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MEXICO
Imprisoned, disappeared and murdered activists
Alberto Buitre
4/7/2015
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Government is being blamed for the systematic planning of forced disappearances of social activists.

The detention and disappearance of social and human rights activists, the assassination of social leaders and the arrest of others for political reasons are part of “a government policy” aimed at discouraging organizations’ resistance to the abuse of power and repression in Mexico.

So stated the National Front of Struggle for Socialism (FNLS), a mostly-peasant political organization with presence in nine states in Mexico, in the forum on forced disappearances that convened in January at the Autonomous University of Puebla, where two people “are disappeared” per day, according to the organization.

In Mexico there are more than 110,000 cases of detainees-disappeared, not just 23,000 as the Ministry of the Interior claim.

“More than just a social phenomenon of great importance and concern, the forced disappearance of persons is also a recurrent, systematic practice that has now become a state policy. Its goal is to silence the voice of protest, dissent and even the call for our most fundamental human rights,” said the FNLS in a statement.

For the FNLS, among the 110,000 detained-disappeared are the 43 students of the “Isidro Burgos” Rural School in Ayotzinapa, who were massacred on Sep. 26, 2014 by the Iguala Municipal Police, in the southwestern state of Guerrero, and were allegedly incinerated in an adjacent landfill by members of the “Guerreros Unidos” drug cartel, with orders from the then-mayor, now imprisoned, José Luis Abarca and his wife, María de los Ángeles Pineda, who have been associated with organized crime since 2005, according to information from the Attorney General’s Office.

The forced disappearances are systematically planned with “the state’s acquiescence and responsibility, either by commission or omission,” says the FNLS.

Social terror
The forced disappearance of persons as part of the repression of social movements is a systematic state practice with participation from drug trafficking groups.

Ramón Islas, an academic in human rights at the Autonomous University of Mexico City, argues that, in the context of the war on drugs, the techniques of creating social terror in the country have evolved.

Islas told Latinamerica Press that today Mexico is living through a “stage of irregular warfare” in the war on drugs, during which unidentified drug or criminal gangs are also involved in the disappearance of people.

“Throughout the entire Mexican territory, the blood of the working people is being scattered. It is reflected, coupled with the thousands of disappeared detainees, in extrajudicial executions and unjust imprisonment. What was initially thought to be a climate of fear exclusive to northern cities [main operation centers for various drug cartels], today this crime lab is spreading to all corners of the country,” said Islas.

“In addition to the detention and forced disappearance of persons, there are new forms of repression, such as drying up a community’s water supply, burning crops and huts, sexual assault and the criminalization of social protest,” explained Islas.

In 2013, 13 social activists were killed in the state of Guerrero. The majority were killed for opposing local chiefdoms who exploited the peasants of the area with the state government’s knowledge. So states the Peasant Organization of the Southern Sierra, whose leader, Rocío Mesino Mesino, was shot in October of that year. Her father, Hilario Mesino directly blamed governor Ángel Aguirre for the death of his daughter, and he said in statements quoted by the newspaper El Sur Acapulco that during Aguirre’s administration, “repression and criminalization against social organizations and community leaders has intensified.” To date, there are no persons charged for the crime.

Political prisoners
There are also social activists imprisoned for political reasons. So far into the presidency of Enrique Peña Nieto, who took office in December 2012, there have been 350 political prisoners.

The data are provided by the Free Nestora Committee, a civil organization that supports Nestora Salgado García, commander of the Community Police of the municipality of Olinalá, Guerrero, who was arrested in August 2013 on charges of kidnapping, but whose detention, according to her defense, is based on political causes.

The Free Nestora Committee notes that Salgado García is being politically criminalized, falsely accused of kidnapping, based on an operation that led to the dismantling of a network of sex trafficking of women and girls in Europe and Colombia, who were forced into prostitution in bars in Guerrero and other states in Mexico.

The organization adds that the case of Salgado García shows the “Mexican government’s stigmatization against Community Police”, a security and justice initiative of Guerrero rural communities that began in 1996 encouraged by the Regional Coordinator of Community Authorities and the Union of Peoples and Organizations of the State of Guerrero, to address the rising force of paramilitary and drug trafficking groups.

According to the data provided by the Free Nestora Committee, of the 350 political prisoners, 13 are community police members imprisoned in Guerrero and four opponents to the La Parota dam, also in Guerrero. There are also some detainees recorded in the state of Puebla for opposing the construction of a thermoelectric plant.

But the largest number of political prisoners is recorded in the state of Michoacán, where more than 300 members of self-defense groups — created in 2013 with the support of the federal government to fight the drug cartel called Los Caballeros Templarios — have been imprisoned, including one of the self-defense groups’ founders, José Manuel Mireles Valverde, arrested in June 2014 for illegal possession of arms for the exclusive use of the Army.

 However, Talia Vázquez Alatorre, a lawyer committed to the defense of all prisoners belonging to self-defense groups, argued at that time that Mireles Valverde was a “political prisoner” for the improper legal procedures followed during his arrest.

In November 2014, the former leader of the self-defense groups accepted a “conditional political agreement” with the Ministry of the Interior for gain his release.

The arrests for political reasons even reach the capital. Must be highlighted the case of Mario González, imprisoned for a year by the government of the Federal District for his participation in the demonstrations of Oct. 2, 2013 in the capital, on the 46th commemoration of the student massacre perpetrated by the Army in Tlatelolco in 1968.

While authorities continue banning social protest and treating social activists as delinquents, human rights organizations launch campaigns declaring that protest is a right. The National Network “All Rights for All” (Red TDT) launched in 2008 the campaign “Protest is a right, repression is a crime” and had to relaunch it in 2013 due to increased policies of criminalization of the right to dissent and protest and the impunity with which these policies are applied.
—Latinamerica Press.


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Discontent is reflected in social and political mobilizations which are at risk of being criminalized. (Photo: Alberto Buitre)
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