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Mexico: Violence against members of indigenous groups in Oaxaca

Publisher United States Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services
Author Resource Information Center
Publication Date 15 January 1998
Citation / Document Symbol MEX98001.asm
Cite as United States Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services, Mexico: Violence against members of indigenous groups in Oaxaca, 15 January 1998, MEX98001.asm, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3df0a8e24.html [accessed 22 September 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Query:

Was the Mexican military in the Mixtec region of Oaxaca in the late 1980s? Were members of the indigenous population being targeted by the police, military, and/or paramilitary groups at that time and are they currently being targeted.

Response:

Presence of the military in Oaxaca:

According to a La Jornada article dated April 1997, military troops were posted in the Mixtec region of Oaxaca more than 10 years ago and then "withdrawn for unknown reasons." The article also reports that troops are once again being deployed to the region for reasons of national security (Ruiz Arrazola, April 1997).

Treatment of Indigenous Peoples in Oaxaca:

Several sources have reported on ongoing abuse of indigenous Mexicans by members of the military, by state judicial police, and by paramilitary groups. In 1986, Amnesty International reported that, over a number of years, it had received reports of human rights violations inflicted on members of the Triqui indigenous group (a subgroup of the Mixtec) who live in the hamlets and settlements of San Juan Copala in the municipal districts of Juxtlahuaca and Putla in western Oaxaca. The abuses included: killings of peasants in Triqui villages in the course of armed incursions by troops, police and gunmen; premeditated assassinations of Triqui peasant leaders in ambushes, torture, rape, and ill-treatment. At that time, many of the abuses were allegedly perpetrated by soldiers belonging to army units attached to the 28th Military Zone, who were stationed in San Juan Copala, acting in collaboration with the municipal authorities. (Amnesty International, 1986) A September 1990 Amnesty report reiterated that reports of such abuses were continuing and that they included "killings at that hands of the army, police and hired gunmen (pistoleros), ‘disappearances', torture, arbitrary detention, ill-treatment, rape, and harassment including death threats." (Amnesty International, 1990)

In November 1996, the Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights reported on rampant human rights violations, the state government's ineffectiveness at enforcing the law, lawlessness despite increasing police and military presence, and armed insurrection. While much of the violence arises from land disputes between communities, state police and the military have been responsible for numerous arbitrary executions, arbitrary detentions, acts of torture, and other mistreatment. Reported examples of violence against members of indigenous groups include the following: In 1993, police agents allegedly killed three Mixteco men. Arrest warrants for the accused agents had not been acted upon as late as July 1996. Between May 1995 and July 1996, six members of the Organización Indígena de Derechos Humanos en Oaxaca (OIDHO) were murdered, presumably related to their investigation and denunciation of human rights abuses. Another member is thought to have been disappeared by soldiers and police. In 1989, soldiers killed one and tortured another member of the Unión de Comunidades Indígenas de la Zona Norte del Istmo (UCIZONI) and in 1995, two other members were killed. (Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights, November 1996)

At a Washington Office on Latin America presentation in September 1996, María Eugenia Mata Garcia, director of the Support Center for the Popular Movement in Oaxaca (CAMPO, A.C.), reported that earlier that month, the military imprisoned 35 indigenous leaders from Oaxaca and tried to force them to confess that they were members of the EPR. In addition, the military is detaining and torturing members of indigenous communities and accusing them of drugtrafficking and terrorism. Ms. Mata Garcia maintained that this practice is intended to control sectors of the population that are critical of the government. (Mata Garcia. September 1996)

In an April 1997 report, Human Rights Watch/Americas stated that "the appearance of the EPR [Ejército Popular Revolucionario] has exacerbated rural tensions." Members of the Oaxaca state police, the Mexican army and the federal judicial police raided the home of Evaristo Peralta, a member of the Comité de Defensa de los Intereses del Pueblo, who was brutally beaten, interrogated about the EPR, threatened with death, and ultimately released. During the same month, September 1996, men kidnapped a journalist, beat him, and inquired about a secret EPR press conference he had attended. (Human Rights Watch Americas, April 1997)

Juan Enriquez, a political scientist and former member of the Mexican Government's team that negotiated a cease-fire in Chiapas in 1994, reported in a December 1997 New York Times article that violence has been increasing in the states of Chiapas, Guerrero, Tabasco and Oaxaca and that the government is increasingly relying on the military, hard line officials, and the local authorities to govern. (Enriquez, December 1997) According to a wire release by the Inter Press Service, also in December 1997, the Centro de Derechos Humanos "Miguel Agustín Pro Juárez," a Jesuit-based group, has accused the Zedillo government of "'whole-sale persecution' of peasant leaders in several areas of the country under the pretext of cracking down on the EPR and other groups." (Cevallos, December 1997)

A report on recent disappearances in Mexico by the Center for Human Rights "Fray Francisco de Vitoria" states that the appearance of the Zapatistan National Army of Liberation (EZLN) and the Popular Revolutionary Army (EPR), has aggravated the practice of forced disappearance. According to testimonies of witnesses to the detentions, individuals in civilian clothes carrying high powered arms seize victims who are then transported in cars without license plates. These activities have been recorded in Chiapas, Guerrero, Oaxaca, and the Federal District. The authorities have fallen into contradictions when they are questioned on the whereabouts of those detained. "Because of this they are presumed to be carried to military installations or to illegal sites of imprisonment, where they are interrogated and tortured." The testimonies of some survivors also point to this hypothesis and confirm the existence of the practice.

The Center cited press reports documenting disappearances of the following people in Oaxaca. José Martínez Espinosa, Director of the Committee to Defend the People's Rights (CODEP), was detained by armed men near Yucuxaco, Oaxaca. Pedro Guzmán Diáz, Camil Pérez Rodrígues, Antonio Tribio, Mario Seferino Domínguez, Pedro Marínez, Gabino Domínguez López, and Francisco Vásquez, all members of CODEP, were violently detained in their homes on January 22 by elements of the Mexican Army and diverse police groups. The operation was conducted in the community of San Martin Ituyuso, Oaxaca, where the security forces were looking for members of the EPR. On February 19, Máximo Pacheco Alonso, native of Llano el Paraje, Oaxaca, disappeared after being detained during an operation conducted by judicial and municipal agents who were accompanied by two hooded figures that the neighbors call "los entregadores." (Fray Francisco de Vitoria, 1997)

According to the Comisión Mexicana de Defensa y Promoción de los Derechos Humanos, (CMDPDH), three Zapoteca Indians were reportedly disappeared from the region of Los Loxichas by elements of the military and the police during July and August 1997. On the 6th of August, six men in the community of San Vicente Yongondoy were beaten, tortured, interrogated on their relation with the EPR, and subsequently disappeared. Their family members were threatened with death. (CMDPDH, 1997)

References:

Amnesty International. Mexico: Human Rights in Rural Areas: Exchange of Documents with the Mexican Government on Human Rights Violations in Oaxaca and Chiapas (London: 1986), p. 36-37.

Amnesty International. Mexico: Reports of Human Rights Violations Against Members of theTriqui Indigenous Group of Oaxaca (London: AMR 41/11/90, September 1990), p. 1.

Center for Human Rights "Fray Francisco de Vitoria O.P." Report Concerning Forced Disappearances in Mexico (Mexico City: September 1997), p. 7-10, p. 17-20.

Comisión Mexicana de Defensa y Promocion de los Derechos Humanos. Guión: Los Derechos Humanos en México (Mexico City: No. 5-6, September - October, 1997), p. 24-25.

Cevallos, Diego. "Mexico Conflict: Resurgence of Guerrilla Groups," Inter Press Service (New York: 2 December 1997) - as reported on NEXIS.

Enriquez, Juan. "Why Mexico's Massacre Was No Surprise," New York Times (New York: 27 December 1997), p. 11 - as reported on NEXIS.

Human Rights Watch/Americas. Implausible Deniability: State Responsibility for Rural Violence in Mexico (New York: April 1997), p. 29-30.

Mata Garcia, María Eugenia. Economic Crisis and Rural Violence in Oaxaca Mexico, Presentation at the Washington Office on Latin America (Washington, DC: 26 September 1996).

Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights / Heartland Alliance for Human Needs and Human Rights. The Rule of Lawlessness in Mexico: Human Rights Violations in the State of Oaxaca (Minneapolis, MN / Chicago, IL: November 1996), p. 2,3, 23, 46, 47.

Ruiz Arrazola, Victor. "Infantry Company Posted to Mixtec Region," La Jornada (Mexico City: 2 April 1997) - as reported on FBIS Latin America Daily Report, .

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