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March 29, 1999

Mexican human rights activist to visit campus April 7

By Jennifer McNulty

Hilda Navarrete, a grassroots activist fighting against human rights violations in Mexico, will speak on Wednesday, April 7, at 7 p.m. Her talk will take place in the Baobab Lounge at Merrill College. The event is free and open to the public.

Navarrete will address the root causes of social injustice and political repression in her home state of Guerrero, Mexico. She will discuss atrocities being committed over the last 50 years by the army and government authorities against peasants, indigenous people, and workers, and she will report on the human rights violations suffered by human rights defenders.

Navarrete has led campaigns on behalf of those who have "disappeared" or been detained arbitrarily by local police and army authorities. Because of her work, she has received death threats that prompted Amnesty International to issue an Urgent Action Alert.

Navarrete is a veteran political activist. During the 1980s, she was a member of the Revolutionary Institutional Party (PRI), and in 1988 she joined the National Democratic Front, which later became the Partido de la Revolución Democrática (PRD). In the 1990s, she distanced herself from political parties to work for broader democratic participation by promoting human rights. In 1990, she founded the human rights center "La Voz de los sin Voz," which translates as The Voice of the Voiceless.

The Zapatista uprising of 1994 called attention to the poverty and human rights violations taking place in southeastern Mexico, but less attention has been paid to human rights abuses and armed conflicts in other parts of Mexico. The state of Guerrero, in particular, has been the site of repression and struggle for social and political justice for nearly five decades. The 1990s have ushered in a new cycle of "disappearances," torture, and assassination. Many targets of state-sponsored violence have been engaged in peaceful political and grassroots activism, and the violence has occurred in the context of military and police actions presented as counterinsurgency activities.

Navarrete's UCSC appearance is being sponsored by the UCSC Women's Center, the Latin American and Latino Studies Program, and the Chicano/Latino Research Center.

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