Latin America Herald Tribune, December 30,2010
MEXICO CITY – A leader of peasant advocacy organization Antorcha Campesina was shot and killed in the southeastern Mexican state of Oaxaca, representatives of the group said Saturday.
“Miguel Cruz was found yesterday afternoon on kilometer 55 of a road near the Oaxaca city of Tlaxiaco with three gunshot wounds,” Antorcha Campesina spokesman Miguel Angel Casique said on Saturday.
He said the slain leader was a member of the organization’s national directorate and had been assigned to the Mixteca region, where clashes and a mass kidnapping have occurred in recent months in connection with a land dispute.
Cruz was responsible for negotiating a solution to land disputes between San Juan Mixtepec and the nearby town of Santo Domingo Yosoñama.
No additional information is yet known about the crime, the spokesman said. Casique noted, however, that Cruz had denounced constant death threats but that state authorities had ignored him.
Cruz’s death brings the number of Antorcha Campesina members killed this year to four, Casique said, adding that three other peasant leaders had been killed in recent months.
Antorcha Campesina has advocated on behalf of the rights of peasants and the poorest city dwellers in Oaxaca for the past 37 years, according to Casique, who said more details on the murder will be provided at a later time along with information about rallies to demand justice for the crime.
San Juan Mixtepec residents kidnapped 39 peasants from Yosoñama in May in connection with a land dispute involving some 1,800 hectares (4,444 acres) of forest.
Antorcha Campesina held several demonstrations to demand their release.
Fourteen of the hostages were freed gradually, but the other 25 peasants were not released until Aug. 11, when the Oaxaca state government agreed to mediate in the land dispute.
An agrarian court issued a ruling two years ago that favored San Juan Mixtepec’s claims, determining that some lands that Yosoñama residents have occupied and worked for about 150 years did not belong to them.
The people from Yosoñama have refused to accept the court’s decision.
Land disputes are common in Oaxaca, which has a large indigenous population and is one of Mexico’s poorest states.