Manu Chao under investigation by the Mexican government?


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World music singer Manu Chao was rather outspoken at the recent Guadalajara International Film Festival. So much so that he is, or was, under investigation by the Mexican government. Maybe.

Here’s the background.

During the festival, on March 24, the musician discussed the 2006 uprising in San Salvador Atenco, a town northeast of Mexico City.


As we reported earlier this year:

‘Thousands of police officers stormed the town square to evict machete-carrying protesters who had beaten two officers in a scene televised live. The clashes, led by a firebrand activist involved in another rebellion there years earlier, erupted after flower vendors in a nearby town were evicted from their usual market.

‘A 14-year-old boy was fatally shot during the clashes. Three of the uprising’s leaders were later convicted and sentenced to 67 years in prison on kidnapping charges stemming from the unrest. No police officers were prosecuted.’

You can learn more about the events in Atenco in this video dispatch.

‘What happened in Atenco was, in some way, state terrorism,’ Manu Chao told journalists.

The singer was, technically, breaking the law. Article 33 of the Mexican Constitution to be exact, which states that ‘foreigners may not in any way participate in the political affairs of the country.’

Later that week, Chao published his statement on his website, which adds that he then learned that he was being investigated by the Mexican government and that there was a chance he might be thrown out of the country as a result of his opinionated ways.

Local press confirmed Chao’s sources but there was no official government statement about the opening of an investigation. La Jornada newspaper quoted an unnamed government spokesperson on the issue, and another daily, Milenio, which also reported the story, has a no-named quote confirming the investigation.

Ni modo. Chao got the backing of musician and activist Peter Gabriel, who was in town last week playing a concert and meeting with Mexican President Felipe Calderon. Gabriel said that Chao ‘absolutely’ had the right to speak his mind on human rights issues; then again, Gabriel would say that, given that he was in town doing the same thing: he met with Calderon to discuss the long spate of killings of women in Ciudad Juarez.

But a release from the government said that the investigation against Chao was never opened, and that sanctions against him had never been considered. The statement said the government reiterates its ‘respect for freedom of expression in Mexico.’

Either Chao is getting paranoid, or he’s misinformed, or someone’s changing their tune.

-- Deborah Bonello in Mexico City