Refugee claimant says Mexican justice crusader harassed her

By Nicholas Keung
Immigration Reporter

Source : The Star

To the world, Maria Isabel  Miranda de Wallace is a strong-willed mother and social activist who fought hard to bring justice to her kidnapped son in Mexico.

Her famous crusade to track down his abductors — and to shame Mexican police for their shoddy investigation — earned her a profile in the New York Times in 2006.

But to Braulia Guadalupe Rangel Gomez, de Wallace, who ran unsuccessfully for Mexico City mayor in July, is a bully who uses her popularity and influence to purge her critics and opponents.

Rangel, a mother of two, claims it is de Wallace she is fleeing from as she seeks refuge here in Canada.

“She (de Wallace) is a wolf in sheep’s skin,” said Rangel, 47, a divorcee who fled to Canada in 2008, claiming she and her family were targets of persecution. “She is acting like a hero in Mexico, but she is not what she says she is.”

While the two women, both from Mexico City, claim to be justice crusaders, they clashed following the 2005 kidnapping of de Wallace’s son, Hugo Alberto de Wallace, and the pursuit of Rangel’s niece, Brenda Quevedo Cruz, one of the accused in the abduction who is now in custody in Mexico.

As de Wallace played detective to trace the six alleged conspirators in her son’s apparent death, which led to their ultimate arrests, Rangel played the part of activist against the influence exerted by de Wallace on the judiciary in the probe against her niece, who maintains her innocence.

Rangel, a former real estate agent, claims she petitioned various Mexican authorities, including the office of then-president Felipe Calderon, to “expose the undue and improper influence” by de Wallace in the police investigation and torture of those who had been arrested.

In her refugee claim, Rangel said she and her two daughters, now 13 and 15, were followed by de Wallace’s associates and once hit by a car allegedly driven by her bodyguards.

In 2007, she said, she also started receiving threatening phone calls after she took her campaign to the media.

“In every corner, the police are the same and can be bribed and with money they will kill you,” said Rangel, who fled to Toronto with her daughters and nephew Omar Roberto (Brenda’s brother) in 2008.

Reached in Mexico, de Wallace said she had heard of Rangel’s name but did not know her or about her asylum claim in Canada at all.

“These are absolutely lies. I am just a regular citizen,” de Wallace told the Star through an interpreter. “I didn’t do anything that this woman said I did. I only care about bringing (her niece) Brenda to justice. I don’t care about her family. I have no power to do anything to her.”

The Immigration and Refugee Board rejected Rangel’s claim in 2009, saying that, “although not perfect, there is adequate state protection” in Mexico and “police corruption and (deficiencies), although existing and noted by the panel, are not generalized.”

Rangel’s lawyer, Jeremiah Eastman, has since submitted fresh evidence to prove torture was suffered by the client’s niece while in detention awaiting her trial.

According to the pre-removal risk assessment submitted by Eastman, Rangel’s niece was handcuffed and blindfolded by masked men, who tried to get a confession out of her.

“My client’s niece is still waiting to be tried and she’s been tortured within the (Mexican) judicial system,” said Eastman. “Clearly, my client doesn’t want to go back to such a system.”

However, in ruling that Rangel and her daughters would not be in danger if returned to Mexico, a Canadian immigration officer ruled most evidence only relates to the torture of the niece and the other suspects.

Rangel has failed to establish a direct link to the alleged torture of the niece or other suspects and de Wallace’s involvement in any torture or threats, said the risk assessment decision, issued last month.

Rangel has now asked for a judicial review of the pre-removal risk assessment decision. Meantime, a removal date for her has yet to be set.