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Complete Update of the the Armed Attack on the Caravan in San Juan Copala

By • May 1st, 2010 • Category: News & Analysis

Source: El Enemigo Común –

Oaxaca Ambush Survivor: Paramilitaries Said They Had Governor’s Support

by Kristin Bricker

In a press conference organized by Section 22 of the teachers union in Oaxaca, APPO counselor Gabriela Jimenez recounted her experience in the international aid caravan that was attacked by gunmen yesterday. She says that the gunmen identified themselves as members of UBISORT, an organization affiliated with the ruling Institutional Revolution Party (PRI). The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees identifies UBISORT as a paramilitary organization.

Jimenez, who was briefly detained by gunmen following the attack, told the press, “They told us that they were the ones that controlled the area.”

Jimenez recounts that a reporter from the caravan offered to interview the armed, masked men that were holding them hostage. “And they [the gunmen] responded that they would have to interview their leaders, Heriberto Pasos and Rufino Juarez Hernandez.” Juarez Hernandez is the leader of UBISORT. Pasos is the leader of the Movement for Triqui Unity and Struggle (MULT), an organization that has also allied itself against the autonomous municipality of San Juan Copala.

“They told us that they were going to take back Copala. They said they were going to drive people from their homes. They said, ‘Wherever you walk, this is all UBISORT territory. In front of you is MULT [territory]. Behind you is UBISORT. On this side is UBISORT.”

Jimenez claims that the gunmen told her that they had the support of Oaxacan governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz. “They said it just like that.”

Jimenez says that the gunman took the caravan members’ identifications and noted their names on a piece of paper. She said, “They were going to be watching us, because the MULT and UBISORT’s power extends to Oaxaca City.

The paramilitaries also sent a death threat to Oaxacan community organizer Omar Esparza through Jimenez: “Tell him that he’s next. We’re going to find him, wherever he is, and we will kill him.” Esparza is the husband of Alberta “Bety” Cariño, whom the paramilitaries shot in the head yesterday during the ambush.


Mexico City: NO to the armed attack on the Solidarity Caravan to San Juan Copala

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Wednesday, April 28, 2010. Some hours after getting the news that comrades were fired upon, killed, wounded, and disappeared by UBISORT paramilitaries yesterday afternoon in the La Sabana community in Oaxaca, two different rallies were held in Mexico City.

Around 1 p.m., approximately twenty members of the Women Weaving Resistance collective, La Otra Cultura, La Otra Obrera, and a family member of ex political prisoner Adán Mejía, protested the attack on the Caravan outside the Oaxaca Government Headquarters in Mexico City with chants, music and graffiti.

A few hours later, the demonstrators joined about 200 other protesters outside Mexico’s Interior Ministry in a rally called by graduate students in Rural Development of the Metropolitan Autonomous University at Xochimilco and members of the Triqui community in the capital city.

They called on people to “demand justice for the brutal ambush perpetrated by the Oaxaca state government and the paramilitary Social Welfare Unit of the Triqui Region (UBISORT) against the Peace Caravan made up of different organizations including Oaxacan Voices Constructing Autonomy and Freedom (VOCAL); the Community Support Center Working in Unity (CACTUS); the Network of Radios and Communicators of Southeastern Mexico; the Mexican Alliance for the Self-Determination of the Peoples (AMAP); APPO Council members; Section 22 teachers; international observers from Belgium, Finland, and Italy; and journalists from different news media, who were all on their way to the Autonomous Municipality of San Juan Copala to deliver food, supplies, clothing, and blankets to the civilian population, which has been living under a siege implemented by UBISORT and backed by the state government for the last few months”.

In an interview, Victor Castillo Pérez, originallly from San Juan de Copala and now living in Mexico City, explained: “The siege was imposed in the last months of 2009. The paramilitaries have killed a number of people and everybody lives under constant threat of death with no water, no light, no classes, no medical attention. Yesterday, the Caravan intended to break that siege, and the current situation resulting from the attack may be used as a pretext to militarize the whole region”.

With regards to the militarization of the country, it’s important to note that on the same day of the vicious attack, the federal Senate of Mexico approved a National Security Law that allows Ulises Ruiz or any other governor to request the presence of the armed forces in his state, and that gives the National Security Council (now presided over by Genaro García Luna, exonerated of his crimes in Atenco) the responsibility to determine the geographic area and length of stay. And who is charged with making sure the House of Representatives passes the bill? None other than the distinguished repressor now absolved of his role in Atenco and rewarded with the position of House Chairman of the National Defense Commission –Ardelio Vargas.

At the protests, there was a strong sense that any one of us could have been killed, wounded, or disappeared simply for participating in a peaceful activity like a humanitarian caravan. There was also strong clamor to see justice done for the deaths of CACTUS director Beti Cariño and human rights observer Juri Jaakkola of Finland and for the bullet wounds suffered by Mónica Citlali Santiago, as well heartfelt demands for the live presentation of the VOCAL comrades David Venegas and Noé Bautista; Contralinea reporter Érika Ramírez and photographer David Cilia; international observers Viris Jacola and Meni Morne from Finland, David Casinori from Italy, and Martín Santana from Belgium, and possibly as many as 14 other disappeared people.

Four of Six Disappeared in San Juan Copala Are Confirmed Alive
UPDATE: All Six Disappeared in San Juan Copala Are Confirmed Alive

by Kristin Bricker

Contralinea reports that David Venegas and Noe Bautista from VOCAL have made it to safety in Juxtlahuaca, Oaxaca. They say they were with missing Contralinea reporters Erika Ramirez and David Cilia.

Venegas and Bautista have a video of Ramirez and Cilia that proves the journalists are alive. Ramirez is unhurt but dehydrated. Cilia has a bullet in his thigh and another bullet grazed his waist, but Venegas and Bautista say that neither are in danger of dying as long as they are rescued soon.

Venegas, Bautista, Ramirez, and Cilia had been missing since the April 27 paramilitary attack on an aid caravan that was headed for the autonomous municipality of San Juan Copala in Oaxaca.

Cilia’s father David is en route to the conflict zone. He has stated that he will search for his missing son, regardless of the risk it entails.

Still missing are two Triqui women from San Juan Copala, whom paramilitaries kidnapped just prior to the attack on the caravan. The UBISORT paramilitaries, whom are allied with the ruling party in Oaxaca, released a third woman who notified the autonomous municipality of the kidnapping. UBISORT is demanding a ransom for the missing women.


UPDATES: Confirmed Killings and Disappearances near San Juan Copala, Oaxaca

April 30, 2010 — Contralínea is confirming that their reporters have been rescued, and provided a video they made a few hours after the ambush. Everyone from the caravan has now been accounted for. As well, Kristin Bricker reports that the two Triqui women kidnapped just before the ambush have been released.

The following is a translation by Scott Campbell, of the video transcription provided by Contralínea:

David Venegas: Today, April 27, we, a group of about 20 people, tried to enter the community of San Juan Copala in a peaceful manner. Today, at approximately 6pm, there are four people here: your servant David Venegas…

David Cilia: My name is David Cilia, I’m a reporter for the magazine Contralínea. I have a bullet in my right leg and on my left side. We are on the side of the highway.

Érika Ramírez: My name is Érika Ramírez, I’m a reporter for the magazine Contralínea. I am ok. I’m not wounded. For about three hours we’ve been able to keep ourselves from the paramilitaries, but we want to say that if something happens to us it is because of the slowness of the government in coming to our aid.

Noé Bautista: My name is Noé Bautista. I have a bullet in my right buttock, a bullet in my right shoulder and a big scrape here on my side. We were attacked around 2:45 in the afternoon, by more than 20 gunmen with high-caliber weapons. Now we are hiding. We fear for our lives. We’re concealing ourselves in the mountain. We don’t know what can happen to us and what they can do to us.

April 28, 2010 — The two individuals whose deaths have been confirmed are Beatríz Alberta Cariño, the director of CACTUS and member of the Southeast Mexican Indigenous Community Radios Network, and Jyri Jaakkola, an international solidarity observer from Finland.

Four people have been confirmed disappeared: David Venegas Reyes and Noe Bautista Jimenez, from VOCAL, and Érika Ramírez and David Cilia, reporters from Contralínea.

Other information: Protests have been held in the city of Oaxaca, where individuals blockaded a major highway with commandeered buses, and Mexico City. Numerous organizations and collectives have denounced the attack. A survivor of the attack held a press conference earlier today, where, as Kristin Bricker notes, she stated the paramilitaries identified themselves as UBISORT and said they have the governor’s support. Contralínea reports that the State Investigation Agency did not look for the disappeared today. Photos of the ambushed vehicles can be seen here. Here is an article written by a friend of Bety Cariño. Here is an article about Jyri Jaakkola before he left for Mexico.

In Mexico and internationally, people are protesting this paramilitary attack. You can help by sharing this information, and holding demonstrations at Mexican embassies and consulates near you.

If you have more updates or news, please leave a comment.

Keep checking El Enemigo Común for more information as it is made available.

Note, thanks to Kristin, Scott and other comrades for reports and translations.

April 27, 2010 — Killings and disappearances have been confirmed in an ambush on a solidarity caravan headed to San Juan Copala, Oaxaca. The exact numbers of dead and disappeared is not yet clear, and contradictory information has been put out.

We will publish more information about the people that are injured, missing and killed when those details are made available.

For more information, please read the communique from VOCAL, Paramilitary Attack Leaves Two Dead and Three Disappeared. It is now believed that there are more people who have been killed and disappeared.

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Today Thursday, April 29, members of the National Front of Journalists for Freedom of Expression, family members of reporters David Cilia and Erika Ramírez, and other activists marched from the Juarez Monument to the offices of the federal Attorney General’s Office to demand the live presentation of the two journalists of Contralínea magazine, as well as two members of Oaxacan Voices Constructing Autonomy and Freedom (VOCAL) and the Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca (APPO), David Venegas and Noé Bautista.

Around 400 people stayed outside the building while a group of journalists and activists went inside to get information and call on the Attorney General to guarantee the live presentation and safety of the disappeared people; these demands were denied. The demonstrators blocked Reforma Avenue and chanted slogans: “Right now, right now, what you have to do is bring them home alive and punish those to blame!” and “David, hang on, we’re ready to rebel!”

Things heated up when the riot police showed up to put an end to people’s right to protest; even though some urged the crowd to step back, most people were not in the mood to get out of the street. Finally, after a lot of pushing and shoving, shouts, and blows, the police “cleaned” the street of the people demanding justice. David Cilia’s brothers were among those who were hit.

In a mid-day press conference, Contralínea had revealed that “David Venegas and Noé Bautista had been able to break through the paramilitary siege and get to the town of Juxtlahuaca. They confirmed that David Cilia and Erika Ramírez, with whom they have been in hiding in the hills, are alive and out of danger of death.” In a video taped on April 27, David Cilia reports that he has “a bullet wound in his right leg and another in the left side of his body.” Speaking with great difficulty, Noé Bautista says, “I have a bullet wound in the right side of my ass, another in my right shoulder, and I was grazed on this side of my body.” Watch the video here:

Erika Ramírez is dehydrated and weak, and the two reporters have asked to be rescued. Today at 4:40 pm, a helicopter rescue operation began, with the participation of Contralínea director Miguel Badillo and David Cilia’s father, David Cilia Olmos. As of this writing, there is no news of the outcome of the operation.

In a communiqué sent today, VOCAL says: “Our comrades appeared today, April 29. At approximately 12:00 am, David Venegas Reyes and Noé Bautista got to the town of Juxtlahuaca. We hold Ulises Ruiz Ortiz and government officials at all levels responsible for anything that may happen to them on their way home. We call on human rights organizations and the news media to be vigilant”.


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