Jyri Jaakkola, presente!
In 2006, after a long series of social and political conflicts, the inhabitants of San Juan Copala proclaimed their town an Autonomous Municipality. This was not accepted by the Mexican state, and the police and regional paramilitaries were harassing the inhabitants.
In 2010, Ubisort, a regional paramilitary movement, effectively sieged San Juan Copala for several months, denying the town of even basic goods like food, water, and electricity. The organization Vocal in Oaxaca staged an aid caravan who tried to break the blockade and bring food, elementary goods, and medicine to the besieged inhabitants.
One year ago, today, the aid caravan was stopped at a roadblock by local paramilitaries, who killed two of the activists on the caravan; one was a key grassroots organizer in Mexico, Beatriz Cariño Trujillo. She was director of the Mexican human rights group Cactus, an organization strongly advocating the rights of indigenous people, with specific focus on women’s rights. The other was our Finnish friend, Jyri Antero Jaakkola.
Jyri was a member of the Finnish grassroots ecology organization Hyökyaalto as well as of Climate Justice Action, and was engaged in the broader libertarian movement in Finland. With social ecologists, Jyri worked with the TKE— Työryhmä kommunalismin edistämiseksi Suomessa (The Working Group for Communalism in Finland)—since its inception, and was on comradely terms with the later, more firmly organized Kommunalismin Liitto. More practically, Jyri also worked with a fair trade cooperative in Turku and with direct solidarity work for African and Latin American communities. The last year of his life, Jyri focused on climate activism and on solidarity with the indigenous grassroots resistance in Oaxaca and Chiapas.
Jyri went to Oaxaca early 2010 to work as an international observer on human rights and to give workshops on ecological activism. The region was troubled by instability even before the 2006 uprising against the governor in Oaxaca, and thereafter the situation was very precarious for the movements for municipal autonomy and indigenous resistance.
San Juan Copala is a small town in the Northwestern part of Oaxaca, and it is populated by members of the indigenous people called Trique. To protest policies of discrimination and harassment against its people, and inspired by the Autonomous Municipalities of Chiapas, the town declared its autonomy in 2006, following the broad movement of Asamblea Popular de los Pueblos de Oaxaca (APPO), and the subsequent violent repression. This declaration of autonomy was dismissed by the Authorities, and the municipality was subjected to a blockade by local paramilitaries loyal to the state government. It was this blockade that the aid caravan tried to break when Beatriz and Jyri was murdered. As far as I know, no serious investigation has yet been launched in to the assault. Yet is widely held to be the case that Ubisort has strong ties to the governmental party (PRI) and the current governor of Oaxaca, Ulises Ruiz Ortiz. The situation for San Juan Copala, the communities of resistance, and the autonomy movement of the Trique in Oaxaca is still very difficult. To commemorate the dead and keep pressing their demands a march is organized in the city of Oaxaca de Juárez today, April 27.
Jyri was enthusiastic about the Oaxaca 2006 uprising and many different alternative anti-capitalistic communities and forms of autonomy developed by Zapatistas. He firmly believed going to Mexico to work directly with the communities of resistance there would be the best way to express his solidarity, and hoped to learn from their experience as well, in order to bring hope and inspiration back to Northern Europe.
When Jyri was explaining why he went to Oaxaca he quoted Paolo Freire, “Real solidarity is when you put yourself in the same position as the ones you are in solidarity with.”
I was fortunate not only to communicate regularly with Jyri over the years, but we also met on several occasions. He was serious and committed, dedicated both to high ideals and tedious practical work. Jyri and his work will be remembered; with his ideals and his commitment he is still here with us. ¡Presente!