One Year On, Silence Surrounds Murder of Anthropologist
International PEN is seriously concerned about the apparent lack of progress in the investigation into the murder of anthropologist, author and indigenous rights activist Miguel Ángel Gutiérrez Ávila, who was beaten to death in Guerrero state on July 25-26, 2008. A year on, there has been silence from the Mexican authorities on the subject of the investigation and the crime would appear to remain unsolved.
Gutiérrez, linguist, author of a number of books on the indigenous people of Guerrero state, and activist for the rights of the Amuzgo people, was killed late on July 25, 2008 or the early hours of July 26 while driving towards Chilpancingo de los Bravo, the capital of Guerrero. His body was found covered in bruises and cuts by the side of the Acapulco-Pinotepa highway near La Caridad community in the municipality of San Marcos, Guerrero, on the morning of July 26. Although initial police reports seem to have suggested that Gutiérrez died as the result of a car accident, it is now thought that he was beaten to death. According to his family, the vehicle in which Gutiérrez was traveling was untouched and only his filming equipment had been stolen.
A few days before his death, between July 23 and 25, Gutiérrez, 53, had visited the Suljaa’ and Cozoyoapan communities in Costa Chica, Guerrero, in connection with a documentary film he was making on indigenous cultures and traditions, entitled La Danza del Tigre (The Dance of the Tiger). During his visit, he had also documented alleged human rights violations by authorities against the staff of the community radio station Radio Ñomndaa or La Palabra del Agua (The Word of the Water), including an interview with founder David Valtierra Arnago, which he reportedly intended to include in his documentary.
According to local press reports, one lead points to the involvement of Aceadeth Rocha Ramírez, mayor of Xochistlahuaca municipality in Costa Chica. Rocha is allegedly one of a number of local political leaders (caciques) opposed to indigenous movements and Radio Ñomndaa. Another lead suggests that Gutiérrez may have angered the authorities by filming members of the Federal Investigations Agency (Agencia Federal de Investigación, or AFI) while they were conducting a raid on the radio station.
Gutiérrez had carried out research on the indigenous people of southern Guerrero for more than 20 years, particularly in Costa Chica. He had been involved in various cultural projects there, including Radio Ñomndaa and the establishment of the first Amuzgo community library.
Gutiérrez’s publications include: La tradición oral afromestiza en México (1985), Nabor Ojeda Caballero, el batallador del sur (1991), La conjura de los negros – cuentos de la tradición oral afromestiza de la costa chica de Guerreo y Oaxaca (1993), Danzas y música de origen africano en la Costa Chica de Guerrero (1993), Déspotas y caciques – una antropología política de los amuzgos de Guerrero (2001) and La historia del estado de Guerrero a través de su cultura – una perspectiva antropológica (2008).
Write A Letter
- Asking the state and federal authorities to carry out a full and impartial investigation into the murder of anthropologist and activist Miguel Ángel Gutiérrez Ávila, and to bring to justice those responsible for his death.
Send Your Letter To
Please send your appeal to Lic. Eduardo Medina-Mora Icaza, Procurador General de la República, via the diplomatic representative of Mexico in your country.
WITH COPIES TO...
Emb. Patricia Espinosa Cantellano
Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores
Av. Plaza Juárez n° 20, Col. Centro, Del. Cuauhtémoc
México D.F., C.P. 06010
Fax: + 52 55 3686 6028
Lic. Zeferino Torreblanca Galindo
Gobernador del Estado de Guerrero
Palacio de Gobierno, Boulevard René Juárez #62
Col. De los Servicios, Chilpancingo, Guerrero
Fax: + 52 74 74 71 99 56
Lic. Eduardo Murueta Urrutia
Procurador General de Justicia del Estado de Guerrero
Carretera Nacional México- Acapulco Km. 6+300
Tramo Chilpancingo-Petaquillios, Chilpancingo 39090, Guerrero
Fax: + 52 74 74 72 23 28
Please send appeals immediately. Check with PEN if sending appeals after August 31, 2009: ftw[at]pen.org