US Journalist Killed in Oaxaca by Paramilitaries
Human Rights Fellow John Gibler Available for Interviews from Oaxaca;
He Knew the Slain Journalist
Oaxaca, Mexico ? US journalist Brad Will was killed by paramilitaries in Oaxaca, Mexico yesterday, while covering a popular uprising in the city that began as a teachers? strike and turned into a local rebellion against the state?s governor. Interviews about Will?s death and additional ongoing incidents of violence in Oaxaca are available with John Gibler, an independent journalist and human rights fellow for the organization Global Exchange. Gibler knew Will and is in Oaxaca City now, investigating the circumstances of Will?s death.
According to Gibler, yesterday police and paramilitaries dressed as civilians attacked more than 15 different locations in Oaxaca City, using high-powered assault rifles and pistols. Mexican media outlets, including El Universal, have photographed, videotaped and identified these paramilitaries.
"These paramilitaries have been shooting and killing people with total impunity since July. It?s been documented by the Mexican national media and shown on television," Gibler said. "There's now way you can not talk about state responsibility here. You can?t do it."
Gibler has been in Mexico since January, covering the Zapatistas? "Other Campaign," the contested presidential election, and recently the uprising in Oaxaca. His writings have been published in The Herald Mexico/El Universal, ZNet, In These Times and other publications. They are available at http://www.globalexchange.org/countries/americas/mexico/dispatches/
Gibler met Will while they were both covering the Other Campaign. "Brad was a courageous and incredibly generous and sweet guy who was here in solidarity with what he thought was a mis-reported and under-reported grassroots movement. He was focusing on filming interviews with grassroots people," Gibler said.
Global Exchange and other human rights groups inside and outside of Mexico are concerned that Mexican President Vicente Fox may use Federal force to put down the civil rest in Oaxaca. "Federal military intervention in this situation is certain to escalate the conflict and poses tremendous and unnecessary risks to the people of Oaxaca City and State," said Ted Lewis, founding director of Global Exchange's Mexico Program.
The conflict in Oaxaca began on May 22 as a teachers strike for better wages and a higher budget to provide impoverished school children with uniforms, breakfasts, and basic school supplies. After refusing to negotiate with the teachers union, Gov. Ulises Ruiz sent the state police into Oaxaca City's central plaza on June 14 to remove the teachers' protest camp with tear gas and police batons.
Hundreds were injured in the pitched battle that resulted, and after a few hours the teachers, supported by outraged local residents, forced the police out of town. They have not been back since.
The teachers and members of the Oaxaca People's Assembly (APPO) that formed after the failed police raid decided to suspend the teachers' original list of demands and focus all their efforts on forcing the removal of Gov. Ruiz.
Since June 14, they have subjected Oaxaca City to increasingly radical civil disobedience tactics, such as surrounding state government buildings with protest camps, covering the city's walls with political graffiti, and taking over public and private radio stations.
Gibler says that although protesters in Oaxaca have been filmed carrying guns, they have never exchanged gunfire with paramilitaries. The shooting has been one way.
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