WRONGLY ARRESTED ON STREET. On the afternoon of May 3, 2023, Xochitl Ramirez Velasco was detained on the street by three police officers in Cuernavaca, Morelos, very close to the office of Atzin Mexico.
Xochitl, a 43-year old Indigenous woman, was driven to the state prosecutor's office and while kept in a room for five hours, forced to sign several pages of text that she was not allowed to read, including a blank sheet of paper. At approximately 8:00pm Xochitl was transported to Atlacholoaya state prison and continues to be held there.
TWO HEARINGS – HER RIGHTS TRAMPLED. During her initial hearing before a judge on May 4, Xochitl was given a copy of the arrest warrant, actually issued four years previously on March 24, 2019, and only then realized that she was charged with aggravated kidnapping, an actual crime that occurred on March 9, 2019. (An aggravated kidnapping occurs when committed to obtain a ransom and/or with use of a deadly weapon. In the actual crime, both were used: weapons and a demand for ransom.)
At her second “private” hearing on May 9, with no opportunity to declare her innocence or have family members or supporters present, the judge decided to hold Xochitl, again without bail, until a third hearing to be scheduled in two months. This allows little time for evidence of her innocence to be gathered and presented. A final decision on her future would then be pending.
SOLID HISTORY WITH ATZIN AS COORDINATOR OF PROGRAMS. Xochitl has worked full-time at Atzin Desarrollo Comunitario A.C. (Atzin Mexico) since 2005, initially as an intern and office assistant and since 2010, as coordinator of our social development programs, reporting to the director. Atzin is a registered charity in Mexico since 2008 and is also registered in Canada since 2009 (www.atzin.org).
DEMONSTRATED GREAT DEDICATION FOR YEARS. Aware of the risks involved, Xochitl has worked tirelessly and with great dedication as a human rights defender and community organizer to alleviate extreme poverty and its consequences. She actively participates in different networks and organizations, including: National Network of Human Rights Defenders Mexico; National Network of Indigenous Women (RENAMITT); and the National Indigenous Congress (CNI).
SINGLE MOTHER OF DEPENDENT ADULT SON. A single mother, Xochitl has one son, Kevin Manuel Rivera Ramírez, 22 years old. Kevin is deaf since birth, communicating via sign language and writing. With Xochitl's constant support, Kevin is currently studying as a freshman in university.
AT GREAT RISK TO HER HEALTH. Since childhood, Xochitl has had seizures caused by cysticercosis, diagnosed by neurologists and controlled with medication. While in prison, to date she suffered seven grand mal seizures and continues to be at risk for further seizures and the consequent difficulties with memory and brain fog, related to inadequate medical care, a dramatic increase in stress, sleeping on a concrete floor with only a sheet in an overcrowded holding room, and without correct access and adjustments to her daily medications.
MISTAKEN IDENTITY. We know that a woman and three or four men, carried out the kidnapping on March 9, 2019, and held the female victim for four days. Shortly after her rescue on March 12, 2019, the traumatized victim described a “robust woman with brown skin” (with no other characteristics) as a participant in the kidnapping, and identified Xochitl as that person in a photo lineup. The prosecutor apparently focused in on Xochitl because an ex-boyfriend, with old photos of Xochitl on his cellphone, was captured with two other men during the rescue of the victim. Each was sentenced to 70 years in prison. This is a complicated file involving multiple parties.
100% INNOCENT – NO INVOLVEMENT. Xochitl is innocent. She had nothing to do with this, or any other crime, before, during or after its occurrence. On the day of the actual kidnapping, she was working with me and the Atzin team in Tlamacazapa, and on subsequent week days, in the Atzin office. We are acting quickly as a team to reconstruct an accurate accounting of Xochitl’s activities during March of 2019.
HELP US FREE XOCHITL. Three experienced lawyers from the Mexican Institute of Human Rights and Democracy (Instituto Mexicano de Derechos Humanos y Democracia, IMDHD), based in Mexico City, will guide a strategic judicial defense and the gathering of evidence. Working as a team, we are focused on this work, including the building of a network of influential people and organizations to put pressure on the judicial system to recognize this case of mistaken identity, while the promoters in Tlamacazapa carry on with the education, health and environmental programs.
Without all this, the risk of an innocent person being sentenced is high.
DONATE FOR JUSTICE. If you believe in justice, and want to support freedom for Xochitl, donate by clicking on the button below. When making your donation, please indicate “Freedom Fund” on the comments line of the donation form.