YoSoy 132 Student Activists in Mexico Fear for Their Safety

YoSoy132's Legal and Human Rights Committee recently provided the media and human rights officials with a report on the threats and aggressions suffered by the movement's members. In less than six months of existence, the student group documented at least 25 events of police brutality or aggressions against members of the group.

The document lists the forms of intimidation that the students experience. These include threatening anonymous phone calls in the middle of the night, insults by masked people outside of the students' apartments, white flowers or tissues left on students' cars or doorsteps, and messages with information on students' address, habits or relatives. In Aleph Jiménez case, he reported being followed by SUVs with dark windows in the days before he decided to go into hiding.

According to José Carlos Moreno, a member of YoSoy132's Legal and Human Rights Committee the frequency and intensity of the aggressions rose dramatically after the July 1st presidential election.

"This situation has been escalating accordingly to the decrease in media coverage we received. The same media that were sympathetic to our movement, as a new form of democratic expression, now are presenting us as troublemakers. This allows the authorities to somehow justify their repressive actions against us", he said.

Hamel argues that threats have risen because before the elections, it was counterproductive for the movement's enemies to repress the movement.

Criminalization of social protest

Agnieszka Racyzynska from the human rights group All the Rights for Everyone, argues that the situation that YoSoy132 is experiencing might just be an example of what legal experts here describe as the "criminalization of social protest."

Raczynska has been monitoring the criminalization of social protest and human rights activists since 2008. She argues that Mexican officials are jeopardizing the constitutional right to protest not only through direct action by the police but by prosecuting people who engage in public protests that disrupt traffic, or enter into conflict with law enforcement officials.

"The legalization of social conflicts emerges when officials abandon any political dialogue with civil society groups and seek to take those who stand up for human rights to the judiciary arena," Raczynska said. "For instance they assimilate the temporary detention of any civil servant or policeman [by protesters] to kidnapping, with jail time involved."

Raczynska also mentioned that when students from the rural school Raúl Isidro Burgos blocked a highway in the town of Chilpancingo to demand better studying conditions, officials claimed that there were armed civilians within the group of student and charged the crowd, instead of trying to engage in dialogue with the group. The incident resulted in the death of two students.

She said that another problem in Mexico is the impunity afforded to policemen and armed citizens who threaten, or physically abuse of protesters.

"Local and federal officials are in a way accessories to these aggression because they don't attend thoroughly and with due diligence the formal complaints made in these kinds of cases. If they do not investigate and do not even try to determine the direct responsibilities, they create a climate of impunity that allows this kind of pressure on activists to happen," Raczynska said.

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