Crime & Justice

Mexico seethes with anger after man dies in police custody

By Eduard Ribas i Admetlla

Mexico, Jun 5 (EFE).- Protests against alleged police brutality broke out in Mexico on Friday amid the Covid-19 pandemic following the death of a construction worker who was arrested for not wearing a face mask in public in Jalisco state.

Jalisco Attorney General Gerardo Solis said the state authorities had arrested the accused three police officers over the death of Giovanni Lopez.

The incident has sparked strong protests and conflict between the federal and state governments as social media platforms were flooded with the hashtag “#JusticiaParaGiovanni or #JusticeforGiovanni” mirroring the protests over the death of George Floyd in the United States.

A demonstration was also held in Guadalajara, the second-largest city and the capital of Jalisco, where on Thursday, protesters vandalized buildings and set ablaze police vehicles.

Lopez died a month ago but the case came to light on Tuesday after a video was share don social media showing police officers arresting the 31-year-old violently in the town of Ixtlahuacan de Los Membrillos – 40 km away from Guadalajara.

In the May 4 video, a person, supposedly a family member of the deceased, is seen shouting at the patrol that they were taking him away because “he is not wearing a mask”. Lopez could be heard screaming for help.

“He was calm and you hit him,” a man is heard shouting at the officers.

According to the family, the next day they were informed that Lopez had been taken to a hospital, where he died with bruises on his body and a gunshot wound in the leg.

Wearing masks is mandatory in Jalisco, where the authorities have announced zero-tolerance against noncompliance with health measures enforced to stop the spread of the Covid-19.

However, Jalisco state prosecutor denied that the detention was carried out due to the mask, but because he turned violent and had to be taken to a police station.

The state government on Friday announced the detention of the three police officers involved in Lopez’s death even as a protest march was held near Jalisco Governor Enrique Alfaro’s residence.

The government headquarters was shielded to prevent attacks.

Amnesty International on Friday said Lopez’s death in police custody was a serious symptom of the misuse of force by the authorities.

Renowned figures in the entertainment industry also denounced the killing.

“Giovanni did not die, he was killed by the police,” actor Gael Garcia Bernal tweeted.

Although both federal and state governments have condemned the death, the case led to a clash between Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and Governor Alfaro from the opposition parties.

Alfaro assured justice for the death and called it an atrocity although he backed the prosecutor’s theory that Lopez was not detained for not wearing a mask.

“Behind everything that is happening in this case in Jalisco, there are very specific and narrow interests built from the Mexico City, from the basements of power,” he said.

On Friday, Lopez Obrador denied “the use of force” against the citizens, and urged the National Human Rights Commission to look into the incident and rejected the allegations of the governor.

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