Recently in Mexico

Recently in Mexico

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June 19, 2007

Here’s a few updates about what’s been happening in Mexico this month. A quick overview:

Chiapas – Government linked to Viejo Velasco Massacre; Violence continues.
Mexico City – Murder of Activist shows grim face of illegal logging.
Oaxaca – Anniversary March held; Government apologizes for Oaxaca repression; Brother of Flavio Sosa (the Director of APPO) released form jail.
Veracruz: police raid peasant land occupation

Chiapas – Government linked to Viejo Velasco Massacre; Violence continues
The Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas Human Rights Center (Frayba) in Chiapas reports that it has received a document prepared by the Mexican government for the Inter-American Human Rights Commission (CIDH) concerning the November 13 2006 slaying of four peasants at the jungle community of Viejo Velasco Suárez. The document acknowledges that some 300 Chiapas state police were mobilized to Viejo Velasco on the day of the massacre. While the document fails to make clear whether the troops were dispatched before or after the attack, Frayba says this corroborates the claims of witnesses that the killers – a band of 40 masked men in civilian clothes – were backed up by hundreds of uniformed men with high-caliber rifles, some also wearing masks, who followed close behind.

Frayba continues to document attacks on the civil population in Chiapas by security forces. In one recent incident, a young Tzeltal Maya student, Roberto Encino López, 18, was arbitrarily detained by troops of the Mexican army’s 11th Infantry Company of the 38th Military Zone at Altamirano, Chiapas on May 16, 2007. Taken to the local barracks, he was beaten, verbally threatened and accused of links to the Zapatista rebels. Altamirano is on the edge of the Chiapas rainforest, which is the Zapatistas’ principal stronghold.

Land conflicts continue to generate violence throughout Chiapas. On June 3, more than 100 masked men with machetes destroyed seven huts on land contested by the neighboring municipalities of Chenalho and Chalchihuitán, in the Chiapas Highlands. (source)

Murder of Activist shows grim face of illegal logging
The brazen murder of an environmental activist by illegal loggers who are still free almost a month later has highlighted Mexico’s failure to tackle powerful gangs decimating its forests. Aldo Zamora was gathering information for environmental group Greenpeace when four men identified by witnesses and police as brothers in a logging gang ambushed his car on a forest road in the State of Mexico and sprayed him with bullets.

The state attorney general’s office says 15 detectives are on the case and identified the four brothers as the suspects. But no arrests have been made. Critics say the police moved too slowly and the suspects went into hiding. Greenpeace and Zamora’s father Ildefonso Zamora have staged protests, put up “Wanted” posters and pressured the state’s governor to bring the killers to justice. Anti-logging locals in Zamora’s small village of San Juan Atzingo have threatened to cut off the water supply to a neighboring state in protest. (source. Also see here and here)

Oaxaca Updates
In a “mega-march” extending more than 10 kilometers, thousands of teachers from the Section 22 union and their supporters in the Popular People’s Assembly of Oaxaca (APPO) marched through southern Mexico’s Oaxaca City June 14 to mark the first anniversary of the clash between police and striking teachers that sparked months of political unrest. The marchers chanted “June 14-not forgotten, not forgiven!” and carried posters with the faces of imprisoned APPO leaders Flavio Sosa y César Mateos, two of the nine Oaxaca activists who remain behind bars. The march finally assembled in the city’s central square, where the initial clash took place one year ago, and which subsequently became the nerve center of their movement. There a public meeting was held, presided over by Section 22 leader Ezequiel Rosales Carreño.

Smaller groups of protesters blockaded streets with rubble and commandeered buses-a tactic used during the 2006 protest, in which the plaza was seized and held for months. Most of the barricades erected at Thursday’s commemoration protest were removed after a few hours, however. The protesters continued to demand the ouster of Oaxaca’s Gov. Ulises Ruiz, which became the central demand of the movement following the June 2006 violence.(El Universal: 06/14; Associated Press: 06/14)

On June 9, Erick Sosa Villavicencio was freed at dawn from the Federal Center of Social Readaption in the Mexican border city of Matamoros. The brother of Flavio Sosa Villavicencio, director of the Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca (APPO), Erick was arrested last Nov. 28 and charged with “illegal deprivation of liberty.” He was freed for lack of evidence. However, charges of violent robbery were not formally dropped, and he could still be detained again if authorities choose to reactivate the case against him. Insisting all the charges against him were “fabricated,” Sosa said, “My only crime is being the brother of Flavio Sosa.” His two brothers Flavio and Horacio remain at the Federal Center of Social Readaption in Altiplano, México state. ( : 06/11)

Last but not least, on June 15 the government of Oaxaca apologized for a police raid on striking teachers in the central plaza of the state capital. Oaxaca Government Secretary Manuel Garcia Corpus issued the statement on behalf of Gov. Ulises Ruiz, whose refusal to negotiate with the strikers sparked the crisis. “The government of Ulises Ruiz gives the people of Oaxaca a public apology for the events that arose after the 14th,” Garcia Corpus told the government news agency Notimex, refering to the police raid of June 14, 2006. (AP, June 15)

Just two months ago, the APPO came together with Union of Mexican Jurists in a “Popular Court” to judge the repression and rights violations in Oaxaca. “The Popular Court’s opening statement charged that in Oaxaca there is a state of impunity for the “ruling PRI-PAN oligarchy.” Federal deputy Antonio Almazan Gonzalez added that “Oaxaca has been a laboratory for testing a program imported from other countries under forms of tyranny for suffocating the resistance of the people.” (source)

Veracruz: police raid peasant land occupation
Veracruz state police detained 47 members of local campesino group “Los Dorados de Villa” at the community of Ixhuatlán de Madero, in the mountainous Huasteca region. The campesinos, adherents of the Zapatista “Other Campaign,” had been peacefully occupying a 513-hectare piece of land at Lomas del Dorado, from which they say they had been illegally evicted by the army 23 years ago. They say the occupation was undertaken after a generation of fruitless petitions for redress. An observer at the scene from the local United Human Rights Network (RUDH) is said to have been “disappeared.” (La Jornada, June 16; LIMEDDH, June 15)

Meanwhile in Veracruz City, some 2,000 residents dressed in ritual white held a march in support of the federal police and army presence in the state, calling for military forces to be permanently stationed to combat increasingly violent narco gangs. Hundreds of local police joined the march. (La Jornada, June 18) (source)

Update in part thanks to the Committee of Indigenous Solidarity (CIS)

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