Mexican Supreme Court appears to rule that freedom from exposure to violence against animals is not a human right
MEXICO CITY, Mexico––Bullfighting on January 28, 2024 returned to Plaza México in Mexico City, the world’s largest bullring, six weeks after the Mexican Supreme Court of Justice on December 6, 2023 lifted an injunction that had suspended bullfighting since May 2022.
“In May 2022, a local court ordered an end to bullfighting at Plaza México in response to an injunction presented by the civil organization Justicia Justa, which defends human rights,” explained Associated Press.
Ruling awaited on whether bullfights “affect animal welfare”
The May 2022 ruling held that bullfights violate Mexico City residents’ rights to inhabit a healthy environment free from violence.
While the five-justice Mexican Supreme Court of Justice panel that overturned the May 2022 ruling did not explain themselves, they appear to have accepted an argument from lawyers representing the National Association of Fighting Bull Breeders that the only human rights issue involved is their own right to stage bullfights.
The National Association of Fighting Bull Breeders claims to represent a $400-million-a-year industry that employs about 80,000 people.
The suspension of bullfighting was revoked, said Associated Press, until “a decision is reached on whether bullfights affect animal welfare.
Bullfighting twice banned throughout Mexico
“Another civil organization filed an appeal on January 26, 2024 on animal welfare grounds in a last-ditch effort to prevent bullfighting from resuming,” Associated Press said, but a ruling was not expected before the January 28, 2024 bullfights were held.
Bullfighting has been practiced in Mexico since Hernando Cortez held a bullfight to celebrate his conquest of Mexico City on August 13, 1529, but has also twice been banned throughout the nation, in 1567 by an unenforced papal edict directed at all Catholics everywhere, and in 1890 as part of a modernization drive led by then-President Porfirio Díaz (1830-1915).
Bullfighting is currently banned or restricted by court rulings in the states of Sinaloa, Guerrero, Coahuila, and Quintana Roo, as well as in the city of Guadalajara, and is suspended in Tiajuana, where two of the three bullrings that once existed there have been demolished, while the third has recently been used only for concerts.
U.S. high schooler killed at Mexican cockfight
Despite the prohibition of bullfighting in Guerrero state, the name of which means “warrior,” cockfighting persists there as part of an increasing culture of violence closely associated with the illegal drug trade.
On January 6, 2024, posted a relative of Connell, Washington high school student Christian Herrera, 16, to social media, “the Herrera/Chavarria family were at a public event when they were visiting their family during Christmas break.
“While at this event, a mass shooting broke out. There were many casualties and sadly Christian Herrera was one of them. Christian was rushed to the hospital, but passed later that night due to his injuries.
“Also among the victims was his dad, Gilberto Herrera. He has spent many nights in the hospital. Since the incident, he has received major surgery and will be in recovery for a long time to come.
“Mom, Karina Chavarria, has been hit with any mother’s worst nightmare. As she mourns her son, she has two other children at home, also affected by this tragedy.”
“Public event” was cockfight in Petatlán
The “public event,” Mexico News Daily revealed two days later, was “a cockfight in the coastal municipality of Petatlán, according to a statement issued by the Guerrero Attorney General’s Office. Gunmen killed six people and wounded 13 others when they opened fire at the cockfight, state authorities said.
“Citing initial investigations,” Mexico News Daily continued, the Guerrero Attorney General’s Office “said that presumed members of a criminal group led by a ‘generator of violence’ identified as ‘El Gavilán’ (The Sparrowhawk) fired at members of a crime gang led by ‘El Ruso de Petatlán’ (The Russian of Petatlán).
“El Gavilán is Edilberto Bravo Barragán, a former leader of the Knights Templar Cartel who formed a criminal group called Guardia Guerrerense, according to a report by the news outlet Infobae.
“El Ruso is Oliver Sánchez Coria, identified as Bravo’s brother in law, Infobae said.”
Petatlán known for mass murders
Noted Mexico News Daily, “Guerrero recorded the seventh highest number of homicides among Mexico’s 32 federal entities in the first 11 months of last year.”
Thus far in 2024, “At least five people were burned to death in an attack in the municipality of Heliodoro Castillo. Three sisters were murdered in Chilapa.”
The Heliodoro Castillo killings, on January 4, 2023, believed to be the pretext to the shootings in Petatlán, apparently occurred when “drones operated by cartel members, as well as gunmen,” attacked a vehicle, a spokesperson for the religious and human rights organization Minerva Bello Center told Associated Press.
Local possible witnesses and even relatives of the dead, none of them officially identified, were reportedly not cooperating with investigators.
California mass murder may have had same modus operandi as the Heliodoro Castillo killings
A similar attack at a remote dirt crossroads in the Mojave Desert near El Mirage, California, incinerated six people whose remains were discovered on January 23, 2024.
“AIR7 HD footage showed numerous yellow evidence markers near the dirt crossroads, in scrubby desert land that stretched for miles. Evidence gathered so far suggests a massive amount of gunfire, with shell casings found scattered all over the area,” reported Rob McMillan for KABC-TV in Los Angeles.
There was no immediate indication, beyond the similarity of the apparent modus operandi of the killers, that the apparent El Mirage shootout and mass murder had anything to do with the killings in Guerrero.
But retaliatory mass murders also associated with cockfighting and drug trafficking have spilled over the U.S./Mexico border before.
Three U.S. citizens died and a fourth was critically wounded on March 27, 2022, for instance, at an illegal cockfight held in Zinapecuaro, Michoacan state, Mexico, about halfway between Mexico City and Jalisco.
The four U.S. citizens were among the 20 dead and six reported survivors in killings that Mexican authorities told media were apparently undertaken as revenge for the massacre of 17 people at a funeral in nearby San José de Gracia on February 27, 2022.
Among the U.S. dead in the Zinapecuaro attack were Jose Abiel Alvarez Senior, of Phoenix, Arizona, 1,400 miles north.
Despite the distance from Zinapecuaro to Phoenix, Jose Abiel Alvarez Senior was identified by the Michoacán Prosecutor’s Office as owner of El Paraiso, the unlicensed cockfighting arena where the shootings occurred.
Killed with Jose Abiel Alvarez Senior was one of his sons, Salvador Alvarez, who identified himself on Facebook as the organizer of events at El Paraiso.
Recent Petatlán killings are nothing new
Petatlán, meanwhile, has been associated with mayhem for perhaps longer than Christian Herrera was alive. In May 2008, for instance, “seven ranchers were killed as they returned from a union meeting led by local political boss Rogaciano Alba,” Associated Press reported.
“The following day, gunmen disguised as police showed up at Alba’s ranch. When they didn’t find him, they lined up 10 of his relatives and friends in front of his house and mowed them down.
Alba’s sons Alejandro and Rusbel were among the dead, and his 18-year-old daughter, Ana Karen, disappeared and was believed kidnapped,” as of 2014 having reportedly not been seen again.
Escaping murder, Rogaciano Alba eventually went to prison as an alleged drug lord.
Two Americans visiting Petatlán, Paul and Janet Nissen, 48 and 43, were killed, their car stolen, and their 12-year-old son injured on July 18, 2019, according to the Yucatan Times.
“Violent killing is the purpose of cockfighting”
“Violent killing is the very purpose of cockfighting,” commented Animal Wellness Action president Wayne Pacelle, “and all too often, it’s just not the animals who die. There is violence spillover with regularity at these spectacles, and it happens with numbing frequency at cartel-controlled fighting venues in Mexico,” albeit that most of violence does not make news outside the immediate area.
“American cockfighters are trafficking fighting birds to Mexico and are partners in these spectacles of cruelty and organized crime,” continued Pacelle, plugging “The FIGHT Act, H.R. 2742/S. 1529, [which] aims to halt the transport of mature roosters through the U.S. mail, ban simulcasting and gambling on animal fights, enhance forfeiture provisions, and empower citizens to take civil action against illegal animal fighters.
“It’s time for the United States to pass the FIGHT Act,” Pacelle emphasized, “to give law enforcement more tools to arrest U.S.-based cockfighters on our side of the border and halt their trade with some of the world’s worst organized criminals.”