Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Update on the State of Siege in Juandho, Hidalgo

I just spoke with Gregorio Paredes, an SME leader in Tetepango, Hidalgo.  He is currently in hiding because the police are looking for him: they are searching houses in Juandho in an attempt to find him, and they have his father's house under surveillance.

Paredes says that the federal police (he estimates about 1,300 officers) remain in the area.  Some of the "federal police" came dressed in military uniform, he says.  There is a military base next to Juandho.

There is slightly less tension in the area as compared to last night because a lot of media and human rights organizations have arrived.  They've begun the process of documenting human rights abuses.  The federal police had originally installed blockades at all four entrances to Juandho, but now some of those blockades are being lifted.  Again, Paredes believes the arrival of human rights observers led to some (but not all) of the blockades being lifted.

The SME is not occupying the Luz y Fuerza building as was originally reported.  The SME has lifted its blockades outside the building.  The Luz y Fuerza building is controlled by the police.

Paredes says that when federal police snatched SME members and residents from the streets and their homes, they took them to the local Luz y Fuerza del Centro building, beat them, and forced them to sign documents.   However, everyone reported detained or disappeared has been released--they were all taken to the Luz y Fuerza building and interrogated and beaten, and then released.  At this point it is unknown exactly how many people were kidnapped and taken to the Luz y Fuerza building for interrogation.

Paredes complained that the federal police are supposed to be going after drug traffickers and thieves, and instead they're using their weapons against the people.  "We're workers, not thieves," he told me.

Paredes also complained the the state governor did nothing to protect Juandho residents from the federal police.  The union requested that state and local police come to the town to keep the peace, but the government did not send any officers.

The siege isn't over in Juandho--the police have not left, and they are still looking for Paredes and fellow SME leader Pablo Esparza Flores (Secretary General Martin Esparza's brother).  But Paredes reports that more and more people are arriving to support residents, so the tension has diffused slightly.
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