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Protesting unionists occupy publishing house, detain and threaten employees, threaten to kill journalist in Oaxaca

(CEPET/IFEX) - On 12 October 2007, about 40 members of the peasants' and workers' union Unión General Obrera Campesina y Popular (UGOCP) of Oaxaca, armed with metal bars, sticks and machetes, forced their way into the offices of the publisher Publicaciones Nava in Cuenca del Papaloapan. For more than two hours they detained nine employees, and threatened to strip and to kill them.

Later, they carried off Israel Nava Pérez, son of the owner, by force, according to Apro, the news agency of "Proceso" magazine. Presumably the UGOCP targeted Nava Pérez because, in his role as insurance adjuster, he has refused to support a claim by one of the union's leaders. He was driven to a ranch, beaten on the way, and eventually released.

On the morning of 11 October, the same group occupied the municipal headquarters in Tuxtepec, in northern Oaxaca. There, photojournalist Alberto Castañeda López, crime reporter for the newspaper "Noticias Voz e Imagen", was struck by Pablo Cruz Rodríguez, municipal leader of the UGOCP.

"I was there to cover the incident when Pablo Cruz Rodríguez came up to me, hit me and accused me of working for the government," Castañeda López told CEPET. "Later, various others approached me and threatened to kill me. They told me not to mess with them, that they already had their eyes on me. They seized my camera and demanded that I erase the photos before returning it to me." The photographs documented the violent seizure, led by the head of the union for Oaxaca state, Karina Barón.

When the journalist was speaking to the newspaper's regional director, José Antonio Márquez Chávez, on his cellular phone, his phone was also seized. Márquez Chávez told CEPET that the assailants then told him by phone that "they would only release Castañeda López if I promised not to publish anything about the occupation and their harassment of my employee."

Castañeda López and Márquez Chávez reported the incident to local authorities.

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