It captured little attention but Mexico a few days ago deported an Italian university instructor and journalist. The deportee was Gianni Proiettis, and he had lived in San Cristobal de las Casas in Chiapas state for more than a decade and a half.
On April 15, immigration officials bundled Proiettis onto a private jet from Tuxtla Gutierrez to Mexico City. Two officials then accompanied him aboard an Aeromexico flight to Madrid and on to Rome.
One of Mexico’s main public intellectuals, the writer Elena Poniatowska, wrote in this morning’s La Jornada newspaper that the deportation of Proiettis, the first journalist to be deported since the 1990s, shows how thin-skinned the government is.
“Accepting criticism is one of the pillars of a civilized government but up to now our governments have responded with rage to the slightest criticism,” she wrote.
Poniatowska drew a comparison between what happened to Proiettis and to Carmen Aristegui, the very popular CNN debate show host and domestic radio commentator whose popular program was cancelled when she demanded that President Felipe Calderon respond to allegations by several legislators that he has a drinking problem. She was eventually invited back on the air.
Poniatowska clearly was friends with Proiettis. In her column, she describes her “true delight” at visiting the wooden cabin of the Italian and his Mexican wife, who grew organic vegetables and ate off ceramic dishes that they made themselves.
Proiettis, she said, was a magna cum laude graduate of Rome’s La Sapienza, one of Europe’s top universities, and offered classes at the Autonomous University of Chiapas in Anthropology. He was the first Italian journalist to interview Subcomandante Marcos, the Zapatista uprising leader, in 1994, and wrote a regular column for Il Manifesto, the communist newspaper in Italy.
Proiettis may have been involved in some incident with Calderon in Cancun during the global warming summit in early December. I don’t have first hand knowledge, but someone amid a group of journalists shouted an insult at Calderon. Whether that had something to do with his expulsion, I don’t know. But the booting of foreign journalists from Mexico is not a good sign, especially when organized crime is intimidating so many Mexican journalists in vast swaths of the country.