Oaxaca: Attack on observation caravan—2 dead and 4 missing

On 27 April, a civil-observation caravan was attacked in the community La Sabana, presumably by members of the organization Union of Social Welfare for the Triqui Region (UBISORT), while en route to the autonomous municipality of San Juan Cópala. To date, it has been confirmed that two have died, one has been injured, and four are still missing.

According to information provided by different sources, the caravan, which was comprised of more than twenty participants, both Mexicans and internationals, departed for San Juan Cópala the same day from Huajuapan de León, and was at 2:30pm stopped and fired upon in La Sabana by presumed members of UBISORT, an organization associated with the Revolutionary Institutional Party (PRI) that has been reported as bearing the characteristics of a paramilitary group. It has been confirmed that Beatriz Alberta Cariño Trujillo, director of the Center of Community Support Working Together A.C. (CACTUS), and the Finnish international observer Jyri Jaakola have died as a result of the attack. Additionally, Mónica Santiago Ortiz was injured with a gun-shot wound and was received the same day at a hostpital in Juxtlahuaca.

In a telephone interview with SIPAZ, Mónica Santiago confirmed that David Venegas and Noé Bautista, both from the organization Oaxacan Voices Constructing Autonomy and Liberty (VOCAL), as well as two journalists from the magazine Contralínea are missing. According to a communiqué released jointly with CACTUS, the Network of Indigenous Community Radios from Southeastern México and the Mexican Alliance for the Self-determination of Peoples (AMAP), the missing journalists are Ericka Ramirez and David Cilia. Santiago Ortiz related that when the caravan arrived in La Sabana, the road was blocked with rocks, and that it was when the three vehicles that constituted the caravan attempted to turn around that they were fired upon. Beatriz Alberta Cariño Trujillo and Jyri Jaakola were both immediately killed by the gunfire.

According to a VOCAL communiqué, “those who remained in the attacked area were forcibly removed from the vehicles and taken monte abajo for interrogation; some were threatened with death and released on the road. Our comrade RUBEN VALENCIA NUNEZ, member of VOCAL, was detained by members of the paramilitary group; the latter took from him his electoral identification and cellular phone, threatened to kill him, and later released him.”

The caravan embarked with the objective of providing humanitarian aid to members of the Movement for Triqui Unification and Struggle-Independent (MULT-I) in San Juan Cópala, who, as has been recently denounced, have been approached by the UBISORT group for the past several months. In a communiqué released on 17 April, authorities of the autonomous municipality, who are adherents to the Other Campaign of the Zapatista Army for National Liberation (EZLN), declared that “electricity and water services have been cut off, and checkpoints have been erected [in La Sabana] at the entrance and exit [of San Juan Cópala].” One of the caravan’s objectives was to document the situation in which the affected populations found themselves. Members of CACTUS, VOCAL, Section 22 of the National Union of Educational Workers (SNTE), as well as councilmembers of the Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca and observers from Germany, Belgium, Finland, and Italy, participated in the caravan.

For more information (in Spanish):

Several of those ambushed in Copala are missing (La Jornada, 29 April)

Mexican woman and Finnish man killed in ambush on caravan in Oaxaca; several are missing (Cronica de Hoy, 29 April)

Rare participation of foreigners in a zone with problems: Ulises Ruíz (La Jornada, 29 de abril)

For more information from SIPAZ (in English):

Oaxaca:  Autonomous Municipality of San Juan Copala attacked (18 June 2009)

Oaxaca:  UNHCR and IACHR condemn assassination of two of Copala’s community radio announcers (18 April 2008)

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