Friday, March 26, 2010

Oaxacan Community Organizer Attacked by Soldiers

by Kristin Bricker

A few days ago two soldiers entered the home of Omar Esparza, a prominent organizer from Huajuapan de Leon, Oaxaca, and leader of the Zapatista Indigenous Agrarian Movement (MAIZ).  They appear to have stolen a computer.

When Esparza came home and found them inside, the two soldiers beat him, threatened his neighbors and fellow community organizer Alberta Cariño with guns, and then retreated to their military base.  It is unknown if the soldiers have been sanctioned.

One of the more disturbing aspects of this story is that it appears as though Esparza's nanny let the soldiers in the house and was fraternizing with them, although that hasn't been confirmed.

It is worth pointing out that just a few weeks prior to this incident with the soldiers, local police arrested Esparza for allegedly double-parking his car, an offense he claims he did not commit.  Five patrol cars and about thirty-five police officers carried out that arrest.  Members of MAIZ and the Center for Community Support Working Together (CACTUS)--both members of the Zapatistas' Other Campaign--blocked a road to demand Esparza's release.

Esparza's organization, MAIZ, declares itself against the militarization of the country.  "The country is immersed in permanent violence," it writes, "in a war that personally affects all of us, particularly those of us who seek to change this country."

MAIZ's entire communique, which outlines the incident with the two soldiers, follows:

To the Other Campaign
To the Media
To National and International Human Rights Organizations

On March 23 at about 11:30pm in Huajuapan de Leon, Oaxaca, when Omar Esparza, member of the organization MAIZ (Zapatista Indigenous Agrarian Movement) was returning home, he found two drunk and high men in the room that belongs to Nancy Villanueva, the young lady who takes care of his children.  She was also drunk, almost to the point of being unable to stand up.  When Omar attempted to find out what was happening, Miss Villanueva was unable to respond.  Immediately Omar Esparza requested that the two men leave his house.  The men began to insult him, threaten him, and beat him.  During the scuffle, at 11:42pm, Omar managed to call the municipal police so that they would come to his aid.  Neighbors started coming out when they heard the commotion, amongst them the landlady and Alberta Cariño, the director of CACTUS (Center for Community Support Working Together).

Upon seeing the neighbors' response, the two assailants ran from the house and escaped in a blue Volkswagen sedan with license plates from the state of Puebla.  Twenty minutes later the municipal police showed up.  Alberta Cariño and Soledad Bravo went outside to tell the officers what had happened.  Two minutes after the patrol car drove off, the assailants came back, insulting Alberta and Soledad and threatening them with firearms, causing both women to run into the house.  Omar Esparza left in his vehicle to try to find police who would help and because he was afraid that the assailants would come back.  Two blocks ahead, Omar found the assailants' vehicle and began to follow it.  After a little while two white trucks appeared, one a Nissan and one a Ford Ranger, both with emergency lights on their roofs and apparently from the State Investigation Agency [state police from the State Attorney General's Office], who began to pursue the assailants' blue VW.  Five kilometers later, the assailants entered the Mexican military's 23rd Company Independent Infantry barracks, which is located in Huajuapan de Leon, Oaxaca on kilometer 2.5 on the highway to Acatlima.

Immediately several soldiers came out to help the assailants and let the blue VW enter.  Soldiers and agents from the State Investigation Agency (AEI), the latter being under the command of the assistant director general of the AEI in Huajuapan, Eduardo Lopez Garcia.  Then the soldiers approached the AEI agents and requested a report.  Assistant Director Eduardo Lopez told them that they were following the assailants because of the way they were driving and to aid the victims.  At that moment, at about 12:20am, the presence of the zone's colonel or officer in charge was requested so that he could comment on the issue.  A military official came out.  He appeared to be high-ranking due to his insignia and the fact that he was giving orders to military personnel.  Omar Esparza identified himelf and requested that he be told the assailants' names.  Minutes later they told him that their names are David Bravo Gonzalez and Juan Carlos Bravo Gonzalez, members of the National Defense Ministry's 23rd Company Independent Infantry (CINE).

Upon returning to his home, Omar realized that a computer belonging to Emiliano Gomez Izaguirre was no longer on the table where he had left it.  It is possible that the assailants entered his house and stole it.  Omar Esparza suffered some injuries and threats, and there is fear that there will be retaliation against him, his children, or his family.  For this reason we place hold military officials responsible for any attack or attempted coverup.  Likewise, a complaint has been filed with the district attorney's office and Criminal Investigation 405/HL/2010 has been opened.  Moreover, a complaint has been filed with the National Human Rights Commission.

The Zapatista Indigenous Agrarian Movement makes an urgent call to human rights organizations, unions, solcial organizations, and the people to monitor the outcome of this situation.  The country is immersed in permanent violence, in a war that personally affects all of us, particularly those of us who seek to change this country.

We are against the militarization of the country!
Cease the intimidation of community organizers and defenders!

Zapatista Indigenous Agrarian Movement
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