Posted on May 12, 2010

Indians Demand Army Enter Mexican Ambush Town

Mark Stevenson, Google News, May 11, 2010

One of two rival factions in an Indian town where gunmen killed a Finnish rights observer and a Mexican activist demanded Monday that the government send soldiers and police to keep the peace, saying they live in fear and are largely cut off from the outside.

The request came from the Triqui Indian organization known as Ubisort–the same one that rivals accuse of being behind last month’s deadly ambush of a caravan of activists in southern Oaxaca state.

“We having been asking for the army to be sent in and police to be sent,” said Anastasio Hernandez Juarez, assistant mayor of San Juan Copala. “What we want is for order to be re-established.”

Francisca Hernandez, a 20-year-old resident clad in the Triquis’ traditional long red dress and hair ribbons, said the town has essentially been shut down since fresh violence erupted in late 2009 in a conflict that has simmered for years.


In 2007, a group known as Multi declared an “autonomous municipality” similar to what Zapatista rebels have established in part of Chiapas state, intent on running San Juan Copala without interference from state or federal authorities. But those siding with Ubisort are angered by Multi’s insistence on refusing outside aid.

“The people of San Juan Copala don’t want that kind of government,” said Hernandez Juarez, the assistant mayor. “We let them govern for four years, and they blocked all kinds of federal social programs. And the ones who are paying the price are the women and children.”

Today, both Ubisort and Multi say, gunmen roam outside the village shooting at rivals. Schools have been closed for weeks because teachers fled and refuse to return while the violence persists.

Even traveling the region’s dirt roads means putting one’s life in danger {snip}.

With journalists and activists afraid to enter San Juan Copala for months, the caravan was put together so outsiders could witness conditions in the town firsthand.

Caravan organizers call Ubisort and another pro-government group “paramilitaries” and say they were likely behind the attack.

Gabriela Jimenez of the People’s Assembly of Oaxaca–a leftist group that seized control of the state capital for almost five months in 2006 and helped organize the ill-fated trip–blamed Ubisort for the killings, saying it was allied with what she described as repressive state authorities.

Hernandez Juarez denied responsibility for the ambush and even accused Multi of attacking its own caravan in a ruse to gain public sympathy.


Mexico’s federal government, sensitive about claims of Indian autonomous rights and the upcoming gubernatorial election in Oaxaca, has been loath to intervene.