Urgent Action: Mexico – Concerns for the safety and security of human rights defenders opposing mining activities in the state of Colima
Over the past year, environmental and indigenous rights organisations in the municipality of Comala, Colima State, Mexico, have been facing continuous threats, attacks, stigmatisation and criminalisation as a result of their ongoing opposition to a mining concession that has been granted in the Indigenous Nahua community of Zacualpan.
This concession as of yet does not have an environmental impact study or other permits. Local communities and organisations are concerned that building a mine there would have negative health and environmental impacts for the surrounding areas, including for downstream water users. The mining concession is for the exploration of gold, silver, copper and manganese and is being managed by GABFER, S.A. de C.V. whose other corporate connections and investors are as of yet unknown and whose legal representative is Rigoberto Verduzco Rodríguez. Bios Iguana A.C., member of the the Mexican Network of People Affected by Mining (REMA) and the Mesoamerican Movement Against the Extractive Mining Model (M4), has been advising and accompanying the Consejo Indígena por la Defensa del Territorio de de Zacualpan – CIDTZ (Indigenous Council for the Defense of the Territory of Zacualpan) in their information campaign about the impacts of mining and supports CIDTZ’s decision to declare their territory free of extractive activities.
On 19 September 2014, the Standing Committee of the Colima State Congress unanimously approved a point of agreement calling on police to prevent anyone unknown to the community from entering Zacualpan. This was intended to send a clear message to members of Bios Iguana A.C. that they should stay away and has led to further aggression towards members of the organisation.
Over the last two weeks, since 6 October 2014, Mr Gabriel Martínez Campos, President of Bios Iguana, has reported a number of occasions when vehicles with no registration plates have driven past his home. At times they have followed him. Neighbours have also noticed cars with no registration plates circling the block where he lives. On four different occasions in that period of time Gabriel Martínez Campos has been approached by unknown persons asking him how the current situation is in Zacualpan.
On 18 October, members of CIDTZ and Bios Iguana organised a social gathering in the city of Villa de Álvarez, as they are not allowed to enter the community of Zacualpan. A municipal police patrol arrived and asked what was going on. They were informed that it was a private party and they left. Later a state police patrol arrived, which is very unusual in the neighbourhood where the gathering was taking place. The vehicle drove very slowly down the street and an occupant was heard saying “Esperancita”, before driving off. This was a reference to Ms Esperanza Salazar Zenil, Coordinator of Bios Iguana.
On 11 October, Esperanza Salazar Zenil and another member of Bios Iguana, Mr Alejandro Bueno, were walking in the centre of Colima when a patrol car stopped suddenly beside them. One of the two officers in the vehicle greeted them. Esperanza Salazar Zenil returned the greeting and they continued walking. Later, as they walked towards home the same patrol car appeared beside them again, this time the occupants said nothing but as they drove very slowly past they both laughed.
On 22 September, at 10:10 am, Alejandro Bueno received a threatening message on social networking site Facebook from a person supposedly called Angel Elektico. In the message, which was sent again at 10:15 am, the author says that he was walking past the human rights defender’s home when he thought of him and warning him that he should take great care.
On 28 August, a group calling themselves “Movimiento anti bios-iguanas” created a page on Facebook. The page has included posts threatening and insulting members of Bios Iguana. One post claimed to be written by an official from the last government and was directed at Gabriel Martínez Campos, claiming that he has been paid large sums of money and that he has no interest in the defending the environment.
On 26 August, members of the CIDTZ held a meeting with the Municipal President of Comala, four Councillors and a Deputy, where they were calling for greater security for the Community, amongst other things. A group of 6 persons suddenly entered the room to disrupt the meeting. They began pulling and pushing people in the room and, despite requests for the Municipal President to leave his security detail to assist those in the room, he left bringing the policemen with him. 8 female members of the CIDTZ were injured during the incident.
Above is a summary of a number of recent incidents where members of Bios Iguana and CIDTZ have felt threatened. This is not an exhaustive list and, despite submitting an official request (Number: 27877 of File Number: 375/2014) to the National Human Rights Commission for protective measures on 18 March 2014 for members of their organisations, they have yet to receive a response.
Front Line Defenders believes that the above-mentioned incidents form part of an ongoing campaign to discredit, threaten and criminalise the work of environmental and indigenous organisations such as Bios Iguana A.C. and the Indigenous Council for the Defense of the Territory of Zacualpan for their legitimate activities against mining activities in Mexico and that it is aimed at instilling fear in all of those engaged in legitimately defending their lands and their rights from the interests of national and foreign extractive companies. – See more at: http://www.frontlinedefenders.org/node/27554#sthash.oJL5O27e.dpuf