Comité Cerezo México reflects on 20 years of PBI accompaniment
Francisco and Emiliana Cerezo founded the Comité Cerezo when their brothers Alejandro, Hector and Antonio along with Pablo Alvarado Flores were arrested on August 13, 2001. Alejandro was released on February 28, 2005. Pablo completed his sentence on August 13, 2006. Antonio and Héctor were freed on February 16, 2009.
The Cerezo Mexico Committee has published this article titled PBI, 20 years of accompaniment to the Cerezo Mexico Committee:
“On 14 February 2002, Peace Brigades International (PBI) informed the comrades of the Committee for the release of brothers Cerezo Contreras and Pablo Alvarado Flores that they would accompany them in their activities to secure the freedom of their families.
Alejandro, Héctor and Antonio Cerezo Contreras and Pablo Alvarado Flores had been arrested and tortured on 13 August 2001 and were serving 6 months’ imprisonment in the maximum security prison of Almoloya de Juárez; on 19 October 2001, our lawyer Digna Ochoa y Plácido had been extrajudicially executed and in December of the same year some members of the Committee had received the first death threat by telephone and had been monitored and harassed by the military police forces responsible for carrying out these unworthy tasks.
The accompaniment of PBI showed us another facet of international solidarity, over 20 years we have been fortunate to meet dozens of people born in Europe, America and Oceania; with all our treatment has been respectful and kind and with some we have managed to forge bonds of friendship that have extended beyond their participation in PBI.
The friendship and fraternal ties that unite us to many women and men who from PBI have accompanied us and contributed in this way so that we are alive today, have as their basis that we have never lost sight of the fact that those who wear vests or shirts with those acronyms are first of all people, they are not human “shields”, they are not workers, they are not machines, they are human beings who by their own decision face risks in a country that is not their own with human rights defenders of whom they have heard or read something in their trainings prior to arriving on the ground.
From PBI we have learned a lot from its experience accumulated over the years in different countries and continents, except what PBI says we consider ourselves good learners and we identify with the ideas and reasons that made PBI emerge more than 40 years ago.
We have tried to the extent of our capabilities to share the experience and knowledge that PBI generously provided to other organizations and human rights defenders, thanks to them and the generosity of other popular organizations we maintain the principle of not charging our workshops, consultancies or trainings, because those who shared that knowledge did so without charging anything in return.
PBI is aware of the hard times we have lived as a Committee, they lived in the house-office of the organization for a few days, when high intensity threats arrived. It is aware of the threats, follow-ups, harassments and all campaigns of defamation and criminalization against members of the Committee; we have shared intense moments of uncertainty and risk and moments of great joy to be participants in the moment of our liberation in February 2009 and before in August 2006 and March 2004, we have shared a good pozole, a pleasant talk or an analysis of the national reality.
Walking with PBI 20 years have made it possible for the Cerezo Mexico Committee to be today the human rights organization that it is today, and although some things have changed since 2002 to date, the presence of PBI is still necessary, unfortunately, in the country due to the risk that human rights defenders live in general and some with greater intensity in particular.
This brief reflection aims to express our gratitude to each and every one of the people who have integrated PBI and celebrate the 20 years they have accompanied us.
The work of advocacy and physical accompaniment that we have had to receive from PBI is of vital importance, thank you, because PBI and thanks to those who have shared a brief or wide space of their life with us.“
Hugs always, Cerezo Mexico Committee.
To read the article in Spanish, please see: PBI, 20 años de acompañamiento al Comité Cerezo México.
Photo: PBI-Canada Board member Paul Bocking along with PBI-Mexico advocacy representative Virry Schaafsma met with Antonio Cerezo in Mexico City on June 28, 2019.