Oaxaca: The Ongoing Extermination of San Juan Copala’s Autonomous Triquis

Twelve people were kidnapped and disappeared in San Juan Copala on May 16, following the ambush of a caravan on April 27 in which two human rights activists were murdered by Unión de Bienestar de la Región Triqui (Ubisort) paramilitaries. The twelve disappeared are women and children. The kidnapping appeared to be a reprisal for the call to send a second, international and larger caravan to San Juan Copala, scheduled for June 8.

Twelve people were kidnapped and disappeared in San Juan Copala on May 16, following the ambush of a caravan on April 27, 2010 in which two human rights activists were murdered by Unión de Bienestar de la Región Triqui (Ubisort) paramilitaries. The twelve disappeared are women and children. The kidnapping appeared to be a reprisal for the call to send a second, international and larger caravan to San Juan Copala, scheduled for June 8. At the close of Sunday May 16, late information was received that all the women and children had been freed. Nevertheless the denunciation of their disappearance was published to illustrate the contempt the state government and the State Commission for Human Rights hold for the Triquis.

Members of the Autonomous Municipality of San Juan Copala denounced the kidnapping of seven women and five boys and girls who were captured at gun point by a group of men belonging to Ubisort under the command of Rufino Juárez in the nearby community of La Sabana, the site of the ambush. About thirty-five women and children left the town of San Juan Copala and were threatened with execution in case they tried to return with food and medicine. San Juan Copala has been without electricity, food, medicines and school services for more than five months; it was due to extreme hardship that the April 27 caravan responded to a call for help. The women and children who escaped the kidnapping remain in the community of Yosoyuxi.

Members of the autonomous municipality hold Rufino Juárez responsible for the aggression. They add, based on the testimony of twenty-four women who escaped the attack, that two women of San Juan Copala were wounded, and that one of the children is only one year old.

The Autonomous Municipality gave the names of some of the persons of the community who were kidnapped: Felipa de Jesús Suárez, Martiniana Aguilera Allente, Marcelina Ramírez and Lorena Merino Martínez. With them, the little girls are Rosario Velasco Allente, Josefa Ramírez Bautista plus another small girl, additionally two children of four and one year of age respectively.

The towns’ residents have been reported variously to number 700 people or 700 families; authorities of San Juan Copala state 70 people remain there at present. It is agreed that they are defenseless and that the paramilitary barricading them have the backing of the governor of the state of Oaxaca.

San Juan Copala authorities call for the missing women and children to be returned alive, as well as punishment of those responsible for the ongoing aggression, specifically naming Ulises Ruiz Ortiz and his secretary general Evencio Martínez, whom they also hold responsible for arming, financing, and maintaining with impunity the paramilitary groups.

Last week the authorities issued a call for a new, larger international caravan, stating:

“Because the world needs to know these conditions and to know the complicity of the authorities of the government of Oaxaca with this paramilitary group, we make a new call to the national and international community, to all the countries of the world, to break once and for all the paramilitary circle in which more than seventy families live and who find themselves in subhuman conditions as well as conditions of permanent violation of their rights, so they may exercise their own forms of social, political and cultural organization, and the full life of community dwelling.

Because silence cannot be imposed by the noise of weapons: We convoke La caravana humanitaria “Bety Cariño y Jyri Jaakkola” to take place June 8, 2010, changing the date of May 30 published in some media due to the necessity of seeking and assuring the gathering of food and nourishment sufficient for these families for several weeks more, and above all to assure conditions of indispensible security to carry out (the caravan) and not put at risk any of the persons who decide to accompany us.

The humanitarian conditions are so extreme that people cannot tolerate more, with no water, light or food. The families need our aid and solidarity, for which we ask that the national and international organizations of human rights coordinate and add themselves to the initial meeting which we ask the Center for Human Rights “Bartolome Carrasco” of Oaxaca (BARCA) to coordinate. Especially we ask the participation of the National Network of Civil Organizations for Human Rights All the Rights for All Men and Women, to the Center for Human Rights Miguel Agustín Pro Juárez, and to the National Center for Social Communication, so that in conjunction they can cover the caravan and bring this humanitarian mission to a safe harbor.

We call also on the International Red Cross, on Amnesty International, on the International Brigades for Peace, and the office of the High Commission for Human Rights of the United Nations in Mexico, to add themselves in whatever measure possible to this caravan.

To the national and international communication media, committed to truth, to document and verify the reality of San Juan Copala, to tell the World how the oppressed and exploited of Mexico and Oaxaca live, to see firsthand the inhumane conditions that Bety Cariño and Jyri Jaakkola wanted to document, losing their lives in the attempt.

The integrity and security of all who accompany this caravan is solely in the hands of the Mexican State in its entirety; rights granted in our constitution and in international treaties cannot be limited by paramilitary groups or corrupt governments. La Caravana Humanitaria “Bety Cariño y Jyri Jaakkola” will manage to break the paramilitary circle and save the lives of more than seventy families surviving in subhuman conditions.

Because the rights of the Triqui people are not under the control of any paramilitary group!

Because justice and peace are only achieved building from below!

Everyone to San Juan Copala the next June 8!”

(signed) Autoridades del Municipio Autónomo de San Juan Copala and La APPO

Meanwhile, a campaign to intimidate and defame foreigners was initiated by Governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz (URO). Oaxaca’s second largest source of income comes from tourists, so one might ask why would the governor kill the goose that lays the golden eggs. A simple reply would be, he’s leaving office and won’t have to face any future diminishing of income. A more complex question is, why is URO so intent on forbidding entry into a region in which allegedly nothing of value exists but the location of one single very small autonomous community, brutally controlled by paramilitaries working for URO himself, and whose state police are “afraid” to enter the region.

The campaign against foreigners was taken up and supported by the Mexican ambassador to the European Union, Sandra Fuentes-Berain, who assured the European Parliament that the caravan ambush and murders of two participants was an “accident” which occurred due to internal conflicts in the Triqui region.

Along with this, the state Secretary General of Government, Evencio Martínez Ramírez, indicated that foreigners were involved in plans for a violent conflict such as the attack on the caravan, in order to create an atmosphere of tension in the state to stir up the electoral process in July. Foreign activists might have directed the ambush of the humanitarian caravan, he asserted. The state exists in an atmosphere of peace which at any moment “people or forces want to destroy this tranquility.” That supposition is based on the idea that none of the foreigners who participated in the mobilization notified their embassies of the work they were carrying out, nor that they would travel to a Mixe (sic) zone, Martinez said.

“Definitively, the events of San Juan Copala, and something more, can be prepared to generate this climate (of tension) and we have to denounce it,” he added in a collective interview. Events which occurred in San Juan Copala, where the Finnish man Jyri Jaakkola and the Oaxcaqueña Beatriz Cariño perished, “don’t change the Oaxaca mentality; working and living in a climate of democracy,” affirmed the secretary.

Jorge Alberto Quezadas Jiménez, the commissioner of State Police, indicated he has detected the intrusion of foreigners in conflicts such as the mine in San José del Progreso and in San Juan Copala. Article 33 of the state constitution avers that no person of another nationality can meddle in Mexican political matters, under pain of being deported. (He did not say what constitutes “political” matters.) He indicated that Jyri Jaakkola, killed in the ambush of April 27, did not have permission “to carry out this type of incursion….it’s a difficulty, we have seen in different mobilizations. Many people who are not from Oaxaca and for some reason we don’t know, try to intervene in some decisions that belong only to the state,” he declared. Therefore, the state security police will solicit the collaboration of the National Immigration Service to look into cases of illegal action and deport the foreigners to their countries of origin.

In response, a statement was published by Eduardo Liendro on May 14, regarding foreigners’ rights. Leandro works with an organization called DIVERSIDADES, A.C., which defends human rights against sexism, homophobia, racism and xenophobia. He writes: “Once more the repressive and authoritarian government of Ulises Ruíz seeks someone onto whom to lay the blame for the destabilization caused by the government itself, this time with the deeds of San Juan Copala which cost the lives of Bety Cariño and Jyri Jaakkola, humanitarian activists and valiant human beings. Once more national and international pressure condemns the local and also the federal government for the violations of human rights in Oaxaca…The same thing happened in 2006, after the assassination of Brad Will, another valiant and dedicated human being who was here and remained when they announced the cleansing of Oaxaca of destabilizing foreigners, and investigated a list of more than 100. A suggested list of proper preparations is available from Diversidades. At present, it has been announced, more than 100 organizations are signed onto the June 8 caravan.”