The Culture of Impunity

The following article was written by Napoleón Gómez Urrutia, and originally published in Spanish on April 16th, 2015 in La Jornada, Mexico City’s leading daily newspaper, considered by many scholars as one of the last remaining independent newspapers in the Americas.





Historically, but in particular during the last thirty years, the decomposition of politics and business

in Mexico has not only worsened the issue of corruption, but also, and this is more sensitive still,

the system of complicities and influence trafficking which has become a culture of impunity. These

practices, which take place almost every day and go uninvestigated and unpunished, have caused

the life of our society to significantly deteriorate, dramatically increasing inequality and reducing

the prestige that Mexico held in the international community.


Not only are major conflicts and injustices are not resolved, they remain forgotten and neglected,

in the hope that time will bury them and mean that the serious problems and abuses committed by the ‘powerful’ and the friends of those in power are forgotten. The question we must ask is whether Mexico will be able to move forward under these conditions towards new stages of growth, tranquility, social peace, stability, justice and greater wellbeing.


The answer, definitively, is ‘no’. As the months, years and presidential terms go by, these problems

are only getting worse and becoming more deeply rooted in the life of our society.


There are many, many cases which have not been resolved according to justice and impartial

legality. The examples are too many to count, but I will cite a few that infuriate us all and fill

Mexicans with frustration, anger and desperation, such as the following:

The industrial homicide in the Pasta de Conchos coal mine, on the 19th of February 2006, where 65

miners lost their lives and more than ten were severely injured and suffered serious burns. Grupo

México, the company truly responsible for this tragedy, and its president, Germán Larrea Mota

Velasco, remain in impunity.


Alberto Bailleres’s Grupo Peñoles also remains in impunity despite the terrible contamination with

lead and zinc, elements that can now be detected in the blood of hundreds of children and families

in Torreón, Coahuila; the mining company has caused and continues to cause irresponsible

poisoning of the bodies and souls of innocent children and people who have suffered serious

problems that damage their physical and mental development. This company, Peñoles, its

shareholders and directors, as with Grupo México, still enjoy official protection and impunity.


What to say about the terrible tragedy of those killed and injured and hundreds of families grieving

after the pitiless exploitation by Alonso Ancira Elizondo’s Grupo Acero del Norte in its iron and

coal mines, as well as in its steelmaking processes, with total disregard for security and hygiene in

workplaces and general labour conditions. Of course this is another terrible case of ongoing

impunity, worsened by the deliberate fraudulent action of Ancira and partners to maintain this

company in insolvency for over twelve years.


The case of children burned and killed in the ABC nursery in Hermosillo, Sonora, where those

responsible for this evident and highly sensitive criminal negligence, the owners and managers,

have also gone unpunished.


Cases such as the shooting of over twenty young people in Tlatlaya, in the state of Mexico, without

any adequate investigation to date, or of course anyone held responsible for these aberrant and

inhumane acts.


Particularly noteworthy and known worldwide, the murder and forced disappearance of the 43

student teachers in Ayotzinapa, Guerrero, which has still not been resolved, the students have not

been found and there are no clear results to the investigation into this outrageous tragedy, which

has left many families grieving.


I cannot fail to mention the latest industrial homicide of Germán Larrea’s Grupo México, in the case

of the leak of more than 400 million litres of contaminated water from the tailings dam into the

Cananea and Sonora rivers, which has become the greatest tragedy in the history of mining in

Mexico. Over 20 million inhabitants of the area have been affected and flora and fauna have been

contaminated with highly carcinogenic substances such as cyanide, arsenic, sulphuric acid,

manganese, cadmium and other chemical substances that are toxic to human health.


To date, Larrea and his accomplices have been handing out crumbs in an attempt to hush the

inhabitants of various localities and regions of this area of Sonora which is important for

agriculture, mining and livestock. Yet another shameful event that, to date, has ended in impunity.


The increasing handing over of national territory through mining concessions to Mexican and

foreign companies, which to date and according to the reports by Roberto González Amador and

the respected columnist Carlos Fernández Vega, both writing in La Jornada, cover almost half the

country’s total area. These concessions have been granted to private companies for exploitation,

despite the fact that Mexican soil and subsoil belong to the nation itself.


In this context of the country’s real situation we must ask ourselves: what are we doing as

Mexicans, government, students, teachers, workers and leaders of civil society to slow and revert

this process which is increasingly corroding and harming our spirit and human dignity? Either we

change this system and culture of impunity or we are going to destroy ourselves as a society, as

people and individuals, as human beings and we will be condemned to live in poverty, inequality,

humiliation and without dignity.


It is time to reflect, but also time to act.