Two recognized leaders of leftist organizations were murdered within a recent 24 hour period in different areas of the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca. Catarino Torres Pereda of the Citizen’s Defense Committee (CODECI) was shot dead in his office in the city of Tuxtepec the afternoon of Friday, October 22nd. Co-founder of the Movement for the Unification of the Triqui Struggle (MULT), Heriberto Pasos Ortiz, was killed by unidentified gunmen as he travelled in a truck in the Oaxaca City area a day later.
Members of the MULT describe Pasos’ murder as a “surgical strike by the state“. The 30 year-old organization has a broad membership in the Triqui region and operates Mexico’s only indigenous political party. More recently, it’s been accused of paramilitary violence in the town of San Juan Copala. Displaced persons from the town have said they fear a new wave of violence in the wake of the leader’s death.
The state attorney general’s office says two unidentified gunmen on a motorcycle shot Pasos with pistols equipped with silencers. Three bodyguards – two from the State Investigative Agency (AEI) and one member of MULT – were arrested for “negligent homicide” (“homicidio por omisión”). Pasos was left wheelchair bound after another assassination attempt more than 10 years ago.
Friday’s victim, 37 year-old Catarino Torres Pereda of the CODECI, was an active member in the Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca (APPO), an organization that emerged from a 6 month long statewide popular uprising in 2006 to demand the resignation of Governor Ulises Ruiz. He had been the subject of several political arrests and spent 7 months in the federal maximum security prison of Amoloya for his participation in the APPO.
Social organizations are calling on authorities to investigate and prosecute the assassinations. More often than not, murders of leftist activists in Mexico go unpunished.