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Looking Back: A review of June news from the last 50 years

In this monthly series, we republish a few of the headlines from our May editions 10, 20, 30, 40 and 50 years ago.

1969

Archbishop asks prayers for rain

Monsignor Francisco Javier Nuño, the archbishop of Guadalajara, has asked the rectors of each parish to exhort the faithful to pray for rain. In a pastoral letter, the archbishop wrote: “Since in the present year there has been a considerable delay in the arrival of the rainy season and a subsequent threat to farmers and stockmen and thus to all the economy, we should remember the words of our Lord: ‘Ask and you shall receive.’”

1979

Kidnappers of US diplomat come home

Five Mexican prisoners, who were sent to Cub in exchange for former U.S. Consul General in Guadalajara Terrance Leonhardy after he was kidnapped in 1973, have returned from exile in Cuba. The five were prompted to come home because of the Amnesty Law passed in Mexico last year.

At the time Leonhardy was kidnapped, the five were serving terms in various jails for crimes such as sabotage, armed robbery, bearing arms illegally and unlawful association.

“In the face of illegal violence launched by the (Mexican) regime we saw the necessity of replying with revolutionary violence,” said one of the ex-kidnappers upon return to Mexico from Cuba. He gave other reasons, including extreme youth, for his earlier crimes. Referring in particular to the student revolts of 1968, he explained that violence was a form of opposition against a repressive state in which people were assassinated, tortured and disappeared. Three of the group were said to have been members of the now defunct Union del Pueblo.

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Having acquired a political conscience in Cuba, the exiles said they had joined the Mexican Communist Party and will now take part in legal political activities. (This is the first year that this political group has been allowed to participate in elections.)

The present political situation no longer justifies an armed struggle, the released men declared at a press conference at Mexican Communist Party headquarters, and although incomplete, the political reforms enacted by the current government are a positive step.

1989

Drastic measures needed for lake crisis

As the dry season ends, Lake Chapala looks increasingly like a lake nearing its end. The pier in Chapala resembles a pre-Columbian artifact of mysterious purpose – perhaps the base of an ancient pyramid. Residents claim they can actually watch the lake recede. If experts from the University of Guadalajara’s Meteorology and Astronomy Institute are correct, the lake could all but disappear by the end of any given dry season or be small enough to see in its entirety from a single vantage point. Two government officials last week made alarming statements about the lake.

Lake Chapala levels, measured on a scale of 100, stood last week at 92.66 – the lowest level since June 4, 1955. At that level, lake water no longer flows to the pumping station at Ocotlan. One federal water official thinks drastic measures must be taken, such as laws prohibiting use of non-biodegradable detergents, the extraction of water from Lake Chapala and the use of the lake to refrigerate the thermoelectric plants that the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE) has in the (five-state) Lerma basin. On the other hand, the SIAPA (water utility) said that there is not enough time to divert another river to supply water to the metro area to take the place of what one local newspaper columnist is now referring to as the “ex-Lago de Chapala.” Mechanisms for lowering demand are not in place, although SIAPA says it is prepared to take still unspecified steps to control water use.

Nothing in the local press reporting about SIAPA’s plans rivals the federal official for plain speech in calling for draconian water laws. Whether or not any tough measures are put into law, credit must be given for placing the major responsibility for saving Lake Chapala where it belongs: on the government that did so much to bring the lake to where it is now.

1999

Cabbie stiffed on

1,200-peso fare

Police arrested a Texas man charged with cheating a cabbie out of a 1,236-peso fare that was run up during a nine-hour tour of Puerto Vallarta. According to the driver, 37-year-old Mark Peters hailed the cab ride around 6 p.m. and asked to be driven to numerous places in Vallarta, and have the cab wait for him several times. The cabbie said that Peters promised to pay him the full amount but needed to finish up pressing business first. But at 3:30 a.m. Peters tried to open a gallery’s locked door before fleeing toward the Pueblo Viejo market. The cabbie pursued Peters with another driver until police arrested him. The driver told police he had not been worried about the mounting fare, because his passenger was a foreigner.

2009

Burned infants airlifted to US as two more die

Three infants with first-degree burns suffered in a fire at a day-care center in Hermosillo, Sonora, have died at the IMSS Centro Medico del Occidente in Guadalajara as a result of their injuries. The children were among ten victims flown to Guadalajara for treatment. The deaths bring the number of fatalities in the blaze to 46. All were aged between 11 months and four years.

After pleas by parents last week, the IMSS agreed to fly two of the children from Guadalajara to Shriners’ hospitals in Sacramento, California and Cincinnati, Ohio. A third girl was airlifted out Tuesday.

Family members of Juan Israel Fernandez, one of the children who died June 12, criticized the Centro Medico’s director for refusing to send the three-year-old boy to the United States. “We came to Guadalajara with a lot of faith but are going home with our faith shattered,” said Martha Mendez, the boy’s aunt. She accused hospital director Marcelo Castillero of acting egotistically and not wanting outside assistance.

Shriners’ doctors said they reviewed the children in Guadalajara and made recommendations to the IMSS as to their suitability for travel to the United States. They also noted that the standard of the facilities in Guadalajara is second to none. The Centro Medico’s new burns unit has not been officially inaugurated but was considered the best place to transfer the children.

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