Tensions in the Nahua community of Santa María Ostula, Aquila municipality, Michoacán, have not ceased since an Army group entered on 19 July to arrest the commander of the communal police, Cemeí Verdía Zepeda, as it attacked a communal blockade, in an act that left a girl of 12 years of age dead, and 10 others injured.
According to Ojarasca, the government announced that it would enter to disarm the communal police (PC). In light of this threat and the four arrest-orders against the PC commanders, Ostula strengthened its communal defense. “There are communal-defense patrols all day. New support commissions are being organized, and the assemblies are determining the way forward,” declared Gregorio Santos García, spokesperson of the community. Different sources documented testimony regarding the presence of shock-groups and Navy in the region surrounding Ostula. Santos García added that “we are not confronting them, and we will not do so. We will instead dialogue. They are soldiers, and we are not. What they seek is for us to respond with violence, but we will not. We will respond with organization.” In declarations made by Germán Ramírez Sánchez, the substitute commander of the communal police during the absence of Cemeí: “I am saddened because instead of going after the criminals, they come against a community and its self-organization, when all we seek is justice.”
Beyond this, there were developments in the case of the arrest of Commander Cemeí Verdía. He was absolved of the accusation of homicide and bearing of arms for the exclusive use of the Army but then immediately accused of robbery. This change could lead to his being transferred to the Lázaro Cárdenas prison in Michoacán, where members of the Knights Templar cartel are held. This is the precise group that the Ostula PC has been organizing against. The residents of the community fear for the life of the commander, in case the transfer is carried through.
In a communique, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) manifested its concern regarding the allegations of the participation of public forces in grave acts of violence in Mexico, including the events of 19 July in Ostula. In this way, it reiterated that the affairs that have to do with citizen security should be the sole task of civilian police forces, given that the armed forces are trained for national defense against an external aggressor, and so lack the training to observe the law. “Moreover, the history of the region shows that the intervention of the armed forces in internal security questions generally is accompanied by human-rights violations.” It should be stressed that the murder of the Hidilberto girl and the damages incurred by the other 10 injured persons continue to go unpunished, thus contradicting the agreements made with the government.
For more information (in Spanish):
Ostula, en Michoacán, no puede bajar la guardia (Ojarasca, 8 de agosto de 2015)
Comunitarios de Ostula se niegan a desarmarse (La Jornada, 7 de agosto de 2015)
Tensión en Ostula tras movimientos y bloqueos de grupos de choque (DesInformémonos, 7 de agosto de 2015)
Ostula exige que Cemeí Verdía Zepeda no sea trasladado al penal de Lázaro Cárdenas porque temen por su vida (DesInformémonos, 4 de agosto de 2015)
For more information from SIPAZ (in English):