On 13 September, a group of 500 heavily-armed men entered the Municipal Palace of San Juan Copalá, occupying it with fire. There, they presented an ultimatum demanding the removal of 100 families from the municipality within 24 hours. In the following days, given rumors of a possible massacre, the Movement for Triqui Unification and Struggle-Independent (MULT-I) made public a number of denunciations regarding the violence: on 18 September were killed David García Ramírez and Paulino Ramírez Reyes, MULT-I sympathizers. The same day were disappeared Eugenio Martínez, Jordán González Ramírez, María Agustina Flores y Susana López Martínez, all residents of the autonomous municipality of San Juan Copalá. Jorge Albino, member of the autonomous municipality, warned during the weeked of 18 September that the residents of San Juan Copalá no longer had “either food or water,” claim confirmed by Joaquín Rodríguez Palacios, general sub-secretary of governance in Oaxaca, two days later. On 19 September, authorities of San Juan Copalá made yet another call for the organization of another humanitarian-support caravan for the residents of the autonomous municipaliy.
According to declarations made by Jorge Albino (MULT-I), on 20 September militants from MULT (Movement for Triqui Unification and Struggle) and UBISORT (Union for the Social Welfare of the Triqui Region) entered San Juan Copalá at mid-day and began to burn 100 homes, causing the MULT-I sympathizers still residing in the community to flee. On 23 September, all had fled, with entire families displaced. MULT declared publicly not to have participated in these acts.
On 20 September, 10 Triqui women and 9 children began a hunger strike in the Oaxaca de Juárez’s Zócalo in protest of recent events, while residents of the autonomous municipality held protests outside the Secretary of Governance in Mexico City and a rally in front of the Oaxaca State Attorney General’s Office.
At the same time negotiations aimed at reducing the violence lived in San Juan Copala that had been called by the Catholic Church failed. Only one MULT representative came to the proposed meeting arranged by Arturo Lona Reyes, bishop of Tehuantepec, and the legal adviser of the Archdiocese, Wilfrido Mayren Peláez. MULT-I initially responded by saying that it was not in principle opposed to such negotiations, although it established pre-conditions for such: “the cessation of violence and aggression, as well as guarantees for the life and integrity of the residents of San Juan Copala; the presentation with life of the disappeared, in addition to permitting human-rights and civil-society organizations access to the region, so that they can verify the conditions lived in the community.”
In light of this alarming context, Amnesty International released an urgent action demanding that the Oaxaca’s state government and the federal government investigate the aggression and sexual violence directed against two Triqui women on 7 September, as well as other aggressions against the residents of San Juan Copalá, and that their basic rights be observed. Similarly, the Ecclesiastical Observatory and the Bartolomé Carrasco Regional Center for Human Rights (Barca) declared that, in case that violence continue unabated in the Triqui region, primary responsibility would lie with the state and federal governments. Gabriela Juárez, execuive secretary of the Ecclesiastical Observatory, observed that “we are outraged by what has happened in San Juan Copala, because while our brothers are being ravaged, the government celebrates the bi-centennial, as though they wanted us to forget about the violence.”
In contrast, in declarations published in La Jornada on 25 September, Ulises Ruiz Ortiz, governor of Oaxaca, claimed there not to be paramilitaries, dead, or disappeared in San Juan Copalá: “That is merely an invention of those who claim such [to exist].” The governor also rejected calls for public security forces to resolve the conflict, declaring that “the problem is one of different ideologies […] that will be solved if the three groups come together to promote dialogue and accords.”
For more information (in Spanish):
The destruction of Copalá (La Jornada, 27 September)
In Copala, there are neither dead nor paramilitaries: Ulises Ruiz (La Jornada, 26 September)
MULTI demands a cessation to violence in San Juan Copala (La Jornada, 22 September)
Triqui children and women begin hunger strike against paramilitary siege (La Jornada, 21 September)
Ulises Ruiz is called on to stop “genocide” (La Jornada, 21 September)
Triqui people call for an urgent caravan against armed attacks in Copala (La Jornada, 20 September)
Second murder in one day of MULTI members in Copala (La Jornada, 20 September)
Residents of San Juan Copala demand protection from public-security forces for the autonomous municipality (La Jornada, 18 September)
For more information from SIPAZ (in English):
Oaxaca: threat of massacre in San Juan Copala is denounced (20 September)
Oaxaca: mujeres triquis denuncian contexto que padecen (20 de agosto)