OCOSINGO, Mexico – Residents of the southeastern Mexican community of Rio Florido have been holding five state police captive for more than two weeks to press their demands for the release of a jailed leader of a grassroots movement.
The inhabitants told reporters that the officers are in good health but will not be released until Javier Gonzalez Diaz is free and the charges against him are dropped.
The arrest of the leader of the National Front for Socialism (FNLS), a grassroots movement that Irish-based human rights organization Front Line Defenders says is working to denounce and publicly condemn human rights violations perpetrated by the Mexican government, touched off a July 18 protest in which the local residents took the state police captive.
During that uprising, they also seized vehicles belonging to several companies, including an armored car that was carrying approximately 11 million pesos (around $580,000).
The Attorney General’s Office of Chiapas, a poor, heavily indigenous southeastern state, said in a statement that several arrest orders have been issued for FNLS members over incidents in Ocosingo, the municipality where Rio Florido is located.
But that statement did not identify the suspects nor specify the charges.
The local residents say that they are victims of a federal government campaign aimed at repressing and stigmatizing their movement, adding that authorities are looking for a pretext to aggressively enter that community mainly populated by women and children.
“There have been several attempts to enter by land and air. A helicopter was flying overhead yesterday, and the impact is primarily on the children because they start to experience terror from a very early age,” Daniel Gomez, a Rio Florido inhabitant, told EFE.
Tensions are high in Rio Florido – a corn- and coffee-growing community of roughly 600 people – due to fear that the recently created National Guard force and Chiapas state security personnel will attempt to rescue the detained police officers.
“We’re not going backward. We’re not going to tear down what we’ve done; the state is forcing us to keeping going, and this tells us the FNLS needs to be reorganized in a better way,” Gomez said.
Amid a lack of negotiations with the state government, the community members have entrenched themselves in an area of just over 500 hectares (two square miles).
Women, children and young people in the community are carrying sticks and machetes and have built homemade weapons (bottle rockets and firecrackers) to defend themselves in the event police enter by force.
Meanwhile, the daughter of Javier Gonzalez Diaz, Eineli Magali, has launched a campaign to secure her father’s release.
“I’m calling for the unconditional release of my dad, Javier Gonzalez Diaz, because the state is accusing him of being a criminal and he isn’t what the state is saying. My dad is a political hostage,” she said at a press conference.