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“Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world” (Shelley)

9 May 2008

I don’t know that stupid court cases are particularly Mexican, but this particular stupid court case has its own Mexican flavor. Translated from Condena juez a poeta por ultraje a la bandera, reported by Lorenzo Chin in Thursday’s Jornada.

Court fines are multiples of the “salario minimo” which is usually translated as “minimum wage,” although it is more a benchmark figure for the cost of living in geographic areas of the country, as well as the lowest minimum daily wage. With Mexico having gone through devaluations several years ago, this was a handy way of not having to change the legal code every time the country went through a round of inflation or there was a currency change.

Campeche, Camp., 7 May 2008: Second District Court Judge, Jesus Bañales Sanchez, fined the outspoken poet Sergio Hernán Witz Rodriguez 50 pesos and gave him a “public reprimand” after finding the poet guilty of “outrage to the flag” for authoring a poem” to find it responsible for the crime of ultraje to the national standards, by his responsibility of the poem Invitation to a country full of shit [Invitación: La Patria entre la mierda]

Later that afternoon, the writer and university professor appealed his sentence, which he considers “ridiculous”. In spite of the very small fine (one “salario minimo” for Geographic Zone “C” which includes Campeche), Witz said that he will not accept that he has committed any crime by exerting his right to free expression.

In addition, Witz claims Federal Prosecutor’s office for Campeche Delegation prejudged the case. He noted that the Prosecutor’s office issued a press release about his sentence three hours before his court appearance.

Interviewed in person moments after his hearing, the poet said that once again the Mexican judicial system has held itself up for ridicule.

“But, seriously, it’s less the fifty pesos than the arguments on which they based the sentence.”

Of course, for writers in Mexico, fifty pesos could be a big deal.

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