Waiting for a man to die

Outside the American Embassy last night, August 5th 2008

Photo: An empty bench outside the American Embassy on Tuesday. There was no candlelit vigil for Medellin in a city still on shock from other violent crime. Deborah Bonello / MexicoReporter.com

On Tuesday, I waited for a man to die. Even though several people die every minute of every day, I’ve never known the name of the person that I knew was going to die; neither have I ever known so closely when they were going to die and how. But yesterday I knew.

The man’s name was Jose Ernesto Medellin, and now he is dead. On Tuesday, he was due to die at 6pm at the hands of the Texan government for the brutal rape and murder of two teenage girls in 1993.

Jose Ernesto Medellin from Mexico Mexican, and the United States Embassy had predicted protests in a case that had attracted international attention and condemnation. The Mexican Government, the International Criminal Court at the Hague as well as other major players such as Ban Ki-Moon of the United Nations had all tried to step in to stop the execution, claiming the United States had violated the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations by failing to inform the arrested Mexican nationals of their right to seek help from the Mexican Consulate. Their pleas didn’t work.

So I left the confines of the office to head down to the embassy try to catch some of the expected protests on film around the hour of Medellin’s execution.

At 4:43 pm, there was nobody there. And I mean nobody, save a few tourists taking pictures of Reforma – the traffic artery on which the U.S Embassy sits. Other than them, the only thing outside the Embassy was the ten-foot high blue metal barriers that have been there as long as I can remember, to dissuade the odd Molotov cocktail and other expressions of anti-U.S sentiment that international events can sometimes drum up.

That, and the usual bored-looking policemen, standing around chatting or playing on their mobile phones.

Where is everyone? I thought. He’s only got an hour to live.

I did another swing around the block and watched as a security guard checked the underneath of a truck waiting to enter the Embassy compound. He was using a tool that looked like a giant dentist’s mirror – the kind they use to look into people’s mouths – to look at the undercarriage of the car.

Back around the front. Still no one. I approached a rosy-cheeked policeman at the side of the front entrance to the Embassy.

“Wasn’t there supposed to be a protest today? About Jose Medellin?”

“Today? No,” he said, shaking his head.

“Perhaps tomorrow.”

“But he’s going to die today, at six,” I said.

“Maybe people will come tomorrow,” he answered.

I decided to ring my colleague back in the office.

“This is Reed,” he said when he picked up the phone.

“Unless there’s some other U.S Embassy in Mexico City, there’s no one protesting,” I said.

“Really? No one?”

“No one.”

“They couldn’t be bothered?” he said in a fake British accent he sometimes put on to amuse us.

5:33pm. Just more tourists, passing by, looking at the fence.

6pm came and went. I sat on a bench outside the Embassy, watching the minutes tick by on my phone, wondering what the scene in Texas was like right then. Well, I could kind of imagine it actually. I was sitting pensively when I noticed that the back of my bench had two backrests shaped like giant crucifixes. Weird. And a little creepy.

As it turned out, Medellin didn’t die at 6pm after all – as I discovered when I walked back into the office half an hour later. His case had been put off whilst the U.S Supreme Court considered his appeal. They rejected it, and Medellin was executed a few hours later, declared dead at 9:57pm.

“I’m sorry my actions caused you pain. I hope this brings you the closure that you seek. Never harbor hate,” Medellin, 33, told those gathered to watch him die.

There were no protests in Mexico City yesterday or today about Medellin’s execution. Perhaps Chilangos were too shocked over the discovery of the bullet-ridden body of a 14-year-old boy earlier in the week, who had been kidnapped and held hostage for $6 million from his rich, sports-chain owning father. His father paid the ransom, but they killed him anyway.

Perhaps people so saddened by that they couldn’t care too much about a convicted murderer and rapist confronting his fate north of the border. Who knows. What I DO know is that there was no candlelit vigil here in Mexico City for the man on Tuesday night.

*day edited. ‘Yesterday’ changed to ‘tuesday’. 0926, August 7th

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