Interview with Yésica Sánchez Maya, feminist lawyer and joint director of Consorcio Oaxaca. Part 2

Consorcio Para el Diálogo Parlamentario y la Equidad Oaxaca, promotes the respect and exercise of women’s human rights and gender equality.

Consorcio is one of the organisations behind the Iniciativa Mesoamericana de Mujeres Defensoras (Mesoamerican Initiative of Women Defenders) that today unites over 1,200 female human rights defenders from Latin America. Consorcio has played a key role in social movements in Oaxaca, from the social protests of 2006, to the recent Marea Verde (Green Tide) movement for the decriminalization of abortion in Oaxaca.

Ten months into the new Federal Government we talk with Yésica Sánchez Maya about the challenges and opportunities when defending human rights in the political context of Oaxaca.

What implications has the change of the federal government had for the situation of human rights defenders in Oaxaca?

At the beginning we had high expectations for a different narrative, it seemed like it was going to be a good change. However, the latest position of the Federal Government is not really helping the work of human rights defenders and journalists. The fact that the Federal Government has not taken a strong stand on recognizing the work of human rights defenders creates an atmosphere prone to allowing or validating the lack of commitment the regional governments have towards defenders.

On the other hand, we understand that the new Federal Government had to face a previously assigned budget for their first year in office and that the crisis and the amount of cases to deal with and solutions needed are overwhelming. The 24 defenders murdered since December [2019] illustrate how out of control security and protection are. The atmosphere is very hostile, very vulnerable and concerning.

With this new government we also experienced how the National Guard came into force, what is your stand on this newly born security force?

The National Guard took us by surprise as we did not think it was going to reach such a level of implementation as a state policy. I wonder: why wasn’t violence against women prioritized in the same way as the National Guard? Why weren’t protection policies for human rights defenders prioritized in the same way as the National Guard? While in some cases the narrative regarding the autonomy of the regional states and federalism applies, the National Guard is a clear example of a federal coordinated action.

What is your assessment of the National Guard’s presence in the state of Oaxaca?

Oaxaca has historically been a space of military bastions. The presence of the National Guard simply formalized the militarization that was already a reality. What I ask myself is: how do you determine the impact that the presence of police can have on levels of prostitution, abuse and sexual violence? And what about the implications that external agents have in the coexistence of communities and the subsequent tearing of the social fabric?

What implications can the National Guard have in terms of human rights?

Since the Combined Operation Bases were implemented in the 90s, human rights violations skyrocketed with the presence of the military in indigenous communities, but also in urban areas.

Our main concern are the impacts that the arrival of military bodies have on territories. Problems that have been extensively documented in Oaxaca. We also don’t know about the existence of control protocols nor clear and precise sanctions. It’s a military body with another name, it’s the army with another name, and yes that does concern us.