Revolution #73, December 17, 2006


Oaxaca: State Moves to Crush Resistance, People Remain Defiant

A wave of terror and collective punishment has been unleashed by the Mexican state against the rebellious people of Oaxaca. For over five months, starting in June, striking teachers and their supporters had taken over the central town square in Oaxaca City, shut down the highways, blocked government buildings and taken over radio and television stations. This movement, led by Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca (APPO), has been demanding a living wage and the ouster of the Oaxaca’s hated governor, Ulises Ruiz Ortiz (URO).

Now, in the name of “ending impunity” and “restoring the rule of law,” the state has moved to try to crush the rebellion. The streets have been taken back from the people, and truckloads of state, municipal, and Federal Preventive Police (PFP) armed with high-powered rifles occupy the streets. Groups of paramilitary thugs, riding in vehicles with no license plates and darkened windows, have been unleashed to shoot at people indiscriminately or jump out and kidnap people. These “civilians” are organized and incited by a pro-URO radio station that calls them out to attack protesters and even to burn down the homes and offices of bourgeois opposition party members.

The murderers of Indymedia journalist Brad Will--who were identified as municipal authorities from Santa Lucia, a town near Oaxaca City--have been freed without charges, even though the photograph of these men in the act of shooting Brad on Oct. 27 was published on the front page of the large daily newspaper Universal for the world to see.

Governor Declares a Bloody and Violent “Normality”

Since the last megamarch in Oaxaca on Nov. 25, there have been at least 200 arrests; 5 people have been killed; many, many have been wounded; and dozens, maybe hundreds, of people have been disappeared. Many of those arrested have been moved to maximum security prisons scattered over three states, and bail for them is being set at outrageous levels--4,000,000 pesos (around $400,000)--making it very difficult to wage a battle to defend the prisoners. On November 26, the day after unarmed protesters were shot in the streets, URO stood in the Zócalo, the central town square, and triumphantly declared that normality had been restored to Oaxaca.

Throughout the six months of this conflict, hundreds of arrest warrants have been issued against teachers and activists--and now the authorities are moving to round them up. Bounty-hunters are traveling into the communities around the state of Oaxaca and using pictures to search for those targeted for arrest or disappearance. The newspaper Noticias de Oaxaca described the detention of teachers at one school: “Frightened and with tears in their eyes, the students of the May 5th Primary School watched as police arrested their teachers.” In response to this witch-hunt, teachers have carried out strikes in schools throughout the state.

At the November 25 megamarch, thousands of people came from all over Oaxaca to march and demand that the governor must step down, the PFP must go, and the political prisoners must be released. The people formed a human chain around the PFP in the main plaza, with the intention of maintaining this peaceful protest for 48 hours to demand that the occupation of Oaxaca by federal troops must end. This was just a few days before the inauguration of Felipe Calderón as the new president of Mexico, and the state had decided to take measures to crush this movement of resistance in Oaxaca. The PFP moved against the people in a big way. They filled the city center with suffocating tear-gas, shot rubber bullets, and moved with tanks against the people. Meanwhile, plainclothes URO supporters opened fire on the unarmed people. The people defended themselves with rocks and homemade weapons. Several government offices and cars were burned in the course of the battle. Noticias de Oaxaca described how the people formed up battle lines and built barricades to go up against the tanks and the police who were armed with high-powered rifles: “Older people passed out cola drinks to lessen the effects of tear gas. The women broke rocks into stones. Others made Molotov cocktails to supply the throwing lines.” Youth carried shields that had been liberated from the PFP and painted with the slogan “And the resistance continues.”

Calderón and His Imperialist Backers

On December 1, in one of the first acts of his new presidency, Calderón included URO among the other governors invited to lunch at Calderón's residence.

Calderón has won the confidence of high-level U.S. imperialist politicians and capitalist investors, and he has vowed to make Mexico safe for foreign investment. An important part of enforcing this message is protecting URO from being forced from office by an upsurge of the people. The Calderón government says, in talking about the repression being carried out in Oaxaca, that the “rule of law” is being restored. Overall, the Calderón program will bring down much more repression against the people of Mexico, as he pushes through to further open up the country to imperialist exploitation--and from this standpoint, Calderón and the Mexican rulers can't allow the rebellion of the Oaxacan people to spread throughout the country.

George Grayson--a reactionary “expert” on Mexico who is an adviser to the U.S. State Department and a frequent guest on major media shows, and whose articles are featured on fascist attack dog David Horowitz’s Front Page magazine--recently made it clear what is expected from Calderón to defend the interests of imperialism. Appearing on CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight on Nov. 9, Grayson talked about meeting Calderón the day before in Washington, D.C.: “We discussed what I call the 'Tlatelolco taboo'--that is, the unwillingness of the Mexican government to use force against lawbreakers…” Grayson said that Calderón had assured him he would not waver in breaking out of this “taboo” that has haunted the Mexican ruling class since 1968, when the government massacre of student protesters just before the Mexico City Olympics became a symbol of the criminal, bloody nature of Mexico's rulers.

Since his inauguration, Calderón has worked to live up to the ghoulish expectations of the U.S. and the international “investment community.” On the day of his inauguration, Calderón claimed that he was willing to dialog with anyone from the opposition. Flavio Sosa, one of the leaders of APPO (and a member of a ruling class opposition party, the PRD), took Calderón at his word. Sosa made an appointment to talk to an official in the Ministry of the Interior and came to Mexico City with that understanding. But instead of dialog, police surrounded the press conference that Sosa held the afternoon before the meeting, arrested him in the street, and carried him off to a maximum security prison.

Protests Continue

On Dec. 3, 300 family members of the detained marched through the streets of Oaxaca City and encircled the Zócalo to demand the release of the prisoners. They stood right in front of the PFP troops, challenging the climate of fear they are trying to impose. Some family members painted their faces and wore chains on their hands and blindfolds on their eyes to dramatize the torture of their loved ones. The families spoke of how the PFP acted “in complicity with the state ministerial police, taking persons arrested on Nov. 25 to clandestine dungeons where they tortured them. The women prisoners were sexually assaulted and beaten and then men were beaten for hours. ‘All were inflicted with humiliating attacks on their humanity…’” They spoke of how they spent days searching for their family members until finding that they had been transferred to a prison in the northern state of Nayarit, far from the southern state of Oaxaca.

While the state has moved to crush the people’s struggle, the defiant and heroic people of Oaxaca are determined to bring forth another message. Over and over again in the Mexican press, the point is made that the Oaxacan people have lost their fear of the state. They have declared that the struggle will continue until URO goes--and this is setting an example in a country where millions have participated in anti-government demonstrations over the past months. The Oaxacan artist Francisco Toledo formed a committee of well-known artists, intellectuals, lawyers, and representatives of the Catholic church--called the Nov. 25 Coalition--to demand that the disappeared be returned alive and the prisoners be released. Another megamarch is planned in Oaxaca City for Sunday, Dec. 10.

Send us your comments.

If you like this article, subscribe, donate to and sustain Revolution newspaper.

What Humanity Needs
From Ike to Mao and Beyond