dorset chiapas solidarity

March 7, 2017

Tarahumaras faced with violence from organized crime seek asylum in US

Filed under: CNI, Displacement, Human rights, Indigenous, Mining, Uncategorized, Zapatista — Tags: , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 4:20 pm


Tarahumaras faced with violence from organized crime seek asylum in US


agonicc81a-infantilChildren in the Sierra Tarahumara. Photo: Eduardo Miranda


By: Patricia Mayorga

CHIHUAHUA, Chih. (apro). – The Rarámuri, Santiago Cruz Castillo, 26, requested political asylum in El Paso, Texas, after organized crime took away his lands in La Laguna de Aboreachi, municipality of Guachochi, like hundreds of indigenous and mestizos of the Sierra Tarahumara.

Another family from the La Trinidad ejido, in Guadalupe y Calvo municipality arrived before Santiago Cruz to request asylum. After five months, they are still holding David Ríos Laija, one of the members of that family, in custody.

Santiago Cruz arrived alone; he is single and his parents stayed in the Sierra. “I arrived in the United States on November 24 because of the violence that exists in the communities. Many people have gone away because they started to take the land away through criminal activity, through violence; they kill and disappear us and no one gives us protection. We have to leave.”

The young Tarahumara says that they snatched their small parcels of land and their houses to plant poppies and marijuana.

He opted to travel to Juárez, they invited him, they contracted with him and they took him to that border. He worked on a ranch close to Ciudad Juárez, but they were paying him very little and he worked a lot and he became discouraged. “I wasn’t comfortable, I worked long hours, they paid very little and I wasn’t treated well.”

On November 24 he decided to cross into the United States, he was in the detention centre and afterwards made contact with the expert immigration lawyer, Carlos Spector, who took his case and is in the process of requesting political asylum.

Santiago Cruz’ wish is to help his people from there, because he is convinced that he can denounce the situation and is confident that the authorities will do something.

“I want to help my people, so that the government will let them work, I want to help from here. The truth is that the violence is strong, I know how it is, don’t tell me,” he insists.

Carlos Spector said that six months ago the Rios family arrived from Guadalupe y Calvo, after an armed group disappeared the father, who was the community’s commissioner.

“The widow Aureliana Leija and her two sons came in September. David Ríos Leija, 22, is a student of Medicine; they are Christians, it is a clean family and they are mestizos. The other son that came is Elías Ríos, 19.

“They fled due to the father’s political situation, they began to seek it and they (the criminals) tell him that they will leave him in peace, that they won’t look for him and they leave seeking asylum. That is part of the press communication, they let the mother go later, Elías 2 months after the credible fear test,” the lawyer detailed.

Nevertheless, David is still detained and Spector denounced that they don’t want to release him despite the fact that he already passed the credible fear test, because the criteria hardened with the Donald Trump government.

“It’s a case of immigration abuse. There exists a bi-national policy of persecution and the incarceration of poor Mexicans, human rights defenders or people that complain and ask for asylum. They incarcerate them or separate them from their family. After being detained for 5 months, there is no possibility of closing the case quickly; that’s the point of prolonged detention. It’s a political kidnapping to discourage strong political asylum cases,” Carlos Spector said.

The lawyer said that in the Barack Obama government and in other administrations, when they ask for political asylum like is done at the international bridge, they would detain them for two months until they passed the credible fear test and then release them if they showed that they didn’t represent threats to the community and if they guaranteed that they would attend all the hearings.

Before, he said, the local “Migra” signed the conditional release, the conditional freedom, but now they decided that the national assistant director of immigration in Washington must approve those requesting political asylum to be released.

“It’s a democratic way to not grant asylum to anyone. That is the new policy and a formula for repression and mass deportation, applying the law in an extremely rigid and repressive way. The family wants to leave because the young man wants to leave, but he has to appear in court on March 8. Now they have undertaken a campaign to free him.”

This Monday, Spector announced, they have an appointment with the archbishop for the area, who has spoken out against the criminalization of political asylum.

The lawyer announced that the authorities are going to build more detention centres because soon the people aren’t going to fit in those that exist and he reproached that when people ask for political asylum at the bridge, they are entering legally, in accordance with the laws of the United States and with international laws, therefore he reproached the repressive measures, which he compared to those for the Japanese.

Spector reported that Santiago Cruz is the first Rarámuri to request political asylum, but there are another 300 Tarahumaras that are in prisons in the Southwestern United States, who are without defence because they don’t have translators.

Saúl Bustamante has finally helped them. He is mestizo and was raised in a cave in the Tarahumara by an indigenous family, because of which he is a firm defender of his people and principally of those who don’t have access to justice. He has organized events to promote Tarahumara culture in El Paso, like (running) races, and hopes to achieve the freedom or the just defence of indigenous Chihuahuans.


Originally Published in Spanish by

Friday, February 24, 2017

Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee




May 11, 2013

Mexico’s Indigenous Tarahumara, Mexican and Global Groups Struggle to Protect Native Corn From Contamination by GM Corn

Filed under: Maize — Tags: , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 2:21 pm

Mexico’s Indigenous Tarahumara, Mexican and Global Groups Struggle to Protect Native Corn From Contamination by GM Corn

Victor M Quintana S., La Jornada, 10th May, 2013

MUJ.grandeTen years seem to be nothing, but for several Rarámuri communities from the Sierra [Mountains] of Chihuahua, it is a timespan that has been filled with their fight to defend their corn–the corn that took hundreds of years to adapt to the cold, to drought, to the altitude, to the rocky soils.

Since 2003, the communities of Magulliachi, El Consuelo, Bacaburéachi, Pasigochi and Rocheachi in the municipalities of  Carichi and Guachochi of the Sierra Tarahumara have participated in random sampling to determine if native corn planted in their fields had been contaminated by toxins from transgenic [GM] corn.

The sampling activity was organized by CECCAM [private soil laboratory], CENAMI [international aid organization for indigenous peoples], the ETC Group [environmental action group] and CONTEC Community Technical Consulting. The investigations revealed that 33 percent of the samples were contaminated by GM corn. The source of contagion: corn distributed by DICONSA [program of Secretariat of Social Development for alleviating poverty] in their community stores and from food aid provided by private institutions.

Since then, indigenous governors, civil associations and small farmer organizations have denounced the contamination of native corn. In 2004 they sent a letter supported by over 1,800 signatures asking the Governor of Chihuahua to declare the Sierra Tarahumara free of transgenics and that food aid be organized based on corn purchased from local producers to ensure native corn with fair prices and in support of local markets. They demanded labeling of corn entering the Tarahumara both for human consumption and for delivery of ground corn for animal consumption. Neither demand was met.

In 2006 CONTEC submitted their opinion to SENESICA [health, food quality program under Secretariat of Agriculture, Livestock (SAGARPA)] against applications by Monsanto, Pioneer and Dow Agro for permits for pilot plantings of transgenic corn in the irrigated areas of Chihuahua arguing that the:

  • Tarahumara region is the center of the origin of corn [maize], and
  • Planting of transgenics in the irrigated agricultural areas surrounding their region puts their mountain fields at risk, given that no methods exist to prevent contamination by pollen or by seed dispersal.

In 2007 and 2008, the indigenous communities, CONTEC, The Barzón, the Democratic Small Farmer Front, UNORCA, the Center for Women’s Human Rights, and Greenpeace publicly denounced before the SAGARPA [Secretariat of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries, Rural Development] the illegal planting of GM corn in the Ejido Benito Juárez in the municipality of Namiquipa. SAGARPA asked for proof to determine the type of seed sown in order to proceed to destroy the crop and apply the law to those responsible.

The Barzón, the Center for Women’s Human Rights and a state Deputy also filed a complaint with the PGR [Justice System]. The following year, the SAGARPA recognized the illegal planting of GM corn in Cuauhtémoc and Namiquipa, and ordered the seizure and destruction of a few tons.

Then came the terrible drought of 2011 and with it, again, food aid. The previously mentioned communities and associations documented that corn distributed by DICONSA was bought from the Producers Union (UNIPRO), marketer of Mennonite farmers in the Cuauhtémoc valleys, under the influence of Monsanto, Dow Agro and Bayer. In addition, it was learned that the food aid of corn introduced by private institutions was donated by the Syngenta company of Guadalajara.

The militancy of the indigenous communities, rural organizations and civil associations has failed to stop the offensive of transnational agribusinesses and their allies.

The SAGARPA has progressively granted experimental and pilot permissions for the planting of GM corn to farmers cooperating with the corporations in the municipalities of Namiquipa, Cuauhtémoc, Guerrero and Buenaventura in Chihuahua. From 2009-2011 few permits were granted, but in 2013 permit applications shot up in twenty-eight of the state’s municipalities.

When another drought happened in Chihuahua, transgenic promoters attacked simultaneously on multiple fronts: they

  • Insisted that their seeds are best suited to withstand the droughts; they
  • Intensified pressure for approval of planting experimental fields; and they
  • Arranged to “donate” hundreds of tons of contaminated GM corn as food aid.

Here is where it is demonstrated that there is no State policy on the issue, or if there is, it is weak.

On the urgent food aid, Monsanto, Syngenta and others are making hunger their public relations campaign to improve their image while introducing transgenic corn into the “assisted” areas. It is the same as the intrusion of Pepsico and Nestle into the Crusade Against Hunger.

In terms of production capacity for corn in adverse conditions, the State policy is to destroy local and community capacities. There is no solid program that supports the local production of corn in the mountains; there is nothing to encourage the proliferation of small works of crop and water retention.

And in regard to seeds, the almost heroic work of the Field Experimentation of the Sierra of Chihuahua of the INIFAP [research, science arm of Secretariat of Agriculture… (SAGARPA)] in rescuing varieties of native corn, not only is it not supported by federal and state governments, but it is hampered and condemned to starvation, since technical staff has been reduced and replacement of those retiring is prevented; moreover, it deals with all types of resource shortages.

Indigenous communities, small farmers’ organizations and civil associations are demanding a State policy to protect native corn and to promote both qualitative and quantitative improvement in its production. Rather than ‘gifts’ of strange [GM] corn, they seek to develop the ability to produce their own corn, although initially it may be small.

Translation by Jane Brundage


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