- March 7 - On the day Mexican President Vicente Fox announced a new
"National Crusade for the Forests and Water", the Sierra Club and Amnesty
International,USA expressed concern that it will be difficult to encourage
citizen environmentalism when two environmentalists remain in prison and
many continue to face threats and harassment.
Rodolfo Montiel and Teodoro Cabrera, two farmers and environmental
activists are currently in prison for their efforts to halt the rampant logging in their farming community in the state Guerrero, Mexico.
"While we are pleased that President Fox is making efforts to improve
environmental protection in Mexico by encouraging citizens to work with the
government, there appears to be a double standard when environmental
activists are sitting in jail for doing what the government is now asking
of its citizens," said Alejandro Queral of Sierra Club's Human Rights and
Montiel, one of the founding members of the Organización de Campesinos
Ecologistas de la Sierra de Petatlan y Coyuca de Catalan, A.C.
(Organization of Campesino Environmentalists of the Sierra de Petatlan and
Coyuca de Catalan), organized farmers to oppose the rampant and illegal logging in these mountains in Guerrero, Mexico. Montiel and Cabrera, who
have been named "Prisoners of Conscience" by Amnesty International, have
been imprisoned since May of 1999 when the two men were arrested, beaten
"If President Fox wants to foster a civil society where citizens feel
comfortable participating, then Montiel and Cabrera should be released
immediately and unconditionally," said Folabi Olagbaju Director of Amnesty
International's Human Rights and the Environment program.
The case of the two environmentalists has received international attention.
Most recently, the Associated Press reported that President Fox's own
Environment Minister, Victor Lichtinger, visited the men in prison and
wished them "good luck." The case was also featured in the U.S. State Department's annual report on human rights which noted that Mexico's
National Human Rights Commission "charged that the military falsified
evidence against [the two men], tortured them, violated their rights to due
process, and harassed residents in their home village."
In February, noted human rights advocate Ethel Kennedy traveled to Mexico
to present Montiel with the Sierra Club's Chico Mendes award for
The concerns of Amnesty International and the Sierra Club have been echoed
by members of Fox's administration. The Mexican newspaper La Jornada
reported that Rodolfo Lacy, Coordinator of Advisors to the Minister of the
Environment, said, " We commented about 'how are we going to make a call on
society to participate on the national crusade to defend the forests and
water if those that participate are detained?'" The comment was made on
February 6th at the Sierra Club press conference held in Mexico City to present the Chico Mendes award to Montiel.
An "amparo" or, special appeal, for Montiel and Cabrera was filed last
week. A decision on the appeal is expected later this month.
For more information, visist Sierra Club and Amnesty International's joint
webpage at www.defendtheearth.org