This article first appeared in Proceso on 15 May 2014. It has been translated without permission for the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP).
Human Rights in Mexico: Marines Besiege Human Rights Defender in Tamaulipas
by Gloria Leticia Díaz (PROCESO)
MÉXICO, D.F. More than 100 Mexican Marines deployed to Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas (on the Mexico-U.S. border) have surrounded the office of the city’s Comité de Derechos Humanos (Human Rights Committee, or, CDHNL). The civil society group’s president, Raymundo Ramos Vázquez, calls it an act of “intimidation and threat.”
In a telephone interview, the human rights defender complained that since 0900 on Thursday 15 May, the marines have sealed off the La Joya neighborhood, where his office is located, without letting residents come or go, “breaking into houses without a search warrant, alleging that they are conducting an operation, and threatening to enter my office, that has now been closed.”
The CDHNL is the only civil society organization defending human rights in Tamaulipas that has managed to survive the violence resulting from the “war against drug trafficking” and the territorial dispute between the Gulf Cartel and the Zetas.
The CDHNL has documented cases of enforced disappearance, torture and extrajudicial executions committed by the Marines and the army. These documentation efforts have brought threats against Ramos Vázquez who is meant to receive protection from the Protective Mechanism for Human Rights Defenders and Journalists.
During the recent visit to Mexico of Juan Méndez, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Ramos Vázuez presented several abuse cases committed by Mexico’s armed forces – Proceso published these cases in issue number 1957.
The human rights defender asserted that at 0900, Marines sealed off the neighborhood. “They parked an unofficial vehicle outside my office,” and minutes later they turned up to “ask for some human rights leaflets which my secretary, Hilda Muñiz, gave them. I arrived later and they did not let me enter.”
At 1330, a Marine officer – who did not identify himself – called Ramos Vázques to inform him that he wanted to enter his office “to learn how it works and to review the files related to the documented abuse.”
The human rights defender refused to authorize the Marine’s entry to his office and ordered his team to leave the office and close it. Ramos Vázquez noted that there are seven vehicles belonging to the Marines in the neighborhood and six unofficial vehicles dispersed through its streets, accompanied by at least 150 marines.
“A lawyer friend approached the Marines to ask them what was going on and why they wanted to enter my office. The Marines did not identify themselves. They gave the explanation that they suspected that criminals were hiding out there,” he said.
Ramos Vázquez believes that the Marines’ actions amount to a “threat and intimidation” against the CDHNL’s activities.
“We presented the abuse cases to the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture at the end of April, and then on Mother’s Day we carried out a demonstration commemorating the disappeared. This Thursday we were going to hold a press conference in my offices to join the CDHNL to Amnesty International’s worldwide campaign against torture,” he said.
Ramos Vázquez also recalled that this is not the first time that he has been threatened by members of the armed forces, acts he attributes to his work as a human rights defender.
Journalist Gloria Leticia Díaz reports for Proceso Mexico’s foremost – and most critical – weekly news magazine. This article first appeared under the title, “Marinos asedian a defensor de derechos humanos en Tamaulipas,” available at: http://www.proceso.com.mx/?p=372308.
Translator Patrick Timmons is a human rights investigator and journalist. He edits the Mexican Journalism Translation Project (MxJTP), a quality selection of Spanish-language journalism about Latin America rendered into English. Follow him on Twitter @patricktimmons.