Thursday, August 18, 2011
Human rights in Mexico under attack by PLAN MEXICO
by Aurea Cardiel, August 16, 2011
Over the past several years violence in Northern Mexico has risen dramatically, in what many liken to an internal civil war. It's an assessment given weight by the sight of the Mexican army occupying Juarez, a sprawling metropolis just across the Rio Grande from El Paso. Civil society is caught in the middle of the upheaval, with those in public positions in particular threatened. Government officials, human rights workers, journalists-the list of murdered, disappeared, or driven into exile is long.
New Mexico, being adjacent to Juarez, has become home to many of those for whom staying in Juarez and northern Mexico is just too dangerous. One human rights worker, Cipriana Jurado of Centro de Investigación y Solidaridad Obrera (CISO), just received political asylum in the U.S. and is residing with her family in Santa Fe. And Jurado says the Mexican military is to blame.
Jurado's mission these days is to bring more awareness to the public about the reasons for the violence in Juarez and other cities in Mexico by sharing her experience living and struggling to survive there. While mainstream news accounts say it's all about drugs, she draws on her extensive experience to link the violence to unrestrained industrialization and the impacts on workers and residents who continuously fight against the abuse and corruption they experience.
At the age of 13, Jurado started working in the maquiladoras (sweatshops), in Juårez. In the early 80's the industry was booming and maquiladoras were being built rapidly, haphazardly and without any attention to safety regulations for the workers. Houses for the workers were often built with no electricity, running water or roads to the maquiladoras, and the commute from home to work was long because there was no public transportation. Her experience there was the start of her lifelong fight for human rights, putting into practice skills she had learned from "theology of liberation" bible studies.
In the 1980's she co-founded the Centro de Investigación y Solidaridad Obrera in Ciudad Juárez and later became the director, fighting for improved working conditions for women and men and better treatment for workers in maquiladoras. Through CISO she also began working with families who were victims of femicide. On their behalf she would investigate and file complaints through the state and federal police and sometimes at the military station. This work made her a go to person when families began to have problems with the Mexican military, which moved into the area as part of the "Conjunto Chihuahua"-the Mexican government's war on drugs. More than 8000 military troops moved into Juarez beginning in 2008, leading to military abuses on the civilian population.
Jurado became a "quadjuvante" or legal representative to families who had loved ones kidnapped by the Mexican military. She filed a number of high profile formal complaints in 2008 against the military with the Mexico Attorney General's Office (PGR), the Chihuahua State Organization on Human rights and with the Chihuahua State Police Commission (PGE) on missing persons. She worked closely with Amnesty International to bring international pressure to bear on the cases of Saul Becerra and the Guzman Brothers, Carlos and Jose.
On April 3, 2008 Jurado was arrested by two unidentified federal officers in accordance with an "alleged" warrant that was issued in 2005 accusing her of costing the city money for having organized a demonstration at the international bridge. While in jail, after some of the other detainees learned she was a human rights activist, they shared their personal stories of Mexica military brutality and abuses. Luckily Jurado had Congressman Victor Quintana's number or she might not have ever made it out.
Over the course of the next two years, Jurado was repeatedly harassed by the Mexican military, at both her home and work place. Her good friend and fellow human rights worker Josefina Reyes was murdered in January 2010. Jurado had worked closely with Reyes on human rights cases, and had led public protests and organized press conferences which were held at the Military Installation in Cd. Juarez. Ultimately, 19 family members or colleagues were killed before Jurado decided she had to leave Mexico.
Realizing how tenuous her position had become, Jurado left Mexico with her two children and went to Chicago under the protection of the Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America. She received political asylum in June of this year, and now resides in Santa Fe, where she continues her efforts to bring attention to abuses of the Mexican military. On August 31, 2011 Jurado will speak about the issues on the ground in Juarez at a public event at the Albuquerque Peace and Justice Center.
ruben solis garcia
from El Grito Albuquerque, NM SWOP