Indigenous activists killed in Guerrero, Mexico

By May 7, 2019

The Attorney General’s Guerrero Office is investigating a double homicide after the bodies of two prominent indigenous activists were found in the state of Guerrero, Mexico on Monday 6.

José Lucio Bartolo Faustino and Modesto Verales Sebastián, both active members of the Nahua indigenous community, went missing following a meeting for the Indigenous and Popular Council of Guerrero Emiliano Zapata on May 4. Their bodies were found in an abandoned car in Chilapa de Álvarez with gunshot wounds.

The pair had been attending a meeting in Chilpancingo, Guerrero before allegedly being kidnapped on the way home to their communities. Frustrated by the government’s failure to address the social demands of the indigenous group, Bartolo and Verales were involved with discussions and preparations for upcoming protests.

The Indigenous and Popular Council of Guerrero Emiliano Zapata has released a statement denouncing the attack against the councilors. ‘The two were active members of our organization, advocates of our territories, our culture and above all builders of autonomy in their communities,’’ the social media statement explains. ‘‘Both participated actively in countless meetings of the CNI, in the conformation processes of the indigenous council of government.’’

The organization which they campaign for stands to represent the interests of the Na Savi, Me’pháá, Nahua and Ñamnkué de Guerrero people, making up a small proportion of the 13% of Mexico’s population that identifies as indigenous. According to a press release, the council has asked the UN for protection while they return the bodies back to their communities, in fear of receiving more backlash from criminal organizations.

In addition to denouncing the attack, the indigenous council criticized the Mexican government for failing to protect the country’s communities. ‘’We have been under siege from criminal organizations tolerated by the three levels of government,’’ the group’s communique continues. ‘‘We have been raising our voices for years and impunity is maintained, AMLO is fully informed of the serious problem of violence generated by criminal groups in the municipality of Chilapa de Alvarez, he cannot say he did not know.’’

According to the state attorney general office, an investigation has been launched by authorities into the murder of the two men.

Mexican news outlet La Jornada reports that indigenous communities within the region have been dogged by extortion and threats from two violent narco trafficking cartels in particular, Los Ardillos and Los Rojos. Both criminal organizations are involved with the production of illegal drugs and trafficking within the state.

Photojournalist Prometeo Lucero used to document news stories from the state of Guerrero before moving to Mexico City. Although the area of Acapulco and its luxury hotels draw a number of tourists, it is also one of the poorest states in the country. Acapulco became a vastly disputed over cartel location due to its access to the sea, Lucero pointed out when speaking to Latin America Reports last year. The nearby mountainous regions where poppies and marijuana grows is also dominated by cartel control.

The scope of Guerrero’s cartel problem is accentuated by the amount of people involved.  It is in the mountains that the indigenous communities of Nahua, Mixtec and Me´pháá often harvest crops for the cartels, even though the lucrative business only earns them around $1000 USD a year. It is also in this  state where 43 students disappeared four years ago and are believed to have been handed over to cartels by authorities.