December 1997 gig in Mexico City. The melee exposed the disgusting sense of impunity running rampant among Mexico’s privileged elite—even during a period of immense social and political change—and the enormous influence of U2, which shamed the country’s top figure through its firm, but dignified response.
As the Mexican magazine La Revista tells the story, the Zedillo boys attended the 1997 concert—part of the PopMart tour as VIPs, entering with complimentary tickets. Afterwards, they attempted to leave through a restricted area full of expensive equipment. Camera crews confronted the entourage, leading to a dustup. U2 security director Jerry Mele, a Vietnam veteran who was considered one of the best in the business and gained his reputation by maintaining order at death-metal concerts, was then run down by a vehicle carrying the Zedillo crew as they left the Foro Sol. Mele nearly died of his injuries.
The band immediately demanded an apology, threatening to expose the president’s children’s egregious impunity. Zedillo refused. At a concert the following evening, U2 front man Bono told the sellout crowd: “We nearly lost a brother last night.”
Embarrassed publicly and perhaps fearing a public-relations disaster, Zedillo relented, inviting U2 for a meeting at Los Pinos (the president’s residence) the following day.
During the tense affair, Zedillo reportedly told Bono: “(U2 security) put my sons’ lives in danger.” Earlier, the chief of presidential security refused to divulge the names of the officers involved in the scuffle to U2. The president, defending his guards, blamed the promoter.
Bono reportedly pointed out how President Bill Clinton’s daughter attended U2 shows without incident and that the Secret Service knew how to behave itself when accompanying her. He also repeated his demand for an apology in front of the entire country. The meeting ended without satisfaction for U2. President Zedillo would learn shortly thereafter that his boys had lied.
Jerry Mele never worked again. He won a lawsuit against the show’s promoter and the Mexican government two years later.
Ernesto Zedillo Jr., long the object of U2 fans’ scorn, angrily rejected culpability. The young man, described by La Revista as “a businessman” and “jet-set figure” (read: a playboy living large with his father’s money), told Milenio, a Mexico City newspaper, that if U2 didn’t come to Mexico, it wasn’t his fault.
Perhaps not entirely. During the U2 hiatus, Kristy MacColl, a British singer, who previously performed a duet with Bono, died after being struck by a powerboat while diving near Cozumel. The boat owner has never faced justice. Bono dedicated a song to his late friend during one of last week’s concerts - and also made a call for action. The following day, the president’s office promised to reopen MacColl’s case. Fans suspected MacColl’s death had further soured U2 on performing in Mexico.
U2 has been back to Mexico, Jerry remains retired and has written a book. Life moves on.