09 March 2008

(Another) Police Chief Killed in Oaxaca

I'm two days late on this. Ricardo Rodriguez Silva, regional commander of the Oaxaca state police, was gunned down Friday afternoon while having his shoes shined in the popular Llano park.

According to La Jornada, two men stepped out of a truck at the northwest corner of the park and fired on Rodriguez with automatic rifles. The shoeshine was also injured as a result of the attack. A Oaxacan friend told me last night that some 20 bullets were fired, though I cannot confirm this.

Emails from the Oaxaca Study Forum suggest that the killing is drug related. The La Jornada article mentions the discovery, hours before the shooting, of the bodies of three narcotraffickers outside the offices of the Procuradora General of Oaxaca, killed and dumped in some sort of act of reprisal between drug gangs. "Las autoridades presumen que pudo haberse tratado de un ajuste de cuentas entre narcos." I'd be lying if I said I understood the connection between the bodies and the Llano shooting. Perhaps it is merely offered as an aside, falling under the category of drug related violence on Friday afternoon.

The article also mentions--and I again do not understand--the trafficking of Central Americans into Istmo de Tehuantepec, located at the border between Oaxaca and Veracruz. Perhaps somebody can help me with the translation:

Según versiones extraoficiales, el jefe policiaco, quien se desempeñó por varios años como comandante de grupo de la PME en el puerto de Salina Cruz, ofrecía protección a grupos dedicados al tráfico de personas, principalmente centroamericanos, a su paso por el istmo de Tehuantepec.

It would not strike me as unusual at all that the same people running drugs through Mexico are involved in the smuggling of people as well.

Whatever the exact motive, the killing is shocking, as Oaxaca is not a place where people worry about violence on this scale. Parque Llano is a very popular destination for families, couples, students, artists, travelers--pretty much everybody--and is the site of a crowded Friday market. That there were not more injuries is remarkable.

The papers report crimes like this (complete with garish pictures) almost daily from Tijuana, Chihuahua, and Mexico City, but not sleepy little Oaxaca. On the heels of the assassination of another police boss, Alejandro Barrita Ortiz, I can't help but wonder if it's true, as some asserted in posts via the Oaxaca Study Forum and the Oaxaca Study Action Group, that the narco-war has arrived in Oaxaca.