Armed Group Attacks Caravan of Indigenous Presidential Candidate in Michoacán, Mexico

January 26, 2018

By Diego Lopez

On January 21, 2018, The National Indigenous Congress released a report via Twitter that a group of heavily armed men in two vans intercepted the caravan of aspiring Mexican Indigenous presidential candidate, María de Jesús Patricio Martínez (Nahua), also known as Marichuy, in the state of Michoacán. The report stated that the group intercepted the caravan between Tepalcatepec and Buenavista and threatened the journalists traveling with the candidate before stealing their cellular phones and camera equipment. Patricio was on a tour of Michoacán and was en route to visit the community of Santa María Ostula, located in the municipality of Aquila, which is frequently targeted by organized crime groups. According to the report, all members of her team arrived safely. Before the attack, Patricio had stated that while she and her team had not been personally threatened, intimidation to give up their rights is something Indigenous leaders, environmental, and human rights defenders often face.

Threats of violence and violent acts against Indigenous human rights and environmental defenders, particularly women, is an increasingly widespread problem. Frontline Defenders reported that in 2017 they received reports on the murder of 312 defenders in 27 countries.  

  • 67% of the total number of activists killed, were defending land, environmental and Indigenous peoples’ rights, nearly always in the context of mega projects, extractive industry and big business.
  • 84% of murdered defenders received at least one targeted death threat prior to their killing. 

Patricio has become well known in Mexico for her role as the first Indigenous woman to run for president. Her campaign is seeking to represent Mexico’s most marginalized communities, where corporations, such as mines, often exploit the land they inhabit and repress their communities. In Patricio’s words, “All these problems motivate me to take on this great responsibility to participate; it’s the reason that Indigenous communities look to me...At first I was afraid because it’s something very big and I thought maybe I will not be able to do it, but then I saw that it was a task that had been entrusted to me by the community.”

Patricio has had a lifelong career in activism for her community with accomplishments that include being elected as a representative of Tuxpan, as well as being a traditional healer, for which she has been awarded for her efforts to preserve her people’s traditional knowledge and culture. She aims to keep inspiring others by spreading her message that “It is the time of the people. It is time that women participate in their communities, they are the ones that give life by having children and taking care of them...It is very important that we walk together, because that’s the way the Indigenous communities are; they are not just men, it’s all of us.”

Patricio plans to finish her tour of the state in the coming days.

Photo courtesy of Duncan Tucker.