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Urgent action: Mexican activist Bettina Cruz faces serious false charges
UPDATE: Bettina has now been released. However, she still faces the charges. We have updated the information below, so please write to the contacts listed below challenging these charges. We have suggested some points you could make.
I have just heard news through friends in Mexico that Bettina Cruz Velázquez, an indigenous Mexican activist who WDM has been campaigning with, has been arrested. The information available suggests that she is the target of unfounded charges and detention as a way to deter her from her campaigning to defend the rights of indigenous people over the interests of multinational corporations. Please read on to find out what has happened, and how you can take action to support Bettina.
VIDEO: Bettina talks about her struggle against the privatisation of the air by multinational companies and for energy sovereignty, at the Reclaim Power action in the Copenhagen climate summit in 2009.
On Wednesday, February 22 at approximately 4:00pm, Bettina, an indigenous human rights defender and member of the Indigenous Peoples’ Assembly of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in Defence of the Land and Territory, was arrested as she left a meeting with the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE). She had been there to accompany and monitor the case of a person who had been run over by CFE workers. Bettina is being held in the city of Matias Romero, Oaxaca, under federal charges.
Shortly after the Cancun UN climate talks, I visited Bettina and learnt about her struggle for justice for the people of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec who are resisting the take over of their lands by multinational corporations and fighting against the privatisation of the atmoshpere. WDM’s Power to the People report, released last December, exposed how UK aid money has been used to finance an EDF windfarm project in the area. This project, run through the World Bank, has not only had a terrible impact on the local indigeions people but all the electricity generated does not go to the people who need it, but to the multinational Wallmart.
Please read the press release from some local Mexican organsiations about Bettina’s case, and find out how you can take action below:
PRESS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE DISTRIBUTION – FEBRUARY 22, 2012
Mexican Attorney General (PGR) detains human rights advocate Lucila Bettina Cruz Velázquez in Santa María Xadani, Oaxaca
Mexico City – The Office of the Mexican Attorney General (PGR) detained human rights advocate Lucila Bettina Cruz Velázquez in Santa María Xadani, Isthmus of Tehuantepec, Oaxaca, at 3:30 pm on February 22, 2012. At the time of this press release her whereabouts and the legal charges against her remain unknown. The State of Oaxaca’s Office of the Human Rights Ombudsman granted Ms. Cruz Velázquez precautionary measures on November 14, 2011.
At the time of her detention Ms. Cruz Velázquez was accompanied by attorney Maribel González Pedro. The PGR did allow either of them to read the arrest warrant and the reasons for the arrest are unknown. To date it has been impossible to confirm whether Ms. Cruz Velázquez has been presented before the relevant federal authorities. Hence there are grounds for concern regarding her security and physical integrity.
Ms. Cruz Velázquez is a well‐known indigenous land rights advocate and a founding member of the Assembly of Indigenous Peoples of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in Defense of Land Rights. The Assembly has accompanied several campaigns to defend the collective rights of indigenous peoples, including an organizing campaign with members of the Zapotec and Ikoots communities resisting wind projects in the region and a campaign with the Zapotec community against inflated electricity bills imposed by the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE). Ms. González Pedro is also a member of the Assembly.
This is not the first time that the PGR has detained a member of the Assembly. On April 12, 2011, Mr. Filiberto Vicente Aquino, leader of the movement against inflated electricity costs, was detained in Xadani and taken to the headquarters of the Mexican Attorney General in Salina Cruz, Oaxaca. Mr. Vicente Aquino was falsely accused of stealing electricity. The detention of Ms. Cruz Velázquez is emblematic of the insecurity facing women human rights advocates and the criminalization of their activities.
Since last year the Assembly has accompanied the Unión Hidalgo Wind Project Resistance Committee, which consists of small landowners from Unión Hidalgo who oppose the Piedra Larga wind project. In order to address land rights violations and the absence of free, prior and informed consent for indigenous landowners, in May 2011 the Committee requested a dialogue with Desarrollos Eólicos de México, S.A. de C.V. (DEMEX), a subsidiary of the Spanish renewable energy company Renovalia Energy, and the state government of Oaxaca as mediator.
On October 28, 2011, local henchmen and municipal police attacked Ms. Cruz Velázquez and members of the Committee. These violent acts prompted the precautionary measures issued by the Office of the Human Rights Ombudsman of Oaxaca, which aim to protect and guarantee the physical integrity of Ms. Cruz Velázquez and other members of the Committee.
The dialogue to negotiate the early termination of the land lease agreements signed with DEMEX took place on February 8, 2012. That day both parties agreed to convene a second negotiation for Saturday, February 25, with the purpose of hearing the company’s official response to the demand for early termination of the lease agreements.
The signatories to this press release make the following demands of the federal Interior Ministry, the Office of the Mexican Attorney General, and the National Human Rights Commission:
• The unconditional and immediate release of human rights advocate Lucila Bettina Cruz Velázquez;
• That measures are taken immediately to guarantee the security and physical integrity of Lucila Bettina Cruz Velázquez, Maribel González Pedro, and the remaining members of the Assembly of Indigenous Peoples of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in Defense of Land Rights.
• Assembly of Indigenous Peoples of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in Defense of Land Rights (in Spanish: Asamblea de los Pueblos Indígenas del Istmo de Tehuantepec en Defensa de la Tierra y el Territorio)
• Unión Hidalgo Wind Project Resistance Committee (in Spanish: Comité de Resistencia al Proyecto Eólico de Unión Hidalgo)
• ProDESC (in Spanish: Proyecto de Derechos Económicos, Sociales y Culturales)
• PODER (Project on Organizing, Development, Education, and Research)
• Valeria Scorza / ProDESC, (52‐55) 5212‐2230, email@example.com
Please write to the following officials from federal Interior Ministry, the Office of the Mexican Attorney General, and the National Human Rights Commission reagrding this case. These are the points you can make:
•That the authorities must ensure that Lucila Bettina Cruz Velázquez will not be subject to torture or other ill-treatment, and to ensure she has access to the lawyer of her choice and her family;
•Urge them to ensure judicial proceedings have not been brought on the basis of unsupported or unreliable evidence in reprisal for Lucila Bettina Cruz Velázquez’s legitimate human rights work and that her right to a fair trial is guaranteed in accordance with international fair trial standards, including the right to bail related to these charges;
• That measures are taken immediately to guarantee the security and physical integrity of Lucila Bettina Cruz Velázquez, Maribel González Pedro, and the remaining members of the Assembly of Indigenous Peoples of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in Defense of Land Rights, and ensure that they are not subject to unfounded judicial persecution..
PLEASE SEND APPEALS BEFORE 5 APRIL 2012 TO:
Attorney General of the Republic
Marisela Morales Ibáñez
Paseo de la reforma 211-213
Col. Cuauhtémoc, México D.F., C.P. 06500, México
Fax: +52 55 5346 0908 (keep trying and ask for "fax")
Salutation: Dear Attorney General
Minister of the Interior
Dr. Alejandro Poiré Romero
Secretaría de Gobernación
Bucareli 99, 1er. piso, Col. Juárez
México D.F., C.P.06600, México
Fax: +52 55 5093 3414
Salutation: Dear Minister
And copies to:
Proyecto de Derechos Economicos Sociales y Culturales (Project on Economic, Social and Cultural rights, AC)
(Local NGO who is working with Lucila Bettina Cruz Velázquez)
Kirsty is senior campaigns officer at WDM. She campaigns to keep the World Bank out of climate finance and against loans for climate change.