1. exemption from punishment. 2. immunity from detrimental effects, as of an action.
As I heard impunidad talked about it many meetings at work, I honestly wasn’t sure what it exactly meant. I offer the definitions from the infallible dictionary.com as a reference to move forward from the same baseline understanding of impunity. However, it hasn’t been the definition of impunity that got me to begin to understand but rather the countless examples.
Violence against black lives and other people of color for me exemplifies impunity in the US, which has sparked the #BlackLivesMatter movement. Another example that comes to mind is the bailouts of the 2008 financial crisis. There are other examples in the US, without a doubt.
However, in Mexico, impunity is the undercurrent of daily realities as well as national and international relations. It causes people to say and believe “in Mexico, the last thing the system of justice provides is justice. I just didn’t trust the authorities.” To think that as a father after your daughter was raped? That’s the effect of impunity. (I highly suggest reading the linked article.)
On a daily life level, impunity happily thrives. You get pulled over by the police for a traffic violation? Give them una lana of 200 or 500 pesos and no pasa nada. No ticket, no record.
At my job I have been given the opportunity to learn about the impunity given to transnational corporations who violate human rights of communities and collectives. In the name of geopolitics and economic power, land is taken and destroyed for mining, wind farms, etc. People who live off the land suddenly find themselves in a state of anxiety, fear and necessary hope.
Given our context of globalization, I truly believe none of us are free of these systems. Take a look at Driscoll’s berries, that happy box of tomatoes, strawberries, etc. sitting right now in your kitchen with the happy yellow and red logo. They may even have been on sale this week at Costco!!
The farms that Driscoll uses in Baja California (and even reaching into California) are in a state of modern slavery. Workers can work hours up to 12 or 16 hours with only 30 to break for lunch. Overtime is required but not paid. They do not receive vacations, medical coverage or social security. There are high rates of sexual harassment and assault toward women. They hire underage workers. They are paid around 120 pesos daily—“a hunger wage” which is less than $8 USD.
Last year, thousands of these workers went on strike to demand their labor rights in the form of higher wages. Their non-violent actions were met with violent police forces, injuring and even killing laborers. (http://fafdl.org/blog/2015/05/11/what-you-should-know-about-the-farm-worker-strike-in-san-quintin-mexico/)
Impunity always sides with profit and power. And impunity doesn’t stay where it happens. It makes its way with the berries and tomatoes to your kitchen. (Join the Boycott Driscoll’s Berries movement)
Or you may have heard about the emblematic
human rights case about the 43 normalistas students who were forcibly disappeared in 2014 as they were on their way to peacefully protest. Many believe the government was directly involved. The road for justice and closure in that case is long and has been already filled with manipulations, lies and thus impunity for those responsible.
But the reason I bring this up was a shocking video shown on TV last week while my host family and I were laughing, talking and each a dessert called borrachos (bread soaked in a rum liquid). The lighthearted moment was punctured with a reminder that even if I wasn’t working in human rights, I still couldn’t ignore the state of impunity in Mexico.
Following a statement that the government does not use methods of torture, a video from February 2015 in Guerrero was released. Mexican military personnel torture a young woman suffocating her with a plastic bag over her head. (I will not link to the video but if you search tortura guerrero video you will find it. Watching a real video of torture is much different that hearing about it or seeing it in movies.)
Maybe these military personnel will face charges. But the others who use torture? It’s obvious from the video they didn’t get some sudden inspiration to torture, it was methodological. Who will confront the others for the pain they inflict on other?
This is the reality people in this country and so many other countries live through. This is the injustice and fear they face, they experience. It’s not just the narcos.
In these moments, the reality hits me like a blow to the gut. It lingers.
How do we live as ethical people amidst the violence against our brothers and sisters?
Can we truly live in realities as such?
I do not believe we can.
I find a real beauty here in Mexico but also a deep hurt. There is impunity that laces national and international relations. It’s a network that binds us silently in where we buy, what we buy, who we support. Its danger is the possibility of ignorance because it doesn’t directly affect us.
But it does. This is what I am learning, that we are inexplicably bound in this globalized world.