PBI’s activities in Mexico began in 1994 when, following the Zapatista uprising, it received requests for an international presence in the state of Chiapas. In 1996 PBI started working with Mexican organisations as a member of the International Service for Peace (SIPAZ) coalition.
In 1998, following several exploratory missions to the country, PBI’s General Assembly decided to establish a permanent presence in Mexico. The first PBI office opened in Mexico City in 1999.
On its inception, PBI Mexico focused its attention on the southern states of Oaxaca and Guerrero. Chiapas already had strong international presence, which led PBI to conclude that the best way to support civil society in the state would be through its participation at SIPAZ.
On the other hand, Oaxaca and Guerrero experienced serious human rights violations. The consequences of this were visible on the fragmentation of the social fabric and local civil society.
The project, from its office in Mexico City, chose Guerrero as a priority state for its work due to the needs expressed by local civil society, the lack of any international presence, the strong repression observed against human rights defenders, and the resulting weakness of local initiatives.
Following a request by the Human Rights Commission La voz de los sin voz (The voice for those without a voice), PBI began accompanying dissident residents of the Leonardo Rodríguez Alcaine district, in Acapulco. In 2001 a permanent field team was installed in the state’s capital, Chilpancingo.
PBI had received requests by organisations and human rights defenders for its presence in Oaxaca since the beginning of our work in Mexico. From 2001, PBI started carrying out regular visits to and one-off accompaniments in the state.
On 19 October 2001, the lawyer and human rights defender Digna Ochoa y Plácido was murdered in Mexico City. Due to heightened risk to the organisations that used to work with Digna, and which eventually worked on her murder case, PBI started accompanying members of the Miguel Agustín Pro Juárez Human Rights Centre and of the National Network of Civil Society Organisations All Rights for All.
In 2002 we began accompanying the Cerezo Committee in Mexico City and the José María Morelos y Pavón Human Rights Centre in Guerrero. PBI strengthened its work in the southern state with more accompaniments and presence in wider areas. PBI’s protection accompaniment starting at this period would eventually contribute to the ability of local organisations to take cases of human rights violations in Guerrero to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.
During the 2006 social conflicts in Oaxaca, which highlighted the severe rupture between the state government and local civil society, a number of human rights violations were reported. Building on our previous work in the state and following several requests for accompaniment at this period, PBI opened a new field team in Oaxaca City in October 2008. In 2009 we began accompanying the Human Rights and Indigenous Peoples Advisory Centre (CEDHAPI) and the 25 of November Liberation Committee.
The context of widespread violence in Mexico, a result of the ongoing militarised strategy to fight organised crime, has had grave consequences for the defence and promotion of human rights in the country.
In order to respond to this reality and new requests for accompaniment coming from several parts of Mexico, in 2011 PBI decided to move its field office from Chilpancingo to another area of the country.
In 2012 PBI carried out an exploratory mission to six states: Baja California, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Estado de México, Puebla and Tlaxcala. The mission’s main objective was to gather information about the situation of human rights defenders and the feasibility of PBI’s work in these states. Much of the information gathered during this mission was published on PBI’s report A Panorama of the Defense of Human Rights in Mexico.
As a result of the exploratory mission, PBI decided to open a regional team in northern Mexico to accompany defenders in the states of Chihuahua and Coahuila. It was the first time the project decided to bet on a regional model.
The exploratory mission showed that several of the human rights problems in this region reflect national issues, such as disappearances, human rights violations against migrants, violence against women, and abuses committed by security forces. PBI Mexico’s new northern team started work in August 2013.
PBI Mexico further expanded its work in 2014 and 2015. The project decided to replicate its northern model in the south redefining the Oaxaca team as a southern regional team, also responsible for the state of Guerrero.
Currently, PBI Mexico provides international accompaniment to defenders in the states of Chihuahua, Coahuila, Guerrero, Oaxaca, and Mexico City. We maintain two international field teams in Chihuahua City and Oaxaca City, as well as a coordination office in Mexico City.