Home > Americas, Conflict & Security, Latin America, Politics > Oaxaca Bombings: Terrorist Threat or Phantom Menace?

Oaxaca Bombings: Terrorist Threat or Phantom Menace?

Tim Pelzer writes in Political Affairs:

In the wake of a string of bomb and armed attacks, the Calderon government in Mexico may be facing its newest threat—or a phantom.

According to communiqués provided to the left-leaning Mexico City daily La Jornada, the Popular Revolutionary Army (EPR), a long-dormant left-wing guerrilla organization based in the states of Oaxaca and Guerrero, has announced its return with a bombing campaign. It is threatening further attacks if security forces do not free two of its captured members. But some observers doubt that the EPR actually carried out the attacks.

The EPR claimed credit for two Aug. 1 bombs in the commercial district of Oaxaca City, one at the entrance of a Sears store, another at a branch bank of Banamex. On July 28, EPR guerillas fired on a prison under construction in Chiapas. The campaign opened by blowing up two gas pipelines belonging to state oil company Petroleos Mexicanos (PEMEX) on July 5 and July 10 in Guanajuato and Queretaro, leading to the temporary closure of 90 factories.

The EPR charges that security forces arrested members Emundo Reyes Amaya and Gabriel Alberto Cruz Sanchez on May 25 in Oaxaca. The group claims that neither were engaged in any armed actions at the time of their arrest, yet are currently being tortured. It communiqués demand that the government release Amaya and Sanchez and warn that more attacks will be brought against economic targets if its demands are not met. The Calderon government and the Oaxacan Ministry of Justice deny that they have detained the two EPR figures. In the meantime the Calderon government has deployed troops to guard the country’s energy infrastructure and government buildings, and security forces are increasing efforts to locate EPR units.

Felipe Ruiz, a former member of the now defunct Oaxaca-based guerilla organization, the Revolutionary Workers Party, said that, judging by the magnitude of the bomb attacks against the PEMEX pipelines, the two imprisoned EPR members are probably commanders of the organization. He said the government’s arrest of Amaya and Sanchez “was a blunder” because it will force the EPR to target more “strategic installations” in its campaign to free the two. Also, 12 other guerilla organizations might undertake joint military operations with the EPR, Ruiz speculated.

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