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Two dead in Canadian mine confrontation at “San José del Progreso” in Oaxaca

By • Jun 23rd, 2010 • Category: News & Analysis

Just two weeks prior to the July 4 state-wide election in Oaxaca, Mexico, a
confrontation between local opposition to a Canadian silver mine in the town
of San José del Progreso and PRI (Partido Revolucionario Institucional)
officials resulted in the shooting deaths of two mine supporters. The PRI
municipal president of San José del Progreso, Venancio Oscar Martínez Rivera
and the town councillor for Health, Felix Misael Hernández were killed. On
June 19 the confrontation took place between PRIistas, and residents of the
villages El Cuajilote and Maguey Largo who oppose the exploitation of the
mine “La Trinidad” located on communal lands. No general agreement of the
residents was ever obtained to permit mining operations.

Martínez Rivera not only did not consult the population about the mining
operation, he personally solicited the governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz to send in
anti-riot police from Police Unit for Special Operations (UPOE) “to repress”
those who blocked access to the mine. At the time, in 2009, Section 22 of
the National Education Workers Union (SNTE) supported the mine opposition.
When the mining company offered various payments to the city of Ocotlán,
such as new school classrooms and books, the then non-candidate Gabino Cue
Monteagudo suggested to the peoples’ opposition that they accept.

Local parish priest Martin Octavio García Ortiz, was hauled out of his
vehicle and beaten, according to the head of the Commission for Justice and
Peace of the Archdiocese of Antequera-Oaxaca. Father Wilfredo Mayrén Pelaez
reported that Father Martín was beaten by PRI supporters. Mayren said that
Father Martin had nothing to do with the confrontation, but was returning
from celebrating mass in a nearby community when a group of people spotted
him and dragged him out of his van. “They bathed him in blood, he was held
and badly beaten. He was detained illegally by persons identified with the
PRI. They beat him with stones, sticks and a pistol butt; that was really*
*aberrant”. “Noticias” newspaper of Oaxaca, which printed that original
version of events, on June 21 reported to the contrary, that Father Martin
was held hostage by forty people in his church and was rescued by police.
“Noticias” printed the photo of Father Martin’s head, clearly bloodied.

Mayren Pelaez is also the founder of the Center for Human Rights Bartolomé
Carrasco Briseño, involved with organizing the second caravan to the
besieged Triqui town of San Juan Copala*. *Father Martín, for his part, has
vigorously supported dissemination of environmental information and forums
explaining danger to the water table and to the land from mine exploitation.

The State Attorney General for Justice, María de la Luz Candelaria Chiñas
informed the public that the fight occurred around 6:30 PM (18:30 hours) in
the outskirts of the town, when the municipality impeded the passage of town
residents returning to their communities of El Cuajilote and Maguey Largo.
According to information given by the Assembly of Peoples United for the
Valley of Ocotlán in Defense of Nature and Popular Autonomy, the
municipality and its henchmen closed the road to people returning from a
meeting for the candidate for governor of Oaxaca, Gabino Cué Monteagudo of
the coalition “United for Peace and Progress” (CUPP).

At the beginning of 2009, people from El Cuajilote, Maguey Largo, and the
municipal city of Ocotlán blocked access to the mine “La Trinidad” to demand
that the Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources (Semarnat) cancel
the mining concession because its exploitation would contaminate their
natural resources, principally the water, with metals, cyanide, mercury,
copper sulfate and arsenic. Furthermore, they demanded that Mexico comply
with Agreement 169 of the International Organization of Work because the
local people had not been consulted for their approval of the project.
Nevertheless on May 6, 2009, agents of the Federal and State Preventive
Police broke up the protests and some who opposed the mine resisted with
sticks and stones against the police who had dogs and riot gear.

The situation remains tense in the community where for months different
confrontations have occurred. Those opposed to the mine took over the
Municipal Palace for a time, obliging the mayor to do business from a
private home.


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