Rich Mexican sorry for beating parking attendant

January 12, 2012 - 1:16 AM

MEXICO CITY (AP) — A wealthy Mexican man apologized Wednesday for beating a parking attendant who refused to show him where to find the jack in his car, the latest in a run of class- and race-discrimination scandals that have drawn outrage in Mexico.

Ademar Gonzalez, the lawyer for parking attendant Hugo Enrique Vera, said Miguel Sacal, the man who beat his client at a luxury apartment building, has agreed to apologize and pay damages for the beating.

Vera said two of his front teeth were broken in the beating, which happened July 8 but didn't come to public attention until a video of the incident was posted on social networking sites Tuesday. Gonzalez did not reveal the amount of the damage payment.

"Mr. Sacal committed outrageous acts that should never happen to anyone, but Hugo Enrique chose the course of legal action to resolve the conflict," Gonzalez wrote in a statement, adding that his client "is grateful for the support of so many Mexicans."

That support was visible Wednesday, both among the general public and from authorities.

Governmental human rights and anti-discrimination officials said that apart from the assault itself, Sacal could face charges for discrimination. Subtitles on the video, which has no audio track, suggest Sacal called the parking attendant a "cat" — insulting Mexican slang that means roughly "flunky."

Sacal also purportedly shouted "indios" at employees at his luxury apartment building in an exclusive Mexico City neighborhood, an insulting term meaning "Indians."

Discrimination for economic or racial reasons is against the law in Mexico City.

At least a half-dozen Facebook pages against Sacal were registered Tuesday and Wednesday, many with unprintable user names, but some with names like "Jail for Miguel Sacal" and "Everybody Against Miguel Moises Sacal."

Some users on networking sites were urging boycotts of clothing stores reportedly owned by Sacal.

Vera filed a criminal complaint against Sacal charging him with causing injuries; Sacal is facing trial on the charges but is not in jail, because he got a court injunction against arrest — a tactic frequently used by wealthy defendants in Mexico to avoid jail.

According to the crime report, Sacal asked Vera to show him where the jack for his car was, which Vera interpreted as a request to fix Sacal's flat tire. Vera said he told Sacal the jack was in the trunk of his car, but he couldn't leave his post because he had to be available to park other residents' cars.

On the video, Sacal — apparently enraged by the reply — repeatedly slaps and punches Vera and slams his head around, as other employees make half-hearted attempts to separate the two or simply stand by.

Vega later said he felt powerless and took the beating because he was afraid of losing his job. But he later filed a crime report against Sacal.

In a letter sent to local media, Sacal offered an apology for his behavior, but both he and Gonzalez said the criminal case against Sacal would go ahead.

"The incident that has been made public shows me performing reproachable acts," Sacal wrote. "I was under a lot of pressure, which does not justify my actions."

"I am very ashamed," he wrote. "I am aware that my behavior was not acceptable. For that reason I am undergoing psychological therapy."

It was the latest in a series of discrimination incidents that have opened wounds in Mexico, which has an extremely unequal distribution of income, with about 47 million of its 112.7 million people living in poverty while the country also boasts of being home to the world's richest man, Carlos Slim.

In December, the daughter of the leading contender for Mexico's presidency, Enrique Pena Nieto, retweeted a message calling her father's critics a "bunch of idiots who form part of the proletariat." That led many of Pena Nieto's opponents to don placards reading "I'm a proletarian, too."

In August, two upper middle-class women drew widespread anger when they were caught on video snobbily insulting, shoving and slapping a Mexico City cop, insulting his mother and calling him a "crappy wage slave." With most municipal police having dark skin and earning an average of only about 4,000 pesos ($300) a month, the sight of a taller, light-skinned woman spewing some of the worst verbal insults in the Mexican lexicon caused anger.

The women were later charged with resisting officers, insulting authorities and discrimination.