By Matt Coker
By R. Scott Moxley
By Charles Lam
By Nick Schou
By Gustavo Arellano
By Gustavo Arellano
By Steve Lowery
By R. Scott Moxley
Days after they were let go, Avila, Pantoja and Luis Humberto Macias, who worked at the consulate for 16 years, wrote a letter to Calderón outlining their complaints about Rodriguez y Quezada and the alleged intimidation tactics used by Herrera against employees who had once worked closely with Ortiz Haro. Avila had been Ortiz Haro’s assistant. An Op-Ed in the popular, left-leaning Mexico City daily La Jornada ran on Jan. 8, the same day a protest was held outside the Foreign Ministry office in that city. The short piece cited similar issues and was signed in support of the workers by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), Los Amigos of Orange County, the National Alliance for Human Rights, the Mexican American Political Association and labor unions. The Mexican government has not given the employees an interview or issued any further explanation. Those whose U.S. visa residencies were dependent on their consulate jobs are now locked in immigration limbo. “We have our lives here now,” Avila says.
* * *
“We’re on pins and needles wondering if he’ll come,” Amin David of Los Amigos says two days before Rodriguez y Quezada’s second scheduled appearance at the Jägerhaus. The crowd is once again abuzz. Deputy consul Herrera, looking more pallid than usual and devoid of his standard, quick-talking charm, slips in just after 7:40 a.m., and then slips out after he is introduced to the group. He paces around the parking lot, makes a phone call, then leaves. At 8:20 a.m., David puts in a call to the consul.
“We’re all here waiting for you,” he says in Spanish. “Oh, no, there is no one here causing problems. . . . There are always members of the press here, yes. . . . There are no problems here, consul. . . . Come and please honor your commitment to be here.”
Someone called the consul and told him that there were people present who were going to cause problems, David later says to the group. Speculation falls on Herrera.
At 8:30 a.m., Rodriguez y Quezada shuffles in alone, looking tense. His hair slightly disheveled, he hesitates in the doorway. “Is the consul here?” David asks, looking around.
“I am the consul,” Rodriguez y Quezada whispers.
After he is introduced, Rodriguez y Quezada crosses his arms and talks sleepily about services the consulate is providing (many of them established prior to his arrival). His eyes dart around the room, and he doesn’t smile. His disposition brightens a little when he speaks about art projects. “In September, we’re organizing a big exhibit at the Bowers Museum,” he says with mild triumph.
A reporter from the Spanish language daily La Opinión asks about what many perceive to be a rough transition for the consul and how that may be affecting consulate services. “Services have not been affected,” Rodriguez y Quezada says, visibly irritated. “Let me repeat it: They have not been affected. . . . I can tell you simply that services have actually improved. . . . There are always going to be complaints. If one or two people out of the 500 that come every day complain, I don’t think that’s so many.”
The session is bumpy: There are a few heated exchanges over the Fiestas Patrias.When asked by lawyer and local businessman Alfredo Amezcua about the employee dismissals, Rodriguez y Quezada is curt: “It’s a personnel issue. . . . I hope you’re as concerned with the thousands of people losing their jobs in Mexico as you are with these jobs.”
When Pantoja and Avila raise their hands and ask, calmly, for the consul to explain to them why they were fired and for him to reconsider their—and their colleagues’—positions, Rodriguez y Quezada looks away, down and then slightly off to one side. “I can’t talk about that except to say that the contracts were not renewed,” he says.
He encourages those with complaints to fill out a complaint form at the office and says he is interested in working with the community. David invites him to stay for breakfast after about an hour, but Rodriguez y Quezada quickly declines and leaves after snapping a picture with a supporter in the audience and shaking hands with a few business leaders.
After he’s gone, Pantoja and Avila remain in their seats and wipe their eyes. “I feel like I was talking to a wall,” says Pantoja. “He didn’t even have the decency to look us in the eye.”