Urgent Action: Human Rights Violations Against Anti-Mining Activist



Urgent Action: Human Rights Violations Against Anti-Mining Activist
Agustin Rios Cruz – San Jose del Progreso, Oaxaca, Mexico.
May 19th, 2009.
Agustín Ríos Cruz is an odontologist (graduate of the Benito Juárez University of Oaxaca) and member of the CODEP-APPO (Coordinadora de Defensa de los Pueblos). Agustín Ríos had taken the charge of investigating the environmental impacts of mining projects, both open-pit mines and industrialized tunnel mining. His work was spurred by the presence of a number of projects developed by Canadian mining companies in the Valley of Ocotlán.
These projects have proceeded without any consultation with local indigenous communities. He discovered twenty-nine mega projects developed by Canadian and American companies in the area. All aim at the extraction of gold and silver and the majority are open-pit pit heap leach mines characterized by the massive use of explosives and local water resources. Amongst these projects is that of Minera Cuzcatlán, the Mexican subsidiary of Fortuna Silver, in San José del Progreso. This Canadian company has begun blasting to open tunnels which has affected the lands and settlements in the vicinity.
Given this context, and well-supported by the facts Agustín Ríos and his wife, Sue Madeleine Ochoa, along their companions of the CODEP, began a peaceful civil resistance to stop the destruction of the environmental patrimony of the Mexicans of Oaxaca. Following an information campaign conducted in the affected communities, the CODEP decided to blockade the “La Trinidad” mine at San José del Progreso, property of Fortuna Silver.
Further details of the blockade can be consulted at
The blockade of the mine began on the 16th of March of this year. At
eight in the morning, on the 24th of March a group of armed men attacked the members of the blockade with intention of sequestering Agustín.
These were sent by the Governor of Oaxaca, Ulises Ruiz. From the 25th of March to the 9th of April arrest orders were signed for David Hernández, Apolinar García, Hilario Vásquez and Agustín Rios. On the 21st of April the National Assembly of Mining Directors was held in Oaxaca. During this meeting, the general coordinator for mining of the federal Ministry of the Economy, Jimena Valverde Valdés, publicly addressed the management and owners of different mining companies – the majority of which are transnationals. She underscored the commitment of the government of Felipe Calderón to help state governments attract investments into mining under the fallacious argument that this would bring social and economic benefits.
On the 6th of May, the goverments of Ulises Ruiz and Felipe Calderón obeyed the orders of the mining mafia and sent into San José del Progreso 2500 armed members of the state and federal police (Policía Federal Preventiva). With weapons, gas and attack dogs they broke the blockade and repressed the resistance movement. Agustín Ríos was brutally beaten. The quantity of blood spilt covered his face which allowed him to escape identification by the police. With the help of
another activist he was able to escape into the mountains, eluding a man hunt coordinated on land and by helicopter by the police forces. Today the government of Ulises Ruiz maintains 8 arrest orders against Agustín Ríos who is currently in hiding somewhere in Mexico. His wife Sue continues her resistance work with the CODEP-APPO. The “crime” of Agustín has been to defend the Valley of Ocotlán and Ejutla from the depredations of so-called “modern mining”. If we do not support their efforts by 2025 Oaxaca will be an environmental disaster area, with all that this implies in terms of the displacement of communities, abuses of power, the loss of national sovereignty, disappearances and assassinations of activists and opponents.
I therefore ask that we diffuse this information to all national and international media sources so that what is happening in Oaxaca is known. I also ask for your solidarity with Agustín, Sue and all the activists of the Valley of Ocotlán who confront the attacks of the mining companies and the repressive governments of Calderón and Ulises Ruiz. We need to get this information out to human rights organizations in Canada before it is too late.