Expelled Priest's Statement, Jul 10 (fwd)
ab975 at main.freenet.hamilton.on.ca
Tue Jul 11 23:10:57 MDT 1995
For those of you who like to FAX (in a good cause, of course):
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From: Harry M. Cleaver <hmcleave at mundo.eco.utexas.edu>
To: Jim Jaszewski <ab975 at main.freenet.hamilton.on.ca>
Subject: Expelled Priest's Statement, Jul 10
This posting has been forwarded to you as a service of the Austin Comite
de Solidaridad con Chiapas y Mexico.
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Date: Mon, 10 Jul 95 07:52:53 mdt
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Date: Mon, 10 Jul 1995 17:26:33 -0600 (MDT)
From: Molly Molloy <mmolloy at lib.nmsu.edu>
Subject: Solidarity--Fr. Riebe's Statement
To: mexpaz at uibero.uia.mx
Cc: Kathy Sage <ksagenmx at acca.nmsu.edu>
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Fr. Riebe, the American proest recently expelled from Chiapas, is
currently visiting Las Cruces, NM and will be in Santa Fe and Albuquerque
later in the week. He will speak to several groups and the news media.
He has provided this statement for the Internet community. Please feel
free to forward to other appropriate lists.
FR. LOREN RIEBE'S EXPULSION FROM CHIAPAS, MEXICO
July 10, 1995
My name is Loren L. Riebe. I was born in Los Angeles,
California, March 18, 1943. I am a U.S. citizen. I did my
seminary studies in Los Angeles, California and I was ordained as
a Catholic priest on January 24, 1970.
My first assignment was at St. Anne's Parish in Santa Monica,
California. In 1974 I received permission from the Archbishop of
Los Angeles to work on loan in the missionary diocese of San
Cristobal de las Casas in the State of Chiapas, Mexico. In 1983
I formally became a priest of the diocese of San Cristobal. I
was assigned to the parish of St. James the Apostle in the town
of Yajalon in 1976 where I have remained for the past 19 years.
As the only priest for over 25,000 people, most of whom are Mayan
Indians speaking Tzeltal, I have dedicated myself to pastoral
sacramental work and to the preparation of Indian lay catechists
for evangelization in the 54 villages that belong to the mission.
The Indian leaders are prepared to teach scripture, church
history and tradition.
Through the course of the years pastoral staff and I have been
asked by the Indians to facilitate the formation of a cooperative
food store, small clinic, public library, and women's weaving
cooperative. In 1990, the Indian catechists formed a non-profit
organization to purchase a 15 acre ranch that could be developed
as a residence for 45 Indian boys to attend high school. The
next year, with the help of U.S. donations, they were able to
obtain a house for the education of 25 Indian girls. There are
over 100 high school boys and girls presently who receive
scholarships from sponsors in the U.S. allowing them to attend
high school and 25 Indians are attending college.
The projects by the Indian cooperative for the rest of this year
and for 1996 include a solar photovoltaic experiment to generate
electricity, a new dormitory for 20 girls and a new dormitory for
50 more boys.
The series of events that led to my expulsion began on June 22,
1995 when Spanish-born Father Rodolfo Isal Elorz was in Yajalon
for business and shopping. At 2:00 p.m. Fr. Rodolfo left the
rectory to return to his mission in Sabanilla. Ten minutes later
a 15 year old girl came back crying and told me that Rodolfo had
been forcibly pulled out of the Datsun pickup used for public
transportation. The girl said that two men, heavily armed and
wearing civilian clothes, had taken Fr. Rodolfo. I sent two of
my lay staff to check on his whereabouts.
A short time later, two youths came to the rectory to tell me
that the parish truck had been detained at a police roadblock in
the east end of town, and that officials were demanding that I
bring the vehicle's title papers in order to get it back. The
boys told me that the "soldiers" were holding the truck, its
driver, and several of the boys from the parish Indian Boy's
Ranch at gun point. Fearing there might be trouble, I put my
passport in the car and drove to the roadblock.
When I got to the roadblock at about 3:00 p.m., some men demanded
that I go with them in a Volkswagon. When I refused, men wearing
the uniforms of the State Judicial Police forced me to get into
the vehicle. I was not allowed to get my passport from the other
car, nor would they tell me why they were arresting me or where
they were taking me.
I was forced to ride in a Volkswagon between two armed officers
for about 10 miles until we overtook a flatbed truck belonging
to the State Security Police. Father Rodolfo was in the cab of
the truck. I was forced to ride in the back of the truck for the
five hours it took to get to the state capital, Tuxtla Gutierrez.
It was cold and drizzly, and I was afraid because of the
incidents of accidents in Chiapas.
In Tuxtla, we discovered that the Argentine priest, Father Jorge
Baron, who worked in the town of Carranza, had also been
detained. He had been blindfolded and thrown into the back of a
pickup truck and had no idea where he was.
In Tuxtla, we were examined by doctors to show that we had not
been harmed physically. Photos were taken (mug shots) and we
were addressed as "prisoners." We were taken down to the cell
blocks. I remember thinking that now we were in for the "real"
interrogation. Instead, we were taken out through the back of
the building under heavy guard and put into a station wagon with
state police escort. We were driven to the military airport at
Teran, Tuxtla. A six passenger executive jet with government
markings and three armed guards was revved and waiting to take us
to Mexico City. They showed us hand cuffs, but they did not use
We arrived at the Mexico City airport around 10:30 p.m. and were
taken again at gun point, out of the jet and put into a pickup
truck. At that time I heard a guard remark, "How come there are
only three, we were expecting seven!" Then we were taken to a
special terminal building directly across the runways from the
International Terminal. There we were met by over 60 people,
including immigration officers, representatives of our embassies,
and members of the government sponsored human rights' commission
and another medical team to again show that we had not been
physically mistreated. This was the first indication that ours
was an immigration issue.
I had a talk with the U.S. Consul. He said that the Mexican
Foreign Ministry had called the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City that
afternoon to request their presence stating that a U.S. national
was being deported from Mexico. He did not know that I was a
priest or that I was from Chiapas.
When I asked how I could stop my deportation and protest the way
I had been treated, he said that it had been presented to him by
the Mexican Government as a "done deal", there was really nothing
I could do now. I would need to make any complaint to the State
Department after arriving back in the U.S. He did say that the
embassy could probably help get my car, personal belongings and
passport back. I was given an official letter of identification
as a U.S. citizen which is required for entry into the U.S.
The rest of the night was spent in an interrogation by the
immigration people asking about my time in Mexico and my work as
a priest. I told them about my 21 years in Chiapas. However,
the immigration officials seemed more interested in my supposed
political activity and asked leading questions about political
parties, political Indian groups, Zapatistas, and land takeovers.
I explained that the only political pary in Yajalon is the
official government PRI Party, the only Indian group I know of is
a Catholic non-profit organization that owns the boys and girls
residence. To my knowledge, there are no Zapatistas in Yajalon,
nor has there been any invasion of land by the Indians in my
Finally, around 8:00 a.m. on Friday, June 23, we were read our
statements and we were asked to sign the statements both in
writing and with our fingerprints. The immigration officials
then had a private ten minute meeting among themselves. They
then called each of us into a room and told us that having
studied the accusations made against us, and our own
declarations, it was their decision to expel us immediately from
Mexico, for, as they said, "engaging in activities not covered by
our immigration status." I asked to know the specific
accusations and how I could defend myself. I received no answer.
I asked for a copy of my statement and of the immigration
decision, but I was not given copies.
At 8:40 a.m., the three of us were taken aboard an American
Airline flight to Miami escorted by six Mexican immigration
officers. I was left in Miami, after 32 hours with no sleep, and
I was given $150 (U.S.) for phone calls and for travel to Los
Angeles. The Mexican officer told me she was not really
authorized to give me the money, but she felt sorry for me.
On June 23, the Mexican Department of Interior issued a public
statement that we three priests were expelled for particiaption
in political affairs.
This accusation, does not in anyway apply in my case. I was in
Mexico on a valid FM3 permit as a "minister of religion." There
have been no land takeovers in my parish nor are there
confrontations among Indian groups. My work has been entirely of
a pastoral nature, with a theme of reconciliation and peace with
My goal is to return to Chiapas. I am asking your support for a
formal inquiry into my forcible expulsion from Mexico by the
Mexican Government. I request that you support the statement of
my bishop, Samuel Ruiz, and pastoral agents of my diocese of San
Cristobal, in asking the Mexican Government to allow me to
return to my pastoral duties in the town of Yajalon, Chiapas. I
believe, as a U.S. citizen, that I have the right to an
investigation into specific accusations that have been made, and
the opportunity to clarify my situation.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR RESPONSE FOR THE PRIESTS EXPELLED FROM CHIAPAS:
1. Make intercessions via diplomatic missions, churches, and others to
denounce the explusions and seek return of the priests.
2. Draw media attention to Chiapas and Mexico.
3. Support the three expelled priests (with discretio) by enabling them
to have speaking tours, meetings with church and government officials,
and opportunities to talk about the pastoral work of the Diocese of San
Cristobal de las Casas and the current situation in Chiapas and Mexico.
4. International church representation and delegations to Chiapas are
urged immediately, especially for the next round of peace negotiations
beginning July 24.
5. SEND FAXES AND LETTERS TO:
Dr. Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de Leon
President of the Republic of Mexico
Col. San Miguel Chapultepec
11850, Mexico DF
FAX: 011 (525) 271-1764
Dr. Arturo Valenzuela
U.S. State Department
2201 "C" St. NW
Washington, DC 20520
FAX: (202) 647-5752
His Holiness Pope John Paul II
Vatican City, Rome, Italy
Please send copies to the US Congress and bishop of Chiapas. Bishop
Samuel Ruiz Garcia, Obispado San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico
29200. FAX: 011 52 (967) 83551.
The mexican government obviously doesn't want a repeat of the
Salvadoran, etc., situation. No witnesses this time...
Jim Jaszewski <jjazz at freenet.hamilton.on.ca>
WWW homepage: <http://www.freenet.hamilton.on.ca/~ab975/Profile.html>
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