|Written by Peter Watt and Alba Cruz, Upside Down World, 11 November 2010|
|Following the 2006 uprising in the city of Oaxaca in southern Mexico, the official crackdown on dissidents, social movements and human rights defenders reached unprecedented proportions. Human rights organizations note with alarm that the presence of around 50,000 military and police personnel patrolling the streets and controlling much of civilian life – often under the pretext of a war on narcotrafficking – has made Oaxaca and the rest of Mexico increasingly dangerous.
Alba Cruz, a human rights lawyer working with the Comité de Liberación 25 de Noviembre de Oaxaca, has experienced the climate of fear and intimidation first-hand. Since taking on over 100 cases relating to human rights violations in Oaxaca, which include the murder, torture and forced disappearance of activists, continual threats have been made to her personal safety. She represented Juan Manuel Martínez Moreno, the man wrongly convicted (and subsequently released in February 2010) of the murder of US independent journalist and political activist, Brad Will. Eyewitness accounts suggest that Will was shot by police dressed in civilian clothing.
Outside the Middle East, Mexico is now the recipient of the United States’ largest foreign aid program. After numerous declarations from civic and human rights groups that the program – the Mérida Initiative – closely emulates Plan Colombia, an aid program which allowed Colombia to become the most flagrant violator of human rights in the Western Hemisphere, US Congress blocked release of the funds to Mexico unless the administration of Felipe Calderón could prove it was committed to protecting human rights and investigating alleged violations. The prosecution of Martínez, who was released this year after Cruz and the Comité de Liberación 25 de Noviembre de Oaxaca presented evidence which demonstrated that he could not have murdered fellow activist, Brad Will, was a particularly cynical attempt to secure the funds of the Mérida Initiative, while justice for the real killers remains elusive. Continue reading
Weekly Update on the Americas, October 26, 2010
Two unidentified men shot and killed Catarino Torres Pereda, general secretary of the Citizen Defense Committee (Codeci), at the indigenous rights group’s office in Tuxtepec in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca on the afternoon of Oct. 22. The murderers escaped in a car waiting for them nearby.
In the evening members of Codeci and other organizations protested the assassination with a demonstration at the Alameda de León plaza in the city of Oaxaca, the state capital.
Codeci was part of the protest movement against Oaxaca governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz that shut down much of the state for five months in 2006, and Torres was one of the first activists to be detained in the wave of repression Ruiz Ortiz used to fight the movement. Federal and state police arrested Torres on Aug. 6, 2006, and he was held in the Almoloya de Juárez federal prison until his release on bail on Mar. 8, 2007.
Torres continued his work for indigenous rights, and this year he participated in the Free Oaxaca State Democratic Convention, which supported coalition gubernatorial candidate Gabino Cué Monteagudo, who defeated Eviel Pérez Magaña, the candidate of the centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and Gov. Ruiz’s chosen successor. According to Tania Santillán, a Codeci leader, the assassins were wearing shirts with election propaganda for Pérez Magaña. (La Jornada (Mexico) 10/23/10) Continue reading