YoSoy 132 Student Activists in Mexico Fear for Their Safety

PHOTO:A protester holds a button during election fraud march in Mexico City on July 7, 2012.

The news started spreading among YoSoy132 members last Friday: Aleph Jiménez Rodríguez, the student movement's spokesperson in Ensenada, Baja California, was missing. Initially this information was spread through Twitter and over the weekend it was picked up by local media outlets. On Tuesday, Aleph's father, Julio Jiménez, was interviewed on Mexico's MVS radio station, stating that it was very likely, that his son had been disappeared by city officials.

However, on Tuesday, Jiménez Sr. said in a press conference that he received a call from his son while meeting with the governor of Baja California. Simultaneously, photos were published on Twitter showing the activist at Mexico City's airport. "Aleph is sound and safe," his father said. According to the elder Jimenez, Aleph deliberately fled to La Paz, a city 1,000 miles south of Ensenada, because of threats made on his life. He asked for protection from Mexico's National Human Rights Commission and was then transferred to Mexico City.

A pattern of intimidation

According to Amnesty International, Aleph Jiménez was one of 20 students who had been arrested by Ensenada police, following a scuffle on Mexican Independence day. The group had been protesting the results of Mexico's July 1st election when police tried to forcibly remove them from a public square.

Jiménez publicly criticized the police's behavior, and thereafter threats against him began to get worse, with an SUV with black windows following him around town, his colleagues report.

But Jiménez's case is not an isolated one. His story occurs in a grim context for YoSoy132, a student movement that was created in the months leading up to Mexico's presidential election, and made a name for itself by organizing massive marches against unfair electoral practices, conducted allegedly by Mexico's Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI).

YoSoy132 activists argue that now that the media is no longer focusing on the group's activities, members of the movement are finding themselves victims of threats, arrests and random acts of aggression.

The student activists believe that the threats come from from rank and file members of the PRI, the party of elected president Enrique Peña Nieto, or from local officials like small town mayors or state governors, who simply cannot stand the expression of a critical political voice.

Valeria Hamel is the spokesperson for YoSoy132 at Mexico City's ITAM University. She is convinced that Aleph Jiménez took the right decision in taking threats seriously.

"We know that these kinds of pressure do exist. We are not in a country where freedom of speech is seen as a good thing, we are not in a country where an activist can express himself freely because the government sees us as trouble", Hamel told ABC/Univision.

Hamel says that she has received multiple insults on her Twitter account as a result of her political activities, which include protesting the results of the July 1st election. She also claims that she has received threatening phone calls in the middle of the night.

"[Political forces] know who our spokespersons are, who is active and who is not, who is working on the group's political strategies. And it has become very easy to disappear someone in Mexico because you can always blame organized crime," Hamel said.

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