Gunmen attack assembly in Álvaro Obregón

On March 2, community members assembled in Álvaro Obregón to defend the decisions of their general assembly. Around 2:15 PM, gunmen opened fire.

By Scott Campbell

For more than a year, the indigenous Binnizá community of Álvaro Obregón, in the Isthmus of Oaxaca, have defended their lands against the imposition of a wind park by the multinational Spanish firm Mareña Renovables. As part of that struggle, “the community became aware that the parties and political leaders have only used them for political and personal ends.” In August of 2013, the community held an assembly and decided to return to the traditional indigenous usos y costumbres form of governance, where community leaders are selected via general assembly, without the participation of political parties.

With 1,236 people participating, the general assembly to select the community’s leaders was held on December 8, 2013. Yet on February 8, 2014, Saúl Vicente Vázquez, the Municipal President of Juchitán, which includes Álvaro Obregón, announced that new elections, involving political parties, would be held in Álvaro Obregón on March 2, ignoring the popular and expressed will of the people. Ironically, Vicente Vázquez until recently served as an expert on the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.

In a statement released on March 1, the General Assembly of Álvaro Obregón, the Assembly of Elders of Álvaro Obregón, the Community Police and the Indigenous Peoples’ Assembly of the Isthmus in Defense of Land and Territory presciently warned of what may happen on March 2 in what would amount to an attempted coup against the community of Álvaro Obregón.

On March 2, community members assembled in the central plaza of Álvaro Obregón to defend the decisions of their general assembly. Around 2:15 PM, gunmen reinforced by the municipal police of Juchitán, opened fire at those who were assembled. There are reports that two people have been wounded by the gunfire and that the Marines have arrived in the community. The situation is very tense. There is no more news coming out at the moment. This page will be updated as more information becomes available.

Previous Coverage: San Dionisio del Mar: Indigenous communities under police siege for resisting imposition of wind park | Constructing a community police in the town of Álvaro Obregón | Isthmus: Caravan in Defense of the Land and Territory welcomed in Álvaro Obregón

Statement from the Indigenous Peoples’ Assembly of the Isthmus in Defense of the Land and Territory.

March 2, 2014
Translated by Scott Campbell

WITH BULLETS, SAÚL VICENTE TRIES TO IMPOSE A MUNICIPAL AUTHORITY ON ÁLVARO OBREGÓN

Individuals linked to the municipal president of Juchitán, Saúl Vicente Vázquez, and to COCEI and PRI leaders, today attacked the Community General Assembly of Álvaro Obregón and its community council. Since yesterday, March 1, 2014, it was learned that five political functionaries from the COCEI and from the municipal president’S office arrived at the house of one of the supposed candidates for local office, Rosalino Martínez Herran, two of whom were recognized as Obet Fuentes Trujillo and Filiberto López, both from Juchitán.

These individuals were paying out 500 pesos to people in exchange for their voter ID cards, promising another 1,500 pesos the next day when the people were to show up at the election called for by Saúl Vicente this past February 8, where a political party-linked authority would be named. Today, March 2, after a meeting in a private home, this sham election began at 1PM.

Meanwhile, in the central square, the Community General Assembly of Álvaro Obregón was being held, where the compañeros of the community council were reaffirmed. At about 2:15PM, a group of people at the election called for by Saúl Vicente launched an attack with bullets, stones and sticks against those in the square. They tried to take the municipal building by force and a confrontation ensued as the people in the community assembly repelled the attack, leaving several compañeros wounded.

Following the attack, the provocations continued, as at approximately 3:30PM one of these individuals went to the house of the commander of the Community Police to spray gasoline on it, with the intention of setting it on fire. Later, they tried to kidnap the son of the head of the community council. Around 4:30, Marines arrived to meet with the head of the community council, who informed them of the events.

For the moment there is an uneasy calm, as it is expected that these individuals and gunmen will continue with their provocations and will try to enter the municipal building during the night or at dawn.

We hold Saúl Vicente Vázquez and the Interior Ministry responsible for the physical and emotional integrity of our compañeros in Álvaro Obregón, the Community Council, the Indigenous Peoples’ Assembly in Defense of the Land and Territory, and their family members. And we demand they guarantee their physical security and integrity.

It is important to mention that the municipal president of Juchitán was a representative of the indigenous peoples of Latin America as an expert for the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues for 2011-2013 and is trying to hold the same post for 2014-2016, and yet is now violating the rights of the indigenous people of Álvaro Obregón for having decided to begin a process of community reform and a reclamation of their indigenous means of governance.

We denounce that these actions are part of the general strategy of the government and businesses to control this community, which is protecting the Barra Santa Teresa against the wind farm megaprojects in the Isthmus.

WE DEMAND PUNISHMENT FOR THE AGGRESSION SUFFERED BY THE COMMUNITY OF ÁLVARO OBREGÓN!

WE DEMAND THAT SAÚL VICENTE RESPECT THE SELF-DETERMINATION OF OUR PEOPLES AND OUR COMMUNITY AUTHORITIES!

THE LAND, THE SEA AND THE WIND ARE NOT FOR SALE, THEY ARE TO BE LOVED AND DEFENDED!

INDIGENOUS PEOPLES’ ASSEMBLY OF THE ISTHMUS IN DEFENSE OF THE LAND AND TERRITORY

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