Just two days after the pre-trial hearing of the Permanent People’s Tribunal: Repression for Political Reasons: a Permanent Strategy of the Mexican State” was finalized, 16 protestors were arbitrarily detained in Mexico city, including three independent journalists. That same day, President Enrique Peña Nieto gave his first State of the Unionaddress. Although his rhetoric was one of accomplishment and cooperation, the reality on the streets suggested that the real message was: “Nothing has changed.” After he lauded the benefits of privatization of energy and education, the Mexican president briefly mentioned human rights, claiming that “The state must protect the rights of citizens starting with the most valuable: life.” How strange then, that only two days before, during the pre-trial hearing, we heard the story of Teodulfo Torres. Torres’ fate was sealed the day Peña Nieto assumed office, on Dec 1, 2012. It was during the inauguration protests that Torres saw his friend, Francisco Kuykendall, beaten by the Federal Police. Torres managed to film this repression and violence with the video camera he was carrying. Although Franciscosurvived, he still suffers serious brain and bodily injury. But it was Torres who paid the even greater price. He denounced the violence done to his friend, and was set to testify on March 27, 2013, but was disappeared before he was allowed that opportunity.
Gabriela Hernandez, of Comité Monseñor, put the Torres case in a broader context: “The principal issue is to break the wall of silence, break the interference of information. The Mexican government, with the PRI back in power, hides all the information. In this six-year term they make everything out to be all perfect, like nothing’s going on in this country. Furthermore, it advertises itself as a defender of democracy and civil liberties. All while behind the scenes, it’s the greatest repressor. It generates violence, and at the end of the day, there’s a reason for it. It’s taking care of its neighbor, the U.S. government. We know that all of these repressive politics, cutting off the struggle of the people, is in order to conserve imperialism and neoliberalism.” The Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal is an international initiative of ethical and moral nature where victims and organizations that have suffered human rights violations can report their cases in front of national and international judges. Its mission is to promote universal respect and fundamental rights of peoples, communities, and individuals. PPT Mexico has been unequivocal not only in its criticism of the Mexican government, but also the U.S. government, particularly in its pushing destructive policies like the Merida Initiative and NAFTA, that have not only led to massive human rights abuses, but also continued migration. This was the third pre-trial hearing on the subject of Mexico’s Dirty War, focusing on impunity, violence, and the lack of access to justice for victims. In May 2014 the final trial will be held in front of a panel of international judges.
All twelve testimonies of the pre-trial hearing (which included cases from the states of Puebla, Distrito Federal, Mexico State, and Guerrero) were disturbing and concerning. Minerva Mariano Matías’ was one of those. She spoke of the disappearance of her brother, social activist Fermín Mariano Matías on June 24, 2009. His body was found the following month. Poor and from a small town, Fermin worked his way through school, became a geophysicist, went on to fight for free schooling for rural children, and was training for a marathon when he was murdered. Although more than four years have passed and there is a new administration, there has been absolute impunity in this case. In a country whose human rights impunity rate falls between 90 and 99%, this is not an anomaly.
The pre-trial lasted two days. On the second afternoon,the five judges ruled that the 12 cases analyzed demonstrated the existence of “diverse mechanisms of political repression committed by the Mexican government to attack those who fight for their free expression and defense of human rights.” It was hard not to agree with them after hearing the testimonies.