March 12, 2012
By Simon Chambers
According to Eduwigues Galarza de Bustamante and Maria Louisa Valdez. the Paso del Norte Human Rights Centre (a PWRDF partner in Mexico) is “the angel that God sent us.” For almost two years, these two women have been trying to find out what happened to their Juan Miguel and Rodolfo Bustamante””their husband and son respectively.
On April 9, 2010, the two men disappeared while in La Puerta de Vera Cruz, Mexico. Eduwigues received a cell phone call from her husband Juan Miguel’s phone, but the person calling her claimed to be a member of the federal police at a federal check point. He told her that her husband and her nephew Rodolfo were being detained “for organized delinquency” and the possession of arms and drugs. Eventually, she was able to exchange a few words with her husband on that call before the call ended. This was the last time she talked to her husband.
This strange, terrifying phone call was the beginning of a long, frustrating, and so far fruitless journey. Eduwigues, Maria Louisa, and some of their family members have traveled to Vera Cruz, Cueronavaca, and Mexico City trying to find out what happened to their loved ones.
They have been told that the men were killed, but upon visiting the morgue there were no bodies. They have been told the men were imprisoned, but no record of them can be found at the prisons. They have hired lawyers to search on their behalf, but had no results for the thousands of pesos they raised for legal fees.
On July 3″”Juan Miguel’s birthday””they went to mass at Jesus Obrero church, where they met Father Oscar. Father Oscar is the founder of the Paso del Norte Human Rights Centre, and preached at that service about a man who was falsely accused of being involved in organized crime. The Centre helped him to prove he was innocent, and he was freed.
The Bustamante family began to work with the Centre. Francisca, a lawyer at the Centre, is helping them to move forward with their search. A psychologist is working with the family to provide emotional and psychosocial support. They have joined a network for family members of the disappeared. They now understand that they are not alone in their loss.
The Bustamante case is one among thousands in Mexico, where human rights abuses, torture, and murder are regular facets of life. PWRDF works with the Paso del Norte Human Rights Centre in Ciudad Juarez and with the Women’s Human Rights Centre in Chihuahua City in their quest to create a society of dignity, respect, peace, and safety for all.
Eduwigues and Maria Louisa have come out of a feeling of despair and isolation into one of hope and support. The Paso del Norte Human Rights Centre truly is “like angels that God sent us.”