Mexico: Corrupt Oaxaca Governor Targets David Venegas Reyes
Julie Webb Pullman
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David Venegas Reyes in better days (pic from elenemigocomun)
On 13 April 2009, the second anniversary of his abduction from a local park by a group of men dressed head-to-toe in
black clothing, David Venegas Reyes faces sentencing for the “crime” of being a prominent member of the social movement,
APPO, the Asemblea Popular de los Pueblos de Oaxaca. This movement is comprised of hundreds of social groups including
teachers, workers, indigenous groups, students, and assorted citizens who since 2006 have been peacefully attempting to
rid this Mexican state of its corrupt Governor, Ulises Ruiz Ortiz, or URO. (links to other articles http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/HL0610/S00173.htm
Their attempts to date, like those of other social movements throughout Mexico, have met with some of the worst
repression seen in Latin America since the Dirty Wars of the 1980s. From brutal one-offs such as that in Atenco in 2006
to the sustained low-intensity warfare continuing in Chiapas and Guerrero, Oaxaca is undoubtedly the jewel in this crown
of thorns, where since Ruiz took power in 2004 state brutality is a daily occurrence, and where, short of assassination,
the abduction, torture and jailing of movement leaders on trumped-up charges is the preferred modus operandi.
Of course that’s not what they call it in URO´s injustice system. The names of the current charges against Venegas are
possession of the drugs his captors planted and photographed him with, some six hours after police in civilian dress
snatched him from the park. Human rights lawyer Isaac Torres Carmona, who was walking with Venegas at the time, asked to
see an arrest warrant and was told to shut up or he would be next, as Venegas was bundled into a red pick-up truck
without license plates, and his head stuffed into a bag. Venegas later reported that he was then driven to several
unknown locations where he was repeatedly beaten and threatened with disappearance, before finally arriving at the State
Preventive Police headquarters in Santa María Coyotepec, Oaxaca for the photo-op with bags of heroin and cocaine -
courtesy, no doubt, of URO’s henchmen. To maximise the effect, the police even went so far as to release a post-arrest
photo to the media, showing the obviously beaten-up Venegas standing behind a bag of white powder, allegedly drugs, atop
an issue of La Barrikada, a magazine published by APPO adherents.
Sedition, conspiracy, and arson charges thrown out
Carried away by delusions of success, or perhaps by sheer arrogance and stupidity, the Ruiz government then filed
further charges against Venegas for sedition, conspiracy, and arson - charges which were later thrown out on appeal, but
not before Venegas had spent 11 months behind bars. Not to be deterred, instead of releasing Venegas following his
successful appeal, the government merely fired off another volley of invented charges such as attacks on transit routes,
rebellion, crimes against civil servants, dangerous attacks, and resisting arrest. Venegas beat these also in a second
appeal, and was finally released on bail on March 5 2008, but with the drug charges still pending, forcing him to appear
weekly in court.
Instead of being sentenced on these charges last Monday, however, the case was postponed by judicial order until Monday
13 April, presumably to give the police time to refabricate their evidence, given that all they have against Venegas is
the bag of powder in the photograph and the word of the police, which is demonstrably unreliable - one of the four
police has quit his job and refused to testify against Venegas, while another named by the remaining officers as the
driver denies that he even participated in the operation. The evidence of the remaining two police officers is full of
contradictions, while the evidence of several independent civilians who witnessed the abduction not only corroborates
each others, but is directly in contradiction to that of the police, eg no civilian winesses saw the police find drugs
on Venegas either during his arrest or before the pick-up drove off, as the police claimed to have done.
Not that URO’s court will let a little matter like truth get in the way – for example, not one charge has been filed
against police for the brutality unleashed in 2006, and condemned by numerous national and international human rights
organisations alike, such as CCIODH. (CCIODH report in English http://cciodh.pangea.org/quinta/informe_final/report_cciodh5_.pdf
New wave of repression
Nor is David Venegas the only current casualty – hot on the heels of the second APPO congress signalling a resurgence of
the popular movement, a new wave of repression against their members is also underway. The stabbing of APPO councillor
and co-VOCAL member Ruben Valencia Nuñez in January 2009, and the kidnap and torture of APPO councilor and former
political prisoner Marcelino Coache Verano in March are two chilling examples. This does not augur well for Venegas, who
believes the Government will now be doing everything in their power to separate as many dissidents as possible from the
movement, whether through such extra-judicial methods or the courts.
He is under no illusions as to the prohibitive odds he faces next Monday. "In Mexico, there's a state of total
impunity,” he said. “A police officer's word is sacred. Judges value a cop's word much more than a citizen's. This is
the impunity we have to live with...especially in Oaxaca, it's not reason or strong arguments that win cases. It's
political interests, repression, and economic interests. The only thing the people have is mobilizations and protest."
That many are still prepared to do so despite the inevitable repression, not just in 2006 but in the “daily brutal
injustices and human rights violations” referred to by Venegas outside the court last Monday, is testament to the
strength of spirit of those who refuse to let gross injustice pass unchallenged, regardless of the personal cost.
Call for international attention
Several local social movements have called on the international community to keep their eyes on Oaxaca on Monday, to
ensure that this young man does not become just another of URO’s victims, like the 26 dead, hundreds of disappeared and
detained, and thousands of tortured since Ulises took power in 2004. Given the total impunity and corruption of the
judicial process in Oaxaca, international pressure is the best Dacid Venegas can hope for to keep him out of prison.
For messages of solidarity/support for David Venegas, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
To express your concern about his case in NZ send an email to María Angélica Arce de Jeannet, Mexican Ambassador to NZ email@example.com
To join other NZers in their campaign on David´s behalf, contact firstname.lastname@example.org