A government secretary in the state of Hidalgo has publicly declared there are no cases of religious intolerance in the Huasteca region, despite evidence Christians there were forced to flee their homes due to their religious beliefs.
According to religious freedom charity Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), a number of Protestant families in the village of la Mesa Limantitlawere were threatened with forcible displacement by community leaders in July and told they must make financial contributions towards local Roman Catholic festivities which conflicted with their religious beliefs.
An incident which took place in January saw another Protestant family in the Huasteca region pressured to sign a document renouncing their faith and stop attending protestant services to prevent their water and energy supplies being cut off. Two families who refused to sign such a document have had their social benefits blocked and access to basic amenities halted for the past 11 months.
Speaking to CSW one family member explained that all the government benefit programs had been taken away from them leaving them with nothing.
Speaking to news outlet Criterio Hidalgo on 16th December, government secretary of state Simón Vargas Aguilar denied any knowledge of such cases within the region claiming the incidents were the result of cultural differences rather than religious persecution.
This claim has been echoed by other Mexican senior state officials.
Under the Law of Uses and Customs, indigenous communities have the right to protect their culture and maintain traditional governing structures as long as fundamental human rights are not exploited.
Freedom of religion is a human right that supports the freedom of an individual or community, in public or private, to manifest religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship, and observance.
CSW's Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said: "We are deeply troubled by the state government's denial of any cases of religious intolerance in the Huasteca region, despite clear evidence to the contrary. Over the past year we have witnessed numerous cases of violations of the right to freedom of religion or belief, which have been exacerbated by a prevailing culture of impunity.
"We call on the Hidalgo State Governor Omar Fayad Meneses, to take swift action to address the threats against religious minorities in his state, especially in the Huasteca region, and to ensure that officials in his administration do not promote resolutions that contravene Mexico's own laws protecting fundamental human rights."