Triqui Women Prepare For Third Peace Caravan to Mexico City

Faced with Silence in Oaxaca, They Request That Paramilitaries Be Dismantled
Mexico City, August 9, 2010 (CIMAC) – Women in resistance from the autonomous municipality of San Juan Copala, Oaxaca, announced that, faced with the constant danger of being beaten, murdered, or sexually abused, they are preparing the “Third Peace Caravan,” which will depart from Huajuapan de León and end in Mexico City.

In a press conference, Hilda Sánchez Gutiérrez and Josefina Albino Ortiz, coordinators of the autonomous municipality of San Juan Copala, said that women from their community have been disappeared, beaten, raped, and murdered by men who belong to the Union for the Social Well-being of the Triqui Region (UBISORT). [1]

In San Juan Copala, the Triqui people have a long history of struggle for indigenous peoples’ right to self-determination. However, a decades-long social conflict has caused internal division.

For months, San Juan Copala has been under siege by paramilitary groups who, according to autonomous authorities and social organizations, act with the Oaxacan government’s complicity.

“That is why today we don’t want to remain silent. We want to publicly denounce that as women we are most affected by this violent situation, by isolation and lack of basic services such as education and food supplies. We are the ones who remain in the community,” said Sánchez Gutiérrez.

She said that in order to survive, the women must risk their lives walking along paths in order to get to other communities in order to buy some basic goods and “when we return [to San Juan Copala] we run the risk that they will rob us or rape us or kill us.”

Women have lived with this grave violence for years in San Juan Copala. “We just want to live in peace and we want our rights as indigenous people to be respected–[rights such as] self-determination and and the right to live without violence,” they added.

They mentioned that this past Friday they met with the United Nations Assistant High Commissioner for Human Rights, Kyung-wha Kang. They informed her of the constant human rights violations, said Sánchez Gutiérrez.

She said that the High Commissioner was very attentive and expressed to them that impunity is one of the factors that encourages crime and violence. She told them that the only thing that can guarantee that human rights are respected is justice, and she requested that they document their community’s situation in order to more deeply understand the problem.

In the name of the women in resistance in her community, Sánchez Gutiérrez denounced that men from UBISORT have been responsible for all of the attacks on Triqui women, and that for that reason they hold them [UBISORT] responsible for anything that happens to them, because they [UBISORT] always reacts violently when people denounce them.

“Above all, it is because they don’t consider women to be human beings. They humiliate us, they don’t take our opinion into account, and we are the ones who pay for their thirst for vengeance and for the hatred that they feel towards women,” said the young indigenous woman.

Recent Attacks

Accompanied by six indigenous women with their daughters and sons, Sánchez Gutiérrez recounted that this past May 15, two differently abled women were attacked, beaten, and dragged during a kidnapping attempt perpetrated by UBISORT leaders Rufino and Anastasio Juárez, who were drunk.[2]

That same day, 30 women who were returning to San Juan Copala after collecting their aid from the Opportunities Program [a government welfare program] had their supplies stolen. Nine women, two children, and a baby were detained for over twelve hours by members of the UBISORT group.

On May 20, Cleriberta Castro Aguilar was murdered along with her husband. On June 24, 8-year-old Miriam Martínez was wounded during a shooting perpetrated by the armed group. On June 26, the municipality was attacked and Marcelina de Jesús López and Celestina Cruz Ramírez were wounded, added Sánchez Gutiérrez.

Third Caravan

In support of the autonomous municipality, she said, on August 23 the “Third Peace Caravan” will leave from Huajuapan de León, Oaxaca, for Mexico City. It will be led by women and their daughters and sons.

She said that the Caravan plans to stop in the community where human rights defender Beatriz Alberta Cariño lived. Cariño was murdered this past April 27 during an armed attack on the International Human Rights Observation Caravan, which was headed to San Juan Copala.

The delivery of humanitarian aid to the town of San Juan Copala has been thwarted on two occasions, most recently on June 8, when [the second caravan] attempted to deliver over 30 tons of supplies that were left in a warehouse in Huajuapan de León.

Faced with that situation, the supplies had to be transported by residents in an “Operation Ant.” To date, 70% of the aid has been carried into San Juan Copala on the backs of residents of the Triqui community.

Hilda Sánchez added that the caravan also plans to make a stop in San Salvador Atenco.

The goal is to demand that the federal government dismantle paramilitary groups and that peace return to the municipality, because the Oaxacan government has not listened to them. They will also visit government offices such as the Secretary of the Interior and the Federal Attorney General’s Office.

Translator’s Notes:

[1] The United Nations High Commission on Refugees classifies UBISORT, which was founded by the ruling political party in Oaxaca, as a paramilitary organization.
[2] Anastasio Juárez was murdered last week, leading to a
joint raid on San Juan Copala carried out by UBISORT and Oaxacan state police. State police have since left the community, but the paramilitaries have taken over San Juan Copala’s town hall and the military has deployed to the paramiltary-controlled town of La Sabana, located 5-10 minutes from San Juan Copala.