Pressure is increasing on Mexico to free imprisoned community activist Nestora Salgado since the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention issued a ruling that her imprisonment is illegal. The International Human Rights Clinic at Seattle University Law School had been pursuing her case before the Geneva-based panel for about two years. In the decision—reached in December, but only released Feb. 2—the five-member panel called her arrest arbitrary, and called on Mexico to immediately free and compensate her for the violation of her human rights. The panel found that she was arrested for her leadership of a local "community police" group, which is protected under Mexican law. Additionally, the panel charges that she was denied contact with her lawyers and family for almost year, and has been denied adequate medical care and access to clean water in prison. Finally, the finding charged that she was improperly arrested by the military, and her US passport was ignored. "In the first place, there is no doubt that the arrest and detention without charges is illegal and thus arbitrary," reads the finding. "Furthermore, the military arresting civilians for presumed crimes when national security is not at risk is worrying."
The Zapatista rebels in Mexico's southern state of Chiapas marked the anniversary of their 1994 New Years Day uprising by hosting a national activist gathering in their territory. Guests of honor at the proceedings in the small pueblo of Oventic were a group of parents and other family members of the 43 students who disappeared in September 2014. The students, from Ayotzinapa in Guerrero state, are said to have been abducted by corrupt local police and turned over to a murderous narco-gang—but surviving kin and their supporters increasingly charge Mexico's government with a cover-up in the case. The Zapatistas' Subcommander Moises, joined by 43 masked rebels (one for each missing student), oversaw the ceremony and each embraced the family members. Moises expressed his own skepticism of the official investigation: "The Zapatistas believe that we cannot trust the bad governments anymore, they are the servants of capital, stewards of big capitalist business," he said. "The one calling the shots is global capitalism, that is why we cannot believe them." (TeleSur, Jan. 1)
A group called the "Pagan Sect of the Mountain" (Secta Pagana de la Montaña) claimed responsibility for Oct. 31 coordinated attacks with improvised explosives that damaged four buses of the MexiBús commuter line at a terminal in the Mexico City suburb of Ecatepec. There were no casualties. The communique, online at ContraInfo, was full of eco-anarchist rhetoric, pledging more bombings to resist the "frenetic advance of modern development... If civilization destroys nature, we will respond in the same form." It signed off: "Fire and explosives against civilization!" The Prosecutor General of the Republic has opened an investigation. (La Jornada, La Jornada, Nov. 2)
Mexico on Sept. 30 extradited 13 people to the United States—including two accused drug lords and several suspects in two high-profile attacks on US citizens. One was the 2011 deadly ambush of US immigration agents in San Luis Potosí state; the other the previous year's killing of US consulate workers in Ciudad Juárez. The two accused kingpins were Edgar Valdez Villarreal AKA "La Barbie" of the Beltran- Leyva Organization and Jorge Costilla Sánchez AKA "El Coss" of Los Zetas. The US Justice Department hyped the extraditions as signaling a new binational coordination following a June meeting between US Attorney General Loretta Lynch and her Mexican counterpart, Arely Gómez. As AP noted, extraditions had fallen dramatically since 2012, the final year of President Felipe Calderón's term, when Mexico sent 115 people to face criminal charges in the US. Under President Enrique Peña Nieto, the number dropped to just 66 last year. (AP, Sept. 30)
On Sept. 26—one year anniversary of the disappearance of 43 students in Mexico's southern state of Guerrero—thousands of protesters filled the streets of Mexico City. The march, led by parents of the missing students, made its way from Los Pinos, the presidential residence, to the Zócalo, the capital's massive central square. Protests were also held in Iguala, Guerrero, where the 43 students from a teachers' college in nearby Ayotzinapa were abducted one year ago. Many carried mass-produced placards that read "Ni un desaparecido más, Ni un muerto más—¡¡Fuera Peña Nieto!!"—"Not one more disappearance, not one more death—Out with Peña Nieto!!" The administration of President Enrique Peña Nieto is under growing pressure in the case. There have now been 110 arrests of members of the Guerreros Unidos narco-gang, named by the government as responsible in the mass abduction. But there have been no convictions. The government says the students were massacred by the drug gang, and claims two sets of remains have been identified. But survivors, activists and rights observers say the official story doesn't hold water.
Mexico's Prosecutor General Arely Gómez González announced Sept. 16 that forensic experts have identified the remains of a second victim in the case of the 43 missing students. Human remains found in plastic bags dredged from the Río San Juan in Guerrero state are said to be those of missing student Jhosivani Guerrero de la Cruz. The identification was made by Austrian forensic experts from Innsbruck Medical University, who had earlier identified one other student based on a bone fragment. But the announcement came amid new controversy, as an Argentine forensic team working on the case called the identification of the second set of remains "weak and not definitive." The Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team (EAAF) made the announcement after meeting with the parents of Jhosivani Guerrero two days after the Prosecutor General's announcement.
A group of experts appointed by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has just issued a new report on the Mexican government's own investigation of the disappearance of 43 students in Guerrero state nearly one year ago—and finds that the official conclusions are improbable. The Sept. 5 presentation of the IACHR findings drew such a huge audeince that organizers had to set up a TV screen for the overflow crowd on the patio of the Mexico City Human Rights Commission offices. Back in January, Mexico's then-Prosecutor General Jesús Murillo Karam announced the results of his investigation: all the students had been killed by members of a narco-gang called the Guerreros Unidos, who incinerated the bodies in a trash dump at the bottom of a canyon, then shoveled what remained into plastic bags and threw them in a river. That theory was largely based on confessions from detainees—who have since claimed to have "confessed" under torture. IACHR investigators who visited the dump site concluded that the incineration of that many bodies would have required an inordinate amount of fuel, and caused a massive forest fire.
Miguel Ángel Jiménez Blanco, a leading activist in Mexico's violence-torn state of Guerrero and a vocal advocate for the families of the 43 students who went missing there in September 2014, was himself found dead on Aug. 10. His body was discovered riddled with bullets and slumped over the wheel of the taxi he owned in the pueblo of Xaltianguis, just outside Acapulco. He had led search parties after the disappearance of the students, who are now believed to have been turned over to a murderous narco-gang after being detained by police. Only one body of this missing students has yet been found. As it became increasingly clear the students had been killed, he helped organize a group called The Other Disappeared—mostly women, who meet every Sunday to search the hills for the remains of their loved ones. Since the group began work, it has unearthed 129 bodies, which were handed over to the authorities for identification. As he began to organize around the issue, Jiménez Blanco said some 300 families came forward saying they also had missing relatives. He said in a BBC interview earlier this year: "We have been saying from the start that this area is a cemetery."