Baja Youth Activist Disappears as Protests Spread

Baja Youth Activist Disappears as Protests Spread

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Friends and supporters of Baja California resident Aleph Jimenez Dominguez are demanding the young man’s safe return. The 32-year-old spokesperson for the Ensenada branch of the Mexican youth activist group #YoSoy 132 ( I am Number 132) was reported last seen at a local bank on Thursday, September 20.

An oceanographer who collaborated with a research project involving the Mexican national oil company Pemex, Jimenez has also been a very visible and vocal activist with the 132 Movement, which arose last May as a protest against the ultimately successful presidential candidacy of Enrique Pena Nieto of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI).

According to Raul Ramirez Baena, director of the independent, Baja-based Northwest Citizen Human Rights Commission, Jimenez was among 20 people detained for protesting at the annual Independence Day ceremony in Ensenada on September 15, an event in which journalists also suffered aggressions. Ramirez said Jimenez had also criticized the mayor of Ensenada, the PRI’s Enrique Pelayo, for the politician’s aspirations to become the governor of Baja California.

“Because of the antecedents mentioned and Aleph’s leadership in the #YoSoy 132 group in Ensenada, it is presumed that this is one more case of forced disappearance, a crime against humanity…,” Ramirez wrote in a statement posted on Proceso newsweekly’s website. He demanded that the authorities immediately locate the activist and punish those responsible for the disappearance.

Jimenez’s associates were quoted in the media as saying that their friend had been followed by a vehicle with tainted windows and a mysterious man in the days prior to his disappearance.

In response to the disappearance, Mayor Pelayo called Jimenez a valuable young man and dedicated professional. He pledged to collaborate until the end with “all the authorities to find the young man.” Francisco Sanchez Corona, state legislator for the Party of the Democratic Revolution, said he would seek to make forced disappearance a crime in Baja California.

Jimenez went missing during a week in Ensenada in which at least nine people were reported murdered or disappeared in different circumstances.

Among the victims was 72-year-old Jesus Jimenez Lopez, a tourist transportation company operator and the father in-law of Mayor Pelayo’s son. Jimenez, who had no known familial relationship to Aleph Jimenez, was found naked and deceased in his home along with 19 marijuana plants, according to state law enforcement officials.

Other victims included Francisco Lazo Valencia, a 52-year-old academic with the National Autonomous University of Mexico’s Astronomy Institute in Ensenada; oceanographer and photographer Cinthia Yadira Iriate Crespo, whose killing was blamed on a sexual attack; and a previously reported missing woman and mother, Maria Marcelina Aispuro Quintero, who was discovered floating dead in waters off Ensenada on September 22.

It’s not known if any of the other violent episodes have any connection to Jimenez’s mysterious disappearance. But increasingly, 132 activists in different regions of Mexico have been subjected to a pattern of threats, mass arrests and physical aggressions by local police or unknown individuals. In addition to Baja California, detentions and threats have been reported in Puebla, Guadalajara, Aguascalientes, Acapulco and other places.

In July, six members of 132 accused police officers in Leon, Guanajuato, of driving them around the city and molesting female members of the group after they were detained during an anti-Pena Nieto protest. In San Nicolas de la Garza, Nuevo Leon, three activists alleged they were stripped naked and beaten by local cops.

Jimenez’s disappearance came only days before the 132 Movement and allies in labor and popular movements announced a new round of mobilizations against Pena Nieto’s ascendancy to the presidency in December. Meeting in Oaxaca this past weekend, the Second National Convention against the Imposition unveiled a series of national mobilizations beginning with a September 25 demonstration in Mexico City against the labor reform legislation pending in the Congress and culminating in a massive gathering in the capital city on December 2 and 3.

In the interim, activists plan student strikes, protests against media monopolization, a presence at the youth-popular Cervantino Festival in Guanajuato and a commemoration of this year’s Day of the Dead holiday festivity as “The Day of the Drug War Dead.” Convention participant Camilo Valenzuela characterized the fall season as the birth of a “national liberation movement.”

Since the July election, the causes taken up by the 132 Movement have continued to multiply.

Monterrey students led a protest against higher metro rates dubbed “Occupy the Metro Rey,” while Zacatecas 132ers joined with retirees and veterans of the old Bracero Program of guest workers between Mexico and the United States to occupy state legislative chambers and offer a counter-report to the annual state of the state report delivered by the governor. Poverty and marginalization in the Mexican state, reinforced by “forced migration” and the meager royalties paid by mining companies, have created a political economy propitious for a youthful “reserve army of hired killers” organized by the criminal syndicates, the 132 Movement charged.

In Sinaloa 132ers protested housing and public debt problems, while Mexico City students began collecting supplies to support a new shelter for mainly Central American migrants in transit to the United States. “We want to do field work, such as in the case of Huehuetoca (migrant shelter), but we also want political actions like the recognition of the internally displaced persons from the violence in the country,” said university student Sandra Patarco.

In Baja California, meanwhile, friends and family of Aleph Jimenez are pressing his case on the social media networks and in the streets. On Saturday, September 22, more than 300 people staged a march in Ensenada for Jimenez. “No to repression” and “No more violence” were among the chants rising from the marchers.