By Kathy Price, Mexico Campaigner at Amnesty International Canada
My heart is aching for an unforgettable mother and sister who shared their story with me during an Amnesty Canada delegation to Mexico.
I can well imagine the wrenching emotions they are feeling at this time of such traumatic importance for their family.
It was this week, six years ago – on November 10, to be precise – when the unimaginable happened. Their loved one, a young man named Héctor Rangel Ortiz started the day with laughter, teasing his mother over breakfast. Later he phoned from a business trip to say he’d been stopped by police in the city of Monclova. His family would never see him again.
“How I wish it was all a nightmare, a bad dream from which I could wake up,” Héctor’s sister Brenda posted on Facebook. “It’s so painful not to know … There are no words to describe it. Wherever you are Héctor, we send you love, light and hope.”
Love and agonizing hope are what have driven Héctor’s family from the day he disappeared, as Brenda told us in Mexico City, the tears escaping from eyes filled with sorrow. She and other family members have missed no opportunity to publicize his disappearance, in the hope that someone will come forward with information. They have knocked on doors and when that yielded nothing, camped out on the street to try to press Mexican authorities to properly investigate, find Héctor and bring to justice those responsible for taking him away.
You only have to look at the photo at right to know the courage it takes to press for action and for answers, amidst security forces that collude or turn a blind eye to the growing number of disappearances, and who have often threatened the families.
Amnesty International issued urgent actions on more than one occasion, out of fear for the safety of Brenda and her family. Yet they refuse to stop their efforts. The torment of not knowing if Héctor is being held somewhere, in need of their help to rescue him, never ends. They can never rest.
And that is the fate of thousands and thousands of families in Mexico. More than 26,000 people have been reported missing since 2006, at least half of them in the past three years, under the government of President Enrique Peña Nieto.
It’s a staggering number!
Like the 43 students from a teacher training college who disappeared following an attack by police in the town of Iguala in September 2014, every missing person has a family and a community ripped apart by their absence, by the uncertainty and by the terrifying reality that this is being allowed to happen.
But amidst the fear and the pain, there is strength and yes, hope!
This week, Brenda and her family were out on the streets, marching in the town of Querétaro. They were not alone. They were marching with other families of the disappeared, who have joined together to support each other through inspiring grass roots organizations like Fuerzas Unidos por Nuestros Desaparecidos en Mexico (United Forces for our Disappeared in Mexico), known in Mexico as FUNDEM.
Members of Amnesty International were there too, with steadfast commitment to the disappeared and a banner that reads: “We will not stop until we find them”.
Others are flooding social media with hashtags that challenge a status quo in Mexico of indifference and complicity: #NoEsNormal – This Is Not Normal, #NiUnDesaparecidoMás – Not one Disappearance More, and the most moving of all: #VivosLosQueremos – We want them back alive!
Can we help? Absolutely!
International concern is vital as a means to press for action in Mexico, where government leaders are mindful of their image around the world, if not at home!
There are many things we can do to communicate how we feel. Activists in Toronto took photo messages like the one at right to share on Facebook and tweet to Mexican officials to make visible that Canadians are watching.
You can join us. It’s as easy as picking up a pen or activating your keyboard. It can take no more than a few minutes. It will mean the world to Brenda, her family and the families of so many others disappeared in Mexico!