Letter from Political Prisoners to the People of Oaxaca in Struggle
“You Have Shown Us to Unite in Our Struggles”
By Compañeras Gloria, Mariana, Norma, Suelen, Edith, Magdalena, Maria Luisa and Patricia
Chiconautla and Santiaguito, the State of Mexico
November 11, 2006
Political prisoners from Chiconautla and Santiaguito, Mexico State. November 1, 2006
MESSAGE TO THE HUMBLE AND DIGNIFIED PEOPLE OF OAXACA
In other words, to:
The members of the APPO
The indigenous peoples of Oaxaca
The teachers of Section 22
The Other Campaign in Oaxaca
Every man or woman who does not belong to any
organization but who is taking part in the struggle
All political prisoners
We are honored to address this letter to those who come from below and to the left in Oaxaca.
We cannot get out of prison to be there with you, which is where we would like to be right now. That is why we are sending our words out instead, to tell you that our hearts are with you; that it hurts and angers us every time a compañera or compañero is tortured, imprisoned or killed.
Your pain, dignity and rebellion are being heard loudly, not only in Oaxaca but also throughout the nation and beyond its borders. Here, behind walls and bars, we are listening and making your struggle our own.
As others who come from below and to the left of Mexico, we would like to say THANK YOU, compañeras and compañeros, for the huge lessons you have given us through your own example, regardless of which organization you are from, or whether you are part of any organization at all.
What have we learned from you? What does your example say to México? DIGNITY, REBELLION, SELF-ORGANIZATION, AUTONOMY; and that many steps must be taken to bring these things to life.
You have shown us the DECISION to struggle, to motivate, to OVERCOME FEAR when the state tries to paralyze us with terror.
When, in the State of Mexico, we were hurt and angered by the criminal attack from municipal, state and federal government forces in Atenco; when occupations and roadblocks were criminalized and those from above joined in chorus to sing the praises of the iron fist and the use of repression against social movements, Oaxaca showed us that nothing can stop an entire people rising up together.
You have shown us to UNITE all of our struggles. In a state where social movements are divided among different organizations, with different struggles dispersed throughout and separated not just by geography, but also by different demands, you have shown us that the differences between left organizations can be overcome by a people that UNITES and discovers its own power.
When the state and city police could not act in the capital; when the governor could not travel to any corner of the state; when he was declared persona non grata in the state where he was born; when none of the five hundred counties provided him cover on the night of September 15th, when the government and media offices were occupied by the movement; when the city halls and police headquarters were taken over in some towns, it became clear that the movement had taken on the magnitude of a state in rebellion. It was not those at the top, but rather the people themselves who were rebelling, without falling into provocation and violence (which was to come, for sure, but from above and ultimately draped in the uniform of the PFP and military police).
You learned and taught us ANOTHER WAY OF DOING POLITICS. This did not come from a politically divided Oaxaca, but rather from a Oaxaca that its original peoples live in and know deeply. This form of politics is for and from those below; it does not look to those at the top, or to any party or candidate (although the Democratic Revolutionary Party, or PRD, now wants join the movement).
It is a form of politics from below that does not depend on any one leader or savior; when some leaders held positions that were not in line with the movement they were roundly rejected, which forced them then to LEAD IN OBEDIENCE.
It is a way of doing politics from below that demonstrates that it does what the vanguards lack in doing. It is form of politics that exercises SELF-GOVERNMENT AND DIRECT DEMOCRACY.
In various parts of Mexico, AUTONOMY is coming into existence and being strengthened. Oaxaca has also taught us SELF-GOVERNMENT – not to the extent of achieving an autonomous state, but enough to indicate clear signs of a path that is, indeed, possible: that is, the path of autonomous municipalities (not just those that proclaim themselves as such in the heat of the moment, but also those that have been resisting and fighting for many years) and the corps of topiles, or community police, which offers an autonomous alternative to the corrupt and repressive municipal and state police.
The corps of topiles and the mobile guards steered clear of assault and abuse, and gave order and security to a city taken over by its own inhabitants for five months, a record which stands in contrast to that of the federal preventive police (PFP), who filled the central square of Oaxaca City with excrement and urine on their first day there.
You have shown us that we as a people have the ABILITY TO SAY NO, and can exercise that ability. You have shown us that we as a people have the ability to say no to those who harm us from above, to actually impede the impositions they make on us. You did this when you told Ulises Ruiz to leave and took action to ensure that he could not enter the state, let alone govern it; when you said no to the municipal and state police entering the city and took action to make it so they could not proceed; when you said no to dividing the movement when the government summoned the teachers and gave them an ultimatum and still the people stayed united.
You showed us how important it is for a social movement to create ITS OWN VOICE, ITS OWN THOUGHTS, ITS OWN OPINION. You did not limit yourselves to saying that state TV and commercial radio stations were lying, but also established your own sentry radio station. From the beginning, Ulises Ruiz saw the danger that this posed to his power and recognized that this was the backbone of the movement, so he sent his police to destroy Radio Plantón.
You did not leave control over WORDS in the hands of those at the top; you took over University Radio as well as various commercial radio stations and TV Channel 9. That was when those at the top began to shake with fear – in Oaxaca, in the presidential palace at Los Pinos, in government headquarters, in the offices of the incoming administration and in the military.
Something had supplanted them, which was getting in the way of their ability to dominate the thoughts and hearts of the people of Oaxaca. Now it was the people themselves who were getting out their own voices and creating an OPINION from below. The voices and thoughts coming from below did not just reach one sector or group; they reached all of the inhabitants of the capital city and the state.
THE WOMEN OF OAXACA BROKE ALL OF THE MOLDS and showed us the strength of women. They were at the watch points, the occupations, and the barricades, they flat-out destroyed many myths that subjugate women when, during that spectacular takeover of Channel 9, the women – by themselves – began to broadcast. They demonstrated that women have technical abilities, decision-making skills, intellectual capacity and bravery.
When you women cried, “we will take off our aprons and pick up our rifles,” what you effectively did was to rid yourselves of the stereotype that sends you to the kitchen; and you did not pick up your rifles, but rather something better… control of your own future. Now, who can tell women from below in Oaxaca that they “can’t,” or tell women to “go cook and wash dishes,” or tell them to “go home?”
You showed us a POPULAR SELF-DEFENSE that did not mean using arms; that did not attack, but rather protected and defended. This popular self-defense meant leaving barricades to avoid confrontations with the PFP – not fleeing, but rather returning to build the barricades again. This self-defense did not allow the police to raid the University; it made use of rocks and household items, but more than anything relied on ORGANIZATION. Its mobile guards traversed the city and used the radio stations that had been taken over to warn the people of any aggressive movements by confrontational opposition groups. In response, the people came out of their houses and joined the effort to defend antennas, radio stations and barricades. You showed us that the key to self-defense lies in organization, communication and the people’s willingness to respond. Your capacity to retreat and protect yourselves when necessary was also critical.
The Other Campaign has been exposing the crisis within the political class, as are those of us who refuse to accept the role of mere spectators allowed to vote every six years and keep silent if there is fraud. The movement in Oaxaca also made it clear that what we call the political class is only fit for pigs. The political parties were not at all interested in the people killed by Ulises Ruiz’s thugs, or the people arrested and tortured in Oaxaca.
They made their political calculations and decided that the solution to the conflict in Oaxaca could wait, that it was all right for more lives to be lost while they dedicated themselves to dividing up commissions in the House of Representatives. Now that December 1st is drawing near, the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) has made new political calculations and decided to join the movement in Oaxaca in order to gather support for the National Democratic Convention (CND). Of course, this does not mean that the PRD government of Mexico City will withhold from launching grenades at the Other Campaign’s demonstrations in support of the APPO; they deserve it for not supporting López Obrador!
The political equation of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) is simple: if Ulises Ruiz falls, next in line will be the “Precious Gov” (Mario Marín Torres, governor of Puebla) and other PRI governors. In other words, all hands on deck to support Ulises Ruiz, no matter what happens. Even if it means the PFP has to stay in Oaxaca for five years; even if it means filling the jails with political prisoners.
The calculations of the National Action Party (PAN) are similar, but they take it from a state to a federal level. If Ulises Ruiz falls after just one year of governing thanks to a fraudulent election, how many years can Felipe Calderón expect to last? This reasoning is why PRI and PAN senators prefer the opinion that even if Ulises Ruiz himself does not remain governor of Oaxaca, his administration’s powers of government should not be dissolved.
There is also another calculation in play between the PRI and the PAN: if you let Ulises Ruiz fall, the first says to the second, we will publicly rebuff Calderón by not attending his swearing-in ceremony. It is a threat that the PRI is not prepared to carry out, but one that Calderón, knowing his presidency is illegitimate, fears anyway.
So Fox made a promise, perhaps the only one that he has kept during his six years in office: to resolve the conflict in Oaxaca like he “resolved” the conflicts in Chiapas and Atenco. And he did it in fifteen minutes: the Center for Investigation and National Security (CISEN) is now following every move that the social movement makes – not just in Oaxaca, but all over the country. He put Plan DN-II into effect, which the National Defense Department (SEDENA) uses for counterinsurgency. Under this plan, a peaceful civilian social movement is considered a guerrilla movement and thus an enemy to be defeated. As a result, this of course led to the PFP being sent to Oaxaca to impose a “state of law.”
Everything happening today has a story behind it, and Oaxaca’s is a long one. Thank you compañeras and compañeros for the important lessons you taught us.
It may be said that this is not a perfect movement or that it has had its share of errors – and that may well be true – but it is without a doubt a popular movement that has overwhelmed the political playing field and has put the federal government and the entire political class in check.
No matter what happens from here on, the true result of the movement in Oaxaca will be seen in the years to come, and not just in Oaxaca. It is a seed already sown in fertile land.
We will not hold on to the fear that they try to impose upon us through blood and torture; we will not hold on to the silence that they try to impose upon us with imprisonment. What we will hold on to are the important lessons that you have taught us.
That is how we can best show you our support, given what is within our reach.
With our hearts, eyes and ears on Oaxaca,
Gloria Arenas Agis
Santa María Detention Center, Chiconautla Ecatepec
Mariana Selvas Gómez
Norma Jiménez Osorio
Suelen Cuevas Jaramillo
Edith Rosales Gutiérrez
Magdalena García Durán
Maria Luisa López Morán
Patricia Romero Hernández
Santiaguito Detention Center, Almoloya de Juárez
Originally published in Spanish Novermber 9
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