OAXACA, Mexico – Three Indians suffering gunshot wounds were rescued by police in the southern Mexican town of San Juan Copala, under siege for months by armed indigenous groups locked in a power struggle, police officials said.
The women, one of them 85 years old, were unable to seek medical care outside the small town, located in the highlands of the southern state of Oaxaca, because of the blockade around the community.
San Juan Copala, inhabited by the Triqui ethnicity, has seen numerous acts of violence in recent months including the case of two humanitarian activists, one Finnish and the other Mexican, who were shot and killed.
The three factions at odds are the Unified Independent Triqui Struggle Movement, or MULTI, to which the wounded women supposedly belong; the rival Triqui group MULT, aligned with a local organization, the United People’s Party, or PUP; and another Triqui faction known as UBISORT.
The latter, whose initials stand for the Triqui Region Social Welfare Unit, supports the once-dominant Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI.
According to civic groups, it is the UBISORT organization that is responsible for the armed blockade, and they accuse it of terrorizing local residents since declaring its autonomy in 2007, when it began choosing its own authorities according to its own laws.
The police rescue operation was manned by 50 state agents and was carried out without violence, the security force said.
Two of the women, ages 35 and 49, went four days unable to obtain treatment for their leg wounds. An elderly woman was hit by a bullet in the ankle on Friday.
The three wounded women were admitted to a public hospital in the community of Santiago Juxtlahuaca, some 100 kilometers (62 miles) from San Juan Copala.
For several months, inhabitants have reported the town under siege – no one can either enter or leave it – and have called on humanitarian organizations to come see for themselves the violation of their rights.
However, none of the caravans of humanitarian activists that have responded to the call in past months have been able to enter the town because of the shootouts and ambushes by rival Indian groups.