Federal operation in Ostula

The government that proved incapable of detaining the country’s most notorious drug trafficker in a high security prison has once again picked on a relatively soft target. This weekend federal security forces were sent in to arrest Semeí Verdía, leader of the communal police of the indigenous community of Ostula and the remaining independent self-defence units of the Michoacán Coast.

Semeí Verdía has narrowly escaped assassination twice at the hands of the criminals who have continued to operate in this region despite the presence of military and federal police units. His arrest is one more piece of evidence that government will not tolerate locally controlled organisations that seek to bring real security to local people. Last time Ostula’s communal police were disarmed, a bloodbath resulted. Federal forces have in the past acted in ways that suggest that advancing the interests of mining companies in the region is a priority, rather than the welfare and safety of local people.

In a pattern now  all too familiar, the repression that followed protests against the arrest of the local leader led to security forces inflicting civilian collateral damage, which included the death of a 12 year old boy hit in the head by a bullet. A 6 year old girll was also seriously injured, along with a 60 year old adult. Although it was soldiers who did the killing, state police apparently supported the military in what looks like a determined attempt to terrorise the Ostula indigenous community into submission. The circumstances of Semeí Verdía’s arrest and the trumped up charges laid against him are strongly reminiscent of what happened to the outspoken and independent autodefensa leader Dr José Manuel Mireles, whom the Ostula commander had strongly supported.. Semeí Verdía had campaigned tirelessly against the criminals who had long controlled the narco municipality of Aquila and against the Ternium-Hylsa mining company’s aspirations to extend its operations in indigenous territories. Once again, the federal and state governments have failed to honour agreements to respect Ostula’s communal police, but the big issues are whose interests are being served by this and who exactly is giving the orders.