San Juan Copala Under Paramilitary Control Following Police Raid

San Juan Copala Under Paramilitary Control Following Police Raid

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August 1, 2010

Two days ago, more than one hundred Oaxaca state troopers raided the autonomous indigenous municipality of San Juan Copala, in Oaxaca, Mexico.

The shocking move reveals the extent of the Oaxaca government’s complicity in the murders, the illegal blockade and the rampant human rights violations of the Triqui community at the hands of the paramilitary group UBISORT.

Following the raid, roughly thirty members of UBISORT, who had accompanied the police on their so-called ‘humanitarian mission’, occupied the autonomous municipality’s town hall. As a result, San Juan Copala is now effectively under the control of UBISORT. Kristin Bricker Reports.

Breaking: San Juan Copala, Oaxaca, Under Paramilitary Control Following Police Raid

Police Raid Belies Government Excuses About Why It Refused to Break the Months-Long Paramilitary Blockade

At approximately 12:15 pm on July 30, over one hundred Oaxaca state police raided the autonomous municipality of San Juan Copala. Approximately thirty heavily armed members of the Union for the Social Well-being of the Triqui Region (UBISORT, a paramilitary organization) accompanied the police on the raid. Rufino Juárez, UBISORT’s leader, reportedly participated in the raid.

The goal of the raid, according to the state government, was to remove the body of Anastasio Juárez Hernández from his home in San Juan Copala. Police did remove the dead man from his home and then left San Juan Copala. However, the paramilitaries, taking advantage of the police presence, took over San Juan Copala’s town hall. The town hall is now occupied by thirty UBISORT paramilitaries armed with automatic assault rifles. “They have taken over control of the entire town,” reports a source close to the autonomous authorities.

Meanwhile, the Mexican military has deployed soldiers to La Sabana, a nearby town that is controled by UBISORT. Thus far the soldiers have not entered San Juan Copala.

Two young indigenous Triqui women were wounded when the paramilitaries and police entered San Juan Copala. The women were part of a human blockade at the entrance to the town that attempted to impede the police and paramilitaries’ access. The two women, ages 15 and 18, were “gravely wounded” when paramilitaries from UBISORT shot them as they entered San Juan Copala. The women were evacuated and are being treated at an undisclosed location.

Mysterious Murder

Autonomous authorities questioned the circumstances of the raid in a communique published on their website, In the communique, the autonomous municipality claims that Juárez Hernández was actually murdered in the city of Juxtlahuaca, implying that his body was later planted in San Juan Copala in order to justify the police raid.

Local press immediately parroted the government’s claims that Juárez Hernández, who was UBISORT leader Rufino Juárez’s brother and the government-recognized “municipal agent” of San Juan Copala, was murdered in his home in San Juan Copala. Juárez Hernández was not elected to the position of municipal agent; UBISORT appointed him to that position this past November.

The claim that Juárez Hernández was murdered in his home in San Juan Copala raises several questions about its veracity: How did Juarez Hernandez enter San Juan Copala, a town which his organization, UBISORT, has successfully blockaded with boulders, logs, and gunmen since January? Why would Juárez Hernández enter San Juan Copala, a town whose remaining residents fully support the autonomous municipality? UBISORT claims that the autonomous municipality is armed. So why would Juárez Hernández enter a town whose only residents are bitter enemies whom his organization claims are armed?

It is true that police retrieved Juárez Hernández’s body from his home in San Juan Copala. San Juan Copala has historically been an important cultural, political, economic, and spiritual center for the lower Triqui region. San Juan Copala has historically had very few permanent residents. Leaders had homes in San Juan Copala, but they only lived there when they were serving the public. When their service was over, they returned to their permanent homes in other communities. Furthermore, most of San Juan Copala’s residents (seasonal and permanent) have fled the area due to the violence and the paramilitary blockade. As a result, many Triquis have homes in San Juan Copala that they rarely or never inhabit. Such was Juárez Hernández’s case. While his body was recovered on his property, residents report that he did not live there at the time of the murder.

Due to frequent fire that comes from paramilitary sharp-shooters stationed in the hills that surround San Juan Copala, the town’s streets are deserted. No one leaves their homes unless absolutely necessary, and those who do leave frequently come under fire if the sharp-shooters spot them. The siege makes it relatively easy for someone who his complicit with the sharp-shooters to plant a body without anyone noticing, because residents spend the majority of their lives hidden in their homes away from any windows.

Regardless of how or where Juárez Hernández died, the consequences of his murder are painfully apparent for San Juan Copala’s residents. Their town is occupied by heavily armed paramilitaries who were escorted in by state police. To add insult to injury, the raid comes after seven months of a paramilitary blockade that the government has claimed it is incapable of breaking despite the autonomous municipality’s claims that residents may starve to death if the blockade continues. The raid’s irony wasn’t lost on the Oaxaca-based Bartolomé Carrasco Briseño Human Rights Center, who wrote in a press release:

“It is inconsistent and paradoxical that when security measures were requested so that the ‘Bety and Jiry’ Humanitarian Caravan could enter [San Juan Copala] and leave food supplies, the State did not fulfill its responsibility and prevented the Caravan from fulfilling its mission. At that time, [the state] put together an impressive operation that was headed by the State Attorney General, the State Security Commissioner, and the President of the Oaxaca Human Rights Commission, which impeded the caravan’s passage. They argued that conditions did not permit a safe entrance, and that not even the police could enter that territory. But in reality, they were just protecting the armed group named UBISORT.

“Now it is absurd that the authorities could put together an entire operation in order to carry out the initial investigation of the homicide, and that now they can enter [San Juan Copala] and on top of that repress the people, when before they did not listen, nor did they act, when faced with the demands of hundreds of residents of the autonomous municipality who requested food, the reinstallation of basic services, treatment for sick people, under the false argument that they were incapable of entering the zone and that they would not risk their people.”

The government’s preferential treatment of the paramilitaries is unmistakable: in addition to deploying armed state police to guard the UBISORT’s blockade when the humanitarian caravan attempted to enter San Juan Copala this past June, the government has failed to act when members of the autonomous municipality have come under attack, presumably by government-aligned paramilitaries. Just this past July 26, Maria Rosa Francisco disappeared when her home in San Juan Copala came under fire. All of her animals were killed in the attack, and she remains missing and is feared dead. The Bartolomé Carrasco Briseño Human Rights Center publicly denounced the attack and called on its supporters to contact the government and demand that put an end to the violence.

The Human Rights Center’s pleas were met with indifference in the government. However, as soon as a paramilitary’s cadaver appeared in San Juan Copala, the government acted.

Financial Support Desperately Needed

The autonomous municipality reports that it desperately needs money to pay for the wounded women’s medical treatment and to buy phone credit in order to communicate with the press and human rights organizations.

In Mexico, donations may be deposited in the account at HSBC: 4023256654. The account is the name of Minerva Nora Martínez Lázaro.

For international deposits: Interbank Key: 021610040232566547 ABA Code 021000021 BRANCH: BIMEMXMM

The Municipality also asks that you register by sending your deposit amount, date and time of deposit to: and


Please send your appeals to:

Felipe de Jesús Calderón Hinojosa
President of Mexico
Residencia Oficial de los Pinos, Casa Miguel Alemán, Col. San Miguel Chapultepec, C.P. 11850, México DF. Tel: +52 55 27891100; Fax: +52 55 527 72 376. E-mail:

José Francisco Blake Mora
Secretary of the Interior
Bucareli 99, 1er. piso, Col. Juárez, Delegación Cuauhtémoc, México D.F., C.P. 06600, México, FAX +52 (55) 5093 34 14. E-mail:

Arturo Chávez Chávez
Attorney General of the Republic of Mexico
Procuraduría General de la República, Paseo de la Reforma nº 211-213, Piso 16, Col. Cuauhtémoc, Del. Cuauhtémoc, México D.F., C.P. 06500, Fax: +52 55 53 46 09 08; + 52 55 27 89 11 13 (If a voice answers, say “fax tone, please”), E-Mail: /

S.E. Sra. Ulla Marianna Vaisto
Embassy of Finland, Mexico
Embajadora Extraordinaria y Plenipotenciaria
Monte Pelvoux 111, piso 4, Lomas de Chaputlepec, 11000 México DF
Tel. +52 (55) 5540 6036 Fax +52 (55) 5540 0114 E-mail:

S.E. Sr. Roland Michael Wegener,
Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany in Mexico
Embajador Extraordinario y Plenipotenciario
Horacio 1506, Col. Los Morales, 11530 México D.F.
Tel.+52 (55) 5283 2200 Fax +52 (55) 5281 2588 E-mail:

S.E. Sr. Boudewijn E. G. Dereymaeker,
Embassy of Belgium, Mexico
Embajador Extraordinario y Plenipotenciario
Alfredo Musset 41, Col. Polanco, 11550 México DF
Tel. +52 (55) 5280 0758; fax +52 (55) 5280 0208 E-mail:

S.E. Sr. Roberto Spinelli,
Italian Embassy in Mexico
Embajador Extraordinario y Plenipotenciario
Paseo de las Palmas 1994, Col. Lomas de Chapultepec, 11000 México DF
Tel. +52 (55) 5596 3655 Fax +52 (55) 5596 2472 y 5596 7710 E-mail:

Ulises Ruiz Ortiz
Governor of the State of Oaxaca
Fax: (+52) 5020530

Ma. De la Luz Candelaria Chiñas
Attorney-General of the State of Oaxaca
Fax. 01951 5115174, 019515115121

Javier Rueda Vázquez
Secretary of Public Security of the State of Oaxaca
Heroico Colegio Militar 317
Reforma, 68050 Oaxaca
Cómo llegar, 01 951 132 5748

Dr. Raúl Plascencia Villanueva
President of the National Human Rights Commission
(55) 56 81 71 99, E-mail:

Dr. José Antonio Guevara Bermúdez
Head of Unit for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights – SEGOB
Av. Paseo de la Reforma 99 Piso 19 Tabacalera, Cuauhtémoc, Distrito Federal, 06030, Tel: (55) 5551-28-00 Ext: 11863, E-mail:

S.E. Sr. Juan José Gómez Camacho
Permanent Mission of Mexico to the United Nations Offices in Geneva
Fax +41 (22) 748 0708, E-mail:

S.E. Sra. Sandra Camila Fuentes-Berain Villenave
Ambassador of Mexico to the European Communities and Permanent Observer to the Council of Europe
Fax +32 2 644 08 19 Tel. +32 (2) 629 0777 E-mail:

Sr. Alberto Brunori
Representative in Mexico of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
Fax +52 (55) 5061 6358; E-mail:

Sr. Santiago Cantón
Executive Secretary of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights
Fax +1 (202) 458 3992 E-mail:

Sra. Navanethem Pillay
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
Fax +41 22 917 9000 E-mail:

Please send a copy of all writings to:

Centro Regional de Derechos Humanos “Bartolomé Carrasco Briseño” A. C.
Mariano Azuela 203, Col. José Vasconcelos, C. P. 68120, Oaxaca México
Tel/Fax (01951) 51 4 16 34, E-Mail:

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