Two Faces of Oaxaca: Repression in Loxicha

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The Two Faces of Oaxaca

The Happy Face of Oaxaca is why tourists go to Oaxaca: to see the Guelaguetza, to enjoy the lively Zócalo, to admire the beautiful indigenous arts and crafts. The other face, the Tragic Face, of brutal and lawless repression of the indigenous people of the State of Oaxaca is mostly hidden from them.

The story of Loxicha: Or Why People Are Camped in the Zócalo

Loxicha (pronounced low-SEE-cha) is a mountainous region in southern Oaxaca that is home to some 35,000 Zapotec Indians living in rural communities. The living conditions of the Zapotec fall far below the already low standards throughout Mexico.

Historically, the communities in Loxicha have been self-governing, a right guaranteed them by the Mexican Constitution. Land was owned in common or in small private holdings. However, this way of life has been under attack over the past hundred years by the emergence of local regional bosses called "caciques" (pronounced ka-SEE-kays), who have consolidated their political power and control of the land through collaboration with a corrupt state government. These caciques, immune from prosecution because of their ties to the dominant PRI political party, have been able to create their own paramilitaries and murder, intimidate or drive into exile those who oppose them. They have murdered entire families and seized their property.*

In 1996 these caciques and the PRI governor of the state of Oaxaca used the emergence of an armed resistance group (the EPR) in Oaxaca and other states in Mexico as a pretext for mass arrests of indigenous leaders. Over 150 men were arrested and beaten in sweeps of communities in Loxicha by the army. Agents of the caciques were seen identifying those to be arrested. There is evidence that U.S. FBI agents working in Oaxaca participated in at least one of these raids. Community leaders and teachers were especially targeted. Those arrested were tortured and forced to sign confessions to various crimes.

The women of Loxicha have been camped in front of the Governor´s palace, facing the town center (the Zócalo), in Oaxaca for over four years demanding the release of the men unjustly imprisoned and compensation for those murdered or tortured by the caciques and the army. The majority of the men arrested have recently been released because of a State amnesty. However, 29 remain in federal prisons. Those released cannot return to their homes for fear of being murdered by the pistoleros of the caciques or the armed forces.

No actions have been taken against those responsible for the murders, disappear-ances, false imprisonment and torture of these men. The chief cacique in the region, Lucio Vasquez Ramirez, has even been made President of the Loxicha region, despite evidence of his responsibility for numerous murders and other crimes. The state government of Oaxaca, controlled by the PRI, has refused to take action against him.

The Loxichans encamped in the Zócalo of Oaxaca demand:

  1. the arrest and trial of those responsible for the crimes against their families,
  2. the release of the remaining prisoners,
  3. the guarantee of safe return for the men of Loxicha,
  4. and investment to improve the transportation, education and health infrastructure in the region.


The economy of the State of Oaxaca is very dependent upon tourists. Thus, your opinion carries great weight. Please join this PETITION campaign, expressing your concern at the oppression of the people of Loxicha and announcing to the officials of the State of Oaxaca that you will not be visiting their lovely city until justice has been brought to the people of Loxicha. Clicking on the email "Send Petition" link below will send that message to José Murat, the Governor of Oaxaca, with carbon copies to the Director of Tourism, the Chamber of Commerce and Mexican President Vincente Fox. The email is in Spanish. It says:

Governor Murat, I would much like to visit Oaxaca. However, I am very concerned that those responsible for the repression, assasinations, unjust incarcerations and torture of community leaders in Loxicha have not been brought to justice. I urge you to restore peace and justice to this community now.

Add any additional comments you desire. Please sign with your name and city, state and country.


If this does not work for you please send your message directly to the following address:

With cc's to:

All that is necessary for evil to triumph is that good people do nothing." --Edmund Burke

More extensive information is available in "The Untold Story of the Low Intensity War in Loxicha," published by Global Exchange, available on the web at

Also, for briefer and more current information, see

For general information on the widespread use of torture in Mexico, see Amnesty International: Justice betrayed: Torture in the judicial system

This page created by Marick Payton. To visit my home page, click here.