by Jamie Sechrist
TODOS SANTOS, BCS, MX–Chief John J. Moreno, of the traditional Council of Chiefs at Crow Dog’s Sundance, Rosebud, Lakota Territory, has been jailed in La Paz, Baja California Sur, Mexico, in what looks like an effort to silence the young environmental attorney.
Moreno, lead attorney for local fishermen and the Todos Santos community against a mega-development, here in Todos Santos, was arrested Friday, May 19, using an old and settled land dispute case. The landowner, Joella Corado, an American- Mexican citizen was also jailed.
Moreno has participated with his family in the traditional Lakota Sun Dance Ceremony since he was seven years old. In 2010, he became a member of the Sundance Chief’s Council and an international representative in Mexico and Europe. In 2012, he travelled to Italy where he signed, as an Honorary Tribal Member of the Lakota Sicangu Nation, The Perpetual Peace and Friendship Agreement Between the Traditional Council of Chiefs of the Lakota Nation and the Provinces of Florence, Prato, Pistoia, and the Municipality of Vaino – Repubblica Italiana.
Moreno’s personal attorney, working with forensics experts immediately proved that the papers used to justify the arrest were actually forged. Nonetheless, the two remain jailed without bail, awaiting a federal court decision.
Attorney Arturo Rubio Ruiz calls the case a blatant example of the “corruption tainting the Baja California Sur legal system,” and that evidence had been falsified in a manner he called “comically obvious.” Rubio Ruiz has filed before a federal judge to overturn the state judge’s decision.
The jailing comes on the heels of a 14-chapter lawsuit Moreno filed in February against the mega development known as Tres Santos, a project of The Black Creek Group of Denver, Colorado, and its Mexican subsidiary MIRA. The project has the backing of the state governor, Mendoza Davis, who just prior to the arrests spent a morning with MIRA CEO Javier Barrios.
Meanwhile, the lawsuits Moreno filed in state and federal courts, on behalf of those opposing the development, detail the violations of State and Federal environmental laws and the regional urban development plan.
Immediately upon his arrest, supporters of Moreno filed an “amparo” (protection order) to recognize his spiritual beliefs and cultural heritage under “freedom of worship.” The “amparo” was necessary to protect Moreno from having his long hair cut and allowed for certain provisions of protection while imprisoned.
The lawsuits filed by Moreno challenge the location of Tres Santos’ boutique beach hotel development at Punta Lobos arguing that that the hotel illegally took over a beach belonging to the fishing cooperative, is in violation of laws pertaining to the federal zone, is on protected fragile dunes, and destroyed vital wetlands. Additionally the development is drawing on the fragile aquifer that supplies the small town’s water, despite having promised to “not use a drop of Todos Santos’ water.”
Soon thereafter, a dossier was leaked to the Moreno family making it clear that Tres Santos’ representatives were researching old files, looking for a line of attack on Moreno. Despite a judgment in Corado’s favor and the closing of the case, it became the excuse for jailing the two.
The development threatens to overwhelm the small town of Todos Santos, nearly tripling its population of 6,000 with construction of 4,472 homes over twenty-five years.
Attorney Arturo Rubio Ruiz calls the case a blatant example of the “corruption tainting the Baja California Sur legal system,” and that evidence had been falsified in a manner he called “comically obvious.” Commented Forensic Investigator Humberto Franco Merlos, “If the Procurador forged documents to arrest Moreno, what will happen when someone we love, or we ourselves, are arrested based on fabricated evidence?”
Protesters have filled El Congreso, fishermen marched in Todos Santos, demonstrations in front of the prison have been non-stop, and over 150 organizations have signed a letter to BSC Governor Carlos Mendoza Davis decrying this “egregious human rights violation.” The American Consulate is watching Corado’s case and monitoring threats against several other US citizens who have opposed the development.
An on-line petition at change.org online petition has been launched
Run for Freedom – CSU Lory Student Center, Ft Collins, CO followed by run to State Capitol in Denver, Event Page
John Moreno Defense Fund
Joella Corado Website and Defense Fund
Patrimonio is a documentary that is currently in progress that covers the entire struggle with the mega development Tres Santos. Please visit their page
Truth Santos is a website that covers all the aspects of the issues with the development Tres Santos
Baja Sur TV covers live footage and informational releases in regard to the development Tres Santos
Jamie Sechrist is a 40 year old U.S. Citizen that lives in Todos Santos, BCS, MX as a full time resident. She works mostly for non-profit organizations to help with fundraising and promotional efforts. For two years she has been involved with helping the Fishermen of Punta Lobos and the town of Todos Santos to raise awareness of the impacts that Colorado-based Black Creek Capital’s mega development Tres Santos has caused in this small town in Baja California Sur. For these efforts she has earned herself a lawsuit, persecution on social media, defamation in local media, and fled the country in January 2016 for fear of government reprisals. In February 2016 she received a protection order called an amparo which enabled her to return to Mexico without fear of repercussions.
Video from Oct 15, 2015, at Punta Lobos, Jamie Sechrist: https://www.facebook.com/jamie.sechrist/videos/vb.1615008376/10204326181067382/?type=3&theater
Video from Jan 26, 2015 fleeing Mexico: