Mexico: Oaxaca Declines to be 'Governed'

Mark mark at
Wed Aug 29 08:54:23 BST 2007

BE CONSULTED - 23rd September in the Zapotec community of La Ventosa, of
the municipality of Juchitán, State of Oaxaca.

Oaxaca Declines to be “Governed”
The Struggle Shifts from the City to Land and Water Issues

By Nancy Davies
Commentary from Oaxaca

August 24, 2007


Last year in 2006 the state of Oaxaca was clearly ungovernable, although
neither the state nor federal authorities would formally so declare,
because they could not throw out the governor – the state because
the governor’s PRI rules all three branches of power; the feds
because the weak president Calderón requires the assistance of the PRI.
But ungovernability was no secret; unions were on strike, roads were
blockaded, government offices were blocked for business, the governor and
legislatures went hiding, and the citizens took the streets, while
dirty-war arrests, murder and torture shadowed daily life.

Flash forward one year and here is the scene: the state of Oaxaca, despite
a Federal Preventive Police unit on every corner, is ungovernable. Arrests
and violations of human rights, in the same dirty war, continue.

The teachers union Section 22, mover of the Movement, was split by the
governor so that a new small sector called Section 59 supported him and
the PRI. Now two union sectors oppose URO’s failing government.
Section 59 is banging down the doors of the education building to protest
the governor’s failure to fulfill his promises to these teachers.
What a surprise.

About two hundred schools remain in the control of Section 59; in others
the two contentious sections work in the same building, causing
significant stress. Section 22 refuses to accept the existence of Section
59, and now, since 59 has figured out that they backed a governor who
ignores them, Section 22 is going about the delicate business of wooing 59
back into the fold. The power of 70,000 united teachers was and would be

The strength of the secretary general of Section 22 , like his predecessor
Enrique Rueda Pacheco, is wobbly, to say the least. According to a teacher
who spoke about the situation, Rueda Pacheco was simultaneously wooed and
threatened by the governor. His family were threatened with death if Rueda
did not accept the government pay-off. Rueda has left Mexico –
nobody knows to which country – and according to this teacher, once
he was gone the government cut off the money they had promised him.

The possibility now is that Ezekial Rosales has fallen under the same
threats. It seems to be standard procedure to threaten to murder children
of activists (as we know from Dr. Bertha Muñoz). However, according to
many others, such as APPO counselor Marcelino Coache Verano, the all-out
call by Section 22 and/or the APPO has not been issued; if the teachers
were summoned to the streets or encampments, Coache claims, they would all
respond regardless of the plight of their secretary, along with the APPO.

–Several other unions are, have been, or are about to go on strike.
The unions which are government unions, that is, work for the state, and
receive their salaries from the state, are unhappy. In addition to
teachers, the university education workers, health care workers, even
local police and firefighters protest. On August 22 Las Noticias’
headline reads STEUABJO BLOCKADES THE HIGHWAY. These are the staff of the
main university of Oaxaca. Also on page one, the police in Xoxocotlan
protested the removal of their chief.

–In the past two months the taxi drivers have blocked roads to
protest the incompetence and criminal actions of the government in
distributing cab licenses for bribe money –what a surprise– so
that there are now thousands of taxis on the roads, with no resolution to
the license scandal in sight. The bus drivers have blocked the highways
with buses, complaining about their work conditions and the dreadful
condition of aging buses, which occasionally fall of the mountain roads
due to the crumbling condition of the roads themselves.

–The citizens have taken to the streets. Not the APPO –
it’s the PRI-supporting merchants. Another surprise! They protested
the government intention to close further streets around the central
zócalo, to repave and repair them, to turn them into pedestrian streets.
This was after the merchants complained of near-bankruptcy during the
teacher encampment when few cars drove into the center. Once again the
people – only the label has changed– are tearing out the
parking meters (allegedly owned by private persons) and on the streets
scheduled for construction, they forcefully removed the orange cones and
blocked the workers.

The city of Tlaxiaco protests the August 8 transfer of seventy-three
persons to another prison, six hours journey for their families, with no
advance warning nor discussion of the violation of prisoner rights. Also
in the streets are protesters for a town where access to the trash dumps
is blockaded, another where a bridge fell down in the rain, and yet
another where paved streets have dissolved. Entire communities, like San
Pablo Huixtepec, claim they have been abandoned by the government; photos
of falling down buildings and half-constructed schools, roads in ruins and
black water running where there is no drainage system, are published
daily. Poverty continues unabated (according to official reports, 104
Oaxaca communities live at the level of African poverty), and despite
daily news items about human rights violations, these also continue and
nobody is indicted. The savage beating of a electrician on July 16 has
slipped into the official territory of “yes, we will look into
it” smoke and mirrors.

On August 22, in the Oaxaca streets, marchers observed the first year
anniversary of the death of Lorenzo San Pablo at the hands of the
government paramilitaries with a “March for Justice”. A small
but fervent group walked with candles, wooden crosses (saying
“misery”, and “injustice”), and banners which read
“A person who dies for the people never dies.” Moving from the
Siete Regiones fountain to the Catedrál on the Alameda in the center city,
they stopped en route in the rain to offer a memorial at the spot where
San Pablo was shot. Then, many with their faces painted white to depict
the ghosts of the dead who walk among us, they continued to the cathedral
where a chorus sheltering beneath their umbrellas in the rain sang hymns
with political pro-APPO lyrics. On the pavement in front of the Catedrál
the traditional sand carpet in memory of a deceased person portrayed the
bird of peace and the APPO clenched red fist. A truckload of state
troopers armed to riot level patrolled the adjoining streets.

During the week of August 5 four visitors from Catalonia were arrested and
abused before being deported. But perhaps it was only the rain which kept
people from attending the memorial march; many others arrived in time for
the mass.

The APPO as an organized body seems virtually invisible as they struggle
to plan ways to confront the government. Some say internal disputes have
enervated them. Therefore, with an ongoing and visible lack of
governability in Oaxaca, one might indeed agree that the APPO is
everything and everybody. Or that ungovernability is due to other causes
– perhaps you might say the people do not submit; perhaps you might
say it’s the ineptitude of the governor and his cronies. Last week
URO went to the United States where he was confronted with protests in
several cities, including New York. Protesters in the street threw
tomatoes at the restaurant where URO and other governors were said to be
dining. Oaxaca human rights violations are so widely known that even in
Finland Oaxaca is regarded as an example, according to a man just returned
from there, of the struggle for human dignity; information about Oaxaca
has reached global levels.

However, within Mexico the best that has been done was a call on the part
of the Human Rights Commission sub-procurator, Juan de Dios Castro Lozano,
for Ulises Ruiz to resign, for his human rights violations and for the
good of the people. Then Castro, a PAN member, the very next day,
retracted his statement saying, “My feelings ran away with me, and I
shouldn’t have mentioned either the governor or his institutions,
although he may have an ideology contrary to that of this (PAN)
government,” according to an on-line article in La Jornada. When
Castro issued his retraction he claimed, nonetheless, that he agrees with
the verdict of the National Commission on Human Rights — there were
excesses committed. Yet another surprise.

And speaking of human rights, the attorney for El Comité de Liberacion de
Noviembre, the November Committee of Freedom of Oaxaca, was picked up by
the police on Wednesday August 22. According to the committee, Alejandro
Noyola was driving in his car with his wife when police from Santa Lucía
del Camino intercepted him. They dragged him out of his car and took him
to the Santa Lucia del Camino prison, claiming a driving infraction. He
was later released. Noyola says he has been persecuted since July 19 when
he filed for court protection for the lives of five lawyers, including
himself, defending human rights cases.

The year of the uprising has not yet come to an end.

Meanwhile, in other parts of the state, the transnational projects
continue and a meeting has been called for the ”Defense of the Land
and National Sovereignty and for the Right of the Indian Peoples to be
Consulted“ (see below for the formal convocation). The struggle at
the base has overtly shifted to the indigenous populations who demand
control over their land and water. Although it was reported as long ago as
last year that residents of the indigenous communities were organizing,
too many actions were going on in the big cities for the rural areas to
receive much attention. Then we were regaled with stories of ”throw
the rascals out“ in many rural towns. Now struggles over mining,
forests, land, and water have come to the fore.

For the actors, this the sequence of focus on the various Movement
players: the teachers in Section 22, then the APPO, then civil society and
non-governmental organizations, and now the indigenous and rural
populations. The Popular Movement doesn’t die. It changes form and
location. The demands for justice continue.




In these last years, with the imposition of mega-projects like the Plan
Puebla-Panama damage and violence to the indigenous and rural populations
has been intensifying. The grand programs of investment in energy projects
which the federal government is promoting are oriented to benefit the
transnational corporations. They don’t take into account the rights
of the communities affected nor the high environmental and economic costs
which the carrying out of these projects entails. Furthermore, the Mexican
government violates international accords and treaties like national
legislation, since in the execution of these programs the affected
indigenous communities have been neither informed nor consulted.

With these mega-projects the federal government also is promoting the
privatization of the energy industry, which is a national patrimony, to
benefit mainly North American and Spanish corporations The Federal
Electric Commission in spite of being a public business is acting as if it
were the property of a group of politicians and technocrats, offering bad
service with high costs and constructing works which mean the dislocation
of entire populations as recently occurred with the indigenous communities
of the zone El Cajón in Nayarit.

At this very moment the second phase of a gigantic eo-electric park is
opening operations, without consultation and as an overt pilfering of
socially owned land, to build in the Istmo de Tehuantepec. This
mega-project has now meant the ruin of more than 1,000 hectares which are
the property of ejidos and communities, all in benefit of the
transnational Iberdrola; the operation of 98 air generators in the zone of
La Venta has already caused great mortality among birds along with
draining the lagoon of Tolistoque, since the environmental impact studies
were approved in spite of the great irregularities which they present.
Nevertheless, throughout the whole country, entire communities have raised
their voices, along with unions, groups of citizens and environmentalists
with the goal of stopping the policies which affect the population.
Principally in the southeast of our country a movement of civil resistance
is growing against the high electric costs. The Guerrero campesinos have
managed until now to halt the construction of La Parota dam, converting
themselves thereby into a national example of resistance. And in the Istmo
de Tehuantepec an important struggle exists against the eolic (wind
generator) mega-projects. Nevertheless many of these efforts are carried
out in isolation and with small results. The struggles which the peoples
and organizations bring forth are unknown by the majority of Mexicans and
that prevents a greater solidarity and backing, which is necessary to
confront the interests of politicians and transnational corporations.

For all these reasons we communities, ejidos, indigenous and rural
organizations, social groups and people listed below sign this call to
participate in the Encuentro Mexicano por la Defensa de la Tierra y la
Soberanía Nacional y por el Derecho a la Consulta de los Pueblos Indios
which will take place between the 22nd and 23rd of September of 2007 in
the Zapotec community of La Ventosa, of the municipality of Juchitán,
State of Oaxaca. In this meeting we will discuss in worktables as well as
in plenaries the struggles of resistance taking place in various parts of
the country; we will seek to coordinate actions to confront the great
transnational corporations and the hand-over policies of the Mexican
State; and we will denounce the grave social and environmental damage
which they have caused.

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