08 December 2007

Human Rights Worker Assaulted in Oaxaca

CORRECTION: In the text below, I refer to a group of poinsettia flowers as "buenas noches," in Spanish. That should read "noches buenas."

Here's a post that ended up in my box (you may need a Yahoo account to click through, I'm not sure). In a nutshell, Mexican human rights worker Nancy Mota Figueroa was abducted on December 2, forced into an unmarked vehicle, blindfolded, harassed at gunpoint, interrogated about her work, and threatened with further assault, rape, and murder if she continued her activist work. She was then released in an abandoned lot.

Nancy Mota Figueroa, who is a leader of a women's organisation in Oaxaca and an activist with the Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca (Asamblea Popular de los Pueblos de Oaxaca, APPO), was temporarily abducted by unknown armed individuals on 2 December. She was questioned about other APPO activists, threatened with death and rape and was told that she could be abducted again. Amnesty International is gravely concerned for her safety.

According to Nancy Mota, she was walking in a street in Oaxaca when a white SUV vehicle with tinted windows and without number plates stopped next to her. Two men who had their faces covered, got out of the vehicle, forced her in and then blindfolded her. The blindfold was impregnated with a liquid that irritated her eyes.

According to her testimony, while the vehicle was circulating Oaxaca's streets, the two men questioned her about what she knew about other APPO activists, some of whom are currently in detention. They forced her head between her knees, then pulled her hair and pointed two guns at her head. She heard them pull the trigger and say they would shoot her. They told her to stop her activism or they may abduct her again and rape her. She was also hit in the stomach. She was held for one hour and then freed in an empty lot near the city centre with the warning that she could be abducted again. The abductors also reportedly downloaded all the telephone numbers saved on her cellular phone.

Nancy Mota filed a complaint with the Oaxaca State Attorney General's office (Procuraduría General del Estado de Oaxaca) and has spoken out about her abduction in a press conference.

Walking through the zocalo last night to meet a group of bilingual Christmas carolers, I caught part of a small protest under the pavilion at the center of the public square. There were signs posted on behalf of Nancy Mota Figueroa, broad red flags waved above the gathering crowd, and the amplified speech of human rights proponents and political activists competed with flashing Christmas lights, government sponsored holiday concerts, and local mariachis playing for pesos to diners at sidewalk tables. Flower beds in the zocalo have been planted with poinsettias, or buenas noches, en espanol, from one end clear to the other, a red sea of holiday fervor.

El Enemigo Comun has more, and here is Nancy Mota Figueroa's statement, in Spanish.