Indigenous Zapatista Fighting Against Mining Project Forcibly Disappeared

Editor's Note: This is a statement from the Zapatista Indigenous Agrarian Movement (MAIZ) one month after the disappearance of Sergio Rivera Hernández. The original can be found in Spanish here.

Finding Sergio breaks the cycle of impunity, violence, fear and terror that violent crime groups have imposed as part of an illegally armed wing of the State…

Today marks a month since the forced disappearance of Sergio Rivera Hernández. He is a 31 year old indigenous Nahua, father of 5 children, defender of land, territory and the Coyolapa River in the Sierra Negra in the State of Puebla. He is a member of the Zapatista Indigenous Agrarian Movement, who decided to oppose the hydroelectric Autlan mining project (Grupo Ferrominero of Mexico) which is working with the Secretary of Energy (SENER) in complicity with Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources (SEMANART) attempting to illegally take the indigenous territory of the Nahuatl peoples.

The initial cost of the first phase of the Coyolpa-Atlzala Hydroelectric Project is more than two billion pesos (more than 105 million dollars) and will only serve to make a few rich people even richer; in particular José Antonio Rivero Larrea, who is one of the richest men in Mexico and does not care about what happens to the poor in this country.

The project was promoted by Rodolfo Salazar who was in charge of consulting for the Energy Department. He made decisions without respecting international laws, such as the Convention 169 of the International Labor Organization. In a public ceremony, Secretary of the Interior, Jaime Martinez Veloz, who was in charge of the talks with the indigenous peoples, declared the project illegal. However, Salazar ignored this. He also knew that the population of Tlacotepec de Díaz and San Pablo Zoquitlan had repeatedly expressed their dissatisfaction with the project. Through various meetings, the indigenous resistance and SENAR sought to work together with SEMARNAT, and the various agencies involved.

After several attempts to slow down the project, SENER violated the dialogue and carried out an illegal meeting with the affected communities, without the requisite procedures and protocols of consultation. They tried to “pull a fast one” on the resistance movement by summoning only the employees of the Autlán Mine who moved quickly on orders made by Victorino Téllez (who has been identified for his involvement in the disappearance of Sergio Rivera) and with the support of Fermín González León. Even after this, the resistance affirmed their position by saying “No” to the hydroelectric project.

The manipulation, lies, deception, lack of information, as well as the manipulation of the population by UNORCA and Autlán, have divided the people. This is not even mentioning the two mayors who have the most to gain, Fermín González León and Cirilo Trujillo who are connected to the Autlán mining company and Victorino Téllez. We have to look into the public records to connect the dots to see how these mayors benefited.

In Mexico there are more than 35,000 people officially disappeared and hundreds of thousands of deaths since Felipe Calderón allegedly took on organized crime. A country that has been damaged by so much injustice and above all where the population has been forced, through social control, to see violence as a normality. For us today, finding Sergio is to break the cycle of impunity and violence; the cycle of fear and terror that violent crime groups have imposed by an illegal armed wing of the State. We will not allow Sergio to be another painful statistic for an already bloodied people.

Tomorrow, September 24 will be important, so we call on everyone to be attentive at 10 o’clock in the morning, where the judge will decide whether or not to take them to trial; meanwhile they are in preventive detention.

We announce that we are searching for our companero. We invite solidarity organizations and family members of enforced disappearance to join us as we demand the responsible authorities to provide protection for our soon to be defined actions

We also call for relatives of the disappeared to respectfully set up a Sergio Rivera Hernández committee.

Because they were taken alive and we want them back alive!