October 17th, 2008 – by Kristin Bricker: Mexican federal police arrested five Oaxacan activists on the afternoon of October 16th. At least two were arrested for supposedly murdering US citizen and Indymedia journalist Brad Will on October 27, 2006.
Brad Will was assassinated while reporting and filming the 2006 uprising in Oaxaca. Multiple witnesses say he was shot by paramilitaries who are seen in photos shooting towards Will. The paramilitaries are: Juan Carlo Soriano, municipal police officer; Manuel Aguilar, council personnel chief; Able Santiago Zarate; and Pedro Carmona, mayor of Felipe Carrillo Puerto de Santa Lucia del Camino.
The government claims that Will was shot at close range, therefore implicating the APPO activists around him. To prove this claim, the government at one point stated that the autopsy found powder burns on Will’s body consistent with a close-range shooting. However, the medical examiner who performed the autopsy contradicted this claim, saying he did not find powder burns on Will’s body.
The man the government accuses of being the intellectual author of Will’s murder is Juan Manuel Martínez Moreno. Martínez Moreno has supported the Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca (APPO in its Spanish initials). Martínez Moreno made headlines in 2007 when he was kidnapped along with two other APPO members while performing election observation in Santa Lucía del Camino, where Will was murdered in October 2006. The kidnappers beat the three APPOistas severely in the face and abdomen under a bridge and then dumped them in a community 38 kilometers from Oaxaca City.
Police also acknowledged arresting Octavio Perez Perez for covering up the crime. Perez participated in the 2006 uprising in Oaxaca.
The Angry White Kid blog reports that three other activists have been arrested: Lirio Lopez, Miguel Lopez, and Guadalupe (last name unknown). It is unknown if these activists are also accused of Will’s murder or if the arrests are part of a larger crackdown on dissent in Oaxaca.
According to Angry White Kid: “Activists here first learned of the detention of Juan and joined his family this evening at the Penitenciaria Central de Santa Maria Ixcotel, Oaxaca. Juan’s mother and wife have not been allowed in to see him. Later it was learned four others had been detained. A planton is planned at the Ixcotel penal beginning at 9am on Friday.”
APPO activists and members of the Indigenous Popular Council of Oaxaca (CIPO) say the government is blaming activists for Will’s murder in order to cover up its own involvement in the crime.
Update on three other activists
While we still don’t have complete names for the three other activists who were arrested on Thursday, there are unconfirmed reports that they were charged with assaulting a municipal president at a barricade in 2006, and not Brad Will’s murder.
This would mean that these arrests (both the Will-related arrests and those that are possibly related) are part of a broader crackdown on people and organizations who participated in the 2006 uprising and who continue to organize in Oaxaca.
There are also unconfirmed rumors that there are 250-300 arrest warrants out for Oaxacan activists. Regardless of whether this rumor is true or not, the five arrests on Thursday have obviously escalated tensions and fear in Oaxaca. This rumor means that many Oaxacan activsts are scared that there might be a warrant out for them, and as a whole, the movement is scared that the crackdown will continue with even more arrests.