News Around the Republic of Mexico | October 2005
|Poet: Court Ruling Violates Free Speech|
The Supreme Court refused to dismiss flag-desecration charges against a man who wrote a poem about using the flag to clean up urine, a decision that the writer described as an attack on freedom of expression.
A panel of the nation's highest court ruled 3-2 on Wednesday that the poem "The Motherland in Shit," ("La Patria Entre Mierda") was not protected speech, opening the way for a potential prison term for the poet for violating a law that prohibits desecrating "national symbols."
"I consider this a shame for Mexican courts, a shame for the law, and a limitation on the freedom on expression for writers," Serge Witz Rodríguez, a university professor who published the poem in 2000, said Thursday.
The Supreme Court turned down his appeal and ordered the case returned to a lower court in the southern state of Campeche. The lower court has yet to issue any sentence against Witz Rodríguez.
But the poet pledged to go to jail, if necessary, to defend what he viewed as his right to free expression.
"I'm not going to pay any fine, no matter how small, because it would be like admitting I had broken the law," he said. "I have no fear of going to jail for my writings, because that is a universal right."
Stung by centuries of colonialism and the 1848 defeat at the hands of the United States which cost the country half its territory, Mexico has fostered a fervent cult of respect for the flag. Uniformed school children participate in weekly drum-and-bugle parades to honor the flag at most Mexican schools.
So strong is the sentiment that on Wednesday, the Texas musical group Kumbia Kings felt called upon to apologize publicly because the group's singer a Mexican-American had a small Mexican flag sticker on his guitar during a televised performance in September.
"It was done out of affection for Mexico, not out of any desire to offend Mexicans," the band's representative, Oscar Flores, said in one of several defensive responses to insistent questioning from reporters at a Mexico City news conference.
Amid such an atmosphere, the poem published in a local magazine in Campeche was meant to convey Witz Rodríguez's rejection of nationalist values.
Asked if he had meant the poem to be offensive, Witz Rodríguez said "I don't believe in any nationalism or patriotism. That's all subjective."