For the first time the United Nations states that Mexico imprisons for political motives. It reports of the case of Baños Rodríguez, Human Rights Defender, arbitrarily, detained in 2013. The organism demands his “immediate release”.
The Oaxacan citizen Librado Jacinto Baños Rodríguez is behind bars since August 2013 and is considered by the United Nations (UN) as a political prisoner of the Federal and State governments, of the administrations of Enrique Peña Nieto (President of Mexico) and Gabino Cué Monteagudo (Governor of the State of Oaxaca).
For the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention of the Human Rights Council of the United Nations General Assembly, it has been proven that in Mexico a social leader can be victim of “several aggressions, torture, hits and death threats against himself and against his spouse”, firstly and then suffer the loss of freedom.
Such is the case of Baños Rodríguez, a victim of a judicial process of “retaliation and reprisal” for exerting an “active defense of the rights of the indigenous and Afro-descendants population” of Oaxaca, underlines the UN, thereby it solicits their “immediate release” (A/HRC/WGAD/2015/19).
An inferno at home
The humid heat was present in the night of Santiago Pinotepa Nacional, municipality accustomed to be the telluric epicenter. On dusk of the Sunday 25th of August 2013 the earth trembled, but differently and for reasons beyond the tectonic plates: hundreds of military and police boots irrupted in the central district of Unión Cívica de Barrios, Colonias y Comunidades (Ucidebacc).
The small community composed by a dozen of families woke up with the roar (screams, chasing, screeching tires) provoked by the 300 federal and state elements, that arrived armed, to hunt down the leader of the Ucidebacc.
“Librado was in a room with our son”, tells 26 months later Eva Lucero Rivero, wife of the attorney, that since that night lost his liberty.
The boy, then 10 years old, not only felt the fear of seeing enter with force a bunch of unknown adults wearing uniforms and with assault weapons, that forcibly went on his father; the son of the activist of human rights also knew what it meant to be hit by a military. “They hit him, they hit him for screaming that they should leave him, that they should not take him away”, recalls Lucero Rivero, who that night was not there, as barely 5 days before that she had suffered an assassination attempt; the bullets failed and she survived.
In a van with no plates is where the trip started. “There they threw Librado; now we know that it was the Navy”, tells Rivero. The captors took the defend personal computer of the human rights defender, documents (of the Ucidebacc and personal ones, including his university title); they sacked also: they took with them what they could.
The detention order was never shown.
The neighbors of the district, after getting the information about the happening, still in the darkness of the dusk, travelled to the municipal jail, and “were received with shots from assault weapons by members of the municipal and state police, putting at stake the lives of children, girls and women”, notes Maurilio Santiago Reyes, president of the Center of Human Rights and Assessment of Indigenous Peoples, in the communiqué addressed to the UN Working Group.
Nobody knew of the immediate whereabouts of Baños Rodríguez. “Twenty hours later appeared the comrade Librado in San Bartolo Coyotepec (a municipality nearby the capital city of Oaxaca)”, remembers Lucero Rivero.
Firearms possession of exclusive use by the armed forces, misuse of badges and acronyms reserved to the police corporations, and illegal deprivation of liberty were the charges presented against Librado Baños. The witnesses that declared were the very own federal and state policemen.
Since the inferno arrived up to her doorstep, the political activist has been detained in the prison of Santa María Ixcotel in central Oaxaca.
Struggle for the rights, against the privatization
For the General Assembly of the United Nations there is no doubt: “Mister Baños Rodríguez is a human rights defender that defends the rights of the of indigenous Mixtecan, Amuzgas, Chatinas and Afro-descendent communities, in particular their economic, social and cultural rights”, ascertains the Working Group on arbitrary detention in the opinion 19/2015- of which Contralínea possesses a copy- adopted in its 72nd session held in May 2015.
And in its nineteenth deliberation it adds: “the Working Group considers that the activities of this person have a double nature: on one part, mister Baños Rodríguez has been exerting his rights of freedom of speech and expression (Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights) particularly concerning the policies and discriminatory practices of the public authorities. But Mr. Baños Rodríguez has also been defending the rights and assisting [as an attorney] other persons whose fundamental rights are being violated by the political state authorities.”
Stemming from Pinotepa Nacional, Librado Baños only left his region to to study a degree in Law in the Autonomous University of Guerrero. Since the decade of the 1990’s he returned to his region, tells in an interview his wife, also an activist Eva Lucero Rivero Ortiz.
Oaxaca is a valley of Chieftains. And the region of the Coast is no exception to this. There –since decades and entire generations in some cases families such as Cabrera, Rivero, Toscano, Fuentes, Baños (to whom the detained human rights defender does not belong) who keep their power. Their political branch has always been the Revolutionary Institutional Party (PRI); but now the rest of the parties serve them, despite the uses and customs have been formally established.
“These groups are linked with the federal and state power structures, and they intervene violently in communities that defend the political rights, their territory and natural resources, having as a result that the Afro-descendants and the population in general would be killed, disappeared, tortured and imprisoned”, writes Maurilio Santiago in his denouncement, whose allegations the representatives of the UN considered as “established facts”.
Precisely in the land defense and the political rights, Librado Baños dedicated his life.
During the administration of the PRI-Affiliated Diódoro Carrasco Altamirano –eventually becoming PAN-Affiliated-, Baños Rodríguez worked so that in 1995 the first transition of parties happened in Pinotepa. In that three-year-term he worked as a Secretary to the Municipal Government of Santiago Pinotepa Nacional.
During this term he merged 22 municipalities in a movement against governor Carrasco Altamirano demanding the comprehensive delivery of the public funds budgeted in the branch 26 of the Expenditure Budget of the Federation corresponding to 1996. The case went up to the Superior Court of Justice of Mexico as a constitutional controversy nevertheless that the ministers dismissed the demand under unanimity.
That administration “put the group in power of the governor in evidence for their bad distribution of funds. Since then, Diódoro went after Librado with everything”, tells Lucero Rivero.
The “democratic transition” did not succeed in Pinotepa Nacional and the PRI came back to power for 19 more years.
In 2001 Baños González contended for the Municipality against Conrado Rodríguez Peláez, a protégé of the then-governor José Murat. After the election and the announcement of the victory of PRI, Baños and the members of the Civic Democratic Union of Neighborhoods, Districts and Communities took in protest the Municipal Palace, forming a “popular city council”.
Behind the “despicable election fraud”, declared Baños Rodríguez to the Apri Agency in March 2012, was “the struggle to keep the strategic points of the drug trafficking”. And he points at Conrado Rodríguez and the very own José Murat as part of it.
“While it is true that Pinotepa is the fourth most important city of the state in generating resources, it is a matter of fact that the drug traffickers are winning over the region of the Costa Chica; and thus they are ready to end with us no matter what”, he said on that occasion.
The electoral conflict was resolved with bullets of the army and state police: four deaths was the result in favor of the PRI and its candidate.
The right to housing has been another front line of which Librado Baños was engaged. Historically, both the indigenous peoples as well as the Afro-descendants have fought against all odds to recover the deprived land. Let it be under the colonial rule, under the Republic, in post-revolutionary times or in the midst of the XXIst Century, a handful of tycoon, generally with the official support, it takes and holds the control of the lands.
“In Mexico the peasant’s struggle for the land and the resources has sharpened with the ambiguity around the rights and agricultural deeds- underlines Santiago-; disagreements insofar the limits of the communal grounds, communities and private property are; conflicts for the use of collective resources as the woods and the water; illegal invasions and occupations of lands and communal plots on behalf of the loggers, stock farmers or private farmers; accumulation of property in hands of local chieftains, etc.”
At the beginning of the last decade of the XXth century the Ucidebacc was founded, a comprehensive social organization of peasants, workers, small traders; indigenous, mestizo and Afro-descendants. The poorest among the poor take part of it, and it couldn’t be otherwise: “most part of the indigenous population is found in the poorest municipalities of the state. And most of the Afro-Mexican population is found in the area and municipality of Pinotepa Nacional”, explains the president of the Center of Human Rights and Assessment of the Indigenous Peoples.
“Our red-and-black flag (with a star in the middle) represents the working class of the world, as out struggle is universal”. This way the association presents itself.
The mayor project of the Civic Union was called Popular Community, which became reality in May 2001, when 600 meters south of the City Council, around 200 homeless families took over a land of 59 hectares previously donated to the Church that ended as one more asset of the local priest.
“Now in 2016 the district of Ucidebacc will have 15 years”, he says in an emotional tone, Lucero Rivero. “We never received even 1 penny of the budget. There is nothing: no electric light, no water, no draining system, and no streets. In a rustic way we built three schools. The state has denied us everything; we have generated it all ourselves”.
The self-proclaimed autonomous and self-managed district
Not only did the community not receive any official support that is within Pinotepa Nacional, but it has lived since its foundation under siege. On the 4th of March 2010-tells Maurilio Santiago in a communiqué sent to Geneva to the UN Working Group-, “at 3’o clock in the morning they raided the district of Ucidebacc with a group of around 200 elements of the Mexican Army and the State Police, and detained in his home Mr. Felipe Rojas Garduño, taking him out violently”. As in the case of Baños, the military forces hit the children of the hunted one, as well as his wife. Rojas Garduño spent 2 years and 4 months in jail.
The detentions of the neighbors of the Union Cívica district continue, even on the 16th of October 2011 they arrested for the first time Librado Baños, also Lucero Ortiz. “In the moment of the detention they were hit and tortured by elements of the Investigating Police of Pinotepa Nacional”. She was released in Puerto Escondido; he went to the prison of Miahuatlán charged with abduction, harm and homicide, but 6 days after he was freed due to lack of evidence.
Until today the district survives…5 minutes away from the Infantry Battalion No. 47.
“As [it has been] stated in several documents of the UN, Mexico is well known for being a multicultural country of which numerous indigenous peoples are part of. […] And it is well known that the indigenous people suffer abuse in Meixco”, underlined the representatives of the UN when revisiting the case. “There have been instances of abuse against defenders of rights of minority groups. [Thus] the working group considers the Mixtec indigenous communities are an indigenous vulnerable group.”
In 2013, according to the then mayor, the PRI-Affiliated Carlos Sarabia Camacho, modernity came to Pinotepa Nacional through the form of a Coppel store. And it came in on public land.
The inhabitants of the Ucidebacc resisted in front of the construction that was being run on Porfirio Díaz Street, between the Third Street and the Fifth Street South. “The representative of Coppel could not prove the legal purchase of the land”, tells Lucero Rivero.
Furthermore of the struggle against the building of the department store, the members of the Civic Union, led by Librado Baños, demanded the education codes for the schools they built, as well as the electric energy and the construction of a health center. They closed the street.
The response of the former military Sarabia –today a federal deputy- was to evict them in an operation in which were combined assault rifes, men dressed as civilians and rods. The protesters stood the ground. Three days before the municipal elections, the construction was halted.
After almost two decades the PRI lost again. A coalition made up by the National Action Party (PAN), the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) and the Labor Party (PT) won.
Having passed the electoral heat, “on August started the witch hunt”, remembers the current spokeswoman of the Ucidebacc. “Carlos Santiago Carrasco [the Assistant Secretary of the Government of Gabino Cué] tried to bribe Librado to sign a document in favor of the Coppel Project”. Baños Rodríguez refused.
On the 15th of August 2013 “at half past 2 in the morning, 15 motorized units of the Mexican Army, of the State police force and approximately 200 elements of armed policemen irrupted violently the district of Ucidebacc.” Children, women and elderly people were hit. Teófilo García López was detained.
Five days after there was an attempt to murder Eva Lucero. On the 25th of the same month the arrest of Librado Baños happened.
The store of the Coppel brothers was resumed and was inaugurated in December by the very own municipal president.
“I want to say it very clearly and to everyone: Coppel comes to give us job opportunities, it comes to give the opportunities to give credits”, said enthusiastically Carlos Sarabia with the microphone in his hand in the middle of a hall already with sales in rates.
“Some people have given us some headache over there that are unrelated to the progress of Pinotepa. It is important to mention it, as afterwards they said that the president, the Council, I don’t know how many millions they have given [to the businessmen] to construct… Coppel is not a corrupt enterprise; Coppel is a very professional company that looks after the development of the whole region.”
And as if he was an employee more, he sincerely said: “It cost us much work. Especially [it cost] the president Carlos Sarabia. As I had to go to the [capital] city of Oaxaca several times… they would not allow this store to be built. And I have to say, as this concerns me to say: the day of today is a blessing, I feel very satisfied, I was very worried because we struggled a lot”.
For the time being Librado Baños had spent his first 4 months in jail, in the capital of Oaxaca, 5 hours away of his homeland.
“As a state policy to restrain the discontent and social claims, the Mexican state has started a persecution against the social leaders that defend the rights of indigenous people and that resist the transnational project that affect the rights of the communities and indigenous people”, explains Maurilio Santiago.
“The state policy has been to criminalize the defenders of human rights, being the most affected the invisible defenders, accusing them of federal offenses such as abduction, possession of arms of exclusive use by the Armed Forces and exhibiting them to the public opinion as criminals, and even beyond these actions have been taking place with groups of regional economic and political power that have links with organized crime.”
The groups of power “enjoy absolute impunity, as they are involved with the state executive branch, the Attorney’s General Office of the State, the Judicial Power and the Secretariat of Public Security, as well as the Attorney’s General Office of Mexico, the Secretariat of National Defense”, argues the judicial adviser of Baños before the UN, that would plead in his favor.
The emblem of the General Assembly of the United Nations seals the document sent to the government of Enrique Peña Nieto.
“The Working Group concluded that the arrest and continuous privation of liberty of Mr. Baños Rodríguez are arbitrary”, as it is a result of exerting the political rights proclaimed in the articles 7,13,14,18,19,20,21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, furthermore of contravening the International Pact of Civil and Political Rights.
Hence “he requests the Mexican government the immediate release of Mr. Baños Rodríguez and the granting of appropriate compensation and to offer the necessary medical treatment”.
“Librado did not have any disease”, assures his wife. “Now he suffers hypertension. Also he has an intraocular hemorrhage that impedes him to see with the left eye, and he starts to have another one on the right eye. These are results of the hits”.
Confinement, various types of tortures is what has suffered the defender of human rights in over two years that he has remained confined. “Luis Morales, director of security of the Correctional Facilities of Oaxaca, directly shaved his head, and confined him for 2 days. He orders him to have a cruel treatment; drugs are being denied to him”, tells Lucero Rivero.
“The Working Group expresses its deep concern about the worsening of the health of Mr. Baños Rodríguez, motivated by ill-treatments endured in prison. The group reminds that it is the responsibility of the Government to ensure that the detainees are treated according to the international norms and standard, particularly concerning his health”, underlines the international body in its sixth deliberation.
The UN group was addressed to the Mexican government since the 19th of February 2015 to request information on this case. However the latter simply ignored it “did not respond to the notification”, sets clear the document.
On September, related with the visit to Mexico of the High Commissioner for Human Rights of the United Nations, Pilar Sanmartín, official of the Observation Unit, programmed a visit to the prison were Librado Baños is found.
“A day before the visit –denounces Eva Lucero-, the Office of Coordination for the Attention on Human Rights of the State [in charge of Eréndira Cruzvillegas] intended to release him to take him to a doctor. They tried to boycott the observation of the UN. But he did not allow it: he had been incommunicado and without any drugs and she wanted him to be seen that way.
“Three days after the visit, the very own [Luis] Morales visited him in his cell. He stole him everything: the few money, his shoes, his clothes. “[This is so] that you stop fucking around’, he said as ‘I have had enough of you going with those of Human Rights’.”
The voice of Lucero is dim, but the words are perfectly audible due to the strength when talking, there is no fuss.
“The Diódoro Carrasco Group is claiming their part and pretend to kill Librado in the penitentiary”, he says bluntly. “They know of the international support and I think that the aim is to kill him, as Librado was a candidate for disappearance”.
She has received threats, calls that say that he is going to die, that they will hijack his son.
Since May the UN has asked the federal government to release the political prisoner, but he remains detained.
“I fear for my life and the one of my son, and of Librado that is in their hands. But we will not shut up.”
Contralínea tried to talk to the people in charge of the area of human rights both of the federal government as well as the one of Oaxaca. Neither Roberto Campa Cifrián, Assistant Secretary of Human Rights of the Secretariat of the Interior; nor Miguel Ruiz Cabañas, Assistant Secretary for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights of the Secretariat of Foreign Affairs (SRE); nor María Erendida Cruzvillegas, coordinator for the Attention of Human Rights in Oaxaca responded to the requests for an interview. The same happened with the Deputy Carlos Sarabia Camacho.
Political prisoners, business as usual in Mexico
Librado Baños Rodríguez is not the only political prisoner in the country. There are no official data as for the governments the number is null. The alternative numbers cross over; they could state from a dozen to hundreds, it depends on the methodology applied by the organizations, national or international, and the period of time studied. The numbers, despite their discrepancy, coincide in one thing: inside the Mexican jails an important number of persons remain imprisoned for political reasons.
For example, the Cerezo Committee states 197 ongoing cases, of which 83 correspond to the administration of Enrique Peña Nieto, while the oldest data is from 1995: Adalberto López Martínez, a day laborer of the State of Guerrero detained on the 1st of September of this year in Chilpancingo.
The names appear and, as dots in a map, the places where they were detained by any of the police forces or armed corporations.
Added to the share data by the Cerezo Committee 25 detainees can be added on the 7th of June in Oaxaca, most of the members of the Popular Revolutionary Front that assures to have three more comrades imprisoned.
Mauricio Romero, @mauricio_contra
(Translated by: Axel Plasa)
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Contralínea 459 / del 19 al 25 de Octubre 2015