Help save San Juan Copala

Paramilitary groups operate in Mexico

People open your eyes,
Lift your face,
Don’t give up,
Long Live Mexico,
Long Live the Mixteca.”
Betty Cariño (†)

“The community of San Juan Copala in southern Mexico is surrounded by paramilitaries. Those trying to break the siege have been threatened, attacked or killed. Despite media attention on the area since a local human rights defender and an international observer were killed, the federal and state authorities have not taken action to end the siege.”

Thus begins the Amnesty International report 41/03/2010, published may 10, 2010, entitled: Community Under Siege in Mexico.

On Thursday May 20, two more were killed: Timoteo Alejandro Ramirez (45) and his wife Cleriberta Castro (35). Timoteo was the leader of the Triqui indigenous  community in Yosyuxi, and one of the main drivers of the Autonomous Municipality of San Juan Copala, that since last November 28th, 2009 , has been under siege.

The Community has been surrounded by snipers of two paramilitary groups, one them stem from the social organization: UBISORT (Unit for the Social Wellbeing of the Triqui Region), also affiliated to the once ruling party and main political force in Mexico, the PRI (Revolutionary Institutional Party). The other group is MULT (Triqui Unification and Struggle Movement).

It is important not to mistaken this last group (MULT) with MULTI (Independent Triqui Unification and Struggle Movement).

The situations goes beyond Dantesque: the residents cannot be access nor leave, there are eight hundred (800) men, women and children in total confinement. Shootings with high caliber machine guns, threaten them day and night. The snipers had cut off all services, meaning no drinking water, electricity or phone lines for these 800 hostages. There is no food or medicine, and the residents of the San Juan Copala Municipality had been eating old tortilla chips and drinking polluted water, which is the only few things they have at hand.

Only women and children are allowed to step out from their houses, at certain hours of the day, and quickly. No vehicles are allowed to access or to leave town, whoever tries is prevented to do so, even by force. That was the case of the Peace Caravan that on his way to Copala, with the intention to bring humanitarian aid. On April 27, they were ambushed in the region known as “La Sabana” by several heavily armed masked men, resulting in the tragic deaths of the  beloved local human rights activist Alberta Cariño (Betty) and the Finnish human rights observer Jyri Antero Jaakkola, as well as in an undetermined number of injured by bullet grazed, including journalists.

Oaxaca’s infamous governor, Ulises Ruiz (PRI), has declared more than once that because of the high level of conflict in the region, not even the Federal Police enters it. In the Municipality of San Juan Copala, an old military post that has been abandoned for months, now is one of the shooting points of preference for the snipers, as can be witnessed in the excellent work of journalism done by the news team of the Mexican weekly magazine: Contralínea formed by Miguel Badillo, Zósimo Camacho and Julio Hernandez.

Here is the link to one of their videos.

This video began to circulate through social networks at the beginning of May and has become priceless from several perspectives: as pure journalism, as a testimony of the severe humanitarian crisis generated in the region, and finally, as a condemnation of the flagrant irresponsibility both from the federal Mexican government, as well as the State of Oaxaca.

Background of the Conflict

In 2006, MULTI the organization lead by the now deceased, Timoteo Alejandro Ramirez, joined the Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca (APPO), and convened later that same year, the establishment of an Autonomous Municipality, in the heart of the political and ceremonial center of the Triqui people: San Juan Copala.

The establishment of this Municipality was declared in January 2009; by then, dozens of other communities previously affiliated with UBISORT (PRI) and the MULT joined the MULTI initiative in support of the formation of the autonomous municipality. The new authorities were elected according to the customs of Triqui culture, ignoring the previous “official” authority, and acting always, this must be stressed, in a peaceful manner.

Since then, dozens of members and promoters from MULTI had been ambushed and assassinated by, allegedly, agents from MULT and UBISORT, and from November 28, 2009, these same groups bordered the region imposing a permanent curfew on San Juan Copala.

The new autonomous authorities do not recognize political parties and are pressing for the budget items to be allocated by the Government directly to the Triqui people, to be delivered to the indigenous communities to improve living conditions in these villages, instead of giving them to whom traditionally had misused these funds: landlords and leaders of armed groups. This is not an option that the paramilitaries and the powers they represent would respect, and now that Oaxaca is in the midst of electoral campaigns and elections to be held on July 4th, an entire town is taken hostage to securing the comeback of the old fouled political practices.

What next?

For 8 June, a second Caravan for Peace and Humanitarian Aid to Copala is convening.

The following Web sites and Facebook page are doing an excellent job in publishing and disseminating information related to the state of things in Oaxaca, as well as he organization for the Caravan, including collections of donations, food, medicine, etc.:

http://todosconlacaravana.blogspot.com/

Facebook / Yo me sumo a la caravana humanitaria a Copala, aunque desde ladistancia.

We will continue to inform on this subject

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