<i>"The Name of Our Country is América" - Simon Bolivar</i> The Narco News Bulletin<br><small>Reporting on the War on Drugs and Democracy from Latin America
 English | Español October 20, 2017 | Issue #52


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Caciques, Triquis and Impunity – More of the Same

Increasing Level of Threats and Intimidation in the Autonomous Community of San Juan Copala, Oaxaca


By Nancy Davies
Commentary from Oaxaca

April 24, 2008

We drove out of Oaxaca for three hours. We passed the inexplicable police units stopping people on their journeys, traveled beyond the expensive toll road, and drove upward into the twisting roads of the Mixteca Baja. We arrived at a house. My friend and I were invited inside.

Within just a few moments I was told not to take photos, not to name the name of the organization to which those present belonged, not to reveal names. This is not a revolutionary army, this is a non-profit whose name has been in the news, on Google, on the internet in a hundred citations, but today, April 22, 2008, I was asked to not report with whom I met nor where.


Fotos D.R. 2008
What has happened? Since April 7, the day on which the two young Triqui community radio broadcasters were murdered, the level of threats and intimidation has doubled, pressing on the parents of the dead women, Felícitas Martínez and Teresa Bautista, ages 22 and 20; and on the car’s driver and the couple who, with their children, had been sharing the ambushed vehicle. The mother and the three-year-old of their two children, was injured and taken to the hospital in Oaxaca city. The second child was sent to family out of state, for safety. The father reported that he was told under threat, “do not speak” regarding the identities of the shooters or supposed intellectual authors of the attack. He said, “I will speak.”

He saw the shooters, he asserts: six of them with AK-47 assault rifles. They were waiting at the roadside, on foot. The San Juan Copala community, my informant said, believes that the men were trying a kidnapping, not an assassination; but there is no way to verify. The police found twenty spent bullet cases the side of the road. At the initial press conference the mother of Felicitas held up her bloodied huipil, showing the bullet holes. The press had arrived in force, thrusting their microphones and cameras into the faces of the bereaved and “getting the story”.

Nevertheless, threats widened to include friends outside the autonomous Triqui community of San Juan Copala, as well as those who would defend its residents, whose very first radio station began broadcasting in January of 2008. The town has no newspapers, and only one national commercial television station for those who have a TV. The older generation of women are not bilingual Triqui – Spanish, many, like the parents of the murdered broadcasters, are not literate. Hearing the younger generation speak to them on the air in Triqui generated great excitement –and death.

The present actions are three-fold. First, the National Association of Democratic Lawyers (ANAD), a civil association, has moved to obtain judicial “cautions” so that no further attempts on the lives of Copala community members will be made. Second, ANAD will take the case to the federal Attorney General, to seek a federal investigation –everyone agrees there is no gain in approaching the Oaxaca Attorney General. The third event is the usual display of human rights meetings, announcements and denunciations. None of these kinds of interventions in the past has met with criminal prosecution; impunity is the ground-rule.


Fotos D.R. 2008
On April 23, a committee met in the early morning hours to prepare a meeting with the governor Ulises Ruiz (URO) “to negotiate”. Huh? Negotiate what? Attending the meeting were the San Juan Copala authorities, and representatives of the organizations The Center for Community Assistance Working Together (CACTUS) , The General Union for Social Well-being of the Triqui Region, (UBISORT) and the United Movement for Triqui Struggle (MULT), and a lawyer representing ANAD. MULT officially speaks for all the Triquis, but as is common knowledge, it is PRI infiltrated and controlled by caciques. It is based in the municipal township of Juxtlahuaca, which is a mixed population of Mixteco and Triqui.

According to one informant, whom I’m calling Rudolfo, the San Copala observes usos y costumbres and self-governs in line with the Zapatista San Andrés Accords. They use autonomy to “create respect and make their own forms”. The community now will not recognize “any group that uses initials” that would be MULT, MULTI (that’s the Independent MULT), PUP (which is the United Popular Party), UBISORT and the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), because they have all been infiltrated by caciques, paramilitary and the PRI government, and they have all betrayed the Triquis.

When San Juan Copala declared autonomy in January of 2007 there was hope that UBISORT would provide aid and backing, but the present director is not a Triqui and does not speak the indigenous Triqui language. I was told he is a meztizo named Delberto Pasos. Rufino Juárez Hernández, the MULT leader, Rudolfo asserted, is linked to an ex-deputy and director of MULT-UP. MULT leader Rufino Merino (yes, this is a different Rufino) claims to have supported the APPO – yet during the movement in 2006 the APPO backed MULTI and the declaration of the autonomous community, and vice-versa.

“The bosses and directors of the organizations have allied with MULT,” Rudolfo repeated angrily for my benefit, “San Juan Copala is a town without initials. These people (the ones pertaining to organizations) are negotiating away public resources in exchange for the lives of the people. “ Therefore all organizations have been banished from San Juan Copala, and the community relies on cargos, community service, to accomplish what is necessary. As Rudolfo told me, “without political parties they break the scheme of politics.”

The radio broadcasters were performing community service. The radio equipment, with an extremely modest transmission range, was provided by a network of community radio stations in the southern part of Oaxaca state

To throw salt in the wounds, according to Las Noticias, April 23, Rufino Juárez Hernández, the MULT leader, on April 22 asked that the military be sent to keep the peace in the Triqui zone; and the UBISORT leader asked that civil organizations take their hands off the region, plus that the population be disarmed to end paramilitary control by the MULT and the PUP.

The municipality of San Juan Copala with its eighteen tiny communities, has received no financial resources since it declared autonomy. Some assisting non-governmental organizations such as CACTUS have refused government funding since 2006. As an example of the theft, according to one informant, in 2002 the federal-state governments sent twelve million pesos to the Triqui region for “Temporary Employment”, but none of it reached the people. Furthermore, this same informant told me, the same MULT caciques are responsible for inciting violence in other small Oaxaca towns like Yosotato. He also said voter fraud is rife, and cited the case of Gabino Cué losing the governorship of Oaxaca to URO. The group informing me referred to the “political Mafia”, “a hunger for power”, and “control of money and resources.” In other words, Oaxaca state in miniature.

I asked Rudolfo if the biggest impact of the radio station had been broadcasts regarding women’s issues; he replied, no, the greatest impact came because it was women who were broadcasting. According to Rudolfo, the broadcasters were later on approached as “important people”, to intercede on behalf of others with the police or authorities – tasks which showed that the young women had achieved a certain status in their new roles. Now their places have been taken over by two others who were trained at the same time to handle the radio equipment: teen-age boys.

Inside the house I saw along the mantel framed photos of the dead women standing alongside their friends, one of whom I’ll call Catina. Holding back her tears Catina told me that Feli and Teri, as she referred to them, had asked her if she thought they would ever find men to marry them now – laughing, Catina said, and joking over their new status as radio broadcasters.


Fotos D.R. 2008
The International Mission to Document Attacks against Reporters and the Communication Media arrived in Mexico, demanding investigations. The organization called Article 19 spoke out against impunity. According to another informant, (and verified by Ernesto Reyes writing in Las Noticias) the other organizations speaking out are: Reporters without Frontiers and The World Association of Community Radios (AMARC); International Media Support (IMS), from Denmark; The Committee for the Protection of Journalists (CPJ) from the USA; News Safety Institute (INSI), from Belgium; the Inter-American Press Society (SIP); The Rory Peck Trust, of the United Kingdom; the International Federation of Reporters (FIP); The Liberty and Press Foundation (FLIP) based in Colombia; Reporters without Frontiers (RFS) based in France; and the United Nations Organization for Education, Science and Culture (UNESCO).

That’s a stunning cast of actors, but it can’t beat Ulises. Which is to say, that unless the Mexican government undergoes an incredible revision, near-total impunity will continue, despite the frequent protest dog-and-pony shows. The Committee plans to visit not only Oaxaca but also Guerrero, Michoacán and Sonora. Sixty-two journalists have been murdered in Mexico since the year 2,000 and between five and seven reporters have disappeared since 2005, three of them during 2008. The Committee is investigating 12 additional cases, according to press releases.

It has been announced that the National Prize for Journalism 2007 has been awarded posthumously, to the families of Teresa Bautista and Felicitas Martinez, of Community Radio “The Voice that Breaks the Silence” (La Voz que rompe el silencio) in the Mixteca region. The prize was announced on the web page “Consejo Ciudadano del Premio Nacional de Periodismo”. The category for their award is “Orientation to society”.

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The Narco News Bulletin: Reporting on the Drug War and Democracy from Latin America