Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Oaxaca: Paramilitaries Ambush International Aid Caravan, Two Dead

by Kristin Bricker

San Juan Copala, Oaxaca - On Tuesday afternoon at about 2:50pm, people believed to be paramilitaries affiliated with the ruling party of Oaxaca ambushed an international aid caravan en route to San Juan Copala. At least two people are reported dead.

The caravan was carrying food, water, and other basic necessities to San Juan Copala, which has been subject to a paramilitary blockade that has prevented anyone from entering or leaving the community since January. In addition to carrying much-needed supplies, the caravan was meant to accompany teachers who were returning to classes after paramilitaries denied them access to the community nearly five months ago. The caravan included representatives from the Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca (APPO), Section 22 of the teachers union, the Center for Community Support Working Together (CACTUS), Oaxacan Voices Constructing Autonomy and Liberty (VOCAL), two reporters from the Mexican magazine Contralinea, and international observers from Belgium, Finland, Italy, and Germany.

San Juan Copala has been under constant siege from pro-government paramilitaries since it declared itself autonomous following the 2006 peaceful uprising that shook the state and nearly drove the governor out of office. One such paramilitary organization, the Union for the Well-being of the Triqui Region (UBISORT), warned that the caravan could be in danger if it attempted to enter San Juan Copala. UBISORT leader Rufino Juárez Hernández told press that shoot-outs were a constant occurrence in the region, and that his organization would not be held responsible for “what could happen” to the caravan.

Reports from survivors indicate that at approximately 2:50 pm just outside the community of La Sabana, which is controlled by UBISORT, the caravan reached a blockade of rocks piled on the road. As the vehicles began to turn around to head back, they came under fire from gunmen who were hiding in the brush. “They started shooting like madmen,” says one survivor.

Monica Citlali Santiago Ortiz, 22, was shot in the back. She is being treated in a hospital in Juxtlahuaca. The total number of wounded and dead is unknown. Paramilitaries continue to blockade the area, making rescue impossible.

The paramilitaries did allow police to remove two bodies from the area this afternoon. They have been identified as Alberta “Bety” Cariño, the director of CACTUS, and Juri Jaakkola, an observer from Finland.

Survivors who fled into the brush when the caravan came under attack are beginning to surface as they make their way out of the area and into larger towns. Nonetheless, an unconfirmed number of people are still missing. VOCAL reports that two of its members remain missing after they fled into the brush. CACTUS reports another four missing, including the two Contralinea reporters and Martin Sautan, a Belgian citizen.

Paramilitaries briefly detained VOCAL member, Ruben Valencia. He reports that the gunmen took his identification and cell phone and threatened to kill him before releasing him along the side of a road.

The Oaxacan government has denied all responsibility for the attack, claiming that it had no knowledge of the caravan.

Eduardo Almeida from the human rights organization Nodo de Derechos Humanos said, “We fear that the government will use this as a pretext to militarize the region.”


Anonymous said...

The Europeans who went along on this caravan obviously had no idea how dangerous their trip would be.
The armed paramilitary groups who are maintaining the blockade around San Juan Copala are notorious for their utter disregard for loss of human life. Anyone attempting to enter San Juan should have known it would be a suicidal venture. Had they been adequately informed of the danger they were putting themselves in they never would have gone along. Did David Venegas and the rest of the local social activists (who would have been more aware of the extreme danger) adequately inform the Europeans that they were putting their lives at risk? I think not. Would you have gone along on this ill fated trip Kristen? I doubt it. Sacrifice your life only to give the military an excuse to enter the autonomous area?
Whoever organized this caravan of death are insane. It was doomed from the outset. It certainly shatters any respect I might have had for groups such as VOCAL, CACTUS and the rest. They continue demonstrate their extreme naivete and total inability to do anything positive that would effect the lives of the Oaxacan peoples. carried your post today and attracted similar comments.

Anonymous said...


I don't know why do I waste my time answering to this comment, but it might be because I knew one of the two murdered people.

You, wise anonymous, can safely talk crap about how suicidal the trying was; how naive the people is, and what a big mistake was to give an excuse to the army to enter the autonomous area.

I must said, that your afterwards wisdom comments are provably to some extent right, but to begin with, not really give any light on how to do things better; neither is something than the rest of us cannot think for ourselves; you might provably from your comfortable chair and hi-tech on-line desk, are of much more help to your own community first, and of course to other communities rather than been outside hand with hand doing any actual work.

I have to say, that I'm not the kind who is willing to risk my life for pretty much anything, that's one reason why I didn't go myself to the place when there was a public offer from an organization. I must say also, that my friend was really much aware of where was going to, in which circumstances and why was taking the risk of going there; of course, I realize that YOU don't understand that; but that's OK, why should you?

Is much better for everybody else that you and the rest of wisdom masters stays at home, watching the spectacle, ready to put your inquisitive fingertips to work in the hard task of listing down things that are already known by everybody, rather than taking action of any kind; cos I give for granted, than you don't go to peace caravans or do any other kind of activity except of hiding yourself behind your monitor and your anonymous comments.

Good luck with your no-life!!!

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Unknown said...


If it was in general knowledge that in the road to San Juan Copala, the government of Oaxaca can not ensure the security of the travellers, it would have been the responsibility of the Oaxacan government to make public and known also to foreigners the information that the road to San Juan Copala is not secure and not a usable public road since it is not in control of the government.

Anonymous said...

Were the teachers aware of something others in the caravan were? According to this proceso article published in Noticias online a contingent of SNTE Section 22 teachers who were traveling with the caravan left the group before the ambush. Their vehicle left the caravan and had not returned when the ambush occurred.

"Aunque al partir la caravana contaba con un contingente de profesores de la sección 22 del Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación (SNTE), las versiones de los sobreviventes entrevistados por Proceso confirman que antes de llegar al camino que conduce a San Juan Copala, el vehículo en el que viajaban se despegó y no lo volvieron a ver."

Unknown said...

I notice the "moderation" here in the form of missing comments. Is that due to objectionable language or otherwise, or is it censorship?

Just checking, I was looking to post some interesting information that people may be interested in seeing. A lot of times information does not support our preconcieved notions of how things are in the world.

I'll post the info anyway in Spanish and somebody can translate if they want to. I would hope that people on this site are interested in getting as much info as possible to form the most accurate opinions.

Unknown said...

Triquis, carne de cañon para políticos: Garfias
Enviado por ohernandez el 6 Mayo 2010 - 01:27.

El clima de violencia que se vive en la zona triqui, principalmente en San Juan Copala se debe a algunas prácticas culturales añejas, donde a través de la violencia resuelven sus diferencias, y para su fin, se requiere de la voluntad de la misma gente, de querer cambiar, asegura el investigador Gerardo Garfias Ruiz.

En entrevista, luego de precisar que su postura no es racista, sino que habla de acuerdo con las investigaciones y experiencia que ha tenido, agrega que no se trata de que uno u otro tenga la razón, pero “yo defenderé que los triquis, ellos solos los que determinen que hacer, si se quieren exterminar que se exterminen, si quieren vivir, que vivan” pero las autoridades tienen que mantenerse como “árbitros”.

Sin embargo, se tiene que acercar la información, es a llegarles otras formas de vida “porque el hecho de que se sigan matando no significan que sean buenos y malos”.

“Hay un asunto que no se ha resuelto, que es el asunto interno. No se puede resolver un asunto que es propio de un pueblo desde fuera”.

La situación en la zona triqui “le atribuimos a una situación ancestral, no han desarrollado los suficientes elementos como grupo humano, como para cambiar viejas prácticas”, manifiesta.Menciona que esta situación sucedía en la Costa oaxaqueña “cuando era estudiante de antropología hace 30 años, decía una antropóloga extrajera que no nos ocupábamos de hacer cosas serias para conocer a los pueblos indígenas, lo decía por la violencia en la Costa”.Para ello tuvieron que pasar años para que sus propios medios o por la influencia externa cambiara y así como cambiaron ellos, los triquis pueden cambiar “por sus propios medios o por medio de la antropología aplicada, que para unos, eso es etnocidio, terminar con una cultura”.Quien ha trabajado durante 26 años en los triquis, tanto como investigador como funcionario público, recuerda que cuando estuvo en San Juan Copala los indígenas planeaban las muertes.

“Eso no es racismo, es una realidad, cruel e inhumano, pero existe”, señala.

De acuerdo con sus vivencias, dice que entre los grupos antagónicos es una cuestión de poder, “entre la cabecera que siempre quiere mantener el poder y las agencias que siempre quieren compartir el poder, están casados, son compadres, toman juntos, y a la hora de los disparos se separan”.

Por lo que asegura que hay una comunicación entre ellos.

Las diferencias crecen cuando llega un externo

“Esas diferencias propias de cualquier conglomerado humano, como se llame, violencia, enemistad, enfrentamiento, crecen cada que un factor externo llega a la población.

Y el caso claro fue el hecho que se registró el 27 de abril de 2010, donde murió un ciudadano de Finlandia y una mexicana.

Cuando los grupos se quieren juntar, se juntar, dos son los que mantienen el control, Ubisort y MULT y el día que quieran desaparecer a un tercer grupo, lo harán, porque lo han hecho en otros años, sostiene.

Refiere que al ingresar a esta población, aunque uno trate de mantenerse de manera neutral, en medio, tarde o temprano, se llega a tomar una postura por algún grupo.

“Porque no se puede quedar bien con uno y con otro, no se permite, es casi imposible, y por desgracia, permaneciendo ahí, uno toma partido sin quererlo”, abunda.

Reitera que no existen buenos ni malos, pues en los 80, los buenos eran los que conformaban el Movimiento Unificador de Lucha Triqui (MULT) “era la avanzada, los proguerrilleros”, a quien se tenía que apoyar porque se les había matado a su gente.

Según el investigador, un grupo al que ahora se conoce Unión de Bienestar Social de la Región Triqui (Ubisort) que controlaba la cabecera municipal había matado ocho triquis, vino Amnistía Internacional “porque había que proteger a los indios buenos que eran los del MULT”. Hoy, los paramilitares son los del MULT, indica.


Unknown said...

I think that the article in Spanish represents the racism that is touched on in this article:

The conflict is complicated, and does involve a lot of infighting, but for Garfias to deny the state government's continuing role in creating and exacerbating the conflict, well, it's disingenuous. But Garfias is denying his own role as well--he has worked in several PRI administrations in Oaxaca, including under current Gov. Ulises Ruiz Ortiz. Ulises Ruiz Ortiz, if you'll recall, is a murderer and an ASSHOLE.

Just because a PRI-ista and government official claims he's not being racist doesn't mean he isn't. In fact, in my experience, when someone starts a sentence with "Look, I'm not saying this to be racist but..." it's ALWAYS followed by a disgustingly racist statement.

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