On May 26, 2019, Manuel Germán Ramírez Valdovinos will have been in prison for 19 years, serving a sentence of 43 years for the murder of a man who is allegedly alive and well.
Valdovinos used to work as a music teacher at a school in the town of Texapan, in the State of Mexico. On May 26, 2000, he had just come back from work and was celebrating his son’s one-month anniversary with his wife, when a commando of eight judicial policemen stormed into his home, beat him, handcuffed him and put him into the back of a car with no license plates. He was arrested without a warrant and taken to the local police station where he was hung up by his hands with metal chains, tortured with electric shocks and accused of the murder of a person he barely knew. Manuel was only 22-years-old at the time.
Upon hearing the police officers’ accusation, Manuel was shocked. He knew the alleged victim, Manuel Martínez Elizalde, as he had helped him out with money before, because his family “had nothing to eat”. But he had never had any arguments with him, let alone any reason to kill him. Things got even stranger when he saw Elizalde’s father at the station, and then heard him tell the policemen “no, not this one, he’s my friend’s son and he’s going to cause trouble for me”. The officer in charge replied “look, you asked for three bastards and here they are. Now everything is arranged with the Public Prosecutor’s Office”.
Manuel claims that Elizalde’s father promised the agents who arrested him a reward of $150,000 for their participation in what turned out to be an unbelievably cruel scheme. He would later learn that Manuel Martínez Elizalde’s family claimed a $1 million life insurance policy after his alleged death. But the supposed murder victim never actually died. In fact, both Valdovinos and his wife Esther claim that it is a known fact that Elizalde moved to the United States where he used plastic surgery to alter his physical appearance. He has been living there ever since, under a different name, but regularly visits his father at the villa he built with the life insurance money.
The evidence against Manuel Germán Ramírez Valdovinos’ was a complete farce. The supposed corpse of Manuel Martínez Elizalde had a different skin tone, was considerably shorter and had none of the distinctive scars of the alleged victim. But prosecutors didn’t care about any of that. They convicted him of murder and sentenced him to 43 years in prison. Valdovinos has spent the last 19 years in various prisons around Mexico and all his attempts to get his sentence overturned have so far failed.
For the last 19 years, Manuel and his wife have been sending letters to all the judges, magistrates, court presidents and governors in Mexico, but they have yet to receive a response. In 2015, the former music teacher even appealed to President Peña Nieto, asking for the investigation of the obvious irregularities in his case, but to no avail.
After exhausting all legal options in Mexico, Manuel Germán Ramírez Valdovinos reached out to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, which admitted his case, investigated it and recently ruled to protect him under the Istanbul Protocol, the first set of international guidelines for documentation of torture and its consequences. Theoretically, Valdovinos should be released once the court’s recommendation is made to the state of Mexico. In addition to the victim’s release, there should also be sanctions against those involved in the criminal process as well as the officers who tortured him in an attempt to get him to confess, which he never did.
The public servants who had all the facts but did absolutely nothing to prevent or undo the injustice and torture that Valdovinos and his family have been subjected to for so long should also be held responsible.
“It was proven that the person who my husband supposedly killed is still alive, they accuse him of something that does not make sense,” Esther Valdovinos told reporters. “I ask for justice and the release of my husband, who has been imprisoned for 19 years for a crime that was never committed, a fabricated crime. It is a fallacy that in Mexico there is a State of Law.”