Mexico: indigenous leader murdered in Michoacán

The body of indigenous teacher and activist Teódulo Santos Girón was found on May 16 in the town cemetery in La Ticla in the western Mexican state of Michoacán. According to official sources, Santos Girón, who had just finished his term as a local official in the indigenous Nahua community of Santa María Ostula, had been kidnapped in La Ticla the night before; he was shot in the head and in the body.

Santos Girón was active in promoting maintenance of the Náhuatl language and culture, and he was a strong supporter of the center-left Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) who also admired the indigenous rebels of the Zapatista National Liberation Front (EZLN), based in the southeastern state of Chiapas. He helped lead the movement of Ostula residents that occupied disputed land near the Pacific coast in the summer of 2009. The occupiers were subsequently granted more than 1,000 hectares by Michoacán’s state government, but drug dealers and other forces have been trying to drive the community out of the area. As of last December, 28 community members had been murdered, including leaders Trinidad de la Cruz Crisóstomo (“Don Trino”) and Pedro Leyva Domínguez. (La Crónica de Hoy, Mexico, May 18; La Jornada, Mexico, May 19)

Another Michoacán indigenous activist, Jesús Sebastián Ortiz, was found dead on May 24 in the Cherán autonomous municipality, where he was a community leader. He had left his home a week earlier to go to a ranch, but he never returned. Community members feared he had been attacked by forcesengaged in illegal logging; eight people were killed near Cherán the morning of April 18 during a dispute between Cherán residents and loggers. But the state Attorney General’s Office said on May 25 that an autopsy showed Sebastián Ortiz had died of a heart problem. An older brother accepted the autopsy results, saying that the community leader, who was 70, had suffered from heart disease. (LJ, May 25; El Universal, Mexico, May 25)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, June 3

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