April 7, 2001
Narco News 2001
By Nancy Davies
to The Narco News Bulletin
CITY, OAXACA, MEXICO; APRIL 2, 2001:
The long arched colonnade in front of the Oaxaca state government
building is paved with stone. Demonstrations and encampments
are daily events. Today a man with arms outstretched posed on
a wooden cross, mounted above a crowd of more than a hundred
people from his town.
Miguel Felipe Santiago Velazquez from
the small town of Santiago Yaitepec vowed that he will remain
there, day and night, until the government redresses the wrongs
he and his people have suffered. "We are crucified,"
Across from the building on the edge of
the park a sign painted on green plastic sheeting reads:
Santiago Yaitepec asks
for the immediate solution to the problem of invasion of our
24 homes abandoned.
100 fields uncultivated.
This is the result in
Santiago Yaitepec for which the PRI government is to blame. Justice!
to Felipe Santiago V., a troop of three
Vazquez brothers led by Ignacio Vazquez and their followers,
at the instigation of the PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party,
that ruled Mexico for 71 years), killed his family - the father
aged 72 and four others, plus one wounded. Balanced on his tiny
platform, Miguel is a thin, intense man dressed in a neat pastel
shirt and minimal sandals, gazing down on the reporters and up
to the balcony at the cameras. He named the names of those he
says are the most important assassins: Ignacio Vasquez Carmona,
Ruque Vasquez Carmona, Marcelino Carmona Santiago, Subencio Carmona
Santiago, Sergio Carmona Santiago, Raymundo Vasquez Cruz, Fortino
Zaraite Vasquez, and Aristeo Cruz Carmona.
At the foot of the cross a barefoot woman
wearing the typical Oaxaca apron over a ragged dress wiped her
tears on the back of her hand. She is one of the widows. On the
paving stones at her feet a line of white crosses has been painted.
A burning candle heads each cross; each has as footer the name
and date of a dead townsman: 1997,four shot; 1998,five shot;
1998,eight; 2000,six. The "invaders" arrived in 1996.
Twenty-one men and one woman have been slain.
These PRI emissaries were in fact known
to the townspeople; they were not strangers to this remote northwest
corner of Oaxaca nor to the 5,000 residents of Santiago Yaitepec
in the District of Juquila; they speak the Chatino language.
the crowd, two self-identified officials
of the PRI were watching. The woman, with an official nametag,
was Leticia Robles Fuentes of Oaxaca. She told me the problem
was indeed caused by her party, the PRI. Leaning close, she told
me the PRI sent men to Yaitepec with promises of money and aid,
and installed a new group of "leaders", who actually
are bosses or caciques. They promised the town large amounts
of money for schools and water and medical services. The money
never came. Instead, each resident was given ten pesos ($1.10
in U.S. dollars), and on International Women's Day each woman
was given a flower in a bottle.
I asked Letitia Robles why the PRI supported
these men, and she answered simply, "Votes." The PRI
emissaries arrived in 1996, well before the 2000 presidential
elections that resulted in the PAN (National Action Party) overthrow
of the PRI federal stranglehold on power. In this town, the local
fight was between the PRI, and the left-wing PRD (Democratic
Revolution Party). The PRD was gunned down.
The next election will be for deputies
to the state Congress on July 4, 2001, and for municipal presidents
in September. The PRI has every intention of maintaining its
grip on Oaxaca, and by the old tried and true method of buying
and strong-arming votes.
The second PRI official in front of the
crucifix was a round-faced man who wouldn't give his name. He
stood nose to nose with me. "There are drugs", he whispered.
marijuana and cocaine, he told me,
are trafficked with the full knowledge of the PRI government.
The government makes money. The farmers make money. The bosses
take a share. Yaitepec's on-the-ground drug business is not what
we read about in the press as a big narco operation. It's small,
discrete farming, used to supplement food crops with a modest
cash income for the community. It's the local feeder for the
vast chain of supply.
Both my informants agreed that the government is in the narcotics
business. Both applauded the idea of legalizing drugs. They believed
the drug income could then be assured with no threat of disruption,
incarceration, or murder. When I ventured the opinion that legalization
might lower the prices, they were unfazed.
The unresolved story is of how incarcerations
of "political prisoners" come about in the context
of land-grabs, voter fraud, bribery, and drug sales. The ones
in jail are the ones who protested to the wrong people at the
Miguel Felipe Santiago Velazquez demands
that the PRI state government send troops to arrest the murderers
whom the PRI sent and permits to operate with impunity. He also
wants the government to send money to aid the widows and orphans,
and perhaps some day remit the money for improvements. I asked
him if PRI Governor José Murat had seen him outstretched
on his cross. He replied, "Yes, he saw me. He said it was
The Yaitepec encampment is supported by
the New Left Organization of Oaxaca (Organización Nueva
Izquierda de Oaxaca).
Meanwhile the area had filled up with
yet another group; the fourth demonstration today in front of
the government palace. A passing Mexican woman visitor from Mexicali
observed, "The rich people use the poor people." She
shook her head and left.
from the Cross of Prohibition