Chiapas: Public proclamation on the Popular Citizens’ Constitutional Power in San Cristóbal

December 26, 2015


Public proclamation in San Cristóbal of the Popular Citizens’ Constitutional Power (@SIPAZ)

On 5 December, more than 15,000 people, the majority of them indigenous, as well as representatives from seven countries in Central and South America, marched and held a rally in San Cristóbal de Las Casas to proclaim the Popular Citizens’ Constitutional Power. This initiative seeks to establish the basis for a new political Constitution in Mexico, which would refound the nation and lead to a new social contract.

Raúl Vera López, former assistant bishop of San Cristóbal de Las Casas and present bishop of Saltillo, Coahuila, led the event at which the indigenous protestors gave him a command scepter. The bishop acknowledged that the Zapatista uprising of 1994 represented the “ferment” of a new constitutional power, but that at present “it it not just our Mayan brothers and sisters who seek a new social contract, but rather all Mexicans.” He asserted that “we do not want this deviation of power whereby the authority we delegate in a government becomes perverse, placing our resources and lands in the hands of multinational corporations and their home governments and states. Instead, these must be placed at the service of all Mexicans who want peace with justice and development with dignity.”

The Council of the Popular Citizens’ Constitutional Power in Chiapas stressed that “today is an historical day that will be remembered throughout Chiapas and Mexico, because the presence of thousands of people is a clear demonstration that the people have recognized how disastrous our living conditions are, and have armed themselves with valor and dignity, taking on the responsibility of transforming this reality.”

For more information (in Spanish):

Marchan miles en Chiapas para proclamar una nueva Constitución (La Jornada, 7 de diciembre de 2015)

Tribunal Permanente de Pueblos urge a la refundación del país (Proceso, 6 de diciembre de 2015)

Presentan indígenas su constituyente ciudadana (El Universal, 7 de diciembre de 2015)

Sitio de la iniciativa:

National/International: German activists reject security agreement with Mexico

February 10, 2015


German activists in front of the Ministry of the Interior. Photo@México Vía Berlín

On 3 February, dozens of persons protested in front of the German Ministry of the Interior against a security agreement that is planned with Mexico.  The activists submitted a list of 7,830 persons who reject the support Berlin provides for police and juridical authorities in Mexico.  These signatures are the results of a campaign promoted by the German Coordination for Human Rights in Mexico which has repeatedly pronounced itself against this type of agreement given that, as it argues, conditions do not exist in Mexico for a collaboration of this type.  The petition’s website explains that “this agreement would not serve to regulate the police who are systematically torturing their people, killing innocents, and raping women, besides being involved in the forcible disappearances of tens of thousands of people for decades.”  In response to the German government’s argument that corruption is limited to the local and municipal levels, the activists note that “this is a disingenuous argument, to claim that the problems have to do with the local police […].  The impunity of the security forces is the functional reality of all levels of the Mexican government, and only in a very limited set of situations can it be broken using particular tactics.  For the German police to collaborate with these structures would be to legitimate the principle of impunity.”

Present at the protest was a Mexican delegation, which included the bishop of Saltillo, Raúl Vera, and members of the Network in Solidarity Decade against Impunity.  After the protest, close to 40 activists met with officials from the Ministry, including Peter Steck and Siegfried Helmut Mueller. Bishop Vera handed over the list of signatures against the controversial security proposal and expressed the same sort of worry evinced by the other activists: “At this time, as Ayotzinapa has shown, the police, the Army, and organized crime act jointly together against the people of the country.  And the federal government knows that part of civil society disagrees with this, such that they feel insecure.  And this force that you are giving to the police will not be used to fight organized crime but instead people like us.”  For his part, Peter Steck promised the activists that he would transmit the information to be considered in the negotiations regarding the security accord.

For more information (in Spanish):

Campaña “No al acuerdo” de la Coordinación Alemana por los Derechos Humanos en México

Activistas rechazan en Berlín convenio de seguridad con México(LaJornada, 4 de febrero, 2015)

Obispo Vera pide al gobierno alemán evitar firma de acuerdo con México(Proceso, 3 de febrero, 2015)

Acuerdo de seguridad Alemania-México: inminente y poco transparente(Deutsche Welle, 8 de diciembre, 2014)

Los peligros del Acuerdo de Seguridad entre México y Alemania (eltoque, 4 de febrero, 2015)

For more information from SIPAZ (in English):

Guerrero: update in the Ayotzinapa case (17 December 2014)

Chiapas: Bishop José Raúl López Vera receives the 2010 Rafto Prize

September 28, 2010

José Raúl López Vera (@ La Jornada)

On 1 September, José Raúl López Vera, Catholic bishop of Saltillo, Coahuila, received the 2010 Rafto Prize, an honor bequeathed annually by the Norwegian Rafto Foundation.  According to the Foundation, the Rafto Prize “contributes to promoting awareness of the importance of closely observing human-rights violations and persons and communities that need the world’s attention.” In the past, this recognition was bestowed upon Aun San Suu Kyi (Burma), Kim Daejung (South Korea), and Shirin Ebadi (Iran), all of whom were later awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

The Foundation’s press-release announcing this year’s award emphasizes the alarming context lived in Mexico: increasing militarization, rights-violations associated with the presence of the military, impunity, institutional corruption, and repression directed against journalists and social activists.  For the Rafto Foundation, the situation for Central-American migrants passing through Mexico en route to the United States is particularly grave, given the number of kidnappings and rapes to which they are subjected.  In light of such considerations, the Foundation sees in Raúl Vera someone who “speaks aloud and without fear against rights-violations, corruption, abuse of power, and the absence of law.” Raúl Vera’s life work, the Foundation adds, “demonstrates an unbreakable commitment to and faith in action toward improving the living-conditions of the poor, vulnerable, and oppressed populations of Mexico.” The communiqué also mentions his efforts directed at putting an end to the violence suffered by migrants and denouncing the lack of protection afforded to journalists, as well as his denunciations of the corruption of the Supreme Court of Justice in the Nation (SCJN) and other governmental institutions and his public support for gays and lesbians.  During the time he spent as assistant bishop in Chiapas between 1995 and 1999, he worked together with bishop Samuel Ruiz García to improve the rights of impoverished campesinos and indigenous individuals and to maintain the cease-fire between the government and the Zapatistas.

Most recently, Raúl Vera has founded the Fray Juan de Larios Diocesan Center for Human Rights and the organization Belén, located in Saltillo, which gives refuge to Central-American migrants and Mexicans deported from the United States.  It is estimated that Belén has served some 40,000 such migrants since its founding in 2002.

In sum, the Rafto Foundation finds that Raúl Vera “uses his authority as bishop to criticize the government, although he also refers in detail to social structures that promote oppression,” “systematically works to allow the poor and oppressed to struggle for their rights,” and, through his organizations, “works with communities to provide emergency aid to individuals living in desperate conditions.” In this sense, Raúl Vera represents “the voice of those without voice,” an actor who, in the words of the Foundation, “contributes to giving Mexico’s most vulnerable population a life with dignity and hope for a better future.”

For more information (in Spanish):

Rafto Prize is given to bishop Raúl Vera in Norway (La Jornada, 24 September)

Rafto Foundation press-release in full (pdf)