Urgent Action: Support CACTUS organizer Omar Esparza Zarate

Fear for the safety of Mixtecan human rights activist: Omar Esparza Zarate of CACTUS

Cuali Nemilistli Human Rights Network
February 2007


To the Mexican Federal Government and Oaxacan State Government,
To the Governments of the World,
To the general public,
To the press,

The Cuali Nemilistli Human Rights Network asks for your urgent intervention against the harassment, and risk to the safety and physical integrity of human rights activist OMAR ESPARZA ZARATE from the Center for Community Support (CACTUS) based in Huajuapan de Leon, Oaxaca, Mexico. CACTUS is a member organization of the Cuali Nemilistli Human Rights Network.


February 9, 2007 at around 11:00am two officials from the Agency of Federal Investigation (AFI) arrived at the CACTUS office, located in Huajuapan de Leon, Oaxaca. After identifying themselves they asked to speak with Omar Esparza Zarate, member of CACTUS. The person who attended the officials told them Omar Esparza couldn’t be found in the city for work reasons. The agents indicated they had brought a warrant for the human rights activist, signaling that he should appear soon in the Regional Office of the National Attorney General in Huajuapan de Leon, to find out what he’s accused of in relation to things that happened at the end of 2006.

Upon realizing that Omar Esparza wasn’t in the office, the agents photographed the outside of the office and the organization’s truck, which they found parked outside. They left without leaving a copy of the warrant.


Omar Esparza Zarate is 30-years old. He is originally from Tehuacan, Puebla, but he has lived in Huajuapan de Leon, Oaxaca for the last six years. He has a background in social work.

Over the last several years, Omar Esparza Zarate has done diverse work on the subject of the defense of human rights, community development and research in the Mixteca region (which includes parts of the states of Oaxaca, Puebla and Guerrero) as a member of the Center for Communal Support (CACTUS). Founded in 1990, CACTUS has for the last six years been a part of the Cuali Nemilistli Human Rights Network.

At the end of 2006, the years of work that CACTUS and particularly Omar Esparza Zarate have done in the Mixteca brought about solidarity from the communities of the Mixteca and participation in the Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca.

We want to emphasize that this is not the first troublesome act Omar Esparza or his organization have suffered from.

January 24, 2006 Omar Esparza Zarate was detained and jailed arbitrarily by municipal police in Huajuapan de Leon, Oaxaca. Upon leaving the CACTUS office, along with his partner, he was intercepted by patrol car number 021 and surrounded by 5 other police units demanding that he descend from his truck. Omar Esparza demanded that the agents explain their motive for his detention or that they show a warrant, which bothered the officers. Two police officers got out of their patrol car and explained that this was a routine operation since they had been information that there was a pick-up truck transporting arms.

20 agents proceeded to violently open the truck. In spite of the fact that one of the agents recognized Omar has a member of a human rights organization, eight officers got him out of the truck and forced him to the back of the patrol car, handcuffing him, insulting him, and forcing him to remain on his knees until the commander of the municipal police arrived.

After an hour of detention, the municipal trustee of Huajuapan, José Miguel Camacho Morales, gave him a misdemeanor and fined him 200 pesos (about 20 US dollars) in order to be released.

After this happened Omar Esparza presented a complaint to the State Human Rights Commission for which he still hasn’t received any kind of a reply.

Months after, in the early morning of June 12, 2006 unknown subjects entered the offices CACTUS shared with PANEE-the National Patronage of Literacy and Educational Extension, where they opened the file cabinets and searched through accounting and administrative files for both organizations with information about groups and people they worked with, as well as personal items. They also took two cameras and 5,000 pesos (roughly 500 US dollars).

At the end of 2006, Alberta Cariño, Omar Esparza Zarate’s partner and member of CACTUS, was the subject of various anonymous phone threats, in which they said that if she continued to talk with the public, that they were going to cut her tongue out.


It goes without saying that we are preoccupied with the tense political climate and lack of stable government that the state of Oaxaca is currently living with, as well as the systematic violation of human rights the State Government of Oaxaca commits daily.

Omar Esparza Zarate, as a human rights activist has raised up his voice in defense of the most vulnerable and unprotected groups, fighting to better living conditions and exposing the authors of various human rights violations.

The work of human rights activists is fundamental and unfortunately extremely dangerous in our country, and deserves special protection; therefore we should take all actions possible to protect this work. Attacking the individual and collective rights and guarantees of human rights activists, is an attack against those that they protect and those with whom they work to obtain a better standard of living in the region.

We are afraid for the security, physical integrity and freedom of Omar Esparza Zarate in the face of these acts of harassment and threats that he has been the subject of, along with his family.

We are also just as afraid that this harassment against Omar Esparza Zarate represents only the beginning of a wave of harassment and repression against the members of the Center for Communal Support (CACTUS), and against the inhabitants of the Mixteca region and other regions of the State of Oaxaca that have participated in the movement of the Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca.

Consequently we make the Mexican Federal Government and the State Government of Oaxaca responsible for whatever acts of violence or intimidation that Omar Esparza Zarate, his family, or members of CACTUS may be subjected to.

The Cuali Nemilistli Human Rights Network points out that the events referred to above contradict the right to personal liberty, legal safeguards, equal treatment before the law; liberty of thought, speech, and the right to free assembly, protected by different articles of the Constitution of the United States of Mexico and the State of Puebla, the Universal Human Rights Declaration, the American Convention on Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Therefore the Cuali Nemilistli Human Rights Network asks urgently:

1.- That the necessary measures are taken to stop the harassments and threats against human rights activist Omar Esparza Zarate, his family and the rest of his co-workers from the Center for Communal Support (CACTUS).

2.- That the liberty, safety and physical integrity of the members of CACTUS, especially Omar Esparza Zarate and his family is guaranteed.

3.- That concrete and urgent measures are taken to implement the Declaration of Defenders from the Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.

4.- That there is the application of what is stipulated by the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly of the United nations on December 9, 1998, in particular that which refers to the protection of the all people “to conduct human rights work individually and in association with others, and to seek the protection and realization of human rights at the national and international levels,” therefore the State should “take all necessary measures to ensure the protection of everyone against any violence, threats, retaliation, adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the Declaration,” and in the resolution about the Defenders of Human Rights in the Americas AG/RES. 1671 (XXIX-O/99), adopted by the Organization of American States on June 7, 1999.


The Cuali Nemilistli Human Rights Network

Please send your appeals to the following directions and carbon copy juridico@cualinemilistli.org.

Louise Arbour, Alta Comisionada de las Naciones Unidas para los Derechos Humanos, (High Commissioner for United Nations Human Rights Commission)

Sr. Amerijo Inalcaterra, Representante en México de la Oficina del Alto Comisionado de las Naciones Unidas para los Derechos Humanos, (Mexican Representative to the United Nations Office of the Human Rights High Commission)

Sr. Santiago Cantón, Secretario Ejecutivo de la Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos, (Executive Secretary of the Interamerican Human Rights Commission)

Lic. Felipe de Jesús Calderón Hinojosa, Presidente de la República, (Mexican President)

Lic. Francisco Javier Ramírez Acuña, Secretario de Gobernación, (Secretary of the Interior)

Lic. Eduardo Medina-Mora Icaza, Procurador General de la República, (Attorney General)

Lic. José Luis Soberanes Fernández, Presidente de la Comisión Nacional de Derechos Humanos. (President of the National Human Rights Commission)

Actuaria Eugenia del Carmen Diez Hidalgo, Unidad para la promoción y defensa de los Derechos Humanos de la secretaria de Gobernación.

Lic. Ulises Ruiz Ortiz, Gobernador del Estado de Oaxaca,
gobernador@oaxaca.gob.mx (Governor of Oaxaca)

Lic. Manuel García Corpus, Secretario General de Gobierno del Estado de Oaxaca, (General Secretary of the Government of Oaxaca)

Lic. Rosa Lizbeth Caña Cadeza, Procuradora General de Justicia del Estado de Oaxaca, (Attorney General for Oaxaca)

Lic. Jaime Mario Pérez Jiménez, Presidente de la Comisión de Derechos Humanos del Estado de Oaxaca, (President of the Oaxacan Human Rights Commission)
correo@cedhoax.org, quejas@cedhoax.org

M.A. Manuel Moreno Rivas, Director de la Policía Ministerial del Estado de Oaxaca, (Director of the ministerial police)

C. Comandante Regional de la Mixteca de la Policía Ministerial del Estado de Oaxaca, (Mixtecan Regional Commander of the Ministerial Police)

Lic. Roberto Eliud García Salinas, Visitador adjunto de la Oficina Regional de la Mixteca de la Comisión Estatal de Derechos Humanos del Estado de Oaxaca. (Micxteca Office of Oaxacan State Human Rights Commission)


  1. Dear friends/Queridos amigas,

    My first instinct with messages like this, pleading for you to help an endangered activist in some far off place, is to skim them over and never follow-up. I BEG you to read on and to take action. The following is a comunique I translated from a human rights network in Mexico asking you to send messages to Mexican authorities demanding the human rights of activist Omar Esparza Zarate are respected. Omar is a dear dear friend–more like a brother. I’ve been working with him and CACTUS for the last 3 years. Over the last nine months Omar has become one of the key organizers in the Mixteca region of Mexico with the Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca, a grass roots movement formed in response to the violent and repressive policies of Oaxacan governor Ulises Ruiz. As a part of the state backlash against this movement Omar has unjustly become one of many targets of harassment and repression. Right now he is being hunted by the equivalent of the Mexican FBI for reasons they have not disclosed. He’s been underground for the last couple months and this coming Friday February 23 Omar has decided to face the authorities and dispute their claims in the hopes that he can return to his work without fear of further persecution. In order to successfully refute their charges Omar needs our help. We need to let Mexican and Oaxacan authorities know that Omar has the support of concerned people across Mexico, the United States and the world. Please read on, take action and then forward this comunique!

    In solidarity,
    Tennessee Watson

    source: http://vivamixteca.blogspot.com/2007/02/support-cactus-organizer-omar-esparza.html

  2. I know of a labor organization based in Colombia that is also known as CACTUS. Are the two groups related?

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