Winter Quarter, 2019

The new Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) and his allies face an enormous legacy of human rights violations – including the student massacre of 1968, the femicides of Ciudad Juarez, the 2014 attack and disappearance of the 43 Ayotzinapa students, and 30,000 unsolved disappearances of ordinary citizens during the last two presidents’ war on drugs. Mexico must also protect the human rights of thousands of Central American asylum seekers while resisting pressures from the Trump Administration to return them home.

The Pozen Family Center for Human Rights, with support from the School of Social Service Administration, the Center for Latin American Studies, the Katz Center for Mexican Studies, and the Chicago Center for Teaching, presents a series of speakers to address some of Mexico’s current human rights challenges.

Mago Torres
Independent Journalist
Wednesday, February 6, 6:30 p.m.
University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration, Room E-I
969 E 60th Street

A free press is an essential element of human rights protection. Mexico is regarded as the second most dangerous country in the world for journalists who have been targeted and by criminal organizations and corrupt government officials fearful of independent investigative reporting. Mago Torres is a Mexican journalist, researcher and scholar based in Chicago whose work has focused on the right to information and data journalism. Her latest investigation is “2,000 Clandestine graves” which documents hundreds of grave-sites discovered across Mexico, and is part of the project A dónde van los desaparecidos. She was a 2018 JSK Fellow, contributor to the Panama Papers, and professor of journalism at Universidad Iberoamericana. She is a co-founder of Periodistas de a Pie, a Mexico-based organization focused on improving the quality of journalism in Mexico. Follow Mago on twitter: @magiccia

Santiago Aguirre
Centro de Derechos Humanos Miguel Agustin Pro, Mexico City
Wednesday, February 13, 6:30 p.m.
University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration, Room E-I
969 E 60th Street

On the night of September 26 – 27, 2014, Mexican police launched a brutal attack on a group of students from the Escuela Rural Normal de Ayotzinapa who had “borrowed” some buses from the central bus station in Iguala, Guerrero. 43 of the students have never been seen again; a committee of experts appointed by the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights discounted the Mexican government’s official story. AMLO’s administration has met with the students’ families and launched a Presidential Comission, but the fate of the students is still unknown. Santiago Aguirre is an attorney with the Centro de Derechos Humanos Miguel Agustin Pro, a human rights NGO which represents the families of the Ayotzinapa students. The trail of responsibility for the students’ disappearance traces to Chicago and a heroin-importing conspiracy centered here.

Jorge Fernandez Mendiburu
Indignación, Yucatan
Wednesday, February 20, 6:30 p.m.
University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration, Room E-I
969 E 60th Street

Since the Zapatista uprising in the mid-1990s, the human rights of Mexico’s diverse indigenous communities have risen to global attention. International mining and agricultural companies have posed the biggest threats to the land rights of indigenous communities. Jorge Fernandez Mendiburu is an attorney with Indignacion, a Yucatan NGO which works with Mayan communities to defend their land. Jorge has represented a Mayan community of bee-keepers whose honey has been contaminated by GMO-laden pollen from experimental fields owned by the Monsanto Corporation, winning an order that the government should have consulted with the Mayans before issuing a permit to Monsanto.

Helena Olea
Alianza Americas
Wednesday, February 27, 6:30 p.m.
University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration, Room E-I
969 E 60th Street

In the past four years, thousands of Central American women, men, and children fled into Mexico from the violence in the Northern Triangle countries. Mexican civil society organizations have organized to assist the migrants whether they wish to remain in Mexico or continue to the United States. Helena Olea is an Adjunct Professor at the University of Illinois-Chicago and legal advisor to Alianza Americas a coalition of immigrant-lead organizations with a regional presence in North America and Central America. In the past year, Helena has visited Mexico’s northern and southern borders, Mexico City, and other sites along the migrants’ routes to meet with Central American migrants and Mexican advocates. Helena has litigated before international human rights agencies and worked with the Inter-American Commission’s Special Rapporteur on Migrants.

Guillermo Trejo
University of Notre Dame
Wednesday, March 6, 6:30 p.m.
University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration, Room W-IV
969 E 60th Street

The MORENA-lead government promises to respect human rights and address the violations of the past, and Mexican society has high expectations. Governments across the world have formed national truth commissions, human rights tribunals, or invited in international organizations to investigate human rights violations, adjudicate responsibility, and compensate victims when an authoritarian or corrupt regime comes to an end. What models will Mexico borrow from to create its own processes of transitional justice? Guillermo Trejo is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Notre Dame, previously at Duke University and Centro de Investigacin y Docencia Econmicas (CIDE) in Mexico City. His research focuses on collective action and social protest, armed insurgencies and political violence, and religion and ethnic identities in authoritarian regimes and new democracies. He has advised officials of the new Mexican government on options for transitional justice processes.