Posts Tagged ‘Mexico’

Mexican bishop Raul Vera ‘s continues his dangerous battle against organized crime

August 3, 2017

La Croix International carried a story on the work of bishop Raul Vera: “A Mexican bishop’s dangerous battle against organized crime“. Samuel Lieven described on 14 July, 2017 the priest as “an indefatigable defender of human rights in one of the most violent countries on earth,..[who] … has for thirty years denounced collusion between the Mexican government and the drug cartels. He has stood up to drug lords, traffickers and paramilitaries despite narrowly escaping death several times.” Bishop Vera, a Dominican who was awarded the Rafto Prize for human rights in 2010, has often taken risks in denouncing endemic corruption in Mexico, where the violence has reached record levels. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/02/11/mexico-activists-convene-first-peoples-constitutional-assembly/]
Archbishop Raul Vera arrives at the basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City on December 26, 2016. / Alfredo Estrella / Afp

At a press conference on Tuesday, 11 July, Bishop Raul Vera of Saltillo in Coahuila province in northern Mexico directly accused the Mexican government of complicity in organized crime by facilitating the crimes committed by the drug cartels “by terror”. Bishop Vera’s statement accompanied a complaint lodged on July 6 with the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague for crimes committed by Mexican security forces in collaboration with the powerful Las Zetas cartel. For Bishop Vera, this violence, particularly the violence that has spread in Coahuila province, “is not due to chance”.

In order to establish his complaint with the ICC, Bishop Vera drew on the work of more than 100 civil society organizations as well as reports prepared by the Legal Clinic of the University of Texas. He made particular reference to prosecutions under way against “members of organized crime in American courts which illustrated close collaboration with the government of Coahuila”. In addition, there were dozens of testimonies from victims of crimes committed by Mexican forces between 2009 and 2012 as well as by armed groups of Las Zetas. Overall, 32 recorded cases illustrated the links between the authorities and the cartel with a total of 562 victims involved.

A longstanding and indefatigable defender of indigenous people, prostitutes, homosexuals, prisoners and all oppressed minorities in his own country, Bishop Raul Vera is no beginner in the field of denouncing injustice. In testimony published in 2014, he highlighted the difficulties faced by a bishop standing up to the daily pressure and death threats from local drug lords, paramilitaries or traffickers who respect neither law or religion… Bishop Vera has narrowly escaped death several times….. In the space of ten years, more than forty have been killed. Priests, seminarians, deacons and religious have all become targets. According to an observatory established by the Mexican bishops, violence against the clergy increased by 275% between 1990 and 2015. Mexico also figures along with India, Pakistan or Turkey among the countries where religious freedom is most regularly violated.

Source: A Mexican bishop’s dangerous battle against organized crime – La Croix International

Silencing of Miriam Rodriguez Martinez in Mexico: a loud voice for the disappeared

June 21, 2017

Since December 2012, on average two human rights defenders have been killed every month in Mexico. During his recent visit to Mexico (25 January 2017), United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Michel Forst, highlighted the particular dangers faced by indigenous rights defenders and those campaigning to protect the environment from the impact of mega development projects. The situation of human rights defenders in Mexico is conditioned by the criminalisation of their activities through the deliberate misuse of criminal law and the manipulation of the state’s punitive power by both state and non-state actors, to hinder and even prevent the legitimate activities of defenders to promote and protect human rights,” said Forst. “The failure to investigate and sanction aggressors has signaled a dangerous message that there are no consequences for committing such crimes. This creates an environment conducive to the repetition of violations”Two major contributory factors are the impunity enjoyed by organised criminal gangs and the failure by state authorities to provide protection to HRDs or to bring the perpetrators of attacks to justice. Nothing demonstrates the problem better than the work and life of Miriam Rodriguez Martinez, who was gunned down on 10 May 2017.

The obituary in the Economist of 20 May 2017 tells the sad story of this enormously courageous woman in detail: http://www.economist.com/news/obituary/21722139-campaigner-mexicos-disappeared-was-50-obituary-miriam-rodr-guez-mart-nez-died-may

see also: https://socialistworker.org/2017/05/18/justice-for-miriam-rodriguez

and https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/02/27/alarming-criminalisation-of-human-rights-defenders-in-latin-america/

Two remarkable women rights defenders from Mexico: Olga Guzmán and Stephanie Brewer

December 15, 2016

OMCT-LOGOpublishes a series of 10 profiles human rights defenders to commemorate International Human Rights Day, 10 December 2016. Here two women HRDs from Mexico: Olga Guzmán and Stephanie Brewer: Read the rest of this entry »

Rodolfo Stavenhagen, Mexican scholar on indigenous and minority rights, passed away

November 7, 2016

It is good to remember not only the front-line human rights defenders but also those who struggled on the side of the oppressed contributing their academic and diplomatic talents. One of those is certainly Rodolfo Stavenhagen (born 29 August 1932) who died on 5 November 2016. He was a Mexican sociologist,a professor-researcher at El Colegio de México and former Deputy Director General of UNESCO. From 2001 – 2008 he was the first United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of the human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people through Resolution 2001/57. Read the rest of this entry »

Ivette Gonzalez: profile of a Human Rights Defender from Mexico

July 11, 2016

Ivette Gonzalez: Human Rights Defender from Mexico

In the ISHR Monitor of 1 July 2016 there is an interview with Ivette Gonzalez who works as a strategic engagement associate for Project on Organizing, Development, Education and Research (PODER) in Mexico. Ivette was in Geneva to participate in ISHR’s Human Rights Defender Advocacy Programme.

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In Mexico, Ivette’s work at PODER is framed around the business and human rights agenda. PODER works to strengthen civil society to achieve corporate transparency and accountability with a human rights perspective. Ivette spoke to ISHR about her motivation to become involved in human rights work, in particular advocating for business and human rights:

‘Injustice and inequality as well as understanding the imbalance of wealth distribution and power triggered my motivation.’

Regarding the risks she and her organisation face on a daily basis, Ivette acknowledged that a focus on safety concerns is necessary in Mexico. PODER has implemented a very strict security protocol in the office to ensure they can work in safe conditions. All members, both those in the field and in the office, are required to follow the protocol.

‘By working in business and human rights, we are aware that powerful actors can consider our work as a threat.’

In the last few years, Ivette feels that human rights defenders and journalists are more at risk in Mexico. Discrediting campaigns point the finger at NGOs and defenders, questioning the legitimacy of their work and even accusing them of taking advantage of victims of human rights violations.

Implementation of laws for the protection of defenders

When talking about particular changes to legislation Ivette would like to see in Mexico, she mentions that the creation of laws is not the issue, but their implementation is. In Mexico, a law and protection mechanism for human rights defenders exists, but the mechanism needs to be improved with the inputs of the users of it and the people at risk. For that to happen, it is crucial that civil society are involved in the process and monitoring.

‘Even though Mexico already has the legislative tools in hand, using these tools, making them concrete and practical for defenders and activists on the ground is the missing step.’

Information is power

Regarding her goals at the international level, Ivette admits that the human rights agenda needs to have an impact at the international level, because some actors are large transnational corporations based in many different countries, and there is a lack of access to justice for the victims of corporate activities in the host and home countries.

Ivette interacts with UN mechanisms including the Special Procedures. PODER has interacted with the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders, the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Working Group on Business and Human Rights. In speaking of interacting with the Special Procedures, Ivette acknowledges civil society’s critical role in providing information to Special Procedures.

‘My recommendation for the international community would be to work together and form coalitions. Building new structures and making steps towards change, can be best achieved by working together.’

Learning and advocating in Geneva

Regarding her participation in HRDAP, Ivette is grateful to have been able to receive such a significant amount of information on how to effectively engage with the UN system, as well as how to efficiently use it in her existing work. She looks forward to sharing her knowledge with other civil society organisations and assisting affected communities to engage with the UN. She appreciated the opportunity to lobby various actors, as well as learn how to approach missions and engage with the system – including Special Procedures and Treaty Bodies.

‘During HRDAP, I met very brave defenders with whom I developed professional relationships. Sharing experience and expertise can strengthen our work in the pursue for the respect of human rights.’

Source: Ivette Gonzalez: Human Rights Defender from Mexico | ISHR

Alarming criminalisation of human rights defenders in Latin America

February 27, 2016

The criminalization of human rights defenders in the context of the extraction of natural resources and megaprojects is becoming a very worrisome phenomenon in Latin America, denounces the Observatory in a report published today in Mexico. Entitled “The criminalization of human rights defenders in the context of industrial projects: a regional phenomenon in Latin America”, this document points to the role of businesses, civil servants, public prosecutors, judges, and the State. The report issued by OMCT and FIDH (in the context of their Observatory for Human Rights Defenders) on 25 February 2016 describes the specific cases of human rights defenders criminalized in eight Latin American countries (Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua and Peru).

 

The report especially stresses two core issues common to all the countries studied: Read the rest of this entry »

Alberto Solis Castro explains the unbalanced power of government and businesses in Mexico

November 24, 2015

On 2 November the ISHR carries an interview with Alberto Solis Castro, a human rights defender concerned with the indigenous communities in Mexico.

Read the rest of this entry »

“In Defense of Life”: observer mission report to Mexico at side event Geneva

September 25, 2015

On Tuesday 29 September (15h30 – 17h30, Palais des Nations, Room XXII, Geneva), the CMDPDH,  Asociación Civil and ISHR organise a side event about the situation for human rights defenders in Mexico. [A Mission of International Observers visited Mexico in November 2015 and will present its conclusions – under the title “In Defense of Life” – to the Mexican Government within the framework of the 30th session of the Human Rights Council.]

Panelists in the event are::

  • Rosario Figari Layús – Researcher in the Institute for Interdisciplinary Research on Conflict and Violence (IKG) at the University of Bielefeld, Germany.
  • Carola Hausotter – Coordinador of the German Network for Human Rights in Mexico (Deutschen Menschenrechtskoordination Mexiko)
  • Ben Leather – Advocacy, Training and Communications Manager of the International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
  • Olga Guzmán Vergara – Advocary Director of the Mexican Commission for the Defense and Promotion of Human Rights (CMDPDH)
  • Ambassador Jorge Lomónaco Tonda – Permanent Representative of Mexico to the UN in Geneva (TBC)
  • Christina Kokkinakis – Head of Human Rights section from the Permanent Delegation of the European Union to the UN in Geneva

Download the flyer: HUMAN RIGHTS IN MEXICO

see previous posts: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/mexico/

 

 

Alejandro González, corporate accountability human rights defender from Mexico

September 21, 2015

A bit belatedly, I refer to the interview (19 June 2015) with Alejandro González in the Newsletter of the ISHR. Alejandro is a human rights specialist who works for PODER, an award winning and multi-faceted civil society organisation based in Mexico that helps build the capacities of communities, workers, NGOs, and other civil society groups affected by corporate malfeasance and accompanies their accountability campaigns.

We help communities participate in the consultative process. In the end, it is about what communities want. We are not in favour or against the project. We make sure communities know their rights and are aware of the potential positive and negative impacts of the project.’ Free, prior and informed consent of the local communities is needed to pass development projects in indigenous regions of Mexico. Recent reforms, however, have opened the energy sector to both national and international investment. Mexico is currently in a maelstrom of speculation. ‘This is a dangerous situation. Many powerful companies in Mexico have a poor track record in human rights and we are concerned that local communities will lose their power to defend their land rights. Communities affected by gas speculation can either be obliged to sell their land or be forcibly dispossessed. It is vital that we observe, facilitate and publicise these negotiations.’

PODER, together with rural communities, is currently conducting an ex ante human rights impact assessment on extractive projects in Puebla, Mexico. In other states, such as Hidalgo, Oaxaca, and Sonora, PODER conducts participatory research with communities and accompanies their advocacy efforts. In Oaxaca it is part of an international mission to monitor the Free, Prior and Informed Consent process regarding the construction of wind farms by Australian, Dutch, Japanese and Mexican corporations.

The government wants to use this case as a model – to set a precedent for all future negotiations. If it goes poorly, the consequences could be devastating … We have met frequently with the Dutch, European Union and other embassies to amplify the voices of local people. We have also conducted extensive research into the companies and provided this information to the community, to help them make informed decisions.’

Standing up to powerful economic actors is dangerous work. In 2013, Héctor Regalado Jiménez, member of the Popular Assembly of the Juchiteco People, was shot and killed after opposing the wind farms. ‘Another activist we were working with died in a suspicious car accident. We still don’t know what happened, but this is a common modus operandi in Mexico. The killers make it look like an accident. Community leaders are frequently subject to death threats and assaults.

Since PODER does not directly advocate on land rights issues, Alejandro is not in as much risk as the human rights defenders it supports, though he and his colleagues face increasing surveillance. He believes that a powerful political and corporate élite pose a major challenge to the work of business and human rights defenders across Mexico. ‘There is a small group of families who control most of the market. It is a secretive group who meet with the president and cabinet members behind closed doors. Together they decide the laws and regulations. That’s how they pushed through the reforms that opened up the energy sector.’

To address this lack of transparency in the government and private sector, PODER is involved in online platform  such as “Who’s Who Wiki” (rindeucentas.org) and ‘MéxicoLeaks’ – a whistleblowing tool that allows people to send information of public interest through secure technologies that protect the identity of the source. The information received through MéxicoLeaks is then verified, analyzed and published by the partners of the alliance, made up of civil organizations and media outlets. “The investigations that follow allegations communicated via ‘MéxicoLeaks’ are dangerous. In a two-year period, 10 journalists were murdered and 326 attacked. We have seen an increasing use of cyber attacks – as hackers force outlets offline or bombard them with viruses. Any journalist who exposes government corruption can expect to lose his job.”

Despite these adverse conditions, Alejandro is positive that good business practice is in the best interests of businesses. ‘We make corporations aware that human rights violations are a material risk. For example, if a company pollutes a river, there will be mobilisation and litigation against the company as well as a huge attack on their reputation – all of which costs money. Making corporations aware of the cost of violating human rights puts pressure on them to improve their due diligence.

In Mexico we would like to see a civil society powerful enough to be on equal footing with both the authorities and the private sector. For this you need information, complete transparency in everything the government does and strong accountability mechanisms. The private sector must prioritise human rights with due diligence, and not merely refrain from doing harm, but actively to do good.’

 

Alejandro González: Mexican corporate accountability human rights defender | ISHR.

see also: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/mexico/

‘La Lucha: The Story of Lucha Castro and Human Rights in Mexico’, new comics book out

April 4, 2015

Henry Chamberlain in his blog Comicsgrinder of 3 April reviews positively a new human rights book: ‘La Lucha: The Story of Lucha Castro and Human Rights in Mexico’

La-Lucha-Verso-Books

The border state of Chihuahua and its city of Juarez is like a war zone thanks to the inextricable link between drug cartels and official corruption. But thanks to human rights defenders, like Chihuahua lawyer and organizer Lucha Castro, fight back.

Lucha-Castro-Human-Rights-2015

Edited by Adam Shapiro, head of campaigns at the human rights organization Front Line Defenders, and drawn by Jon Sack are a series of profiles and reportage that have the urgency of dispatches from the scene. Luca Castro wrote the preface.

 

There are all compelling stories to be found here. One example is the story of Marisela Escobedo Ortiz and her daughter, Rubi Marisol. Rubi was murdered by her boyfriend, Sergio Barraza. It was a clear-cut case. However, Sergio Barraza would never be found guilty simply for the fact that he was a member of the Zetas drug ring and that made him instantly untouchable. Rubi’s mother, Marisela Escobedo Ortiz, led a fight to bring Sergio Barraza to justice. She was able to repeatedly track him down when authorities were not. Sergio Barraza was eventually slain in a shoot-out in 2012 with the Mexican Army. But during Marisela’s struggle for justice, the Mexican authorities, from the local level to the federal level, would not get involved. In the end, Marisela was killed for her efforts. This is quite an involved story 

Verso-Books-Chihuahua-Mexican-drug-cartels

 

“La Lucha” is an exemplary example of the comics medium. A book like this one proves how complex issues can be presented in a clear and concise manner that can benefit people in a myriad of ways. It can jump start conversations that require a number of facts that are not always easy to follow. It can make a difference. It can even save lives.

“La Lucha: The Story of Lucha Castro and Human Rights in Mexico” is published by Verso Books and is available as of March 31, 2015. You can find it hereherehere, and here.

Review: ‘La Lucha: The Story of Lucha Castro and Human Rights in Mexico’ |.