The Common Good
March-April 2002

First, They Kill the Lawyers

by Rose Marie Berger, Jodi Hochstedler | March-April 2002

The election last year of President Vicente Fox and Chiapas Gov. Pablo Salazar brought hope to Mexico's indigenous population...

The election last year of President Vicente Fox and Chiapas Gov. Pablo Salazar brought hope to Mexico's indigenous population, but the usual suspects—the military, paramilitaries, drug lords, and transnational corporations—are not making it easy to change Mexico's history of human rights violations. The October assassination of Digna Ochoa, the country's leading human rights lawyer, provoked international outcry. In response, Fox pardoned two of Ochoa's former clients—environmentalists imprisoned after blocking out-of-control logging—without mentioning the human rights abuses committed against them or recognizing their innocence.

While the group Christian Peacemaker Teams has ended its three-and-a-half year presence in Chiapas—and 1,336 members of the pacifist indigenous group Las Abejas ("The Bees") returned home—there are still 10,000 people displaced in southern Mexico. With NAFTA's Puebla-Panama Plan to build maquiladoras, or assembly factories, in southern Mexico, Las Abejas may find work but probably not a renewed respect for their human rights or homeland. Episcopal activist Phil Wheaton said, "The real threat in Mexico is indigenous genocide or displacement, which for the indigenous is the same thing."

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