Armed with clubs, rocks and machetes, at least 3,000 Nahuatl indigenous people blocked roads in Soledad Atzompa municipality in the central eastern Mexican state of Veracruz on Feb. 26 and 27 to demand the removal of the military from the 14 municipalities in the Sierra de Zongolica. They also demanded social services and materials for the villages in the region, and punishment for four soldiers accused of the rape of 73-year-old Ernestina Ascension Rosario, who died on Feb. 26 of the injuries she sustained in the assault. In the Feb. 27 demonstration the protesters detained state public safety secretary Juan Manuel Orozco, state prosecutor Emeterio Lopez and other officials for a half hour and damaged their vehicles.
Ernestina Ascension was found in serious condition in her home in Tetlacingo community in Soledad Atzompa on Feb. 25 and was taken to the hospital, where she died the next day after charging that she had been beaten and raped by four soldiers. According to the forensic report, the causes of death were a cranial fracture, internal hemorrhaging and anal bleeding caused by multiple penetration.
Soldiers belonging to the 26th Military Zone have been stationed in the region for a year, reportedly because of the presence of cells of the rebel Popular Revolutionary Army (EPR) and the Revolutionary Army of the Insurgent People (ERPI). Residents accuse the soldiers of repeated abuses of power, robberies, sexual aggressions and human rights violations. On Feb. 2 drunken soldiers from the 26th Military Zone destroyed crops and attacked six residents, for which the military paid compensation. State governor Fidel Herrera Beltran has promised dialogue with the communities, and the state is investigating the accusation against the soldiers. But Assistant Public Safety Secretary Carlos Francisco Mora Dominguez told the protesters that the incident wouldn’t interfere with the state’s relations with the military. “These are things that unfortunately happen in society,” he said. (CIMAC, Feb. 28 via Comite Cerezo)
From Weekly News Update on the Americas, March 4