Revolution #97, July 29, 2007

Update on the Struggle in Oaxaca, Mexico:

Thousands of People Clash with Police at Cerro del Fortin

On Monday, July 16, the state and municipal police forces brutally attacked more than 10,000 people in Oaxaca City, the capital of the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca, who had gathered at the Plaza de la Danza to participate in a cultural event called the People’s Guelaguetza. Featuring traditional dances and music from various regions in Oaxaca, the People’s Guelaguetza was so well attended that people marched to hold it at a larger auditorium atop a hill called Cerro del Fortin. The APPO (Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca), members of the teachers’ union, and other local residents organized the cultural celebration as an alternative to the government-sponsored event which attracts tourists from the U.S. and other countries every July and charges an entry fee that most people in Oaxaca can’t afford.

The police forces shot teargas and gas bombs into the crowd. For more than 3 hours people fought back. A line of 6 public buses was burned. Barricades were built with rocks and cars. Supporters brought out buckets of Coca Cola and vinegar for people to use to protect their eyes and skin from the gas fumes. A fearless woman stood face to face with the riot police, calling them “murderers” and demanding they leave. The police beat people and targeted teachers and journalists.

More than 50 people were arrested. Some were blindfolded and their hair was cut off before they were taken to different detention facilities. The prisoners are currently being held for bail of $2 million pesos (about $185,000) each and charged with damages to public and private property.

The scenes of the clash at Cerro del Fortin were reminiscent of the months-long people’s rebellion in Oaxaca to oust the hated Governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz (URO) that came to a head in the summer of last year. URO became the target of the rage and discontent of people throughout Oaxaca for brutal repression of mass struggles, including attacks on indigenous peasant movements and on journalists. The world’s attention was drawn to Oaxaca when URO violently repressed a teachers’ movement that started in May 2006 and still continues. This struggle demands education reforms, meal programs for school children, school supplies for students, and salary increases for teachers.

Photographs recently published in the Mexican press graphically show how the police severely beat Emeterio Merino Cruz, a 43-year-old teacher, on July 16. Cruz is now in a coma with serious cranial and brain damage, and doctors say he has a slim chance of surviving. His wife Hilaria Franco Barroso, a preschool teacher, told Noticias de Oaxaca, “I put the blame squarely on the government. To me it’s responsible for all of this because all they had to do was let the people demonstrate and open up (the auditorium) so that the true Guelaguetza could be presented, which is to give and not ask for nor take the people’s money.” She added that she believes that the police targeted him because he is a teacher, and he had his teacher’s credentials on him.

In the days following July 16, the road leading to and from the mountainous Mixteca region in western Oaxaca—which has been a strong center of indigenous peasant support for the struggle in Oaxaca City—was blocked to protest the repression and to demand the release of all the prisoners.

As we go to press, Oaxaca City is currently being patroled around the clock by police, military soldiers, and governement-hired thugs. Thousands of people have marched through the streets in protest despite this thick air of intimidation. Many in the teachers’ movement and others have called for a boycott of the government-sponsored Guelaguetza and called for large demonstrations on July 21-23 and July 28-30. A spokesperson for the APPO told La Jornada, “The real problem will be resolved with the ouster of Ulises Ruiz Ortiz from the Oaxacan government.”

For background on the struggle in Oaxaca and the overall situation in Mexico, see these articles available online at “Report from Oaxaca” (Parts 1, 2, 3, and 4); “Sharp Contention at the Top and Mass Discontent from Below—Mexico: Massive Protests Against Presidential Inauguration” (issue #71); Special Revolution supplement, “Mexico: The Political Volcano Rumbles” (originally in issue #60).

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