Aarón Varela Martínez

Aarón Varela Martínez was a lawyer who worked for a while in the Public Prosecutor’s Office, but he rarely litigated; instead, he devoted himself to his small business, where he sewed shirts. He was married, had three children and is said to have been was a very reserved person with regards to his private life. He was, however, well-known and loved in the town of Ocoyucan in Puebla, Mexico, and when he was killed in March 2018, a group of townspeople held a demonstration demanding justice for his death.

Upon joining the political party Morena, Aarón started doing canvassing work, going from house to house to invite people to join the movement. Aaron did good work and when the opportunity arose to put himself forward as a candidate he did so. Violeta Becerril, an activist with Morena in Ocoyucan who worked with Aaron, said that he was slow to gain momentum but eventually developed quite the following because the citizens saw in him a person who was looking for change.

Aarón’s murder on 1 March, 2018, complicated the political landscape at a municipal level and diminished Morena’s strength, party members said. Violeta Becerril, Isauro Mécatl Mones and Pedro Juárez, all three of whom hail from Ocoyucan and are organisers for Morena, agree that Aarón Varela was the movement’s most powerful figure and that he represented a real possibility of ending the dominance of rival organisation Antorcha Campesina over the social landscape (in a press release, the organisation condemned the crime and denied any connections to the murder.)

Violeta Becerri said that Aarón only wanted citizens to have what is rightfully theirs: basic services such as drinking water, drainage systems and garbage collection. This may seem like an obvious demand, but such services are not available to everyone in the town. Isauro Mécatl and Pedro Juárez explained that public services in Ocoyucan are not easily accessible and that the main deficits are drinking water, drainage systems and roads. These services generally reach only the neighbourhoods whose inhabitants are affiliated with Antorcha Campesina. If someone is not affiliated with the organization, they said, that person does not have access to these services. The organisation and the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) have dominated the area for three decades.

Although there is no official statement or specific line of investigation, Aarón’s companions believe that the killing had a political motive because it was the only strong and true opposition in this municipality, currently governed by the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI.) “His death surprised us all and unfortunately, in losing him we lost the hope of giving this town another face, “said Violeta.

Written by Animal Politico

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Date of Killing:01/03/2018

Previous Threats:No

Type of Work:Community leader


Sector or Type of Rights the HRD Worked On:Civil and Political Rights, ESC Rights

Sector Detail:Abuse of power/corruption, Housing Rights, Right to Health

More information:Front Line Defenders

1This database records an individual's chosen gender identity. If they do not self-identify as male or female they can use the option of recording other/neither or use the term NBGI (non binary gender identity).