Saturday, September 25, 2010

Triqui Women Demand Justice and Freedom from Paramilitary Violence in Oaxaca

To link back to the source blog, My Word Is My Weapon, please click on the title.

Triqui Women on the Frontline in San Juan Copala Conflict

A New Ambush Aimed at the Women-Led Caravan Leaves Three Dead; Caravan Postponed
by Kristin Bricker

Photo: José Carlo González, La Jornada

The paramilitaries who invaded San Juan Copala, Oaxaca, this past July 30 have since abandoned the autonomous municipality's town hall.  They didn't go far, however, and near-daily shootings from the paramilitary sharpshooters stationed around the town keep San Juan Copala under a state of siege.

San Juan Copala declared itself autonomous following the 2006 uprising that nearly drove Oaxaca's governor out of office.  The Union for the Social Well-being of the Triqui Region (UBISORT), a paramilitary organization founded by the Institutional Revolution Party (PRI, which has ruled Oaxaca for eighty years), has kept San Juan Copala under siege since January.  UBISORT has blocked the road into town with boulders and logs, forcing Copala residents to use trails through the woods to bring in desperately needed supplies on their backs.  UBISORT snipers are positioned in the hills surrounding the town, making it extremely dangerous for residents to leave their homes at all.

"No one can go outside in Copala," says Mariana Flores, a representative of the autonomous municipality.  "If they [paramilitaries] see you on the street, they will shoot at you."

Residents believe that the paramilitaries are more likely to kill men than women.  According to Flores, "If men try to go outside, they don't take more than two steps before [the paramilitaries] try to hurt or kill them."

As a result, Triqui women are playing increasingly vital roles in San Juan Copala.  "In San Juan Copala, it is mainly women who risk their lives to go out and look for food," says Flores. When paramilitaries raided San Juan Copala with the help of Oaxacan state police this past July 30, it was women who attempted to repel the invasion.  "Women have decided to demand their rights, and now it is women who are struggling for the community," reports Flores.

Women's increasingly protagonistic role in the conflict means that they now bear the brunt of the paramilitaries' violence.   Over the past four months:

  • UBISORT murdered Bety Cariño, a non-Triqui Oaxacan community organizer, along with Finnish observer Jyri Jaakkola, during an aid caravan to San Juan Copala on April 27.  It is believed that Cariño was targeted.
  • On May 15, UBISORT leaders beat and attempted to kidnap two Copala women.  Later that day, UBISORT members kidnapped 12 women and children who had snuck out of San Juan Copala to purchase food.
  • On May 20, unidentified assassins murdered Cleriberta Castro Aguilar and her husband Timoteo Alejandro Ramírez, one of the founders of the autonomous municipality.
  • On June 24, sharpshooters shot and wounded 8-year-old Miriam Martínez in San Juan Copala.
  • On June 26, sharpshooters shot and wounded Marcelina de Jesús López and Celestina Cruz Ramírez as they left a meeting in San Juan Copala.
  • On July 26, Maria Rosa Francisco disappeared near her home in San Juan Copala when sharpshooters opened fire.  She had left her house to look for firewood and is feared dead.
  • On July 30, when women attempted to repel the paramilitary/police raid on San Juan Copala, two girls aged 17 and 14 were shot.  The 14-year-old was paralyzed when a bullet fired by the UBISORT lodged in her spine.
During the same time period, in addition to the murders of Jaakkola and Ramírez, only one man was injured;  sharpshooters shot him in the leg when he left his home to use the bathroom.

On August 11, Triqui women took their fight to the state capital and are now occupying Oaxaca City's main plaza. They expect their protest encampment to grow as more and more Triquis who have been displaced by the violence converge on the state capital.  The women say they will stay in Oaxaca's main plaza until the government brings the people responsible for dozens of murders in the Triqui region to justice.  "We haven't received any response from the government," reports Flores.  She says that governor-elect Gabino Cué has not responded to their demands either. 

The women had planned to travel to Mexico City on Monday, August 23, to meet with social organizations in an attempt to gain more support.  However, the caravan was postponed following an ambush on August 21 that killed three men associated with the autonomous municipality and injured another two.  Amongst the dead is Antonio Ramírez López, the leader of Santa Cruz Tilapa, a community that belongs to the autonomous municipality.   Ramírez López was one of the founders of the autonomous municipality. The five men were helping organize the women's caravan, and the Bartolomé Carrasco Briseño Human Rights Center says that the men were ambushed as they travelled in a pick-up truck to pick up Triqui women who were supposed to participate in the women's caravan.  Forensic investigators report that AK-47s and AR-15s were used in the ambush.  Both weapons are classified as exclusively for military use, and it is illegal for civilians to own them.

The autonomous municipality claims that paramilitaries from both UBISORT and the Movement for Triqui Unification and Struggle (MULT) participated in the ambush, although at this point survivors have not identified their attackers. 

Organizers in the women's protest encampment in Oaxaca City say that they will remain in the capital's main plaza until their demands are met.  They are currently in the process of reenforcing the protest encampment with more supporters.  The reenforcement is a security precaution because Rufino Juarez, the leader of UBISORT, was seen on Saturday and Sunday near the women's protest encampment.  Juarez has personally participated in assaults against Triqui women, including the May 15 kidnapping of twelve women and children.

For the Tule People of NW Colombia, WHM Supremacist Imperialism and Colonialism, along with Militarism and Drug Wars, Ecocide through Pesticide Poisoning and Forced Relocation = Genocide

the Tule are a displaced group of Indigenous Peoples forced out of ancestral land in NW Colombia into Panama

The problem is genocidal violence against the Tule people, their land, their culture, and genocidal violence against many other Indigenous peoples from Northwestern Colombia, who have been engaged in resistance by European colonists and their descendants who are forcing them out of their homeland in Colombia. The murderous policies are entirely a product of Western white male supremacist civilisation and are completely bound to the past and present policies and practices of the U.S. government and covert operations overseen by it.

Indigenous people the world over are militantly well-organised and organising against the many assaults against them from many sources: the Western Civilisation, the Global North, militarism, white het male supremacy, capitalism, drug wars, pesticide pollution, and other ecocidal practices. Indigenous people are being actively murdered. Extinction = Genocide.

Below are two articles describing some of the conditions the Tule refugees are facing. The Tule comprise many Indigenous ethnic groups working to survive the practices of the dominator nation of Colombia which has many ties to the unfathomably terroristic and genocidal dominator nation called the U.S.A.

We may note that the first article gives historical context and identifies many conditions that have been long-standing genocidal practices since the 1600s; this links the current atrocities to a rapist, pillaging lineage of white male supremacist invasion and terrorism. The NYT piece the ignores the history of imperialist, rapist colonisation and genocide that directly implicates the U.S. government as a key ruling body of a well-functioning terrorist nation which practices genocide against Indigenous people globally, through corporate control, military force, and white het male supremacist worldviews and values. The video which is part of the first article explains more of what is going on. The NYT simply shows one photograph, noting that men and women are separated, which isn't relevant here, although Western WHM terrorism functions especially brutally when Western male invaders gain access to the women and girls of a colonised population.

The first article is from Intercontinental Cry, an Indigenist activist website. You can link back by clicking on the title.

Colombia: Indigenous Peoples Under Threat

August 7, 2010
In Colombia, over two decades of conflict between the government and paramilitary groups has uprooted more than 3 million people. Today the conflict poses an even greater threat of extinction to 34 distinct Indigenous Peoples in Colombia. Among them, in the Uraba region of northwest Colombia, the Tule.

Living close to the border with Panama, the Tule have long considered abandoning their ancestral lands and heading into Panama to escape the constant threats and intimidation by Colombia's paramilitary groups.

There are about 70,000 other Tule, who are also known as Kuna, living in northern Panama--and nearly half of them are living under their own constitution in the Comarca de Kuna Yala or district of the Kuna.

But how do you walk away from the land of your ancestors, the land you know and love, the land that you believe you are here to protect? Beliefs and obligations can run deeper than any real or perceived danger, no matter how great it is.

Then there's the Tule's long history. It runs contrary to some popular academic beliefs, but the Tule say they were born in the jungles of Colombia. And a series of devastating wars in the 1600s forced the vast majority to seek refuge in Panama.

Less than 600 Tule remain in the land of their ancestors.

Context, courtesy of UNCHR:

* Colombia’s internal armed conflict that started in 1964 has pitted Colombia’s armed forces against two main guerrilla groups – the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN). Clashes also routinely involve organized crime gangs and narcotics traffickers that have links to guerrilla and paramilitary groups.

* Colombia has one of the highest numbers of internally displaced people (IDPs) in the world. There are about three million registered IDPs in Colombia, of which an estimated 41,000 are indigenous. However, indigenous displacement often goes unregistered – due to the remoteness of indigenous territory, lack of access to state services and cultural barriers.

* Out of Colombia’s total national population of 43 million there are an estimated one million indigenous people comprising about 90 indigenous groups.

* At least 27 indigenous groups are at risk of disappearing as a result of armed conflict, according to Colombia’s Constitutional Court. The National Indigenous Association, ONIC, says 18 groups are at acute risk of extinction.

* Indigenous people have suffered an increase in violence linked to armed conflict during the past 10 years. ONIC has reported the murders of about 1,980 indigenous people during the period 1998-2008.

* Colombia in April 2009 signed the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, a landmark declaration that outlines the rights of the world’s estimated 370 million indigenous people and outlaws discrimination against them. The declaration upholds the rights of indigenous people to stay on their lands and duties of the State to protect them.

* Under Colombian and international law, members of indigenous groups are entitled to special protections from forced displacement.

Also see:
Documents (in Spanish and English) on Indigenous Peoples in Colombia (pdf) courtesy of Rights & Democracy

Video: An important 60-minute discussion on the situation of Indigenous Peoples in Colombia by Federico Guzman, a Specialist in Colombian constitutional law and legal advisor to Indigenous organizations: (more videos available here)

Websites: Information site on Colombia’s ethnic groups (in Spanish); The National Indigenous Association of Colombia, (in Spanish)

*          *          *
What follows next is cross-posted from *here* at The New York Times.

When a Drug Battle Spells Extinction

A gathering of the Tule people. Men and women sit on different 
B. Heger/United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. A traditional gathering of the Tule people of Colombia. Men and women sit on different sides.

The drug trade and other domestic strife are wreaking havoc on Colombia’s dwindling population of indigenous peoples while also threatening the integrity of the country’s biologically diverse forests, the United Nations High Council on Refugees reported this week.

More than 40 percent of the country’s 84 distinct indigenous groups are now at risk of extinction, the United Nations said, because of the pressures of the country’s long-running internal armed conflict, which is fueled partly by the cocaine trade.

With only 1,200 remaining members, the Tule tribe of northwestern Colombia is considered uniquely threatened. In recent months, armed groups have overrun traditional Tule lands, killing and terrorizing villagers and forcibly recruiting young people into their ranks.

Tule leaders fear that if they are driven off their lands, the forest that they have inhabited for generations will be ruined by development. “The Tule are an ancient people and their value is that they protect the environment,” one community’s chief and spiritual leader told United Nations representatives during a recent visit.

Meanwhile, the Colombian government’s coca eradication measures continue to draw criticism from some quarters for collateral damage to the environment and indigenous and rural people.

In August, the Guardian newspaper in London published an open letter by nearly 50 academics, many of them from Colombian universities, to the newly elected president, Juan Manuel Santos, protesting the fumigation of coca crops. In the letter, the professors claim “confirmed knowledge” that Colombia’s antinarcotics police established a base earlier this year in the Cauca region along the Pacific coastline that they are using to lead fumigation operations.

“The impact of the widespread spraying on the local communities has been devastating,” the letter states. “The planes have targeted not just illegal coca plants, but all vegetation, including staple crops that local populations depend upon.”

The Cuaca region is one of several areas identified as a hot spot of biological diversity by a World Bank-financed study in the 1990s, the Proyecto Biopacifico.

“It is in utter disregard of the recommendations drawn up by this acclaimed study that the Colombian government has undertaken a massive, indiscriminate fumigation campaign in the region, hoping to eradicate illegal coca cultivation,” the professors wrote.

The Poisonous Politics of Food Production and Consumption and What We Can Do

The article below flows from the brilliant work of people like Vandana Shiva. Here is one of her speeches on this subject:

The source website for what follows may be linked back to here: 

5 Terrible Problems With the Way We Eat (And What You Can Do About Them)

Most of the problems in our food system stem from the concentration of power, land, wealth, and political influence in the hands of a few large players.

Aquaculture may be an important food source in the future (see above) but much of it is practiced in ways that are unhealthy for eaters, native species and the environment. If GMO salmon is approved, (still pending at press time) it will only add to the list of everything that is wrong with farming carnivorous fish in the open ocean. Don’t replace that salmon on your plate with shrimp. Ever wonder why the shrimp is so cheap at restaurants like Red Lobster?

What can you do about it?

Educate yourself on sustainable aquaculture. In general, only eat farmed fish that are natural vegetarians and only buy from suppliers that are transparent about the origins of their fish.

4. Genetically Modified Crops

Besides being untested for their effects on human health, genetically modified seeds don’t necessarily produce greater yields, and can lead to over-application of pesticides that in turn can cause super weeds which have the potential to threaten overall biodiversity, and to contaminate non-gmo crops with their genetic material. The most recent case involving GMOS ended badly when the USDA issued permits allowing GMO sugar beets to be planted in defiance of a federal judge. The judge had issued a decision to stop the planting of GMO sugar beets on the grounds that they may cross-pollinate table beets and Swiss chard. Despite the fact that most other countries have laws outlawing or requiring the labeling of GMO foods, our government continues to bow down to industry.

What can you do about it?

Educate yourself about which crops are commonly genetically modified and only buy organic versions. Better yet, support the companies involved in the non-GMO project. These are the companies willing to go out on a limb and actually test their organic ingredients to make sure they are not contaminated. Also, raise your voice and let the USDA and our legislators know that you don’t want GMOS!

5. Exploitation of Workers

From actual documented slavery in Florida’s tomato fields, to daily pesticide exposure in farming communities, to the fact that America’s lowest paying jobs are in fast food restaurants – our food system crushes workers, ruins their health, and keeps them in poverty so that they need the cheap, processed, industrialized food to survive.

What can you do about it?

This is a tough one, because buying from local, organic farms isn’t necessarily the answer. Even the nicest local, organic farms don’t pay their workers much and require long hours of backbreaking work. The farmers often work just as hard and can’t even afford health insurance for themselves or their families, so even if they want to do better by their workers, they can’t. This is where raising your voice for a more fair government policy that benefits small farmers equally can help. The new USDA is doing a better job clamping down on the big guys and supporting small-scale farmers than ever before, but we’ve got a ways to go.