After Criticizing Bankers, Mexican Cartoonist's Account Canceled

Famous Caricaturist “El Fisgón” Says Banamex Closed Account With No Warning

A man who produces comics lampooning the banking industry in one of Mexico's largest newspapers has now run into trouble with the country's second-largest bank. Rafael Barajas Durán, who goes by the pseudonym El Fisgón, tells media outlets that Banamex abruptly canceled an account that he had used for more than ten years.

“They didn't warn me, and they only said that it was in their best interest,” says Barajas Durán to the Mexico City-based newspaper La Jornada, which publishes his work. For more than twenty years Barajas Durán has used his pen to poke fun at the country's political leaders. His social commentary includes criticizing the government's response to the financial crisis and the takeover of Mexico's banking industry by foreign corporations.

(A cartoon by El Fisgón, titled X-ray of the Banking System)

Banamex claims that the corporation sent Barajas Durán three letters advising him that he needed to update information on his account to avoid having it closed. The cartoonist says he never received any letters and states that the bank made no effort to confirm he had gotten the mail.

“They have to make sure I received [the letters] because this is a delicate matter. My account is canceled. This is a procedural error that works against me,” Barajas Durán is quoted as saying. He points out that he didn't know his account was closed until he tried to cash a check and was turned away.

Narco News had its own run-in with Banamex in 2000, when the the bank sued the newspaper after it published a report linking then CEO Roberto Hernández Ramírez to drug trafficking. The case was taken to the New York Supreme Court and the suit was thrown out, creating a legal precedent that secured First Amendment protections for online publications.

Banamex was later acquired by the foreign corporation Citigroup, highlighting, in a way, Hernández Ramírez's criticism about banks being owned by companies outside of Mexico. The country's largest bank, BBVA Bancomer, is owned by Spain's Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria.

While it's unclear what will happen to funds inside the account, El Fisgón tells the media that “I think it's already time for users to start demanding more ethical banking.”

Comments

The impotence most Mexicans experience every day.

I'm not shocked by the move Banamex made on El Fisgon; consider how Calderon was able to get the last U.S. Ambassador to Mexico "deported" back North of the Border. Just two "minute" examples of the abuse of power and influence that ordinary Mexicans face from day to day. If these sorts of things affect high-profile supposedly individuals one would assume in the position to something about an infringement of their rights, can you imagine what happens to the ordinary folk. I had my business arbitrarily closed for a year losing half my income and nearly returning to the U.S. until a kind-hearted, open-minded politician in the city municipality I belong to here in Mexico City pulled strings and got me back open again --I didn't have to give a dime in bribe, by the way.

Look at the system that is used by Mexico City to inform folks of tickets for traffic violations. You don't realize you have any tickets until you check the government website or are informed by the Verificentro when you bring in your car for the obligatory environmental exhaust checkup. Thousands of people are fined and forced to pay tickets they were never aware of and are never given the chance to argue their case before the law. Again, another example of a system suffering symptoms that indicate big change is long overdue.

El Fisgon says it's time folks request more ethical banking. The truth is it's time we demand this and a lot more but something ugly has settled over the hearts and minds of Mexicans --"Remember 68..." they say. One also has to focus on how the media in Mexico negatively frames the issues around anyone or group trying to protest or going to extremes such as blocking traffic at important arteries in this city to be heard. It's like they are saying: only the proletariat protest and the proletariat doesn't even know why they protest to begin with.  Change via legislation is futile in a system totally in the pockets of national and multinational corporations and the narco.

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Erin Rosa is a writer from Denver, Colorado based in the Western Hemisphere.