Who we are The Comité Cerezo (Cerezo Committee)

, por  Comité Cerezo México , popularidad : 1%

The Comité Cerezo is an organization devoted to the defense of the human rights of political prisoners, prisoners of conscience, and prisoners unjustly held for political motives.

I. Identity

The Comité Cerezo was formed due to the August 13, 2001 arrest, torture, and imprisonment of the Cerezo Contreras brothers—Alejandro, Héctor, and Antonio— and their codefendants Pablo Alvarado Flores and Serfio Galicia Max, who are all being held in Mexico’s maximum security prisons.

The Committe began as a collective made up of Francisco and Emiliana Cerezo Contreras (brother and sister) and friends, who engaged in volunteer work in solidarity with the prisoners of conscience. Its members now include victims of attempted murder for political reasons; torture; and illegal, unjust imprisonment. The Committee is made up of 5 women and 5 men.

The Comité Cerezo is an organization devoted to the defense of the human rights of political prisoners, prisoners of conscience, and prisoners unjustly held for political motives. The Comité has taken the initiative of opening an alternative space, with the implementation of its self-directed project, the Café Villa. Here, different kinds of cultural events are held, including exhibitions of photography and art produced inside the prisons, as well as documentary and other film screenings. It is also a space for political activities such as meetings of social, political, and human rights organizations.
Mission

The Comité Cerezo is an organization engaged in voluntary solidarity work, devoted to the defense and promotion of the human rights of political prisoners, prisoners of conscience, and prisoners unjustly held for political motives. It is an independent, secular, autonomous, civil organization that focuses on denouncing unjust imprisonment, torture, and violations of human rights in Mexican prisons.

Vision

The Committee contributes nationally to promoting the knowledge and utilization of the instrument of human rights protection; to the defense of human rights: and to the prevention of the violation of the rights of political prisoners, prisoners of conscience, and prisoners unjustly held for political motives. The Committee also supports other members of the society in their legitimate pursuit of obtaining their full rights to self-determination and justice.

Target population

At first, the Committee worked only on the defense of the Cerezo Contreras brothers-Alejandro, Héctor, and Antonio—and of Pablo Alvarado Flores.
Now, it also assists other victims of human rights violations incurred by the State, whether by commission or omission, against political prisoners, prisoners of conscience, and prisoners unjustly held for political motives, as well as their family members and others who are close to them (friends, spouses, partners), without reservation.

Sustaining philosophy and values of the Committee

The work of the Comité Cerezo is based on the principle of solidarity as the fundamental pillar for the construction of a democratic society that guarantees the total enjoyment of human rights, viewed as interdependent and comprehensive.

General Committee goals

To diagnose the situation of political prisoners, prisoners of conscience, and prisoners unjustly held for political motives. To defend the human rights of political prisoners, prisoners of conscience, and prisoners unjustly held for political motives, as well as their family members and people close to them.

Particular objectives

To win freedom, reparations for damages suffered, and punishment of those responsible for violating the human rights of the Cerezo Contreras brothers-Alejandro, Héctor, and Antonio— and Pablo Alvarado Flores. To contribute to the defense of the human rights of political prisoners, prisoners of conscience, and prisoners unjustly held for political motives. To generate the instruments necessary for protecting ourselves from threats by the State because of our work.

Structure and function

A national Coordinating Committee based in Mexico City is mainly responsible for following the case of the Cerezo brothers; publicizing, denouncing, and documenting prisoners’ cases; and forming and providing assistance to diverse political and social organizations. The organization is structured through Committees in different states throughout Mexico.

Committees throughout Mexico

Thanks to the Committee’s work of disseminating information about the cases and to the interest of people who are concerned about the situation of political prisoners, prisoners of conscience, and prisoners unjustly held for political motives, committees have been formed in other states throughout Mexico.

The state Committees are largely made up of university students attending the Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla (BUAP, Puebla, Puebla), Universidad Veracruzana (UV, Xalapa, Veracruz), Universidad Autónoma Benito Juárez Oaxaca (UABJO, Oaxaca, Oaxaca), Universidad Autónoma de Michoacán San Nicolás H (UAMSNH, Morelia, Michoacán), and other persons in solidarity with the prisoners.

These Committees are mainly responsible for publicizing the Cerezo case; for making the existence of political prisoners, prisoners of conscience, and prisoners unjustly held for political motives visible to particular organizations and the society as a whole; and for creating awareness of the importance of winning their freedom.

With the aim of sharing experiences, enriching our perspectives, and getting to know each other, the First National Meeting of the Comité Cerezo was held on July 20-25, 2005 in Mexico City. At the present time, 5 state Committees exist.

Committees outside of Mexico

Only one international Committee now exists, that of Quebec, Canada, which is formed by friends of one of the Cerezo Contreras brothers. The basis is being laid for another Committee in Madrid, España.

II. Strategic axes

Recognition of the existence of political prisoners, prisoners of conscience, and prisoners unjustly held for political motives

Documentation of the cases of those people who, due to their ongoing activity in favor of human rights—seen as an indissoluble whole in the development of the human species—suffer the pain and injustice of being deprived of their freedom.

A quest for justice and historical truth

Documentation of human rights violations, which makes us aware as a society that without these rights we cannot live in harmony with ourselves and with nature. The preservation of the memory of acts that denigrate us as human beings, in the understanding that they give us the feedback necessary to avoid the suffering of others in the present and, therefore, in the future.

Self-direction and sustainability in the performance of Committee tasks

The creation of projects that foster economic sustainability and, thus, make it possible to achieve the organization’s goals.

III. Specific goals of each axis

Recognition of the existence of political prisoners, prisoners of conscience, and prisoners unjustly held for political motives

To recognize and legitimize the social actor who exercises his or her political, social, economic, environmental, and human rights.

To recognize the human rights of political prisoners, prisoners of conscience, and prisoners unjustly held for political motives.

A quest for justice and historical truth

To prevent illegal and unjust actions against actors who exercise their political and civil rights.

To learn the objective truth, for without knowledge of this there can be no justice; by the same token, without justice we cannot speak of truth.

To contribute to the liberation of political prisoners, prisoners of conscience, and prisoners unjustly held for political motives.

To try those responsible for human rights violations.
To recover the historic record that tells us how these actors ended up in prison.

Self-direction and sustainability for the performance of Committee tasks

To continue to exist on a permanent basis, grounded in the values of the organization in order to accompany organizations working with family members of political prisoners, prisoners of conscience, and prisoners unjustly held for political motives.

To strengthen and achieve full economic sustainability through solidarity.

To establish ourselves as a recognized alternative space for the diverse expressions of the social actors that exercise their rights.

IV. Programmatic lines

Legal defense

The aim of this programmatic line is to gain access to and utilize legal and judicial instruments in order to assure ourselves of due process and the correct and expeditious administration of justice.

Up until now work has focused on the case of the Cerezo brothers, but the intention in the future, when we are able to do so, is to provide assistance to other prisoners and their family members.

At this time, in conjunction with other national organizations, the Comité Cerezo is pushing for a Federal Amnesty law that can benefit political prisoners and prisoners of conscience and win respect for the human rights of political prisoners, prisoners of conscience, and prisoners unjustly held for political motives in federal and state prisons.

Circulation

Circulation is the instrument we utilize in order to provide information about the case to different sectors of the population.

This instrument is very important to make people aware of the importance of the problematic of political prisoners and prisoners of conscience in the national sphere.

This is why we are developing two lines of circulation:

Alternative circulation and communication

This occurs through non-commercial information media operated by the Committee itself or other organized groups.

This line of circulation consists of:

An electronic newsletter

This newsletter is not only sent to committee members. The publication is intended to inform people about our most important activities: meetings, visits, accords, and important notices. It is published by e-mail whenever necessary.

The magazine Revuelta

The magazine Revuelta began as a project intended to bring together all university or non-university people interested in writing about culture or politics or publishing poetry, stories, etc.

In keeping with the founding values of the Committee, it has become the voice of the Cerezo brothers, who are being held prisoners for political motives; it also serves as an instrument for spreading news about reality.

Web page

Through the Comité Cerezo web site, information is provided about the case of the Cerezo brothers held prisoners and associated campaigns through documents, audio recordings, photographs, notices of events, and a wealth of journalistic notes and reports that are circulated in the news media. The site gives visitors the option of commenting on articles or sending letters by e-mail. The information is organized into general categories or sections as well as specific categories associated with key words.

A new web page has been generated that only contains information about political prisoners, prisoners of conscience, and prisoners unjustly held for political motives. (http://espora.org/vientodelibertad)

In order to keep this web site active, a permanent Internet connection is required, as well as a group of people who devote themselves for an indefinite period of time to editing, graphic maintenance, and site programming.

Urgent actions

These are carried out with the aim of making emergency situations public and thus halting or preventing human rights violations, as a way to protect the victims of these violations and their family members.

Whenever necessary, news is sent by e-mail to those on the mailing lists, affording a possibility of making the case more widely known, thus avoiding human rights violations.

Filing complaints

This is the mechanism through which the competent authorities are notified of facts or offences, necessary for establishing irregularities in the judicial process or human rights violations.

Campaigns

These are series of planned actions implemented to achieve an objective. Depending on the objective, our campaigns usually consist of: Showing the documentary Seguir Siendo (Keep on Being); putting up posters; holding events at the Café Villa, discussions at schools and universities, marches, rallies, art exhibitions, and poetry readings.

Indymedia México

Our participation in this editorial collective is aimed at broadcasting news, denouncing offenses, and announcing urgent actions that have no visibility in other news media
The purpose is to collaborate with the alternative media to counteract government information and firmly establish the Committee’s credibility.

The Committee has played an important role on certain occasions, monitoring marches such as the one held on June 28, 2003, in Guadalajara, or the march protesting the World Water Forum on March 16, 2006, in Mexico City.

Radio

Broadcasts make direct communication with people possible; information about the case and the situation of other political prisoners can be disseminated, as well as information about the importance of human rights protection as an instrument.

Political-cultural circulation

Documentary

As an audiovisual way of keeping the society informed, students at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) produced two short films about the Cerezo case. These have been used to introduce conferences, discussions, or presentations of the case.

In 2004, a student at the Centro de Capacitación Cinematográfica, Emiliano Altuna, dedicated himself to the task of making the documentary Seguir Siendo. This project gives the viewer a more complete idea of the elements that make up the case. It recovers the humanity of the actors in the process and gives us a close-up view of a case of human rights violations.

This documentary has been presented at the Morelia International Film Festival, the Mexico City International Film Festival, the Voices Against Silence Festival, and other festivals in Mexico and other places. Thus, the production and presentation of Seguir Siendo is meeting its goal: making the case of the Cerezo Contreras brothers and Pablo Alvarado known to more citizens.

Discussions

In discussions with members of organizations, students, and other people, we transmit the latest news related to the case. Direct conversations with people have turned out to be the most efficient way of getting a response that allows us to provide information and transform solidarity into various kinds of reliable support that helps us follow the case.

Crafts

Another form of diffusion is the production of a variety of handmade products with the logo of the committee and the Café. T-shirts, clay mugs, pins, stickers, and bags are some of the objects produced. When people use them they spread the Committee’s image and help to create an awareness of the case.

In addition to these items, the Comité Cerezo in the city of Xalapa makes silver jewelry.

Art exhibitions

The pictorial work done by the Cerezo brothers in prison consists of several different works, mainly oil paintings; these are a good way to communicate with other sectors of the population about problems related to the prisons.
Part of the collection can be viewed at the Café Villa.

Education and training

Here, the Committee has two objectives. The first is oriented towards committee members and the construction of an educational process for developing abilities and skills in the defense of human rights, the utilization of national and international legal instruments, and an analysis of the national context.

The other objective, which extends beyond the Committee, is to share various abilities and skills among different organizations, leading to the construction of a national strategy to win freedom for political prisoners and prisoners of conscience and to a view of the defense of human rights as an important instrument for attaining justice. In order to achieve these objectives, the Committee has given the following workshops:

Transmission of experience

This is for organizations and individuals interested in learning about the Committee’s experience as an organization. It will serve them in planning their organizational actions and strategies more effectively.
Orientation and advice

This is done at the request of organizations or individuals who are susceptible to threats or who have already been threatened, with the aim of helping them see possibilities for getting out of the risk situation in which they find themselves.

Workshops

These are held to prepare, train, and reinforce skills, as well as to function as enrichment experiences for Committee members and organizations or individuals interested in the promotion and defense of human rights.

The following workshops are now held informally, in accord with the demand for them and with our own organizational possibilities:

• The Defense and Promotion of Human Rights

• Case Documentation

• Context Analysis

Systematization

It is essential for the Comité to have the necessary elements for analyzing the national reality of political prisoners and prisoners of conscience.

To this end, the production of reliable, articulate information is important in establishing credibility; such information can also be used to sustain legal arguments.

From this perspective, the following tools have been created: data bases, a mailing list, a list of prisoners, a map, a solidarity record.

Data base

This is used to acquire elements for the analysis of the national reality and for making decisions.

Data analysis serves us in analyzing the national reality and the construction of national and international strategies.

It is also an indicator of the work of different organizations and the basis of an analysis of forming ties with them and strengthening these ties.

Mailing list

This was created with the aim of disseminating news about the case. At first it only consisted of the mailing addresses of Committee members. Little by little it has grown and now consists of more than 10,000 e-mail addresses of national and international human rights organizations, social organizations, and individuals in Mexico and abroad.

List of prisoners

Regarding the question of political prisoners, one of countless problems encountered is the lack of information related to the cases. Due to the lack of an updated list, it is difficult to support family members and/or the prisoners themselves.

Therefore, it is fundamental to have a reliable national data base on political prisoners, prisoners of conscience, and prisoners unjustly held for political motives

Map

The map of political prisoners and prisoners of conscience provides elements for making an analysis of the national situation.

This tool helps to identify patterns of incidence in the cases, as well as to facilitate the analysis of the cases upon incorporating socioeconomic variables.
With regards to circulation, the map helps to visualize the problem.

Solidarity record

The idea is to generate a file of events and facts related to the case since the Committee was founded until now.
This record can serve as a reference point for similar cases and as an aid to organizations that are just beginning to work and face problems similar to those faced by the Committee.

Making ties

The Comité Cerezo has participated and now participates in different networks, fronts, and organizations, making it possible to be part of building national political projects.

This kind or participation facilitates making ties and building solidarity with other organizations whose goals are similar to those of the Committee and makes it possible to share experiences and strategies.

Solidarity

We make it a point to lend solidarity and support—insofar as it is economically, humanly, and organizationally possible—to other organizations and people who face problems related to their social activity.

Relationships with other organizations

Because of having intentionally established and strengthened relations with other organizations, it has been possible to mutually socialize accumulated experience and knowledge and thus attain a broader analytical vision, and, moreover, to strengthen the bonds of solidarity between organizations, with the aim of defining an agenda that prioritizes the defense of political prisoners and prisoners of conscience in the country.

Self-directed, sustainable projects

The permanence and continuity of the Comité Cerezo, based on the original values of the organization, is highly important.

For this reason, there is an ongoing effort to strengthen economic sustainability through solidarity. With these criteria as a framework, mechanisms have been found for obtaining material resources that facilitate the work of the Committee. Projects that have originated in these conditions are also aimed at cultural, political, and social development.

The following projects are now functioning: Café Villa, Silk screening workshop, Crafts project, and the magazine Revuelta.

Café Villa.

As a result of a tremendous effort of the Comité Cerezo in Mexico City, the Café Villa opened its doors in July 2003. The project grew out of the experience of some committee members and the need to obtain economic resources in a way that complements the work of the Committee.

As a project, the aim of the Café is to generate a space for disseminating information about the cases of political prisoners and prisoners of conscience and to motivate the exchange of experiences and work with collectives and organizations.

The Café Villa has been consolidated as a space that is open to cultural, artistic, and political events.

In the medium range, the Committee intends to resume the project that gave rise to the Café Villa: Café Chandié. The goal is to make direct purchases from coffee-producing communities in order to supply the Café Villa. In this way, it will be possible to offer processed coffee to collectives and organizations at low cost.

The long range view, insofar as possible, is to supply the Café with products generated by community organizations with goals and objectives in accord with the philosophy of the Committee.

Crafts

Over time, a series of articles have been produced bearing the logos of the Committee and the Café Villa. These t-shirts, cloth bags, pins, and clay mugs help us circulate the images in places where the items are used. Furthermore, they are a source of income.

The magazine Revuelta

In addition to making the case public and serving as a means for the Cerezo brothers who are prisoners to express themselves, the magazine Revuelta is another source of income for the Committee.

Mental health

Consequences of politically motivated repression include a rupture in the social fabric and the promotion of fear, isolation, and stigmatization; furthermore actors who exercise their political, economic, and social rights are discredited and delegitimized, as are their families and people close to them.

The imprisonment of the Cerezo brothers and the formation of the organization for the defense of the human rights of the prisoners prompted the State to carry out a number of repressive measures against members of the family, the Committee, and friends, all of whom have been harassed, followed by the police, and subjected to constant surveillance. Furthermore, they have constantly received phone calls with intimidating messages.

In view of these measures, the level of risk associated with committee work rose considerably. The activities of the members of the Comité Cerezo began to imply stress, personal fear, fear for one’s family members, insecurity, and a sense of indefiniteness in the face of the attacks by the State, given the fact that any Committee member could suffer aggression at any time. Another important aspect has been the work load involved with the initiation and implementation of all of the projects; the stress associated with these activities generated personal conflicts in the collective.

Actions for bolstering mental health

1. The brothers in prison

As the case has dragged on, mechanisms have been created to see that the Cerezo brothers in prison don’t lose touch with reality and, in so doing, to reinforce their individual identity based on their principles and life values.

Sending letters, postcards, and bookmarks

Phone calls from the prison

Making them participants in the work of the Committee to free them

Prison visits by family members and friends

Exhibition of their paintings at the Café Villa

Distribution of letters, poems, etc.

Activities of the brothers inside the prison
Writing letters, essays, poetry

Painting as cultural expression and denunciation

Academic study, when permitted by prison authorities

These mechanisms have helped them strengthen themselves psychologically and contribute to the work focused on the situation of political prisoners in Mexico.

2. The Committee

Given the stressful, high-risk situation generated by the repression, the Committee has had to generate preventive mechanisms and security measures for its members.
To this end, collective spaces and workshops have been created for the resolution of conflicts in the heart of the collective, the improvement of interpersonal relations inside and outside the group, and an evaluation of the personal situation. With respect to the last point, it’s important to mention that personalized psychological and psychiatric attention has been sought in cases that require it.

Given the constant risk situation and the increased stress due to the work load and the current political conditions in Mexico, it is necessary to gain and consolidate the support of mental health care experts and to include work on fear and the prevention of political conflicts (learning risk evaluation and the analysis of current conditions, etc.)

Due to the fact that the Committee has extended its work into other spaces where political prisoners exist, it is necessary to support family members with the idea of finding and creating spaces where ex prisoners and their family members can be attended by mental health care professionals.

V. Impact

Law enforcement by the Mexican State that does not violate any right established in the Magna Carta (Constitution) or in international treaties

A closer relationship between the Mexican society and political prisoners, prisoners of conscience, and prisoners unjustly held for political motives

For more information and/or a copy of the Comité Cerezo Project, send your request by e-mail. Thank you.

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