EXICO CITY, Aug. 15 — The decision by President
Vicente Fox of Mexico to cancel a meeting with President Bush
at his Texas ranch after the execution, in that state, of a
Mexican citizen on Wednesday is the latest confrontation over
the death penalty between the United States and some of its
Mr. Fox moved swiftly to protest the execution of Javier
Suárez Medina in Huntsville, announcing the cancellation of
his trip a few hours after Mr. Suárez was declared dead by
Mexican officials say that he was denied his right to help
from his government when he was arrested in 1988. Some 16
other nations filed court briefs or wrote letters pleading for
clemency for Mr. Suárez, including Poland, Switzerland, Brazil
The Súarez execution pits the United States against one of
its closest neighbors and a president that the Bush
administration has called a close friend
Differences over the death penalty have also prompted
diplomatic wrangling between the United States and some of its
firmest friends in Europe, especially in the last year as
Washington has pursued its campaign against global terror.
Spain, France and Germany have taken issue with the Bush
administration's efforts to obtain evidence to prosecute
suspected terrorists in the United States or to extradite
suspects for trial there.
The disputes point up how the United States is at odds with
many other industrialized democracies as it continues to apply
death sentences for capital crimes.
The Mexican government said Mr. Fox canceled his trip,
scheduled for Aug. 26, as an "unequivocal sign of repudiation"
of Mr. Suárez's execution. Mexico has the death penalty but
does not apply it.
The government's statement added, "Mexico is confident that
the cancellation of this important presidential visit
contributes to strengthening respect among all nations for the
norms of international law, as well as the conventions that
regulate the relations between nations."
White House officials said that Mr. Bush had spoken by
phone with Mr. Fox on Tuesday, but would not discuss details
of the conversation. Nonetheless, they portrayed the White
House as well aware of Mr. Fox's political problems with the
execution, and said they had not been surprised by his
White House officials also refused to portray it as a
crisis or even an embarrassment, saying that there was nothing
the president legally could have done to stop the
Mr. Fox's move reflected Mexico's impatience with the Bush
administration's friendly statements. Soon after Mr. Bush took
office, he declared that the United States had no more
important relationship than that with Mexico. But since Sept.
11, there has been no significant progress in bilateral
negotiations over Mr. Fox's broad proposals for immigration
Nor has the Bush administration given Mexico any break in
resolving Mexico's water debt. While President Fox pressed the
United States to adopt measures that would improve safety for
immigrants trekking across the deserts along the border,
counts by immigrant rights advocates show that more illegal
immigrants died last month from dehydration and exposure to
intense heat than any other previous month.
The Suárez execution offered Mr. Fox the opportunity to
take a stand against the United States that would attract
broad international support. Amnesty International reports
that some 40 countries have outlawed the death penalty in the
last decade. In all, 109 nations forbid capital punishment or
have stopped applying the death penalty.
"Friends don't allow friends to flaunt international law,"
William Schulz, executive director of Amnesty International
U.S.A., said today. "The stand taken by President Fox shows
the steady isolation facing the United States among its most
Most of the international protests against the United
States focus on violations of the Vienna Convention, which
requires law enforcement officials to advise foreign citizens
under arrest of their right to seek legal support from their
governments. Many nations, including the 15 members of the
European Union, South Africa and Canada, have refused to
extradite suspects to a country without assurances that the
suspects will not face the death penalty.
In 1999, Germany accused the United States of "barbarism,"
after one of its citizens, Walter LaGrand, was put to death in
an Arizona gas chamber. His brother Karl had been executed in
Arizona a week earlier. German officials said they had not
been had not been able to provide timely legal aid to the
brothers. Last year, the International Court of Justice ruled
that the United States had violated international obligations
in the LaGrand case.
After Sept. 11 the differences became more conspicuous.
Last year Spanish officials balked at extraditing suspected
members of Al Qaeda unless the United States guaranteed they
would not be tried in military tribunals that did not
guarantee the same rights as civilian courts. French officials
have declined to cooperate in the death penalty case being
prepared against Zacarias Moussaoui, a French citizen who is
charged in the Sept. 11 attacks.
Mr. Fox has recently reinforced government help to Mexican
citizens on death row in the United States. Of some 120
foreigners on death row, almost half are from Mexico.
Earlier this year, pressure on the part of Mr. Fox helped
to prevent the execution of Gerardo Valdez for murder in
Oklahoma. An Oklahoma appeals court vacated the execution
order and set a new sentencing hearing. It was a rare triumph,
Mr. Suárez was executed despite letters from around the
world to Gov. Rick Perry of Texas and the State Department,
and a phone call by Mr. Fox to Mr. Bush.
"The U.S. view of the death penalty has been aggravated by
Sept. 11," said Juan Manuel Gómez Robledo, legal counsel to
the foreign ministry.. "It has become obsessed by one topic,
and that is terrorism."