Mexico: soldiers arrested for killing civilians

Mexico's National Defense Secretariat announced on Sept. 13 that four soldiers would be arrested and charged with homicide for the killing of two civilians the night of Sept. 5 on the Monterrey-Nuevo Laredo highway in Apodaca municipality in the northern state of Nuevo León. The soldiers, from the 7th Military Zone, opened fire on a car in which members of an extended family were driving home after a party. Vicente de León Ramírez and his 16-year-old son, Alejandro Gabriel de León Castellanos, were killed; three other family members were hit by bullets, and two children, 8 and 9, were injured by broken glass. The soldiers said they shot at the car because the driver, Vicente de León's son-in-law, ignored orders to stop at a checkpoint. The family denied that there was a checkpoint and said they not been ordered to stop.

The killing was similar to an incident in Sinaloa de Leyva municipality, in Sinaloa state, the night of May 31-June 1, 2007, when soldiers fired on a family van, killing two women and three small children. The government's National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) reports receiving almost 3,500 complaints of military abuses since President Felipe Calderón Hinojosa deployed soldiers in a "war on drugs" shortly after taking office in December 2006. Recently the military has been attempting to improve its image by accepting its responsibility in some incidents, including the July 2006 rape of 13 (or 14) women in a dance hall in Castaños, Coahuila state, and the killing of two graduate students in Monterrey, Nuevo León, last March. (La Jornada, Mexico, Sept. 7; La Opinión, Los Angeles, Sept. 12, Sept. 14)

In other news, David García Ramírez, a resident of San Juan Copala, an autonomous municipality in the southern state of Oaxaca, was shot dead on Sept. 18 as he was attempting to leave the municipality. This was the latest killing in a campaign by two groups of indigenous Triqui, the Social Welfare Unity of the Triqui Region (UBISORT) and the Unification Movement of the Triqui Struggle (MULT), to drive members of a third Triqui group, the Independent Unification Movement of the Triqui Struggle (MULTI), from the municipality. García Ramírez was reportedly a MULTI supporter, while the killers were said to be paramilitaries from the UBISORT, which is linked to the centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). (LJ, Sept. 19)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Sept. 19.

See our last post on Mexico.

San Juan Copala evacuated

Autonomous authorities ordered the total evacuation of San Juan Copala in Oaxaca, Mexico, after paramilitaries raided the community and said they would kill everyone if they didn't leave. According to latest reports, all residents of the autonomous municipality made it out safely, "with no help from the government." (Intercontinental Cry, Sept. 30; San Juan Copala statement, Sept. 23; UDW, Sept. 21)