Secretary of state: Ongoing efforts to protect the rights of brothers jailed in Mexico
By John McPhaul
Secretary of State Omar Marrero Díaz on Tuesday summarized the steps that the Puerto Rico government has taken in the case of the Zapata Hernández brothers, who have been detained in Mexico for alleged sexual assault against a minor.
“Once the State Department became aware of the arrests of the Zapata Hernández brothers, we established immediate and direct communication with the United States Consulate in Playa del Carmen and the Mexican Consulate in Puerto Rico to guarantee their rights and due process of law,” Marrero Díaz said in a written statement. “It is important to understand that the role of the Puerto Rico Department of State is to act as a liaison between the Zapata Hernández brothers, American citizens residing in Puerto Rico, the United States Consulate in Playa del Carmen and the Mexican Consulate in Puerto Rico; also to ensure that the young people have access to guarantees and protections under applicable international law and treaties in force between Mexico and the United States.”
He noted that at the beginning of July 2021, the island State Department, through Assistant Secretary of Foreign Relations Félix Lizasuaín, guided the family members and channeled communication between the two systems so that they could receive assistance on criminal proceedings in a jurisdiction outside the United States, as in this case. In turn, they were provided with a list of lawyers validated by the consulate for their evaluation and corresponding action.
Another of the steps taken by the State Department was to coordinate a visit for the staff of the U.S. Consulate in Playa del Carmen to visit the young people in the detention center to ensure their physical integrity, that they were in good health, to receive religious visits, if required, and to confirm special nutrition service for one of the brothers.
Meanwhile, following allegations by relatives of an alleged violation of the young people’s rights, the State Department requested the intervention of the Chief of Mission of the U.S. Consulate in Playa del Carmen, Natalia Rincón.
However, Marrero Díaz indicated, the Puerto Rican brothers declined to make an official statement under oath through the consulate to raise the matter with local authorities. The secretary of state noted that this is a necessary requirement, in accordance with current regulations, to activate the corresponding diplomatic process.
“Repeatedly, the assistant secretary of Foreign Relations of the Department of State of Puerto Rico is holding direct conversations with the father of the young people, in which they discuss each procedural stage of the case, in addition to guiding them on immigration status, aid, recommendations and advice on the handling of this matter,” Marrero Díaz said.
According to the information obtained, the brothers continue to receive family visits, medical attention and supplies on a weekly basis.
“This is a case that moves the people and as a father I understand the frustration and despair of this family,” he said. “I agree to continue making all necessary efforts until the termination of this case, in accordance with the applicable rule of law. We will not lower our guard and we will continue to act with prudence and discretion so as not to affect the judicial process. Our north star will continue to be to ensure the integrity of the process.”
The brothers were supposed to be released at the beginning of November, through the collaboration of an international human rights organization. However, that release did not occur.
Both are accused of sexually abusing a minor under 17, while vacationing with their parents at the end of June, at a hotel in Playa del Carmen in Cancún.