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News > Mexico

Mexico to Release Tlanixco's Indigenous Political Prisoners

  • Members of the Nahuatl community of San Pedro Tlanixco pass by a mural depicting Mexican revolutionary Emiliano Zapata in their community. State of Mexico, Nov. 22, 2017.

    Members of the Nahuatl community of San Pedro Tlanixco pass by a mural depicting Mexican revolutionary Emiliano Zapata in their community. State of Mexico, Nov. 22, 2017. | Photo: IG: raulfernandopl

Published 23 January 2019

The prisoners were involved in the defense of water in the San Pedro Tlanixco Nahuatl community and were sentenced to 50 years in prison.

A state court in Mexico revoked 50-year-long prison sentences against three Indigenous Nahuatl people involved in the defense of water in their territory after documented irregularities in their processes.


Mumia Abu-Jamal's Words for Mexican Nahuatl Political Prisoners

“The affected filed an appeal against the irregularities in the process that led to such sentence,” said Jorge Olvera, president of the Human Rights Commission of the State of Mexico (Codhem), adding that the accused demanded to review the process to find out if their rights as indigenous people had been respected.

The Codhem asked the Supreme Justice Court of the State of Mexico (TSJEM) for a report on the process and the appeal, and this court decided to revoke the sentences against Dominga Gonzalez Martinez, Marco Antonio Perez Gonzalez and Lorenzo Sanchez Berriozabal, who appealed the sentence. All three of them were sentenced to at least 50 years in prison in November 2017.

Now, the remaining three imprisoned water defenders, Teofilo Perez Gonzalez, Pedro Sanchez Berriozabal and Romulo Arias Mireles are considering filing similar appeals. They also received sentences between 50 and 54 but this, in 2017.

The government of Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is currently implementing an amnesty strategy to deal with political prisoners from previous administrations and others who committed minor crimes. The six water defenders were included in the list of candidates, according to the Human Rights Center Zeferino Ladrillero (CDHZL).

Jose Antonio Lara Duque, director of the CDHZL, is confident that all six political prisoners will soon be released.

Members of the San Pedro Tlanixco community walking with counselors of the Indigenous Government Council (CIG), backed by the National Liberation Zapatista Army (EZLN), and its spokeswoman Maria de Jesus Patricio Martinez, also known as Marichuy. San Pedro Tlanixco, Mexico. Nov. 22, 2017. Photo | Raul Fernando

Several years ago, business people associated with flower growers and the municipal authorities of Tenango del Valle reached a deal to redirect natural water resources for large-scale agricultural projects.

The local Indigenous Nahuatl community of Tlanixco, in the State of Mexico, organized itself to defend the water and issued legal complaints, which were ignored by authorities. The organized committee blamed Alejandro Isaac Basso, one of the representatives of the flower growers, of pretending to enclose and route water from Tlanixco’s springs to use it in their flower fields.

In 2003, the Indigenous organization and the business people agreed to meet, but Basso didn't attend and was later found dead near a ravine.

The authorities accused the local water-defense committee of murdering Basso and kidnapping other flower growers.

The Tlanixco committee has denied involvement in the death of Basso, calling on authorities to investigate the case.

After Lopez Obrador announced the proposed amnesty for political prisoners and as evidence of inconsistencies accumulated, supporters of the Tlanixco water defenders organized an international campaign to press the government to release the prisoners.

In 2018 the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights sent a statement to Mexico’s government, at that time represented by Enrique Peña nieto, expressing its concerns over the legal process, a decision taken without “impartial evidence,” and warning about the “criminalization of the people involved in the defense of water.”

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