<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
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Opening Statement, April 18, 2000
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Operation “Clean-Up” in Oaxaca

Following the CIA’s “Psychological Operations” Manual for the Nicaraguan Contras, the State Government Has Unleashed a Bloody Counterinsurgency Strategy to Eliminate the Social Movement

By Diego Enrique Osorno
Special to The Narco News Bulletin

August 28, 2006

OAXACA CITY: One of them, the one in a white cap, black shirt and denim pants, smiles like a child upon being discovered in the middle of the street with his machine gun.

He’s maybe 32 years old, with dark skin and a moustache just barely visible, his face sweaty despite the cool air of the early Oaxaca morning. Maybe it’s the bulletproof vest, maybe it’s his nervousness over being identified – who knows where his agitation comes from.

Photos: José Alberto Cruz
Opposite him, sitting on bed of the Ford pickup with no license plates, another man tried to hide his face, though it was already hidden behind a black hood. But the camera will inevitably give him away. He is the most nervous of the four men in this armed convoy. Even his AR-15 rifle trembles in his hands.

At 1:20 a.m. these four gunmen are on Heroica Escuela Naval Street, in the Reforma neighborhood of Oaxaca City, when Milenio photographer José Alberto Cruz captures them with his camera.

They are part of the armed convoy that the Oaxaca state government has sent to try to eliminate the dissident Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca (APPO in its Spanish initials) once and for all.

These armed civilians, as State Attorney General Lizbeth Caña Cadeza will later clarify, were in fact police officers who, she says, were carrying out a “clean-up” operation in the Oaxacan streets. But days later, the garbage continues to accumulate, piling up on the sidewalks.

The real result was a murdered dissident, Lorenzo San Pablo Cervantes, as well as several journalists who came under direct fire, including José Alberto Cruz, the author of these photographs that show the alleged police forces with which the government combats the popular, teacher-led uprising.

And so, what happened early in the morning of August 22 turned out not to be an isolated incident, but rather part of a government strategy to stop the growth of the Assembly, where more than 400 social and political organizations (including the teachers’ union) have come together to demand that Governor Ulises Ruíz, of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), resign.

In addition to hired gunmen, troops from the State Ministerial Police, the Federal Preventive Police and the local municipal police are all involved in implementing “Operation Clean-Up.” A Mexican Army deserter by the name of Aristeo López Martínez is, working out of a municipal office, one of the principal participants in this operation inspired by the “Psychological Operations in Guerrilla Warfare” manual, written by the CIA in the 1980s for the Nicaraguan “contras” in their war against the democratic government of that country.

In two meetings with other police officials, López Martínez has invoked this counterinsurgency document, which maintains that the battlefield is “the minds of the population,” both those of the enemy and of “our troops.”

The “manual” is a full of mostly illegal acts of recklessness. Among the recommended tactics the practice selective killings through the hiring of criminals; infiltration of the insurgency for the purposes of sabotage is another.

Coincidentally or not, in the last few days several events have occurred that recall the CIA manual. Five leaders of the dissident Assembly – one of whom is disabled – have been detained under unclear circumstances. Three youths were also able to sabotage the transmissions from Radio Universidad, the first station that APPO had under its control. Upon being interviewed, the saboteurs acknowledged having received payment “from someone from the PRI” to infiltrate an opposition brigade and carry out the counterinsurgency action.

The CIA manual also recommends the creation of dark and intimidating propaganda, like that which appears against some APPO members on the website oaxacaenpaz.org.mx, which was created and unveiled in early August by a person allegedly named Verónica Darinka. This virtual text accuses Felipe Martínez Soriano, 79, of being the true leader of the APPO, which has a provisional leadership committee that more than 27 people participate in.

Martínez Soriano, accused also of being a founding member of both the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) and the Popular Revolutionary Army (EPR), categorically denies this claim and directly accuses Governor Ulises Ruíz of ordering the former interior minister, Jorge Franco, to implement a paramilitary operation against those demanding that the PRI governor leave his post.

Before the appearance of the armed group carrying out “Operation Clean-Up,” someone opened fire from the window of a clinic at a march of about 15,000 people, causing the death of José Jiménez Colmenares, a member of the APPO and husband of a teacher from the state union.

Inside the clinic building that the shots came from, Fortino Alvarado – a known assassin who had been arrested and jailed three years earlier after publicly executing the mayor of the Mixtec municipality of San Sebastián Tecomaxtlahuaca, who was also a teacher from the state union – was allegedly being treated as a patient.

Strangely enough, the day that Jiménez Colmenares was murdered and two others injured, the assassin was free and in the clinic that the shooting came from. Fortino fled – despite his supposed convalescence – jumping from the second-story window.

Another attack in Oaxaca’s present war occurred on August 18 near the town of San Lorenzo Cacaotepec, where the teachers where blocking the Pan-American Highway as part of the statewide work stoppage called for that day. A group of armed individuals shot at the demonstrators, wounding teacher Benito Castro Juárez, a native of the town of Huautla de Jiménez.

A few days earlier, on August 15, two ministerial police, including one commander, entered the home of APPO leader Flavio Sosa Villavicencio, in an alleged assassination attempt. But when they found he was not home, they settled for holding several of his family members at gunpoint. Minutes later, they tried to flee but were captured by residents of San Bartolo Coyotepec. A few days later, on August 21, at approximately 3:30 in the morning, a group of individuals, some masked and some with faces exposed, all in civilian clothes and working as part of “Operation Clean-Up,” attacked the Channel 9 antennas on Fortin Hill, damaging the broadcasting equipment.

In response to these events, the following commercial radio stations were occupied: XEOA Radio Mexicana, XERPO La Ley, XHYM Sonovida 8.20 del grupo ORM, XEIU Estereo Cristal AM y FM, Radio Oro, XHOCA La Grande de Oaxaca (of the ACIR group), XHMR EXA (of the ORO group), La súper Q de ORM, XEZB La Tremenda de Oaxaca, XEKC 100.9, XEKC Estéreo Exitos, XHOQ La super Q and XEAX Magia 680.

That is why it was not a mistake or slip of the tounge when the state attorney general, Lizbeth Caña Cadeza, labeled the APPO an “urban guerrilla organization.” Because in certain circles within the state government, the decision was made that the way to combat an opposition movement like this one is precisely with urban counterinsurgency operations.

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