José Raúl Vera López (1945), catholic bishop of Saltillo, Mexico, was awarded the 2010 Rafto Prize for his struggle for human rights and social justice. He is an uncompromising critic of power abuse and a fearless defender of migrants, indigenous peoples, and other groups at risk in Mexican society.
Bishop José Raúl Vera López is characterized as one of the most courageous critics of human rights violations in today’s Mexico. Endangering his own security, he speaks out loudly and without fear against human rights violations, corruption, power abuses and the absence of the rule of law.
Raúl Vera’s focus is on the vulnerable and excluded. He is engaged in struggles for the rights of indigenous peoples, poor peasants and workers, and the impunity for abuses committed by army and police personnel. Bishop Vera has given voice to prisoners, and criticised how poor people are criminalized. Contrary to the majority of the clergy, he speaks out in support of gays and lesbians as well as prostitutes. He insists that those in positions of power must be held accountable, and emphasizes that vulnerable groups in society must be made aware of their rights. As a vital tool in building awareness and empowerment, he founded Brother Juan de Larios Centre for Human Rights (Centro Diocesano para los Derechos Humanos Fray Juan de Larios).
By awarding the Rafto Prize 2010 to José Raúl Vera López, the Rafto Foundation wanted to draw attention to the dramatic and worsening human rights’ situation in Mexico, where the government’s attempt to contain the spiralling of violent crime has lead to a militarization of society that has caused human rights to deteriorate even further. At the same time, we wanted to raise awareness of José Raúl Vera López's efforts to improve this situation.
'The migrants bear witness of a new life, and remind us that a different world is possible. They wish for a better life for themselves and their families, and risk their lives to make the wish come true'.