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Cablegate: Oaxaca: More of the Same, Little Change

DE RUEHME #3146/01 2972002
R 232002Z OCT 08



E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (U) Summary: On 7-9 October, Poloff visited Oaxaca state
and met with a representative from civil society, the
President of the State Human Rights Commission, and various
government officials, including Governor Ulises Ruiz. Two
years after the unrest in 2006, the rift between human rights
organizations and Oaxacan officials is still firmly intact
and few efforts have been made by either side to repair the
damaged relationship. Calling attention to the fact that 47
of the poorest 100 municipalities in Mexico are located in
Oaxaca, local officials claim budgetary constraints handicap
their efforts to address human rights. Despite its financial
woes, the Oaxacan government has implemented several projects
through its Plan for Sustainable Development, including an
economic stimulus initiative, greater social services to
isolated indigenous communities, and increased public
security measures. End Summary.

Oaxaca From the Governor's Window

2. (U) Oaxaca State Governor Ulises Ruiz admitted freely
that Oaxaca was one of the poorest states in the Republic.
He maintained that despite historical neglect on behalf of
Oaxaca state officials, his administration sought to
stimulate the economy and more importantly, to restore the
tourist industry on which the Oaxacan economy heavily
depended. Although he did not highlight any specific
projects, he made a point to mention that under his
administration, the government implemented several rural and
urban development projects. The biggest challenge to
consistent development, he lamented, was Oaxaca's diverse
landscape which made some rural communities difficult to
access and limited financial resources. Dr. Elizabeth
Hernandez Reyes from the State Institute of Indigenous
Affairs said that since 2005, the government had initiated
160 rural development projects. Of this 160, 75 were
initiated in 2005, 39 in 2006, 28 in 2007 and 28 since
January of 2008. Seventy-five percent of the funding for
these projects, according to Hernandez, was specifically
targeted at the most affected indigenous areas and included
economic, social, infrastructure, cultural, communication and
natural resource development.

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3. (U) Ruiz underscored the success of the oral trials
process in Oaxaca, distinguishing the oral trials in Oaxaca
from those in the US by the fact that the Oaxacan system
relied on a group of three justices, rather than a jury, to
determine a suspect's guilt or innocence. Ruiz credits the
success of oral trials in Oaxaca to the state's long-standing
tradition of tribal courts. (Note: Of the 546 municipalities
in Oaxaca, 434 are occupied predominately by indigenous
groups that adhere to traditional customs and practices in
judicial and electoral matters.) Currently. it takes about
three months, and no more than nine months, from the time a
suspect is arrested for his or her case to be brought to
trial. However, Ximena Avellaneda, Director of the Rosario
Castellanos Shelter for Women, said the expedited process
made possible through the oral trials systems did not,
however, have a trickle down effect, particularly for women
who file domestic violence complaints against their spouses.
Jacobo Ruiz Quiroz, Attorney for Indigenous Defense, said
that the state's Plan for Sustainable Development 2004-2010
included an initiative to release indigenous prisoners from
jail provided that their crimes were not serious offenses.
The purpose of this initiative is to promote family
reunification and to ease overcrowding in the state's prison
system. Since 2004, more than 7,000 indigenous prisoners
have been released from prison through this initiative and of
those released, 59 percent had been convicted of either
assault, robbery or causing damage to personal property.

The State Human Rights Commission and Civil Society

4. (U) Although the Oaxaca State Human Rights Commission is
an autonomous body, prior to a law passed during December
2007 the state's legislature appointed the organization's
president from the governor's suggested list of candidates.
Since the new law was passed nearly a year ago, congress now
appoints the incoming president in consultation with the
Commission's consultative board, according to current
President Dr. Heriberto Antonio Garcia. Garcia claimed that
as a result of the legislative reform, the Commission's
consultative board had become more transparent, incorporating
greater participation from both civil society and academia.
Despite claims of complete autonomy, the Commission relies
exclusively on the Oaxacan Congress for its operational
budget. Since the year's inception, the Commission has
issued 14 recommendations against local authorities and 13
were accepted. Because the Commission's recommendations are
not legally binding, Heriberto said the Commission had, in
the past, launched media campaigns against officials who
refused to accept recommendations as a means to publicly
shame them into compliance.

MEXICO 00003146 002 OF 002

5. (U) Garcia also said that since 2006 the relationship
with civil society had been strained but that the Commission
had made several recent attempts to overcome the rift. He
admitted, however, that the response from civil society had
not been overwhelming. Avellaneda echoed Garcia's statement,
saying that civil society not only had very little
interaction with the State Human Rights Commission but also
with Oaxacan officials. She criticized the government for
not proactively implementing existing laws designed to
protect the rights of women and young girls. Avellaneda said
judges and police officials desperately needed sensitivity
training not only related to women's issue but to general
human rights issues. Avellaneda lamented that many civil
society organization were so financially strapped that they
had begun to pool resources in order to maximize

SSP, PGJ and SEGOB Share Their Views on Oaxaca's Human Rights

6. (U) With 3.6 million inhabitants, 16 indigenous groups,
and 570, or 24 percent, of the country's municipalities,
Secretary of Government Manuel Garcia said one of Oaxaca's
greatest challenges to promoting human rights was linked to
structural problems. In addition to poor infrastructure,
Garcia said 47 of Mexico's 100 poorest municipalities were
located in Oaxaca state and that the government's efforts to
deal with other structural problems such as the inadequate
public education and health systems, high levels of
employment, and substandard public housing often sidetracked
its human rights efforts. Land conflicts, he lamented, were
also a common problem, particularly since 85 percent of the
state's land is considered communal property. Garcia also
said women in 27 indigenous communities still were not
allowed to vote despite suffrage laws affording all citizens
the right to participate in the electoral process. (Note:
Only 152 of Oaxaca's 570 municipalities have adopted the
political party system while the others adhere to a system of
traditional customs and practices.)

7. (U) SSP Commissioner Javier Rueda Velasquez said striking
a balance between protecting human rights and ensuring
citizen protection presented a significant challenge for
local law enforcement. In addition to implementing the oral
trials system, Rueda said a state law passed in September
consolidated Oaxaca's law enforcement agencies under one
central command with the goal of improving overall
effectiveness and capacity. He also mentioned that Oaxacan
police officials must now undergo psychological examinations,
polygraph testing, and toxicology screenings in order to
maintain employment. State Attorney General Evencio
Martinez Ramirez said the State Attorney's Office (PGJ) had
been conducting human rights training for local officials but
that no officials statistics were available. He also
admitted that there was very little coordination between
civil society and the government regarding human rights
issues and mentioned that while the PGJ respected the
National Human Rights Commission's (CNDH) recommendation
regarding the Brad Will case, he thought the report was

8. (U) Comment: After some trepidation regarding Poloff's
visit, Oaxacan officials were open and willing to discuss the
state's human rights situation. It was, however, obvious
that the state is still deeply divided after the unrest of
2006 and that the wounds of mistrust between civil society,
the State Human Rights Commission, and government officials
continue to run deep. Clearly, the different sides have
proven incapable, to date, of joining efforts to address
human rights concerns together. While it is commendable that
both the government and civil society are beginning to
acknowledge the importance of promoting an international
standard of human rights in Oaxaca, it is evident that this
acknowledge will not lead to definitive solutions until both
sides agree to work together more effectively and
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