UT students and community members protest Mexico president Calderon at conference in the Union building

David Loewenberg

Chanting slogans in Spanish, UT students and community members marched into the Texas Union building Friday afternoon and disrupted a conference hosting top Mexican government officials.

Holding signs written in Spanish such as “We are the Outraged” and “Felipe Calderón: Murderer,” the demonstrators protested a potential teaching position being offered to Mexico’s outgoing president, Felipe Calderón. Some said they belonged to the Yo Soy 132 group, a group fighting for democracy in Mexico, and that they believe that Calderón is responsible for crimes against humanity and the deaths of thousands of Mexicans. Demonstrators expressed concern that a teaching position at UT would be a way for the Mexican president to avoid prosecution in Mexico.

“There’s currently a petition going around in Mexico and the international community to get Calderón to be tried by an international court for crimes against humanity for the deaths of over 60,000 people,” Spanish-Portguese graduate student Rene Carrasco said. “[A teaching position] is a way to open the doors for immunity and not to get justice done.”

In August, the Dallas Morning News reported that Calderón and President William Powers Jr. had met at least twice to discuss the idea of teaching at UT after his term is over in November. The protesters aimed to convey their opposition to Mexico’s Secretary of Interior, Alejandro Poiré Romero, who spoke at the conference. They held signs accusing Calderón of crimes against humanity and said they hoped their message of opposition would reach the Mexican president.

UT Police Department officers responded to the protest but no arrests were made because it was a peaceful protest, police said.

UT spokesperson Tara Doolittle declined to comment on any talks regarding Calderón and his future teaching position at UT.

Charles Hale, director of Teresa Lozano Long Institute for Latin American Studies, said he welcomed the viewpoints of the demonstrators, but that they could have been expressed in a more constructive manner.

“[The Institute] strongly endorses the principles of free speech,” Hale said. “In this particular case, my reaction was to endorse and respect the protesters’ right to express their views. In fact, I wanted to hear their views articulated more fully, and I was disappointed that their participation was mainly in the form of chants and slogans rather than substantive questions and challenges to the speaker.”

The Friday workshop in the Union Building was organized by the Long Institute for Latin American Studies in collaboration with the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs and the UT School of Law. Speakers included Poiré, Instituto Federal Electoral advisor Benito Nacif Hernández and Mexican election judge Manuel González Oropez.

Printed on Monday, September 24, 2012 as: Students protest Calderon, UT