The “Low-Intensity War” Against Autonomy (Part Four and Last)

By: Daniel Arellano Chávez, Neri Martínez Hernández y Ricardo Trujillo González, Dec. 13, 2010
Translated by Erica Lagalisse, April 15, 2011

Oaxaca 2010: Military-Paramilitary Law

In an October 2006 communiqué, the federal army acknowledged the existence of the following troops in Oaxaca:

Miahuatlán – 624 soldiers pertaining to the 6th Infantry Battalion.

Pinotepa Nacional – 645 of the 47th Infantry Battalion

Nopala – 609 of the 54th Infantry Battalion.

Juxtlahuaca – 372 of the 95th Infantry Battalion.

Tuxtepec – 442 of the 6th Motorized Calvalry Regiment.

Tlaxiaco – 104 of the 95th Infantry Battalion.

Coxocon – 489 of the 13th Motorized Calvalry Regiment.

Huajuapan de León – 185 of the 23rd Uncontained Infantry Company (No Encuadrada).

Border with Puebla – 489 of the 24th Motorized Calvalry Regiment.

Border with Guerrero – 1,455 of the 48th and 93rd Infantry Battalions

Ixcotel – An Infantry Brigade of three battalions, or 1837 troops.

(Part One) | (Part Two) | (Part Three) | (Part Four)

These troops were deployed according to the National Counterinsurgency Defense Plan II that was put into effect March 2006 “to control the action of armed groups”. Their numbers were further increased during their clashes with the popular movement in Oaxaca at the end of October 2006 and during the whole month of November (above all following the defeat of the Federal Preventative Police in the “battle of Todos Santos” on November 2). They all remained deployed throughout the first months of 2007, bringing the total number of troops within reach of Oaxaca by air, land and sea to an indeterminate high.

Since the height of deployment in the middle of 2007, the detonation of explosives in PEMEX ducts in Guanajuato and Querétaro – an act claimed by the EPR (Ejercito Popular Revolucionario – Popular Revolutionary Army) – was used as a pretext to further reinforce the repressive apparatus in the Cerro del Fortín, and the militarization of Oaxaca has continued at a constant pace.

On August 16, 2008, the Federal Army announced the deployment of 6000 infantry in Military Zone XXVIII to install roadblocks, function as patrols, and to exhibit the graduates of the Individual Combat Regional Training Centre (CACIR) located in Miahuatlan de Porfirio Díaz.

In the beginning of February 2009, the National Secretary of Defense announced the creation of the 46th Military Zone, to be based in Ixtepec, Oaxaca under the control of the General Brigade Staff Graduate Antonio Mundo Villegas. The territorial extension of this new Military Zone covers 59 municipalities, all located in the Isthus of Tehuantepec, including Santo Domingo Tehuantepec, Matías Romero, Salina Cruz, Ciudad Ixtepec, Juchitán de Zaragoza, Unión Hidalgo y Santo Domingo Zanatepec.

With this development, the territorial division of the 8th Military Region that includes the states of Oaxaca and a small part of Veracruz is made up of the 28th, 44th, and 46th Military Zones based in Santa María Ixcotel, Miahuatlán de Porfirio Díaz and the city of Ixtepec, respectively. These zones are under the control of of General Brigade Staff Graduate Carlos Guillermo Murillo Soberanes as Commandant of the 28th Military Zone, the Vice-Admiral José María Ortegón Cisneros, Commandant of the 10th Military Zone based in Salina Cruz, and the Commandant of the Military Air Force base of Ixtepec, Luis Ignacio Salgado.

The number of roadblocks has also increased: Roadblocks have been installed in the outskirts and even inside cities in recent years, demonstrating coordinated action among various state agencies. This is clear, for example, in the case of the roadblocks installed overnight near the Oaxaca airport in July 2008, and the operations coordinated by different strata of police and army contingents to stop the people of Oaxaca from taking the Crucero de Cinco Señores on November 2, 2008 on the 2 year anniversary of their victory over the Federal Preventative Police in that very place. Generally speaking, we now find roadblocks permanently installed on highway exits leaving Oaxaca for all other points in the state.

The roadblocks installed most recently are those in San Martín Mexicapan, Colonia del Maestro, at Primera Etapa (November 7), in Colonia Dolores (November 14), Santa Rosa (November 15), and around the Central de Abastos during the nights of November 2010. Beyond these, there are now military trucks constantly patrolling and/or parked permanently in various places, such as near the baseball stadium or on Tinoco y Palacios street.

Oaxaca finds itself under the Secretary of Defense’s Plan for 2011 called “Construction of Strategic Points of Control” and for which the army has asked funding of 1, 600, 000, 000 pesos to build 13 control points in Baja California, Chihuahua, Nuevo León, Sinaloa, Sonora, Tamaulipas and Veracruz, all under the pretext of the war against narcotrafficking. In Oaxaca they will be installing two more roadblocks beyond those already existing all over the state.

On top of all this we must take into account all of the pre-existing and constantly swelling police corps. During the last days of his “administration”, the assassin Ulises Ruiz highlighted his creation of over 500 new police patrols throughout the state, as well as his expansion and re-inauguration of the General Prison of the State Police. In other words, he was proud to re-open the Torture Centre of Santa Maria Coyotepec, where some of the most brutal repression of the people of Oaxaca occurred on October 27th 2006, acts of repression that left an indeterminate number of APPO and social movement participants murdered and disappeared.

In economic terms, the State government spent 1 307 000 000 pesos, to which the federal government added 273 000 000 pesos, totaling more than 6 billion pesos spent on “public security” in Oaxaca in 2006 alone. Sergio Loyo Ortega, coordinator of public security in Oaxaca de Juarez, pointed to a 300% increase in the state’s fleet of security vehicles and a 40% increase in personnel during the announcement he made on Dec. 1 2009 as he received his new equipment valued at 22 000 000 pesos. Among this equipment there were 32 new mobile units, including 4 Tsuru vehicles, 9 double cab pick-ups, 2 3.5 ton trucks, one Kodiak truck, 8 motorcycles, 8 four-wheelers, 15 cameras for surveillance deployment, 37 pieces of radio equipment and 29 pieces of PDA equipment (handheld computers linked to the Mexican database platform). This equipment was to be distributed to cover the 6 sectors in which the police had divided the city (the Historical Center, the Central de Abastos, the East, West, North and South sides). It should be noted that functionaries admit that only 10% of police personnel have secondary level education, the rest only elementary school; in other words, they are not necessarily trained to use the equipment.

The presence of repressive force in the streets has also increased during festival seasons and days (the 15th of September, 20th of November, vacation periods), at which time operations including at least 1500 municipal police in Oaxaca City and more than 5000 state police throughout the state are almost always announced. These announcements are almost always delivered by figures such as Secretary of Security Javier Rueda Velásquez, State Police Commissioner Jorge Alberto Quezadas or State Director of Investigation Alan Loren Peña.

The activities of these patrols are articulated with those of military troops advancing throughout the various populations that have organized to stop “development” megaprojects. This can be seen, for example, in the case of San Miguel Panixtlahuaca where on the 23rd of April of 2009, starting at 9 in the morning, 15 trucks of armed hooded Federal Army soldiers arrived and besieged this Chatina community on the Oaxacan coast. Reports sent by people in this indigenous community say that the soldiers arrived, surrounded the town with roadblocks such that no one could enter or leave, then searched townspeople’s houses looking for weapons, stole money in the process, and indiscriminately intimidated everyone regardless of whether they were men, women, elders, or children [1]. Similar events transpired during the incursion of the Federal Army in San Jose del Progreso, where soldiers from the 44th Military Zone attempted to enter the territory of those organized against Fortuna Silver Mines, the Canadian Mining Company.

As part of this continuing assault on indigenous communities, last November 25th 2010 the Federal Army arrived in the Mazateco region, surrounded various communities, installed roadblocks, and searched homes. A public denouncement regarding these events reads: “Up until the moment of drafting this communiqué there have been no reports of violence. The word in residents’ mother tongue used to describe this military action is shijùn (marabunta, or plague of ants): ‘The plague has passed through…’.” In the wake of this military operation the families of Nashinandá-Mazatecas are left with only an ominous silence and uncertainty as to what will transpire tomorrow.” [2] This shared sentiment extends throughout Oaxaca and its diverse communities due to the notable increase in military movement in Oaxaca during the last month.

Despite the pervasive police and military control in the capital and throughout the whole state territory, paramilitary groups act with impunity, without being “bothered” in the least while going about their business – evidence of coordinated action among the State and its repressive apparatuses, both official and paramilitary. The Human Rights caravan ambushed April 27, 2010 also demonstrated coordinated action among repressive corps and paramilitaries as the government failed to realize any type of search and rescue action for survivors. As further proof of this situation, one need only consider what happened to the Bety Cariño and Jyri Antero Jaakola Solidarity Caravan organized in wake of their deaths April 27th: It was detained in its approach toward San Juan Copala on June 8th 2010.

Paramilitarism in Oaxaca extends throughout various regions and the activity of these groups goes hand in hand with the interests of transnational corporations, the government, and regional political bosses (caciques). This can be seen, for example, in the case of the groups which the government has armed in San Jose del Progreso in order to quell the people’s struggle to expel the Canadian company Fortune Silver Mines; the paramilitary group in Santiago Laollaga called “the Brotherhood” (la Fraternidad) led by Humberto Alcalá Betanzos; the paramilitaries in Santos Reyes Nopala, Chalcatongo; and many other gunmen in the service of regional political bosses throughout the state.

“Santo Domingo Ixcatlán, an enclave in the Sierra Alta Mixteca, gets no respite from acts of violence. April 30, 2008 Gustavo Castañeda, 25 years old, was burned alive inside his car; Inociendo Medina Bernabé, 51 years old, and Melesio Martínez Robles, 60 years old and representative of Bienes Comunales (Well Being) of the municipality, were both riddled with bullets. One of them was drawn and quartered for trying to help save the life of the young man.” (Contralínea 103). The townspeople held the ex-president of Santo Domingo Ixcatlán Freddy Eucario Morales Arias responsible for commanding the paramilitary group that assassinated these three people, because they had opposed the handing over of 914 hectares of land that a town councillor (edil) had already sold for 40 million pesos to Chalcatongo de Hidalgo, a neighboring municipality with which they had had an agrarian conflict for over 150 years. “On May 19th 2008, CEDHAPI (Center for Human Rights and Advice for Indigenous Peoples) reported that Oaxacan government functionaries protected the “White Guards”, the paramilitary group supposedly commanded by the current president of the PRI in Oaxaca, Jorge Franco Vargas. Furthermore, they warned that Freddy Eucario Morales Arias participated in repressive acts and harassment against the social movement of the Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca (APPO) in 2006.” [3]

Among the many other cases that we may cite is that of San Blas Atempa, where murders ordered by the local leadership (cacicazgo) of Agustina Acevedo Gutiérrez remain unpunished. When the Jaguar Path Caravan passed through that community, the townspeople organized an event demanding justice in for the murder of Paulino Salud Landis, executed March 4th 2008 – only two days before the arrival of the caravan. During the event gunmen in the service of the PRI were prowling about nearby streets armed with high caliber weapons.

The townspeople identified as responsible Paulino Salud Santis, current PRI-ista municipal president Jaime Rito Salinas, Agustina Acevedo Gutiérrez – “la Señora”, and deputy Sofia Castro. They announced: “For over two years now the political life of San Blas Atempa has been manipulated by cacique Agustina Acevedo Gutiérrez, important ally of Ulises Ruiz Ortiz. This cacique, in recent years, has been municipal deputy and president, and beforehand was the leader of the cane workers in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. She has appropriated municipal government resources that are supposed to go to the population. The funds from Programas, Procampo and Oportunidades, among others, are only disbursed to PRI sympathizers by orders of and according to the convenience of ‘la Señora’ (as those of San Blas call her). With the power that she wields, she has brought to her will all of the municipal presidents of San Blas and has disposed of the communal lands, selling parcels without consulting the peasants (campesinos) first, thereby provoking irritibility, clashes, confrontation and social division among the inhabitants.” [4]

The legacy of death and impunity in Mexico that grows ever more exaggerated with time, which in Oaxaca has brought the material destruction of the community of San Juan Copala (but not their struggle), that hovers as a constant threat to all processes of autonomous struggle (be it that of the Zapatista communities or various forms of community organization), which attacks the free association and organization of the people in Michoacán, Guerrero, Chiapas, Oaxaca and elsewhere in the country, shows how paramilitarism is an instrument of state violence, active or latent.

On April 14 2010, military leaders of Mexico, the United States, and Colombia met in Washington, “to strengthen our cooperation in the struggle against narcotrafficking and terrorism”. Admiral Michael Mullen, Chief of Staff of the United States participated in the meeting along with General Guillermo Galván Galván, Mexican Secretary of Defense; Admiral Mariano Francisco Saynez, Mexican Naval Secretary; and Freddy Padilla, Head of Colombian Armed Forces.

This meeting was no small event; it’s the first time that a trilateral meeting has been held on this level: Between the military man who headed the North American invasion of Afghanistan; the leader of the Colombian Army Freddy Padilla (who in cooperation with paramilitaries is responsible for the biggest mass grave ever discovered on the continent, Macarena, where over 2000 dissidents were buried); and Mexico’s Galván Galván, the Secretary of National Defense responsible for deploying the Mexican Army in the war against narcotrafficking that has led to the assassination of over 30 000 people to date.

The people of Latin America can feel in their bones what these sort of meetings mean, as at the beginning of the last century French military men sat down with their Argentinian “colleagues”, and later in the heat of dictatorial fever to “fight subversion” leaders from all over the hemisphere together guided the cruelest hunt of human flesh on record: Plan Condor. The warning signs recall the fireworks that fell on Plaza de Tlatelolco in 1968 as the cue to start the massacre.

The free and autonomous organization of the people is urgent in the face of this apparently discouraging panorama. The people organized in resistance who have thus far maintained defense of their territory understand that isolation is not an option when looking to forestall the interests of government and transnational corporations. Indeed community organization is indispensable in these circumstances. It is autonomy, whether declared as such or not, that continues to nourish alternatives to “development” in diverse communities. Being in control of the decisions that affect them and their natural surroundings generates healthy and inspiring perspectives on life, perspectives that continue to respect and value the ancestral heritage diverse peoples have maintained in spite of continual invasion.

Although the horizons seem bleak, the popular indignation that has so far been contained is about to explode – this is reflected well in the words of the man who faced soldiers who killed two innocent youth in Jalpan de Méndez Tabasco: When the soldiers did not let their mother, relatives or friends come to collect the corpses still languishing in the pockmarked vehicle strewn on the highway, this man pronounced a cry contained by millions of people far and wide throughout Mexico, a cry full of pain, rage and indignation; together with the other townspeople demanding to be let through he cried “What Mexico needs is another revolution!”.


End Notes:

[1] Ejército Federal sitia comunidad de San Miguel Panixtlahuaca. Voces Oaxaqueñas Construyendo Autonomía y Libertad (VOCAL) 24 de abril de 2009.

[2] Radio Nhandiá. Elementos del ejército catean hogares mazatecos en el pueblo indígena Nashinanda

[3] Revista Contralínea, 15 de enero de 2009, Oaxaca: amparo a paramilitares, Alba Martìnez

[4] San Blas Atempa “Esta represión ya no la queremos” Caravana del Sendero del Jaguar. mayo de 2008