In Oaxaca, a social movement that has been growing for over six months is now facing severe repression from their own government. The conflict, which started off as a labour rights movement, turned, on the 14th of June, into a political and social struggle when the governor of Oaxaca, Ulises Ruiz Ortiz, attempted to silence the teachers’ strike with fire arms.
Since then, a spiral of violence has escalated: political murders, disappearances, intimidation, and arbitrary detentions - carried out by state officials and paramilitary paid by the governor. This is how Brad Will was killed, and how many more Oaxacans have been and will be killed. The federal police (PFP) arrived in Oaxaca thinly veiled under the rhetoric of serving as a “peace-keeping force” but in fact have provided a smokescreen for the paramilitary’s dirty work.
During the demonstration on November 25th, the city of Oaxaca turned into a war zone. Demonstrators burnt cars and buses to defend themselves from teargas and bullets. Debates continue as to who burnt the Supreme Court and several other buildings. The police and paramilitaries randomly detained demonstrators, chasing them in pick-up trucks. Particularly shocking was that, in addition to the many police dressed in civilian clothing that have become all too common in the city, were the police who dressed as paramedics and waited outside the hospital. Several wounded demonstrators were left with “doctors” and found themselves in jail rather than in the hospital. The government reported 147 detained, the People’s Assembly of Oaxaca reported 400 missing.
Self-designated Radio Ciudadana, the pirate radio funded by the governor’s party, has played a role in escalating the violence, calling people to burn down houses of known supporters of the movement and offices of NGOs and local newspapers, turn in neighbours and harass foreign journalists, activists and sympathisers.
According to Jessica Sánchez, the president of the Oaxacan section of the Mexican League of Human Rights, the majority of those detained are tortured and transferred to other state prisons without any means of communicating with their families. She stated that this scale of torture has not been seen in Oaxaca since the 1970’s.
One such example of arbitrary detention and torture is that of a student from Instituto Tecnológico. The student, who had no involvement in the movement, was picked up while shopping with his mother. The police beat him badly, leaving him with a broken skull, ribs, shoulder, knee, elbow and fingers as well as burns on his chest and ripped out fingernails. He did not receive any medical attention for three days.
Those with outstanding arrest warrants, such as the 234 members of APPO’s council, fear the same treatment.
On the 5th of December negotiations will resume between APPO and the Home Office. However, amidst arrest warrants, raids, detentions and tortures, the conditions necessary for fair negotiations are clearly missing.
On behalf of the EZLN, Subcomandante Marcos has called for an international day of action to take place on the 22nd of December, in solidarity with the people of Oaxaca. In the words of the Zapatistas: “in any possible form, in any possible place, the truth must be said about what happened and what happens in Oaxaca. Everyone in their own place, time and way.”
¡TODOS SOMOS OAXACA!
Anna & Rick
In this struggle many people have lost everything, and lots of people are on the move to avoid torture.
If anyone's interested, I can find out about safe ways to donate. The APPO has an account, but some people are afraid that it might get frozen. However, there are many "safer" and sound organisations, that can be trusted with delivering money to those who most need it.