Who Governs Chihuahua?

To Chihuahua State Governor José Reyes Baeza Terrazas:

(The following open letter to the governor of Chihuahua signed by an astounding number of well-respected academics, authors, lawyers, intellectuals, concerned citizens and human rights activists from Mexico, the US and various European countries appeared as a full page ad in the Diario de Juárez on October 6, 2008.)

Mr. Governor:

Why do you and your government allow Pedro and Jorge Zaragoza Fuentes to be above the law and violate the human rights of the residents of Lomas del Poleo?

It is known, both in Mexico and internationally, that these lands are federal property according to a federal decree published by the Diario Oficial de la Federación in April 17, 1975. It has also come to the attention of the international community that in the recent weeks there has been an escalation of violence and harassment against children, women, men and elderly residents who have lived in these lands for almost thirty years and who are currently seeking the legalization of their property in the Fifth District Agrarian Court in Chihuahua City.

(Below: right to left) Governor José Reyes Baeza, Juárez mayor José Reyes Ferriz and Pedro Zaragoza junior at an inauguration for a Wal-Mart and shopping mall in Ciudad Juárez last year.

(below) The Grupo Zaragoza dug ditches around Lomas del Poleo to force elmentary school students to pass by their checkpoints where they are often mocked and harassed by Zaragoza guards.

On September 26, 2008, a group of men with bulldozers, pickaxes and shovels, led by Fernando Carrillo and Catarino Del Río Camacho (Grupo Zaragoza overseers), raze the home of Adela Plasencia and her husband Vicente built thirty years ago on Lomas del Poleo mesa.

You must certainly be aware of the latest developments:

• Between August 11 and August 22 this year—School Superintendent Guillermo Narro and the District Supervisor Blasa Serrano Carrillo, attempted to illegally shut down the Elementary School “Alfredo Nava Sahagún” (Federal code, 08DPR2214D).

• September 12—On orders of Pedro and Jorge Zaragoza Fuentes, ditches (2 meters deep and 1.5 meters wide) were dug around the barbed-wire fence to force all the residents to pass through a gate guarded by unregistered armed guards.

• Tuesday, September 22—On orders of the Zaragoza overseers, the delivery trucks stopped providing water to some of the families.

• September 25—A sign that reads “Private Property” was placed at the gate although no verdict has yet been handed down by the judicial courts handling the land dispute.

• September 26—Demolitions crews tore down two inhabited homes, an illegal action that was reported to the state’s law enforcement authorities.

• October 1—Bulldozers entered Lomas del Poleo to erase all evidence of the illegal demolitions. This act was carried out with threats of violence against four of the residents who were present. On this same day, another home was razed to the ground and more threats were made.

• October 3—A truck belonging to the Comisión Federal de Electricidad, accompanied with a crew of hostile and violent guards, tore down the last electric generator that provided electricity to the Elementary School “Alfredo Nava Sahagún.” This cut off the electric service to the majority of the residents.

Is it possible that in Ciudad Juárez there exists no state of law that protects the inhabitants of Lomas del Poleo, who are currently virtual prisoners behind barbed-wire and guard towers and without rights to freedom of movement? Why have you allowed these two industrialists to act with impunity before the Agrarian Court has taken any action to determine the legal right to these lands?

Why do state and city authorities allow two individuals to impose their own law in Lomas del Poleo who—for the benefit of their own private development projects—are trying to forcibly displace some of the poorest inhabitants of this border?

Given that you continue to allow this serious state of violence, insecurity and violation of human rights in Lomas del Poleo and the evident lack of action by the law enforcement authorities in Ciudad Juárez, Mr. Governor, we hold you, your government, and the municipal government of Ciudad Juárez responsible for whatever harm may occur to the residents of Lomas del Poleo.

Ciudad Juárez, October 6, 2008

source: pasodelsur.com/news/WhoGovernsChihuahua.html


  1. The squeeze is on Lomas de Poleo
    by Alejandra Gomez

    In Juarez, this situation has been overlooked by the authorities. And while El Paso advocacy groups and others have focused on the issue, most of the people in Juarez remain uninformed and indifferent.

    Posted on October 10, 2008

    Lomas del Poleo in Juarez is known for being the dumping ground of the bodies of women who have been victims of femicides. Rarely do the media in Juarez report about the ongoing battle for the land between the residents of Lomas del Poleo and the Zaragoza’s.

    But an advocacy group in El Paso reported that in the last weeks, the aggression towards the residents reached unprecedented levels.

    I decided to go and see what is happening for myself. After an hour of driving to get to Anapra because the Camino Real was closed, I took an off road and for 30 minutes of driving in the desert, I did not see a single police officer, a gas station or any stores. My cell phone did not have a signal. All I saw were poor homes made of pieces of wood and cardboard. I finally understood why so many crimes have been committed there. It is like a ghost town.

    I asked some of the Anapra people for directions. They all pointed to the bluff atop Anapra, a community across the border from Sunland Park, only a few miles from Downtown El Paso. I drove up a dirt road leading to the top of the bluff and saw the infamous fence built to keep the residents isolated. It was an improvised fence with wires and white cement pillars and a big sign that says “private property.” I was expecting to see the private guards with uniforms; however, they were dressed in regular clothes with big radios hanging from their belts. When they saw my car, they started calling on their radios. Then, another guard with sun glasses started following me on a go kart. I could see him through the rear view mirror; he was clearly trying to intimidate me. I drove to the entrance of the fence and pretended to be lost. I asked one of the four guards for directions, he lowered the music on his portable radio, and then he told me that I was really lost. While he was giving me directions to get back to a paved road, I snapped several pictures of the fence hoping they would not see my camera. I asked him, what the private property sign was for and in between laughs, looking at the other guards he told me, “I can’t tell you, it’s a secret.” Then another guard jokingly said, “Tell her the truth, this land belongs to your dad.” The guard replied, “I wish.” Then the fence was opened by one of the guards to let one of the resident cars out. A woman drove off and they locked the fence again.

    On my drive back, I saw some young men sitting in a corner, from my car I asked them why there were guards by the fence. One of the men told me, “They belong to the Zaragozas.” I asked him, so is this still Lomas del Poleo? He said, “Yes, but there are two parts to Lomas del Poleo.”

    Lomas del Poleo is divided into two sections. One part is fenced and heavily guarded by private security men. The other part after the fence is inhabited by a mix of people who tired of the fight and relocated, with Zaragoza’s blessing, to smaller lots, and people who happened to be out of the way of the property fight when it began.

    For the last five years, the residents of Lomas del Poleo have been fighting to keep their homes against Jorge and Pedro Zaragoza, two of the most prominent businessmen in Juarez. [background] Most of the residents had inhabited the land for more than 30 years, and claim that they have rightful title under a 1975 law federalizing unclaimed land and allowing people to settle on and take possession of such unclaimed land.

    But the Zaragozas have argued that the land belongs to them, and the issue is before the courts in Mexico. The residents are represented by Mexico City human rights attorney Barbara Zamora Lopez, after the previous lawyer for the residents, Carlos Javier López Avitia, was killed in June. [link] With the economic potential the land has for future city growth projects, the Zaragozas decided to appropriate the land and intimidate residents to leave, advocates say. There was no permit to build the fence or to keep the residents locked in. The residents cannot receive any visits and they are checked every time they go back into their homes. However, despite the security at the fence, many robberies have occurred, advocates for the residents say.

    In Juarez, this situation has been overlooked by the authorities. And while El Paso advocacy groups and others have focused on the issue, most of the people in Juarez remain uninformed and indifferent.

    More than 50 homes have been destroyed by tractors and others by fire, residents have said. Two children died in one of the fires, which residents say were started by the hired guards. In 2005, Luis Alberto Guerrero, one of the residents, was killed under questionable circumstances. To this day, the residents have been coerced and have been left without water and electricity.

    According to the young men on the street, there are only two families left inside the fence. The rest, they claim, have been bought and have relocated.

    The trial for the land is still pending at the Tribunal Unitario Agrario No 5. Three lawyers from Chihuahua and Mexico City are fighting for the residents rights. The Zaragozas have refused to give any interviews. A rare statement was published on Tuesday in a full page ad in a Juarez newspaper claiming that they have been victims of lies from social groups. They deny having any special protection from the state or local government.

    source and photos: newspapertree.com/features/2934-the-squeeze-is-on-lomas-de-poleo

  2. Armed Guards Block Lomas de Poleo Forum in Juarez
    by Frontera NorteSur

    In a statement distributed late Friday evening, Lomas de Poleo residents and their supporters denounced the presence of large numbers of armed men who were surrounding the neighborhood. Once a wind-swept, largely forgotten mesa that housed maquiladora workers and others trying to get by in Ciudad Juarez, Lomas de Poleo is now a prime chunk of real estate as city development creeps towards the planned binational city of Jeronimo-Santa Teresa.

    Posted on October 22, 2007

    October 21, 2007

    Ciudad Juarez News

    Tensions in a land dispute that pits members of a prominent Ciudad Juarez family against long-time residents of a poor neighborhood and their supporters were revved up a notch this past weekend. A citizen’s forum scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 20, at a school in Lomas de Poleo, a working-class settlement on the outskirts of Ciudad Juarez, was prevented from convening by guards employed by Pedro and Jorge Zaragoza. On Saturday, members of non-governmental organizations from Mexico and the United States arrived at Lomas de Poleo to discuss the land ownership battle only to find access to the neighborhood blocked by Zaragoza security personnel.

    Zaragoza representative Catarino del Rio Camacho argued that as private property owners his bosses had a right to prevent outsiders from entering the legally contested lands. “The people who live here have free access but those who come to create conflict can’t enter because we don’t see any reason for them to be here.”

    Forum organizers earlier said they planned to conduct a peaceful meeting between NGOs and Lomas de Poleo residents. Groups supporting Lomas de Poleo residents include the Border Agricultural Workers Union, Paso del Sur Group, Pastoral Obrera, Mexico Solidarity Network, Rezizte, the Other Campaign, and many others.

    In a statement distributed late Friday evening, Lomas de Poleo residents and their supporters denounced the presence of large numbers of armed men who were surrounding the neighborhood in an apparent attempt to thwart the next day’s planned forum. The statement criticized the deployment as an escalation of the violence which has punctuated the land dispute during the last few years.

    “One resident has been murdered, (and ) two children have been burned to death inside a home purposely set on fire as part of the demolitions of more than 40 homes by the Zaragoza guards,” the statement charged. “The Lomas de Poleo inhabitants have been cut off from the rest of the city and are currently within a state of siege at the hands of the powerful developers mentioned above.”

    Once a wind-swept, largely forgotten mesa that housed maquiladora workers and others trying to get by in Ciudad Juarez, Lomas de Poleo is now a prime chunk of real estate as city development creeps towards the planned binational city of Jeronimo-Santa Teresa. Lomas de Poleo is also close to Sunland Park, New Mexico, which could see a new international crossing and become a border business hub within the next few years. In 1996, Lomas de Poleo gained international notoriety as one of the places where the bodies of raped and murdered women were dumped.

    As a result of Saturday’s incident, the official Chihuaha State Human Rights Commission initiated an investigation to determine possible violations of residents’ and supporters’ rights, including the right to free transit. “The people have showed me the authorization of the director of the school to hold this event and the gate stops it from happening,”
    said commission representative Gustavo de la Rosa Hickerson.

    Additional sources:
    — Lapolaka.com, October 21, 2007.
    — Norte, October 21, 2007. Article by Nohemi Barraza.
    — El Diario de Juarez, October 20 and 21, 2007. Articles by Alejandro Quintero and Juan de Dios Olivas.

    Frontera NorteSur (FNS): on-line, U.S.-Mexico border news Center for Latin American and Border Studies New Mexico State University Las Cruces, New Mexico

    For a free electronic subscription email fnsnews (at) nmsu.edu

    source: newspapertree.com/features/2934-the-squeeze-is-on-lomas-de-poleo

  3. Urgent Action Requested on Lomas del Poleo

    October 22, 2008

    Updated Oct. 23:

    Following is a more complete list of addresses for the letter urging action to protect the residents of Lomas del Poleo:

    Governor of Chihuahua State
    Lic. José Reyes Baeza Terrazas
    Gobernador del Estado de Chihuahua
    Palacio de Gobierno, piso 1, C. Aldama #901, Col. Centro
    Chihuahua, Estado de Chihuahua, C.P. 31000, MEXICO
    Fax: +52 614 4293300 ext. 11066
    Email: oacosta@chihuahua.gob.mx (secretary of the Governor)
    Salutation: Dear Governor/Señor Gobernador

    Chihuahua State Public Prosecutor
    Patricia González Rodríguez
    Procuradora del Estado de Chihuahua, Procuraduría General de Justicia del Estado
    Vicente Guerrero 616, Col. Centro, Chihuahua 31000, Estado de Chihuahua, MEXICO
    Fax: +52 614 415 0314
    E-mail: pagonzale@buzon.chihuahua.mx
    Salutation: Dear Public Prosecutor/ Señora Procuradora General

    Federal Interior Minister
    Lic. Juan Camilo Mouriño Terrazo
    Secretaría de Gobernación
    Bucareli 99, 1er. piso,
    Col. Juárez, Del. Cuauhtémoc
    México D.F., C.P.06600
    Fax: (+52 55) 5093 3414
    E-mail: secretario@segob.gob.mx
    Salutation: Señor Secretario / Dear Minister

    President of the National Human Rights Commission
    Dr. José Luis Soberanes Fernández, Presidente de la Comisión Nacional de Derechos Humanos
    Periférico Sur 3469, 5º piso, Col. San Jerónimo Lídice, México D.F. 10200, MEXICO

    Human Rights organization
    Nuestras Hijas de Regreso a Casa
    Email: nuestrashijas@gmail.com
    Columban Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation Office

    URGENT ACTION: Support the people of Lomas de Poleo


    We have received an urgent request for action from Fr. Bill Morton, Columban missionary in El Paso, Texas. As many of you know, Fr. Bill and the entire Columban community have accompanied the families of Lomas de Poleo for many years and the violence continues with increasing intensity.

    We are asking that you email a personalized version of the following letter to the Governor of Chihuahua, Sr. Jose Reyes Baeza, asking for his immediate intervention to bring peace and justice to the Lomas de Poleo community and hold the Pedro Zaragoza family accountable for their illegal actions.

    Please circulate this action request widely.

    Many thanks for your solidarity. Amy Woolam Echeverria Columban Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation Office

    Background: In the last two weeks four more homes have been demolished, two elderly residents have been kidnapped and tortured by the Mexican military, and the residents’ access to water and electricity continues to be denied. A deep ditch has been dug around the elementary school house making it difficult for the students and their families to gain entry. The teachers are frequently absent, now, due to escalating violence and attempts by Zaragoza surrogates to close the school and force the families to go to another school in the relocation area.

    On Saturday, October 18, 2008, a small group of the Lomas del Poleo Alliance of Las Cruces met with New Mexico Governor, Bill Richardson, who indicated he would be willing to intervene since the disputed land, literally, borders on his state of New Mexico. Lomas del Poleo is also in the path of a proposed multi-billion dollar, bi-national development plan involving major business figures from both sides of the border, as well as government officials from New Mexico and Chihuahua. For a more detailed history of the situation visit: Paso Del Sur at http://www.pasodelsur.com/

    Action Requested: Please use the sample English or Spanish version of the letter below, and sign with your name, city/state and send via email this Wednesday, Oct. 22, to the three email addresses noted below. Please personalize the letter. Don’t just forward this email. Please invite anyone in your network of friends, families, civic groups, church and other groups to do the same. If you happen to miss the Wednesday Oct 22 “send” date, send it Thursday, Friday or whenever you can.

    Send letters to: secretarioparticularchihuahua@hotmail.com, webmaster@chihuahua.gob.mx, marcagob@chihuahua.gob.mx

    Sample Letter – English Honorable Jose Reyes Baeza Governor of the State of Chihuahua Republic of Mexico

    Owing to the escalation of violence in recent weeks against the inhabitants of the Colonia of Lomas del Poleo by the employees of the brothers, Jorge and Pedro Zaragoza, we are asking your immediate intervention so that the appropriate authorities might guarantee the security of the residents in this Colonia. Also we urge that you order the State Attorney General’s office to immediately investigate the crimes committed in this area which have already been presented to the Attorney General.

    As you well know the lands in Lomas del Poleo are the subject of a legal dispute in the Agrarian Court Number Five in Chihuahua so we are also asking you to oblige the Zaragozas to respect the law and immediately stop the campaign of oppression and harassment against the inhabitants of Lomas del Poleo. It is obvious that these two businessmen are trying to get the inhabitants to abandon their lands before the courts make their decision.

    In short, Mr. Governor we only ask that the law be followed and restored.

    Sincerely: (Your name, title, city, state, country)

    Sample Letter: Spanish Version Sr. José Reyes Baeza Gobernador del Estado de Chihuahua, México.


    Debido a la escalada de violencia desatada en las últimas semanas en contra de los habitantes de la parte alta de la colonia Granjas Lomas del Poleo, por parte de trabajadores al servicio de Pedro y Jorge Zaragoza Fuentes, le solicitamos su inmediata intervención para que las autoridades correspondientes garanticen la seguridad de los vecinos de esa colonia. Asimismo, le urgimos ordene a la Procuraduría de Justicia del Estado la inmediata investigación de los delitos cometidos en esa zona, los cuales han sido oportunamente denunciados ante esa representación.

    Como debe ser de su amplio conocimiento, las tierras de la Colonia Granjas Lomas del Poleo están sujetas a una disputa legal que se dirime — a través de distintas demandas en el Tribunal Unitario Agrario Número Cinco–, por lo que le solicitamos, también, obligue a los empresarios Zaragoza Fuentes respeten los tiempos de la ley y detengan inmediatamente la campaña de presión y hostigamiento que han levantado en contra de los vecinos en Lomas del Poleo. Es obvio que lo que pretenden estos dos empresarios es obligar a los colonos a que abandonen sus tierras, antes de que los tribunales competentes rindan su fallo final.

    En suma, Sr Gobernador, lo único que le pedimos es que haga cumplir la ley y restaure el Estado de derecho en la colonia Lomas del Poleo.

    Atentamente: (Your name, title, city, state)

    source: http://www.grass-roots-press.com/2008/10/22/urgent-action-requested-on-lomas-del-poleo

  4. Activists Corner Governor, Write Letter On Behalf of Lomas del Poleo Residents

    October 24, 2008

    By Rebecca Wiggins.

    As New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson was making the rounds in the borderland this past weekend, endorsing local democratic candidates for the upcoming election, activists from the Lomas del Poleo Alliance of Las Cruces took this opportunity to make sure he would not leave the city until he was made aware of the dire situation in the border community.

    At first, Richardson did not appear to recall the circumstances in Lomas, though several letters, phone calls and emails have been sent to his office over the past year by activists on both sides of the border, and two graduate students at New Mexico State University personally handed him articles about the conflict when he visited the campus last spring.

    On Saturday, Oct.18, at a fundraiser for Jeff Steinborn, the governor was provided a new packet of information containing documented human rights reports, articles and photos of demolished homes. The group explained how the situation was escalating in Lomas, and that within the past two weeks four homes had been destroyed, two elderly residents were kidnapped and beaten by the Mexican military, and that residents were being denied water and electricity by “guards” employed by the powerful Zaragoza family, which claims ownership of land in the colonia.

    After making the rounds and giving a short speech, the governor returned to the group to talk about the situation. He admitted he remembered hearing about the conflict, though in the past six weeks—crunch time for the political campaigns—it had slipped his mind.

    “What do you want me to do?” Richardson asked. “I want to do something more than just make a public statement about it.”

    “You can contact the governor of the state of Chihuahua,” alliance member Neil Harvey suggested.

    “And you can push to stop all development projects until the human rights of the residents of Lomas are recognized,” another chimed in.

    April Willeford told the governor that the land dispute surrounding Lomas del Poleo is a direct product of proposed bi-national development projects in the area, including a new port of entry at Sunland Park, in which developers on both sides of the border stand to profit significantly. Harvey further explained to Richardson that the residents of Lomas had wanted to come and speak to him personally about what life is like living in the besieged community, but that they were too afraid to leave their homes out of fear that they would be destroyed while they were away.

    The previous evening, the Center for Latin American and Border Studies held a closing reception for a photo exhibit documenting the violence in Lomas. One of the residents attended the event, giving testimony about how community members were worried and constantly living in fear. The resident explained how their children’s education was suffering as well. The Zaragozas recently had a deep ditch dug around the community, making it difficult for children to walk to school. In addition, the teachers were not showing up regularly, causing many parents to remove their children from the school.

    Twenty-five years ago, the school in Lomas del Poleo was registered with the state, and became a federally sponsored school. Approximately 130 children were in the school, grades first through sixth. With the increasing intimidation tactics by guards, and the removal of an electricity generator, this number has dwindled to 65. The resident explained that the state is now threatening to close the school because there are not enough kids attending.

    “I will see what I can do,” Gov. Richardson told alliance members as he was rushed off to another fundraiser.

    Without waiting for the governor to make the first move, the activists, led by Charlotte Lipson, composed a letter to him as a reminder of this statement, and to suggest a timely future meeting with residents of Lomas and local activists. The alliance also sent a letter to Richardson’s chief of staff, Brian Condit, explaining the meeting and the governor’s response. These letters were mailed on Wednesday, Oct. 22.

    It remains to be seen if Gov. Richardson will intervene on behalf of the people of Lomas del Poleo. He has participated in multiple negotiations regarding crises in foreign countries, and his official biography claims he is “an advocate for the realization of universal human rights.” Only time will tell if he extends these same rights to the people of Lomas, to help end the campaign of terror against them.

    About 35 families remain in the fenced-in area of Lomas. While several families have left out of fear and relocated elsewhere, those living within the barbed wire are still fighting for their rights to their land. They are without access to water or electricity, and they face daily acts of intimidation and violence, now by the Mexican military as well as by the guards hired by the Zaragoza family.

    Residents have asked for the following items: water (gallon jugs), flashlights and batteries, kerosene lamps, walkie talkie radios, cell phone chargers, and whistles. Blankets and warm clothing are also welcome.

    Donations can be dropped off at the Center for Latin American and Border Studies, located in the Nason House, across from Kinko’s on University Avenue in Las Cruces, NM. In addition, the photo exhibit documenting the conflict in Lomas del Poleo has been extended through December. For more information, contact nharvey@nmsu.edu, awillefo@nmsu.edu, or wiggins@nmsu.edu.

    The next meeting of the Lomas del Poleo Alliance is Monday, October 27, at 5 pm at the Nason House. Anyone is welcome to attend the meeting. Meetings are scheduled for every other Monday at this time.

    Interested parties can also participate in an email campaign targeting the governor of Chihuahua. Names and addresses are shown on this site at http://www.grass-roots-press.com/2008/10/22/urgent-action-requested-on-lomas-del-poleo

    source: http://www.grass-roots-press.com/2008/10/24/activists-corner-governor-write-letter-on-behalf-of-lomas-del-poleo-residents

Comments are closed.