After nearly nine years in preventive detention, on September 28, 2023, Herminio Monfil (Mazatec) and Jaime Betanzos (Mazatec), political prisoners from Eloxochitlán de Flores Magón, were released from prison. In 2014, 40 people from the municipality were criminalized and some of them imprisoned accused of the murder of Manuel Zepeda Lagunas. Some were released immediately, others have been released little by little, thanks to the struggle and continuous demands of their families. Five political prisoners remain imprisoned in full violation of their right to a fair trial. Despite being released, Herminio Monfil and Jaime Betanzos still have open criminal proceedings against them.
The Mazatec people of Eloxochitlán have suffered various forms of violence in recent decades. Their internal normative system – a set of norms and procedures that Indigenous Peoples use to regulate their internal life and resolve conflicts – has been marginalized by families in power supported by political parties and urban administrations that have assumed power and repress all forms of dissidence. In addition, Eloxochitlán territory is under constant threat from extractivist actions of overexploitation of the Pletapa River and mountains for sand, stone, and water. Those who have dared to denounce the encroachment, extractivist practices, and human rights violations, have been repressed with methods ranging from fabrication of crimes to torture.
In 2014, in order to quell and silence community organizing, the State criminalized 40 families active in the Community Assembly, exploiting the justice system as a weapon of repression and persecution. One woman and fifteen men were imprisoned, and dozens more have been forcibly displaced to avoid persecution. To date, five detainees remain in prison.
Cultural Survival denounces:
- The violation of the right to access a sentence for the political prisoners of Eloxochitlán de Flores Magón. The prisoners should be acquitted and released, as their innocence has been proven on several occasions.
- Members of the community being continuously deprived of their freedom even though their innocence has been proven and even though in 2018 the Senate recognized the accused as political prisoners, and in 2022 the Federal Judiciary Council recognized that they were Indigenous persons whose rights were violated rights and their crimes were fabricated.
- Mazatec political prisoners Alfredo Bolaños, Fernando Gavito, Omar Hugo Morales, Isaías Gallardo, and Francisco Durán remain in prison.
- The criminalization of defenders of the community of Eloxochitlán de Flores Magón not being stopped. Cultural Survival denounces the March 2022 reissued arrest warrant against Miguel Peralta Betanzos and two arbitrary detentions of Paul Reyes and Marcelino Miramón, which occurred in May 2023.
- The government's determination to keep members of the community of Eloxochitlán de Flores Magón imprisoned and not provide justice to the displaced families. This is a political matter as members of the cacique family leading the violence and persecution in the region are part of the regional government.
In light of these serious human rights violations, Cultural Survival demands justice for the political prisoners of Eloxochitlán and an end to the criminalization of the families in the community. We urge the Mexican State to guarantee due process for all Indigenous political prisoners and to ensure their rights to a fair and culturally appropriate trial.
Photo couresty of Presos Políticos Eloxochitlán De Flores Magón Oaxaca.