January 4, 2006
Mexico: Urgent Action Request
The Primate’s Fund was very concerned to learn of the December 29th arbitrary arrest and detention of Martin Barrios Hernandez, President of the Mexican Human and Labour Rights Commission of the TehuacÃƒ¡n Valley, by members of the intelligence division of the Puebla state police. Barrios and the Commission are valued partners of PWRDF and we have supported the Commission’s important work defending and promoting the rights of maquila workers since 2002. Barrios, who is also an advisor to the Mexican Federal Electoral Institute in TehuacÃƒ¡n, is internationally known as a defender of worker and environmental rights in TehuacÃƒ¡n, one of Mexico’s major apparel producing regions. Last year the Commission was awarded the Tata Vasco human rights award by Mexico’s Jesuit universities.
Reports from Mexico indicate that Barrios is accused of blackmail, based on a charge filed by TehuacÃƒ¡n maquila owner Lucio Gil Zarate. Despite the fact that the charges were filed on December 16th, Barrios was not informed of them until he was arrested by the police without warning outside his home as he was going to assist a maquila worker. Further reports suggest a series of irregularities in the police and judicial processes against Barrios. His arrest and detention comes exactly two years after Barrios was kidnapped and beaten by unknown assailants.
Over the past few months, the Commission has been providing advice and assistance to workers employed at the Calidad de Confecciones maquila, which is owned by Mr. Gil. In early November, the Commission assisted workers in filing a complaint before the local Conciliation and Arbitration Board, charging the employer with worker rights violations. On November 10, Gil signed an agreement to resolve the outstanding issues, but, according to the Commission, has failed to comply with the agreement. On November 22, Gil fired all 163 workers who had been part of the original complaint.
According to the Commission, Barrios’ arrest is part of an ongoing campaign by maquila owners in the region to discredit and obstruct the work of the Commission. In recent months, maquila owners in TehuacÃƒ¡n have been making public accusations against Barrios and the Commission, stating that they are organizing protests and strikes that discourage foreign investment in order to blackmail the owners.
The Primate’s Fund therefore calls upon the Government of Mexico to:
- Undertake an immediate and independent judicial review of the case against Martin Barrios Hernandez and launch an investigation into the allegations of the arbitrary nature of his arrest and detention;
- Demonstrate public support for the work of Martin Barrios and the Commission in TehuacÃƒ¡n.
For more information visit the Maquila Solidarity Network
Follow up story, “Barrios released”.