The Coconut Massacre

Mexico’s long bout of violence has introduced many new words into the popular vernacular. Among the linguistic additions is the word “youthcide,’ meaning the systematic, mass killing of young people. A recent slaughter in the southern state of Guerrero could be a textbook example of the ongoing loss of young lives from violence.

On Friday, July 5, an estimated 200-250 people buried seven young boys and men in Coyuca de Benitez, a rural municipality located about a half hour’s drive from Acapulco in the Costa Grande region. The victims were all found shot to death in a local coconut orchard the previous day.

“We live in a town where there is no law,” said Feliciano Garcia, father of one of the victims. “That’s all I can say.”

The victims were identified as: Agustin Lumber Parra, 14; Jesus Angel Galeana Mayo, 14; Jorge Luis Ramirez Mora, 14; Christopher Jerry Guerrero Rojas, 16; Osvaldo Rodriguez Garcia, 20; Jose Alberto Sanchez Chavez, 13; and Alexis Sanchez Chavez, 12.  The father of the Sanchez Chavez brothers, who worked as a public transport driver, was reportedly murdered two years ago.

Jorge Luis Ramirez’s older brother, 17-year-old Alejandro Ramirez, said his younger sibling had not continued school after the elementary level and worked as a baker.  “I loved my little brother a lot,” Alejandro Ramirez said. “Everyone wants justice.”

An eighth shooting victim reportedly survived the attack and is hospitalized in critical condition.

The motive of the mass killing was not immediately known, but a press bulletin from the Guerrero state attorney general’s office, which caused indignation on the part of some family members, said preliminary information indicated that the young people gathered frequently in the orchard to consume drugs and inhalants. According to the statement,  a nylon bag reeking of paint thinner and glue was recovered from the crime scene.

During a weekend visit to Coyuca de Benitez, Guerrero Governor Angel Aguirre was confronted by family members of the victims. The relatives demanded justice, payment for funeral expenses and security. They protested that the municipal police and Mexican army regularly mistreat young people, even tossing some into the river.

In meetings with Aguirre and other officials, victims’  family members were told they were “not alone” and promised economic support from the state government.

In a statement, Aguirre vowed the killings would not go unanswered.  “These are acts which should not be repeated in Guerrero, and much less when they attack our young people who are the future of our country and our state,” the governor said. “Let there be  no doubt that justice will be done.”

Earlier, rural leader Luis Olivares Enriquez commented on the socio-economic circumstances surrounding the massacre. Olivares, director of the Costa Grande Popular Producers Organization, said the slaughter should send a message for the government to pay more attention to the problems of young people.

“The majority of young men only finish elementary school, some secondary,” Olivares said. “The available work is in fishing, as a laborer or small farmer, and migrating to the U.S. (Young people) return with other ideas and get involved with different people; consequently, organized crime comes.”

Adding that ever-increasing costs for attending school are putting the squeeze on youth, Olivares noted that “one of the dead boys dropped out of school because of the lack of money.”

There were no immediate arrests announced in the coconut orchard murders. The July 4 massacre took place not far from the ford of Aguas Blancas, where 17 unarmed farmers on their way to a protest demonstration were gunned down by Guerrero state police on June 28, 1995.

Sources: La Jornada (Guerrero edition), July 6, 7 and 8, 2013. Articles by Hector Briseno.  El Sur, July 5, 6, 7, 8 2013. Articles by Francisco Magana and Mariana Labastida. El Universal, July 7, 2013. Article by Adriana Covarrubias.

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