Here are two small but important details about Brad’s death:
He was wearing an Indymedia t-shirt when he was shot. One bullet must have gone right through the (((i)). Maybe that shouldn’t matter to me but it does. I have that t-shirt, as do many people I love.
Second, Brad lived for nearly an hour after he was shot. The initial photos made it seem like he died on the spot. Other reports suggest he died minutes later on the way to a hospital. In fact, protesters carried his body for a long distance, drove a car until it ran out of gas, unsuccessfully tried to wave down a couple of trucks – it started to rain – and then, about five blocks from the Red Cross station, he died. I don’t know if this should matter either, but it does.
One of the people who carried him said that Brad would squeeze his finger to let him know he was still with them. Another told an interviewer that he felt terrible that he did not understand English, so he could not gather Brad’s last words.
THE GUILTY PARTIES
As announced by Reporters Without Borders, we know the names of the men who shot at Brad, one of whom presumedly killed him. They are municipal policeman Juan Carlos Soriano, municipal personnel chief Manuel Aguilar, public security director Abel Santiago Zárate, and Pedro Caramona, the mayor of Felipe Carrillo Puerto de Santa Lucia del Camino.
The governor of Oaxaca, Ulises Ruiz Ortiz, immediately announced that these men had been arrested. This was reported in the New York Times and other reputable outlets. It was a lie.
Milenio, a Mexican outlet whose photographer, Oswaldo Ramírez, was injured by the same hail of gunfire that killed Brad, is reporting that the men are in fact at large.
“This ‘disappearance’ came to light after Milenio made inquiries and found that none of the suspects where found in any of the police buildings (jails, offices) in Oaxaca, even though the governor said that they were already arrested,” reads a translation.
The story is confirmed by Noticias with an article titled, “Crímenes sin castigo” or Crimes Without Punishment. Noticias also reminds us that the death of Emilio Alonso Fabián, a Oaxacan teacher killed the same day as Brad in a separate incident, has gone completely uninvestigated.
This is beyond outrageous. It is criminal. Who is implicated? Who will bring justice?
US Ambassador to Mexico Antonio Garza suggested Brad was killed during a shootout between “what may have been local police in Santa Lucia del Camino and the People’s Popular Assembly of Oaxaca,” but there is no evidence that APPO ever used guns. Brad’s own footage of the incident shows slingshots and stones, but no guns except in the hands of the government-backed paramilitaries.
Ambassador Garza also urged the Mexican government to stabilize the situation. He said, “Mr. Will’s senseless death, of course, underscores the critical need for a return to lawfulness and order in Oaxaca.”
State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack denied the matter required US intervention. “That is really going to be up to the Mexican Government to deal with,” he said. He declared there was no evidence of human rights violations and assured his questioner that the situation would not destabilize the already-challenged regime of incoming president Felipe Calderon.
Felipe Calderon will be visiting George Bush in the White House on November 9.
The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people, Dr. Rodolfo Stavenhagen, disagrees with McCormack. On October 30, Stavenhagen “expressed his concern about the serious human rights violations reported to have taken place on 27 October 2006 in the city of Oaxaca and neighbouring towns. According to information received, the acts were perpetrated by a paramilitary group.”
Vicente Fox immediately seized upon Brad’s death as a pretext to send 4000 federal troops to Oaxaca, using violence in an attempt to dislodge the protesters.
The speed with which Fox reacted suggests to some that Brad’s death was planned, that it was an assassination to create a pretext for federal involvement after the teachers’ had agreed to end their strike. Previous paramilitary attacks on the APPO barricades had mostly occurred at night.
This author on the Centro de Medios Libres site specifically explains, “Why the Mexican Government killed Bradley Will”
Among the shots of smoke and confusion of the main stream coverarge of the events in Oaxaca, some thing stands out. Televisa and other major mexican news chains always go back to the shooting of NYC Indymedia voluteer Brad Will. But the coverage is not limited to his brutal and senseless death, but also shots of Brad filming in Oaxaca. Someone friendly with the major news chaings had footage of Bradely Will before he died: talking to friends in the Zocalo of Oaxaca, walking with members of the APPO through the streats of Oaxaca. There are at several images of this sort. And their message seems to be clear: Brad was bieng watched, and filmed, before his death.
Other people have wondered how Brad, who seemed to be standing behind many people when he was shot, could have been hit by not one, but two bullets.
Leaving aside this question of whether Brad’s killers are guilty of first or second degree murder, we have two explanations of what happened to my colleague.
One is that local government officials, backed by at least the governor, shot at protesters who had no guns as part of a series of human rights abuses. This view is supported by the photographic and video evidence, as well as eyewitness accounts and the statement of a UN official. This narrative concludes when the people who shot Brad and anyone who directed them, and anyone who directed that director and so forth, are held accountable. This could only happen with the removal of Ulises Ruiz Ortiz from power.
The second is the “shootout” or “violence out of hand” explanation as offered without evidence by Ulises Ruiz Ortiz, Vicente Fox, Tony Garza, and Sean McCormack. This narrative concludes when the state has “restored order,” quite possibly through violence.
When dealing with two conflicting narratives in a situation like this, the sensible thing to do is let the journalists sort it out. And frankly, whichever side is less interested in press freedom – in this case, the side that shot two journalists – is usually the one trying to protect a faulty explanation.
So let me close with a couple items related to the media that are covering this story which you might find interesting:
First, Rebeca Romero of the Associated Press is “widely believed to be on Ulises Ruiz’s payroll,” according to this account. Even before the current events in Oaxaca, at least one commenter leveled that critique:
Is this person on the government payroll? I have been living here for 17 years and this type of article is a typical product of journalists who receive ‘chayote’, bribes from those in power. Or is it advertising by the government? I have not seen such a poorly informed and slanted piece of journalism in the international press before. I’m shocked.
Whoever this Mark in Mexico is — I tried fairly hard to track the guy down, and he appears to have no real life prior to popping up as the proprietor of this school, about which I can also find no information — I have to say that his main role has been to amplify disinformation.
This tells me that we need more independent media covering Oaxaca, as we wrote in the NYC IMC statement on Brad’s death.
Mike Burke provided critical research for this piece. See more of my articles on Indymedia.