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The Community of Santa María Ostula Struggles against Violent Repression

category north america / mexico | indigenous struggles | press release author Tuesday June 28, 2011 00:41author by Habitantes de Sta Maria Ostula - Commission for the Defence of Community Property of the Indigenous Community of Santa María Ostula Report this post to the editors

The costs of war on Ostula: 16 community members dead or disappeared in the past six months, dozens of widows, orphans and families displaced, and the indefinite suspension of school.

The Community of Santa María Ostula Struggles against Violent Repression

The costs of war on Ostula: 16 community members dead or disappeared in the past six months, dozens of widows, orphans and families displaced, and the indefinite suspension of school.

To the people of Mexico and the peoples of the world
To the National Caravan for Peace with Justice and Dignity
To the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights
To the indigenous people of Mexico
To the National Indigenous Congress
To the Otra Campaña

This June 29 marks two years since our community, with the support of sister Nahua communities Pómaro and El Coire, recovered more than a thousand hectares of land belonging to Xayakalan, land that had been invaded by rich caciques from La Placita, Michoacán over the past 40 years. We also established the settlement and resistance camp of Xayakalan, stopped the highway megaprojects that threatened to impose all levels of government on Nahua territory, and brought an end to the decision of the state to dispossess Ostula of almost a thousand hectares of communal land.

It has also been two years since our community resolved to close all of its territory and exercise indigenous autonomy and self defence, with the support of the National Indigenous Congress' Manifesto for Indigenous Self Defence. This was done through the reestablishment of traditional community police and the formation of a communal guard that lead the recovery of land that has been unjustly seized. The land is currently being protected by the aforementioned guard.

We have suffered constant harassment and aggression from paramilitary groups who with total impunity, persecute, murder, and kidnap members of our community and neighbouring communities. Particularly egregious are the forced disappearances of compañero Francisco De Asís Manuel, president of community property in Santa María Ostula, and community members Javier Martínez Robles and Gerardo Vera Orcino.

Two years from those historic days of struggle, we condemn the federal and state governments that have not guaranteed the existence of our community police force, nor have recognized the communal property in Xayakalan. Instead, they have carried out permanent campaigns of disarmament, detaining armed community members. This is done with participation of agents from the United States. At the same time, organized crime groups that dominate Michoacán and the region operate without restraint, protected by state police and the complicity of the Mexican Army and Marines.

In September 2010 our community obtained precautionary measures with relation to the disappearances of Francisco de Asís Manuel, Javier Martínez Robles and Gerardo Vera Orcino from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. This had a somewhat calming effect that allowed our community to enter into a dialogue in October 2010 with the Secretariat of Agrarian Reform and the Secretariat of the State Government in order to attempt to smooth out the problems around the recovered land in Xayakalan. A few days later, both governments proposed the “liberation” of 22 hectares that made up a part of our immemorial land but was given to the commune of Salina de La Placita in 1967. Forty million pesos was offered in compensation for the land.

In the first days of December 2010, the general assembly of community members decided to reject any quantity of money that the federal or state governments offered as a solution to the problem. The blood of our missing and dead brothers is not negotiable, nor does it have a price. Mother earth also does not have a price. Instead, we initiated a consulta among the men, women, boys, and girls who make up our community in order to find a proposal, if a consensus could be reached, that allows for the building of peace with the communal land holders and mestizo population of La Placita.

However, the consulta that we have carried out with much difficulty over the months has been stained with blood and pain for the community of Ostula:

1. On December 10, 2010, community member Horacio Matínez Ramos was kidnapped on coastal highway 200 and later murdered.
2. Ernesto Nicolás López and Pedro Nazario Domínguez were murdered on January 1 and 6, 2011 respectively.
3. On February 1, community member Pedro Guzman was murdered. On Frebruary 20, a commando attempted to murder community member Semeí Verdía in El Faro. Semeí Verdía is a member of the Commission of Dialogue for the Agrarian Problem of the Community. He is currently not in Ostula.
4. Isidro Mora Domínguez and Feliciano Dirino Domínguez were murdered on March 20.
5. Underage community member Enrique Domínguez Macías was kidnapped in El Ranchito, Michoacán on April 8. To this day, his whereabouts remains unknown.
6. Young community members Jonathan and Fortino Verdía Gómez were burned and murdered in El Faro on May 2.
7. On May 13, community members and professors Francisco and Ambrosio Verdía Macías, the former was principal of the primary school in Ostula, were kidnapped on coastal highway 200 and murdered in El Faro. Since this day, school has been suspended in Ostula.
8. On May 28 Nicolás de la Cruz, First Comandante of the third group belonging to the communal guard that recovered Xayakalan on June 29, 2009, was ambushed and murdered along with his son Rafael de la Cruz.
9. May 29 saw community member Juan Faustino murdered. He was First Comandante of the second group belonging to the communal guard that recovered Xayakalan on June 29, 2009.

Faced with a state government that is constantly pressuring our community to reach an agreement that would give away part of our beaches in order to “stop what is happening”, we ask ourselves what next? Who will be the next victim? What else has to happen before our continuously violated rights are respected? What crimes have to occur in order for our community police to be recognized? Who will punish the government of Michoacán and the federal bodies posted in the region for their silent complicity in the extermination of our community?

Could it be that what is happening in Ostula is the price we are paying for daring to stand up to save our land, our existence and our dignity? Is this the price we pay for exercising the most basic rights that belong to every human being around the world?
Is this the punishment that they want to impose on us for rising up against so much injustice? Punishment for fighting against displacement, racism and violence, carried out not over years, but over a long night that has lasted five centuries?

Because we live with it every day we shout out: The war on drugs is nothing more than charade that keeps this lucrative business going, while violence spreads more and more throughout this country called México so that a few can rob what is left of the cultural heritage in our communities and nation.

We say clearly: the solution is self defence and the exercise of autonomy. In Xayakalan, where our community police is fully functional, there is no violence, no murders. The violence happens principally on coastal highway 200, which is under federal jurisdiction, and in communities outside our territory. It's important to remember that Ostula established and safeguarded a state of emergency for almost three months, with many sacrifices. During this time there wasn't a single crime committed in the community.

For the above reasons, and because the offences and crimes committed against Ostula make up a part of a long series of offences and crimes committed against peoples across Mexico, we declare our support for the National Caravan for Peace with Justice and Dignity and the Citizens' Pact signed on June 10 in Juárez, Chihuahua.

We will not surrender, we are still alive and we urgently need the backing of civil society. With that in mind we invite everyone to the Xayakalan resistance camp on June 29 starting at 10:00 for the second anniversary of the recovery of our communal land, the foundation of the Xayakalan resistance camp, and the formation of the community police and communal indigenous guard. We demand that the repression against the Coastal Nahua people end and that our disappeared compañeros are returned to us alive.

Respect for all our communal land!

Respect for our community police and communal guard!

Return alive compañero Francisco de Asís Manuel, president of community property of Santa María Ostula, and community members Javier Martínez Robles and Gerardo Vera Orcino!

Punish those responsible for the murder of Professor Diego Ramírez Dominguez!

Stop the kidnapping and murder of the community members of Ostula!

Punish those responsible for the repression against Santa María Ostula!

Santa María Ostula, Michoacán, June 8 2011.
Land and Liberty
Commission for the Defence of Community Property of the Indigenous Community of Santa María Ostula

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