A powerful and moving speech by Bety Cariño, recorded at the fifth Frontline Defenders Conference in Dublin, Ireland, February, 2010.
Known to her friends as Bety Cariño, Bety Beatriz Alberta “Bety” Cariño Trujillo was a respected community organizer and advocate for food sovereignty, community water management, soil conservation and the right to autonomy for indigenous peoples in Mexico.
A descendant of the Mixtec Peoples, she was a leader of the Mexican Alliance for Self-Determination and Director of CACTUS, the Center of Community Support Working Together (Centro de Apoyo Comunitario Trabajando Unidos) in Oaxaca, Mexico.
As part of her work, Bety helped to organize women’s collectives in Oaxaca. She also organized the first humanitarian aid Caravan for the autonomous Triqui community of San Juan Copala, a peaceful and inspiring effort that met the most tragic of ends.
On April 27, 2010, at approximately 14:40, as the caravan was en route to San Juan Copala to deliver desperately-needed supplies, it was ambushed by the pro-government paramilitary organization UBISORT. In the minutes that followed, UBISORT opened fire on the caravan, killing Bety Cariño and Jyri Antero Jaakkola, a Finnish human rights defender and observer.
Those responsible for the murders of Bety and Jyri remain free to this day; and tragically, since their passing, the situation in San Juan Copala has only gotten worse.
Most recently, on September 13, 2010, “more than 500 men, heavily armed with AK-47s, AR-15s and machine guns, from the Movement for Triqui Unification and Struggle (MULT) and the Union for the Social Well-Being of the Triqui Region (UBISORT)… violently took over the Autonomous Municipality of San Juan Copala and the Autonomous Municipal Palace,” says a statement from Jesus Martinez Flores, the President of the Autonomous Municipality of San Juan Copala.
During the raid, the paramilitaries, shouting slogans like “Long live MULT!,” “Long live UBISORT!” and “Death to the autonomous!,” warned that the community has 24 hours to abandon their homes or they will be “massacred like dogs!” This was followed by string of attacks and murders on September 15, 18, 19 and 20.
Because of these attacks and the genuine risk of a massacre, all residents of the autonomous municipality have reportedly abandoned San Juan Copala. Thankfully, everyone made it out safely. No thanks to the government.
While hope may seem to be dwindling for the autonomous municipality, the Triqui People have no intention of giving up their dream, their long-sought need to live on their own terms. With the spirit of Bety Carino at their side, they will succeed.