Antonio Esteban Cruz, leader of the Independent Popular Rural and Urban Movement of Farmers and Workers (MIOCUP) and who opposed the hydroelectric project on the Apulco river in the municipalities of Cuetzalan and Ayotoxco, was murdered on 4 July 2014.
According to members of MIOCUP, at arround 9.00 am, Antonio Esteban, who was called Tonchi by his friends, was heading to work on a plot of land known as Paso María Cristina. He was followed by several unidentified men, who shot him four times on an isolated path, where he was later found dead.
“This is the price we have to pay for informing people,” said Alfredo, another member of MIOCUP in the Cuetzalan area, referring to the fact that the organization has carried out several protests against the so-called “death projects”. On 26 January 2014, the members of MIOCUP participated in a caravan which travelled from Cuetzalan to Mexico City and which had as its aim the cancellation of three hydroelectric projects planned for the Apulco river and other rivers in the region, which were proposed by the Federal Electricity Commission. From this caravan, the Mexican Indigenous and Farmer Front (FICAM) was set up, which organized meetings in the central offices of federal entities like the Ministry of the Interior, the Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT) and the National Water Commission (CONAGUA) to discuss these projects. According to MIOCUP, after this Antonio Esteban began to receive anonymous threatening phone calls which demanded that he stop opposing the projects.
Four men were later arrested for the murder based on statements allegedly made by Antonio’s sons, which were made under threat that if they did not send these men to prison, they (Antonio’s family) would also be murdered. Also, during the investigation Náhuatl translators were not used and, therefore, Antonio’s sons were forced to sign documents without the aid of a translator. On 19 of July 2015, the four men were acquitted because Antonio’s sons did not confirm what they had supposedly said in their interviews under duress.
Activists have denounced the fact that Antonio’s death has not been investigated properly and as a result his murder remains unpunished.