Mexico: peasant ecologist freed

On Sept. 15 a state judge in Zihuatanejo in the southern Mexican state of Guerrero ordered the release of Felipe Arreaga Sanchez, a leader in the campesino environmental movement who had been held in prison since November 2004. Judge Ricardo Salinas Sandoval ruled that there was insufficient evidence for the state’s charge that Arreaga was involved in the 1998 killing of Abel Bautista, son of timber boss Bernardino Bautista Valle. Arreaga left the prison in Zihuatanejo a half hour after the ruling. The state had five days to appeal the decision.

On Sept. 16 Amnesty International (AI), asked the Mexican government to “give guarantees of security and protection to Arreaga, his wife and his family, along with other defenders of the environment and human rights in the state of Guerrero.” According to Arreaga’s lawyer, Mario Patron, Bernardino Bautista has said that “if this business isn’t resolved in the courts, I’m going to settle it outside, my way.” A group of men ambushed another local environmental leader, Albertano Penalosa Dominguez, the night of May 19; he was wounded and two of his children were killed. AI declared Arreaga a prisoner of conscience in March. The US-based environmental group Sierra Club also backed Arreaga while he was in prison, awarding him its Chico Mendes environmental prize this summer. (La Jornada, Sept. 17)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Sept. 18

See our last post on Guerrero’s peasant ecologists, and other campesino struggles in Mexico.