Four Foreigners Detained without Justification in Oaxaca, Mexico on Thursday January 28th 2010
Oaxaca — January 30, 2010
On Thursday January 28, at around 9 p.m. Andrea Caraballo, Guadalupe Rodriguez Lopez, James Wells and Jennifer Lawhorne were eating ice cream in the zocalo of Oaxaca. At that time, one of us recognized the face of the governor of Oaxaca who was about nine feet away from us. As a friend of Brad Will, a U.S. journalist who was killed in Oaxaca in 2006, one of us took advantage of the governor’s presence to ask him about the case of Mr. Will, which to this day remains unresolved. We didn’t receive a response from the governor who continued walking and we continued strolling in the zocalo with our ice creams. Five minutes later, between six and eight police agents, some in official uniform and others dressed in plainclothes, surrounded us, demanding to see our identifications and made us walk with them to a municipal police truck. While the police forced us to get into the back of the truck, we asked them why they were taking us away and to where they were going to take us. The police refused to give us any information. We were actually very afraid and worried for our safety.
After traveling for half an hour, we arrived at the police headquarters of Santa Maria Coyotepec, located outside of the Oaxaca city limits.. Once we entered, the police took photographs of us and asked us questions. We demanded the presence of an attorney, which was denied by the police officials. We spent an hour there surrounded by police, faces covered with ski masks, who humiliated and threatened us. Later, the police put us once again in the police truck and without telling us to where we were going, we left the headquarters. The truck stopped about half a block away from the state General Procuradaria of Justice (PGJO in its letters in Spanish), the police ordered us to leave our belongings in the darkness of the street and when we refused to do that, they insisted by threatening us for half an hour while recording us with video. After entering the offices of the PGJO, the police ordered us to leave our belongings with them and that we make a declaration one by one without the presence of an attorney. We remained firm that we weren’t going to do anything until our attorney arrived.
After waiting for more than an hour, we were taken to a room where we supposedly were going to make a call to our lawyer. While in the room, a police officer read to us a document explaining our charges and to our surprise we were accused of scuffling and causing harm to two police agents. In that document, our arrest was ordered and without making the call to our lawyer, we were pushed and dragged out of the room, while twisting the wrist of one of us. That’s how we were taken to the jail cells at 12:30 in the morning. At 1:30, we were allowed to see a lawyer, Jesus Alfredo Lopez Garcia, who we agreed to be our legal representative. From then on we knew that we were going to spend the night in jail. Throughout the night, the police continued to intimidate us, asking us why we were there. We continued to state that we didn’t do anything to cause our incarceration because we never committed any crime. Confused, we did our best to sleep on the cold jail floor.
The next day, Friday January 29, we learned that the gravity of charges that had been filed against us had increased. One of us was taken to make a statement when she learned that we were being accused of assaulting two police officers and damaging a police radio valued at about $3000 (USD). We continued to demand our right to not make a statement. At around 4p.m., our attorney informed us that for a lack of evidence, we were going to be set free without charges and without having to pay bail, under the provision of passing through a review with officials from National Immigration Institute. Upon arrival at the federal immigration offices located in the center of the city, we presented our passports and visas and shortly we were allowed to walk free.
After learning about the situation, the U.S. consul, Mark Leyes, invited us to visit him at his office the same evening and told us that he was sorry for what had happened to us. We would like to thank the attorney Jesus Alfredo Lopez Garcia from the Mexican Protectorate for Human Rights, our friends and family members for all of their support and care.
Andrea Caraballo, Guadalupe Rodriguez Lopez, Jennifer Lawhorne and Jimmy Wells
Testimony from one of the arrested tourists
a bad night in oaxaca
This post is also available in: Spanish