FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 27, 2023
Chicago, IL –– On January 15, human rights defense lawyer Ricardo Arturo Lagunes Gasca and Professor Antonio Díaz Valencia, a leader of the Indigenous community of Aquila, located in the state of Michoacán, Mexico, were victims of kidnapping and forced disappearance. Both had just left a local assembly in Aquila and were headed to the capital of Colima state. The last known contact between them and their families was at 6:50 p.m. Since then, their whereabouts are unknown. In response, their families and Aquila community members organized various direct actions, ranging from roadblocks and the shutdown of a mine belonging to mining multinational Ternium, along with legal actions.
Major mining deposits are located in Aquila’s Indigenous community, where Ternium has been extracting minerals including iron, gold, silver, and copper for two decades. Ternium’s activities have long generated significant divisions within the community: Díaz led a group of community members that, with Lagunes as a legal advisor, are working in opposition to another faction that has staunchly supported Ternium for years. Family members have said that they believe this faction may have played a role in the disappearance of the human rights defenders.
Community members have also expressed concerns that local authorities of the Unitary Agrarian Court (Tribunal Unitario Agrario) and the Agrarian Attorney’s Office (Procuraduría Agraria) have been negligent, favoring the minority faction that is close to Ternium through its inaction and through certain bureaucratic procedures.
Given that up to now there is no information on Lagunes’s and Diaz’s whereabouts, their families have launched a call inviting social justice organizations, ejido and communal lands, Indigenous communities, unions, students, and collectives to organize decentralized protests during the weekend of January 27-29.
Protests will take place before Ternium offices, which are based in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Luxembourg, Mexico, the Netherlands, Nicaragua, Spain, Uruguay, and the United States (see a full list here).
Actions will also take place before Mexican embassies and consulates demanding Lagunes’s and Díaz’s search and recovery. Protests will also take place before Unitary Agrarian Court headquarters, the Agrarian Attorney’s Office, and the National Agrarian Registry (Registro Agrario Nacional) in Mexico. Marches, roadblocks, and other forms of protest are also encouraged. You can find more information here and on Twitter.