Texas execution of Mexican citizen rebuked by President Peña Nieto

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto speaks at the United Nations General Assembly in 2014. (Flickr / Mexican government photo)  Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto speaks at the United Nations General Assembly in 2014. (Flickr / Mexican government photo) 

An execution in Texas provoked a cross-border comment from Mexico’s president on Nov. 10. Ruben Ramirez Cardenas, 47 and a Mexican citizen, was executed by lethal injection on Nov. 8. Mr. Cardenas grew up in Texas but was born in Mexico.

On Twitter, Mexican President Enrique Peña-Nieto condemned the killing, writing, “I express my firm condemnation of the execution of the Mexican citizen Ruben Cardenas Ramirez in Texas, which violated the decision of the International Court of Justice.” Mexico abolished the death penalty in 2005.

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In a last-minute attempt to stay the execution, Mr. Cardenas’s lawyers argued that Texas authorities had not properly informed him that as a Mexican citizen he was entitled to legal aid from the Mexican consulate, according to the provisions of the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations.

Mr. Cardenas was convicted for the 1997 kidnapping, rape and murder of 16-year-old Mayra Laguna, his cousin. He is the seventh convicted killer to be executed so far this year in Texas, which executes more people than any other state.

Helen Prejean, C.S.J., a prominent advocate for the abolition of the death penalty, argued that because the Mexican government was never notified of Mr. Cardenas’s arrest his execution represented a violation of international law, a sentiment echoed by the Mexican government.

Mr. Cardenas’s lawyers argued that Texas authorities had not properly informed him that as a Mexican citizen he was entitled to legal aid from the Mexican consulate.

Mr. Cardenas’s lawyers had contended that eyewitness testimony against Mr. Cardenas was shaky and that little physical evidence tied him to the killing. Their requests for a stay in the execution were denied.

Twenty years ago, Mayra Laguna was kidnapped from a bedroom she shared with a younger sister at her family’s public housing apartment in McAllen in South Texas. Her body was found the next day in a canal near a lake in the Rio Grande Valley. In a confession to police, Mr. Cardenas said he and a friend drove around with the high school student in his mother’s car. He said he had sex with the teen and then punched her as she fought him after he unbound her arms to let her go.

Mr. Cardenas said after he hit the teen in the neck, she began coughing up blood and having difficulty breathing. After trying unsuccessfully to revive her, he said he tied her up “and rolled her down a canal bank.” “I didn't plan on doing this, but I was high on cocaine,” he told authorities at the time. Mr. Cardenas’s lawyers argued that his confession was obtained after 22 hours of isolation and intense police questioning. 

Ms. Laguna’s sister, Roxana Jones, however, was glad to hear the sentence was carried out.

“Words can’t begin [to] describe the relief it feels to know that there is true peace after so much pain and sorrow,” Ms. Jones said in a statement released by prison officials.



Upon news of the execution, Sister Prejean released a simple statement: “Please remember Ruben and his family, as well as Mayra Laguna and her family, in your thoughts and prayers. Ruben was the 33rd foreign citizen executed in the U.S. since 1988.”

The Catholic Church remains opposed to the use of the death penalty in virtually all circumstances and has been involved in efforts to end its use in the United States. The U.S. Conference of Catholic bishops cites Pope John Paul II’s 1995 encyclical “Evangelium Vitae” which states: “The dignity of human life must never be taken away, even in the case of someone who has done great evil.”

In October Pope Francis declared that the death penalty was “contrary to the Gospel.” He said that “however grave the crime that may be committed, the death penalty is inadmissible because it attacks the inviolability and the dignity of the person.” 

Micheal Graczyk of the Associated Press contributed to this report.  

Richard Bell
1 week 2 days ago

"In October Pope Francis declared [a] that the death penalty was 'contrary to the Gospel.' He said [b] that 'however grave the crime that may be committed, the death penalty is inadmissible because it attacks the inviolability and the dignity of the person.'"
(a) It is far from obvious that the death penalty is contrary to the Gospel -- viz, salvation for all who have faith in Christ and his work -- and I would be very interested in Pope Francis's reasons for his declaration.
(b) Prima facie, the death penalty for murder vindicates the inviolability and dignity of the person by expressing society's highest value of innocent human life -- a value so high that it is vindicated only by society's inflicting death on the innocent's murderer (whose dignity is hardly denied by tit for tat). Maybe this prima facie judgment can be proven wrong; I would be very interested in Pope Francis's reasons for his statement.

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Stuart Meisenzahl
1 week ago

Quoting Sister Prejean : "Ruben was the 33rd foreign citizen executed in the United States since 1988"
Exactly what does the citizenship of Ruben Cardenas have to do with the good Sister's position on Capital Punishment? It would seem if you view Capital Punishment as morally wrong that then the citizenship issue is totally irrelevant.
Yet the author of this Article uses this statement and other statements in this Article as a fulcrum to claim that there was a greater injustice done to Mr. Cardenas because he was foreign born and an illegal alien. The author's point of view seems to be that Mr. Cardenas as an illegal alien was somehow entitled to consideration beyond what a U.S. Citizen would be entitled to.
if this is not the case then exactly why was this particular Article written?

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