FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 19, 2023
Contact: Nancy Treviño, email@example.com
Human Rights Defenders Demand Safe Return of Kidnapped Environmental Activists in Mexico on Nine Month Anniversary of their Disappearance
Below you will find a joint statement from Presente.org, family and friends of Ricardo Arturo Lagunes Gasca and Antonio Díaz Valencia, IDHEAS, Litigio Estratégico en Derechos Humanos A.C., Asociación Pop No´j, Red Nacional de Organismos Civiles de Derechos Humanos, Asociación por la Paz y los Derechos Humanos Taula per Mèxic, Colectivo Servandus, Tonelhuayotzin Nuestra Raiz A.C., and allies.
(Oakland, CA) – “This week, October 15, marked the nine-month anniversary since the forced disappearance and kidnapping of Mexican environmental and human rights defenders Ricardo Arturo Lagunes Gasca and Antonio Díaz Valencia. Lagunes Gasca, a human rights attorney and Diaz Valencia, an indigenous Nahua community leader have been missing since January 15, 2023, after having attended an assembly in the community of San Miguel Aquila, Michoacán. According to investigations, Ricardo and Antonio were intercepted by their perpetrators when they were in their truck in Cerro de Ortega, Colima.
Over the last nine months their search has faced numerous obstacles, including a lack of coordination between investigators and authorities in charge of their search operation. State authorities were not transparent about critical information they had access to soon after the kidnapping. This information would have clarified facts and likely helped determine Ricardo and Antonio’s whereabouts, especially from authorities who were aware of the documented threats against them days before his disappearance.
The Colima Prosecutor’s Office’s lack of transparency is also worrying. Despite multiple requests from members of the #TodosxRicardoyAntonio coalition on various occasions, the Colima Prosecutor’s Office has failed to provide information about over ninety bodies recovered from clandestine graves located a few months ago near the vicinity of the disappearances. The Prosecutor’s Office is in charge of processing the remains and the discovery of the clandestine graves reflects the magnitude of the violence and impunity that prevails in the region, placing Colima as one of the main epicenters of forced disappearance in the country in recent years.
In its most recent Urgent Actions report, the United Nations Committee on Enforced Disappearances indicated its concern over the danger human and environmental rights defenders face in Mexico. The report expressed concern over the lack of cooperation between the authorities in charge of the investigation and search of Ricardo Lagunes and Antonio Díaz. The Committee reiterated that based on their own investigation, there are elements that allow it to be argued that the work of defending human rights and positioning oneself against mining expansion in the Aquila community could be a possible reason for one’s disappearance.
Nine months after their forced disappearance we still don’t know Ricardo and Antonio’s whereabouts. #TodosxRicardoyAntonio coalition partners call on Mexican government authorities to rethink and implement a comprehensive search strategy that guarantees coordination between the appropriate authorities, the transparent exchange of information, an investigation of authorities who have withheld vital information, and timely and real participation of Ricardo and Antonio’s families.
Ricardo and Antonio miss their families, friends, organizations, and communities every day. The ever-growing human rights and solidarity communities in Mexico miss them very much and will keep organizing across borders until they are found.”
Presente.org is the nation’s largest online Latinx organizing group — and the nation’s premier Latinx digital organizing hub — advancing social justice with technology, media, and culture. Presente.org’s mission is to advance Latinx power and create winning campaigns that amplify Latinx voices; expand the political imagination and traditional boundaries; and foster inspiration for freedom, equity, and justice.