THE DESTRUCTION OF COPALA

By: Hermann Bellinghausen

The indigenous San Juan Copala autonomous municipality, established three years ago in the historic heart of the Triqui Region, without municipal rights for more than 60 years, was finally destroyed by blood and fire by paramilitaries, also Triquis, who operated with impunity up to the very last minute. The complicity of the state and federal governments has been absolute and determinant since 10 months ago, when armed groups besieged the community and murdered and injured many peaceful people. The final outcome was hastened September 13, when the paramilitaries took Copala and shot at the population, until the survivors fled on September 23, some in funeral patrols (the only thing the government agreed to send, to pick up the cadavers).

It could be worse. The aggressors announced a massacre. In any way, the number of murders is large in the dismantlement of the only indigenous autonomy that was attempted today in Oaxaca, 14 years after the San Andrés Accords. More are injured and whole families are displaced.

The daily and anguished denunciations did not impede the outcome, although the problem continues. The consolation of supposing that the massacre was avoided is admissible. The operation against the autonomous municipality founded in 2007 was in charge of the Union of Social Well-Being for the Triqui Region (Ubisort), a PRI group that no longer exists as such in the area, but is directed from Juxtlahuaca and Oaxaca (city) by Rufino Juárez and the state government itself, did its best in the annihilation. Governor Ulises Ruiz had said that he would not permit any autonomy in the state. He got off cheap. He didn’t even have to send his police. Now he denies that there are deaths (La Jornada, 09/26/10).

The Ubisort has a militia better armed than the police, and with military training. It is responsible for the ambush in which the activist Beatriz Cariño and the internationalist Jiri Jaakkola died, several months ago and also for many other deaths, rapes, injuries and exiles. As is known, the killers as well as their bosses remain unpunished and are, for all practical purposes, institutional figures.

The participation in the paramilitary escalation of armed members of the Movement of Unification and Triqui Struggle (MULT) was also repeatedly denounced. The autonomous municipality of Copala signifies a split from the MULT, as MULT-Independent. Versions that none of them participated in the violence have come from the ranks of the MULT, and it has placed responsibility for the acts on the MULT-I by insisting on a “minority” autonomy. In other words, as is the custom, the dead indigenous people are to blame for being dead.

Nevertheless, Timoteo Alejandro (founder of MULTI) and his wife Cleriberta, as well as Antonio Ramírez López, “moral leader” of the autonomous, fell in conditions and locations that point, not to Ubisort, but to the muy vertical MULT, that could have “punished” their “treason.” The murderers of Ramírez López are fully identified, in Yerbasanta, a location with a MULT majority, where the ambush that cost his life occurred.

This organization comes from the exemplary resistance of the best Triqui spirits in the 1980s, and that throughout the following years suffered the loss of its principal leaders, thinkers and teachers, like Paulino Martínez Delia, sacrificed by the PRI caciques. In the present decade, the MULT turned into a pro-government and electoral organization, led by its judicial advisor, Heriberto Pazos, and converted into the Popular Unity Party, with a presence in the Oaxaca Congress and ties to Ulises Ruiz, who on more than one occasion has expressed (according to trustworthy credible sources), that “the MULT is the only organization with which one can negotiate.” Anyhow, in some way he owed the MULT his narrow electoral “triumph” in 2004, when the PRI was fraudulently imposed.

Neither are the contemptible written thanks from the Ubisort to the MULT on diverse occasions, for example when it impeded a caravan from Atenco from reaching Copala in 2009. The MULT vindicates itself as part of the APPO, the National Indigenous Congress and, in spite of its electoral activity, of the other Campaign, all spaces in which the MULTI is also inserted.

The Triqui conflict is old and complex. And the persecution to death against Copala’s autonomy is suspicious, in the traditional center of this people historically scorned and denied. For certain, important prospecting by transnational mining companies have been documented in the region. It’s time that the MULT, so ready for the accusations and disqualifications, confront its behavior in the violence against the autonomous. Certainly, contradictions occur within its breast, it can no more elude its responsibilities facing the indispensible and urgent reconciliation of all the Triquis (including their immense diaspora) to defend together their viability as the admirable indigenous people that they always have been.

(Via Movement for Justice in El Barrio)

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