17-year-old Luis Ángel Martinez of CODEDI, the Committee for the Defence of Indigenous Rights in Santiago Xanica, was killed in an ambush on 17 February, 2018. He was travelling with the organisation’s leader Abraham Ramírez Velázquez and three other people.
The group’s vehicle was cut off by a pickup truck carrying a comando armado (armed command squad) which opened fire, killing Luis Ángel and two others, Alejandro Daz and Ignacio Lopez, both of whom were also members of CODEDI.
According to El Imparcial newspaper, the shells found at the scene were of calibres .45 and .9, which are used almost exclusively by the country’s armed forces. Cristóbal Ramirez, CODEDI’s spokesperson, said that the men had been summoned by the state government to a meeting geared at resolving conflict within the community. He added that survivors believe that the behaviour and weapons used by the assailants indicate that they were state actors.
The next day, the men’s bodies were not released from the morgue, even though Latin Americans are typically buried within 24 hours of death. Family members awaiting the remains were forced to return home after dark, a dangerous time to be on the road. In response, over 400 members of CODEDI marched and shut down the highway, demanding that the bodies be released. In the end, their wake and transportation home to Xanica occurred two days after the attack.
“Luis Ángel attended the workshops on mechanics and welding offered by CODEDI’s Training Center. It’s how he met my sister, they dated for a year before getting married,” remembers his sister-in-law Erika Vásquez Valladares. “All I want to know is who killed them, and get rid of all of the anger inside me.” she says. Mere days before he was murdered, Luis Ángel touched her belly; she was 8 months pregnant at the time of his death. “I hope March arrives soon,” he told her, “I want to meet the baby.”
The Mexican office of the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights (ONU-DH) was among the organisations which condemned the murders of Luis Ángel and his companions. It is worth noting that CODEDI was founded in 1998 in a context of violence against the political rights of the people of Xanica. José Murat, father of the Oaxaca’ s current governor Alejandro Murat, was responsible for much of this repression.