British family of missing Mexican activist plea for help from Foreign Office

Nick Evans
·2 min read
Claudia Uruchurtu on the seafront during a visit to the UK
Claudia Uruchurtu on the seafront during a visit to the UK

The British sisters of a human rights activist believed to have been abducted in Mexico say they have been confronted by a wall of silence after flying out to search for her.

Liz and Sara, who are UK and Mexican dual nationals, appealed for British police to step in more than two weeks after their sister’s disappearance.

Claudia Uruchurtu, 48, hasn’t been seen since attending a demonstration in Oaxaca state on March 26th, when witnesses saw a woman matching her description being grabbed and bundled into a car.

Her sisters fear she was targeted because of her activism and flew to Mexico 10 days ago to search for her. But they described a climate of fear in the town where she disappeared and most of what they know so far is thanks to Liz’s husband Chris Roast back in Sheffield, who is combing videos on social media.

“People saw it and nobody did anything. People are so scared,” Sara, a 46-year-old architect from Salford, told the Telegraph.

Claudia’s case has been taken up by the sisters’ local MPs, Rebecca Long-Bailey and Olivia Blake, who wrote to Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab last week asking him to pressure the Mexican government.

The family is also hoping for help from the British police. According to Mexican law, families can request outside assistance for investigations.

The impromptu protest from which Claudia disappeared in the small town of Asunción de Nochixtlán was sparked by the arrest of a local man who went to the council to claim money he was owed.

Liz, 49, a computer science lecturer at Sheffield Hallam University, said her sister “is seen on video and tape [at the protest]. You can hear her voice, the last thing you can hear is her calming people down, saying let’s come back and do this legally.”

Claudia moved to Asunción de Nochixtlán nine years ago to care for her mother and became involved in campaigns for land and Indigenous rights.

“She was forceful when something was wrong, she always defended someone from a bully. She [has] a strong sense of justice,” said Liz.

According to a human rights watchdog in Oaxaca state, more than 85,000 people have been reported missing in Mexico since 2006.

“Abductions are used as a way of silencing and intimidating people. And we’ve seen it works. Nobody wants to say anything,” said Liz. “In Mexico, it’s usually the family that finds the missing person. We can’t stop. We want her back.”

A Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office spokesperson said: "We are concerned about the disappearance of Claudia Uruchurtu in Mexico and our staff are helping her family to access support from human rights groups in the area.