PBI’s activities in Mexico began shortly after the Zapatista uprising in 1994 when PBI received requests for an international civilian presence in Chiapas. PBI understood that the international accompaniment work that had been developed in Central America – mostly in Guatemala and El Salvador – could be put to use in Mexico. Following a series of exploratory missions, the PBI General Assembly opened the Mexico Project in 1998.
Although accompaniment requests had been received largely from organizations in Chiapas, the PBI Mexico Project was born with the initial goal of working in the states of Oaxaca and Guerrero, where the presence of international organizations was more limited. Chiapas already had representation from a wide variety of international organizations and groups, all with different mandates and goals. After careful analysis, PBI believed that it could best have an impact in Chiapas by participating in Sipaz (International Service for Peace), a coalition of international organizations.
As in Chiapas, serious human rights violations had also been documented in Guerrero and in Oaxaca by international organizations like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, resulting in the fragmentation of the social fabric of civil society.
PBI’s work in Guerrero began after the third exploratory mission to Mexico which traveled to the states of Oaxaca, Chiapas, Guerrero, Morelos, Tabasco, Veracruz, and Mexico City. The Project opened its first office in Mexico City and chose Guerrero as the priority state for PBI's work, due to the needs expressed by NGOs, the lack of international presence, the fragile social fabric, and the strong repression against human rights organizations. Following a petition from the Comisión de Derechos Humanos “La voz de los sin voz” (“Voice of those without a Voice” Human Rights Commission), PBI began to accompany the residents of the Leonardo Rodriguez Alcaine neighborhood in Acapulco. In 2001, PBI set up a permanent team in the state's capital in Chilpancingo.
During over 10 years of permanent presence in the state, PBI has supported a wide range of organizations and local initiatives in the fight for social justice and respect for human rights. In 2012 PBI decided to withdraw it's physical presence in Chilpancingo in order to be able to respond to requests from defenders in other regions of the country. Since then, PBI monitors the situation of human rights defenders in Guerrero through its Mexico City office.
PBI has received petitions from organizations and human rights defenders in Oaxaca since the beginning of our work in Mexico. Since 2001, PBI began to periodically visit the state and carry out short-term accompaniments. At that time, at request of the Red Oaxaqueña de Derechos Humanos (Oaxaca Human Rights Network), PBI accompanied members of the NGOs Acción Cristiana por la Abolición de la Tortura (Christian Action for the Abolition of Torture), Movimiento Ciudadano por la Democracia (Citizen's Movement for Democracy), and Tequio Juridico, in their work to observe the state elections in the communities of San Agustin Loxicha on the Oaxacan coast.
On October 19, 2001, human rights lawyer Digna Ochoa y Plácido was killed in Mexico City. Following this, the organizations Centro de Derechos Humanos “Miguel Agustín Pro Juárez” (“Miguel Agustín Pro Juárez” Human Rights Center) and the Red Nacional de Organismos Civiles “Todos los Derechos para Todas y Todos” (National Network of Civil Organizations “All Rights for All”) began to work on Digna Ochoa's case. Due to the increased risk for both organizations, PBI began to accompany their members.
In 2002, PBI began to accompany the Comité Cerezo México (Cerezo Committee) in Mexico City and the Centro Regional de Derechos Humanos “José María Morelos y Pavón” (“José María Morelos y Pavón” Human Rights Center) in Guerrero. PBI reinforced its work in Guerrero by increasing the number of accompaniments and by reaching out to new regions in the state. In this way, PBI began to provide protection tools for paradigmatic cases in Guerrero that would eventually go to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.
During the 2006 conflict in Oaxaca, a visible expression of the rupture between the state government and Mexican civil society, both social and human rights organizations played an important role in attending to the numerous human rights violations that took place. As a result of our previous work in the state and the petitions that we received at that time, PBI decided to open a new team in Oaxaca City in October 2008, and in 2009 began to accompany members of the Centro de Derechos Humanos y Asesoría a Pueblos Indígenas (Center for Human Rights and Assessment to Indigenous People, CEDHAPI) and the Comité de Liberación 25 de Noviembre (November 25th Liberation Committee). Since then PBI has maintained a permanent presence in the state of Oaxaca, working with different human rights organizations.
There have been serious challenges for Mexican civil society and the work of human rights defenders due to the violent context, a result of the militarized strategy to combat drug trafficking and organized crime, coupled with the Mexican government's poor response to the need for increased protection for human rights defenders.
In order to respond to this new context and to the many new petitions for accompaniment, in 2012 we began an exploratory mission in several states in Mexico: Baja California, Chihuahua, Coahuila, State of Mexico, Puebla and Tlaxcala. The main goal of this mission was to collect information about the situation of human rights defenders and to investigate the possibility of working in different regions of the country.
As a result of the exploratory mission, PBI decided to open a regional team in the north of the country, to accompany human rights defenders in the states of Chihuahua and Coahuila. The information gathered during the exploratory mission indicated that many of the problems in the field of human rights in this region are a reflection of the situation in the rest of the country. For example, disappearances, violations against migrants, violence against women and abuses committed by members of the security forces. The new PBI team in the north of Mexico began work in August of 2013.
Currently, PBI also maintains its international accompaniment activities in the states of Chihuahua, Coahuila, Guerrero, Oaxaca and Mexico City. PBI maintains two teams of international volunteers on the ground (with offices in Chihuahua City and Oaxaca City) and the coordination office in Mexico City.
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