Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Only the People Defend the People: Guerrero Human Rights Center Weighs in on Uprising

by the Tlachinollan Human Rights Center of la Montaña
translated by Kristin Brickier

Photo: Blog del Narco
On Saturday, January 5, 2013, at about 11pm, citizen Eusebio Alvarado García, commissioner of Rancho Nuevo, Tecoanapa municipality, was taken by force from his home by people who belong to the criminal groups that have overrun the Ayutla region.  Eusebio had recently arrived at his home with the news that he had been elected a subcommander of the Community Police.  That afternoon there was a regional assembly of the authorities of El Portrero, which is also in Tecoanapa, where there were also representatives from other municipalities such as Cuautepec, San Marcos, Cruz Grande, and Ayutla.  Previously, the communities in this corridor of the Costa Chica met to plan joint actions against organized crime, which for years has dominated as the scourge of the indigenous and peasant communities because of the authorities' indifference at all three levels of government.

According to residents, the situation became unbearable because of the cruel and abusive manner in which these groups acted.  That's why, in the assembly on Saturday they felt the pressing need to construct a basic structure that would confront this de facto power.  Various groups of police were formed, each with its own commander, who were given the order to practice armed self defense when faced with any circumstance that would put the fiscal safety, freedom, or life of their compañeros and compañeras in the struggle at risk.

The unease and outrage had risen due to the kidnapping of a commander from Ahuacachahue in the Ayutla de los Libres municipality.  The people managed to identify which persons had carried out this criminal act.  Days afterwards, due to a teachers union conflict that affected the entire Me'phaa indigenous community of Plan de Gatica, the municipal commissioner was the victim of a kidnapping.  The community's immediate reaction led to the compañero's release in Acapulco.  Likewise, as a result of their investigation, the community knew who the intellectual and material architects of the crime were.  The worst was when a citizen from that same town was murdered on December 26, 2012, due to the same teachers union conflict.

These and many other criminal acts that have multiplied so much in the Me'phaa and Na Savi indigenous communities of Ayutla, as well as the extortions, kidnappings, narco-taxes, and murders that the businessmen and businesswomen, students, teachers, mobile vendors, some cab drivers, fathers and mothers suffer daily in the Ayutla, Tecoanapa, Cruz Grande, San Marcos, and Cuautepec municipalities resonated with the Union of Peoples and Organizations of the State of Guerrero (UPOEG), which, due to its close work with the people in this zone, had the good sense, intelligence, ability, and bravery to make the largely poor and defenseless populace's suffering its own.  Faced with the urgency that the insecurity situation would further affect the indigenous and mestiza population's heritage, security, and lives, in its latest assemblies the UPOEG put aside the pressing issues on its agenda (such as the fight against high electric bills and the fight for infrastructure projects) in order to put the climate of violence and insecurity that the de facto criminal powers at the center of its agenda.

With skilled and painstaking citizen intelligence, they have a clear, in-depth analysis into crime's modus operandi: its centers of operation, allies, contacts, informants, accomplices, safe houses, etc.  Armed with this information, the communities made the decision to adopt self-defense in order to guarantee a true citizens' security, running the risks that using weapons (some of them in really bad shape) to confront those who were harming the population with weapons would entail.  They staked out the places were they generally operate, installed checkpoints, searched vehicles, detained those whom they managed to identify as members of those groups, seized weapons, and had to use their meager weapons against someone who resisted being searched and who tried to use his pistol against those who were leading the operation.

In a matter of hours, those responsible for searching for the commissioner located him.  Instead of being frightened by this intimidating act, they found the straw that broke the camel's back and set off an armed self-defense movement that forced them to take the populace's security into their own hands.  On Sunday, Three Kings Day, about 800 police arrived in Ayutla and immediately stationed themselves in strategic points in order to counteract any reaction from criminal groups.  They took control in order to institute order and detain those who were identified by the populace as perpetrators of crimes.

Without thinking twice, the 800 police who arrived armed with rudimentary weapons and modest clothing (which tells us something about their precarious economic situation) demonstrated to the authorities and society as a whole that determined and autonomously organized people are capable of instituting order and giving working people back their security.  This armed self-defense movement has achieved a power that is unprecedented in the state and in the country, because it is a tangible example of what citizens really have to do in order to recover the security we lost.

In order for the authorities to once again earn the people's trust, they have the obligation to correct their course, rectify their policies, and recognize that they have failed the citizenry because they are complicit in the tragedy that is bleeding us to death as a state.  The populace notices that various authorities work for the other side, because they don't act with conviction against the crime that festers in the government's own structures.  The vices that accompany corruption live on and are the gears that move a justice and security system that has turned into the citizens' enemy because it is in bed with organized crime.  This union leads to the humiliation, pillage, and devastation of a people besieged and subjugated by organized crime.

For their part, the politicians sit back and don't approach--not even by accident--the people from these communities that suffer the consequences of criminal acts.  They don't make their people's struggle their own.  Nor are they willing to respect and recognize indigenous people's efforts and contributions, which are based on internationally recognized collective rights which the governments have scorned.  Instead, the authorities in their crystal palaces become judges and and issue guilty verdicts, but not against those who have disrupted the populace's lives, but rather against the very police who defend the people and who are doing for free the work of those who continue to enjoy a comfortable life with outrageous salaries.

Now the state government is repeating what it has already done to the residents of Huamuxtitlán and Olinalá; it is asking those who have practiced self defense that they put down their weapons, that they give up their ambitions to establish order and stop detaining those who have committed crimes.  It asks, as it did 18 years ago with the nascent Community Police, that they turn their detainees over to the Public Prosecutor so that it can begin its investigations.  It is also trying to persuade them to go back to their communities and it promises that the saviors of the fatherland will come with Operation Safe Guerrero.  It intimidates them with the legalspeak that they are committing crimes and that they should have criminal investigations opened against them.

This governmental magnanimity is the another face of perversity and complicity, because it does not seek to get to the root of the citizens' security problems, nor does it have any intention of completely destroying the network of complicity and hidden interests that are entrenched in government institutions.  The purging and professionalization of the police departments and the state Attorney General's Office that society has demanded since the very beginning is a governmental issue and remains untouched.  All of the ministerial investigations have been distorted because they have turned into shams and quackery.

This past Sunday the communities once again exercised their right to consultation in order to make better decisions that will result in benefits for the citizens.  Their withdrawal is tactical, because they know that the Safe Guerrero program is not a panacea.  On the contrary, it could mean more risk, because no civil authority will guarantee that it will respect their human rights and that it won't impose martial law, which would generate even more fear, and would also inhibit, demobilize, and criminalize the population that organizes itself and defends its right to live safely.

This lesson of utmost importance is registered in the communities' memories.  Their most precious treasure is that they have ascertained their social and political potential.  They have realized that their power is unshakeable and their strength is unwavering.  These intangible goods are already part of their heritage and are their best community capital.  For that same reason, they are no longer willing to blindly obey nor naively believe in the authorities.  Their subjugation is another chapter in a dreadful story where governments mock and trample the people's dignity.  Trust can no longer be uncritically placed in authorities that have not demonstrated their commitment nor honored their word.  That's why they will remain vigilant and on the front lines in order to monitor those who are now in charge of security.  The communities will know when they have to decide to once again take the responsibility to provide security and guarantee justice into their own hands and apply their own cosmogenic systems based on internationally recognized indigenous peoples' rights.
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