by Duane Ediger, Christian Peace Teams (April 23, 1997)
Cited by Mexican immigration authorities for "violating the terms of the tourist visas," two local members of a four-person Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) delegation were prevented from completing their human rights documentation in early April of this year. Stephen Obold and Duane Ediger had traveled to Oaxaca after examining the effects of the Low Intensity Warfare in neighboring Chiapas. Their arrival in Oaxaca had been publicized in a statewide newspaper. Most of the team's scheduled activities were thwarted by local, state and federal government entities.
The day of the team's arrival, state officials blocked its previously authorized visit to prisoners in the state penitentiary. They did arrange an interview with twelve wives of prisoners from the Las Loxicha region of Oaxaca. Most are ethnic Zapotecs. Their testimonies indicated a pattern of arbitrary arrests, destruction and theft of property, torture, forced confessions and other serious abuses by members of the Judicial Police force. Such acts are part of an apparent campaign against indigenous activists and political opposition candidates leading up to national congressional elections slated for July 6.
On the morning of the team's scheduled departure from Oaxaca City to Las Loxicha, the mayor of San Agustín Loxicha (appointed by the State after the arrest of all 14 members of the municipal council) announced by radio address that he "could not guarantee the safety" of the delegation should it attempt a visit to Las Loxicha. That afternoon immigration authorities served the delegation members papers which effectively prevented the trip, and resulted in the loss of their tourist visas and exit from the country under voluntary departure ("salida definitiva") status. This is a degree less serious than being deported.
Expulsion has long been an impediment to international human rights observation in Chiapas. The CPTers seem to have been among the first people subject to a new official determination to thwart any attempts by foreigners to document the serious abuses being carried out in the other states of southern Mexico.
Just one week after CPT was expelled, two members of a delegation under the auspices of the UN's International Federation of Human Rights and the World Organization against Torture had the same experience. All four delegation members took an early departure from Mexico on April 20. Those expelled were Wilma Nuñez of the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights and Benjamin Cuellar of the Human Rights Institute of the University of Central America in El Salvador. According to the Mexican League for the Defense of Human Rights (LIMEDDH), Immigration officials claimed that a visit to a government agency in Guerrero State violated the terms of their visa. This in spite of their having received written authorization for the visit by the Governor of the State of Guerrero.
LIMEDDH issued a call for national and international human rights organizations to urge the Mexican government not to impede the work of these human rights organizations; that they grant them the freedom to carry out international human rights observation missions; that the government clarify the legal terms under which it has expelled international observers; and that it indicate what are the legal norms under which human rights observers may do their work.
For more; contact Duane Ediger   email@example.com
Letters of protest against these official expulsion actions and the human rights violations in Chiapas and Oaxaca should be directed to:
Presidente de la Republica
Dr. Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de Leon
Fax (525) 2 77 23 76
Secretario de Gobernacion Lic. Emilio Chuayffet Chemor
Fax (525) 6 26 44 26
Gobernador del Estado de Oaxaca Diodoro Carrasco Altamirano
Fax (951) 5 50 77 OR 6 37 37