Brad Will, an Indymedia volunteer covering a general strike in Oaxaca, Mexico, was one of three people shot dead yesterday by men presumed to be state-sponsored paramilitaries. He was a friend of some friends of mine from NYC. A fourth protester also died in the scuffle that day, although it’s not immediately clear how, and 23 others were wounded. To be fair this conflict has gotten violent on both sides, and protesters have been using molotov cocktails and the like to defend their barricades, but this is no measured response. What disturbs me most is the trend for states to hire people to do their dirty work at arm’s length, like how the CIA gets other countries to torture people it wants information out of. Indymedia has published photos of the assailants which clearly show their faces but even if they’re tracked down it’s still going to take a lot to prove who paid them to be there.
The only other English language news I could immediately find was from the LA Times, which doesn’t even mention the other deaths. A more useful source is La Jornada, a left wing paper from Mexico City, which describes in detail how the protesters performed CPR and drove Brad to a local health clinic, where he was pronounced dead. They also report that plain clothes police officers were identified among the assailants in simultaneous attacks by the same group on other barricades in the city, quote the US ambassador to Mexico as saying that well, you know, US citizens had been warned the area wasn’t safe, and predict worse violence today.
Update: This has hit the wire services and Google news. An AP story in the NY Times and Washington Post now quotes the ambassador as saying the assailants may have been police:
Oaxaca Attorney General Lizbeth Cana blamed the violence on the leftist protesters, whom she has compared to an urban guerrilla group. She said the armed men were angry residents defending themselves.
“The people are fed up with permanent violence, threats and kidnappings,” Cana said.
However, U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Tony Garza said the armed group may have been police. The Mexico City newspaper El Universal on Saturday published photos identifying some of the men firing at protesters as local officials.
“It appears that Mr. Will was killed during a shootout between what may have been local police” and protesters, Garza said in a written statement.
Meanwhile, President Fox has sent federal police to control the city, something governor Ulises Ruiz of the state of Oaxaca called for ages ago. Fox had told him to sit down and talk with the protesters instead, and in fact he had just reached an agreement with the teacher’s union that had started the whole thing, but lots of other groups in the state are still pissed, and have been calling for his resignation. Anyways, given what the state and city police have been doing, perhaps the federal police will calm things down.