Thursday, April 29, 2010

2 dead in attack on rights caravan in south Mexico

By MORGAN LEE, Associated Press April 29, 2010

OAXACA, Mexico – An attack by masked gunmen on a convoy of about 40
Mexican and European human rights activists and journalists has left two
dead and at least four people missing in a remote area of this southern
Mexican state.

Targets of the assault included members of a radical movement that seized
control of the capital of Oaxaca state for five months in 2006, and there
were fears a long-standing conflict between the group and the state
government could be reignited.

The dead included a Finnish human rights activist, and a Belgian is one of
two activists missing, along with two journalists from the Mexican
magazine Contralinea. The Mexican victim was identified as activist
Beatriz Carino Trujillo.

At least one Italian activist also participated in the caravan, which was
traveling to the remote Triqui Indian mountain town of San Juan Copala to
support the town's fight for more autonomy from the state government.

Police on Thursday scoured the mountains above the capital, Oaxaca city,
for the attackers while survivors recounted their ordeal at a news

"They started to spray us with bullets," said activist Gabriela Jimenez
Ramirez, who was traveling inside a sport utility vehicle with a dozen
people, including the two who were killed.

"Trying to back up, they blew out the tires of the vehicle. We threw
ourselves on the floor. The vehicle was shaking because there were bursts
of gunfire."

State police said it took them a full day to recover the bodies after
traveling over remote and rough roads and amid reports that gunmen
surrounded the city.

Photos from the scene show a bullet-ridden SUV on a dirt road, and the
body of Jyri Jaakkola, 33, of Finland, who appeared to have been shot in
the head.

Jaakkola was a member of a small, Finnish civil rights group Uusi Tuuli
(New Wind), based in the southwestern city of Turku. Jaakkola, who
traveled to Mexico about two months ago on his own initiative, financed
the trip mainly with his savings and planned to stay a year advocating for
human rights, Uusi Tuuli spokesman Jani Nevala said.

"We shall continue this work even more vigorously than before," Nevala
told The Associated Press in Finland. "We are trying to help the
indigenous people of Mexico, where during the past few years human rights
have been trodden upon."

The Foreign Ministry in Helsinki withheld comment on the attack pending a
report from the Finnish Embassy in Mexico.

The bodies of Jaakkola and Carino Trujillo were transported to a nearby
city for autopsies.

The missing Contralinea staff, reporter Erika Ramirez and photographer
David Cilia, were accompanying the caravan to report on conditions in San
Juan Copala.

"We are really very distressed as we wait for more information," said
magazine spokeswoman Nancy Flores.

Also taking part in the caravan were representatives of the radical
movement known as the People's Assembly of Oaxaca, or APPO, which seized
control of Oaxaca city for almost five months in 2006 to push for the
ouster of Gov. Ulises Ruiz. More than a dozen people were killed in the
conflict, including a freelance independent journalist from New York.

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