Mexican snobs beat, insult cop, raise debate

AP News
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Posted: Aug 26, 2011 10:05 PM
Mexican snobs beat, insult cop, raise debate

An odd instance of police abuse in which two snobby women shoved, slapped and insulted a cop has captured Mexico's attention and sparked debate on police tactics, gender and class issues.

Almost a week after the incident, one of the women was detained Friday and charged with resisting officers, insulting authorities and discrimination.

Tapes of the late-night confrontation on Aug. 20 in the upscale Mexico City neighborhood of Polanco became a hit on social networking and video-sharing sites, exposing Mexicans' frustration with both the arrogant rich and ineffectual police. The press have given the aggressive pair the ironic nickname "The Ladies of Polanco."

Pulled over in a traffic stop, the two women shout, swear, shove and slap a policeman, who does nothing to resist. He tries to calm them, moves away several times and eventually allows them to drive away in their late-model SUV.

One of the women, a former Puebla state beauty queen identified as Maria Vanessa Polo Cajica, can be heard on the video waving her hand in front of the officer's face, insulting his mother and calling him a "crappy wage slave."

In a country where most municipal police are dark-skinned and earn 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.

An unseen bystander watching the confrontation can be heard on the tape saying, "Me, I'd grab them, arrest them and take them in right now."

The city says the officers at the scene _ only one actively tried to calm the women _ stopped the women's vehicle because someone called in to say they were driving erratically.

Police chief Manuel Mondragon said the officers were waiting for a backup unit of female officers to detain the pair, because male cops only physically detain women if someone's safety is at risk.

"I prefer that the officer acted as he did, than that we wind up on the front pages," Mondragon said later. "If they (officers) had acted in a harsher way, that would not have been agreeable to the public or the human rights groups."

That was evidently a bigger concern for police than allowing two screaming, violent women from driving city streets, possibly not in control of themselves. Since they were not detained Sunday morning, no blood tests could be taken, but Mondragon said he believed they had been taking some substance other than alcohol.

Carlos Flores Gutierrez, a city councilman from the conservative National Action Party, said the police "should have taken appropriate action, given that allowing them to drive in their condition put the public at risk."

"What the video shows is the lack of training in the use of force by our police forces," Flores Gutierrez said.

Class may have been a factor, too. The policeman likely sensed these were women with connections, who might get him in trouble. While neither appears to be particularly rich, one is a former state beauty queen and the other, Azalia Ojeda, is a would-be starlet and singer who has appeared in a reality television show on Mexico's largest network.

Picking up on their bad behavior, the newspaper El Universal described them as "Neither Ladies, nor from Polanco."

Guadalupe Loaeza, a prominent writer who chronicled the foibles of the rich women of Polanco in her 1988 book, "The Queens of Polanco," said that while her subjects may have been self-absorbed, superficial or arrogant, they weren't as bad as this pair.

"These two are nothing like the Queens of Polanco. They are clearly social climbers," Loaeza said. "They (the 'queens' of the 1980s) were much more respectful, much more serene, much more discrete." Loaeza said the proliferation of laundered drug money may be feeding the rise of a new type of arrogant social climbers.

Ojeda, the woman briefly held Friday and the only one of the two to comment publicly on the incident, was half apologetic after her court appearance, in which she was sentenced to pay a fine of 1,735 pesos, or about $140, for physical and verbal abuse of the officer. She will still have to enter a plea on the other charges.

"I offer an apology for my behavior, Ojeda said, adding "there were external factors that caused me to act this way, which I will explain later."