Jesús Michel Cuen
Fellow Since 1991
This profile was prepared when Jesús Michel Cuen was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1991.
The New Idea
Jesus founded the organization Pueblo Nuevo (New People) on the southern periphery of Mexico City to end the impunity with which both the authorities and common citizens violate the human rights of others. Pueblo Nuevo does this by teaching people what their rights are and how to defend them in practical day-to-day terms.To break down feelings of helplessness in the face of unchecked power and dispiriting corruption, Pueblo Nuevo mobilizes people in groups. In multivictim cases such as mass evictions or roundups, Pueblo Nuevo organizes everybody in any way involved with the case to put pressure on the police and judiciary to investigate and bring the violators to court. In cases where only one person or a few people are directly involved, Pueblo Nuevo encourages friends and neighbors to accompany the victims pressing the resulting cases. The group has also formed a network of public service lawyers to whom they refer labor and civil grievances, cases that fall outside of the usual tight definition of human rights but which they feel are part of "the chain of human rights violations" that affect the most vulnerable.Standing up is important, but Pueblo Nuevo uses a wide array of approaches in addition to confronting violators. They understand that many violations occur because of unwarranted fears. Since such mutual misapprehension is especially likely between poor neighborhoods and the police, Jesus has developed a special program to bring together members of the community and the police to help overcome the distrust and misunderstanding so common between them. In Jesus's original zone of action, police roundups have ceased and complaints against the police have dropped dramatically.Reports of sexual and physical abuse in the home, however, have increased as Pueblo Nuevo has made it clear that these too are human rights abuses and should not be accepted passively by the victims. Demand for Pueblo Nuevo's services far exceeds the organization's capabilities. Jesus feels he must now recruit and train many more human rights defenders from the communities, and this training provides them with detailed diagnoses of important types of violations, including those that occur within homes.