Tuesday 22 December 2015

Canadian Bruce Vigfusson dies in custody in Mexico

Canadian Bruce Vigfusson, 45, who has been in jail in Mexico since September, 2012, died at 6 pm on Monday, December 21, at the General Hospital in the northern city of Hermosillo, Sonora. He had been admitted to the hospital in Hermosillo on Sunday, December 20, at 2 pm.
Bruce Vigfusson

Mr. Vigfusson was serving a four and half year sentence for assault. He had lost one appeal, and was waiting on another.

On approximately August 28, 2012, in Hermosillo, Mr. Vigfusson was the victim of a home invasion by five men. He claimed from the beginning that the assault, which resulted in one of the assailants allegedly sustaining serious head injuries, was a matter of self-defense.

Mr. Vigfusson passed a note to his Mexican wife, Celia Valenzuela Amado, on Thursday, December 17, in which he complained that he was “feeling very bad”, that he was “very sick, can’t breathe”, and that “I think they are killing me.”

In the letter Mr. Vigfusson wrote that officials had been giving him injections, but that he wasn’t getting better, he was getting worse. He added that “they are not poisoning me so that I die,” but that “they are doing it to make me weak so that I can’t fight back.”

Mr. Vigfusson also expressed concern that, should he win his appeal, Mexican authorities would then owe him back wages, which they did not want to pay.

A family friend, Donna Voth, has told La politica that the official cause of death is cardiomyopathy, which is a degeneration of the heart muscle, and a pulmonary edema, a blood clot in the lung often associated with heart failure.  

Such detailed certainty with regard to cause of death, however, is difficult without an autopsy. Ms. Valenzuela Amado told La politica that she had requested an autopsy, but that so far the Mexican authorities had refused.

For its part, a Canadian Government spokesperson, François Lasalle, told La politica that ‎”Our thoughts are with the family and friends of the Canadian Citizen who passed away in Mexico,” and that “Canadian consular officials in Mexico are in contact with local authorities and are providing consular assistance to the family.”

However, Mr. Vigfisson’s son, Colt, told La politica that he has had a hard time getting a response from Canadian officials, which had previously suspended visits to Mr. Vigfusson.

“I heard that my father died this morning, from a friend of his who called from the jail in Mexico,” he told La politica.

Colt Vigfusson also expressed concern that an autopsy might be conducted in Mexico.

“I don’t want them to touch the body until it comes back to Winnipeg for a proper autopsy,” he said.

Other family members reached in Canada were in shock, and struggling with the logistics that are now required to deal with the situation.

“They won’t release the body until a family member comes,” said Bruce Vigfusson’s brother, Sturn. “So, one of us will have to go down.”

It is not certain what specific support Canadian officials will be providing to Mr. Vigfusson’s family while in Mexico, given their official comment to La politica, that, “To protect the privacy of the individual concerned, further details on this case cannot be released.”

Over the past three years, the inability of Canadian officials to provide the desired assistance to Mr. Vigfusson has led to immense frustration on the part of some of his friends and family. It is not an unusual circumstance, and speaks to the government's limited capacity when it comes to assisting Canadians jailed in Mexico.

"Bruce was failed by the Mexican Judicial System, by the medical system in both the jail and the General Hospital, by the Canadian Embassy consular officials, and by our own Canadian Government," Ms. Voth told La politica. "He is dead because of them."

Specific details of what Canadian officials can and cannot do in the case of the death of a Canadian abroad can be found here.

(TE Wilson is the author of Mezcalero, a Detective Sánchez novel.)
Twitter: @TimothyEWilson

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