Members of the Zapatista Other Campaign Blockade the Mexico City-Acapulco Superhighway in Defense of the People of Oaxaca
On the Day of the Dead, Mexico’s Busiest Highway is Brought to a Standstill to Demand the Immediate Withdrawal of the PFP from Oaxaca
By Greg Berger
The Other Journalism with the Other Campaign in Morelos
November 1, 2006
Tens of thousands of people from Mexico City and surrounding states headed south today towards the beachfront resorts of Acapulco to celebrate Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead). It is one of Mexico’s most sacred days, when the dead are believed to walk the earth once again and return to visit their loved ones. It is also a national holiday and the start of a long weekend. As leisurely tourists approached kilometer 114 along the Autopista del Sol Highway in the State of Morelos, near the town of Alpuyeca, thousands of motorists had to hit their brakes, suddenly coming to the realization that millions of Mexicans chose today to honor their dead not by going to the beach, but by demanding justice for those killed by paramilitary groups loyal to Oaxaca Governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz, and by the Federal Preventative Police (PFP).
Photos: D.R. Greg Berger
As readers of this newspaper know, on Sunday Mexican President Vicente Fox sent thousands of members of the PFP
to dislodge the five-month long peaceful occupation of Oaxaca’s capital city by the Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca (APPO). For months, the newly formed APPO
has struggled to bring to national and international attention the numerous and well-documented human rights abuses committed by Governor Ruiz in Oaxaca. Fox justified his use of force in Oaxaca as a necessary step to bring order to the region after three people were murdered last Friday on the APPO
’s barricades, including our compañero
, authentic journalist Brad Will. What Fox has failed to explain, however, is why the PFP
chose to go after the APPO
instead of members of the paramilitary groups loyal to Governor Ruiz that were captured on photo and video murdering Brad and members of the APPO
. Fox also claims that no civilians were killed on Sunday’s raid. Footage obtained by Narconews and available for viewing
on salonchingon.com show the death of Jorge Alberto Lopez Bernál, a nurse who was killed by a projectile fired by the PFP
. Two more are said to have been killed during the PFP
On Monday, the Sixth Commission of the Zapatista Other Campaign called for a “nation-wide shut down” in solidarity with the APPO and the people of Oaxaca. In a communiqué read aloud by Subcomandante Marcos, compañeros from the Other Campaign throughout Mexico were called upon to blockade highways and means of communication throughout the country in demand of an immediate withdrawal of the PFP from Oaxaca. Members of the Other Campaign in the State of Morelos met yesterday to determine when and how to heed to this call. Although the clear strategic choice was the Autopista del Sol Mexico-Acapulco, the plan was kept secret in order to avoid a police ambush. Members of the press were not informed and rumors were intentionally circulated that the blockade would happen in the Eastern part of Morelos State. It would be a relatively small group of people that would conduct the operation, but no matter; what numbers could not provide, logistics and careful planning would.
At approximately 11 AM this morning, twenty people, both young and old, sprung from the bushes of an underpass along this interstate highway. Some of them chose to cover their faces with red bandanas while others chose not to conceal their identities, despite the Federal law that they were about to break in the name of their cause. Two people ran ahead to slow traffic down with a red bandana, while the rest fanned out across the lane heading south towards the beach destinations of Guerrero State. Their banners read, “Stop the Repression! Ulises and the PFP
out of Oaxaca!” And as traffic quickly piled up in front of their faces, they chanted: “This blockade is national!” and the now famous slogan of the APPO “¡Ya cayó! ¡Ya cayo! ¡Ulises ya cayó!
” (“He’s fallen! He’s fallen! Ulises has already fallen!”)
Even as some drivers came out of the cars to express solidarity with the blockade, other travelers were furious. One irate man grabbed signs and made mock kung-fu gestures in an attempt to engage the protesters in a fight. Echoing the restraint displayed by the thousands of members of the APPO and their supporters in Oaxaca as the PFP fired projectiles and water cannons at them on Sunday, the protesters along the highway refused to engage in violence. Instead, after a ten minute blockade, they stepped aside and allowed traffic to pass.
After regrouping under a nearby bridge, and being reinforced by latecomers to the action, the group switched strategy. They decided to return to the highway and engage in a similar 10 minute blockade, after which traffic would be allowed to pass. In the meantime, they would remind drivers why they were there and ask them to take action on behalf of the people of Oaxaca.
This cycle was repeated at least six times. As they let traffic pass after each blockade, cars honked their horns in support. The relatively small group of members of the Other Campaign managed to sustain this blockade over the course of two hours. Plainclothes officers appeared across the street ominously, and began to photograph the scene. After several passes, a patrol car belonging to the same PFP
that currently holds Oaxaca in a state of siege, pulled over. As the officer approached the demonstrators, a truck belonging to the State Ministerial Police pulled up behind him.
The PFP officer approached one young person whose face was covered by a bandana, and asked how many people would be participating in the blockades. The young man responded, “There are a lot of us.” Someone else added, “More of us than there are of you.”
A helicopter approached overhead, and a pickup truck containing State Police officers barreled down the shoulder, a half a kilometer away. No longer able to hold out against the threat of their imminent arrest, the protesters from the Other Campaign scrambled back into the same bushes from which they had emerged.
Getaway cars already strategically placed, all the protesters managed to scatter and escape the scene, despite the manhunt that the State Police soon started in the area.
The action along the Mexico City-Acapulco highway coincided with actions coordinated throughout the country, in Chiapas, Tlaxcala, Mexico City, and even the U.S. – Mexico border, where the international bridge connecting Juarez and El Paso was temporarily shut down. When asked about the planned nationwide shut-down, one hunger striker from the APPO in Mexico City told this correspondent “It’s great. These are the kinds of things that are going to happen now that Fox has demonstrated his desperation. We’ve already Won.”
As morning passed into afternoon, people throughout Mexico prepared to greet the spirits of the dead in their homes tonight.
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