Interoceanic Corridor: Three years of attacks against human rights defenders

Corredor Interoceánico: Tres años de agresiones en contra de personas defensoras

Three years after the imposition of the Interoceanic Corridor of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, 72 attacks have been committed, in which 226 aggressions were perpetrated, mostly by the Mexican State through the Army, the Navy and the National Guard in indigenous territories, reported a Civil Observation Mission.

The Civil Observation Mission in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec (MCO), made up of 22 international, national and state organizations of human rights and indigenous peoples, denounced that the data on violence against opponents of the presidential megaproject are alarming.

They detailed that, from May 1, 2021 to May 1, 2024, a total of 72 attacks were recorded, in which at least 226 different attacks were perpetrated against defenders, the most recurrent being: intimidation (30%), harassment (28%), threats (10%) and physical attacks (7%).

In addition, three homicides against Zapotec defenders were documented: Jesús Manuel Martínez (2022), Félix Vicente Cruz (2023) and Noel López Gallegos (2023). They emphasized that 92% of the defender victims belong to an indigenous people; in this context, the Mixe (Ayuujk) and Zapotec (Binnizá) peoples were those who had to face a greater number of attacks against them.

They consider it important to make visible the existence of aggressions and differentiated impacts against indigenous defenders, who have faced intimidation attacks, threats and physical aggression based on gender roles and stereotypes and with sexual charges.

What is worrying is that the authors of the cases documented by the Mission, the Mexican State, recorded the highest number of participations in the violence perpetrated (on 94 occasions within the 72 documented attacks), with a permanent and leading presence of the Army, the Navy and the National Guard in the indigenous territories of the Isthmus, which fosters a hostile and intimidating climate, which has generated a systematic violation of fundamental rights against the communities and peoples who live in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec.

The reality is that the Interoceanic Corridor has only caused the criminalization and violence towards people and communities defending the land and territory and indigenous peoples in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, who to date maintain processes of resistance and community organization.

Faced with various actions that communities and defenders have carried out to protect their properties, territories and ways of life, the Mexican State has deployed a series of acts that affect their physical and emotional integrity, their freedom and territory.

After the Civil Mission carried out a tour of different communities in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec from July 22 to 25, 2023, they confirmed a systematic violation of fundamental rights against the communities and peoples of the region.

They denounced that, with respect to self-determination and consent, the consultations carried out in the Isthmus did not respect international standards on the matter or the collective rights of the affected indigenous peoples.

Regarding the territory, the dispossession of communal lands with violence linked to the dynamics of real estate speculation and the destruction of farmland was documented. It was also learned of the intervention of the State limiting the right of control of indigenous peoples over their territory.

Regarding personal freedom, they documented arbitrary arrests by the National Guard and the State Investigation Agency, the authorities broke into homes, used excessive use of public force and did not state the reasons for the arrests (it is unknown whether there was a legal arrest warrant to carry out the arrests).

In addition, they also documented cases of forced displacement in which the defenders were displaced, with violence against them, as well as the commission of crimes: robbery, physical aggression, in the case of specific works such as development centers, railroads and industrial parks.

For this reason, they recommended complying with the obligations of due diligence in the framework of the investigation and punishment of crimes and violations of human rights committed against the defenders and communities, as well as their families.

Recognize and respect the human and collective rights of the Zapotec, Mixe and Zoque indigenous people and communities and others in the region, their rights to self-determination, autonomy and self-government; their right to territory, to prior, free and informed consent, based on their effective recognition as subjects of public law. Urgently and effectively stop the militarization process in order to guarantee effective protection of the rights to self-determination, territory and consultation.

Stop all forms of threats, criminalization and aggression against defenders and indigenous peoples, as well as take action to guarantee a safe environment and ensure the urgent implementation of effective protection measures in favor of defenders of the Isthmus, which must be agreed upon with them and be relevant to the context, gender and community perspective.

Adopt the necessary and sufficient measures for comprehensive reparation and non-repetition of human rights violations committed against people and communities of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. Finally, the Civil Mission warns that failure to comply with the recommendations generated will worsen violations of the fundamental rights of communities and human rights defenders in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec.

Source: proceso