Attempted Arrest of Member of the Community Assembly (Eloxochitlán de Flores Magón, Oaxaca)

Editor’s Note: This article speaks to the ongoing persecution of members of the community assembly of Eloxochitlán de Flores Magón, Oaxaca. It describes the recent attempted arrest of one of the members of the community assembly and contextualizes this most recent aggression within the political repression and ongoing judicial irregularities being carried out against the community assembly of Eloxochitlán de Flores Magón. The original in Spanish was published by the autonomous media collective, Subversiones, and can be found here.

On September 10th, 2018, Artemio, a construction worker, was working in the city of Puebla when he heard in the distance someone shout his name: “Artemio Vidauria Romero!”. Hearing his full name, something none of his work colleagues knew, Artemio ran. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw at least three men dressed in plain clothes. They turned out to be police. Artemio escaped, but while running away at full speed, he heard shots fired. Fortunately, he wasn’t struck by any of the bullets.

Artemio Vidauria Romero is part of the community assembly of Eloxochitlán de Flores Magón. Until mid-2015, he was a representative of the municipal locality known as “Barrio Escopeta.” However, due to a conflict between members of the community assembly and members of political parties supporting the cacique Manuel Zepeda, which led to a clash on December 14th, 2014, Artemio was forced to leave the community.

Elisa Zepeda Lagunas, daughter of Manuel Zepeda Cortés and member of the political party MORENA, was recently elected as local representative for district 04, with a regional seat in Teotitlan de Flores Magón, Oaxaca. She was the one who filed the legal complaints against Artemio and other members of the community assembly in December of 2014. Just a few days later, without any evidence incriminating him, and based solely on the testimony of Elisa Zepeda, the District Judge of Huautla de Jiménez issued three arrest warrants against Artemio Vidauria Romero. One for the crime of homicide and two more for attempted homicide. All of which are related to the criminal case 02/2015.

Elisa Zepeda at a rally with the political party MORENA

In light of this, Artemio and his legal representatives submitted appeals, 489/2015, 921/2016, which resulted in his favor. For both cases, the appeals ordered the judge of Huautla to decide whether, after an exhaustive study, there were conditions necessary for the arrest warrants, or if they should be negated. This was relevant as while examining the case, they found violations of the rights of legality, judicial security and the presumption of innocence. However, without addressing the observations of the appeals, the judge of Huautla again emitted the arrest orders, in spite of the lack of evidence incriminating Artemio.

After this series of events–the constant threats against him and other members of the community assembly, the illegal arrests and incarceration of some of his compañeros, the three arrest warrants issued against him by the General Prosecutor of the State of Oaxaca, and the omission of the appeals–Artemio was forced to abandon his home in the community. He has since been constantly on the move, preventing at all cost the fulfillment of the arrest warrants.

It is important to remember that other members of the community assembly have been arbitrarily detained by plainclothes ministerial state police. This has taken place in different states of the republic outside of their jurisdiction and without the presentation of arrest warrants. Such is the case of Miguel Ángel Peralta Betanzos, who was detained April 30th, 2015, in Mexico City by ministerial police of Oaxaca. In addition to his illegal detention, he was transferred in a private vehicle to the prison of Tlaxiaco. Another example is the case of Isaias Gallardo who was detained in Tehuacán, Puebla, on February 27th, 2018, and transferred to the prison of Ixcotel. Both arrests are related to the case 02/2015, for homicide and attempted homicide. Currently, there are seven Indigenous Mazateco prisoners who belong to the community assembly.

Miguel Peralta, political prisoner of Eloxochitlán de Flores Magón, Oaxaca

On September 10th, during the failed arrest of Artemio, the elements of security (presumably the ministerial police of the state of Oaxaca), flagrantly violated the protocols on the use of force and the right of the presumption of innocence. They did so by operating their weapons outside of the contexts permitted by the law relating to the police use of firearms: self-defense, to save lives, or to prevent a serious crime. In an interview with Subversiones, Artemio’s defense showed their concern that this attack took place within only a few weeks until the final hearing of Miguel Ángel Peralta. Peralta is accused in the same case 02/2015, and has been imprisoned without sentence since his arrest in 2015.

In recent days, family members, friends, people in solidarity and members of the community assembly have demanded through different actions the freedom of the political prisoners and the cancellation of the arrest warrants. For many of them, the persecution of Artemio, like the persecution of the other members of the assembly, is being directed by the office of Elisa Zepeda. Since 2010, the Zepeda cacique family, have maintained power almost completely inside of Eloxochitlán de Flores Magón, Oaxaca.