Mexico: widow of 1970s rebel murdered

Two armed men gunned down Mexican activists Isabel Ayala Nava and her sister, Reyna Ayala Nava, in the early afternoon of July 3 as they were leaving a church in Xaltianguis, a village in Acapulco municipality in the western state of Guerrero. The killers took the women’s cell phones, and later in the day Isabel Ayala’s daughter, Micaela CabaƱas Ayala, received a threatening call made from her mother’s phone.

As a teenager Isabel Ayala was a member of the rebel Party of the Poor (PdlP) and was married to its legendary leader, the former school teacher Lucio CabaƱas Barrientos, who died during a military assault at the end of 1974. Ayala and the couple’s baby daughter Micaela were captured in 1974 and were taken to Military Camp No. 1, where Ayala was tortured. She was released in 1976. After living outside Mexico for many years, she returned to the country in 2008 and was active in two groups, United Lefts of the South and the Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Guerrero. She worked to expose crimes committed in the “dirty war” against leftists in the 1960s and 1970s and supported her daughter’s activism in the Born in the Tempest Civil Association. Two of Ayala’s brothers were reportedly murdered earlier this year. (La Jornada, Mexico, July 3; ComitĆ© Cerezo urgent action, July 4)

On July 7 a number of human rights organizations based in Guerrero demanded protection by the authorities for Micaela CabaƱas and a thorough investigation of the July 3 murder. The groups suggested that the killings were “a political crime connected to [the sisters’] activism in defense of human rights and the clarification of crimes against humanity during the so-called ‘dirty war.'” The current president of the state legislature, Deputy Faustino Soto Ramos from the center-left Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), noted that the murders came as the legislature was analyzing proposals for a truth commission to investigate crimes committed in the counterinsurgency. (La Jornada de Guerrero, July 8; Proceso, Mexico, July 6)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, July 10.

See our last post on Mexico and the guerilla movement.

  1. Acapulco, Guerrero
    Just two small quibbles with your report on the killing of the widow of Lucio CabaƱas: The Mexican word “municipio” is probably better translated as “county” — and this state, Guerrero, is on the south coast, not the west. Sailing straight south out of the port of Acapulco, the first land you meet is Antarctica.

    1. Thanks for the correction on Guerrero
      We normally refer to Guerrero as a “southern” state, or sometimes as “southwestern.” The “western” was an inadvertent error.

      It’s true that a municipio is often geographically like a US or English county, However, the word “county” applies to many different types of political unit in the English-speaking world and carries all sorts of historical associations (with counts, shires, earls and sheriffs, for example), so we think it’s less confusing to use “municipality.”