After the culmination of the three-year municipal period, 2014-2016, ten compañerxs of the community assembly remain imprisoned in the penitentiaries of Ixcotel, Cuicatlán and Etla Oaxaca. Furthermore, arrest orders remain outstanding against nineteen of our compañerxs. This is the result of a municipal conflict on December 14th, 2014, between peoples of the municipality, in a dispute over control of the municipal palace and the naming of the municipal mayor.
The municipal palace had been previously taken through violence by a group using sticks and firearms, lead by the professor/ brothers: Vicente, Vidal, and Manuel Zepeda Cortes (the latter being the ex-municipal president for the three years 2011-2013). Their intention was to retain power in order to hide the embezzlement of 23 million pesos carried out in complicity with the ex-municipal administrator professor Eleazar Bravo Fuentes. Their pretext for the attack was that the then municipal president, Alfredo Bolaños Pacheco, was not adequately using the resources to benefit the municipality. In reality, Manuel Zepeda Cortes ex- municipal president, was searching to obscure the gifting of the money to works of his construction company, which he had started during his municipal presidency.
It is important to note that under his command, the repression and violation of the human rights of members of the community assembly who don’t pertain to his political line were extensive. In February of 2011, he orchestrated the burning of a truck belonging to UCOCAM (Unión de Comunidades Campesinas Marginadas). On the 30th of the same month, Manuel Zepeda Cortes along with his followers, using sticks, rocks and machetes, attacked compañerxs of the community assembly that were carrying out a Faena (community works project) in the neighborhood of Puerto Rosete. On November 20th of 2012, as compañerxs gathered in an autobus in Puente de Fierro, to travel to Mexico City to commemorate the anniversary of the tragic death of Ricardo Flores Magón, hooded men attacked them. As a result of the attack, professor and journalist Fernando Palacios Chazares and various others were gravely injured. Until now, the perpetrators remain in impunity. Manuel Zepeda Cortes also used heavy machinery in the river that runs through our municipality to remove large quantities of rock and sand from big landholdings that he obtained with municipal resources. This has generated a climate of inconformity in the municipality. Thus, the family has attempted at all costs to retain local control in our municipality, protecting their previous interests in the PRD party and now in the Morena party.
As a result of the conflict on December 14th of 2014, two people died, while automobiles and houses were damaged. For this, our compañerxs remain incarcerated or with outstanding orders of arrest. As all the necessary evidence has been presented for the relevant investigations, the judicial authorities have moved very slowly with the process, for which we ask the government to revise the advancement of the cases. Those detained and the others with orders of arrest have continually confirmed their innocence.
Manuel Zepeda Cortes manipulated the interim president Juan Salazar Hernández during the two remaining years of his period of 2014-2016, in order organize the new elections for the three years of 2017-2019 without following the protocols of the rights of the Indigenous peoples. In doing this, he imposed his daughter Elisa Zepeda Lagunas, fulfilling his thirst for municipal power. This election was carried out on the first Sunday of April, when in the previous years it has taken place in the second week of September. Without the majority validating the election, and without taking into account other contenders, only 450 people gathered, when in past elections more than 2300 voters have participated. In the official documents, some 1400 voters are said to have participated, thus proving the falsification of signatures of citizens who weren’t present. To make matters worse, Eliza Zepeda Lagunas is not originally from this municipality and doesn’t speak Mazateco, whereas some 90% of the municipality does.
These acts have taken advantage of the climate of uncertainty and persecution against the members of the community assembly. The compañerxs of the community assembly registered complaints before the Electoral Institute of Citizen Participation of the State of Oaxaca (IEEPCO) to challenge these acts taking stock of the inconsistencies of this election and asking for its annulment. The community assembly solicits new elections in agreement with the usos y costumbres of the Indigenous community—an election where a true majority of the people in the community would participate.
However, the directors of the Electoral Institute of Citizen Participation in Oaxaca (IEEPCO) have ignored these anomalies, validating the election on July 24th, 2016, authorizing Elisa Zepeda Lagunas as municipal president. On November 1st of last year, Elisa Zepeda Lagunas was again recognized as president elect of the three-year period 2017-2019. The community assembly does not conform to these results and has put forth another complaint to the federal electoral tribunal with headquarters in Xalapa, Veracruz. Regardless, on December 30th of last year, Elisa Zepeda Lagunas was officially sworn in as municipal president. It is important to note that in the analysis of these acts, bribery prevails in the authorities co-signing the official documents. Thus, as a consequence, the municipality remains divided and in dispute, while concord and peace is negated.
Members of the Community Assembly Ricardo Flores Magón