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Activist filmmaker murdered while investigating attacks on indigenous community radio station

(WiPC/IFEX) - WiPC is shocked by the murder of the anthropologist, author and indigenous rights activist Miguel Ángel Gutiérrez Ávila, who was apparently beaten to death in Guerrero, Southern Mexico, on 26 July 2008. It is thought that the killing may be related to Gutiérrez' documentation of attacks against an indigenous community radio station. The WiPC calls on the state and federal authorities to carry out a full and impartial investigation into the murder and to ensure those responsible are brought to justice.

Gutiérrez - anthropologist, 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 25 July or the early hours of 26 July while driving towards the capital of Guerrero, Chilpancingo de los Bravo. 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 26 July. 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 travelling was untouched and only his filming equipment had been stolen.

A few days before his death, between 23 and 25 July, 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 on the part of the 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, AFI) while they were conducting a raid on the radio station.

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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' 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).

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