Indigenous Me’Phaa defender Obtilia Eugenio Manuel accompanied by PBI-Mexico now living in exile
On February 13, 2019, Peace Brigades International-Canada expressed our concern over the disappearance of human rights defenders Obtilia Eugenio Manuel and Hilario Cornelio Castro, both of whom are members of the Indigenous rights group the Organization of Indigenous Me’Phaa Peoples (OPIM) in Mexico.
They had not been heard from since the previous morning when they were en route to the city of Chilpancingo.
By February 17, 2019, the Mexican newspaper El Pais reported, “After four days in captivity, indigenous activists Obtilia Eugenio and Hilario Castro have been released. The trail of human rights defenders was lost last Tuesday [February 12] while trying to flee the municipality of Ayutla (Guerrero) in the face of the constant telephone threats the activist had received in previous days.”
Now, Sinembargo.mx reports, “2019 has not been a simple year for her. She was kidnapped with her organizational partner Hilario Cornelio Castro… They beat her and took her blindfolded to what she thinks was the port of Acapulco.”
“[She has also] had to leave her family. From her forced exile she says she feels strong, but above all is her family: her children, her husband, everything that is left in the Pe’phaa area of Ayutla.”
That article adds, “Since 2005, Peace Brigades International (PBI) accompanies OPIM by the gravity of the death threats that Obtilia received after reporting the rape of Inés Fernández Ortega and Valentina Rosendo Cantú by the military in 2002 , and for seeking justice for other human rights violations, such as the sterilization of 14 indigenous men in 1998, the militarization of the area as a guerrilla focus and historical massacres such as El Charco in 1998.”
PBI-Mexico has further explained, “In the mountainous regions of Guerrero, the Me`phaa indigenous people have historically suffered extreme poverty, abandonment, discrimination and the systematic violation of their human rights. Hundreds of Campesinos – men and women – from the six Me´phaa indigenous communities came together in 1994 to form the OPIM in order to combat the oppression they suffered.”
Obtilia Eugenio Manuel, Valentina Cantu and Ines Ortega from the OPIM accompanied by a PBI volunteer in 2010.