Once in a while I run into Nelson Vargas in the Bosque Real. He jokes with me and we hug. And of course, every time I see him I think of the times I interviewed him on my radio show when he was in the midst of the terrible experience of the kidnapping and murder of his daughter.
Yesterday, I read his article in the Mexican newspaper El Universal, and as always, I was struck by the fortitude and dignity with which he narrates what he experienced almost nine years ago.
He starts by saying that he would not wish what he himself faced on his worst enemy, not even on the men who kidnapped and killed his daughter, Silvita. Then, he confesses that he still thinks about the loss every day: “it is a daily torture that people who have faced such terrible situations, directly or indirectly, will live with for the rest of our lives.”
He goes on to say that a court released Isidro Solís Medina, who was involved in the case of Vargas’ daughter, because another kidnapping victim identified him without the presence of his lawyer.
It’s hard to believe, but this kidnapper and rapist, who had previously been sentenced to a 34-year prison term, a member of the Los Rojos gang, was granted an amparo (a Mexican constitutional legal process that process that protects citizens and their basic human rights), and Federal Judge José Merced Pérez Rodríguez ordered him to be released because of a lack of evidence.
Legal scholars agree that a person should only be sentenced for a crime after an impeccable judicial process, without even the smallest error that could call its legitimacy into question. But what about the victims?
Now, Nelson Vargas asks, “What is going to happen? Am I going to run into him on the street some day? Or worse, is he going to hurt more people?”
No one who is reading this piece or his would like to be judged without due process, but looking at it from the other side, the victims are left with frustration and powerlessness. Would you have the strength and dignity of the Vargas family if you were in their situation? I’m sure I wouldn’t.
To the legislators, the judges, the state and federal prosecutors: put yourselves in the shoes of the victims, and together we can make better, more just laws. It is clear that simply lengthening sentences will not reduce crime, but impunity needs to be ended once and for all.
In the meantime Nelson, receive a comforting hug, if it still helps you.
Journalist, editor and radio broadcaster