Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Crisis Escalates as Marines Land in Oaxaca


October 5, 2006

Governor's Departure Now a National Demand,
as Political Figures Pledge to Travel to the State as
"Human Shields" in the Event of an Attack

By Nancy Davies

Commentary from Oaxaca

The events of this past week have left the population
of Oaxaca in a state of fear, rage and uncertainty,
with calls on all sides for human rights watchers,
encampments, and marches.

In the most recent development, leaders of opposition
leader Andre's Manuel Lopez Obrador's national
movement pledged to mobilize their followers around the
issue and to go to Oaxaca as "human shields" in the
event of a military intervention.

On Saturday, October 1, two grey helicopters circled at
5:00pm, flying in circles around the city. On our short
street three families ran out to look. One elderly
woman was carrying a white pillowcase and waved it, as
if men in the helicopter could see her. White is the
color of Governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz' Institutional
Revolutionary Party (PRI in its Spanish initials) -
peace at any price, one might say. Afterward she looked
at me fiercely and declaimed, "We are hostages in our
own city!" Referring to the Popular Assembly of the
Peoples of Oaxaca (APPO in its Spanish initials): "they
can clean out these people!" Across from us, another
house displays a white banner. The houses flying the
Mexican flag of red, green and white are the APPO
supporters. Most house show no signs, pro or con. Most
people sit tight, waiting.

They are navy helicopters. Many people took photos.
Radio 710 AM, the APPO broadcasts in a pleasant voice:
keep calm, there are 3,000 people at each barricade,
they are probably more afraid than we are, keep calm,
maximum alert, this is not Atenco, we are on our own
turf and they are strangers here.

A call in to radio APPO came from a man in the town of
Ocotla'n de Morelos. He was weeping. He said, he "never
thought that Fox would ally with the PRI against
Oaxaca, to attack our Oaxaque~o people. We never
thought there would be massacre of our people."

And the next call: "We are not afraid, we have only our
bodies and our sticks and they have guns. We are brave,
we are Mexicans...we have the force of justice...I will
defend my country. If we die, we die with honor, but
they die with shame." And then he began to weep also.
The announcer replies, "Animo! Animo, compañero!" -
"keep your spirits up, have courage." Well, by now I'm
weeping myself.

The announcer remains calm. They are organized, they
are ready. The helicopters are doing military
reconnaissance, and are certainly trying to terrorize.
A press conference at 6:30 in the zocalo by the APPO
said pretty much the same. We're ready. Keep calm,
don't give in to provocations.

From La Jornada I learned that the helicopters arrived
at the Oaxaca airport with military units, and the
armed forces were also moved to Salina Cruz and Bahi'a
de Huatulco, along with other military equipment such
as tanks, and troops. When they landed "Bienvenidos,
cabrones!" "Bajen, aqui' los esperamos", were the
shots launched at them from people carrying sticks and
pipes. "Welcome, bastards! Come on down, we're here
waiting for you!"

At 9:00 PM Saturday night the APPO closed off the
historic downtown area, telling people who were caught
away from home to present themselves as rapidly as
possible to pass through the barricades. The APPO was
determined to fight off any attack, asking people to
unite in support, and at the same time telling those
outside the city and around the state to organize their

Radio Ley continued calmly presenting a lawyer's
account of what could happen next, as the barricades
defended the city center, an island inside the highway

Thousands gathered very quickly to defend the
barricades. Among them, I was told, were some
foreigners including Univision and CNN. The PRD was
heavily represented. The radio voice asked for food,
water, telephone lines. I went to sleep around 12:30
and could hear the people singing at the barricades,
the basic revolutionary songs. It was kind of like
being in a movie.

At 8:00 AM. On Sunday, October 1, I learned that a
strong overnight mobilization of the popular teachers
movement/APPO went unchallenged. No attack was launched
by the federal government. The morning "shots" turned
out to be rockets fired as the helicopters circled.
Another strategy - is this high tech? - is to run out
with mirrors to reflect back into the helicopters "to
confuse them". Yet another "solution" was to burn green
wood, setting up a smoke screen.

Daylight lets everyone relax. APPO instructed the
guards to take down the barricades, except for those
around the radio stations and outside the zocalo. In
the normal APPO response to challenge, another march
was scheduled of the national health service workers
this morning from several points to the zocalo. About
2,000-3,000 marched. Another day.

The state is militarized, although Captain Unda
Pomposo, chief of the guard in the 10th Naval Military
Zone, based in that port, was quoted as saying they are
only doing "one or two routine flights" in the state.
Over the weekend, three trailers arrived in Bahias de
Huatulco, each one carrying three amphibious tanks
which were placed in the naval base. According to La
Jornada, this makes the biggest military operation the
nation has seen since the Zapatista uprising in Chiapas
in 1994.

Another concentration of forces on the coast arrived by
ship to Salina Cruz, where troops disembarked by sea,
air and land. Usually, according to reports, the Army
keeps 10,000 troops in the state, and there are 4,000
police from the different state units. Now, La Jornada
calculates there are as many as 20,000 military and
police. The state's population is about three and a
half million.

From Salina Cruz also came the four Puma helicopters
to circle the city of Oaxaca. One of them circled
overhead Sunday night when a PRI squad attacked the
barricade located in the neighborhood of Brenamiel.
Thugs kidnapped, beat and tied up three youngsters who
had been on the barricade, one of them twelve years
old. Two of the three youngsters rescued required
medical attention. The APPO people saved them after a
broadcast which generated the mobilization of hundreds
of Oaxaque~os, by the middle of the night almost two

The flight was registered by the Institute of National
Government Statistics; it was violating the rules of
civil aviation.

Monday, October 2 after the commemorative march for the
1968 massacre, the PRI came out again like roaches. Two
more abductions were reported, one of a law student and
activist from the Benito Juarez Autonomous University,
Pedro Garcia, also a member of the Revolutionary Front,
who was walking on Sunday with a woman friend toward
the university when he was snatched by occupants of a
van. On October 3 he was located in the prison at
Tlacolula, charged falsely with carrying explosives. It
seems the police or thugs have reinitiated the use

The other case is Alfredo Melchor Tirado Cruz, member
of the Wide Front for Popular Struggle and of the APPO,
who was grabbed at 1:00 on Tuesday afternoon, also in
Tlacolula. His whereabouts are still unknown. These two
abductions bring the total of arrests to eleven since
the onset of the teachers' popular movement.

The National Education Workers' Union local Section 22
began intensifying the mobilization of the teachers in
the Tehuantepec Isthmus region, occupying offices of
the government and marching. In a press conference the
union's auxiliary secretary of organization, Eleuterio
Lo'pez Ruiz said that the teachers are in agreement to
stick together until Ulises Ruiz Ortiz falls. He
insisted there will be no return to classes, although
some teachers are indeed in the classroom in some
zones, thinking to hold onto their teaching jobs, in a
dissent that chips off fragments of the unit.

By Tuesday, October 3, dozens of organizations from
civil society who belong to the APPO demanded that the
federal government "order the deactivation of all
possible operations and the departure of military
troops from the Oaxaca territory".

At the same time they rejected the "electoral reform"
passed by the Oaxaca legislators (non-PRD members only)
to lengthen the term of office for sitting legislators
and other governing figures, to which in all the
turmoil nobody gave much thought. If Governor Ulises
Ruiz Ortiz ("URO") comes out on top, extended
legislative terms will be only a minor annoyance in
comparison to what many believe will be total

Interior Secretary Carlos Abascal met with twelve
National Action Party (PAN) members of the state
legislature led by federal congressman Dio'doro
Carrasco, president of the Commission on Interior
Governance the of the House of Deputies (Mexico's lower
house of Congress). Invitations to the meeting were not
received by PRD members.

Carrasco admitted that the conflict in Oaxaca changes
every minute. He listed three new ingredients: "the
invitation of the federal government to build an
agreement to restore governability and tranquility to
the state; the military flights over the city, and, he
claimed, the fact that the Popular Revolutionary Army
(EPR) guerrilla group is calling for continued popular

Interviewed at am Inter-American Press Society meeting,
Abascal had exhorted the APPO to look for an agreement
within the institutional means. Before, in a radio
interview he again hinted that the government could
carry out "a peaceful occupation of Oaxaca" so that the
citizens can carry out their activities with security.

With 20,000 military and police personnel looking over
your shoulder, you might not give credence to
guarantees that there will be no repression on the part
of the federal government. Abascal offers a package of
reforms to convert the state legislature (those guys
who just voted themselves extended terms) into a space
for talking amiably with the people, and a refurbishing
of the current legal government. The departure of URO
won't be put on the table.

Neither the APPO nor the teachers attended the meeting
scheduled with the Department of the Interior (known as
Segob in its Spanish abbreviation) for October 4. In a
live radio broadcast of an assembly of the Wide
Progressive Front (FAP) from Mexico City on Wednesday
October 4 it was averred that the problems of state
ungovernability could be solved promptly after the
removal of the powers from the three branches of
government of Oaxaca. The departure of Ulises Ruiz is
the only non-negotiable demand. The assembly was
attended by the PRD politicians elected on July 2 as
federal deputies, who are also members of the APPO. It
was reaffirmed that the Mexican Senate has the
constitutional right and obligation to remove state

In a direct question posed by the Oaxaca radio contact,
the secretary general of the PRD, Guadalupe Acosta, was
asked if the National Democratic Convention - the
opposition movement that "elected" Andre's Manuel
Lo'pez Obrador as "legitimate president of Mexico" on
September 16 - would be willing to act as a human
shield in Oaxaca. Acosta responded, "claro que si'" -
"Yes, of course. We are inclined to participate. We had
information that URO is planning a provocation today to
bring in the federal intervention." He went on to say,
"Today our senators asked the secretary of the Navy not
participate in any attack on Oaxaca."

Tomorrow, Acosta said, there will be a national
mobilization on the part of the National Democratic
Convention to defend Oaxaca.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

August News Summary


1. Zapatistas/Other Campaign
For the past several weeks
Subcomandante Marcos, aka Delegate Zero, has been traveling to different states near Mexico City for private meetings with Other Campaign adherents. Before beginning his travels, he announced that some commanders from the Sixth Commission would soon join him to help with the struggle to free the Atenco political prisoners. The Other Campaign's original plan was that a group of commanders would leave the Jungle in September. It looks like that plan has not changed. Marcos also issued a communiqué on behalf of the Sixth Commission
stating that they were "preparing the next steps." In the communiqué, the Sixth Commission greeted the APPO in Oaxaca, which currently occupies municipalities throughout the state to demand that the governor leave office. APPO representatives are in Mexico City negotiating a resolution to the conflict with the federal government.

2. Presidential Election Update
Mexico's highest electoral court
ruled Monday against the challenges filed by Lopez Obrador and his "For the Good of All" Coalition. This basically paves the way for certification of Felipe Calderón
of the conservative National Action
Party (PAN, its initials in Spanish) to be declared president. The court has until September 6 to give a final vote count and name the president-elect. Meanwhile, Lopez Obrador has vowed to establish a left alternative government and has called for a Democratic National Convention (shades of the EZLN in August, 1994).

3. Chiapas Governor's Election
Juan Sabines, the PRD candidate for
governor of Chiapas, was declared governor-elect on Saturday by the state electoral commission. Sabines won by a margin of only 6,350 votes from over a million cast in the closely contested state election. The PRI will challenge the final ruling. Sabines won in most of the large urban areas while PRI candidate Jose Aguilar held the advantage in indigenous communities and areas that were affected by Hurricane Stan. In an election plagued with irregularities in which less than one-half of registered voters actually cast ballots, the PRI is expected to contest the election results. A major complaint from all the political parties, except the PRD, is that state employees and other state resources (money and welfare programs) were used to promote Sabines.

4. Violence again in El Carrizal, Chiapas -
The Good Government Junta
of Caracol IV (Morelia) denounced violence in El Carrizal community on August 28. According to the denouncement, members of the OCEZ attacked several houses, stoning their Zapatista residents and stealing sacks of corn and beans. A small grocery store and
pharmacy were located
inside one of the houses and the merchandise and money were also stolen. The OCEZ members had weapons which they fired into the air and the ground. Several women fled the community. Similar violence by OCEZ members occurred in July. The OCEZ leadership of that community wants to expel the Zapatista families in order to have the land all

5. Violent eviction near Palenque
A local judge issued an order to
evict the Zapatista community of Choles de Tumbala, belonging to the Caracol of Roberto Barrios, near Palenque. On August 3, the judge went to the community with state and local police to force residents from their homes without giving them time to collect their belongings. All the houses were burned, as were the belongings and domestic animals. Former landowners were the ones who persuaded the judge to issue the eviction order and some of their
civilian workers
accompanied the police. The Good Government Junta of Caracol V (Roberto Barrios) issued a public statement denouncing the eviction.