· In the space of 2 hours, indigenous na savi, me´phaa, nahua and amuzgo people put forward 10 cases of human rights violations.
· They ask for an end to militarization and to the criminalization of social movements and they demand that due respect be paid to the indigenous peoples and their human rights
· Louise Arbour offers to share the testimonies in the places that she visits.
Huamuxtitlán, Guerrero, Tlapa, 7 February 2008.- Representatives of indigenous peoples and indigenous organizations, as well as human rights defenders, requested that Louise Arbour, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, get involved in their cases. They asked for her to come before Felipe Calderón, the President of the Republic, and Governor Zeferino Torreblanca Galindo, and demand that an end be put to their strategy of militarization of indigenous zones and criminalization of social movements and that due respect be paid to the indigenous peoples and their human rights.
As part of her official visit to Mexico, Louise Arbour met yesterday with around one hundred indigenous na savi (mixteco), me´phaa (tlapaneco), nahua and Amuzgo people from Guerrero, in a location in the municipality of Huamuxtitlán, surrounded by garlands of Cempasúchil, a typical flower of the region. There, the United Nations representative listened to 10 cases of Human Rights Abuses, in the space of about two hours. She was accompanied by the representative of the Mexican Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Amerigo Incalcaterra, as well as the United Nations employees, Paul Oertly and Allegra Franchetti.
The spokesperson of the Council of Ejidos and Communities Opposed to La Parota Dam (CECOP) briefly spoke of the people's struggle to defend their land and to resist the Federal Electricity Commission's attempt to construct a hydroelectric dam on their territory. He then asked that the High Commissioner "tell the governor to respect the decisions that were made by our community on the 12 August" in an Assembly attended by comuneros who sympathize with the project and employees of the Federal Electricity Commission.
Valentina Rosendo Cantú, an indigenous me´phaa woman, also told her story of how she was raped by soldiers of the Mexican Army in 2002. She informed those listening that she had had to go before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (CIDH) based in Washington D.C. because "to the present day there is no justice in Mexico", "everybody says that Valentina is lying. Because of this, I am asking Louise Arbour to go before the government so that my case may be brought to justice, all I want is justice".
One of the directors of the Organization of the Indigenous Me´phaa People (OPIM) from Ayutla de los Libres in the Costa Chica region of Guerrero, Cuauthemoc Ramírez, also asked the United Nations representative to be spokesperson. He asked for her to tell the state and federal governments to put an end to their "extermination strategy" and to the militarization of the indigenous peoples. He states that "all we are asking is that our rights be respected. We are not asking for soldiers, they are just abusive and maltreat us. When the soldiers come, the women and children get scared and they won't go out". "We hope that you will be able to influence the government so that they will stop these abuses".
Likewise, the director of the Regional Council for the Development of the Indigenous Mep´haa Peoples of the Bátháá Linguistic Variety, put forward his case. He told those listening of how he had been incarcerated on four separate occasions for demanding the right to education in the 28 communities that speak that particular linguistic variety. He added that the state government, far from providing any solutions, has "sent soldiers and arrested people. It is because of this that we ask you to tell Felipe Calderón and Zeferino Torreblanca Galindo that we do not want soldiers, that it would be better for them to send productive social projects and to help us overcome our poverty. Soldiers are for killing ... what we need is for them to cancel the lawsuits against us, because 17 fathers have been charged and all they want is education for their children".
Alma González Gálvez, a mixteca indigenous woman from Mini Numa, municipality of Metlatónoc, described the arduous attempts of the community to get a health centre, a doctor and medicine for the village, still to no avail. She stressed that six people have died from gastrointestinal diseases, including four children. She reported that the Health Department has assumed a "racist" attitude and that therefore "we ask Louise Arbour to intercede on our behalf".
Also presented was the case of various men from El Camalote who were forcefully sterilized. Orlando Manzanarez Lorenzo, a me´phaa indigenous man, on behalf of his fellow villagers, talked of the deception and the social benefits promised by the Department of Health in exchange for the vasectomies. "We have been waiting for ten years and still the government will not keep their promises, the governments are mocking us, the people in the village mock us and numerous problems have been brought about by this situation. Because of this, we come before you to ask for the government to keep their word and start taking the indigenous people seriously. Tell them that our dignity is worth more than this... But all the government does, is sending more soldiers so that we cannot defend our rights and to stop us organizing ourselves... Please make them keep their promises to us and support us".
The agricultural laborer Celso Ventura, made heard his need for justice for his two year-old son, Timoteo Ventura, whose arm was severed (in 2007) by a truck driven by an employee of the agricultural company where he worked in Chihuahua. With Timoteo in his arms, he stated that "the employer did not want to take responsibility for what happened to my son's arm. We want justice because he has been left disabled. He no longer has his right arm, and arms for us are all we have to work, to harvest the maize, to eat... Up until now all they have done is deceive us. They said they were going to give us a grant for Timoteo's education, but it's not true, they haven't given us anything".
From the Community Police, one of the members of the Regional Coordinating Committee of the Community Authorities (CRAC), Pánfilo Solano Rodríguez, gave his testimony. He spoke of the goodness of the project. He reported that the government does not want to recognise the System of Justice and Community Security that was established in the villages "in spite of the decrease in crime; delinquents no longer rape women and there are no longer muggings". "If only you could intervene so that we can stop being persecuted" he asked, referring to the 30 policemen, majors and directors from CRAC that have been arrested.
The case of the Ñomda Community Radio situated in Xochistlahuaca in the region of Costa Chica, was put forward by one of the members of the Committee, the indigenous amuzgo man, Héctor Onofre. He told the High Commissioner that the medium of communication is incredibly effective among the villages, but that unfortunately, for continuing with the project, the government "has persecuted and incarcerated us". He added that even the Army has harassed them. He reported that the mayoress of Xochistlahuaca initiated a similar radio, but that is only presented and controlled by the local political leaders of the region. "It's called Community Radio: The voice of the indigenous peoples, but it doesn't really serve the people".
Finally, director of the José María Morelos y Pavón Human Rights Center, Manuel Olivares Hernández, gave his input. He talked about how he was detained with 15 indigenous nahua people when he took on the task of observer during a violent eviction carried out by municipal policemen from Chilapa. Those evicted were only demanding that the mayoress, Alicia Zamora Villalba "comply with a series of previously established agreements". He stated that on 28 February a judge sentenced them all to jail. He thus asks "that the High Commissioner go before the governor and insist that he grant them freedom. Today we are on bail, but it is evident that the state government holds disdain for the indigenous people and for the work of the human rights defenders... as well as continuing to criminalize social protests".
Louise Arbour subsequently expressed that it was difficult for her to make any promises considering the short length of her stay in Mexico, but that the UN office in the country would continue to monitor the cases. She emphasized that the testimonies she had heard will be an important point of reference that will not be forgotten in the Mexican office.
She also added that these cases signify "a long way to go before the human rights of the indigenous people are recognized" and before the United Nations Universal Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples "becomes a reality". She offered to "share" these cases "wherever she goes".
Beforehand, the director of the Tlachinollan Human Rights Center, Abel Barrera Hernández, cited figures of illiteracy and poverty in the Montaña of Guerrero. He also highlighted that the people have to handle on a daily basis "the State's incapacity to give a just response to the need to guarantee their fundamental rights". He also added that "there is an exclusion that is functioning on a structural level that stops the indigenous peoples being recognized as individuals with rights". He added that for the NGO the official story "continues to be stained with unjust persecution, detention, incarceration, and criminalization of the indigenous leaders that have taken on the responsibility of fighting for the cause of the people".
Published by Tlachinollan Human Rights Center, Guerrero, February 7, 2008, www.tlachinollan.org