This is the first of twelve biographies of defenders of the security system and indigenous justice system of the state of Guerrero; 12 posts put in the “12 Days in Defense of Our Lives and Freedom” campaign, against the climate of violence that prevails in Guerrero and the soaring use of targeting members with jail time because of the various manifestations of the Community Police. The campaign seeks to raise the voice for those men and women who have been victims of a justice system that on one hand leaves assaults, threats, and killings against activists and human rights defenders go unpunished, and on the other hand is attempting to coercively control the indigenous authorities who are promoting community justice.
Day 1: Bernardino García Francisco. Coordinator of Community Authorities of the House of Justice of El Paraíso, Regional Coordinator of Community Authorities- Community Police (CRAC-PC) in Ayutla de Los Libres.
|La Montaña Region|
Bernardino García Francisco, a Na Savi indigenous originally from the community of El Paraíso, municipality of Ayutla de los Libres, Guerrero, has dedicated much of his life towards the defense and promoting the rights of indigenous communities of the Montaña and Costa Chica region of Guerrero. Bernardino is a survivor of the “El Charco” Massacre, which are the terrible events that occurred in the early hours of June 7, 1998, in which several indigenous leaders were resting after having participated in an assembly, when members of the Mexican Army stormed into the school “Claritino Maldonado”, executing 10 Na Savi indigenous people and a university student. During the events, Bernardino was wounded, arrested, and imprisoned for just over a year.
|Manuel Ponce Rosas and Raúl Lucas Lucía|
Bernardino, 53, was a municipal commissioner for El Paraíso and during the period of 2004-2006, he served as President of Communal Goods of Coapinola, municipality of Ayutla de los Libres. He was a founder of the Future of the Mixteco People Organization (OFPM) and fellow comrade of Raúl Lucas Lucía and Manuel Ponce Rojas, two leaders of the OFPM who were disappeared, tortured, and later executed in February 2009. These crimes have not been properly investigated and those responsible remain unpunished.
Faced with the climate of violence and insecurity that exists in the Costa Chica region of Guerrero, Bernardino was the victim of several assaults in recent years, for example in 2007, he almost lost his sight when he was attacked in his right eye. These and other events have become increasingly more widespread in the region, and were key to him (as the community advisor) in creating the Community Police in the region of Ayutla, part of the CRAC.
The CRAC-PC-with over 18 years operating- is a model of justice that has reduced crime levels almost entirely in the territory of the Montaña and the Costa Chica region. His persistence and strength are based on the legitimacy of the community. In addition to this, the State Legislature passed the Law 701 of the Recognition of Rights and Culture of Indigenous Peoples and Indigenous Communities of the State of Guerrero, which explicitly recognizes the CRAC and empowers it in performing tasks which prevent crime, the administration and enforcement of justice and rehabilitation.
However, on Wednesday, August 21, 2013, a large scale joint operation involving state and federal forces (including the Mexican army), broke into the community of El Paraíso, Municipality of Ayutla de los Libres, with the aim of arresting members of the Community Police, as well as to put an end to the re-education process in which several people there faced accusations that were under investigation and tried in community justice courts. During the operation, Bernardino was arrested along with 12 other Community Police officers.
Simultaneously, in the Montaña region, another operation was occurring in which an arrest warrant was ordered against Nestora Salgado, Coordinator of the Community Police in the municipality of Olinalá.
To this day, the defender of the rights of indigenous peoples finds himself deprived of freedom in the prison of Acapulco, accused of kidnapping, in the criminal case 191/2013 to be heard in the 4th Court of First Criminal Instance of the Judicial District of Tabares (Juzgado 4º de Primera Instancia del Ramo Penal del Distrito Judicial de Tabares), located in Acapulco, Guerrero.
The State’s response before the organization of the towns to ensure its security has been to place the indigenous authorities, whom defend their people, outside the law and charge them with crimes as if they were dangerous criminals. State authorities, not only strive to criminalize and stigmatize the indigenous justice system, but also to destroy a system of community justice and community security which has proven over the course of 18 years to be a successful model within one of the most violent states of the country.