[WHRD Alert] MEXICO / Searching defender Catalina Vargas, who has been disappeared since July 17th in León, Guanajuato, was found alive.

The United for the Disappeared Collective reported that defender Catalina Vargas was found alive at noon on Monday, July 24.

Last Monday, July 17, 2023, rights defender Catalina Vargas was disappeared after communicating with her sons and daughters. She told them that she was arriving at her residence in the Presidents of Mexico neighborhood in the city of León, state of Guanajuato.

Catalina Vargas belongs to the United for Leon’s Disappeared Collective, which she joined after her son vanished on January 1, 2020.The collective, which is made up of persons searching for their disappeared sons, daughters, and family members, continues to search for him while demanding his localization alive.

As of January 2022, the National Network of Women Human Rights Defenders in Mexico has documented the assassination of six women defenders searching for loved ones. The Network also reports a number of ongoing attacks against searchers for the forcibly disappeared and defends their right to justice, truth, and memory in the grave context of violence besetting the country. These attacks include acts of surveillance, threats, physical aggression, assassinations, and disappearances.

Especially troubling is the situation in the state of Guanajuato, where the assassinations of at least three searching defenders have been registered.

We of the National Network of Women Human Rights Defenders in Mexico, IM-Defensoras, the Platform for Peace and Justice in Guanajuato, and the United for Leon’s Disappeared Collective demand the immediate localization of our searching defender companion Catalina Vargas, as well as the protection and security of her family and members of her collective.

We demand that the National Mechanism for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and the National and Statewide Search Committees engage in effective actions for the live localization of Catalina Vargas, and that these entities promote the coordination of searches by state and local authorities with those of the United for Leon’s Disappeared Collective.

We exhort the Mexican government to guarantee conditions of security and protection for the mothers and family members of disappeared persons, who, in their searches, become defenders of the right to truth, justice, and reparations as they expose themselves to a situation of risk, violence, and aggression.

Finally, we call on the international community to acknowledge the extremely serious problem of forced disappearances in Mexico and the violence encountered by searching defenders and to stand in solidarity with them, their organizations, and their collectives.

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