Mexico: activists charged in reporter Brad Will’s death

On Oct. 16 Mexico’s federal Attorney General’s Office (PGR) arrested activist Juan Manuel Martínez Moreno for the shooting death of New York-based independent journalist Brad Will during a protest in the southern state of Oaxaca on Oct. 27, 2006. Octavio Perez Perez was also arrested and charged with concealing the crime; Hugo Jafit Colmenares Leyva was arrested on the same charge on Oct. 17. Perez and Colmenares were released on Oct. 18 on bail of 25,000 pesos (about $1,925) apiece. All three of the arrested men are activists in the leftist Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca (APPO), which along with the state local of the National Education Workers Union (SNTE) spearheaded protests that shut down much of Oaxaca state for five months in 2006.

Will, a member of the New York Indymedia collective, was hit while he was standing with the demonstrators and videotaping apparent supporters of the state government as they fired at protesters and reporters. A Mexican journalist was also hit but suffered minor injuries. Adrian Ramírez, president of the Mexican League for the Defense of Human Rights (LIMEDDH), said videos and photographs from the scene show that Will could not have been shot by the nearby protesters. The federal government’s own National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) found that the shots came from a distance of 30m. “We’ve spent two years on this, and the PGR’s investigation is an insult,” Kathy Will, the journalist’s mother, told the daily Milenio. In Mexico, she added, “the impunity is amazing.” (Milenio, Mexico, Oct. 17, 19; El Informador, Guadalajara, Oct. 19 from EFE; La Jornada, Mexico, Oct. 19)

The activists’ arrests came as the Mexican government was cracking down on a teachers’ strike in neighboring Morelos similar to the strike that set off the Oaxaca uprising two years before. Residents of the Morelos indigenous communities of Amayuca and Xoxocotla have charged that they were tortured and subjected to sexual aggression when agents and soldiers raided the villages on Oct. 8 and 9 to stop protests in support of the teachers. Demonstrations have continued around the state despite the repression at various communities. Some 40,000 people marched through the state capital, Cuernavaca, on Oct. 14 to reject the national government’s Alliance for Quality Education (ACE); Morelos teachers were joined by local supporters and teachers from other states. On Oct. 15 some 10,000 residents, teachers and supporters marched in Xoxocotla to demand that the PFP and the military withdraw from the community.

Teachers are resisting the ACE in other states as well. On Oct. 14 some 3,000 teachers blocked the state legislature building in Chilpancingo, the capital of Guerrero, forcing the legislature to suspend its session. On Oct. 17, more than 15,000 teachers from Morelos, Michoacan, Oaxaca, Mexico state, the Federal District (DF, Mexico City), Guerrero, Zacatecas, Tlaxcala and Puebla marched in Mexico City from the Zocalo plaza to the president’s residence, Los Pinos, calling for a national strike. Teachers have maintained an encampment in front of the Public Education Secretariat (SEP) since Oct. 8. (Viento de Libertad, Oct. 11, 14; LJ, Oct. 14, 15, 16, 18)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Oct. 21

See our last posts on Mexico, Oaxaca, the labor struggle, and the Brad Will case.