Photo-U.S. Bureau of Investigation instructors train Puebla state police officers
In a communique, the human rights organization Front Line Defenders denounced ongoing attacks against Nahua land defenders in the municipality of Juan C. Bonilla, Puebla, articulated together in the organization, Pueblos Unidos de la Region Cholulteca y de losVolcanes (United Peoples of the Cholulteca and Volcano Region).
The organization is made up of 20 Nahua communities from the valley of Puebla who have historically struggled in defense of human rights and against the dispossession caused by extractive projects in their territories.
The most recent attack occurred on October 2, 2023, in San Lucas Nextetelco, when Indigenous Nahuas were repressed during a protest against the construction of a police facility in the community.
Without consultation, the construction of the police facility was given the green light by the state of Puebla on September 5. The facility’s construction is excepted to be finished in December of this year, and the baseline cost is 8 million pesos(over 440k dollars).
The construction of the police facility is taking place in the context of “a concerning rise in militarization and growing construction of police facilities and military barracks in communities throughout the country, particularly where there are processes of resistance and opposition to megaprojects, and where there has been no previous, free, or informedconsultation,” alerted the organization.
On October 2, 2023, people presenting themselves as employees of Decosa, the company with the contract to construct the police facility, arrived to the community of San Lucas Nextetelco. The workers left the area after members of the community organized an assembly as an act of opposition, where they decided collectively to reject the construction of the police facility.
Later that day, at 4pm, the same workers returned to the community of San Lucas Nextetelco, this time with an excavatorand protected by Puebla State Police. They tore down the fence and began to work.
In response, community members alerted the rest of the community, who joined the protest seeking to stop the construction of the police facility. After that, the municipal government of Juan C. Bonilla mobilized a group of individuals in the area who have been previously identified in the community as “violent actors,” said Front Line Defenders.
The group began to physically threaten community members, including youth and elders, who were peacefully protesting. More community members arrived to the protest, facing off with police. Eventually, due to the protest, the violent group along with the state police left the area. To make clear their rejection of the police facility, and to denounce the repression, the community blockaded the federal highway at San Lucas Nextetelco for around 6 hours.
Previous attacks have been documented against the organization. On June 30, 2023, Alejandro Torres Chocolatl was detained by state agents of the Public Prosecutor’s Office of the State of Puebla (FGE). The human rights defender was freed without the FGE presenting him at a hearing and formalizing his release.
On November 28, 2022, different national and international organizations denounced the attacks, threats, repeated break-ins, acts of surveillance, intimidation, and harassment carried out throughout 2022 against the lawyer and human rights defender of the FPDTA-MPT, Juan Carlos Flores Solís.
On June 10, 2021, the Puebla State Police carried out an operation with approximately 100 policemen and 60 police vehicles interrupting and intimidating a peaceful protest in Santa María Zacatepec. During the operation, the human rights defender and community media worker, Alejandro Torres Chocolatl, was threatened by state police. Upon seeing him taking photos, the police forcefully took his cell phone and threw him to the ground.
On December 3, 2019, an international mission of observation to the Nahua community of Santa María Zacatepec, Juan C. Bonilla, Puebla, was organized by national and international organizations. There, a series of violations were documented of individual and collective human rights of the Zacatepec community.
On January 24, 2020, the human rights defender and member of the FPDTA-MPT, Miguel López Vega, was detained by agents of the Public Prosecutor’s Office of the State of Puebla as he was leaving governmental offices in Puebla.
It wasn’t until March 16, 2023, that two of the three charges against him were dropped, following advancements in hislegal process. The human rights defender is awaiting a date for the final hearing in order to have all charges dropped.
The organization Front Line Defenders has urged authorities to take the necessary measures to guarantee the safety of human rights defenders and the Nahua communities.