Justice for just U.S.?
Porter Corn at Mexico Trucker has been following the travails of “Wrong Way Bogan”… Jabin Akeen Bogan, a trucker carrying a load of military grade ammunition to Phoenix who “accidentally” — according the him — crossed into Mexico and was arrested by customs agents for smuggling.
Just on the face of it there were more than enough “troubling” facts about the incident — Bogan’s employer folded up in the middle of the night soon after the incident; the trucker’s own explanations of the story was, shall we say, evolutionary — at one point strongly suggesting the load was meant to go to Juarez, and not Phoenix; and there were competing simultaneous claims (often by the same individuals) that Bogan was being singled out because he is a U.S. citizen, while at the same time demanding special rights because of his nationality. Of course, almost any time a USAnian is arrested down this way for almost anything, especially when the USAnian was in Mexico on some shady business (or, in Bogan’s case, working for one), there’s usually an “evolving” story that somehow is meant to exonerate the accused, and that claim that U.S. nationality has been taken into account… or, should be.
But with Wrong Way Bogan, there were two only tangentially related political issues that turned this into not just another gringo afoul of the law abroad story, but a Grade-A, Prime-Cut Clusterfuck. First, the United States had finally — and begrudgingly — given into the legal demands that would allow Mexican truckers to operate in the United States. And secondly, the furor (created and otherwise) over the botched anti-smuggling operation, “Fast and Furious”.
For the first to be an issue, it was necessary to overlook that Bogan wasn’t supposed to be in Mexico (although, in the course of the pre-trial investigation, he said at one point he was supposed to meet people in Juarez…with a truckload of NATO-grade ammunition?) but was making a delivery to a gun dealer in Phoenix. Never mind… somehow his arrest justified reversing legal decisions that finally, several years after the fact, finally allowed Mexican truckers to carry legitimate loads into the United States. Somehow, the argument went that allowing Mexican drivers into the United States would also mean U.S. drivers entering Mexico where they’d be likely to face arrest. Of course, the fact that neither U.S. nor Mexican drivers are suddenly permitted to carry contraband across borders is left out, and the corollary argument .. that just letting Mexicans drive in the United States quickly degenerated into the usual slathering howl-at-the-moon xenophobia and stereotyping one hears whenever Mexicans are involved in anything. I suppose it does show some sort of progress in human affairs that Bogan — an African-American fellow with a criminal record for aggravated robbery — was being defended by the know-nothings on the basis of his nationality, without regard to his race, color, etc. But, not much.
The second issue — the gun-running, smuggling thing — was something of a hard sell for the guns-for-all crowd, but — having spun the botched anti-smuggling investigation, “Fast and Furious”, into a public campaign to reign in not smugglers, but anti-smuggling operations (and, incidentally, if possible, discredit the work of African-Americans who uphold the law — like the President, and the Attorney General of the United States), there’s been attempts to rope in the Mexican ammunition seizure as somehow discrediting what few and pathetically weak restrictions on firearms exist in the United States. Not that you can apply anything like normal logic (or even common sense) in making the argument that a foreign government’s seizure of contraband is an attempt to destroy a U.S. company (which… common sense suggests was selling to smugglers headed for Mexico) and undermine the U.S. Constitution.
Porter has done an excellent job of keeping the whole thing in perspective, and he has seen a Federal Magistrate’s decision to reduce the charges to the relatively minor one of “possession of ammunition [reserved for the military]” as a vindication of the Mexican legal system.
In some ways, yes:
This decision this morning also shows the great strides Mexico has made in reforming it’s justice system. No longer the model of corruption it was for years, the Bogan case is showing how Mexico has moved into the 21st century in it’s reforms.
In the sense that everything was “by the book”, and the recent changes in court procedure (and better trained customs officers) have a lot to do with having built a good case, I am somewhat reluctant to assume that
Years ago, Bogan would have been beaten and tortured into signing whatever “confession” the prosecutors chose to give him, summarily convicted and locked away and forgotten.
Not that I’m reluctant to accept that accused criminals are beaten and tortured and coerced into signing confessions, but in a criminal investigation where foreigners are involved, it’s normally some slightly involved Mexican (or simply handy usual suspect) who is the one summarily convicted and locked away and forgotten.
No… what makes me say this isn’t much of a breakthrough is I am not sure justice is really served. Bogan was originally charged with smuggling and weapons-trafficking, which would make him eligible for a thirty-year prison sentence. The appeals court reduced the charge to one that only carries a three to six year sentence, but could be reduced to a fine or “community service”. As Porter Corn himself admits: “One can’t imagine Bogan doing anything other than hot footing it for the border if released, much less paying a fine or doing community service.”
It appears that the court is hoping just that… that Bogan will leave the country and never return: sort of the way kidnapper, xenophobe pin-up boy and convicted felon “Dog the Bounty Hunter” was allowed to flee Mexican jurisdiction as much to assuage U.S. political crazies as any other discernible reason.
Allowing Bogan to flee might be “fair” to American’s Dumbest Smuggler”. Still, one wonders whether the justice in this case isn’t at the expense of those who pays the price for the U.S. arms racket and their contempt for Mexican laws: i.e., the Mexican people. Is it justice when the courts seem echo the laws of Stalin (who knew how to mete out injustice better than almost anyone) coming close to saying “one gringo’s conviction would be a tragedy, but 60,000 gun deaths are a statistic”?