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Victims of night of terror in Iguala, Mexico stir hearts in Ottawa as they urge Canada to take action on worsening human rights crisis is addressed

    April 29, 2015

    (Ottawa)  The mother of one of 46 student-teachers who were extrajudicially executed or forcibly disappeared during an attack by police and gunmen in Iguala, Mexico last September, made a heart-felt appeal for Canadian action to policy makers at the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development in Ottawa today. 

    “It has been seven months and we still do not know where our children are,” testified Hilda Legideño Vargas, whose twenty year old son Jorge Antonio disappeared with 42 other students of a teacher-training college in Ayotzinapa on September 26, 2014.  “Premature statements by Mexican authorities, without reliable evidence, have caused us to distrust their willingness to get to the bottom of what actually happened and who is responsible. We’re asking Canada to speak up and support our efforts to find our children.”

    Legideño Vargas made the same appeal during testimony to Parliament’s Subcommittee on International Human Rights yesterday. The hearing ran overtime as visibly moved MPs from all political parties expressed their concern about the attack on the students and asked questions about Mexican government claims that this was an isolated case that is being brought to justice.

    “Right now, we fear for our safety,” testified Jorge Luis Clemente Balbuena, a surviving student from the Ayotzinapa teacher-training college who suffered threats from state security forces that he too would be disappeared as he was taking care of a classmate who was shot in the mouth during the September 2014 attack. “Parents, families, the legal team, and students know that we are all at risk because we are speaking out and questioning the authorities,” continued Clemente Balbuena. “We have committed no crime. We are simply defending human rights but that is a dangerous thing to do in Mexico.”

    Isidoro Vicario Aguilar, lawyer for the families of the missing students, told MP members of the International Human Rights Subcommittee that international pressure is needed to stem a terrifying pattern of human rights abuses in Mexico. “We believe Canada should remove its designation of Mexico as a so-called ‘safe’ country”, said Vicario Aguilar. “Ayotzinapa is but one example of widespread, extremely serious human rights violations in the State of Guerrero and many other regions of Mexico, including torture, extrajudicial executions and disappearances.”

    According to official statistics, more than 25,000 people have been reported missing in the past seven years alone. Human rights advocates suspect this is only the tip of the iceberg with many families too frightened to report the disappearance of a loved one. Courageous efforts by relatives searching for the disappeared students of Ayotzinapa have led to the discovery of 15 mass graves filled with bodies, but none identified as the students.

    “We place our faith in Canada,” said Vicario Aguilar.  “We urge you to express concern about the human rights crisis in Mexico and the emblematic case of Ayotzinapa. Canada’s voice is vital.”

    To arrange interviews, please call:

    Beth Berton-Hunter at Amnesty International: 416 363 9933 ext 332 or 416 904 7158
    Raul Burbano at Common Frontiers:  416 522 8615

    Background

    The appearance of Hilda Legideño Vargas, Jorge Luis Clemente Balbuena and Isidoro Vicario Aguilar as witnesses in a hearing of Parliament’s Human Rights Subcommittee on April 28, 2015 follows a tour through BC, Ontario, and Quebec to raise awareness about the attack on the Ayotzinapa students and an ongoing climate of danger for those who speak up about human rights violations in Mexico.  The tour, which began on April 11 and concludes on May 2, has attracted packed audiences at public events, the endorsement of more than 50 organizations in Canada, and considerable media attention. 

    For more information, see http://makemexicosafe.ca/ayotzinapa2ottawa/

    On September 26, 2014, Mexican police and gunmen in Iguala attacked a group of students from a teachers’ college in Ayotzinapa, Guerrero state. In the aftermath, six people were reported dead, one with horrendous marks of torture, others badly wounded, one in a coma, and 43 others forcibly disappeared, never to be seen again.

    Independent experts have identified disturbing flaws in the government’s investigation, including its failure to investigate allegations of involvement by the army. Human rights organizations have repeatedly expressed concern about high levels of impunity for human rights violations in Mexico,  and evidence of collusion between public officials and organized crime.

    Despite a well-documented public security and human rights crisis in Mexico, Canada’s refugee system has deemed it a so-called “safe country”.  Canada has extensive commercial links to Mexico. In 2012, two way trade between Mexico and Canada totalled $20 billion. As a signatory to NAFTA, Mexico is Canada’s 5th largest export destination.

     to take action to ensure emblematic Ayotzinapa attack and worsening human rights crisis in Mexico are addressed, not swept under the carpet
    (April 29, 2015 -- Ottawa)  The mother of one of 46 student-teachers who were extrajudicially executed or forcibly disappeared during an attack by police and gunmen in Iguala, Mexico last September, made a heart-felt appeal for Canadian action to policy makers at the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development in Ottawa today. 

    “It has been seven months and we still do not know where our children are,” testified Hilda Legideño Vargas, whose twenty year old son Jorge Antonio disappeared with 42 other students of a teacher-training college in Ayotzinapa on September 26, 2014.  “Premature statements by Mexican authorities, without reliable evidence, have caused us to distrust their willingness to get to the bottom of what actually happened and who is responsible. We’re asking Canada to speak up and support our efforts to find our children.”

    Legideño Vargas made the same appeal during testimony to Parliament’s Subcommittee on International Human Rights yesterday. The hearing ran overtime as visibly moved MPs from all political parties expressed their concern about the attack on the students and asked questions about Mexican government claims that this was an isolated case that is being brought to justice.

    “Right now, we fear for our safety,” testified Jorge Luis Clemente Balbuena, a surviving student from the Ayotzinapa teacher-training college who suffered threats from state security forces that he too would be disappeared as he was taking care of a classmate who was shot in the mouth during the September 2014 attack. “Parents, families, the legal team, and students know that we are all at risk because we are speaking out and questioning the authorities,” continued Clemente Balbuena. “We have committed no crime. We are simply defending human rights but that is a dangerous thing to do in Mexico.”

    Isidoro Vicario Aguilar, lawyer for the families of the missing students, told MP members of the International Human Rights Subcommittee that international pressure is needed to stem a terrifying pattern of human rights abuses in Mexico. “We believe Canada should remove its designation of Mexico as a so-called ‘safe’ country”, said Vicario Aguilar. “Ayotzinapa is but one example of widespread, extremely serious human rights violations in the State of Guerrero and many other regions of Mexico, including torture, extrajudicial executions and disappearances.”

    According to official statistics, more than 25,000 people have been reported missing in the past seven years alone. Human rights advocates suspect this is only the tip of the iceberg with many families too frightened to report the disappearance of a loved one. Courageous efforts by relatives searching for the disappeared students of Ayotzinapa have led to the discovery of 15 mass graves filled with bodies, but none identified as the students.

    “We place our faith in Canada,” said Vicario Aguilar.  “We urge you to express concern about the human rights crisis in Mexico and the emblematic case of Ayotzinapa. Canada’s voice is vital.”

    To arrange interviews, please call:

    Beth Berton-Hunter at Amnesty International: 416 363 9933 ext 332 or 416 904 7158
    Raul Burbano at Common Frontiers:  416 522 8615

    Background

    The appearance of Hilda Legideño Vargas, Jorge Luis Clemente Balbuena and Isidoro Vicario Aguilar as witnesses in a hearing of Parliament’s Human Rights Subcommittee on April 28, 2015 follows a tour through BC, Ontario, and Quebec to raise awareness about the attack on the Ayotzinapa students and an ongoing climate of danger for those who speak up about human rights violations in Mexico.  The tour, which began on April 11 and concludes on May 2, has attracted packed audiences at public events, the endorsement of more than 50 organizations in Canada, and considerable media attention. 

    For more information, see http://makemexicosafe.ca/ayotzinapa2ottawa/

    On September 26, 2014, Mexican police and gunmen in Iguala attacked a group of students from a teachers’ college in Ayotzinapa, Guerrero state. In the aftermath, six people were reported dead, one with horrendous marks of torture, others badly wounded, one in a coma, and 43 others forcibly disappeared, never to be seen again.

    Independent experts have identified disturbing flaws in the government’s investigation, including its failure to investigate allegations of involvement by the army. Human rights organizations have repeatedly expressed concern about high levels of impunity for human rights violations in Mexico,  and evidence of collusion between public officials and organized crime.

    Despite a well-documented public security and human rights crisis in Mexico, Canada’s refugee system has deemed it a so-called “safe country”.  Canada has extensive commercial links to Mexico. In 2012, two way trade between Mexico and Canada totalled $20 billion. As a signatory to NAFTA, Mexico is Canada’s 5th largest export destination.

     

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