Mexico: delays in Shabazz murder inquiry protested

In an Aug. 10 press release the Citizens Committee for the Defense of the Naturalized and of Afro-Mexicans (CCDNAM) charged that the Federal District (DF, Mexico City) had failed to carry out an adequate investigation into the beating death of US rights activist Malcolm Latif Sabazz the night of May 8-9. “It’s shameful that after three months there is no punishment of those responsible for this crime,” the CCDNAM’s president, Haitian-born Mexican activist Wilner Metelus, said. “Those who assassinated our brother Malcolm Latif remain free from justice, with the complicity of the authorities.”

Shabazz, the grandson of assassinated US rights activist Malcolm X and educator Betty Shabazz, was killed when he and a friend disputed an inflated bill at The Palace, a bar catering to tourists in Mexico City’s Plaza Garibaldi neighborhood. Two waiters have been charged with the homicide, but Afro-Mexican activists suspect others were involved and have demanded that prosecutors release tapes from surveillance cameras. They were also outraged by a July 24 report—later denied—that local authorities were allowing The Palace to reopen under a new name, La Regadera. Activists held a weeklong hunger strike in July in front of the DF government offices to protest the lack of action by prosecutors.

Metelus and other activists say the Shabazz case is reminiscent of the killing of Isaac Echinedu (or Chinedu), a refugee from Nigeria, who died almost exactly two years earlier, the night of May 11, 2011. At least two auxiliary police agents beat Echinedu unconscious at the Calzada de Tlalpan avenue in Mexico City. Local residents rescued him and sent for emergency medical services, but the immigrant was struck by a car when he regained consciousness and suddenly ran into traffic. Echinedu was a legal resident with a Mexican wife, Liduvina Castillo; the couple had two children. “This was an act of discrimination,” Castillo told a news program. “[T]hey detained him simply because he was black. He wasn’t doing anything. Isaac was waiting for a taxi to return to his home in peace.” Four police agents were arrested after Castillo and Metelus held a hunger strike, but the agents were released later. Metelus says that in June 2012 he received an implicitly threatening phone call from one of the released agents, who said: “I’m Juan Carlos Rosales, and I’m free.” 

The CCDNAM was formed in 2005, after then-president Vicente Fox Quesada (2000-06) told a group of US business executives that Mexican immigrants “are doing jobs that not even Blacks want to do there in the US.” (Los Angeles Times blog, La Plaza, June 1, 2011; La Jornada, Mexico, July 25; Proyecto Ambulante, Mexico, July 27; Los Angeles Sentinel, Aug. 22, from New York Amsterdam News)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Sept. 1.