Right now, the family of Ricardo Lagunes Gasca and representatives of Antonio Díaz Valencia are in Washington DC, meeting with policy makers and the international diplomatic community to push for answers and to demand accountability.

Ricardo Lagunes Gasca, a human rights and Indigenous territories lawyer, and Professor Antonio Díaz Valencia, the leader of the Nahua Indigenous community of San Miguel de Aquila, Michoacán, Mexico, were victims of enforced disappearance on January 15, 2023 for successfully defending Indigenous rights in courts.

They violently disappeared after participating in a community assembly discussing the next steps after winning the case. There are allegations that both received threats from Ternium, the company operating the Aquila mine – a company that has received scrutiny for its blatant disregard of Indigenous rights in the region.

Unfortunately, the plight of Ricardo and Antonio is far from unusual in the region. Between 2002 and 2023, 96 environmental defenders and 62 Indigenous Rights activists have disappeared.

Since their disappearance, Ricardo’s relatives have been demanding a full investigation from the United Nations Committee on Enforced Disappearances and Inter-American Commission.

Ana Lucía and Antoine Lagunes Gasca, Ricardo’s siblings, are visiting Washington D.C. this week, from November 8 to 11, for a meeting with the U.S. State Department’s Task Force of Environmental defenders, a private hearing with the Inter-American Commission, the Office of the High Commissioner and the Mexican Government, and with several allies.

They are seeking support from the international community and international organizations to advocate for the return of both defenders and achieve international technical assistance in the search and investigation in order to seek their humanitarian recovery, find the truth and seek justice in the case.

Watch a video (in Spanish) featuring the families of Ricardo and Antonio below:

One of the key demands of the People’s Movement for Peace and Justice is accountability and justice for the disappeared. Further, Global Exchange has been an ally of human right defenders in Mexico for over 30 years. Our Mexico Human Rights Senior Fellow, Alberto Solis, was contacted by the families and the lawyers of Ricardo and Antonio to support them in their visit to DC. We will be with them to make sure the US State Department follows up on their commitments with the case and the victims. The People’s Movement for Peace and Justice stands with these families, and with all the families of the disappeared.

Will you stand with us, and sign our petition calling for justice for the disappeared, as well as a set of demands to bring peace and accountability to the region?

It has been nine years and we still don’t know the full truth about what happened in Iguala, Mexico on the night of Sept 26th, 2014 when police disappeared 43 students from the rural teachers college in Ayotzinapa.

Recently, a blockbuster article in the New York Times detailed the complicity and involvement of the Mexican Army and police in cartel activity as well as the disappearance of the 43 students and the murder of 6 people that night. The students had gone to Iguala, Guerrero, Mexico to commandeer buses to travel to Mexico City to participate in protests.

Since 2014, the families of the disappeared, as well as civil society organizations both within Mexico, the United States and beyond, have demanded answers and accountability.

The first, sham investigation from the Peña Nieto administration tried to fool the parents by pointing to a site where the government planted false evidence. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) committed to finding the students and the truth and bringing the perpetrators to justice. And though his administration took early steps to fulfill his promise, it has since shut down the investigation. There is significant evidence that the Army was monitoring everything, was in telephone communication with police and cartel members, and was present as the students were being disappeared.

Independent investigators under-covered the existence of military documents that could further illuminate the full truth of what happened that night. Both the Army and AMLO deny those documents exist. The families are demanding the information be turned over.

The AMLO administration wants to move on, to achieve only a partial truth that papers over the degree of military complicity, and fails to bring all those responsible to justice.

But the families of the disappeared will not give up, and neither will we. To mark the nine year anniversary of the disappearance, civil society organizations throughout the United States and Mexico are taking action to put pressure on the AMLO government to come clean and pursue justice.

Global Exchange and our partners at the People’s Movement for Peace and Justice are organizing actions in Mexico and here in the U.S. Find more information and how you can take action with us here.

If you cannot make it to one of these in person events, we hope you can take a moment of your time to send a letter to Mexican President Obrador calling for a full accounting of the events of September 26, 2014.

Nine years is far too long. The truth must come out, no matter the cost.

Yesterday, on the  International Day of the Disappeared, Global Exchange and the People’s Movement for Peace and Justice were honored to give space and give voice to family members suffering from the tragic forced disappearance of their loved ones.  We hosted a BiNational webcast: Until We Find Them. We were joined by:

  • Pablo Centeno, father of Snider Centeno, disappeared by police forces in Triunfo de la Cruz, Garifuna territory, Honduras.
  • José Ugalde, father of Esaú Ugalde, who disappeared on September 14, 2015, at the age of 25, and three months later, was found dead.
  • Iakowi:he’ne’ Oakes,  Director of the Native American Center of New York.

The conversation was hosted by Carla Garcia of OFRENAH and Marco Castillo, Director of Global Exchange

Thank you to everyone who joined us for this powerful and emotional conversation. If you missed yesterday’s conversation, we invite you to view (and share) it here. (In Spanish here).

Forced disappearances is a growing crisis  facing our region.  In Mexico, 110,985 people were reported missing from 1964 to August 22, 2023, according to data from the National Registry of Missing or Unlocated Persons. In Honduras, according to police reports, more than 3,037 women were reported missing between 2018 and 2019. In the United States, according to the National Crime Information Center, by 2016 there were 5,712 reports of missing Indigenous women and girls.

This devastating reality does not impact everyone equally, with forced disappearances disproportionately impacting BIPOC communities, economically marginalized communities and vulnerable populations.

Today, the People’s Movement for Peace and Justice stands up to say Ignored No More.

We call on the governments of Mexico and the United States to reallocate the resources and funds they use to detain, criminalize and deport migrants to find our disappeared loved ones.

They should put the search for the disappeared at the center of the Bicentennial Agreement and any other binational security cooperation agreement.

The US government must stop the export of weapons to corrupt police and military units and end arms trafficking.

Mexico must declare a national emergency due to disappearances and involve all citizens in the search for the missing and disappeared..

And in all cases, those responsible must be identified, punished to the fullest extent of the law, and all necessary measures must be taken to protect the victims and their families.

We thank all families and organizations dedicated to searching for the disappeared. We invite the public to demand justice and not allow any Government to ignore this crisis.

Read our full statement here.

As long as one is missing, any of us can disappear.