Case History: Father Tomás González
On 17 March 2013, death threats were issued by a criminal gang against prominent migrant rights defender Father Tomás González.
Father Tomás González is the Director of El Refugio para Personas Migrantes “La 72” (The “72” Refuge for Migrant Persons), a shelter for immigrants located in Tenosique, Tabasco, southern Mexico.
Human rights defender Mr Rubén Figueroa, together with other staff members of the human rights organisation El Refugio para Personas Migrantes “La 72” (The “72” Refuge for Migrant Persons) has been forced to cease his activities with the centre indefinitely as a result of ongoing threats and the Government's inaction in terms of providing security measures.
La 72 is a shelter for immigrants located in Tenosique, Tabasco, southern Mexico, of which Rubén Figueroa is a staff member. He is also a member of the Movimiento Migrante Mesoamericano (Mesoamerican Migrant Movement). The shelter's staff and residents had been awaiting the implementation of security measures granted on 19 April 2013 by the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights(IACHR).
On 19 April 2013, the IACHR granted precautionary security measures to La 72 as a result of death threats received by Rubén Figueroa and Fr. Tomás González from members of a criminal gang. The Mexican state was given 15 days to comply with the measures, during which time the authorities did not even contact the shelter, forcing Fr Tomás González to write to the Ministry of the Interior.
In a meeting between the authorities and La 72 on 17 May 2013, the Federal Police agreed to implement various forms of protection. However, that same week, the Federal Police withdrew its travel accompaniment without explanation. On 11 June 2013, it was arranged that these patrols be put back in place, but to date this has remained unchanged. Other forms of protection that were agreed upon but which have not been provided include a panic button, lights, an alarm, a CCTV room and new locks.
On 8 June 2013, Rubén Figueroa was threatened that he would be found embalmed if he did not stop obstructing organised crime. Although the person who made the threats, along with three others implicated in the kidnappings of migrants, was arrested because of them, all four were released on 10 June 2013. Since then, the human rights defender, along with others, has felt forced to cease his activities with the centre due to fears for his physical and psychological integrity.
Front Line Defenders urges the Mexican authorities to immediately implement the security measures granted by the IACHR to La 72. It is believed that staff members and immigrants at the shelter are being targeted because of their peaceful and legitimate work in defence of human rights, including filing complaints about illegal activities carried out by a criminal gang along the Guatemalan border.
On 17 March 2013, death threats were issued by a criminal gang against prominent migrant rights defenders Father Tomás González and Rubén Figueroa, director and staff member respectively of La 72, a shelter based in Tenosique, state of Tabasco, which houses approximately 60-80 immigrants.
Rubén Figueroa is also a member of Movimiento Migrante Mesoamericano .(Mesoamerican Migrant Movement).
On 17 March 2013, Father Tomás González and Rubén Figueroa were informed by a migrant at La 72 shelter that members of a criminal gang had told him they were going to attack the shelter to find all the workers and migrants who had filed criminal complaints against them, and that they knew how to get access into the shelter.
The complaints mainly refer to information submitted by La 72 to local authorities and senators regarding the activities of an organised criminal gang, which controls the flow of migration from Tenosique to Coatzacoalcos, a major port city in the state of Veracruz, following testimony received by the shelter from hundreds of migrants.
As Father Tomás González and Rubén Figueroa went to report the threat to the Tabasco State Attorney General’s Office and request protection measures, a volunteer at La 72 called to request that they urgently return. At the shelter, a migrant informed Father Tomás González that while he was at the rail freight stop in Tenosique, where migrants board the freight train to go north, an unknown person told him: (sic) “...Lo que nos interesa es la cabeza del Padre, que está al frente de todo esto; y de todos los que estan hablando…Hoy mismo vamos por todos ellos al albergue” (What we are interested in is the head of the priest who is responsible for all this; and of all those who have spoken…We are going to the shelter today to get all of them”).
The above threats were reported to the Federal Judicial Police (PGJ), Federal Police (PGR) and the army, while a police patrol has been posted outside the shelter. The authorities have made three arrests in relation to the threats, but have not reportedly detained the leaders of the criminal gang in question.
Since the relocation of the shelter's headquarters close to the train tracks in Tenosique, staff have been reportedly subjected to a series of threats and acts of harassment, while in early March 2013, Rubén Figueroa reportedly received threats from persons identified as members of the aforementioned criminal gang. Although the Comisión Nacional de los Derechos Humanos – CNDH (National Commission of Human Rights) awarded protective measures to La 72 in July 2011, the measures were not implemented and the case was subsequently reportedly closed by the CNDH.