Oaxaca: Attack on observation caravan—2 dead and 4 missing

April 29, 2010

On 27 April, a civil-observation caravan was attacked in the community La Sabana, presumably by members of the organization Union of Social Welfare for the Triqui Region (UBISORT), while en route to the autonomous municipality of San Juan Cópala. To date, it has been confirmed that two have died, one has been injured, and four are still missing.

According to information provided by different sources, the caravan, which was comprised of more than twenty participants, both Mexicans and internationals, departed for San Juan Cópala the same day from Huajuapan de León, and was at 2:30pm stopped and fired upon in La Sabana by presumed members of UBISORT, an organization associated with the Revolutionary Institutional Party (PRI) that has been reported as bearing the characteristics of a paramilitary group. It has been confirmed that Beatriz Alberta Cariño Trujillo, director of the Center of Community Support Working Together A.C. (CACTUS), and the Finnish international observer Jyri Jaakola have died as a result of the attack. Additionally, Mónica Santiago Ortiz was injured with a gun-shot wound and was received the same day at a hostpital in Juxtlahuaca.

In a telephone interview with SIPAZ, Mónica Santiago confirmed that David Venegas and Noé Bautista, both from the organization Oaxacan Voices Constructing Autonomy and Liberty (VOCAL), as well as two journalists from the magazine Contralínea are missing. According to a communiqué released jointly with CACTUS, the Network of Indigenous Community Radios from Southeastern México and the Mexican Alliance for the Self-determination of Peoples (AMAP), the missing journalists are Ericka Ramirez and David Cilia. Santiago Ortiz related that when the caravan arrived in La Sabana, the road was blocked with rocks, and that it was when the three vehicles that constituted the caravan attempted to turn around that they were fired upon. Beatriz Alberta Cariño Trujillo and Jyri Jaakola were both immediately killed by the gunfire.

According to a VOCAL communiqué, “those who remained in the attacked area were forcibly removed from the vehicles and taken monte abajo for interrogation; some were threatened with death and released on the road. Our comrade RUBEN VALENCIA NUNEZ, member of VOCAL, was detained by members of the paramilitary group; the latter took from him his electoral identification and cellular phone, threatened to kill him, and later released him.”

The caravan embarked with the objective of providing humanitarian aid to members of the Movement for Triqui Unification and Struggle-Independent (MULT-I) in San Juan Cópala, who, as has been recently denounced, have been approached by the UBISORT group for the past several months. In a communiqué released on 17 April, authorities of the autonomous municipality, who are adherents to the Other Campaign of the Zapatista Army for National Liberation (EZLN), declared that “electricity and water services have been cut off, and checkpoints have been erected [in La Sabana] at the entrance and exit [of San Juan Cópala].” One of the caravan’s objectives was to document the situation in which the affected populations found themselves. Members of CACTUS, VOCAL, Section 22 of the National Union of Educational Workers (SNTE), as well as councilmembers of the Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca and observers from Germany, Belgium, Finland, and Italy, participated in the caravan.

For more information (in Spanish):

San Juan Copala: chronology of an announced repression (La Jornada, 29 April)

Several of those ambushed in Copala are missing (La Jornada, 29 April)



Mexican woman and Finnish man killed in ambush on caravan in Oaxaca; several are missing (Cronica de Hoy, 29 April)

Rare participation of foreigners in a zone with problems: Ulises Ruíz (La Jornada, 29 de abril)

For more information from SIPAZ (in English):

Oaxaca:  Autonomous Municipality of San Juan Copala attacked (18 June 2009)

Oaxaca:  UNHCR and IACHR condemn assassination of two of Copala’s community radio announcers (18 April 2008)


Guerrero: resurgence of conflict over the possible construction of the La Parota dam

April 27, 2010

At the end of 2009 and beginning of 2010, various sources said that the proposed construction of the La Parota hydroelectric dam, near Acapulco in the state of Guerrero, would be postponed until 2018. Still others contended that it had been cancelled due to financial constraints.

However, on April 6, 2010, the Commissariat of Communal Property in Cacahuatepec, one of the agrarian projects to be affected by the construction of the dam, announced a first-call for a community General Asembly on Sunday, April 18, 2010 aimed at, among other things, “Analyzing and appropriately acting regarding the request for consent, established by the Federal Electricity Commission, to be carried out before the Ministry of Agrarian Reform, of the administrative process of expropriation for public use of an area of 1,383 hectares belonging to the community and intended for the construction of hydroelectric dam La Parota.”

The April 18 assembly saw the arrival of some 400 members from the Council of Ejidos and Communities Opposed to the La Parota Project (CECOP), with only ten people supposedly supporting the project. Those in favor of construction argued that the project will benefit all inhabitants of communities that would be submerged in ther reservoir and that the Assembly was cancelled due to intimidating tactics taken by opponents of the project.

The president of the Ejidal Communal Property Cacahuatepec, Eustaquio García Vázquez, assured that they had not approached the employees of the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE) and held that the notice was issued because officials have requested employment opportunities for their constituencies. He recognized, moreover, that the standards have up to 12 years and there are some people dead or living in the United States still listed.

A new assembly was convened on April 28. A Civil Observation Mission was organized “with the end of being present at the completion of the second meeting, maintaining a civilian presence in the area as well as assisting in documentation and national and international resonance.”

Referring to the case of La Parota and the Paso de la Reina project in Oaxaca, an article published in El Universal suggests that the construction of these dams violates the rights of indigenous peoples and peasants “to public information, to consultation, to participation in their own development, to a healthy environment, to be respected as traditional authorities, and of course to the right to life.”

For more information (in Spanish):

Alert regarding accord to expropriate land for the construction of La Parota (La Jornada Guerrero, 18 April)

CECOP impedes “assembly” designed to expropriate land in favor of dama (La Jornada Guerrero, 19 April)

The people of Acapulco will die of thirst if La Parota is not built, claims leader (La Jornada de Guerrero, 23 April)

Assembly to promote construction of La Parota fails (La Jornada, 19 April)

CECOP blocks attempt by the CFE to reopen project La Parota (Sistema Integral de Información en Derechos Humanos, 19 April)

Dams:  threat to human rights (El Universal, 20 April)

For more information from SIPAZ (in English):

Oaxaca:  “Rivers for Life, Not Death” (11 February 2010)

Guerrero:  The Popular Gathering “Water, Energy, and Alternative Energies” Concludes in Cacahuatepec (November 12, 2008)

Oaxaca:  Ríos para la vida, no para la muerte (9 de febrero 2010)

Guerrero:  Finaliza el encuentro Popular “Agua, Energía y Alternativas Energéticas” en Cacahuatepec (11 de noviembre 2009)

Guerrero: Before the Inter-American Court, the Mexican government denies that the military raped Inés Fernández

April 27, 2010

On the 15th of April, in Lima, Perú, the Inter-American Court on Human Rights listened to the final oral testimonies of the case of Fernández Ortega vs. México (personal integrity and access to justice). Inés Fernández is an indigenous activist from Guerrero who reported being raped by Mexican military forces in 2002. Before the Court, representatives of the Mexican government responded to the allegations by stating that Fernández was lying. The director general of Human Rights and Democracy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Alejandro Negrín, who represents the Mexican state, affirmed “we deny the accustation, since there is no evidence.”

Gisela de León, lawyer from the Center for Justice and International Law (Cejil), who is part of the legal defense team for Fernández, said it was “grave” that the government did not recognize the crime, ” despite all the evidence.”  Council stressed that, in addition to the testimony of Fernández, there was that of her children, who were present during the events. Additionally, a medical test was done that confirmed the presence of semen in her body and a psychological examination that also showed Fernández  had suffered a traumatic event. Council also recalled that they can confirm the military presence during the date and time of the crime.

The legal representatives of the state and of Fernández have until the 24th of May to present written closing arguments, after which the Inter-American Court will consider the case and issue its decision.

For more information (in Spanish):

Before the Inter-American Court on Human Rights, authorities claim that indigenous woman who claimed to have been raped by soldiers is lying (La Jornada, 16 April)

Chiapas: ejidatarios march in Tila in defense of their lands

April 27, 2010

Years, even decades, have passed, and yet a resolution to the conflict regarding the lands on which is located the municipal center of Tila in the northern zone of Chiapas.  Lately, tensions have been increasing between the ejidatarios and the municipal government, and this has led the town’s villagers (that is, people who settled in Tila without being ejidatarios) to divide themselves between those who support the municipal government and those who support the ejidatarios.

According to information made available by the Fray Bartolomé de las Casas Center for Human Rights (CDHFBC), a 1934 presidential decree granted more than 5400 hectares to the 836 ejidatarios of Tila.  In 1966 this resolution was modified so as to convert 130 hectares of the ejido to being part of a “legal fund”–that is, a part in which the “urban stain” and the governmental headquarters of Tila were located.  This modification, however, was not passed legally, as s/he who saw it through was not an official authorized to make such changes.  For this reason, the ejidatarios in 1977 brought the case to court and won.  Nonetheless, Tila’s municipal government requested an application for legal-fund status in 1980 and received it, meaning that 130 hectares of the ejidal lands passed to control by the municipal government, a move that in turn induced the ejidatarios to bring the case to court a second time two years later.  This case was not heard for years, until their case was granted in December 2008.

According to CDHFBC, this change implied the devolution of the formerly occupied lands as well as the cancellation of the corresponding private-property claims together with financial compensation for the damages suffered by the ejidatarios.  To date, no such reparations have been granted.

For this reason a grand march took place on 11 April of this year.  The CDHFBC reports that thousands of men, women, and children assembled to demand the right to their territory, to call for the realization of the December court finding, and to denounce the harassment and criminalization of social protest that has accompanied the controversy.

To see photos and video of the march and to read the communiqué (in Spanish), visit:

March of thousands of ejidatarios in Tila (blog Chiapas Denuncia Pública, 13 April)

Hace años, o más bien décadas, que queda sin resolver el conflicto en cuanto a las tierras donde se ubica la cabecera municipal de Tila en la zona Norte de Chiapas. Últimamente la tensión ha ido creciendo entre los ejidatarios y el gobierno municipal, haciendo que los “pobladores” (gente que se instaló en la cabecera de Tila sin ser ejidatarios) también se dividieran entre los que apoyan al gobierno municipal y los que apoyan a los ejidatarios.

Según la información del Centro de Derechos Humanos Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas (CDHFBC), en 1934 , un decreto presidencial otorgó un poco más de 5400 hectáreas a los 836 ejidatarios de Tila. En 1966 esta resolución se vio modificada para convertir 130 hectáreas del ejido en “fondo legal”, o sea una parte en la que se sentó la “mancha urbana” y  la sede del gobierno municipal de Tila. Pero esta modificación no se dio de acuerdo a la ley, ya que quien la realizó no fue una autoridad competente para llevarla a cabo. Por ello en 1977 los ejidatarios presentaron un amparo en contra de esta decisión y lo ganaron. A pesar de ello, el  gobierno municipal de Tila llegó a pedir la aplicación del fondo legal y lo consiguió en el año 1980, o sea 130 hectáreas de las tierras ejidales pasaron bajo el control del gobierno municipal, lo cual dio pie a que los ejidatarios presentaran un segundo amparo en 1982. Aquella demanda no fue atendida durante años… hasta que en diciembre de 2008 se les otorgó el amparo. Según el mismo CDHFBC, eso implicaba tanto la devolución de las tierras despojadas, como  la cancelación de los registros de propiedad privada correspondientes y el pago de daños y perjuicios a los ejidatarios. Nada de eso fue cumplido hasta la fecha.

Por eso se realizó una gran marcha el día 11 de abril de 2010. “Miles” -según el CDHFBC- de hombres, mujeres, niños, ancianos vinieron a reivindicar el derecho a su territorio, reclamando el cumplimiento del amparo jurídico a su favor y denunciando los múltiples hostigamientos sufridos por este asunto y la criminalización de su protesta.

Para fotos y vídeos de la marcha y para leer el comunicado:

Marcha de miles de ejidatarios en Tila (blog Chiapas Denuncia Pública, 13/04/10)

México City: Conclusions at the Third National Meeting of Human-Rights Defenders

April 27, 2010

On 17 April, in México City, there was held the Third National Meeting of Human-Rights Defenders, an event which was attended by representatives of 35 civil-society organizations.  Participants hailed from the states of Veracruz, Chiapas, Oaxaca, Puebla, Guerrero, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Baja California, Mexico City, Mexico State, and Guanajuato to analyze what was referred to in the meeting’s press-release as the “situation that [rights-defenders] face in their everyday work.”

The conference participants denounced that, “due to the promotion and defense of human rights” that their work advances, they find themselves “constantly in threatening situations”–threats that include “death-threats, torture, intimidation, illegal arrest, harassment, and even murder.”  They affirmed that “adequate mechanisms of protection” do not exist for their work, and they emphasized that many rights-defenders have had to flee their homes due to threats.  They added that recent militarization policies in México “ha[ve] aggravated the situation of vulnerability in which we find ourselves.”  They also indicated that this violent context particularly affects women, indigenous individuals, and journalists.

The assembled rights-defenders advocated that the Mexican government to conform with the demands of the December 1998 Declaration on the Rights of Human-Rights Defenders, and they called for the immediate end to the “threats and repression” they face at the hands of the state, or “with its assent or acquiescence.”  They demanded that military forces give up work that “corresponds to civil authorities,” and that “all political prisoners and prisoners of conscience” be released as soon as possible.

The press-release concluded by recommending that the work of rights-defenders be constitutionally recognized, and that “an adequate national mechanism for the protection of human-rights defenders” be constructed.

For more information (in Spanish):

Press-release of the Third Encounter of Human-Rights Defenders (17 de abril)

Video of the conclusion of the conference

Guerrero: 2nd anniversary of the imprisonment of Raúl Hernández

April 23, 2010

On April 17, the Tlachinollan-Mountain Human Rights Center released a communiqué to mark the second anniversary of the detention of Raúl Hernández, human rights defender and member of the Organization of the Me’phaa Indigenous People (OPIM) who,  since his incarceration, has been recognized by Amnesty International as a prisoner of conscience.

Declaring that Hernández was imprisoned for a crime he did not commit, the communiqué states that human-rights organizations marked the day by issuing statements in his support. The Mexico Office of the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights for the United Nations (OHCHR) also issued a press release that called on the Mexican government to observe “international human rights standards” in this case, as in others.

The communiqué states that the detention of Hernández represents part of a repression-policy directed at OPIM.  It also states that Dep. Filemón Navarro and Senator Lázaro Mazón of Guerrero would mark the anniversary by visiting Hernández and demanding his immediate release.

For more information (in Spanish):

Tlachinollan-Mountain Human Rights Center communiqué, 17 April

OHCHR press-release (17 April)

Amnesty International demands release of indigenous leader (La Jornada, 17 April)

For more information from SIPAZ:

Guerrero:  4 of the 5 jailed human rights defenders are freed (19 March 2009)

Urgent Action in the case of Alberto Cerezo Contreras, human-rights defender

April 17, 2010

On 15 April, the organizations Servicios y Asesoría para la Paz (Serapaz), the Fray Bartolomé de las Casas Center for Human Rights, the Fray Francisco de Vitor Human-Rights Center, the Project for Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ProDESC), The Inter-Ecclesiastical Commision for Justice and Peace (Colombia), the Associazione Centro di Accoglienza e di Promozione Culturale E. Balducci (Udine, Italy), and Protection International (Belgium) published an Urgent Action that has to do with the harassment, vigilance, and stalking that Alejandro Cerezo Contreras, member of the Cerezo Committee-México and vice-president of Urgent Action for Human-Rights Defender AC, has recently experienced.

According to Contreras, on 13 April, at the close of the forum “Criminalization of social protest:  new challenges for human-rights defenders” that was held at the National Autonomous University of México (UNAM) in México City, he noticed that he was being filmed by a stranger from a distance of approximately 50 meters.  Later, Contreras and two colleagues of his from Peace-Brigades International (PBI) came to realize that they were being filmed once again by the same person from a distance of about 55 meters; this time, though, he was accompanied by another stranger.

Two days later, Contreras suffered new stalking-episodes on the part of one of the same persons who had been filming him on the 13th, among others.  Contreras says that he was followed by people on foot as well in a car, and that they attempted to take his picture.

The organizations that signed on to the Urgent Action made four demands:  that the Mexican government “immediately” take “the appropriate measures to guarantee the security and physical and psychological integrity of Alejandro Cerezo Contreras, his family-members and friends, as well as that of members of the Cerezo Committee-México and Urgent Action for Human-Rights Defenders AC,” undertake “an immediate, exhaustive, and impartial investigation into the vigilance, stalking, and harrassment suffered [by Contreras], the findings of which are to be made public, and those responsible dealt with justly,” assure “the application of the demands of the Declaration on Human-Rights Defenders,” and “realize in its actions that which is called for by the pacts and international conventions ratified by México.”

The Urgent Action concludes by calling on “international human-rights organizations” to “express their concern regarding the gravity of the acts and pressure the Mexican government to attend to recent petitions.”

For more information (in Spanish):

Urgent Action, 15 April