El Paso Texas. The US has heavily armed the Mexican border points and roads leading away from those points to keep as much of the drug and corruption wars away from US soil as possible. It is disconcerting to have armed Border Patrol officers staring at you when you are on a sightseeing drive, and you are pulled over in one of their checkpoints.

Our government was not sympathetic to his plea for asylum:

Yet none of those testaments to his uprightness was enough to make Canada's Immigration and Refugee Board believe him when he said in his claim for asylum that his life was at risk and Mexican authorities could not guarantee his safety.

The board ruled that Mexico wasn't dangerous enough for Mr. Gutierrez to have to leave.

Here is what his lawyer had to say:

"Board members tend to reject Mexican claims because of purported efforts by the Mexican authorities to provide protection," said Mordechai Wasserman, Mr. Gutierrez's lawyer.

"They ignore the fact that violence and corruption are out of control in the country, and that despite the good intentions of the Mexican federal government, the police are either unable or unwilling to provide protection. In my opinion, they've lost sight of the primary purpose of the refugee convention, which is to provide real protection to people in danger."

Mexico has been described as a country on the cusp of being a failed state, with pandemic police corruption, increasing allegations of human-rights abuses by the army and open warfare between the drug cartels and state and federal governments.

Bureaucrats make me sick, by and large. The bureaucrat that rejected his asylum plea should be sent on a fact finding mission to Cuidad Juarez, on the Texas border at El Paso. to discover the veracity of Officer Masareno's claims. I give him an hour, before he either wets or soils himself, and goes high tailing it back to the US border, en route to his cushy job and safe house in Toronto or the 'burbs.

Give this man a break. Read the rest of it in the Globe article. It sounds too scary to be true. It unfortunately is real.

I hope that the decision is appealed and that Mr. Masareno gets asylum here. A peace officer, who stood up for values would make a good citizen of our country.

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