Guerrero: Member of the OPIM murdered in Ayutla de los Libres

February 21, 2008

On February 10, 2008 in the municipal seat of Ayutla de los Libres, Lorenzo Fernández Ortega, a member of the Organization of the Me’phaa Indigenous Peoples (OPIM, Organización del Pueblo Indígena Mepha´a) was killed. In the last few months, the OPIM has denounced the intensification of death threats and other aggressions made by the federal army and supposed paramilitary organizations.

According the OPIM, the intensification of the aforementioned threats coincide with the recommendations made by the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH, Comisión Nacional de Derechos Humanos) in regards to the forced sterilizations imposed on members of the indigenous community of El Camalote. The recommendations also pertained to the testimonies of Inés Fernández Ortega and Valentina Rosendo Cantú made before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) which implicated members of the federal army in cases of sexual assault (2002).

Lorenzo Fernández Ortega was the brother of Inés Fernández Ortega and was from the community of El Camalote. According to the OPIM, “Lorenzo was killed by paramilitaries that work for the 48th Infantry Batallion of the Mexican Army based in Cruz Grande”.

The assault occurred after Lorenzo and others from the community of El Camalote left for Huamuxtitlán to present the case of the 14 campesionos who were sterilized as well as that of the rapes and the extreme militarization of the region before the UN High Commisssioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour who made a visit to Guerrero last week.

Recently another member of the OPIM, Obtilia Eugenio Manuel, has received death threats.

For more information:

Urgent Action: Fear for Safety (AI, 22/02/2008)


Guerrero: Indigenous peoples of la Montaña meet with the High Commissioner for Human Rights

February 19, 2008

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Several human rights organizations and some 100 members of indigenous groups from la Montaña including the na savi, me’phaa, nahua and amuzgos spent two hours on February 7 presenting 10 cases of human right violations to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour.

They denounced the militarization of their respective regions and the criminalization of social protest.

Among the cases presented was that of the dam project La Parota which was discussed by a member of the Council of Ejidos and Communities Opposed to the Parota (CECOP, Consejo de Ejidos y Comunidades Opositores a La Parota) as well as the case of Valentina Rosendo Cantú who was raped by members of the Mexican army (2002) which was presented before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

Other cases presented included that of the forced sterilizations in the community of El Camalote and threats made against the radio broadcaster Ñomndaa en Xochistlahuaca.

The High Commissioner, Louise Arbour, expressed how difficult it is for her to promise anything after such a short stay in the country but she assured those present that the United Nation office in Mexico would continue covering and monitoring the cases. She also thanked those who shared their stories confirming that they would serve as important reference points for the UN office in following up on the cases.

For more information:

Mexico: Indigenous People From the Montaña of Guerrero Meet with UN High Comissioner (PBI, 05/03/2008)

Mexico: Human Rights at Risk in La Parota Dam Project (AI, 05/08/2008)


Mexico: Inauguration of the “Protest is a right, repression is a crime” campaign

February 16, 2008

Édgar Cortez, Executive Secretary of the National Network of Civil Human Rights Organizations “All Rights for Everyone” [Source: Greenpeace]

In opposition to what is pointed out as “a process in which those individuals and organizations that carry out social protest will be compared to and treated as criminals,” the Mexican National Network of Civil Human Rights Organizations “All Rights for Everyone” (Red–TDT, Red Todos los Derechos para Todas y Todos) has begun a campaign to defend the right to protest.

The 57 organizations that make up the network insist that “social protest is a social guarantee of human rights in opposition to government which has failed to guarantee those same rights,” a sentiment repeated by Édgar Cortez at the -press conference in which the initiative was launched.

The Red-TDT affirms that the criminalization of protest is put forth when demonstrations of discontent are brought to the judicial arena; this legal repression takes the form of arbitrary detentions, the equating of social activists with criminals, the intensifying of accusations and a lack of due process. In the information distributed as support evidence at the beginning of the campaign, they compiled 28 cases of the criminalization of social protest in 16 different states.

They categorize repressive acts by the State in response to social protest under some of the following criteria: “the reduction of space for dialogue, political repression, the disregard* for those who demonstrate and protest, militarization of civil life and the very criminalization of protest itself.”

They announced that during the month of February, there will be promotional events throughout the 20 Mexican states in which members of the Red-TDT are present.

On the February 7, the members from Chiapas also published a document in which they present 5 cases of the criminalization of social protest in Chiapas from mid January to February 5, 2008. Among these is the case of the school teacher Felipe Hernández Yoena in which he was detained during a campesino rally in Tuxtla Gutiérrez on January 30, 2008.

For more information:

“Legitimacy of social protest” (La Jornada, 16/02/08) [in Spanish]

Felipe Hernández Yuena: “Arbitrary detention…” (OMCT Case 140208 MEX, 14/02/08) [in Spanish]

“The criminalization of protest Chiapas” (Grupos en Chiapas de la Red-TDT, 07/02/08) [in Spanish]

“NGO start campaign in defense of social protest as a right” (La Jornada, 05/02/08) [in Spanish]

Press Release: “Inauguration of Red-TDT National Campaign” (Red-TDT, 04/02/08) [in Spanish]

Documents from the National Campaign (Red-TDT, 04/02/08) [in Spanish]


Chiapas: Huitepec reserve under threat

February 13, 2008

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Since the beginning of 2008, the Zapatista Community Ecological Reserve of Huitepec (Reserva Ecológica Comunitaria Zapatista de Huitepec) has been threatened with removal. The new municipal president of San Cristóbal de las Casas, Mariano Diaz Ochoa (PRI, Revolutionary Institutional Party), stated to the press that the reserve would be removed on January 3, 2008 supposedly due to ecological damage incurred by the zaptista community residing there.

Diaz Ochoa later repeated his intention to dismantle the reserve, changing the date to January 17.The following day some five delegates from various governmental entities were sent to the area.

There was fear that the visit implied further study of the area by the government and the planning of a police operation to force out the Zapatista communities there.Since then, several unknown individuals have been seen inside the reserve, some were found taking photos without the permission of the zapatista guard.Moreover, the municipal president has continued to threaten removal via radio stations in San Cristóbal.

The reserve was established in 2006 by the Good Government Council (JBG, Junta de Buen Gobierno) of Oventik in order to “protect the forests from transnational corporations because the forest is our water, our air and everything.”Almost simultaneously, an official governmental decree announced the creation of protected natural area known as Huitepec-Alcanfores, whose territory includes that of the zapatista reserve as well.

In order to strengthen their control over the area, the JBG put in place civil observation camps soon after the opening of the reserve.Since then, the zapatista members of the community located on Huitepec have been charged with informing the others members of the community (the majority of which adhere to the PRI) of the necessity for environmental protections.

Members of the SIPAZ team visited the Zapatista Community Ecological Reserve of Huitepec on three separate occasions starting January 18, 2008 to further investigate the situation there. During the visits, members of the team spoke with individuals at the zapatista camp who stated that though there have been no further incursions by government agents, armed or otherwise, the situation continues to be a precarious one.Members of the SIPAZ team made a brief tour of the reserve which includes pristine forests through which only a few paths mark a human presence.

For more information:

Zapatista eviction imminent (La Jornada, 19/02/2008)

State Congressional decree, petition to the governor of Chiapas, to establish six new “Protected Natural Areas” is illegal (FRAYBA, 14/03/07) [in Spanish]


Chiapas: CCIODH Conclusions and recommendations

February 11, 2008

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On February 9, the International Civil Commission for Human Rights Observation (CCIODH, Comisión Civil Internacional de Observación por los Derechos Humanos) presented their provisional conclusions and recommendations prepared after a six day stay in Chiapas.In formulating their remarks the commission carried out 100 interviews with some 200 individuals, among them representatives of the Chiapas state government, members of the Catholic Church, social and non-governmental organizations, prisoners, women and indigenous communities.

The commission stressed that the source of the social and political problems of Chiapas is based on the profound inequality and exclusion that continues in the state.Each of the members presented brief reports on the current situation of detainees in the prisons of San Cristóbal de las Casas, Oventik and Cintalapa (known as el Amate), in addition to a detailed description of the case of Betel Yochib, in the municipality of Chilón (see the links below). They cited it as a glaring example of the collaboration of paramilitary groups with regard to detentions.

There was also the presentation of a documentary produced by the CCIODH in which they filmed the Commission’s medical examination of the two victims of the case in Betel Yochib, Eliseo Silvano Jiménez and his son, Eliseo Silvano Espinosa. Both showed signs of serious wounds resulting from the severe treatment they received during their detention.

Within this framework, and as a general comment in regards to the situation the commission had just witnessed, the CCIODH stated that there would be no justice for the Silvanos and that it would indeed be yet another case of “the ongiong state of affairs: an affirmation of the impunity” which has been described as a “poison for the people” of Chiapas.

That same day after the presentation, the CCIODH traveled to the state of Oaxaca to complete a four day investigation of the situation there.

For more information:

Preliminary conclusions and recommedations (CCIODH, 09/02/08) [in Spanish]

Betel Yochib Bulletin Part II ( CAPISE, 07/02/08) [in Spanish]


Oaxaca: Suspected disappearance of indigenous leader Lauro Juárez

February 9, 2008

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According to reports by several human rights organizations, Lauro Juárez, aged 50 and a member of the social organization Union of Poor Campesinos – Popular Revolutionary Front (UCP-FPR, Unión de Campesinos Pobres-Frente Popular Revolucionario), was last seen on 30 December near the site of a protest he was taking part in along the highway which connects Oaxaca City to Puerto Escondido .

Lauro Juárez, a recently elected Chatino indigenous community leader from the municipality of Santa María Temaxcaltepec, Juquila, Oaxaca is a social justice activist for political and human rights and a defender of the natural resources of the region.

On December 29, due to fear of reprisals by the police and groups of armed men, the organizers called off the protest, which had begun on December 26.

According to a report by Amnesty International, Lauro Juárez, who stayed behind while the majority of the protestors had already begun leaving, was last seen in the early hours of 30 December sleeping in a house near the site of the protest.His suitcase was later found there, however he and his bedding had disappeared.Both the Oaxaca State Attorney General’s Office and the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights have denounced his disappearance.

The National Association of Human Rights Defenders (ANDDH, La Asociación Nacional de Defensores de Derechos Humanos) has also denounced the six disappearances linked to social organizations that have taken place in the last eight months in Oaxaca.

For more information:

Urgent Action – Lauro Juárez (m), Chatino indigenous community leader (AI 08/01/2008)

Alleged disappearance of Mr. Lauro Juárez in Juquila, Oaxaca(OMCT, 11/01/2008) [in Spanish]

Press Release – Disappearance of Lauro Juárez (ANDDH, 17/01/2008) [in Spanish]


Chiapas: Aggression against members of CAPISE and SERPAJ

February 9, 2008

VIDEO: The Testimony of Ana Carela Contreras Villalpando

On February 9, 2008 the Center for Political Analysis and Social and Economic Research (CAPISE, Centro de Análisis Político e Investigaciones Sociales y Económicas) and the Service for Peace and Justice (SERPAJ, Servicio Paz y Justicia en América Latina) based in Mexico held a press conference in which they presented the events that took place in Bolon Ajaw on 30 December, 2007.

Members of SERPAJ formed part of a Land and Territory Observation Brigade (BOTT, Brigada de Observación Tierra y Territorio) coordinated by CAPISE in order to visit families and communities that are threatened with the dispossession of their land.

The brigade denounced having been intimidated and threatened as well as having been illegally detained by members of an indigenous ecotourism organization (Ecoturismo Indígena Tzeltal de Cascadas Agua Azul SC de RL), who were referred to by CAPISE as supposed “dissidents of the paramilitary group OPDDIC” (Organization for the Defense of Indigenous and Campesino Rights).

Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, Nobel Peace Prize recipient and founder of SERPAJ, addressed a letter to the Attorney General’s Office and the [Supreme] Court of Justice in order to express his concern with those “civil [organizations] that act in practice as paramilitary forces, generating terror and suffering in local communities while reducing the work sphere of human rights defenders, in many cases with the acquiescence, direct or indirect, of some authorities.”

Esquivel asked that “the state and federal authorities, both administrative and judicial, conduct the corresponding investigations and establish those responsible for the crimes, while ensuring the right to freedom of movement and political action, and making peace possible in indigenous communities in Chiapas.”

CAPISE and SERPAJ have brought a criminal suit against the aggressors for the crimes of illegal detention and threats.

The video of the aggression, recorded by one of the members of the brigade and presented as evidence along with the criminal suit, is available here.

For more information:
CAPISE website [in Spanish]
SERPAJ website [in Spanish]


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