Oaxaca is so civilized! —
Compared to Israel

28 July 2007,  by george.salzman@umb.edu

this page is at http://site.www.umb.edu/faculty/salzman_g/S2/2007-07-28.htm

Oaxaca, la cara del fascismo mexicano
Oaxaca, the face of Mexican fascism

      Every once in a while it’s good to take stock and ask myself whether maybe my rage is too extreme. I live in this idyllic setting in the Central Valley of Oaxaca, nestled between the foothills of two mountain ranges – the Northern and the Southern Sierras. The ordinary people I meet here day in and day out are friendly, as they are everywhere, and yet I am caught up in a fearful struggle that dominates my consciousness, day and night. Seemingly laden with bile, I am outraged, for example, by the fact that still today, after he was peacefully arrested and then savagely beaten — not quite to a pulp — on 16 July, Emeterio Merino Cruz Vásquez remains in a deep coma, kept technically alive in an emergency intensive care hospital unit. This is not civilization. It is the barbarism of the fascist state trying to destroy utterly the hopes and desires of the mostly poor oaxaqueños to achieve a decent life. These are wonderful people. They deserve better. And yet the system tramples on them mercilessly. Yes, I live in a state of fury much of the time.

1. The state's goons, full of courage, at least a dozen, and one rushing from the far left to join the 'kill'. I do not know whether the victim here is the same man whose destruction is pictured below. Note the juvenile facing the camera with an anticipatory grin, club in hand. 16 July 2007. To see the youngster's joyful grin full size, click http://site.www.umb.edu/faculty/salzman_g/S2/2007-
. Photo from
Noticias issue of 17 July 2007.

The state destroying a man’s life. Subservience to brute
power is the lesson to be learned. Might makes right!

      Here’s a sequence of photographs that shows the tragedy of one man’s life being destroyed. The media was full of reports with many photographs.[1] , [2] , [3] , [4]

2. Emeterio Merino Cruz Vásquez walking unharmed, arrested on 16 July 2007 by two municipal police, taking him to encounter a contingent of police.

        After his thus far peaceful arrest by the police agents pictured above, undoubtedly at the instructions of so-called superiors (none of whom will of course admit to anything ) he was taken behind police barricades where a troop beat him to the ground with kicks and blows.
3. Emeterio Merino Cruz Vásquez lying defenceless on the ground, already possibly fatally injured.

        The Noticias version of the above photo has an inserted enlargement of Emeterio, visible here at the lower center. The caption says he is holding both hands to his head while the police beat him with much pleasure (a placer).
4. The metal fence is opened by police so that Emeterio can pass through, while other police continue beating him (Noticias caption).

        Perhaps with the realization by some of these enforcers of fascism that they may have — to use the bureaucratic euphemism — used excessive force, Emeterio was, as Noticias captioned the next photograph, “rescued” from further beating.
5. The Noticias caption for this photo says: Finally a member of the preventive police rescues Emeterio, already with his face beaten, leaving the police cordon behind.

        Here again we can be sure that the black-clad and helmeted robot of the so-called Preventive Police acted not out of his compassionate desire to see the beating end but because some heartless “superior” overseeing the torture probably began to realize that if it didn’t end they might soon be surrounding a corpse on the street, a photo-op to be avoided, and gave the order to take Emeterio away. I include this second picture of Emeterio’s “rescue” because it shows the terrible damage to the left side of his head and face.
6. Emeterio being led up the four-lane road Niños y Heroes de Chapultepec above the police fence across that road pictured in the preceeding picture.

        As far as I can piece this together, Emeterio was then turned over to a different, unhelmeted police agent below a second police barricade on Niños y Heroes, to be taken up to the police/military encampment on Fortin Hill in the stadium.
7. Emeterio being taken by a police agent to be driven up to the military encampment in the Guelaguetza stadium on Fortin Hill, where he would be out of sight of the many photographers down below, where the confrontation occurred.

        According to the Agencia Reforma report by Virgilio Sánchez (see Note [4] ), “Six hours later, members of the police corps called the Red Cross to take Emeterio Merino to a hospital.” The Noticias caption on the following photograph said the Red Cross ambulance went to the Civil Hospital. The 18 July Noticias report by Matias said (see Note [1] ) his injury was so severe that at six o’clock in the evening he was sent to the Hospital of Specializations.
8. The caption on this photograph in Noticias says the Red Cross ambulance brought him to the Civil Hospital hours after (his beating, the events pictured in 3., 4., 5., 6. and 7.) with grave injuries that kept him in a comatose state. The denouncement (see Note [2] ) says, The compañero exhibited shattering of his internal organs and cranial brain fracture; evidentally his state of health is grave and they fear for his life.

        Emeterio Merino Cruz Vásquez was a teacher in Santa María Coixtepec and a member of the Santiago Xanica Committee for the Defense of Indigenous Rights (CODEDI-Xanica) — one of the founding organizations of the Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca (APPO in its Spanish acronym).

Mexican barbarism and Israeli barbarism

      How can I say “Oaxaca is so civilized! — Compared to Israel”? It’s easy to see the justification. Keep in mind the events here in Oaxaca on 16 July, partly sketched above. Now read a brief e-mail I received from people that I know are totally reliable.

Subject: Culture of Impunity within Israeli Military Fuels Checkpoint Violence against Palestinians says Barghouthi
From: Kirsten Sutherland <kirsten@almubadara.org>
Date: Sat, 28 Jul 2007 03:47:47 -0700

Culture of Impunity within Israeli Military Fuels Checkpoint Violence against Palestinians says Barghouthi

MP Condemns Savage Killing of Palestinian Man by Soldiers at Israeli Checkpoint

Palestinian National Initiative

Ramallah, 28-07-07: “A barbaric murder committed in cold blood” was how Palestinian National Initiative leader Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi MP, described the killing of 20-year-old Jihad Al Shaer by Israeli soldiers on Thursday [26July].

Al Shaer was killed after being beaten over the head several times with a club by Israeli soldiers at a checkpoint near the village of Tuqu' in the Bethlehem district.

Dr. Barghouthi stressed that this was not an isolated incident but part of a systematic policy of violence on the part of the Israeli army against Palestinian civilians. He pointed to just a few recent examples of Israeli military violence at checkpoints, citing the cases of:

– Mohamad Muhsen, 15, who was assaulted by Israeli border police near Abu Dis on 9 May 2007;
– Mahmoud Bawatneh, 21, Aiman Mkhalfeh, 21, and Amjad Mfaleh, 35, who were assaulted by Israeli border police at an Israeli checkpoint near the village of 'Ajjul on 5 May 2007; and
– Muhamad Jabali, 18, who was severely beaten by Israeli soldiers at the Huwwara checkpoint near Nablus on 18 March 2007.

Dr. Barghouthi added that such wilful killings represent a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention, and therefore constitute war crimes. He called on the international community, particularly the High Contracting parties to the Geneva Convention to take decisive steps in bringing Israel to account for its persistent human rights violations against Palestinian civilians.

Israeli soldiers also inflict indirect violence at checkpoints, with particularly serious consequences for those requiring medical attention. The undue delay of ambulances at checkpoints for example, is a very common occurrence. In the latest of such cases, on 6 July 2007, Israeli soldiers stopped an ambulance for more than 20 minutes while it was responding to an emergency call. The same soldiers stopped the ambulance again on its way back with the injured Said Sayeh, 25, in critical condition on board. Sayeh died shortly after arriving at the hospital.

Such ongoing violations are yet further proof of the culture of impunity that prevails within the Israeli military, said Dr. Barghouthi, adding that Palestinian civilians are the victims of this policy which blatantly breaches international law.

      There are of course significant differences between the occupied state of Oaxaca and the Occupied territories of Palestine. However, under no circumstances is the mistreatment and murder of civilians by police and/or military forces justifiable. The barbarism of Israel is not greater than that of Mexico simply because the number of Palestinians killed may be greater than that of Oaxacans killed by state and federal forces in comparable time periods.

      What makes Mexico ‘civilized’ — by comparison with Israel — is the fact that immediately following the blatantly fascist-style attack on 16 July the reaction was one of widespread outrage. In spite of the predominance of coverage in the commercial media slanted in favor of the governments, the public outcry, aided by denunciations of various human rights organizations was sufficient to cause the governments to immediately affirm their supposed commitment to the rule of law and protection of human rights.[5]

      Although I don’t for a minute believe the governments, state or federal, have any commitment to protecting human rights, what is significant is that in Mexico the governments feel obliged to make the pretense that they are committed to treating people in a civilized manner, as a great number of Mexicans demand. By contrast in Israel, as I understand, the deeply embedded hatred of Palestinian Arabs within the bulk of the Israeli Jewish population is such that there is but an insignificant (from the political perspective) outcry against the murder of young Palestinians, and the Israeli Nazis who run the government are not even obliged to make a pretense of caring for their human rights. As a culture of Nazism, Israel is far more barbaric than Mexico, despite the latter’s racist attitudes towards its indigenous population.


[1] Following the police-military attack there was a profusion of photographs and reports, with some factual errors. The part of this posting on the victim Emeterio, in particular the sequence of seven pictures (here numbered 2. through 8.) is based heavily on the report by Pedro Matias in Noticias on 18 July, p.16A, the text of which is also on-line at http://www.noticias-oax.com.mx/articulos.php?id_sec=2
    Noticias has, in sequence, the photos here numbered 2,3,4,5 and 8. Its on-line version has my 7., but omits my 4.. My 6. may have come with the denounciation (Note [3] ), but I’m not sure. I think my 6. and 7. are correctly placed in the sequence, based partly on the evident facial damage they show. The text of the original Matias report is also at http://site.www.umb.edu/faculty/salzman_g/S2/2007-07-28-01E
. My translation is at http://site.www.umb.edu/faculty/salzman_g/S2/2007-07

[2] Other reports I saw were: (1) a denunciation dated 17 July forwarded to me by e-mail, together with four photographs, three of Emeterio and a fourth, showing a man being beaten on a walkway, possibly (I now believe) misidentified as Emeterio; (2) an item from Agencia Reforma datelined Oaxaca 16 July, which was widely reprinted in blogs and in the 17 July issue of Noticias on pp.1A and 8A, with Emeterio’s age, 43, misreported as over 60; (3) an item by Virgilio Sánchez for Agencia Reforma in the 18 July issue of Noticias on p.16A.

[3] The denunciation is signed by several individuals and groups of civil society, namely: Members of the Zapatista Magonista Alliance (AMZ, the acronym in Spanish), Indian Organizations of Oaxaca for Human Rights (OIDHO, the acronym in Spanish), Committee for the Defense of Human Rights of Santiago Xanica (CODEDI, the acronym in Spanish), and Magonista Autonomous Collective (CAMA, the acronym in Spanish). The original is available at http://site.www.umb.edu/faculty/salzman_g/S2/2007-07-28-02Es.rtf . My translation is available at http://site.www.umb.edu/faculty/salzman_g/S2/2007-07-28-02.rtf .

[4] The two reports from Agencia Reforma, that of 16 July which was widely republished, and that of 18 July, struck me as being in the nature of sensationalized reporting, possibly not overly reliable, as the gross error in Emeterio’s age mentioned above, suggests. The 16 July report is available at http://site.www.umb.edu/faculty/salzman_g/S2/2007-07-28-03Es.rtf . My translation is at http://site.www.umb.edu/faculty/salzman_g/S2/2007-07-28-03.rtf . The earlier part of the 18 July report (which includes everything in the article about Emeterio) is available at http://site.www.umb.edu/faculty/salzman_g/S2/2007-07-28-04Es.rtf . My translation is at http://site.www.umb.edu/faculty/salzman_g/S2/2007-07-28-04.rtf .

[5] Governmental response. In Noticias on 18 July, just the second edition following the 16 July events, the major headline on the front page reads, “The CNDH [National Commission on Human Rights, a federal government agency] will investigat the violent actions [in Oaxaca].”

All comments and criticisms are welcome.  <george.salzman@umb.edu>

If you want to be off my e-mail list, please let me know.
If you want to be added, please write me with
your full name and e-mail address

*      *      *
Return to the Latest postings page
Return to the opening page of the Website

Last update of this page: 5 August 2007