Pressure on Mexico to free peasant ecologist

An indigenous Mexican ecological defender is now in his seventh month behind bars, despite calls for his relase from Amnesty International, Greenpeace and other human rights and environmental groups. Ildefonso Zamora was arrested by México state police last November, in connection with a 2012 robbery. But Amnesty finds "the charge is unsubstantiated and seems to be politically motivated." A leader of the Tlahuica indigenous people, Zamora served as president of the communal lands committee at his pueblo of San Juan Atzingo. In this capacity, he had long protested illegal logging on usurped communal lands in México state's Gran Bosque de Agua—which protects the watershed that supplies Mexico City. Amnesty notes that the prosecution's witnesses described the events "using the exact same words, as if reading them from a script." The rights group says this points to fabricated testimony, and demands that he be immediately and unconditionally released.

Zamora's elder son was killed in an apparent reprisal attack by illegal loggers in 2007. But he remains unbowed.  Speaking from prison, Zamora said: "I work to stop illegal logging, and that has cost me dearly: my son’s life and my freedom. I want to continue working for my community because illegal logging is destroying large parts of the planet earth."

Amnesty has adopted Zamora as a "prisoner of conscience," and a campaign for his release has been launched under the hashtag #IldefonsoLibre. Amnesty is calling for pressure on México state Gov. Eruviel Ávila. (ICTMN, June 3; Noticias MVS, May 23; Amnesty International, AI, May 9; Proceso, Feb. 23)

On March 18, Mexican authorities capitulated to pressure from rights groups in another case that won international attention, and freed a detained leader of the "community police" movement in southern Guerro state. Nestora Salgado recently returned to Guerrero to again take up the struggle against narco gangs after initially going to the United States, where she holds dual citizenship. (La Jornada, June 6)