Sunday, February 7, 2010

Billionaire landowner's thugs serve death threats again

[I don't have the photos uploaded, and won't--until maybe tomorrow--but getting the info out there anyway.]

Seven armed men arrived on horseback at Alfredo Piñón Valenzuela's residence in Lomas del Poleo at 9:30 AM last Monday. One of them aimed a gun at Alfredo Piñón and threatened: "Get the [expletive omitted] out of this house or I will drag you out dead, because this land is mine." ("Te me vas a la [XXX] de ésta casa ó te saco muerto, porque éstas tierras son mías"). That man is the employee of a local billionaire who claims ownership of the disputed Lomas del Poleo property.

The Amnesty International (AI) Mexico Team reports that these armed men were hired by a local landowning family. AI calls on the public to advocate the Mexican officials to protect inhabitants of Lomas del Poleo, an area just outside Juarez, who are at risk of further similar attacks.

Alfredo Piñón Valenzuela has been living in the residence of his neighbor, Adelaida Plasencia Sierra. She is recovering from broken ribs, the result of gunshot wounds during an armed attack in December at the same residence. Fearing further attack, she subsequently fled Lomas del Poleo. Alfreda Piñon resides in her house to protect it from being destroyed by those who claim to own the disputed property. Vacated houses in the area are routinely razed [photo 245, 246].

The desolate land of Lomas del Poleo, once available for squatters' acquisition, grew in value tremendously since a group of businesspeople began plans to develop a nearby area into a new urban and industrial area.

Men employed by a local, wealthy landowner have harassed and attacked the people living in Lomas del Poleo since 2003. In 2004 these men erected a barbed wire fence around the area [photo 238, 272]. Security guards employed by the alleged landowner patrol its only entrance, turning the area into a twisted reversal of a gated community [photo 270]. In 2005, according to residents, the "security guards" set fire to 40 homes and beat a man to death. Although they claim they reported these events to the local Public Prosecutor's office, no serious investigation has ever ensued.

Only 17 of the original 256 settling families still live in the area. More than 150 families were either evicted from Lomas or were hounded into "negotiating" the sale of their property out of exhaustion and fear. All this has transpired with the complicity of the state and city government, according to the report of Rev. Bill Morton, a U.S. Catholic priest who knows the residents and has witnessed the process.

A Mexican Agrarian Tribunal has been considering the dispute over the ownership of the Lomas del Poleo land for the past several months. Meanwhile, during that time, the residents have experienced more threats and intimidation. The Tribunal will reach its conclusion in the near future, leading some to believe that the recent threats are an attempt to intimidate the people still remaining in Lomas del Poleo into relinquishing their claim to ownership.

Since the December attack on Adelaida Plasencia Sierra, security guards have repeatedly approached the house of her two daughters, advising them that the land on which it's built is not theirs.

After reviewing the facts of the matter, Amnesty International is calling on the general public to write and fax Mexican governmental officials immediately--and prior to March 17--to advocate for the safety of the residents of Lomas del Poleo. Letters and faxes should urge government leaders to order independent investigations into the attacks and bring those responsible to justice. Amnesty International further asks the public to request those leaders to prevent any attempt to drive residents of Lomas de Poleo off their land and to ensure the dispute is resolved fairly and satisfactorily in the agrarian tribunal.

As this incident is so recent, and the contact information is not yet available onAmnesty's Lomas del Poleo file, it is reprinted here for your convenience:

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PLEASE WRITE IMMEDIATELY in Spanish or your own language:

Urging the authorities to ensure that Alfredo Piñón Valenzuela and other residents of Lomas del Poleo who have been attacked and threatened by security guards working for local landowners are given appropriate protection according to their wishes;

Urging them to order independent investigations into the attacks, and bring those responsible to justice;

Urging them to prevent any attempt to drive residents of Lomas de Poleo off their land, and to ensure the dispute is resolved fairly and satisfactorily in the agrarian tribunal.

PLEASE SEND APPEALS BEFORE 17 MARCH 2010 TO:

Governor of Chihuahua State

Lic. José Reyes Baeza Terrazas

Gobernador del Estado de Chihuahua, Palacio de Gobierno, 1er piso, C. Aldama #901, Col. Centro,

Chihuahua, Estado de Chihuahua, C.P. 31000, Mexico

Fax: +52 614 429 3300 (then dial extension 11066 when prompted)

Salutation: Dear Governor

Attorney General of Chihuahua

Patricia González Rodríguez

Procuradora del Estado de Chihuahua

Procuraduría General de Justicia del Estado

Vicente Guerrero 616, Col. Centro

Chihuahua 31000, Mexico

Fax: +52 614 415 0314

Salutation: Dear Attorney General

Mayor of Ciudad Juárez

Lic. José Reyes Ferriz

Presidente Municipal de Ciudad Juárez

Unidad Administrativa Benito Juárez. Primer piso, ala norte.

Av. Francisco Villa # 950 Norte, Cd. Juárez, Chihuahua, Mexico

Fax: +52 656 615 0690

Salutation: Dear Mayor

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