Communist peasant organizers murdered in Mexico

On Monday, August 5, an important peasant leader in Mexico’s southern state of Guerrero, Raymundo Velazquez Flores, was murdered along with two companions.

Velazquez had been an important leader of peasant struggles for justice since the early 1960s. At the time of his death he headed the Emiliano Zapata Revolutionary Agrarian League of the South (Liga Agraria Revolucionaria del Sur Emiliano Zapata or LARSEZ) and was also an important figure in the Communist Party of Mexico (PCM), one of several Marxist-Leninist groups in the country. He was, in addition, an announcer in the Mixtec indigenous language for the radio station “Voice of the Mountains” (Voz de la Montaña). In this case “Montaña” refers to the mountainous region of northeast Guerrero which borders on Oaxaca.

In addition, another PCM and LARSEZ activist, Samuel Vargas Ramirez, was found murdered, along with a third person whose full name has not been released. The three were traveling together from Cuernavaca in the state of Morelos toward the town of Coyuca de Benitez. It seems they were to stop off in Guerrero’s capital, Chilpancingo, for a meeting, but were intercepted, tied up and murdered by shots to the head on the way, on a riverbank near Coyuca. They had been tortured. The act seems clearly political; had they been kidnapped by ordinary bandits or drug gangs, they would have been held for ransom.

Velazquez, who was 57 years old, came from the village of Tilapa, Guerrero, from a poor peasant  family. Tilapa is located in the “Municipio” (approximately, county) of Malinaltepec, in Guerrero’s Montaña region. After having moved to the more inland city of Iguala for a while, he returned to his native town and region and became involved, from the early 1980s, in various political and social activist organizations on the left, including peasant organizations and the old Mexican Communist Party (Partido Comunista Mexicano), which dissolved itself in the 1980s, many of its leading cadres ending up in the Revolutionary Democratic Party, PRD.

His efforts enraged the political and economic elites of that time, the more so because he managed to do them without subordinating himself or his organization to the official government-recognized peasant organization, the National Peasant Confederation (Confederación Nacional Campesina).

Demands coming out of the activities of Velazquez and his comrades took concrete form in the Declaration of Acapulco in 1995, which responded to the abuses of repressive governor Ruben Figueroa (PRI). The declaration called for Figueroa to be deposed and punished along with the people who carried out the Aguas Blancas massacre (see below), and for democratic and political reform with full participation of the people of Guerrero, as well as economic justice.

Guerrero is a poor state and home to many indigenous ethnic groups as well as a large proportion of the Afro-Mexican population.  Peasants and workers are in almost constant conflict with landowners, mine operators (often foreign), “caciques” (rural political bosses who maintain power, often, by violence), and government authorities at the federal, state and local level. Armed struggle has broken out periodically, for example in Genaro Vazquez’s rebellion in the late 1960s, another led by Lucio Cabañas in the beginning of the 1970s, and again after the Aguas Blancas massacre of June 28, 1995, when 17 farmers on their way to a protest were ambushed and murdered by police.

Very frequently, those in power try to play off different factions of the rural population so as to have an alibi when their own operatives murder activists and leaders. This may be the case in this latest atrocity, as there were internal conflicts between indigenous factions of the Tlapanec (Mp’aa speaking) ethnic group over a land dispute. A year ago, Velazquez had denounced Guerrero’s governor, Angel Aguirre Rivero, for doing nothing to help solve the dispute. Aguirre Rivero comes out of the long ruling Revolutionary Institutional Party (PRI), but jumped to the nominally leftist Revolutionary Democratic Party (PRD) in the 2011 elections, because the PRI refused to slate him for governor. This kind of opportunism is currently shaking the PRD to its roots, with much of its left wing migrating to the new MORENA (National Renewal Movement) Party in the last year.

The Communist Party of Mexico issued a statement denouncing the murders, pointing out that they are nothing new but part of a long series of such atrocities:

“The Communist Party of Mexico, via its Political Bureau, holds responsible the federal government of Enrique Peña Nieto, state governor Angel Aguirre Rivero of the PRD, and the municipal government of Ramiro Avila Morales for the murder of our comrades. As we know, in Guerrero there are no [legal] protections for the political actions of communists, revolutionaries and social [justice] fighters. This is a direct attack by all three levels of government against the Communist Party of Mexico….

“Our comrades, simple communists, without pretentions, always had in mind the idea of socialist revolution. Our prime commitment to their exemplary lives is to halt what the government is attempting: that LARSEZ and the PCM remain without heads, and that the revolutionary organizing process in the fighting state of Guerrero be interrupted. The struggle goes on and with their example, gets stronger.”

Photo: Guerrero, a southern Mexican state, is the scene of the recent murders of Communist peasants.


Emile Schepers
Emile Schepers

Emile Schepers is a veteran civil and immigrant rights activist. Born in South Africa, he has a doctorate in cultural anthropology from Northwestern University. He is active in the struggle for immigrant rights, in solidarity with the Cuban Revolution and a number of other issues. He writes from Northern Virginia.