San Juan Copala, the autonomous community features on:
Mexico’s Indian Rebellion
Friday 22nd October 7.30pm
In the mountains of southeastern Mexico, Unreported World finds 400 members of an indigenous community, who are fighting for independence, holed up in bullet-ridden homes and surrounded by a militia in an unreported war.
Reporter Evan Williams and director Alex Nott visit Yosoyuxi, a neighbouring village to the besieged town of San Juan Copala. Members of the local Triqui Indian community, fed up with years of conflict and government corruption, are attempting to break away and set up their own mini state, but locals tell Williams that those supporting the movement face extreme violence.
Fifteen-year-old ‘Timoteo’ says his parents were shot and macheted to death. Since then he has struggled to look after his brother and sister on his own. He believes his parents were killed as they were leaders of the rebel movement.
News comes through that the people of San Juan Copala have come under sustained gunfire from the surrounding militiamen. Williams and Nott join armed men from Yosoyuxi on a foot patrol to find out more. The team trek into the dangerous woodland leading to the town. Scouts are sent ahead to check the area is clear and that no ambush has been set up by the militia.
The team make it to a steep ledge overlooking the town. Over the radio residents tell the patrol the gunfire has stopped but it’s too dangerous to go any further. Four hundred men, women and children remained holed up after militiamen shot into the streets at anyone who was moving in the recent attack.
San Juan Copala is the spiritual home and economic capital of the Triqui people. The rebel movement’s main grievance centres around corruption and their claim that one million dollars of public money designated for public spending is stolen by the state government every year.
The next morning, Williams and Nott witness chaos and panic as news comes in that San Juan Copala is being stormed by the militia: this time with the backing of the state police. There’s widespread fear that the government, through the militia, want to end the rebel movement once and for all. Residents ask the crew to leave: it’s not even safe in their village now and tensions are running high.
The team travels to meet Father Francisco Ube, who’s worked with the Triqui for 40 years. He reveals that the militia besieging the town are called Ubisort and are also Triqui Indians. Ube claims they’ve been bought off by the state: a familiar divide and rule tactic used to control rebellious indigenous groups.
The team meet Ubisort militia leader Rufino at his murdered brother’s funeral. He says the rebel movement were responsible and are a violent militia themselves. Rufino tells the team the rebels are operating outside the law and takes them towards San Juan Copala.
His forces have pushed forward into the town but yet again it’s too dangerous to go further. Gunshots ring out and it’s clear the fighting is far from over.
When confronted by Williams, the state minister for human rights doesn’t deny that money designated for indigenous groups could be lost to government corruption. However he says this was something they were trying to stop.
The minister also admits the state do fund Ubisort for specific social projects but didn’t know if they were using this money to buy weapons.
As the violence continues, it’s clear to Williams that while the world’s attention is focused on the Mexican drugs war, this largely ignored vicious civil war amongst the Triqui Indians is yet another sign that the country is fast spiralling out of control.
(From the Channel 4 Website)