Small protest a small step
Mexican human rights finds support in Montreal
Tuesday November 12, 2002, @06:00AM
by Jason Gondziola
Thirty people took to the streets on Nov. 7 at 12 p.m. to rally for indigenous rights in Mexico. The protest was organized by Convergence des Luttes Anti-Capitalistes and supported by Students Taking Action in Chiapas, in solidarity with similar actions in Mexico. Protesters aimed to educate the public about Mexican human rights violations and to demand the release of over three hundred political prisoners currently being detained in Mexico.
"Actions like this, even though they may seem banal, are pretty strong," said Antoine Libert of STAC. "We'll be reporting this to sister-groups in Mexico, so they know there are people here struggling for them."
Protesters believe that Mexico's indigenous people are being treated unfairly by the Mexican government. They accused the government of terrorizing the indigenous populations.
"This action is to stop state terrorism in Mexico," said Zeina Fayad, a Université de Montréal student. "To [force the Mexican government to] apply the Accords of San Andrés that would give back some autonomy to the indigenous people."
The San Andrés Accords were signed in 1996 by Zapatista leaders and then President Ernesto Zedillo, and were a landmark agreement that guaranteed an estimated 10 million indigenous people the right to self-determination and self-governance, including the right to legislative representation. Critics argue that the government has not honoured their side of the bargain.
The protest began at Concordia and moved down to Ste. Catherine st., where protesters slowed the flow of traffic and were asked to move to the sidewalk by police. The protesters partly complied, clearing one lane and continuing their march to the Mexican consulate on Peel st.
Earlier in the day, a delegation of protesters delivered two petitions to the Mexican consulate, one demanding the unconditional release of political prisoners in Mexico and one specifically demanding the release of three brothers believed wrongly accused.
"The consul received the petitions and he sent it to the Mexican Foreign Affairs minister, who is in charge of human rights," said Hugo Rangel, media liaison for the consulate. "We hope they have a fair trial."
The brothers Alejandro, Hector and Antonio Cerezo Contreras were university students in Mexico City. In the early hours of Oct. 8, 2001, they were apprehended, beaten, and handcuffed by Mexican authorities. Charged with the crimes of terrorism, damaging property and organized delinquency, they have remained in custody ever since and are currently being held at La Palma High Security Prison in Toluca, Mexico State.
The charges stem from a series of small explosions that rocked three banks in Mexico City last year. The case quickly drew international attention thanks in part to intense lobbying by the Cerezo family. Serious allegations of torture, constitutional violations and impropriety were leveled against Mexico's legal system. Despite support, the Cerezos remained in prison. The situation was further set back by the murder of the Cerezo brothers' attorney, Digna Ochoa y Plácido, who was assassinated in her office last October.
Due to the international nature of the protest, the RCMP dispatched officer Ross Tylor to the consulate, where protesters were gathered out front. Tylor, who handles diplomatic protection, explained that his presence was only precautionary. "This is a very pacifistic demonstration," he said. "They're demonstrating to free people who are wrongfully held in Mexico. I have no problem with that."