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Twelve days after the murder of Indigenous environmental activist Samir Flores Soberanes, Mexican authorities have neither determined a motive for the crime nor detained any suspects.

D0Csyb7WwAEX1nhFlores, an Indigenous Náhautl radio producer and member of the People’s Front in Defense of the Land and Water for the states of Morelos, Puebla and Tlaxcala (FPDTA), died on 20 February 2019, after being shot twice in the head by unknown assailants outside his home in the town of Amilcingo in Morelos state.

In a press conference last Thursday, the Morelos State Prosecutor, Uriel Carmona, said investigators were pursuing six lines of inquiry, including links to organized crime as well as retaliation for Flores's opposition to a thermal-electric plant and gas pipeline. Carmona said it was up to Flores's family and neighbours “to make the points, to give us the information they have in order to shape this hypothesis.”

Last Tuesday, the federal delegate for Morelos, Hugo Eric Flores, said it was also necessary to investigate the leadership of the FPDTA “from beginning to end, just as I am saying that I should be investigated totally."

Since Flores's murder, the FPDTA has maintained that Flores had no enemies other than the promoters of the plant and pipeline, which form part of the “Integral Project for Morelos.” Last weekend, the megaproject was approved in a controversial referendum that was boycotted by residents of Amilcingo and other affected towns.

Indigenous Náhuatl land defender and radio producer Samir Flores Soberanes was shot to death early Wednesday morning in the community of Amilcingo in the state of Morelos, Mexico.

Flores was an outspoken opponent of a thermal-electric plant and gas pipeline that form part of the Integral Project for Morelos, originally proposed in 2010 but recently promoted by Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador as a way to improve the region’s energy independence.

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The People’s Front in Defense of the Land and Water for the states of Morelos, Puebla and Tlaxcala (FPDTA) said in a statement that Flores died after being shot twice in the head by unknown assailants. The FPDTA declared that Flores, who helped to found the Community Radio Amiltzinko 100.7 FM, had no enemies other than the promoters of the mega-development project, which includes a thermoelectric plant in Huexca, Morelos, as well as an aqueduct and a gas pipeline whose operation would affect over 60 farming communities in the Popocatépetl Volcano region, including Amilcingo.

“This is a political crime for the human rights defense that Samir and the FPDTA carried out against the [project] and for people’s autonomy and self-determination,” the statement said.

Flores’s murder takes place just three days before a controversial referendum on the project, to be carried out in the states of Morelos, Puebla and Tlaxcala on February 23 and 24. So far seven communities have filed legal injunctions against the referendum, which they say violates their right to free, prior and informed consent as Indigenous peoples. “This should be an Indigenous referendum and it should be conducted one by one” with affected communities, said Juan Carlos Flores, an activist from Puebla.

 

On June 19th, 2016, prolonged tensions due to the Mexican government’s educational reform came to a head in Asunción Nochixtlán, a Mixtec municipality an hour’s drive from Oaxaca City, where at least 8 people were killed and 226 civilian injured during protests. During this incident, the  government of Oaxaca—a southern territory known for Indigenous and popular resistance—once again proved that it does not hesitate to use excessive force to impose its will.

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30 months after the Nochixtlán massacre, justice has yet to be served. On the contrary, the state has repeatedly denied authorities’ responsibility, instead placing the blame for confrontations on local residents and demonstrators. “Neither the victims nor their families have had full access to justice or health care,” explains the local NGO Codigo DH; “no actions have been taken to comprehensively repair the damages they suffered.”

In November, as the UN conducted a comprehensive review of human rights in Mexico, Oaxacan civil society organizations again turned their gaze to Nochixtlán as an emblematic case of state violence and impunity, which they say worsened during the last presidential and gubernatorial terms. In the context of the UN Human Rights Commissions’ Universal Periodic Review (UPR), Oaxaca NGOs including EDUCA A.C. published the shadow report, Under attack. Human Rights in Oaxaca 2013-2018, which cites the Nochixtlán massacre in analyses of worsening attacks against human rights defenders, violence as a key strategy for the imposition of structural reforms, and the criminalization of social protest in Oaxaca.

On December 10th, communities and civil society organizations gathered in the central plaza of Oaxaca City to present the conclusions and final report of the first Peoples’ Trial against the State and Mining Companies in Oaxaca. This historic tribunal—in which representatives of 52 Indigenous and farming communities judged corporate and government actors for polluting their land and violating their rights—has given rise to historic conclusions: a grassroots network that is militating for the prohibition of mining in one of Mexico’s most culturally and biologically diverse states.

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This December 10th—International Human Rights Day—also found Mexico bracing itself for a cold front in the early weeks of its first leftist presidency, secured through campaign promises to uproot corruption, reduce inequality and cultivate faith in democratic institutions. Yet questions abound with regard to the extractive industries policy of Andrés Manuel López Obrador, whose proposal involves levying taxes on mining companies in order to fund development projects in affected communities. For the Mexican Network of Peoples Affected by Mining (REMA), such “remedies” “form part of the systematic lie employed by companies to obfuscate their looting,” and thus point to a “continuation of the same permissive, promotional policies.”

Civil society organization “EDUCA – Una Educación Alternativa A.C.” strongly advises the UN to include the following suggestions in their final recommendations release at the end of the UPR evaluation on Human Rights in Mexico.

These suggestions include and consider the current Human Rights situation in the Mexican state of Oaxaca, as it was documented and listed by various civil society organizations within Oaxaca.

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  1. Cancel the Educational Reform and perform a consultation process with various actors of educational institutions to establish an education which is aligned to stress the right of education of girls and boys and addresses cultural differences as well as social and economic inequalities in Mexico.
  2. Convict and punish those who are perpetrators of human rights violations that were reported by the Oaxaca Truth Commission. Design a mechanism to guarantee the right of truth and justice within the framework of transnational justice.
  3. Guarantee free exercise to defend human rights, including social protest.
  4. Evaluate national and state mechanisms responsible for the protection of human rights defenders and journalists to detect their effectiveness and the coordination between federal and state level.
  5. Thoroughly review the listed cases of arbitrary detention involving the relevant civilian groups to ensure proper criminal prosecution.Resumption of current legislation and the UPR's past recommendations on “arraigo” and preventive detention.
  6. Implement mechanisms endowed with trained personnel and budget at federal and state levels, related to the LGPIST (“General Law to Prevent, Investigate and Punish Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment”).
  7. Evaluate public policy and state budget available for the investigation and punishment of torture.
  8. Establish a legal framework that guarantees media companies to comply with legal labor obligations, as minimum wages, social security and benefits of law.
  9. Harmonize the government´s legal framework with international human rights standards, in recognition of the right to self-determination, autonomy and territory of indigenous peoples and communities.
  10. Immediately approve the constitutional reform on the rights of the Indigenous and Afro-Mexican peoples, as it was demanded in the initiative presented in 2014, at the Oaxaca State Congress.
  11. Generate a state information system that safeguards the rights of girls, boys and adolescents, that yields sustained figures and that allows the evaluation of public policies and social programs aimed at this sector.
  12. Promote a citizens´ observatory on the rights of children and adolescents in the state of Oaxaca, with the participation of civil society.
  13. Review the legal framework, public policy and budget to rise attention, sanction and eradicate feminicide violence.
  14. Guarantee the full exercise of women´s political rights in service to their communities and political participation in service and representative positions.
  15. Guarantee the right of legal abortion for all adolescents and adults who request it.

 

Download: Under attack. Human Rights in Oaxaca 2013-2018. Citizen report (PDF, 32 pp.)

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