In March 2012, Amnesty International Canada, in collaboration with four Canadian universities, organized the speaking tour entitled No More Blood: Struggles for Peace and Human Rights in Mexico. This speaking tour brought four Mexican human rights defenders to Canada to discuss and raise awareness on the issues of public security and the human rights crisis experienced in their country. The speakers included:
Dolores González Saravia
Dolores is the director of Servicios de Asesoría para la Paz (SERAPAZ). SERAPAZ is a NGO located in Mexico City that was started to continue and expand mediation work to find peaceful solutions to the conflict in Chiapas. SERAPAZ has broad experience at the local level in southern Mexico and plays an important role coordinating civil society organizations in the capital of Mexico. works on conflict resolution and social justice issues. It was founded by Bishop Samuel Ruiz, one of the most important bishops of Mexico and Latin America for his advocacy of indigenous people and their dignity. SERAPAZ continues to be a leading civil agent through the promotion and coordination of processes and civil initiatives, research and publishing, training, counseling, advocacy and monitoring processes that contribute to building peace.
Vidulfo Rosales Sierra
Vidulfo is a lawyer that works for the Tlachinollan Human Rights Centre in Tlapa de Comonfort, Guerrero. The Centre carries out human rights monitoring, works closely with vulnerable Indigenous communities to defend their rights and has provided legal support for a number of emblematic cases involving abuses by state agent. This organization also works with Peace Brigades International and through their presence they have emerged as one of Mexico’s premier human rights organizations. Due to their contriubtions, Tlachinollan received the prestigious MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective institutions in 2008 and the Robert F Kennedy Human Rights Prize in 2012. By defending indigenous minority communities and bringing the violators of human rights to justice, Tlachinollan continues to strengthen Mexico’s civil society.
Yolanda Moran Isais
Yolanda is a member of UNITED FORCES For Our Disappeared In Mexico (FUUNDEM). FUUNDEM was organized by families whose relatives have disappeared, in which the organization helps to search for their relatives and spread awareness on “forced disappearances” in Mexico. Their work focuses on mobilizing to search for their relatives and spreading awareness about the incidence of forced disappearances in Mexico. She co-founded this organization after her son was abducted by the military and disappeared in 2008.
Alberto Xicotencatl Carrasco
Alberto is the Director of the Casa del Migrante in Saltillo, Coahuila, and recipient of last year’s prestigious Letelier Moffitt Human Rights Award. His courageous work responds to the desperate situation facing tens of thousands of migrants travelling through Mexico, who are routinely victims of extortion, ill treatment, abduction, rape and murder. Criminal gangs, often operating with the collusion or acquiescence of public officials, are responsible for the majority of these abuses.
The event was planning to include speaker Norma Andrade, but due to complications and visa restrictions she was not be able to attend the event. However, her story is still of significant importance in connection to the gender complications women face in Mexico. Norma is one of the founding members of Nuestras Hijas de Regreso a Casa (May Our Daughters Return Home), a non-profit association of mothers whose daughters have been victims of female homicides. The mothers claim that their cases have gone unsolved in some cases for over twelve years. Their hope is to get the murderers of their daughters arrested and hopefully convicted and also to put pressure on the Mexican government to solve the murders. Following her involvement with the NHRC, Norma has been repeatedly threatened and attacked multiple times. For more information on Norma’s story and to help take action by writing a letter to urge the Mexican goverment to bring her attackers to justice, see the following link: http://nobelwomensinitiative.org/2012/02/womens-groups-call-for-action-norma-andrade/
During their visit to Canada, the speakers met with members of parliament, several government officials as well as the Canadian media and civil society. Upon return to Mexico, some of the speakers were able to pressure the Mexican government to meet their demands for peace and justice with the assistance of the Canadian embassy in Mexico. Nevertheless, they continue to live in a dangerous situation. Also, their demands have not been met by Mexican state authorities. This is a brief summary of the current situation of these four human rights defenders after their visit to Canada.
In their return to Mexico, Dolores Gonzales Saravia learned that the organization she directs and its members are under government surveillance. The Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Public Security have surveillance files of members of SERAPAZ as well as the Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity led by poet Javier Sicilia. Analysts and non-governmental organizations fear this is a sign of the criminalization of human rights defenders and therefore a return to repressive practices of old authoritarian regimes.
On 4 May 2012, Vidulfo Rosales Sierra received a death threat. The anonymous threat was typed and delivered to the office of the Network of Civil Human Rights Organizations of Guerrero, of which the Tlachinollan Human Rights Centre is a member. The threat made reference to the human rights work that Vidulfo Rosales Sierra has carried out, and in particular, to the work he has done denouncing abuses by police and militaries. The threat contained the following message; “Vidulfo. You little arsehole lawyer defender of vandals and guerrillas stop fucking about, shut up or we will send you back home in pieces. We are not playing, hold back from saying shit or you will die. Do you think you are a big deal? You little shit lawyer, stop defaming the authorities, you already owe us many times over, you get involved in everything, La Parota, the so-called raped women, and now with the Ayotzinapa vandals. Shut up or start getting your flowers together because we are following you now we know what you do and where you go. You are going to die ha ha ha. Yours, The Law.” Because of this, Vidulfo had to leave the country. Still, his family and colleagues remain in danger.
After his visit to Canada, Alberto Xicotencatl Carrasco and his organization the Saltillo Migrants’ Shelter continue to pressure the federal government to comply with the precautionary measures established by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, which include the installation of cameras and security equipment to prevent and record possible attacks to the shelter by organized crime and complicit authorities. Until today, the implementation of these precautionary measures is lacking. Also, the situation is worsening for the migrants’ shelters all across the country. The shelter “La 72” in Tenosique, Tabasco has received constant threats from organized crime, and local and federal police. Father Alejandro Solalinde is the Co-ordinator of the Catholic Pastoral Care Centre for Migrants in South-western Mexico and Director of a migrants’ shelter in Ciudad Ixtepec, Oaxaca state. He had to temporarily leave the country in May 2012 after receiving death threats for denouncing injustice and collaboration between criminals and corrupt officials in Oaxaca to leave migrants as unprotected as possible.
As a member of FUUNDEM, Yolanda Moran Isais organized a national mobilization with relatives of the disappeared on May 10th, Mexico’s Mother Day. The march started in northern Mexico and had Mexico City as the final destination. Here, hundreds of mothers from all over the country and Central America asked the Mexican government to investigate the disappearance of their children. After a series of meetings with federal authorities, the government agreed to set up a database to record cases of disappeared persons and compensate relatives of those who have been killed or forcibly disappeared. Nevertheless, other important demands of this movement continue to be neglected by local and federal authorities, which include the immediate search of the disappeared, the creation of a Special Prosecutor for the Cases of the Disappeared, the creation and implementation of investigation protocols, a National Program for the Attention of the Families of the disappeared, and compliance with the UN Working Group on Forced Disappearances.
The serious situation faced by these human rights defenders and their organizations reflect the human security crisis experienced in Mexico, Canada’s NAFTA partner. The National Human Rights Commission estimates the number of disappeared at 5,300 while human-rights groups say it is as high as 12,000. Between 2011 and 2012, 30 human rights activists have disappeared in the country and four journalists were killed within a week in May 2012 in the state of Veracruz.