Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Cherán Activist Found Strangled to Death

Translated by Yaqui for Borderland Beat from: Proceso   

                                           
Maria Guadalupe Campanur Tapia

By: Francisco Castellanos Jan 19-20, 2018

Yaqui: For background on this Community of Cheran, Michoacán see my Post from July 12, 2015:
http://www.borderlandbeat.com/2017/07/one-mexican-town-revolts-against.html

As most of us know citizen activists, especially indigenous peoples everywhere are frequent targets of violence, repression and murder by the powers that be, irregardless of their causes, which are often environmental issues. Defending resource extraction of all types are most notorious. Latin American activists are among the hardest hit , especially environmentalists and defenders of their traditional lands. The list is endless and deserving of its own post. The recent events in Guerrero are a good example, the backstory, ie, of why the people were attacked and what they were trying to protect.

The murder of this beautiful young woman, brimming with positive energy, is as heartbreaking for me personally as the horror of the recent video posted by Chivis or the story of The Little Girl with the Red Socks by DD. These brave defenders of their culture, their lands, and traditions will have to continually fight back against exploitation of their resources, their lives, the corruption and the violence which surrounds them until the end of time, all the while looking and working towards a better future with innovative ways to sustain themselves. They are usually fighting multi-national corporations, business interests, organized crime, terrorists and their own governments. It is a universal story, an uphill battle, timeless, endless, an ongoing story the world over; not just the story of one woman, her cause or her community.

                                              "Lupe" with members of her community

CHERÁN, Mich. - A social activist of this indigenous community, María Guadalupe Campanur, was found dead on Tuesday night. On that day the woman, the fifth murdered in Michoacán so far this year, was fully identified by the authorities, who located the corpse of Guadalupe, 32 years old, on the premises of Irapo, near the town of Santa Cruz Tanaco.

The discovery of the body of a woman, who was in a state of putrefaction and with a knife wound in the neck, on the road Carapan-Uruapan, at Km 37 was reported to police and emergency agencies. 

After confirming the discovery and beginning the first inquiries it was learned that the victim was María Guadalupe Campanur Tapia,  a social activist who was primarily a defender of the forest, and who participated in the creation of the security bodies for the indigenous community of Cheran.

The facts are being investigated by the authorities in order to clarify the crime, a corresponding investigation folder was started.


The population of Cheran is the only municipality of the state of Michoacan where there are no elections, as its inhabitants elect their own  authorities, their Council, through indigenous customs and traditions.

The murder of Guadalupe Campanur Tapia, comunera and one of the founders of the Cherán Community Council, which was formed in 2011 when the town rebelled against the loggers, organized crime and the municipal government, is inexplicable and alarming to all friends and members of the community.

Why?
Because "they" had never disappeared and killed a woman from Cherán, because of the way it happened, because of the way it was done and because she was one of the most active people in the protection of the forest and because since 2013 such aggressions no longer occurred towards the people of the community . 
 
There are still many unknowns about the lines of investigations. What officials from the Michoacán Public Prosecutor's Office (Zamora delegation) told the family and members of Lupe or Lupita's community,  is that they located the body of Guadalupe on Tuesday the 16th at Km 15 of the Carapan / Playa Azul road, on the property called Irapio, and they transferred her  to the forensic service of Zamora.

It is estimated that she was strangled on Sunday night or early Monday morning in the same place where her body was found: naked, face up, with no skin on her face, with bruises on her neck and arms. In the bushes, her hair was found which had been pulled off and that which  still  lie next to her ,  "intact", her comfortable clothes: black lycra tights and a sweater, a salmon-colored blouse, her underwear and her purse where she carried her IDs, bank cards and money, her cell phone and shoes.

The experts determined that she was raped and killed by at least two people, since Lupe was a strong woman  with a strong body and was trained to defend herself. The bruises on her arms and hair show evidence of struggles. The official version about her face is that the animals ate it; however, that has not been confirmed by the forensic experts. 
         
Guadalupe Campanur Tapia was the youngest sister in her family. She turned 32 last October and lived with her parents. Her mother, Margarita Tapia Cruz, saw her for the last time on Wednesday afternoon, January 3. On Tuesday the 16th, the Attorney General of the State of Michoacán communicated to Cherán to tell them that they had found a body and that among the belongings was the identification of Guadalupe Campanur Tapia.

The next day three of her brothers went to the forensic medical service of Zamora to identify her. They recognized her by a small tattoo that she had between the fingers of her left hand, a tiny tooth. 

That night they moved Lupe's body to their community, a little over an hour's time by car from Zamora, where they prepared her in their house. In the street they lit a bonfire, they put out chairs and put up a blue tarp, those who knew her brought food such as atapakua and corundas ( local indigenous specialties) to offer to the people. The family placed her coffin in front of the  house with a picture of Lupe smiling and dressed in black pants and pink blouse with candles and flowers. In Cherán the dead are dressed as saints, but Lupe could not be fixed up in the traditional manner due to the state of decomposition of her body.

The mass was the next day, at 1:00 p.m. in the community church. From there they carried  the coffin to the cemetery, making lines of men and women who accompany her through the streets; It is a very important moment to mourn and grieve collectively. ( This is a very traditional custom, to carry the loved one manually on the shoulders of 
the closest family members as the rest of the family and community follow down the street or path to the place of burial, whether it be in a town cemetery, a community graveyard, or the family's rancho).

Hundreds of friends from the community arrived ,  more from other states, journalists and students arrived at Lupe's burial. They had carried out some research on Cherán's struggle and had made friends with her, being a leader in her community. Some  brothers who live in the US were unable to get to Cheran on such short notice.  Authorities of the communal government and the community council also attended.

Many expected a symbolic act from the communal government, to receive the body, to remember the companion who dedicated her life to the community , a recognition , as was done with a person who was coordinator of the community council in 2013 and who died in an accident, to demand justice and condemn femicide, but they were still feeling an atmosphere of paralysis. Now the community of Cheran has started its own investigations. 
         
Lupita was always careful not to leave Cheran with strangers or people in whom she did not  have  confidence. She participated in the most difficult years of confrontations against loggers and therefore always maintained permanent security measures. 

Cheerful and always swimming against the current:

"I am on the hill and  I feel;  umm, full! happy!; because to be doing this is to do something important for my community," Guadalupe Campanur recounted in 2014 with her typical wiley face , eyes wide open and with a big smile. 
         
Lupe was talkative, stubborn, cheerful, ready, moved, committed to her community, good at making friends and skilled at embroidery, she was very positive, a brave and free woman who ignored moral prejudices, although she was hurt by accusations for her singleness and her non-traditional form of courtship.  
         
The night after the funeral, at a community meal, a member of the community named Martha shared this: "I do not understand why she, Lupe, who only knew how to give to the community, participated in the groups of the church, in the council, in the third quarter, walked in pure activities for the good of the community, was friendly and loved, I do not understand how someone could take her life. It is something very alarming for us, and more so because it is about a woman ".

                              Indigenous Community of Cheran Demands Security and Justice
       
Lupita lived in Barrio Tercero. There she met her friend Genoveva Pedroza. After the uprising against loggers in April 2011, Guadalupe joined in with  security activities. Geno remembers that ever since she first saw her on the barricade, Geno thought of Lupe : "what a brave woman". At that time she was about 26 years old and she was the second woman to enter the community council when it was only made up of volunteers and without pay.

When the need to form a group of forest rangers was seen, Guadalupe "Lupe'' Campanur immediately became interested because she considered it to be the greatest manifestation of commitment to the community.

In a 2014 interview for the book "Guardians of the Territory" (Editorial Cracks, 2016), she said that not all served to walk in the field; which required a strong physical condition, courage, loyalty and  never having been a logger: "Not all were cut out for that and when it comes to using  weapons, if you have fear them you are not ready. The group had to be pure people of trust, we were like a brother/ sister hood. The first time I fired a gun I was a nine years old.  Then I learned to use others, only one knocked me down, and yes, everyone laughed at me. But later if  we had to use it, I was fine. " 
         
In January 2016, a lawyer and community member of Cherán, David Romero, interviewed her.

Lupe told the following:

"I am originally from Cherán and Barrio Tercero, I was interested in joining the Ronde Comunitaria  (Community Round), our security patrol to take care of my community, I have been very active in many things, I do not like being locked up or having crossed arms, when I can help with something I get involved , maybe I go against the grain, I like to do things that men do, unlike other women that are locked in a house, and so, this is my path.

"It was a challenge, for me, being a woman. In February of 2012, the Ronde Comunitaria officially formed  the four neighborhoods, there were only two women involved, one from the first neighborhood and me, from the third quarter. 

We began the first fifteen days and they tell us that a group that they called forest rangers was going to climb up into the hills , but for that , you had to have good conditioning  and secondly, know what it is like to walk the countryside and not be afraid and all of that, then , they started doing very special training for those of us from below. I wanted to go up to the country and I told them I wanted to go but they did not want me because: first , I was a woman; second, because they thought I did not know anything about weapons and because I did not know the countryside.

                                          Ronde Comunitaria training to be a Forest Ranger
                                     to help combat illegal logging and bad logging practices

"I started training day and night, and when they told us we had to go into the field, I introduced myself, I made myself known. They put us in a room, those of us who were supposed to go and then when they started giving arms to everyone, they passed me by,  they told me that I was not elegible.  I told  them that I wanted to go and then this Chinese man turns to me and gives me his gun", as Lupe smiles.

"I remember the words of a colleague who said "instead of walking around up in the hills , lets go care for the 14th Sector", ending with a reference that it would be "more appropriate for a woman,  lets  stay down here''. 

Thats when I said: "what do these bastards think, that I'm not going to be able to perform , that I am not going to be able to do the job ? ''.  

"I'm going to go. They tell me we are going to walk for six to eight hours a day and I told them that it does not matter, I am going to walk";  so that was the way I joined the group of forest rangers that I was on for about a year and three months.

"We always managed to say the group of us was like family, brothers and sisters, we   all protected the backs, the sides, front of everything and everyone  and we were  very independent of the group below, of course , but when there were issues in the community we we added our support.

"What we did in the field nobody knew, the strategies were only known to us, we always said: ''let's get down at this point'' but we never did, because we knew someone had infiltrated us.

"In 2013, when there was more calm in the  community, we began to weaken, we began to see that there was no support anymore, we had a  couple of situations in which we had lost two good community members  and at  that time we went up to the field at 3 am ;  there was a good incident was something that fractured us and thence asked ourselves: ''how many more are going to fall? How can we continue this ?"

We were nothing more than a group, and we opened ourselves to another group called the  Communal Goods, that is what broke us apart. 

"One  companion could not sleep anymore, he began to feel bad and said he was retiring. When he left, then another left and then two more, and I retired also with another partner; only  two original members stayed and they became yet another  new group,  but they ended up  retiring their vigilance also  in 2013.

"We talked internally saying that we were going to withdraw because they began to say that there were lawsuits against us and that they were going to lock us up, we would be arrested and so on ; they began to follow us and for security reasons we left things stand for a while but not altogether and we went back to incorporate voluntarily, a core group, in that way we still stand, if something strong came up, we in the community could rise again.

"There were always issues, that's normal, but now there are more, security has been lost a bit and the council has become a matter of work and they do not respect the seat which they hold; they do not respect the internal rules. If you reported that your family was short directly to the council , monetarily, ie,  they would suspend payment and then gave it to your family directly, but if they , the council lacked ,  you were sanctioned personally so that economically that money was shared among all. This second Major Council has not worked as we expected. "


When she left the Ronde Comunitaria, Guadalupe approached the Council of Communal Property and supported the walks, ie, marches,  the reforestation and even the administration; during the movement she  supported the council as far as going to distribute "dispenses" , ie, supplies to the needy of the community , to their homes, to their cooking fires.


Lupe cooperated in social programs and helped senior citizens to process their paperwork and  when she could, she went around to the nurseries  or the sawmills and brought food  to the employees of the companies or to those who worked in the fields;  Lupe attended and participated actively in the assemblies of her neighborhood, she went to embroidery classes where she led workshops to do embroidery ,  cross stitch, boning, sewing ,  dressmaking, she participated in self-help groups and lately she had joined a group called Reencuentro. 

With students and visitors, she always served as a guide and immediately offered her friendship. Everything , absolutely everything she did was voluntary. 

                  Women of Cheran checking their tree seedlings for their Reforestation Project

"You left me alone," Geno says as he remembers his friend from whom he learned to have courage, how to make friends and to be a critical voice within the community. Guadalupe was very clear politically: she knew that the change in Cherán had to continue building, day by day, in daily life, fighting machismo and pointing out the dangerous approaches with political parties or state or federal government.
         
"When Guadalupe  went with us on walks of the Communal Property Council she made our work enjoyable. She was trained to listen to strange things, sense if there were risks, she knew how to determine how fresh were the traces of a vehicle, for us she was a very important support. It was reckless, not everyone was going to take care of the forest. Lately she was going to the forest to photograph birds, it was something that caught her taste lately, " says Genoveva who was part of the Commonwealth Council during the first communal government after of the 2011 uprising.
         
"Juan", a friend with whom she toured the forest, remembers that Guadalupe never put on airs about  doing the tasks of safeguarding the territory. Like everyone else, Lupe knew the boundaries, the paths, the roads and shortcuts, she knew how to respond to  ambushes and was in good physical condition. "In the time I have been in this, I personally confirmed that all women are of respect and admiration. Sometimes machismo wins in the community and women have to be at home, but they showed us they are capable of everything, our women are very brave. "
         
All over one hears talk about what happened to Lupe. her mother used to say: "oh, daughter, you do not know how lucky I am to find out about strong things or that they tell me things I do not want to know".

Lupe also knew too much about the security, the territory and the threats of organized crime in the region. Maybe, say a couple of her former teammates of the Ronde Comunitaria, "perhaps she knew too much or learned something too delicate, we should not rule out any line of investigation."

Youth Council demands justice for Lupita:

So far only the Youth Council has proclaimed to condemn the femicide of Lupita and demand justice. They ask not to minimize or normalize this murder.
         
"The courage Lupe had has to keep us vibrating and keep us sensitive to violence in order to continue fighting from the heart, from the place of courage, converting fear into a valuable social force to recognize that there is still much to be done to resist the war that they impose upon us.
         
This pain we feel reminds us of difficult times we have spent as a community and it is hard to realize that as a community; it is  people like Lupe who have contributed so much to the process of struggle and the defense of our forests that make this like  being part of a bonfire, part of the assembly of a neighborhood of this community and now that person is no longer with us and their dreams have been taken away in such a painful manner. "

The Youth Council points out that Guadalupe was not reported as missing by her relatives as she had left the community days before and it was hoped that soon she would return home.

"But this does not imply that she has any responsibility for what happened, she will never be the one responsible for what happened. We are in a critical moment where any argument is sought to criminalize women, but this will not be the case because we are aware that she did not deserve to be robbed of her life and in that context nobody denies the atrocious facts of her murder have to  be punished, the guilty have to be found and tried for the crime of feminicide. 

Lupe's life, like that of the other community members of Cherán, deserves all the respect and we will not allow her life to be criminalized or stigmatized. "

Death of Cherán activist will not go unpunished, says the State Government of Michoacan.


Morelia, Michoacán. The Government of the State condemned the death of Guadalupe Campanur Tapia, former member of the Ronde Comunitaria (Community Round) of the municipality of Cherán and who was still providing services to her community through sewing workshops for women, and whose body was found lifeless near the town of Chilchota.

Through a press release, it was announced that the Attorney General's Office of the State (PGJE) will carry out various procedures and investigations to clarify the facts and bring to justice those responsible.

Among the actions carried out highlights the collection of evidence at the scene of the crime, as well as interviews with relatives of the victim, who in their first ministerial statements said they were unaware of the existence of threats against Guadalupe Campanur, who was 32 years old.

The body was also necropsied by personnel of the Forensic Medical Service, whose study determined that the cause of the death was asphyxia due to strangulation.

Staff of the PGJE analyzed various evidences gathered as part of these actions, through scientific procedures in order to strengthen the lines of investigation.

In addition, in coordination with the Federal Mechanism for the Protection of Journalists and Human Rights Defenders, the case will be followed up through the Secretariat of State Government.

The State Government confirms its commitment to the application of the law; no case should go unpunished. The administration led by Governor Silvano Aureoles Conejo is committed to the prevention and eradication of violence against women, which is why since its inception it has taken decisive action to eradicate this phenomenon at its roots.


22 comments:

  1. Speechless........There can be no words to express such grief for this amazing spirit, this amazing women,

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  2. Chivis

    Keep us posted with what’s going on in Reynosa. Word is they killed Panilo

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    Replies
    1. supposedly yes. Metros set him up

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    2. @ Chivis

      So who’s fighting right now. There’s blockades and gun shots all over Reynosa

      Delete
  3. Whoever murdered her is a fucking coward pic of shit.;(

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  4. Someone betrayed her, an infiltrator that she trusted.

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  5. During my many wars with the Mexicans I received eight wounds, as follows: shot in the right leg above the knee, and still carry the bullet; shot through the left forearm; wounded in the right leg below the knee with a saber; wounded on top of the head with the butt of a musket; shot just below the outer corner of the left eye; shot in left side; shot in the back. I have killed many Mexicans; I do not know how many, for frequently I did not count them. Some of them were not worth counting. It has been a long time since then, but still I have no love for the Mexicans. With me they were always treacherous and malicious.

    — Geronimo, My Life: The Autobiography of Geronimo, 1905.

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    Replies
    1. Haha looks like Geronimo couldn't take it from Mexicans. Good for them.

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    2. "good for them"
      What an indictment from Geronimo

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    3. Just like he killed many white men

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    4. "white men" whah wha gringos wha wha fuck outta here
      Get a life and stop blaming everyone else

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    5. 4:56 your going to day Geronimo didn't kill white men? Read the comment firs you idiot, nobody is blaming nobody Tonto

      Delete
  6. I bet you this one is government related, someone paid to have her dead. Why did she not have bodyguards,she would not hurt anyone, she was trained to use guns, what a way to go.

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  7. This Shit is fucking ridicules fuck mex gov!

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  8. For those who follow environmental concerns and people. She was a devoted warrior against forest deforestation.
    I am fortunate to have viewed a documentary piece of the fight between illegal logging that was transpiring in that region. A David and Goliath battle where monetary rewards are the reasons.
    Criminal groups backed by logging companies to acquire and plumage areas of seren landscapes.
    It’s heartbreaking to hear of such travesty. Moreover, the brutality that she endured by her captors. Can only wish and pray that justice will be met swiftly.
    Condolences.
    E42

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    Replies
    1. I do not only follow them , but have been involved directly in some epic battles. This is not unusual I am sad and sorry to say.

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    2. I applaud your efforts for such noble purposes.
      Moreover, your actions that many fall short of undertaking despite concerns.
      I have always been an advocate for environmental protection and like many can do more to help.

      E42

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    3. Wuuuh, E42, I am glad you are not advocating this time for military intervention there by the US and a good ol' bomb dropping to save the poor indians from their unknown murderers, looks like you are evolving...Kongratlations...

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  9. Thank you yaqui for this post despite its so sad to hear Stories like this. I will keep her in mx Heart.
    Keep Fighting.dont give up. Defend your land ans your familiy.
    Can we support them directly, i am not rich but a fews bucks might help them more then me?
    El RanaRene

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    Replies
    1. While I know how much this story grabs at heartstrings an de souls, reread my intro.
      I have personally come to the conclusion that DIRECT donations to a cause just like this one is the best course of action. Can be any kind of contribution imaginable, you don’t need to join a group or send money to fancy NGO outfits, that is all well and good, but if you open your eyes where ever you are there are nitches to be filled. Get involved somehow, small contributions add up.

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  10. Maria Guadalupe Campanur Tapia, i said yesterday on BB its such a huge loss to lose females like this,intelligent,driven,energetic,somewhat fearless,and,she was lovely.She patrolled the forest,stood up for independence.Some little guy couldn't take her independence of spirit,her friends think it may be another femicide rather than targeted by cartel or loggers,whatever it turns out to be,the world and Mexico lost a WOMAN DEP LUPE

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  11. Sad story but happens every single time someone from Mexico stands up to corruption and stops the criminal money flow, somehow some way they end up dead or in jail. There is a huge list in michoacan that ended in the same way, my respect. R.I.P to this wonderful human being

    ReplyDelete

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