정부의 보호가 거의 전무한 상황에서 멕시코 인권활동가들은 생명을 위협하는 괴롭힘과 공격에 늘 마주한다. 인권활동가 옵틸리아 우게니오 마누엘(Obtilia Eugenio Manuel)과 헤수스 에밀리아노(Jesús Emiliano), 천주교 성직자 알레한드로 솔라닌데(Alejandro Solalinde)는 인권 옹호 활동을 했다는 이유로 협박과 위협적인 행동, 강제 구금에 시달린다.
옵틸리아 우게니오 메누엘(Obtilia Eugenio Manuel)
옵틸리아 우게니오 메누엘(Obtilia Eugenio Manuel)은 멕시코 남부 게레로(Guerrero)에 있는 메파 선주민 협회(Organization of the Me’ phaa Indigenous People∙OPIM)의 회장이다. 그녀는 선주민들의 권리를 위해 오랜 기간 캠페인 활동을 해왔다.
메누엘은 메파(Me’ phaa)와 믹스테코(Mixteco) 선주민 공동체를 만들기 시작한 1998년 이래로 수많은 협박을 받아왔다.
메누엘은 작년 3월, 두 달 전 살해된 인권옹호자 라울 루카스 루시아(Raúl Lucas Lucía)를 기리는 행사를 마친 후에도 문자를 통해 살해 위협을 받았다.
그러나 멕시코 당국은 그녀가 받아온 협박에 대해 단 한 차례도 조사한 적이 없다.
헤수스 에밀리아노(Jesús Emiliano)
헤수스 에밀리아노(Jesús Emiliano)는 치와와 소작농 민주전선(the Peasant Farmers’ Democratic Front of Chihuahua)을 이끌고 있다. 이 단체는 가난한 지역 농민들의 경제적 권리를 옹호하는 캠페인을 하고 있다.
에밀리아노는 2007년 3월 9일 치와와 시에서 연방 형사범죄에 해당하는 ‘사보타주(sabotage∙파괴적인 노동쟁의행위)’ 혐의로 강제 구금됐다. 그의 인권옹호 활동을 멈추기 위해 연방정부가 혐의를 조작한 것이었다.
결국 그는 증거 불충분으로 5일 후 조건 없이 석방됐다.
멕시코에서는 각종 시위와 관련해 활동가들이 무고하게 체포됐다 풀려나는 경우가 빈번하지만, 연방 정부의 이런 부당한 체포 행태에 대해서는 아무런 조치도 없는 상황이다.
알레한드로 솔라린데(Father Alejandro Solalinde) 신부
“나의 가족들은 (내가 이러한 활동을 하는 것이) 위험이 크다는 것을 알고 있습니다. 내가 받아들인 것처럼, 그들도 받아들였습니다.”
알레한드로 솔라닌데(Father Alejandro Solalinde) 신부는 멕시코 남서부 지역 천주교 목사 이주민 지원센터(the Catholic Pastoral Care Centre for Migrants)의 조직자다. 오악사카(Oaxaca)주 시우다드 리테펙(Ciudad Ixtepec)에 위치한 이주민 쉼터의 사무국장으로도 일하고 있다.
2005년부터 그는 범죄집단으로부터 이주민들을 보호하고, 그들이 안전하게 살 곳을 제공하는 일에 헌신해 왔다.
활동을 시작한 이래로 지역 갱단과 관리들의 협박은 계속 이어져왔다. 지난 12월에는 베라크루즈(Veracruz)와 오크사카(Oaxaca)에서 활동하는 갱들로부터 ‘살해하겠다’는 경고를 받기도 했다.
Activists standing up for justice in Mexico
Human rights activists in Mexico face life-threatening harassment and attacks, while the government does very little to protect them.
Here are profiles of three such activists who in the course of their work have been subjected to threats, acts of intimidation and arbitrary detention.
Obtilia Eugenio Manuel
The founder and President of the Organization of the Me’ phaa Indigenous People (OPIM) in Guerrero, Obtilia Eugenio Manuel is a longstanding campaigner for the rights of Indigenous people.
She has been the target of numerous threats, acts of intimidation and surveillance since the Me’ phaa and Mixteco Indigenous communities started to organize in 1998.
The campaign of intimidation against her and the risks to her life became so serious in recent years, Obtilia and her family were forced to relocate to another community.
For example, in March 2009, just after a ceremony commemorating human rights defender Raúl Lucas Lucía, who was murdered in February 2009, Obtilia received three death threats by text message to her mobile phone.
In January 2009, she was followed on numerous occasions. One time, she recognized one of the men following her. She had reported several earlier incidents involving the same man to the authorities, but they asked her to provide more evidence before they would investigate.
On one occasion he leaned out of his car and shouted: “Do you think you’re so brave? Are you a real woman? Let’s hope you also go to prison… If you don’t go to prison, we’ll kill you.” None of the threats or acts of intimidation against her have been investigated.
Obtilia, 32, and her partner have two daughters aged 8 and 6 and a son aged 4.
Jesús Emiliano is a leading member of the Peasant Farmers’ Democratic Front of Chihuahua, north Mexico, an organization that campaigns for the economic rights of poor rural farmers.
Jesús was arbitrarily detained on spurious criminal charges by federal authorities in 2007 on account of his human rights activism and as a way of stopping him from defending human rights.
Amnesty International has documented similar abuses against many other human rights activists.
Jesús was arbitrarily detained in Chihuahua City on 9 March 2007 and charged with sabotage, a federal criminal offence. He was released unconditionally five days later, after the federal judge dismissed the charges for lack of evidence.
The Federal Public Prosecutor’s Office requested Jesús’ detention claiming the charges against him were linked to a demonstration in 2005 on a federal highway.
After his lawyer gained access to the files, he discovered the charges were related to Jesús’ participation in a in a different demonstration to demand support for poor small-scale farmers on 20 February 2007 outside the building of the Chihuahua office of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture.
Such irregularities were acknowledged by the judge who dismissed the case, but no action was taken against the federal authorities for wrongful arrest.
Jesús, 42, is married and has six children aged 23, 21, 20, 18, 2 and a 3-month-old baby.
Father Alejandro Solalinde
“I will never be the same person that I was before I started working to defend the rights of migrants. My family knows that the security risks are big and they have accepted that as have I.”
Father Alejandro Solalinde is the Co-ordinator of the Catholic Pastoral Care Centre for Migrants in South-western Mexico and Director of a migrants’ shelter in Ciudad Ixtepec, Oaxaca state.
Since 2005 Father Alejandro Solalinde has dedicated his life to providing a place of safety for migrants, away from the criminal gangs who exploit and abuse them.
He has travelled on the network of freight trains taken by migrants heading to Mexico’s northern border, saying that doing the journey himself was the only way of finding out about the horrors migrants have to face.
On 26 February 2007, he set up the Ciudad Ixtepec migrant shelter next to the railway lines used by travelling Central Americas. Over 400 migrants slept at the shelter on that first night and the flow of people has been constant ever since.
Because of his work, Father Solalinde has been continuously threatened and intimidated by local gangs and officials.
Last December, he was warned that a criminal gang operating in Veracruz and Oaxaca planned to kill him.