Activists in Minnesota Condemn Assassination of Mexican Indigenous Social Movement Leader

Minnesotans urge the Mexican consulate to investigate ongoing paramilitary violence in Oaxaca San Juan Copala, Mexico after the assassination of indigenous leader, wife.

May 21st, St Paul, MN — A group of Minnesota activists delivered a letter to the Mexican consulate in the wake of yesterday’s assassination of community leader Alejandro Ramirez and his wife Cleriberta Castro in their home in San Juan Copala.

“We are here to condemn continued paramilitary attacks on women, children, and movement leaders in Oaxaca San Juan Copala, Mexico,” shouted one protester. “We demand an immediate investigation into these calculated murders and campaign of intimidation by the Mexican government!”

Activists hung a banner over I-35 on Monday, and urged friends and family to call into the consulate all week leading up to today’s protest.

Officials at the consulate made copies of the letters while expressing concern with the issues raised, but denied any government involvement with the paramilitaries. They cited economic development of the San Juan Copala region as a solution for the civil conflict in the area.

Many Oaxacans share a different vision of “development.” They see the word used as a pretext to exploit their communities, and undermine their internationally recognized right to self determination as indigenous people, rather than a path to peace.

A May 18 communique from the Autonmous Municipality Of San Juan Copala reads: “We make clear that this resistance struggle has as its final goal to recuperate our history and culture, with a great respect for our mother earth; to achieve development towards the dignified life that we all desire, where peace and justice reign.”

According to the independent website

“San Juan Copala made international headlines last month when alleged members of the Union for the Social Well-being of the Triqui Region (UBISORT) opened fire on an international aid caravan headed to the besieged community. Mexican social leader Bety Cariño and Finnish observor Jyri Jaakkola died in the attack. The caravan was bringing food, clothing, water, and medicine to San Juan Copala, which UBISORT paramilitaries have blockaded since January. No one can enter or leave the community, and the paramilitaries cut off electricity and running water.

The intense international outrage that followed the caravan attack did nothing to stem the violence. Two weeks after the attack, UBISORT paramilitaries kidnapped six Triqui women, five children, and a baby when they snuck out of Copala to purchase food in the market of the nearby town of Juxtlahuaca. The Oaxaca state government and the Oaxaca State Human Rights Commission refused to accompany the woman back to San Juan Copala to ensure their safe passage.”

“We as U.S. citizens have the responsibility to hold our own government accountable for the increased militarization of Mexico,” explained one organizer.

“Since 2008, the U.S. government has used the “war against drugs and organized crime” to justify $1.6 Billion in funding for the Merida Initiative giving weapons, intelligence and training to a repressive regime. There can be no question that U.S. foreign policies are financing the militarization of communities in Oaxaca,” she said.

With all eyes on Oaxaca, San Juan Copala has called for a second, larger international caravan to the autonomous municipality on June 8.


One comment

  1. Mexican Consulate of Minnesota
    797 E. 7th St.
    St. Paul, MN

    TO: Ana Luisa Fajer Flores and others it may concern

    FROM: Oaxaca Solidarity Organizers & Supporters in the Twin Cities

    DATE: May 21st, 2010

    We are presenting you this letter on behalf of a community of individuals and organizations in the Twin Cities concerned with recent incidents in the state of Oaxaca.

    As you may know, on April 27, a humanitarian caravan carrying aid to the besieged community of San Juan Copala in the Mixteca region of Oaxaca was ambushed by armed men from the paramilitary organization
    UBISORT. Using army-grade weapons, they fired on the defenseless caravan, killing Beatriz Alberta Cariño, director of Center of Community Support Working Together (CACTUS), and Finnish International human rights observer Jyri Antero Jaakkola. Several more were wounded, others spent days in hiding in the countryside, and other still were threatened with death by UBISORT gunmen. Over the weekend, 12 women and children were kidnapped at gunpoint by the paramilitary group UBISORT while trying to bring food and medicine to San Juan Copala.

    We denounce these attacks in the strongest possible terms. It is outrageous and unacceptable that a paramilitary group linked to the PRI and Oaxaca governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz can not only attack a humanitarian caravan but can lay siege to a community for months on end with complete impunity and with no response from the federal government. In light of this grave situation, we strongly urge that the following be communicated to and acted upon by the federal government:

    • Identify and punish the individual(s) responsible – both materially and intellectually – for the murders of Beatriz Cariño and Jyri Jaakkola and the injuries inflicted upon Mónica Citlali Santiago Ortiz, Noé Bautista Jiménez and others.

    • End the paramilitary attacks and harassment in the Triqui region and in particular against the autonomous municipality of San Juan Copala.

    • Ensure respect for the rights guaranteed to indigenous communities such as San Juan Copala as outlined in the International Labor Organization Convention Number 169, including their right to autonomy and self-government.

    • Enforce respect for the human and individual rights of the inhabitants of San Juan Copala, including their:
    • Freedom of movement and travel
    • Right to education
    • Right to health care
    • Right to food
    • Right to freedom of association

    • Guarantee the physical and psychological well-being and safety of all members of the humanitarian caravan, their family members and supporters, in particular caravan members Rubén Valencia Nuñez and Gabriela Jiménez, as well as Beatriz Cariño’s family members, especially her husband Omar Esparza, all of whom have received death threats. The harassment by plainclothes police officers of caravan member Noé Bautista Jiménez, who is currently in the IMSS Hospital General de Zona 01 in Oaxaca, along with his family and friends, must also cease immediately.

    • Open federal investigations by the PGR into crimes of commission or omission against the caravan and the autonomous municipality of San Juan Copala by the following individuals:

    • Ulises Ernesto Ruiz Ortiz, Governor of Oaxaca
    • Evencio Nicolás Martínez Ramírez, Secretary-General of the Government of Oaxaca
    • María de la Luz Candelaria Chiñas, Oaxaca State Attorney General
    • Jorge Franco Vargas “El Chuky”, PRI Federal Deputy
    • Carlos Martínez, PRI candidate for the Oaxaca state congress

    The attack on the humanitarian caravan and the continued aggression against the autonomous municipality of San Juan Copala are matters of great concern to individuals and organizations in Oaxaca, in Mexico and around the world. As the government of Oaxaca, led by Governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz, has shown no interest in ensuring the human rights of that state’s inhabitants, and instead has been an active violator of the human rights of Oaxacans, it is incumbent upon the federal government to act and ensure those responsible for the paramilitary attacks are brought to justice and that human rights are respected and enforced in Oaxaca and the rest of Mexico.

    We look forward to your response to our concerns and federal government’s plan of action regarding the events in San Juan Copala.

    Thank you for your time.


    Oaxaca Solidarity Organizers & Supporters of the Twin Cities

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