On 19 June, a confrontation occurred between the municipal authorities and residents of the communities of San José el Progreso, El Cuajilote, and Maguey Largo, in the municipality of San Jose del Progreso, Ocotlán, that resulted in the death of two people, incluying the mayor, Óscar Venancio Martínez (PRI), and the health-minister, Félix Misael Hernández, in addition to two injured and twelve detained. Martín Octavio García Ortiz, priest of the region, was also detained while en route to hold mass in San José el Progreso and was transferred to the State Attorney General’s Office (PGJE), which charged him with instigating the murders committed on the 19th.
Residents of San José el Progreso have organized themselves in the People United for the Defense of Nature and Popular Autonomy in the Valley of Ocotlán and have been demonstrating to defend their land and natural resources. They have been especially critical of the exploitation of the mine La Trinidad, property of the Mexican-Canadian firm Cuzcatlán.
The Diocese Commission for Justice and Peace of the Archidiocese of Antequera-Oaxaca, the Bartolomé Carrasco Briseño Regional Center for Human Rights (Barca), and the Citizens’ Initiative of Oaxaca have condemned the ambush that resulted in the detention of Martín Octavio García and have denied that he is responsible for the homicides. In a communiqué released on 19 June, Barca contextualizes the events within the conflictivity that has been seen in the region due to the divisions that have resulted from the mineral exploitation carried out by Cuzcatlán. Barca stresses that there has been a campaign of defamation against Martín Octavio García within this context–he has been referred to as an “agitator” and has even been linked to the Popular Revolutionary Army (EPR). José Luis Chávez Botello, archbishop of Oaxaca-Antequera, has expressed his support for Octavio García, as several representatives of the Catholic Church have done in the past amidst calls for his dismissal. Chávez Botello has committed himself to making clear Octavio García’s innocence in the present case against him.
For more information (in Spanish):
PGJE: there are 10 arrested after ambush against town-councillors (Universal, 21 June)
Oaxaca: priest rejects charge of homicide (La Jornada, 25 June)
The immediate release of Martín García Ortiz, priest of San José del Progreso, is demanded (ADN Sureste, 25 June)
Archbishop pide indagar la verdad sobre acusaciones a párroco (Crónica de Hoy, 25 de junio)
Minerïa en Oaxaca: Raíz de la violencia (Colectivo Oaxaqueño en Defensa de los Territorios)