Jyri Jaakkola’s death, six months on

“The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living” (Karl Marx).1

Demetrio Barrita, Cariño para Copala (2010)

Precisely six months have passed since the present author learned of the murder of Jyri Jaakkola, a day after the ill-fated observation and aid caravan in which he was participating attempted to reach the autonomous municipality of San Juan Copala in the Triqui region of northwestern Oaxaca. As far as is known, the caravan came under fire from members of the paramilitary organization UBISORT (Union for Social Welfare of the Triqui Region) after encountering a road-block in the community of La Sabana en route to Copala; UBISORT had effectively been maintaining a siege of the autonomous municipality for several months, this being the very reason for the launching of the civil-observation caravan. To date no serious investigations have been launched into the 27 April assault, which also killed the Mexican social activist Bety Cariño, member of the the Center for Communal Support Working Together (CACTUS) based in Huajuapan de León. It is widely held to be the case that UBISORT has strong ties to the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and the current governor of Oaxaca, Ulises Ruiz Ortiz—hence the marked impunity of the case. Controversy and doubt surround the question of how the incoming governor-elect, Gabino Cué Monteagudo, who heads a rather bizarre coalition of the far-right PAN (National Action Party) and social-democrat PRD (Party of Revolutionary Democracy), will approach the problem of the 27 April attacks, as well as many other issues regarding Oaxaca, upon taking power on 1 December.

The present author remembers with tenderness the opportunity he had to spend time with Jyri some two weeks before his murder. Jyri’s spirit was impressive, his humaneness—and humanity—beyond question. One can only speculate regarding the accomplishments Jyri could have realized had his life not been cut short by fascist paramilitaries, but it is to be imagined that they would have been significant. His clear-minded commitment to opposing the world-destruction advanced by hegemonic power groups, for one, demonstrates this, as do the various comments he shared with this author on different questions in April of this year.

Foremost among Jyri’s political concerns, it seems, was the problem of anthropogenic climate change; his interest among other things in the work of social-ecologist Murray Bookchin reflects this. It is surely unfortunate, then, that he will not be able to participate in the protests against the upcoming Cancún climate negotiations, as he magnificently did last year in Copenhagen.

It seems to be the case that Jyri, through death, managed to escape from the ever-worsening world-situation. In the months since Jyri’s death, climate change has revealed itself beyond question to be catastrophic: one thinks of devastating floods in Pakistan, China, and Central America; famine in the Sahel; drought in South America; alarming ocean-acidification rates; widespread bleaching of coral-reefs; and sharply increased food-prices the world over. It is far from clear, in this sense, that humanity will be able to extricate itself from the present crisis, but it must be said that Jyri should himself have been allowed to choose whether to continue to struggle against the specter of such barbarism. It is in any case clear that Jyri, like the billions of other humans brutalized by hegemonic power both historically and contemporarily, did not give his life for the way things have turned out.

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