In Santa María Coyotepec, Inhabitants Turned Against the Teachers
Testimonies Revealed that Sharpshooters were Present During the Attack on Friday
By Blanche Petrich y Enrique Mendez
October 29, 2006
San Bartolo Coyotepec, Oaxaca, October 28. Santa María Coyotepec, with only two thousand inhabitants, the site where Ulises Ruiz supposedly governs and where the state police are stationed, is, today, a town under siege by armed bands after the violent attack against the teachers’ barricades. This resulted in two dead, dozens of wounded, seventeen teachers detained, an unknown number of kidnapped and missing persons and the first displaced families of the conflict.
Up until this evening, the armed commandos, organized by the municipal president and PRI member Jorge Pablo, all access points were blocked, highways, roads and even neighborhoods and rural roads, repeatedly blocking the entrance of delegates of civil and human rights organizations, priests, and families of reporters and of those detained. Only two ambulances from the Red Cross entered to attend the twelve wounded, among them one woman, all being held in detention centers. Up until Saturday afternoon, Oscar Campos was trying unsuccessfully to negotiate with authorities of Santa María for safe passage to enter the community and document the conditions of the detained teachers.
The most violent point
Santa María was considered a strategic point in the day of blockades planned by the APPO and the teachers movement for this Friday, being the site of state power since Ulises Ruiz came to power and decided to move there. But, additionally, the community is the impoverished neighbor of San Bartolo. In this town, famous ceramics are made; and in the other the woven reed bases for these canters are made, which are sold all over the world. Because of the importance of this barricade, a commission of four hundred teachers was sent there. Responsibility for resistance at this point fell to the Coastal zone, and in the end, became the most violent point of the day.
“ We had the responsibility of guarding the barricade in front of the government office and our camp for twenty-four hours. The order was to maintain the calm and not to respond to any provocation. We are a peaceful movement and this we have made clear from the beginning”, expressed one teacher who wished to omit her identity for security reasons. She, like many others social fighters from her region, land of plantation owners and guardias blancas (paramilitary forces in the region) has arrest warrants against her. And now, she also has a wound where a bullet grazed her on the hip.
In Santa María a police operation was carried out, similar to that of Santa Lucia del Camino where at another barricade New York journalist Bradley R. Will was killed. The municipal president gathered some of the community’s police and other men to drink in the government office, where they were given money and weapons. Before that, a campaign of rumors and defamation had already begun against the teachers to turn the community against them, in which it was said that they were going to close the health center. When the order to attack was given, the aggressors fired shots against the barricade.
“We wanted to withdraw in an orderly manner off to the side and towards our encampment, but at that moment, we heard a firework go off and the shooting spread. They fired from all directions. At that moment, we knew that one person, Esteban Zurita, had fallen. They spread the rumor that we had killed him and the people became enraged. They came against us with long arms and machetes and they entered the encampment where there were many compañeras. An orderly retreat was no longer possible; we fled dispersed along the highway. The church priest told us that he would leave the rectory door open to shelter us but the people blocked our way.
“ I realized that the shots were not only coming from the people, but from the hills as well –there were sharpshooters everywhere. Amidst the action, five hundred meters from the blockade Emiliano Alonso Fabián, head of indigenous education in zone 22 with its site in Pochutla, was killed. ”
According to the parish of San Bartolo, who repeatedly tried to enter Santa María, “the strategy of the government to turn the will of the people against the teachers was very successful”. Because of this, Friday night, the teachers tried to flee to the mountains and the people launched after them in hunt. It was also known that many of the wounded were not presented to the Red Cross, but rather taken from behind the detention center and put in a dump truck. In the early morning hours, a caravan of vehicles was seen leaving the community with their lights off. They carried with them seventeen detainees who were processed in the Miahuatlán jail, two hours away.
Many teachers took refuge in the houses neighboring Santa María, but were later handed over to the police. It is thought that some of them are still there, kidnapped. One of the inhabitants was detained and accused of homicide for trying to protect the teachers. Early this morning, the municipal president ordered that the teachers’ belongings, including many small cars, be burned.
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