Mexican authorities have arrested three suspects in connection with the disappearance of an Indigenous activist who has been missing for more almost a month.
Sergio Rivera Hernandez, a human rights activist and environmental campaigner from Puebla, vanished August 23.
Police arrested Victorino N., Antonio N. and Rogelio N., after being alerted by witnesses, during an operation in the Coyolapa, Ixcatla and Tepexilotla communities of Puebla’s Sierra Negra.
Rivera, originally from San Pablo Zoquitlan, is a leading figure in his community’s resistance against the Autlan mining project promoted by the state energy secretary.
Witnesses say he was on his motorcycle on the road between Tepexilotla and Tepetolonzi, in the Sierra Negra de Puebla, when a black pick-up truck started following him.
His motorcycle was later found near Coyolapa.
Fernando Rios, from the All The Rights For Everybody Network (RED TDT), told the local newspaper Contralinea that the community believes the mayor is involved.
On September 18, the victim's family protested outside the state prosecutor's office, while a simultaneous protest was held at the general attorney's office.
“We are not aware the authorities are doing anything to investigate his disappearance,” Consuelo Carrillo Leon, the victim's wife, said a day before the arrests.
“People have testified and we have presented evidence of threats he got from mayors and former mayors, but they have not done anything yet.”
Rivera's family has an audio recording of a nephew of Silvestre Martinez, former mayor of Zoquitlan, threatening to killRivera for his work against the Coyolapa Atzatlan hydroelectric project, which will benefit the Autlan mine.
Rivera had been threatened multiple times before, surviving physical attacks and attempted murder because of his environmental activism.
On June 29, he was assaulted by four men linked to the municipal government of Zoquitlan, who told him the attack was a consequence of his role in the movement opposing the hydroelectric project.
Several social and environmental organizations are demanding his immediate safe return, including the Zapatista Indigenous Agrarian Movement (MAIZ), Frontline Defenders, the EZLN-backed National Indigenous Congress (CNI), the All Rights For All Network.
The mining company issued a statement denying any responsibility: “The company reaffirms it has no link with this unfortunate event and has no relation whatsoever with Mr. Rivera Hernandez. Autlan, in its 65-year trajectory, has always operated under the existing law and rejects any conduct that is against the law.”
Despite the arrests, Rivera has yet to be located.
On August 30, Adrian Tihuilit, Rivera’s partner in the struggle against the large-scale project in Puebla, was fatally shot in the head in his home municipality of Zacapoaxtla.