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Gilberto Rincón Gallardo y Meltis (15 de mayo de 1939 – 30 de agosto 2008) D.E.P.

2 September 2008

Gilberto Rincón Gallardo y Meltis never let the accidents of birth interfere with his full and useful life.  His family’s wealth and social position (there were Marquises in the family tree) might have been a handicap to a future dissident, and his 32 separate arrests gave lie to the idea that a severe physical disability excused one from taking direct action in his country’s political affairs.

In 1958, after leaving UNAM without finishing his degree, he joined Chihuahua dissident and PAN leader Luis Alvarez’s quixotic presidential campaign .  Returning to UNAM,Rincón obtained his law degree and made a name for himself as a backer of dissident unions.  He served in the Chamber of Deputies throughout the 1970s and 80s, fiercely criticizing government repression, asking  “inconvenient questions” and getting himself arrested time and time again.  A Communist in the 70s, he served in various small socialist parties in the 1980s, until in 1989, he became one of the founding fathers of the PRD.  In the early 1990s, he began to see doctrinaire Socialism as the problem, seeking first to found a broad party of the left, and eventually ending up in the small Social Democratic Party.

As the Presidential candidate for his party in 2000, Rincón openly appealed to the marginalized. Not just the physically disabled like himself, but gays, women, indigenous peoples and religious minorities.  A tough minded realist, Rincón was willing to play “identity politics” and creative enough to recognize that even though the forms and rationales for discrimination were different, a wealthy man with a useless arm, a Mayan housewife, a gay kid in a rural Chihuahua village, a Jehovahs’ Witness wanting to be opt out of communal religious festivals … all deserved the right to respect and dignity.

Even when he finally did join the government in 2003, as President of the Consejo Nacional para Prevenir la Discriminación (CONAPRED), he remained a thorn in the side of the establishment — never giving up and never giving in.

Jorge Fernández Menéndez, noting the dangers that a government organized drive for “law and order” poses to the values of tolerance and acceptance of the different, finds it appropriate that the same day Rincón — the man with the useless arm and the useful brain — died, Felipe Calderón fell off his bicycle, and will have a useless arm to contemplate for the next several weeks.

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