How Many More?

Posted on March 1, 2016

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During 2006 paramilitaries in Oaxaca killed between twenty-three and twenty-six protesters, including U.S. Indymedia photographer Bradley Will. Pressured by the U.S. government to resolve Will’s slaying Oaxacan authorities arrested one of Will’s companions, ignoring video evidence that showed four gun-wielding paramilitaries charging Will’s barricade seconds before he was shot.

The Mexican Attorney General’s representatives bungled the investigations by mislabeling and losing evidence and Oaxacan authorities charged potential witnesses with “withholding evidence” thus nullifying any testimony they could have given. Oaxaca governor Ulisés Ruiz’ attorney general’s office refused to free the man they’d accused and ignored protests from both U.S. and Mexican citizens and citizen groups.Ruiz and representatives of President Calderón insisted that they would not negotiate with “lawbreakers and criminals” even though appeals courts determined that the charges filed against those involved in the sit-ins lacked validity.

Rather than negotiate with the protesters state and federal agents infiltrated the movement. Three of them, posing as Popular Assembly participants, poured muriatic acid on the transmitters of Radio Universidad, the station that had been broadcasting news, warnings and instructions to the thousands of protesters who had occupied the city’s central business district and who had set up nightly barricades throughout the city to prevent incursions from escuadrones de muerte (death squads). Some for whom the government had filed arrest warrants fled the country; others “went underground,” as one of the young women involved in the takeover of commercial radio stations told me.

Those who didn’t go underground faced constant and often brutal harassment. Three weeks after a November 2006 assault by over 4,000 federal police and military to break up a march and drive the Popular Assembly out of Oaxaca four men armed with high-powered weapons leaped out of a pickup and dragged Assembly spokesman Florentino López and two companions out of their car:

They threw me on the pavement face down and stepped on my head. They handcuffed me and wrapped a whole lot of adhesive tape around my eyes…they threw me in the back of the pickup, they laughed at me, they mocked me, they banged my head against the truck bed. ‘We need to wipe you out,’ they scoffed.

I thought they might be drunk the way that they acted. I was sure they were going to kill me. They stopped at a house. I heard them address someone at the door as ‘Colonel,’ then heard someone ask, ‘Is the airplane ready?’ and I thought they were going to fly me away, like they did the others [who were apprehended on November 25]…. They beat me and pressed a pistol again my head and each time I answered ‘no’ [to questions about Assembly activities] they kicked and hit me….They insisted that I tell them who paid me, how I supported myself, and when I answered honestly they said I was lying….I don’t know how many times they pushed me down, then grabbed me back up. They were pissed off, they threatened to hang me….

 

Ten years and the situation in Mexico hasn’t changed. The above passage from Hidden Dangers (Sunbury Press, 2014) is being repeated throughout the country. How much worse can the situation get? How many more Ayotzinapas are yet to come?

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