Neighbors Suspect Police Kidnapped "El Chema" and Will Kill Him
source: Narco News
September 30 -- Early this morning, people dressed as members of the Mexican Federal Electricity Commission (CFE) kidnapped Jose Manuel Hernandez Martinez, aka "El Chema." El Chema is one of the leaders of the Emiliano Zapata Peasant Organization (OCEZ). His whereabouts remain unknown, and fellow OCEZ members fear that he will be killed. Members of the organization believe that police kidnapped El Chema, although the kidnappers never identified themselves other than as CFE employees.
According to information that OCEZ member Jose Manuel de la Torre provided to Narco News, the OCEZ believes that El Chema's kidnapping is in retaliation for a successful land occupation and hunger strike that 13 OCEZ members held this past July. As a result of the hunger strike, the Chiapan government agreed to legalize 215 hectares of the occupied lands. The government handed the legalized lands over to OCEZ members two weeks ago.
Details of the Kidnapping
According to de la Torre, men dressed in CFE uniforms arrived in the 28 de Julio community, where El Chema lives, to ask residents if they had any problems with their electricity, or if the CFE could help them in any way.
Today at midnight, ten men in CFE uniforms arrived in 28 de Julio in a CFE pickup truck. Community residents recognized some of the men as the same ones who had arrived 15 days ago. The men in CFE uniforms asked for El Chema, saying that they wanted to know if there was any problem with the community's electricity.
When the men dressed in CFE uniforms located El Chema, he was with ejido leader Maximino Perez Rodriguez. The men in CFE uniforms kidnapped both El Chema and Perez Rodriguez. The kidnappers drove the CFE truck to the Laguna Verde ranch, located about five minutes from 28 de Julio. In Laguna Verde they transferred El Chema to a gray pickup truck that was waiting in that community. The gray pickup truck was filled with eight men dressed completely in black who had covered their faces with balaclavas. Before driving off, the kidnappers dumped Perez Rodriguez by the side of the road, only taking El Chema with them.
Laguna Verde residents, aware of the kidnapping in progress, jumped into a pickup truck and attempted to stop the kidnappers. The residents' truck reportedly crashed under unknown circumstances, killing one resident and injuring several others. The kidnappers managed to escape with El Chema.
El Chema's whereabouts are currently unknown, meaning that he has been "disappeared." OCEZ members suspect that the kidnappers are police because they had access to a federal government truck and uniforms. They fear that the kidnappers will kill El Chema.
Government Persecution of El Chema
El Chema's effectiveness as a community organizer in the Venustiano Carranza region of Chiapas has made him the frequent target of government repression.
The government falsely accused El Chema of murder and detained him in 1984. Amnesty International adopted him as a "prisoner of conscience," and he was freed in 1985.
The government has also informally accused El Chema of being the Popular Revolutionary Army's (EPR's) contact in Chiapas. In February 2008, federal agents detained and tortured Chiapan math teacher Felipe Hernández Yuena and his 5-year-old son. During the interrogation, the torturers asked him, "Do you belong to the EPR? Do you know EPR leaders? Do you know José Manuel Hernández Martínez, aka El Chema?"
The government has never presented any formal accusations, nor any proof, that El Chema belongs to the EPR. As Narco News has documented, the government has been known to accuse effective community organizers of belonging to the EPR, which is a clandestine insurgent organization. By accusing community organizers or community leaders of belonging to the EPR, the government justifies repression, kidnapping, torture, and judicial railroading of these important community figures.
El Chema insists that he does not belong to the EPR. However, there's plenty of proof that he is a dangerous man to the government, even though he hasn't taken up arms. His organization has defended single mothers who wish to sell vegetables in roadside stands, and it has successfully pressured the government to legalize lands for peasant communities that had never before legally owned the land they worked. The OCEZ's primary tactic for land recuperation is to occupy lands and then pressure the government to legalize them (that is, give titles to the peasants occupying the lands). Since the Zapatista uprising in 1994, Chiapas has been the site of constant low-intensity warfare, and control of land and territory is at the center of the battle. Even though El Chema and the OCEZ have never used firearms to occupy land, the mere fact that they are successfully taking control of territory in Chiapas and putting it in the hands of peasants places them squarely in the middle of a war.
As a result of its work, OCEZ has suffered detentions, disappearances, and government aggression. In 2008, when the military and police entered Zapatista territory under the cover of anti-drug operations, it also entered OCEZ territory. In a July interview, El Chema reported that his organization has suffered 37 assassinations since its founding and currently has over a dozen outstanding arrest warrants, all poltically motivated.
4:30 pm Update: OCEZ is requesting that supporters contact the following authorities to demand that Jose Manuel Hernandez Martinez, aka "El Chema," be presented and released.
- Mexican Mission to the United Nations in Geneva
16, Avenue du Budé.
1202, Ginebra, Case postale 433.
FAX: + 41 22 748 07 08
- Señor Presidente Felipe de Jesús Calderón Hinojosa
Residencia Oficial de los Pinos
Casa Miguel Alemán
Col. San Miguel Chapultepec
C.P. 11850, México DF.
FAX: + 52 5552772376
Tel.: + 52 5527891100 / + 52 5527891113
- Licenciado Fernando Francisco Gómez-Mont Urueta, Secretario de Gobernación
Bucareli 99, 1er. piso
Col. Juárez, Delegación Cuauhtémoc
México D.F., C.P. 06600
Fax: +52 55 5093 3414
- Procuraduría General de la República
Paseo de la Reforma nº 211-213, Piso 16
México D.F., C.P. 06500
Fax: +52 55 53 46 09 08 (if someone answers the phone, say: "tono de fax, por favor")
- Licenciado Mauricio E. Montes de Oca Durán
Unidad para la promoción y defensa de los derechos humanos SEGOB
Av. Paseo de la Reforma 99, Piso 19
Distrito Federal, 06030
Tel: +52 55 51 28 00 Ext: 11863
- Dr. José Luis Soberanes Fernández
Presidente de la Comisión Nacional de Derechos Humanos
- Lic. Juan José Sabines Guerrero Gobernador Constitucional del Estado de Chiapas
Palacio de Gobierno del Estado de Chiapas
Av. Central y Primera Oriente, Colonia Centro, C. P. 29009
Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Chiapas, México
Fax: +52 961 61 88088 / + 52 961 6188056
- Licenciado Juan Gabriel Coutiño Gómez,
Magistrado Presidente del Tribunal Superior de Justicia, Palacio de Justicia
Libramiento Norte Oriente No.2100
Fraccionamiento El Bosque,
C.P. 20047 Tuxtla Gutierrez, Chiapas
Tel-Fax: + 52 (961) 617 87 00; + 52 (961) 616 53 50
- Licenciado Raciel López Salazar
Procurador General de Justicia de Chiapas
Libramiento Norte Y Rosa Del Oriente, No. 2010
Col. El Bosque,
Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Chiapas.
Teléfono: + 52 (961) 616 53 74 ; + 52 (961) 616 53 76 ; + 52 (961) 616 57 24, + 52 (961) 616 34 50
4:45 pm Update: According to information from a Tuxtla, Chiapas, lawyer that is handling El Chema's case, the PGR has now confirmed that it has Jose Manuel Hernandez Martinez, aka "El Chema," in its custody. The PGR is reportedly holding him under the charge of "possession of a weapon that is exclusively for military use." This is a charge that falls under Mexico's "organized crime" track in the judicial system. This means that El Chema will have significantly fewer rights than someone charged with a "regular" crime. This also means that the government will be "legally" allowed to hold him without charge for three months. The government routinely announces that it is charging a detainee with organized crime in order to strip them of basic due process rights.
8:30 pm Update: The PGR is now reportedly denying that it has El Chema. This means that El Chema is still disappeared, and that calls to the government are still needed so that it feels pressure to present him alive and free him.
It is a common occurance that in the case of a disappearance carried out by government agents, government officials will originally confirm (unofficially, such as saying to a family member or, in this case, a lawyer) that they have the detained person in their custody. This is perhaps because some desk officer saw the detainee enter the facility and didn't know that he wasn't supposed to be there because he wasn't being legally held. Later, once all the police are on the same page and have the official story straight, they will officially deny that they have the disappeared person. This is not necessarily what happened in El Chema's case--no one will know where he is until he is presented.
Given the misinformation surrounding El Chema's disappearance, Narco News will only publish further updates about his legal status and whereabouts once the government officially presents him or in some other way officially acknowledges that it is holding him prisoner.
Presentacion is a standard Mexican policy that came out of dirty war disappearances. The government agency that is holding a prisoner or detainee must physically present that person and annouce the accusations against them. This allows lawyers, family members, and supporters to see that their loved one is in fact the detainee in question, and it allows them to see if that person shows physical signs of torture.
October 1 Update: The PGR (federal Attorney General's Office) has released a communique officially acknowleging that it has arrested El Chema and that he is in the infamous El Amate prison in Chiapas. According to its communique, he is being held for criminal association, aggrivated eviction [presumably for land occupations], aggrivated robbery, and other crimes. The PGR was apparently acting on six arrest warrants that date from 1999. However, the PGR's communique also claims that El Chema has a "record" for homicide. As stated above, he was considered a political prisoner (the federal government even admitted that after releasing him) and he was released without being convicted.