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Update on San Juan Copala Second Aid Caravan

By • Jun 10th, 2010 • Category: News & Analysis


by Nancy Davies – OSAG

Since neither the federal government of Mexico nor the Oaxaca government of
Ulises Ruiz Ortiz (URO) will put aside the blockade of San Juan Copala, one
might conclude that the policy of the governments is to starve out the
autonomous community which wants self determination and control of their
lands and territory. Two humanitarian caravans have now failed to gain
entry, the second on June 7, 2010.

The second humanitarian caravan “Bety Cariño y Jyri Jakkola” to San Juan
Copala was halted three times, and finally headed back to Huajapan de Leon
to consider their next step. They eventually decided to return to Mexico and
Oaxaca.

Eight buses and three trucks with 30 tons of supplies traveled about 95
kilometers to Laguna Encantada, a village where they were intercepted by the
State Preventive Police. There, the State Attorney for Justice, María de la
Luz Candelaria Chiñas; the commissioner of Public Security, Jorge Quezadas,
and the president of the Commission for the Defense of Human Rights in
Oaxaca, Heriberto Antonio García, conversed with Alejandro Encinas,
president of the PRD bench in the federal congress, and with other
legislators, to persuade them to not enter Copala. A second PRD member,
Javier Pacheco, rode in a car driven by Jorge Quezadas to La Sabana, where
he saw the boulders blocking the road. The Unión de Bienestar Social de la
Región Triqui (Ubisort) leader of the PRI paramilitary, Rufino Juárez,
headed a blockade at the town entrance, accompanied by forty Triqui women
holding cardboard posters telling the caravan to leave.

Deputies, senators, and all government officials had been asked by the
community to not participate, because the indigenous leaders thought they
would take advantage of the pre-election publicity of July 4 to gain
sympathy, stealing it from the popular movements; their presence constituted
an affront to the dignity of the autonomous municipalities. The request was
ignored. Unfortunately, the PRD is not above suspicion of being co-opted by
the PRI government of Oaxaca. Many of the media reported that the PRD
federal deputy, Alejandro Encinas, organized the caravan. This is false. It
was actually organized by the authorities of Copala aided by the human
rights organization* *Bartolomé Carrasco Briseño*, *and many other civil
organizations, listed below. With an election looming, the PRD appear to
support the Triquis, while the PRI suggested that the PRD was creating a
provocation. The caravan was received at various points by various
politicians. All the documentation regarding the presence of legislators,
the number of vehicles, and the number of persons traveling was made
available to the government of Oaxaca.

Along the route to Copala the Ubisort leader, generally held responsible for
the ambush of the first caravan, offered to dialogue, but the caravan
declined. At the village of La Sabana the caravan was blocked by the federal
and state police who reported they heard shots, and could not guarantee
safety for the caravan members. The third halt was caused by boulders
blocking the road, placed there with heavy machinery, by Ubisort. The
caravan had achieved a distance of ten kilometers from San Juan Copala in
the later part of the afternoon when it turned back. The Oaxaca Attorney
General asked the caravan to retreat because, she said, neither the federal
nor the state governments could guarantee their safety. Spokesperson Macario
García Merino, representative of the autonomous authority linked to the
Movimiento de Unificación y Lucha Triqui Independiente (MULTI), emphasized
that the failed attempt shows that neither state nor federal government
can, or wants to, guarantee entry to Copala. The caravan returned to
Mexico City and will pursue seven points for its immediate return. However,
these points, such as asking for international support and safety, were
read to the media by Encinas and it’s not known who created or subscribed to
them.**

* *

Speculation as to why the governments do not want the autonomous
municipality which includes thirteen villages to survive usually mentions
three possible reasons: autonomy (and espousal of La Otra campaign)
threatens the government, as do the Zapatistas in Chiapas; there may be the
presence of a narcotics cartel; or the mineral wealth beneath the autonomous
land (iron and perhaps uranium) is too valuable. Also, it is supposed that
Ubisort bosses siphon off money designated for the area’s poverty program.

Meanwhile, in the city of Oaxaca, one of several staging sympathy protests,
a blockade calling attention to the plight of San Juan Copala mounted at the
crossroads of Cinco Señores was broken up by masked men who used iron pipes
and machetes to violently dislodge the protesters who were shouting “*San
Juan Copala vive, vive, La lucha sigue sigue*”. Two protesters were
kidnapped. Radio Plantón, the teachers’ radio station, advised people,
especially young people, to stay off the streets Tuesday night because of
the threat of repression. On the morning of June 9 a small group marched to
the Oaxaca zócalo, but the zócalo is presently occupied by thousands of
Section 22 teachers on strike. Therefore when VOCAL activist David Venegas
mounted the kiosk to speak, he faced a ready-made audience of thousands, but
few seemed to want to face the heat and chaos to respond.

* *

*The Background:*

The caravan headed for San Juan Copala area left in two sections, from
Mexico City on June 7 and from Oaxaca City on June 8, to join up in the city
of Huajuapan de Leon at noon on the 8th. The Mexico group brought 350
people, among them foreigners, human rights workers, ten legislators and at
least twenty media people. They brought thirty tons of supplies, which when
it became clear that the caravan would not enter San Juan Copala, were
returned to Huajuapan for safe-keeping. The Oaxaca contingent consisted of
one bus with forty-five people aboard and brought food, blankets and
clothing.

Among those who participated were adherents to the Sixth Declaration of La
Otra Huasteca-Totonacapan,, who brought a ton of supplies for the besieged
inhabitants. Humanitarian aid from the people Huasteco-Totonaco was
accompanied by a commission. Members of forty organizations including
persons from Guerrero and Chiapas, and around the world, also supported.
Good wishes were called into Radio Plantón (the station of Section 22
teachers) during Tuesday. E-mails and calls arrived in Oaxaca from
sympathizers in areas as distant as New Zealand.

Euro-deputies and deputies to the German Parliaments had asked President
Felipe Calderon to assure security for the participants. In a letter sent
from Brussels, Belgium, the European parliamentarians wrote that they have
given their consideration to the plight of the Triqui and living conditions
in the community of San Juan Copala. Therefore, along with many European
citizens they decided to involve themselves, and moreover, “we intend to
follow all the investigations regarding the attack on the caravan of April
27,” in which the Finnish activist Jyri Jaakkola and the Mexican Bety Cariño
died.

This foreign demand came in the wake of Felipe Calderon’s visit to Europe,
to confirm trade treaties between Mexico and the European Union in the face
of Mexico’s insecurity due to drug cartels, thousands of assassinations,
and total impunity for persons in official positions. Transnational
businesses ignore human rights violations, but the European Parliament gives
them at least lip-service.

The Europeans also demanded personal security for those who survived the
first caravan, as well as for persons and organizations involved in
creating the second one. They requested the lifting of the siege of San
Juan Copala immediately, and that criminal investigations be carried out as
rapidly as possible. They underlined that international attention is focused
on the case. Their letter was signed by the European parliamentarians Heidi
Hautala, Satu Hassi, Raúl Romeva Rueda, Ulrike Lunacek, Martin Häusling,
Franziska Keller and Helmut Scholz, as well as by deputies to the German
Parliament Ute Koczy and Thilo Hoppe.

All those who enrolled to ride the caravan knew the risk of following one
ambushed caravan with a larger one with more supplies, signifying Mexican
resistance to the “fascism” of Ulises Ruiz Ortiz, governor of Oaxaca (URO).
To indigenous peoples especially, URO represents legitimated repression,
assassination, fraud, and ongoing violation of human rights in Oaxaca, with
the aid of the federal government and PRI governors of the majority of
Mexico’s states.

After many days of resistance insisting there would be no protection, the
international and national outcry forced the government of Oaxaca to
verbally alter its stance. It said the police would accompany the caravan
but “with the notification that unwilling, stupid adherents to uses and
customs, bellicose belligerent people are there,” in the words of the
Attorney General of the state, María de la Luz Candelaria Chiñas

She indicated only three days before the caravan left that “there are no
(specific) instructions” from the Executive, only the will of the government
that the activists “may be welcome”. The attorney asserted that the caravan
would see the population of San Juan Copala is not incommunicado, activities
continue and shops are open. She claimed that the interest of the caravan is
political, given the approximation of the July 4 election. She referred to
PRD legislator Alejandro Encinas as the one “who is organizing the caravan”,
and claimed he had not given any information to the state government
regarding the persons participating in the caravan: names, nationalities,
the immigration status of foreigners, and if they will travel on foot or in
vehicles.

The commissioner of State Police, Jorge Alberto Quezadas Jiménez, reported
that the zone where the caravan would pass was being watched by the 350
police under his command, ready to accompany the caravan from Santiago
Juxtlahuaca to San Juan Copala, passing La Sabana where the ambush of the
first caravan of April 27 left dead Bety Cariño and Jyri Jaakkola. The road
was blocked with heavy boulders on June 4, “but the State Police are not
obliged to remove them to facilitate the free passage of vehicles,” he said.

On June 5 at 9:20 PM a paramilitary group shot at the community of San Juan
Copala from five different points, wounding twenty-year old Melitón
Rodríguez Martínez with four bullets in the leg. No method exists to move
him to a hospital. On June 6 starting at 8:15 PM a paramilitary group again
began shooting at the town.

Meanwhile, Ubisort issued a communication signed by its leader Rufino Juárez
Hernández and his brother Anastacio, who self-identifies as the
constitutional agent for San Juan Copala, saying a complaint has been placed
with the State Commission for Human Rights of Oaxaca and rejecting the
caravan by accusing Alejandro Encinas of wanting a confrontation with the
Triqui community and members of MULTI. He stated that as soon as the
caravan observers left they would “exterminate the community members”.
Ubisort has become one of the foremost users of the Big Lie technique which
in Oaxaca has achieved exorbitant heights by many government officials.
MULTI founded the autonomy of San Juan Copala, and maintains its uses and
customs, not recognizing Anastacio as anything other than an imposed
intruder. The legitimate authorities of Copala self-identify as MULTI; their
demands are for autonomy, self-rule, and control of their own land and
territory.

The government of URO claimed it was forming a special committee of state
legislators to investigate the Triqui struggle but the committee never met. All
formal representation of the federal government had withdrawn: no Mexican
Army, Federal Police, National Commission for the Development of the
Indigenous Peoples, or Secretary of Social Development remained. State
functionaries also fled, along with teachers, doctors, priests, and
nurses. More
than seventy families survive in sub-human conditions.

Those waiting in the community asserted, “We know that we could die, but,
as Triquis, we have no fear. The anger and the *muina* are very big”, the
substitute autonomous president of San Juan Copala, Julián González
Domínguez, stated to a meeting of communities that comprise the autonomous
municipality. Other communities support autonomy but fear reprisals. Since
the founding of the autonomous municipality in January of 2007, thirty
indigenous sympathizers have been slain either in San Juan Copala or by
paramilitaries hunting them in mountains and woods.

Mexican society stands at its ultimate moment for sustaining humiliation,
according to the indigenous participants who signed up for the caravan. In
their words, issued in a press release in May, 2010, “The various civil
organizations are conquering fear, and we stand up to confront this regime
of injustices in Oaxaca, Chiapas, Guerrero, and in all of México which finds
itself on the brink of a national uprising like what happened one hundred
years ago. Acteal, Atenco, Oaxaca, Aguas Blancas, Pasta de Conchos, Cananea,
Lázaro Cárdenas, Luz y Fuerza, are examples of a daily war against the
Mexican population. … Systematically the people of Mexico are being
destroyed, but today we say enough, no more.” The attack on the Oaxaca City
demonstration at Cinco Señores on the night of June 7 bears witness to just
how close to the edge the people of Oaxaca stand.

The civil groups signed up were: Asamblea en Defensa de la Tierra and
Territorio del Istmo de Tehuantepec, Brigadas Indígenas 94, CACITA, CASOTA,
Coatlicue, Colectivo AAA, Colectivo Revolver, Comunidad Benito Juárez
Chimalapa, Coordinadora Juvenil Libertaria, Frente Cívico Tetiteco, Yunhiz
Espacio Alternativo, Radio Ricardo Flores Magón, Radio Totopo, THC
Colectivo, Universidad de la Tierra, Espacio Cero, Colectivo Arte Jaguar,
Familiares de Lorenzo Sampablo, VOCAL, Asamblea en Defensa de la Tierra y el
Territorio del Istmo de Tehuantepec, Brigadas Indígenas 94, CACITA, CASOTA,
Coatlicue, Colectivo Revolver, Comunidad Benito Juárez Chimalapa,
Coordinadora Juvenil Libertaria, Frente Cívico Teotiteco, Yunhiz Espacio
Alternativo, Radio Ricardo Flores Magón, Radio Totopo, Universidad de la
Tierra, Familiares de Lorenzo Sampablo, VOCAL, Autonomía Radial.

Labor


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