Todos Santos, Baja California Sur, Mexico
June 14 2017
For almost a month, environmental activist John Moreno and an American-Mexican citizen, Joella Corado, have been jailed without bail, in La Paz, Baja California Sur, based on what appear to be falsified documents designed to silence Moreno. Moreno is the lead attorney in efforts to stop a US-based mega-development from overwhelming Todos Santos, a small town on the Pacific Coast some 45 miles from La Paz.
Friends say Corado is an innocent victim of a plot to cripple Moreno’s environmental activism. Corado, a small business owner in Todos Santos and a graduate of Los Angeles Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, had not been involved in the protests against the developers. The charges involve a legal land dispute, which was settled in Corado’s favor in 2014. Moreno was Corado’s attorney.
In 2015, Moreno took on the case of a fishing cooperative and Todos Santos citizens fighting the mega-development owned by Black Creek Group of Denver, Colorado, and its Mexican affiliate MIRA. Moreno has filed multiple lawsuits that accuse the developer of displacing local fishermen, illegally using town water, and destroying environmentally sensitive areas. For many in the community the arrests are acts of reprisal. Fisherman Rosario Salvatierra concurs: “We have no doubt who is behind this attempt to silence John.”
On May 19, agents of the State Prosecutor’s Office, armed with an arrest warrant drawn up by the Public Ministry and based on what experts say is fraudulent evidence, arrested both Moreno and Corado in Todos Santos. Judge Rosalía Cota Domínguez, while acknowledging that the evidence had been forged, nevertheless found there was probable cause to proceed against the accused and for almost a month has refused to rule on their petitions for bail.
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. 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.
Todos Santos is a town of 6,000 located on the Pacific Coast of Baja Sur, about 50 miles north of the sprawling touristic developments known as Los Cabos. Many fear their small town would become “another Cabo” should Tres Santos prevail beyond its first phase, the recently opened Hotel San Cristobal.