By: Blanche Petrich
Last June 19, the Nochixtlán community hospital existed as if it were suddenly in the midst of a war. Almost eight hours of shooting left more than one hundred injured in the surrounding. With 12 beds available, five nurses and two doctors on rotating shifts, the hospital received 45 people with bullet wounds; four of them died within two or three hours.
The police fired tear gas from helicopters onto the roof of the building. As a consequence, three newborn babies suffered respiratory crises. Intermittently, the uniformed [police] encircled the clinic. Early in the afternoon, a group of police attempted to enter the hospital kicking on the door and threatening the guard that impeded their entry.
The nurse Juan Nicolás López, who played a double role, documented all that, aware that besides assisting in the emergency it was important to document what was happening. He shares his story with La Jornada.
He says that he checked in at the Nochixtlán de la Community Hospital, financed by the state government, a little before 8 am. Juan Nicolás has the title of general nurse, with 24 years of experience.
A few meters from the hospital the police attack on the Section 22 teachers’ checkpoint had already started. With some other compañeros the nurse attempted to approach the site of the conflict in order to lend aid in case there were injuries.
“When we realized the magnitude of the confrontation we ran back to the clinic to prepare for the worst. But we couldn’t even imagine what happened. Fateful!”
Hospital personnel quickly started hanging serum, arranging healing material and stretchers, preparing the only operating room, applying mattresses and sheets. By the end of the day nothing was enough.
Many of the injured, light or grave, had to be rejected. Two of them were taken in ambulances to the hospital in Huajuapan de León, but they didn’t arrive at the hospital alive.
The Oaxaca Human Rights Office has a list of 98 injured by firearms, more than double the hospital’s census. And it recognizes that its list can be low.
According to the census of the Oaxaca Health Services (SSO, its initials in Spanish), of which this newspaper has a copy, ten injured entered the Expanded Services Health Center (Cessa) and 14 entered the local clinic of the Mexican Social Security Institute (IMSS).
Clinics and hospitals in Huajuapan de León, Tehuacán, San Andrés Sinaxtla and Juxtlahuaca also attended to those injured in Nochixtlán and sent all their available ambulances.
Jesús Cadena Sánchez was the first injured man to die –before noon– at the community hospital; he was only 19 years old and is the
He arrived in agony at the hospital. A bullet entered through his lower bowel and traveled to the bladder, it destroyed the iliac vein and part of the intestine. His mother, Patricia Sánchez Meza, who was present during the autopsy, says that they trained the bullet on him. “He was in pieces. I suppose that it was an expansive bullet, because it caused a lot of damage inside of my son’s body. That was evident in the written record of the autopsy.” And, it wasn’t the only case.
Anselmo Cruz Aquino died a little later. He was a plumber and electrician, a native of Tlaxiaco. According to his brother José Luis, a bullet penetrated through the point of his chin, crossed his tongue, trachea and lodged in his lung. Attempts to revive him were useless. Nicolás, the nurse interviewed, supposes that it could be another case of an expansive bullet.
At 10:30 in the morning the hospital was already overflowing. There were injured on the floor of the two waiting rooms and in the hallways. They removed the seats from the waiting rooms in order to attend to the patients there on cardboard or sheets. The noise from police helicopters overhead was heard outside.
Suddenly, two strong hits were heard, one on the roof and the other by the neighboring soccer field. “They were large tear gas bombs. We were full of smoke in an instant. In the midst of the chaos we realized that the three newborns that we had were presenting signs of asphyxia, the same as their mothers, who had given birth the previous day or night. There was nowhere to protect them. We were only able to cover the cracks of the doors and windows with wet sheets,” Juan Nicolás remembers. Of the eight that died during the police attack, four died in that little hospital. Their bodies were safeguarded in the hospital, on the floor.
Two more victims died instantly at the site where they fell, in front of the Hotel Juquila. Residents maintain that sharpshooters dressed in civilian clothes shot from the flat roof against the crowd. Juan Nicolás assures that no injured police arrived at the community hospital. Now the hotel sports an impeccable facade, renovated and recently painted. It operates normally and no one has investigated its owners.
It was not evident to Juan Nicolás that an order was received at the community from the state government hospital to not give care to the injured. “Yes we closed the doors. But that was when some 20 police arrived wanting to enter. The guard closed it. The police started to kick against the door. I saw them. They were out of it like drunks.”
Panic spread inside and as soon as the front was clear many people took their injured family members, grave or not, and took them away for fear that the police would return and would want to arrest them or kill them.
Maybe because of that fear, when Juan Nicolás returned the next weekend to cover his shift, Saturday and Sunday, only one of those injured in the confrontation remained, independent of the gravity of the rest of the injured.
Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada
Wednesday, August 31, 2016
Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee