Recent Timeline and Current Human Rights Situation in Oaxaca

The current conflict began on June 14th when Oaxaca’s governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz sent in state police to break a teachers’ strike that was camped out in the center of Oaxaca City. Gov. Ruiz had already alarmed international human rights organizations, including Amnesty International, for atrocities committed before the June 14 police violence. The actions on June 14th further ignited people’s anger throughout the State who responded, by forming the People’s Popular Assembly of Oaxaca (APPO) who reinforced the teachers’ encampment in Oaxaca City. The single demand of the APPO has been the resignation of Gov. Ruiz. Up to the end of October, 12 people had been killed by police and paramilitary forces connected to Gov. Ruiz.

On October 27th, independent journalist, Bradley Will, was murdered at the hands of plainclothes police officers and local government officials in Santa Lucia del Camino, Oaxaca. According to local residents and the Mexican newspaper El Universal, the attackers have been positively identified as municipal police officers and government officials of Santa Lucia del Camino. Two men were arrested for the murder, Abel Santiago Zárate, who works for Public Security in Santa Lucía del Camino and a member of the Municipal Police, Orlando Manuel Aguilar Coello. On December 1st they were acquitted of all charges and released.

On October 29th, the Mexican Federal government dispatched several thousand Federal Preventative Police (PFP) troops to remove civilian protesters supporting the APPO from their encampments throughout the city. There were the recorded deaths of at least three civilians as a direct result of the excessive force that the PFP used to dislodge the protesters, despite official comments from the State and Federal governments to the contrary. In a move reminiscent of Mexico’s “dirty war” of the 1970’s and 80’s, civilians were detained without charges and brought by helicopter to nearby military bases.

The following Thursday, November 2nd, the PFP tried to enter the Benito Juarez Autonomous University in an attempt to shut down the university radio station critical of Governor Ruiz. Mexican law prohibits the incursion of law enforcement onto autonomous universities, unless requested by the university rector. The rector of the Benito Juarez categorically rejects the presence of the PFP in Oaxaca and didn’t give his approval. The PFP used considerably more force, launching tear gas into private homes, injuring at least fifty people, and by spraying protesters with a red dye, presumably to mark them for subsequent arrest.

On November 25th the APPO held a march and planned to cordon off the zocalo in the center of Oaxaca City that the PFP had been occupying since October 29th. When the march reached the zocalo violent clashes broke out between the PFP and some of the marchers. The APPO leadership has said there were infiltrators present in the march that provoked the violent confrontation. The Oaxacan Human Rights Network has stated that the confrontation was started by the PFP in a recent report. The PFP left the zocalo and at one point the confrontation covered 14 city blocks. PFP along with masked paramilitaries fired into crowds of APPO supporters. By that evening hundreds had been wounded, several state buildings set on fire and the PFP began an occupation outside the church of Santa Domingo where the APPO had moved after being chased from their encampment in the zocalo on October 29th.

Since November 25th Oaxaca has been living under a state of siege, which the Mexican Federal government is calling “Operation Juarez”. The security forces now operating in Oaxaca are the PFP (Federal Preventative Police), PFP Special Forces, State and Municipal Police, Ministerial Police connected to the State and Federal Attorney Generals’ Offices, the AFI (Federal Investigation Agency), and out of uniform local police and paramilitaries.

Since June 14th:

-At least 20 people have been killed by either the PFP or paramilitaries aligned with Gov. Ruiz. On the evening of November 25th there were several accounts of people being killed (at least three) and then taken away by either the PFP or paramilitaries. Their bodies have yet to be recovered.

-Between 200 and 500 people have been imprisoned- the numbers have been difficult to verify because human rights workers have only been able to speak to 21 of the imprisoned who are in a medium security Federal prison in Nayarit. Prisoners have been denied any kind of due process. Defense lawyers have been unable to visit prisoners because of the requirements to gain entrance that include: professional certificate, and three letters of recommendation. Other detainees have been taken to prisons in Puebla, Veracruz and Tamulipas.

-Torturing of detainees. Testimony given by people who were previously detained and released before Nov. 25th said they had been tortured by the security forces.

-It has been estimated that between 30 to 100 people have been disappeared – again it has been hard to verify due to the illegal and arbitrary detentions by the security forces.

– Teachers are being taken from their classrooms by the police. In Noticias de Oaxaca on Friday they reported the case of the “5 de Mayo” school in Tocuela, Ocotlán, where around 8:30 am the State and Federal Police arrived and took away the Director, Miguel Muñoz Hernández and four other teachers including, Encarnación Pérez Cruz. Noticias also reported teachers being taken from their schools in: Santa Cruz Amilpas, Santa Cruz Xoxocotlán, Esquipulas, San Javier, in Etla, in Miahuatlán, in Huatla de Jiménez, Huatulco and in San Antonino Castillo Velasco.

-Random detentions without arrest warrants. People have reported that the security forces are carrying blank arrest warrants and are filling them in as they detain people.

-House to house searches without warrants and ransacking of homes.

-Rapes of both men and women who have been detained.

-Human Rights workers threatened, detained, tortured and imprisoned. Alberto Tlacael Cilia Ocampo, from the Human Rights Center Yax’ kin A.C., located in Mexico City was illegally detained on November 27th and accused of sedition, rebellion among other charges. At 4 p.m. Monday, hooded state police officers grabbed Cilia off the street together with Sarah Weldon, a 22-year-old French university student and Omar Rodríguez Camarena, a 28-year-old graduate student in history, and whisked them off in the back of a state police pickup truck. For the next 46 hours, Cilia and his two friends would live what they had come only to bear witness to: torture, interrogations, constant relocations between various state holding facilities, forced confessions, and ultimately trumped up charges. They testified that they had been hooded, slapped, stepped on, had a burning liquid poured on their backs and were threatened with electrocution. Weldon, however, is still incommunicado. Her lawyers said officials from the National Immigration Institute would not let them speak with or see Weldon, nor would they confirm her whereabouts. The lawyers are preparing an injunction to prevent Weldon´s deportation.
-Illegal checkpoints set up throughout the state by the police and military.

-An illegal radio station, Radio Ciudadana, affiliated with Gov. Ruiz is broadcasting the names of APPO members, Human Rights workers and others, giving their addresses and offering a reward for their assassination. Organizations who have been threatened include: Educación Alternativa, A.C. (EDUCA, Services for an Alternative Education), Red Oaxaqueña de Derechos Humanos (RODH, Oaxacan Human Rights Network), la Liga Mexicana en Defensa de los Derechos Humanos (LIMEDDH, Mexican League for Human Rights Advocacy) and the Pastoral Social (a Social Concerns Ministry).

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