updated 5/8/2008 9:51:25 PM ET 2008-05-09T01:51:25

A Mexican poet has been fined about $5 for desecrating the country's flag by writing a poem about using it to wipe up urine and excrement.

Poet Sergio Witz Rodriguez published the poem in a magazine in the southern state of Campeche in 2000 and could have faced as many as four years in prison under a law protecting the flag and national insignia.

Judge Jose de Jesus Banales said in the ruling that the fine was small, but symbolic: "It will set an example so that people do not abuse freedom of expression, and to discourage anti-social behavior."

The poet on Thursday described the ruling as an attack on freedom of expression and vowed he would not pay.

"It would be like admitting that I am a criminal," Witz Rodriguez said.

Stung by centuries of colonialism and an 1848 defeat by the United States which cost the country half its territory, Mexico has fostered a fervent cult of respect for its flag.

'There are still limits'
A five-judge panel of Mexico's Supreme Court upheld the law protecting it in 2005, but Witz Rodriguez can still appeal the fine.

His poem rejects nationalist values, with the opening lines: "I / clean my urine / on the flag / of my country / That rag / that dogs lie on / and that represents nothing."

"Since the start of the trial, they have been determined to teach me a lesson, and send a message that in Mexico there are still limits, even on thought," Witz Rodriguez said.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments