A Sanctuary Continent: Platform for Victims in Struggle against Impunity in the Americas

By Jose Luis Fuentes, Maria Elena Hernandez, Camilo Perez Bustillo and Judy Somberg, Task Force on the Americas

The Mesoamerica Subcommittee of the NLG International Committee Task Force on the Americas (TFA) held a strategic planning session in Phoenix, AZ during the NLG International Committee Weekend. The Subcommittee decided to hold a ten-day delegation to Mexico in August 2018. The delegation will travel to the states of Michoacán, Guerrero, and Oaxaca to meet with indigenous peoples in struggle, listen to their testimonies, and support their fight against impunity.

The NLG has a history throughout Latin America, and at the 2015 NLG Convention in San Francisco, the TFA began to frame our work in Mexico and Central Americas mainly around indigenous peoples in Mesoamerica and the role of the United States in their oppression.

Key activities of the NLG TFA have included:

  • The 2015 International Tribunal of Conscience in New York contextualized the magnitude of the international human rights violations in various cases in Mexico, including the disappearance of the 43 students from the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers’ College at Ayotzinapa, Guerrero
  • Delegates of the 2016 follow-up investigative delegation to Mexico gathered testimony from Ayotzinapa students and family members of the 43 disappeared students and visited the migrant shelter “La 72” on the southern border, to interview migrants fleeing from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala.
  • Presented our visionary framework during the workshop, “A Sanctuary Continent: Peoples’ Tribunals and Migrant Rights in the Americas” at the 2017 NLG Convention in Washington, DC.
  • During 2017-2018, conducted several in-country consultations with Mexico’s grassroots human rights communities, victims and advocates, plus meetings with US congressional offices, and US Embassy and State Department staff in Mexico and DC.

Through this work, the Mesoamerica Subcommittee has identified the Mesoamerica Project (formerly known as the Puebla-Panama project) promoted by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) as a major problem negatively impacting indigenous communities and campesinos (farmers) by creating the conditions in which drug cartels, military and security forces, and paramilitary units intimidate and kill indigenous leaders, environmental defenders, and farmers. The Mexican government’s campaigns of terror and dispossession against these sectors in Guerrero, Michoacán and Oaxaca further neoliberal policies that benefit the shareholders of the IDB through human rights crimes against environmental defenders resisting dams, logging, and related mega-“development” projects which produce and perpetuate poverty and forced migration. ■

Photo: 2016 NLG delegation at Guatemala/Mexico border. (Photo courtesy of Jose Luis Fuentes)