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MEXICO: Persecution and repression in Puebla
When I was at the University of the Americas in Puebla, Mexico, Paola Vera Báez was extremely kind to me. She is a practising Catholic. I recently posted a piece on her thesis about a sanctuary in the mountains of Oaxaca, a region where another good WAISer, Linda Nyquist, did research. Paola has just sent me an extremely long message in Spanish. It describes "THE PERSECUTION I AND MY FAMILY ARE SUFFERING AT THE HANDS OF THE GOVERNMENT OF THE STATE OF PUEBLA", I knew nothing about the case, and I am surprised because Paola used to work for a previous governor of the state of Puebla. The best I can do is to summarize her memorandum and invite those who know Spanish to read her story of the web (see end of posting). Perhaps some Mexicans or people who know Mexico well will want to comment.
A little over a year ago, native peasants of San Lorenzo Almecatla, in the municipality of Cuautlancingo in the state of Puebla, asked Paola's father to help them recover their lands which they lost when foreign corporations, notably Volkswagen, came to Puebla beginning in 1975, and an industrial corridor was built around their lands. They have a document dated 1874, during the period of Porfirio Diaz, recognizing their ownership. Despite this. the Puebla state government seized the land and sold it to Volkswagen. The peasants appealed to the federal government, which in 1975 officially recognized their ownership. However, the state government of Manuel Bartlett blocked the peasants' efforts to recover their land. They appealed to Vera's father to help them, even though they did not have a single peso to pay him.
The case was taken to the Agrarian Tribunal. One of the capitalists asked Vera's father how he, being white, could take the side of these stupid and ignorant Indians. The capitalists, knowing they would lose the case, threatened to kill the representatives of the Indian community. They are now threatening their lawyers, i.e. Vera's father and her two sisters, who have had to leave Puebla. Vera, her mother and her nephew are now alone in their home [where I was once a luncheon guest. RH]. They are frightened to leave the house for fear of being kidnapped by people trying to put pressure on her father and sisters to stop helping the Indians. They have threatened to wipe them off the map. The Interior Secretary of Puebla, Carlos Arredondo and the State Attorney. Héctor Jiménes, are accomplices in this. The Puebla government, headed by Governor Melquiades Morales, uses force to repress the legitimate demands of the Indians. Vera is scared, since she does not know what will happen from one day to the next. She wants to know whom they can appeal to, since from the Mexican government she received only threats. She has prepared an account of the situation which can be downloaded at sanlorenzoalmecatla.8m.net.
I was astonished and distressed by Paola's story. I repeat that this is all I know about it, but I can vouch for Paola as a responsible, helpful and serious person. Here is her e-mail address: Paola Jeannete Vera Báez (firstname.lastname@example.org). I invite you to write to her, in Spanish or in English. This would help her support the anguish she is suffering.
Ronald Hilton - 5/24/02