Thursday, January 31, 2013

Attack on Afro-Uruguayan Activist Not Bias Assault Says Judge

A court decided that the controversial assault last month against an Afro-Uruguayan activist was not a bias attack and, thus, skipped charging Ramirez’ aggressors with racism.

Judge Juan Carlos Fernández Lecchini said yesterday that the accused and the victim had taken “competing” views as to whether or not racism was the motivation behind the assault on Tania Ramirez outside of a Montevideo nightclub on December 14, 2012. He claimed that the views taken by Ramirez and her attackers had not been “proven in one way or another” and “one cannot be persuaded when there isn’t anything to imbalance to opposite perspectives.”

Fernández Lecchini did leave the door open to the possibility of having racism being used as evidence against the accused.  In the meantime, he went ahead with charging the three suspects with attempting to commit serious injury. If convicted, the accused (including a fourth suspect still on the loose) could face prison sentences of twenty months to six years.

Prosecutor Carlos Negro agreed with the attackers' claims that the assault was only a “street fight” and he backed the judge’s ruling.

“Every time one person insults another it would be defined as discriminatory since we shouldn’t forget that all insults contain some form of discrimination,” said Negro to the Subrayado website on Thursday.

Ramirez’ supporters, such as her boyfriend, vehemently disagreed with the judge’s decision:

“The assault began verbally with racial slurs.  What does it take for this to be racist, a tattooed swastika or a Ku Klux Klan hood? 
What if the attack had been the other way around with four black women beating up a white lady? I’m certain the police would’ve found the attackers the very next day,” he said in reference to the over one month police took to arrest Tania’s attackers.
Fernández Lecchini remarks also left a sour taste in the mouths of several Afro-Uruguayan government officials and activists. 

“If we live in a country where striking a person and calling her a “dirty black” (negra motuda) isn’t a racist act then we are lost,” noted Juan Raúl Ferreira, a member of the National Human Rights Institute.

Days after Ramirez was attacked several thousand people took to the streets of Montevideo and participated in an anti-racism march.  Among those who participated in the protest were politicians representing numerous affiliations, social organizations like the Israeli Committee of Uruguay and members of Ramirez’ family.

Earlier this month a campaign led by Afro-Uruguayan activists announced their petition to Spain's Royal Academy of the Spanish Language seeking to remove the phrase "to work like a black person" (trabajar como un negro) from its famous dictionary.

"We ask you to revise the permanence of this expression in your dictionary, while we find ways to eliminate all discriminatory expressions from our plazas, our schools, our playgrounds and our homes," said an online petition that has been signed by at least 21,000 people.

According to the most recent national census, eight percent of the roughly 3.2 million Uruguayans categorize themselves as being of African descent.  Yet Afro-Uruguayans reportedly receive salaries twenty to thirty percent less than their white counterparts while forty percent of Afro-Uruguayans live below the poverty line.

Video Source– YouTube via user SubrayadoHD (Security camera footage recorded the attack of four women, three minors and one of their mothers, on Tania Ramirez outside a Montevideo nightclub).

Online Sources – Diario El Pais, Subrayado, El Observador, Terra Colombia

No comments: