A Stroll Downtown, Oaxaca Life
A Robbery and Murder Committed by AEI Agents at a Local Bus Terminal Furthers the Breakdown of the Rule of Law and Trust in Oaxaca
By Nancy Davies
Commentary from Oaxaca
May 31, 2009
A stroll downtown on Saturday May 30 showed the streets fairly empty of traffic, but the zócalo was lively with tables of denunciation and information. The fair atmosphere still holds while Section 22 is in its state assembly to decide their next act. With vendors, graffiti and blaring music, café tables were not much occupied. Regular folks perched on the park walls.
I went down to speak with one of the young teachers at the Section 22 table, to ask him specifically what our fact-checker has questioned: do the teachers seek money, increased salaries, or what, in order to settle the strike? This on-duty teacher’s answer at first was the propaganda demand: punish the government wrong doers. When I suggested that was not likely to happen, he said probably the bottom line is repeal (or refusal to implement, more likely) the ACE (Alliance for Quality Education), which has been condemned as a step toward privatization and, as Oaxaca sociologist Victor Raul Martinez Vasquez points out, homogenization, including loss of language and culture among students, and a bureaucratized teaching staff appointed on a national level (how’s that sound for pay-off potential?). Education in the service of capitalism, others have called it.
Since the issue on my mind today was the facts: salary or no salary, are these teachers just greedy and out for money? I asked specifically if he (named Ismael) could find that info current for me. Maybe. In any case, we will soon know why Section 22 neither did nor did not settle this two day work stoppage and week long denunciation encampment, and what’s behind their “no decision.”
On the way home it began to rain, so I stepped into a shop where I know the owner. We’ll call him Jim and he’s nearly completely dependent on tourists for business. As we chatted, Jim told me his view of the situation: there is no political candidate or party one can trust, so even if the Section 22 blockades are unpleasant, we need to tolerate them. They are the only hope. As illustration, he described the police scandal of the week: two men in the State Agency of Investigation (AEI, in its Spanish initials) assaulted the bus terminal located in Calzado Madero. A passenger, José Luis Franco Tapia, was killed by one of the AEI agents – who is a bodyguard for an attorney within the office of Investigations of the Attorney General for Justice in Oaxaca – named Netolín Chávez Gallegos.
Jim’s story: two AEI agents wore pantyhose covering their faces plus a kerchief, when they burst into the terminal. They threatened the employees and the passengers with an AR-15 and a pistol, to get them to give up their belongings and cash.
Hearing the shouts, Franco Tapia, himself an ex-military man, took his gun and got out of the waiting bus. One of the thieves discovered that Franco Tapia was armed and moving in his direction. The AEI man shot him three times at short range. Franco Tapia’s daughter Brenda, hearing the shots, also got out of the bus. Seeing her father on the ground, she picked up his gun and went out into the street to chase the thieves.
Brenda is a Corvette Lieutenant in the Secretary of Navy. She dashed after the criminals and managed to the shoot one carrying the assault rifle. Then the one carrying the pistol shot back at Brenda. One of those shots hit a private security guard from the business SPS, Rubén Santiago Mendoza, who was only slightly scratched. Trying to escape, and seeing his partner shot, the man with the pistol jumped the metal fence of the athletic field of the Technology Institute of Oaxaca. At that moment his gun went off by accident and he shot himself in the head, through his chin.
Workers from a shop located at the side of the bus terminal had already called the police by the emergency number, 066. Men from the State Preventive Police and from the Oaxaca municipal police arrived, and “captured” both bloody assailants. They called the Red Cross ambulance and paramedics when they discovered the men were shot.
It turned out, said Jim in high indignation, both the robber-victims were cops. What a surprise! The guy with the assault weapon was identified as Juan Armando Medina Gutiérrez. Among his belongings were found his credential for the AEI. He confessed to being an AEI man who worked as a bodyguard. His buddy, Alejandro Lazaro Hernandez, was taken with him to the hospital; due to having shot his head off, he died. A bag of money was recovered from the athletic field. Nobody said if the money was returned to the passengers at the bus station.
The director of the AEI, Alan Loren Peña Argueta, held a press conference and confirmed that the two assailants were AEI men. Alejandro Lázaro Hernández, badge number 229, was a law school graduate. Peña Argueta does not discount the possibility that the two men had committed a series of thefts and assaults in the city and nearby suburbs. One of them had reported his weapon as stolen, so he had use of it for committing future crimes.
The director said he would investigate and get to the bottom of this nest of bad police. He said AEI has been confronted with mafias inside police forces for several years, formed with the consent of former commanders. One might guess present commanders also, as Alan Loren Peña Argueta himself is now under investigation along with Netolin Chavez Gallegos, for whom Medina Gutierrez was bodyguard. It seems the bosses give the orders.
Well, my friend Jim surprised me by his willingness to suffer economically while the teachers bring law and order. I did read they sought a salary raise of 4.5 % (salary range $6-12,000) , to which I say, welcome, go get ′em. They also asked for four billion pesos to improve the school buildings, many of which are no more than sheds, with no sanitary facilities.
Soon Section 22 might be asking for uniforms and badges; there’s no other large organized force on the side of justice in Oaxaca.
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