Mexico: APPO supporters endure torture

Source: The Herald Mexico

Rene Trujillo Martínez, a thin 25-year-old lawyer and volunteer radio announcer with the Oaxaca People´s Assembly (APPO), holds the uncomfortable distinction of having survived a disappearance.

Trujillo was recently abducted from his apartment by armed men in civilian clothes, brutally beaten at gunpoint, taken to a safe house and tortured. He says he was then held incommunicado for two days while being interrogated by federal authorities, and then, miraculously, released on bail.

According to APPO spokespeople and the Mexican League for Human Rights Defense in Oaxaca, at least 30 APPO protesters are currently missing, awaiting a similar miracle.

"Usually the disappearances are not so massive as they are now, 30 in just a few days," said Florentino López, a spokesperson for the APPO, referring to the number of protesters who have allegedly been abducted or gone missing in the past two weeks since the arrival of federal police in Oaxaca.

"Like torture, disappearances are a part of state terrorism against social movements," he said.

Federal and state authorities denied interview requests for this article.


On Nov. 7, at about 2:15 p.m., Trujillo and two friends got out of a taxi and began walking up Santo Tomás, the narrow, hilly side street that leads to Trujillo´s rented room. They noticed a group of men following them and began to run. The men also broke into a sprint, catching up to Trujillo and his friends just as they were closing the garage door.

The men, at least six of them according to several eye-witness accounts, forced their way into the garage with pistols in hand, firing and then beating the three young men, forcing them out into the street.

"I don´t know if they were waiting for him or following him, but they came in with pistols and everything," said one witness (all witnesses interviewed spoke on the condition of anonymity). "They were dressed in civilian clothes. They came in hitting him; they pulled him out violently. They didn´t even talk; it was pure violence."

Trujillo and his two friends, Mauricio Marmolejo and Benito Pereda Fernández, were each held down and beaten in the street by two men. But it was Trujillo they were after, and Trujillo who received the most intense beating: after being struck repeatedly in the face with the barrel of a pistol, Trujillo´s assailant stuck his gun into Trujillo´s mouth while slamming his head against the wall.

Days later Trujillo´s blood was still visible on the rocks outside his house.


Trujillo participated in the June 14 takeover of Radio Universidad and volunteered around the station until a paid saboteur threw acid on the transmitter and the station went off the air. But Trujillo hung around, helping maintain the barricade protecting the university station. He then began as a program announcer on Oct. 21 when the radio went back on the air with a repaired transmitter.

Trujillo ran the 3 a.m. to 5 a.m. program, known as Barricade Radio, providing information about police movements around town and barricades that needed reinforcement.

APPO protesters began to build hundreds of barricades throughout Oaxaca City after gunmen linked to local police opened fire on their protest camps on Aug. 22, killing one protester.


The gunmen forced Trujillo and his friends into a yellow rental pick-up truck, which they had called for by cell phone during the beatings, according to witnesses. The assailants then covered the men´s faces with their shirts and forced them face down in the back of the truck, knees pinning down their backs.

After driving for about 20 minutes, the gunmen stopped and switched to a white pick-up truck, where they placed nylon hoods over the three men and then took them to a warehouse – they think near the airport.

At the warehouse the gunmen tortured them, sticking needles under their finger nails (the scars were visible three days later), applying electric shocks to their feet, beating them on the head, and choking them, according to the three men, who were later released.

They asked them to identify militants in the APPO, the most active people at Radio Universidad, and the men who had captured two soldiers, and later released them, a few days before. The men had Oaxaca, Mexico City and northern Mexican accents.


After some 10 hours of torture, the gunmen made them hold guns and then took pictures and filmed them with the guns in their hands. The three men were then taken to the federal Attorney General´s Office (PGR) complex in Oaxaca and charged with the federal crime of possession of illegal firearms.

They were held incommunicado at the PGR, where again they were interrogated and terrorized by threats. On Nov. 9, they were released on bail. Trujillo says he paid US$4,000 for his liberty.

It is unclear how many protesters have disappeared in the past weeks. With rumors constantly circulating through town, the number could be significantly less, or higher, than 30 – the number of known APPO protesters reported missing by family members.

The involvement of several levels of authorities also complicates the issue, says Jessica Sánchez, the president of the Mexican League for Human Rights Defense in Oaxaca.

Local, state and federal authorities make detentions without regard to jurisdiction, she said, and they take prisoners to random jails across the state.

The victims are refused access to lawyers and human rights workers, making the job of locating and identifying those on the list of disappeared extremely difficult, Sánchez said.

"This is testimony to the state of suspended guarantees in Oaxaca," she said, "of the lack of governability and the failure of public institutions."