The ugly truth seems to anger Mexican envoy

MIKE ROYKO

October 27, 1993|By MIKE ROYKO

Fairness requires that I print key parts of an indignant letter sent to my boss by the Mexican consul general in Chicago. Boy, is he mad at me.

Consul General Oliver A. Farres says my recent columns about Mexico's refusal to extradite criminals to this country "not only foster further misunderstandings between the governments and people of the United States and Mexico, but they are also based upon non-corroborated and superficial evidence.

"I was appalled, as any normal human being would be, by the criminal acts allegedly committed by Mr. Serapio Zuniga Rios, a Mexican citizen.

"But I was just as disturbed by Mr. Royko's unprofessional use of sources.

"He characterizes all Mexicans as criminals for no other reason than their nationality. Rapists and murderers are not an exclusive product of Mexico. To suggest all Mexicans are criminals and that the authorities are responsible for all of their criminal acts is outrageous."

I agree. It would be outrageous for me or anyone else to characterize all Mexicans as criminals.

But I don't understand what Farres is huffing and puffing about, since I didn't characterize "all Mexicans as criminals." I wrote about Mr. Rios, accused of raping a child, and other specific fugitives.

And I don't understand what he means by "Mr. Royko's unprofessional use of sources."

I wrote two columns about Mexican immigrants -- legal and illegal -- who commit crimes in this country, then go back to Mexico.

They're safe because Mexico won't ship Mexicans to this country to stand trial.

My sources included two congressmen, who are furious about )) Mexico's sheltering criminals, and frustrated law enforcement officials.

True, I didn't interview the accused criminals, since they are hiding in Mexico. But if Farres wants to bring those creeps around to my office, I'll be glad to talk to them, too.

These were not Mexican-bashing columns. Their point was that Mexico ignores its extradition treaty with the U.S.

And what does Consul General Farres have to say about that?

In what appears to be almost an afterthought, he writes:

"While it is true that Mexico has had a long-standing policy of not allowing its own nationals to be extradited, it is not true that the extradition of its nationals is illegal or unconstitutional under Mexican law, as Mr. Royko claims."

So he finally gets around to admitting that what I said was true: "Mexico has had a long-standing policy of not allowing its own nationals to be extradited . . ."

Then what are we quarreling about? I said Mexico won't extradite accused criminals. Now Farres says, yes, his country won't extradite accused criminals.

Obviously we agree. So why is he writing angry letters to my boss?

I don't know. Maybe writing such letters is how Mexican diplomats justify their existence and paycheck.

As for his squawk that it's not true that extradition is illegal or unconstitutional under Mexican law, I never said it was. A congressional aide said that might be the case. If he was wrong, it's no big deal. The point is, the Mexican government has a rigid non-extradition policy.

That's why police, prosecutors and congressmen are justifiably angry that accused killers and sex criminals can hop back home to Mexico without fear of being shipped here for prosecution.

But what obviously bothers the consul general is that I suggested that before this country agrees to the North American Free Trade Agreement, which some people believe will ship American jobs to Mexico, it would be fair if Mexico agrees to ship accused fiends to this country.

He wrote: "We must consider NAFTA on its own merit and not allow unrelated facts to cloud our judgment."

My judgment isn't clouded. What I'm saying is, you want the jobs and the increased prosperity, OK; then send us the accused criminals. That seems like more than a fair deal.

The consul general has an answer to that. He says that Mexican authorities have another policy: If we provide the evidence, the accused criminals will be tried in Mexican courts for the crimes they committed in the United States.

There are several things wrong with that policy.

First: There is the bribe factor. Mexican cops and other officials are notorious for being on the take. Their justice system can't be trusted.

Second: Why should all the U.S. witnesses and police have to troop to Mexico for a trial? It's much easier to send the accused criminal here.

Third: So far, Mexico hasn't shown much enthusiasm for arresting and trying these fugitives.

So let us review this dispute:

* The consul general accuses me of characterizing all Mexicans as criminals. I say he should learn to read.

* The consul general says Mexico has a policy against extraditing Mexicans. Which is exactly what I said.

* The consul general says this policy has nothing to do with NAFTA. I say that if the Mexican government is going to protect murderers and rapists, why should we trust them in a business deal?

* The consul general says, don't worry, his country will prosecute the criminals. Sure. And Chicago aldermen can be trusted in zoning deals.

I'll end this by asking the consul general to send me a list of the criminals Mexico has prosecuted for crimes in this country.

That list shouldn't take long to compile. He can use a postcard.

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