There are always two sides to a story. The story of Gonzalo Rivas is no different.
In case you’re wondering who the hell Gonzalo Rivas was, join the rest of the nation. But the fact is that today Thursday, November 24, 2016, Gonzalo Rivas is receiving the Belisario Domínguez medal of honor, the highest honor the Mexican Senate awards to a private citizen.
What got Gonzalo Rivas the honor? Truth is that the National Action Party (PAN) senators promoted his post-mortem candidacy because they thought he deserved it. The promotion was based on one incident:
On December 12, 2011, there was a brawl outside the “Eva II” fuel station in Chilpancingo, state of Guerrero. The brawlers were the usual suspects from the Ayotzinapa teachers college who were demanding, as they still do today, a permanent job in the nation’s Education Secretariat as bona-fide teachers without having to go through a qualifying exam.
The Chilpancingo city police reacted as directed by authorities to quell the students’ revolt and in the midst of all this, and here’s where the two stories clash, two men dressed in red shirts – the uniform the students wore – walked into the filling station where the brawl between students and police was taking place, and poured gasoline over the filling pumps and set them ablaze.
Upon seeing this, Gonzalo Rivas, at the moment the station manager and computer management engineer, picked up a fire hose and put out the fire. He was burnt badly and died 20 days later at a Mexico City hospital from the burns he got on his heroic stance against what the PAN Senators consider “student vandalism.”
A fact is that the senators from the Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) denied Gonzalo Rivas their vote for the Belisario Domínguez medal on the grounds that there are too many contradicting versions of the incident.
First was that during the brawl between students and police two men wearing red shirts walked into the filling station carrying gallon bottles filled with gasoline and poured them over the filling pumps, and set them ablaze.
Upon seeing this Gonzalo Rivas – and this is the gist of the medal – took a fire extinguisher and put the fire out, preventing an explosion of the thousands of liters underground, and thus saving several hundred lives.
Who were the two guys wearing red shirts? The senators of the left wing Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) did not vote for Gonzalo Rivas because of two reasons. One, every filling station has a security button to prevent a major fire when a pump goes ablaze, and Gonzalo Rivas, a Mexican Navy educated computer systems engineer, did not use it to shut the fueling system down.
Second is, or so claim the PRD senators, that eye witnesses saw two men wearing the Atyotinapa red shirts that poured gasoline over the pumps walk into the police ranks and get lost inside the police officers crowd.
Who do we believe? Those PAN Senators in favor claim Gonzalo Rivas was a hero because he dared to grab the fire extinguisher and paid his dare-devil act with his life. The opposing left wing PRD senators preferred to believe that Gonzalo Rivas was a dumb ass as he had a keyboard at his finger tips and he could have secured the pumps from bursting out – killing hundreds of demonstrator and police officers.
That was the act that got him the Belisario Domínguez medal.
Did he deserve it? Filling station specialists claim that the could have turned off the gasoline flow with a click on the computer.
Was there police vandalism to make the radical warmonger students from the infamous Ayotzinapa Teachers College look worse than they are?
In any case, for the majority of the Mexican Senate Gonzalo Rivas is the hero of the day, but, there are two sides to his story.