Since Monday October 26th about 150 members of OCEZ-RC (Emiliano Zapata Campesina Organization, Carranza Region) have maintained a sit-in in the center of San Cristobal de Las Casas to denounce intimidation by the military and police in their region, and to demand the release of their members: Jose Manuel Chema Hernandez Martinez was arrested on September 30th, while Jose Manual de la Torre and Roselio de la Cruz Gonzalez were apprehended on October 24th. All three are accused of stealing, causing damage and criminal association, among other charges.
On October 29th Amnesty International asked the Mexican government to investigate the complaints against the Chiapas police, who are accused of torturing OCEZ leaders. Amnesty International also asked for the guarantee of a fair trial for Jose Hernandez Martinez who remains unable to communicate since being transferred to a maximum-security prison 2000 kilometers from Chiapas.
On October 30th in “a desperate measure to call attention and obtain the release of our fellow members,” participants from the sit-in occupied the offices of the United Nations (UN) in San Cristobal de Las Casas. The OCEZ members explained that the occupation was a “peaceful act related to international rights against forced internal displacement.” They said they were afraid police and soldiers would conduct raids in their communities in Venustiano Carranza.
UN official Arnaud Peral said “the UNDP has determined the peaceful nature of the protest up until now, despite the imposition of having their headquarters occupied, and has asked the authorities not to proceed with any forced removal based on the principal of respect for the inviolability of United Nations offices.” However, he stated that the UN would join “the negotiation process once the offices were vacated, and once the framework for dialogue as well as representation of the occupying group had been clarified.”
On November 4th prisoners Jose Manuel de la Torre Hernandez and Roselio de la Cruz Gonzalez asked that those occupying the UNDP offices vacate the building. That same day the National Front in the Struggle for Socialism (Frente Nacional de Lucha hacia el Socialismo, FNLS) denounced the “fact that the last two OCEZ-RC members who were arrested (Jose Manuel de la Torre Hernandez and Roselio Cruz Gonzalez) had agreed to change their lawyer Lic. Marcos Lopez Perez, are spreading the news that they weren’t tortured and now ‘ask’ their fellow members to vacate the UNPD offices is undeniably proof of the terrorism of these supposed state authorities. It’s obvious they were subject to pressure and threats to take these positions.” They also pointed out “the FNLS doesn’t rule out that the repressive strategy being used against the OCEZ-RC – which has been used to facilitate the militarization of their region – is part of the declared intentions of the Governor Juan Sabines in the sense that he is going to create the ‘social conditions’ necessary to give access to transnational mining extraction in Chiapas.”
On November 5th the OCEZ announced that they had proposed that the Government Secretary of Chiapas, Noe Castanon Leon, set up a working group “to ease tensions and show good faith” in order to find a solution to their demands and the occupation of the United Nations offices. This initiative may take place as early as this weekend.
For more information:
– Solicita AI que se indaguen denuncias de tortura contra líderes de la OCEZ (La Jornada, 29 de octubre)
– Toman oficinas de la ONU (Cuarto Poder, 31 de octubre)
– Descartan líderes de la OCEZ-RC toma del PNUD (Milenio, 4 de noviembre)
– Posición del FNLS antes el conflicto de la OCEZ-RC (Carta abierta, 4 de noviembre)
– Propone la OCEZ mesa de distensión (La Jornada, 6 de noviembre)
For more information from SIPAZ:
On October 16th Jose Manuel Hernandez Martinez (“Don Chema”) was unexpectedly transferred to a maximum-security prison in Tepic, Nayarit. The transfer was done with a strong police presence, with state and federal police assisting in moving him from El Amate, the prison in Chiapas where he had been held since his detention on September 30th.
The Chiapas government sub-secretary, Nemesio Ponce Sanchez, confirmed the transfer to the prisoner’s family and friends, who had not been informed in advance. The sub-secretary said the transfer of Hernandez Martinez was “for his own security.” The sub-secretary also said anybody wishing to visit him in the far-away state would be eligible for airline tickets paid for by the government.
In a public statement the Campesina Organization Emiliano Zapata (OCEZ), based in the Carranza region, brought attention to the transfer of Don Chema and the deaths of two cooperative landowners who were present during the arrest of their leader (the first died immediately, the other on October 17th.) According to OCEZ “the saddest part of this situation is that from the beginning our organization signed agreements of political civility and governability… and during this process they detained Jose Manuel Hernandez Martinez. We started a series of actions against the state government because for us, his arrest was a betrayal of the agreements signed.” The statement concluded by saying, “Given the situation, we place responsibility on Governor Juan Sabines because this is a blow to our organization and to social struggle in the state of Chiapas.”
For the Human Rights Center Fray Bartolome de Las Casas, this transfer represents a “way to punish him and his family.” They denounced this action and said “the State violated the Principles and Best Practices for People Deprived of Freedom in the Americas, which states that transfers of incarcerated people should be authorized and supervised by competent authorities who will respect, in all circumstances, dignity and fundamental rights and who will take into account the need for incarcerated people to be in locations near their families, communities and legal representatives… Transfers should not be done with the intention to punish, reprimand or discriminate against incarcerated persons, their families or friends.”
In a communiqué the National Front for the Fight for Socialism reported Hernandez Martinez’s transfer “is due to political revenge and wanting to put him in solitary confinement like they did in CERSS 14 El Amate, which goes against his constitutional and human rights as well as due process.”
For more information:
Boletín del Centro de Derechos Humanos Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas: Traslado Forzoso de José Manuel Hernández Martínez, líder de la OCEZ
For more information from SIPAZ:
On September 30, 2009, José Manuel Hernández Martinez, also known as “Don Chema”, was taken captive under arbitrary circumstances in the 28 de Junio community of Venustiano Carranza. Hernández Martinez is one of the main leaders of the Emiliano Zapata Peasant Organization (OCEZ) in the Venustiano Carranza region. At the moment, he is held in the State Centre for Social Reintegration of the Convicted(CERSS) No. 14, “El Amate”, in Cintalapa.
According to various sources, a group of people wearing Federal Electricity Commission (CFE) uniforms entered the 28 de Junio community, on September 30, asking residents if they were having problems with their electricity. When they located José Manuel Hernández Martinez, the men in disguise kidnapped him in their van, which appeared to be a CFE vehicle, and fled the community. Supporters of Hernández Martinez went in pursuit of the van in an attempt to rescue him, however, they were attacked by firearms and their vehicle crashed. Jordán López Aguilar was killed in the crash and José Santos López Aguilar, Juan Jiménez Zepeda and Ballardo Hernández de la Cruz were injured.
Late that night, it was confirmed that Hernández Martinez was held in the CERSS No. 14, “El Amate” and that the operation had been conducted by agents from the Federal General Attorney’s Office(PGR, Procuraduría General de la República)and from the Attorney General’s Office of the state of Chiapas (PGJE, Procuraduría General de Justicia del Estado de Chiapas). According to local accusations made after he was taken into custody, Hernández Martínez was not presented with any warrant for his arrest. However, according to the federal government, there were previous inquiries and warrants against José Manuel Hernández Martínez for such crimes as criminal conspiracy or aggravated damages.
The National Front to Fight for Socialism (FNLS, Frente Nacional de Lucha por el Socialismo) denounced the detention as arbitrary, arguing that only a few weeks ago, José Manuel Hernández Martínez and the OCEZ were holding ongoing negotiations with the state government, at which time his kidnapping could have easily been accomplished. They declared in their press release that this captureg was an act of repression and criminalization of social protest. According to the Human Rights Center Fray Bartolome de Las Casas (Frayba), Hernández Martínez was interrogated in the office of the PGJE “about: whether he was a member of the Popular Revolutionary Army (EPR, Ejército Popular Revolucionario) and theZapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN, Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional)”
It must be acknowledged that the capture of José Manuel Hernández Martínez occurred during a period of increased hostility regarding the efforts of human rights defenders and of criminalization of social protest. In the last three months, there has been a smear campaign against Frayba, which included an armed attack against one of their members and the adherants of The Other Campaign of San Sebastián Bachajón and Jotolá, as well as acts of harassment against members of the FNLS. A few days prior to the capture of José Manuel Hernández Martínez, a stranger set fire to the K’inal Antsetik A.C. facilities, a feminist organization that is affiliated with Yolanda Castro, local leader of the FNLS.
For more information (in Spanish):
- Pronunciamiento del FNLS por la detención de José Manuel Hernández Martínez (01/10/09)
- Boletín No. 32 del Frayba: “En Chiapas se criminaliza y se hostiga a los movimientos sociales y a la defensa de derechos humanos” (02/10/09)
- La Jornada: “Capturan PGR y Procuraduría de Chiapas a líder de la OCEZ” (01/10/09)
More information from SIPAZ:
– Chiapas: Frayba Denounces Criminalization of Human Rights Work (September 2009)