Under the headline "Jailed Mexican Wins Environmental Prize" Sam Dillon wrote a report of Rodolfo Montiel's heroic struggle to save the forest near his village north of Acapulco (The New York Times, April 5, 2000). The transnational Idaho logging company, Boise Cascade, and all the government officials to whom Montiel wrote, were unmoved by his reports that laws were being broken, rivers drying up, and thousands of fish dying.
"Our defense of the forest is a struggle for our way of life," he wrote, "The earth without trees becomes a desert, because the soul of the water lives in the cool of the forest."
Montiel's formal education ended after first grade, but his lyrical plea for the trees was wisely followed up in spring 1998 by his peasant group's blockade of logging roads to stop the timber trucks. According to Dillon's article, "Gunmen have since killed several members of Mr. Montiel's rural ecological organization and last May soldiers seized and tortured Mr. Montiel, he said, accusing him of drug and weapons crimes.
"The charges were riddled with contradictions, but were enough to send him to a penitentiary pending a felony trial. One of the human rights lawyers defending him has been kidnapped, twice."
Now the Goldman Foundation has awarded him its prestigious $125,000 environmental prize and Amnesty International declared him to be a prisoner of conscience.
ACTION Write to the President of Mexico protesting the mistreatment and imprisonment of Rodolfo Montiel.
Address your letters to
President Ernesto Zedillo,
c/o Embassy of Mexico,
1911 Pennsylvania Avenue,
Washington, D.C. 20006