By Nancy Davies
Commentary from Oaxaca
February 5, 2007
Ulises Ruiz Ortiz (URO) keeps one law for the people and another for his government of Oaxaca. Supporters of the Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca (APPO, in its Spanish initials) have been thrown in jail on charges of “impeding public transit,” or blocking access on public roads, or access to public buildings. URO repeatedly has maintained the Oaxaca Zócalo and the plaza in front of Santo Domingo Church as “no-go” areas in order to prevent a return of the APPO encampments. On February 3 he outdid himself by erecting razor wire barriers, bringing in attack dogs, police with billy clubs wrapped with barbed wire, and the presence of 4,000 riot police (as reported by Las Noticias), many of them mounted on horses.
D.R. 2006 George Salzman
Excitement was running through the ground like electricity in anticipation of the Ninth Megamarch scheduled for Saturday, February 3, which was designed to show that the APPO is alive and to demand the departure of URO, as well as the release of political prisoners. Among the imprisoned is Flavio Sosa, a high-profile APPO activist.
A friend dropped by on Thursday to inform me of two important items: one, that Molly Ivins had died, and the other that the teachers had pledged to march. She was eager to tell me that the teachers, in the midst of trying to reconstruct their damaged union, had met and decided to maintain their support of the APPO. They would march despite the confusion generated by Enrique Rueda Pacheco, who declared two months ago that the teachers were dissociating from the APPO.
My friend also told me that flyers advertising the march were being placed under windshields of cars parked along the streets. She appropriated one, justifying her act by telling me, “Well, nobody with a car is going to this march anyhow!” But how else are people learning about it? Mostly, through word of mouth. The people of Oaxaca perform miracles of self-organizing and information dissemination while using no formal media outlets.
Las Noticas published an article on Friday quoting an APPO spokesperson who denounced foreseen efforts of the government to infiltrate the march with troublemakers. Watching the procession from the sidelines, I heard one group of young men shouting “To the Zócalo! To the Zócalo!” – but nobody followed them. For the government’s part, Ulises Ruiz assured the citizens that the march could proceed with no government intervention, but with a warning that the marchers better not cause trouble. To “reduce” the possibility of trouble, riot police were deployed and all entrances to the Zócalo were barricaded. The Santo Domingo area was guarded by troops with attack dogs, who spent the day dozing in the sun.
Barbed-wire billy clubs
D.R. 2006 Chesley Hulsey
During the preceding day I spoke with Fernando, a baker and strong APPO supporter. I asked him what he thought would happen on the march day and if there would be a big turnout. And he replied, “The teachers will march. There better be a big turnout or we’ll never get out of this hole.”
Beforehand, the greatest anxiety among the public had been the uncertainty surrounding participation of Section 22 of the National Education Workers Union (SNTE, in its Spanish initials). Their long-delayed state assembly finally took place outside of the city of Oaxaca, in the town of Huahuapan de Leon, without the assistance of Enrique Rueda Pacheco, who has been labeled a traitor. (Rueda did not show up at the march for “reasons of security”). On February 2, Section 22 of SNTE issued a flyer, with the same declaration as an ad in Las Noticias, addressed to the general public. It states, in sum, the following:
1. The education workers have not and will not renounce the struggle to oust Ulises Ruiz. “We don’t forget, and we don’t forgive, the assassinations, torture, persecution, disappearances and arbitrary arrests committed against the people of Oaxaca, and in particular against the democratic teachers, in complicity with the Federal Government.”
2. The education workers are with the APPO all the way: “We helped build it and we will keep on participating. It is the most important organizing initiative for Oaxaca’s struggle against the dictatorial government.”
3. The education workers condemn Elba Esther Gordillo and Felipe Calderon, and the use of education money for self-enrichment. “We don’t accept the formation of a new teachers section in the union, designed to fracture the union.”
4. The education workers stand against neoliberal policies, privatizations, salary adjustments, reduction in social spending, and the concentration of wealth among a few. “We defend the popular economy and the economic well-being of all Mexicans.”
5. We are complying with agreements signed with the government, but the Secretary of Internal Affairs is not.
“In the face of this situation, we education workers can not sit with our hands folded. The democratic teachers are in the struggle; we have not surrendered and we won’t surrender, and on the basis of a mature policy, we go on united and organized until we achieve our objectives and those of the people of Oaxaca.”
D.R. 2006 Chesley Hulsey
I stood on the street corner to time the march of teachers, workers, students, assorted leftists, Communists and indigenous groups; the march took about 25 minutes to pass by. The march was not a “Megamarch” by the standards established before the November 25 government attacks, but it was respectable in numbers (I guess somewhere around 30,000) and lively. The excitement was palpable, and new graffiti sprouted like dandelions on the lawn and upon freshly painted walls, naming URO for an assassin. Most of the banners demanded “Freedom for Political Prisoners,” including a large stenciled portrait of Flavio Sosa. One display consisted of the head of URO, with blood dripping from his severed neck, but most banners demanded his resignation in more traditional slogans – “Ya cayo!” and the ever-popular, “Fuera!”
The scene was lively enough to assure me that the Peoples Popular Assembly of Oaxaca has not vanished. It is apparent that the governor has misjudged the tenacity of the people, and he is keeping a hard hand on the repression.
Since the governor is making no political concessions, the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI, in its Spanish initials) legislative and party leaders proclaim that they will win the August statewide elections. The APPO has declared itself willing and ready to work against the re-election of the PRI state legislators and PRI mayors (whose election takes place in October). According to APPO spokesperson Florentino López, the APPO reserves the right to back candidates in the united anti-PRI campaign, without itself becoming a political party.
It has been suggested that after the elections the APPO will evaporate or be co-opted by the new legislators. I personally don’t think so. Much remains to be seen of how the APPO and the teachers will organize and strengthen during the next six months.