José Antonio Arreola and José Luis Jiménez are Purépecha indigenous rights defenders and members of the Consejo Ciudadano Indígena de Nahuatzen (Indigenous Citizens’ Council of Nahuatzen). The Indigenous Citizens’ Council is a direct democracy-style community government in the state of Michoacán, which began a process of gaining autonomous status for the indigenous community in 2015, and has worked to defend the rights of the indigenous people of Nahuatzen. José Antonio Arreola and José Luis Jiménez are part of the Indigenous Citizens’ Council, which, in 2017 was recognized as an indigenous authority by the Electoral Tribunal of the State of Michoacán and the Federal Government of Mexico. In addition, José Gerardo Talavera, who supports the council by renting out a space for it to carry out its functions, was also sentenced to prison on the same charge.
The three were arrested when they were evicted from the offices of the National Development Sistem (DIF), accused of stealing a vehicle and other objects that were in the offices a few days before.
José was detained in his home in the community of Nahuatzen on November 11, 2018. He was responsible for the security of the community. The authorities entered his home without a warrant, without even knocking or waiting for him to open the door. Rather, they broke in violently, threatening and scaring his small children and wife. They violently beat his 15-year-old son, since he resisted the arrest of his father. It is worth mentioning that José was sleeping with very little clothing. He was violently detained and not allowed to dress himself, leaving his children and wife in shock from the traumatic experience. Once he was detained, a convoy of three or four vans of police agents took him away. En route to the regional prosecutor’s office in Uruapan, they stopped at the Paracho sandbank, where he was taken from the vehicle and severely beaten, and threatened with death. They once again threw him into the vehicle, arriving at the prosecutor’s office at approximately 8:00 am. There he was beaten again. He spent the night in the prosecutor’s office, and the next day was transferred to the Eduardo Ruiz prison of Uruapan. Here he has been held for much of the time in an isolation cell.
In a telephone interview with Let's get uninformed, Arreola points out that as a community they decided "to stop being trampled on by political parties," and "to fight against a corrupt government where organized crime is," with the exercise of their autonomy and self-determination, he says, like other communities from the Purépecha plateau in Michoacán, as in the case of Cherán.
Their case number is 182/2018. Following a trial full of inconsistencies, including unsubstantiated evidence and witness statements that contradict facts, on 23 October 2019, the judge of the Centro de Reinserción Social (Centre for Social Reinsertion), Eduardo Ruiz, from Uruapan, Michoacán, ruled that the defenders committed the crime of “sabotage.” It is believed that the sentence against them is an act of retaliation against their work and that of the Indigenous Citizens’ Council of Nahuatzén, in the fight for self-determination for the Nahuatzén community. Their case is supported by the social organizations Serapaz and Red Solidaria.
In 2021, the highest court of justice in the nation determined that it will review the case. The court ruled for the immediate release of José Antonio Arreola and José Luis Jiménez on February 9, 2022.