A new twist with unpredictable political consequences has emerged amid the shifting battle fronts of Mexico’s narco war. Sometime last weekend and somewhere in the mountains of southern Guerrero state, a group of at least 20 armed men presenting themselves as a column of the Revolutionary Army of the Insurgent People (ERPI) appeared before Mexican reporters.
Uniformed and armed with AK-47 rifles, the group was led by Comandante Ramiro, or Omar Guerrero Solis, one of the most wanted men in Mexico and an almost folkloric figure who escaped from a prison outside Acapulco more than six years ago and wasn’t publicly seen again until last weekend’s secret press conference.
In comments to reporters, Comandante Ramiro accused the Calderon administration of not only staging the fight against drug trafficking, but of also protecting the interests of alleged drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman. The masked guerrilla commander charged Guerrero Gov. Zeferino Torreblanca, who was elected with the backing of the center-left Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) and social sectors sympathetic with the guerrilla movement, with also protecting Chapo Guzman and an alleged associate, Rogaciano Alba.
A former head of the Guerrero Regional Cattlemen’s Association, Alba also served as the mayor of the Guerrero town of Petatlan for the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). Gunmen associated with Alba are responsible for about 60 murders in the conflictive Tierra Caliente and Costa Grande regions of Guerrero, Comandante Ramiro said.
“The strategy of combating the narco is phony,” Comandante Ramiro charged. “Here in Guerrero, for example, the narcos participate in meetings that the army and state government hold to strike at one cartel and protect another, but essentially they are the same, because they murder, kidnap and torture,” he asserted. “Here the cartel of Chapo Guzman is serving the army, and vice-versa..”
The fugitive rebel leader likewise accused Erit Montufar, director of the Guerrero state ministerial police, of involvement in criminal activities in the Tierra Caliente region of the state.
Comandante Ramiro said narco-fueled violence was inspiring young people to join the ERPI’s ranks, which had successfully expelled Alba’s men from some mountain zones. The ERPI, he said, is engaged in active armed self-defense, “striking” and “dismantling” paramilitary groups connected to Alba and the state government.
The guerrilla leader said his troops try to avoid confrontations with Mexican soldiers, whom he called “sons of the people” welcome to join the revolutionary movement.
The ERPI first emerged in 1998 as a splinter faction of the leftist Popular Democratic Revolutionary Party/Popular Revolutionary Army (PDPR-EPR). Two top ERPI leaders, Jacobo Silva and Gloria Arenas, were captured by the Mexican army in 1999, but the guerrilla group survived and reorganized.
The EPR, as well as other spin-offs, remains active. As the 15th anniversary of the founding of the organization’s armed wing neared this month, the PDPR-EPR issued a new communique.
In its message, the underground organization addressed the recent flu epidemic, deficiencies in the Mexican healthcare system, human rights, political scandals, labor movements, the suffering of the mothers of Ciudad Juarez femicide victims, and more.
The group also said its members were reviewing the next step to take in its campaign to force a clarification of the fate of two high-ranking leaders, Edmundo Reyes Amaya and Gabriel Alberto Cruz Sanchez, who were allegedly disappeared by the Mexican government in May 2007.
Subsequently, the EPR waged a sabotage campaign against gas pipelines to force the appearance of its two leaders. The guerrillas later declared a truce, and a mediation commission was established between the EPR and Calderon administration. The commission, however, recently broke down, with no word on the fates of Cruz and Amaya.
Now 33 years old, the ERPI’s Comandante Ramiro told Mexican media he first joined the Poor People’s Party, a predecessor group of the PDPR-EPR which was founded by the late legendary rebel leader Lucio Cabanas in the late 1960s, when he was 14 years of age.
According to Comandante Ramiro, the ERPI is organized like Cabanas’ old Campesino Justice Brigade, with units going up and down in size. Claiming his organization enjoys broad popular support in the Guerrero countryside, Comandante Ramiro said he spent the last four years year in the mountains, adding with a half-smile, “without a vacation.” Addressing reporters, he personally challenged President Calderon and Defense Secretary Galvan to come fight against him if they had a beef and stop sending “innocents” to die.
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Tags: mexico, guerrilla, ERPI, narco war, corruption, guerrero
Location: Acapulco, Guerrero, Mexico (load item map)
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