By Kaitlin Smalling
Political boundaries exist not only to satisfy land ownership, but also to separate cultural differences and avoid conflict. The trade-off between security and rights protection is an indispensible asset to any developed nation. The U.S. epitomizes the classic example of ambiguous laws. For instance, the New York Times Co v. U.S., Mapp v. Ohio, and New Jersey v. TLO Supreme Court cases all favor freedoms over securities while Schenck v. U.S., New York Times co v. Sullivan, and Korematsu v. U.S. all favor security over freedom. There is no perfect balance, although the Mexican government comes fairly close to embodying it. Between the drug smuggling, human trafficking, and corrupt government orders, Mexico epitomizes the stability between security and freedom: the perfect place for a family vacation. Such is the unfortunate experience of the Maldonado family, whose mother was framed with drug smuggling and nearly sentenced to ten years in prison.
Yanira and Gary Maldonado, the proud parents of seven children, are naturalized U.S. citizens, visiting Mexico for an aunt’s funeral. Upon departing, they boarded a bus and travelled through continuous checkpoints, until they reached Hermosillo, where soldiers boarded the bus and interrogated everyone except for the Maldonados. The soldiers found 5.7 kilos, or about 12 pounds, of Marijuana under seats 39 (Yanira’s seat) and 42 (another passengers’s chair).
Initially, Greg was arrested, but later authorities supposedly switched stories and arrested Yanira instead. This was the first of many gaffes Mexican authorities had to answer to later that week. While Yanira was kept at a local jail, Greg was given an attorney, hired solely based on his ability to speak English. Unfortunately, that lawyer spoke with the prosecuting attorney, who suggested that Greg ought to free his wife by giving $3,500 to Mexican authorities. When Greg questioned these proposals, both anonymous sources told him “You know how it works in Mexico, right?” With corrupted legal consent, Greg realized he didn’t have a choice. Once he wired home to Arizona for the money, the authorities raised the price to $5,000, which Greg also agreed to reluctantly. By the time the money was transferred to Mexico to be delivered, Greg arrived at the jail where his wife was being held to find her missing. He was informed that she had been transferred to a women’s correctional facility further south in Nogales and that “the issue was no longer a matter of money”.
At this point, all matters were overturned to the Mexican consulate, headed by the same people who order the soldiers at the security checkpoints, where Yanira was arrested. The U.S. Consulate in Washington D.C. promised Greg that they were working closely with Mexican authorities to guarantee Yanira her right to a due process and a defense council. However, Greg never received any additional information about the conditions or possibilities for freedom from either nation. Ironically, both the Mexican and American Consulates refused to return phone calls regarding this matter.
Meanwhile, Yanira sat in jail, taking food and clothing from her family. The facility where she was located didn’t provide anything except the jail cell. As a devout Morman, she spent most of her days in prayer hoping to knock some sense into Mexican officials in charge of her release. She later described this time in jail as the most emotionally traumatizing event of her life.
Once a court was called to order and legal council was provided, four witnesses of the checkpoint arrest in Hermosillo came forward to testify. All claimed to have watched the Maldonados put their luggage underneath the bus and board it with only a purse, two blankets, and two water bottles in hand. This was later confirmed by a video surveillance camera. Other witnesses claimed to see a man who escaped the security check once the soldiers boarded the bus. In fact, many now accuse that man of attempting to smuggle the drugs. To top that off, security officials never showed up to the court date to testify, which led an unnamed Mexican official to tell CNN that it looked like Yanira was framed. Of the other dozen people who were on the bus, none came forward. Why? Two reasons: It’s a Mexican court and there is no compensation for testimony. These reasons alone should frighten many citizens into initiating change; however, human nature guilts all too many into taking bribes, even those with good intentions.
After Yanira’s release, she thanked the media coverage for making her case more public, which she thought was fully responsible for her quick release. Consequently, U.S. officials admitted to treating the case more high profile than they would have had just another American citizen been detained abroad. However, the media didn’t only expose her specific detainment, but a plethora of corrupt activities that incite desire for justice. When will justice be reached? Can it be reached? Or, is there already an omnipresent and precise imbalance of security and protection?