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Autonomous Triqui Community Wary of New State Government
email this pageprint this pageemail usEmilio Godoy - Inter Press Service
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July 06, 2010

The first signal that the new government should send is to break the blockade and disarm UBISORT. The new government is not going to be a solution for the Triqui region, but it could be an open door that will benefit the municipality.
- Jorge Albino
Mexico City - The autonomous indigenous Triqui community of San Juan Copala, in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca, is maintaining a cautious attitude towards the state government to take power after winning Sunday's elections.

The community is made up of 786 people and declared autonomy in 2007. Since January it has been under a blockade, enforced by paramilitaries belonging to the Union for the Wellbeing of the Triqui Region (UBISORT).

UBISORT is an illegal armed group accused of ties with the current state government, led by Governor Ulises Ruiz, of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which has governed the state for eight decades.

"The first signal that the new government should send is to break the blockade and disarm UBISORT. The new government is not going to be a solution for the Triqui region, but it could be an open door that will benefit the municipality," said Jorge Albino, member of the human rights commission of San Juan Copala, located 600 kilometres south of the Mexican capital.

According to preliminary vote counts, the winner is likely to be Gabino Cué, candidate of the left-right coalition formed by the conservative National Action Party (PAN), the leftist Democratic Revolution (PRD), Labour and Convergence parties, beating out the PRI's Eviel Pérez.

On Sunday, some 30 million Mexicans turned out to cast ballots for state and municipal officials, as well as their local legislative representatives in 14 states, and new governors in 12 states. The vote is seen as a harbinger for the 2012 presidential elections.

The PRI, which governed the nation uninterrupted for six decades, ending in 2000, has apparently won in nine states, but lost the important northern state of Sinaloa and, for the first time in eight decades, was defeated in the southern states of Puebla and Oaxaca - this serves as a warning that the PRI is not assured a victory in 2012.

"It was a vote in Puebla and Oaxaca to punish the two outgoing governors. New winds are blowing. Cué is going to have better tools to bring peace to the Oaxaca community, he'll be better able to do battle with the different political forces," Arturo Argente, a political expert with the private Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education, told IPS.

Oaxaca's Governor Ruiz and Puebla's Mario Marín have both suffered scandals for corruption and abuse of power.

San Juan Copala has been the scene of several violent incidents this year. In April, paramilitaries attacked a humanitarian convoy that was attempting to bring food and medical supplies to the blockaded Triqui community.

The UBISORT-led ambush left two people dead: Beatriz Alberta Cariño, director of the local non-governmental Centre for Community Support Working Together (CACTUS), and Jyri Jaakkola, a human rights observer from Finland. Both were shot in the head. Several others were injured.

Then in May, Timoteo Alejandro Ramírez, 44, and his wife Cleriberta Castro, 35, were murdered. Ramírez was one of the driving forces behind declaring San Juan Copala autonomous, and was head of the Independent Movement for Triqui Unification and Struggle (MULTI).

In June, another convoy of lawmakers, social activists and journalists - also bearing basic supplies - tried to enter the community, but turned back after the paramilitaries threatened another attack.

There were no voting stations set up in San Juan Copala on Sunday.

Cué, who lost the Oaxaca gubernatorial elections in 2004, will take office in December once declared the winner by the electoral authorities, taking on a legacy of violent conflict, corruption and poverty.

"We are going to wait for his work agenda. But we want him to investigate the assassinations in San Juan Copala and ensure that the state doesn't meddle in the autonomous community," said Albino.

To assess the human rights situation, European lawmakers Satu Hassi, Finland's former environment minister, and Ska Keller, German former president of the Federation of Young European Greens, are currently in Oaxaca, and after their tour will present a report to the European Parliament and to the Mexican government.

In recent years, Oaxaca has suffered other conflicts. From May to October 2006, the state's teachers, affiliated with Section 22 of the National Education Workers and the Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca (APPO), took to the streets in protest against Governor Ruiz, the face of the most conservative wing of the PRI.

The conflict ended in tragedy, with the intervention of dozens of federal police sent by then-president Vicente Fox (2000-2006), member of the conservative PAN, as is the current president, Felipe Calderón.

The police action left more than 20 people dead, 370 wounded and some 350 arrested. Most of the deaths were blamed on the police. No legal action was ever taken against those responsible. The demonstrations re-emerged in mid-2007, but did not last.

"We have a society that has been deeply hurt, with a great deal of resentment, and which is looking for change. Take a look at the political environment that the outgoing governors are leaving us. Mexicans are recovering their memories and want to see other politicians in power," said Argente.

Cué's assumed victory is the confirmation of the strategy of alliances launched by the PAN and the leftist parties, an approach copied in four other states, and which also contributed to the victories in Sinaloa and Puebla over the PRI.

The scenario could repeat in the 2011 elections in the state of Mexico, neighbouring Mexico City.

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