Ramiro Guillén Tapia, a campesino leader from Mexico’s Sierra de Soetapan, doused himself with gasoline and set himself on fire Sept. 30 in front of the Veracruz state government headquarters in Xalapa, saying it was an act of protest against failure of officials to respond to his demands for titling of indigenous and campesino lands in the mountain region. He survived 21 hours in the city’s hospital before succumbing.
Guillén Tapia, leader of the Pro-Human Rights Commission of the Sierra de Soetapan, had long been petitioning state authorities for action on legal actions filed ten years ago against illegal encroachment on 250 hectares of traditional peasant lands in the communities of San Pedro Soteapan y Acayucan.
After his self-immolation, Veracruz Government Secretary Reynaldo Escobar Pérez pledged prompt attention to the question, but denied that his administration had been negligent, saying the state was only an intermediary and that the issue is ultimately in the hands of the federal Secretary of Agrarian Reform. (El Universal, Oct. 2)
This is the second protest self-immolation Veracruz has seen in recent years.