Oaxaca’s APPO Forms Permanent Government, Announces Escalation of Resistance
3,000 Delegates Meet in the Midst of State Repression and Reorganize for the Struggle Ahead
By Nancy Davies
Commentary from Oaxaca
November 14, 2006
Three thousand Oaxaqueños responded to the first call of the Asamblea Popular de Pueblos de Oaxaca (Popular Assembly of the Peoples’ of Oaxaca, or APPO) on Friday, November 10, to forge a new constitution for Oaxaca. The APPO sprang into life in the two days following the attempted eviction of striking teachers from their zocalo encampment on June 14, 2006. It has guided the social movement in Oaxaca since then, and now self-dissolves in favor of a permanent structure of government which includes an executive and legislative branch. The provisional directorship dissolved on formally initiating the work of the constitutive congress.
The new organ is the State Council of the Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca (CEAPPO, in its Spanish initials). It consists of 260 representatives of all the seven regions of Oaxaca. Forty seats were assigned to the democratic teachers union. The CEAPPO also includes merchants, students, bus and taxi drivers, unions, women, non-governmental organizations, political parties and social groups. Honorific spaces were reserved for the political prisoners. All members of CEAPPO have the same rights and obligations.
Between 800 and 1000 (depending on sources) delegates from neighborhoods and barricades, political and social organizations joined arrivals from the seven regions of the state. Another 100 invited persons joined them, wearing yellow guest badges. The sixty or so national and international press people who also showed up were not permitted into the working sessions headed by members of APPO’s provisional directors, which include Flavio Sosa Villavicencio, Zenén Bravo Castellano, Rosendo Ramírez Sánchez and Marcos Leyva Madrid. Zenén Bravo was selected as president of the council. The men were nominated by a plenary, along with two vice-presidents and four recorders.
The meetings were held in the auditorium of the Hotel Magisterio, which was also the venue for the meeting with Delegado Zero of the Other Campaign when the Zapatistas visited Oaxaca last February.
CEAPPO has formed in the face of the extreme repression currently underway by the governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz, who operates both through his PRI and paid henchmen and police in civilian clothes. The spirit of the CEAPPO is revolutionary, in a pacific, democratic and humanistic stance which is openly anti neoliberal and based on the traditional people power shown in usos y costumbres (“uses and customs”), a method of governing which is open and face to face. Ample provisions for recall of officials, referenda and plebiscites are included in the form of the council.
In content, CEAPPO supports economic social justice, equality of persons, respect for differences, respect for the rights of women, respect for indigenous people and their autonomy, and development in benefit of the peoples of Oaxaca with high concern for sustainability and renewable resources.
The gathered constitutive congress met for three days. On Friday the work began on the registration of delegates from different organizations and community leaders, as well as participants on the barricades which the APPO designed after June 17. Registration took the whole day Friday, and so little time was left for work sessions that the meting adjourned.
At the initial meeting of the first night’s constitutive council, which was heavily dominated by men, the women present protested vigorously. Ultimately it was decided that a minimum of 30 percent of the permanent council will be women. The sessions were all lively, with booing down of objectionable suggestions and cheers for good ones – participative democracy.
On Saturday, some 600 delegates defined the statues, the declaration of principles and the program of action for the new body as well as electing the permanent directors who will function in a role akin to an executive department.
Working Sunday and throughout the night, by dawn the congress had elaborated its new plan of action, which includes continuing the struggle to unseat the governor Ulises Ruiz. The departure of Ruiz is “not negotiable.” Activities were outlined, such as putting up more blockades, and renewing the mobile brigades. This has to take place within the uncertainty of the occupying forces of Federal Preventive Police (PFP), who may or may not be withdrawn, and with the dirty war underway.
The Oaxacan movement will also send a delegation to Mexico City on November 20 to participate in the protest of former presidential candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador, but only as a symbolic expression of the struggle for democracy. The APPO also agreed to protest the inauguration of Felipe Calderon if URO doesn’t leave before December 1.
At the first meeting, on Friday, the APPO reiterated, “The conditions don’t exist for a return to classes.” Nevertheless, about 70 percent of teachers are returning. Some remain in the encampment in Mexico DF. It is expected that returns will be phased in during next week , with the avowed purpose of teaching about what happened in Oaxaca and the popular movement. While URO remains in power, this maybe very dangerous work.
While the congress was gathering for its first day of meetings, the zocalo was occupied by the Federal Preventive Police, and the tourist area was occupied by the APPO and teachers who won’t return to classes while danger exists. During the time period of November 1 to November 10, about 49 students and APPO leaders were snatched off the street without warrants by men in civilian clothing who drove unmarked automobiles. Among the apprehended were two minors. Civil rights violations perpetrated by the government included entering private homes without warrant to arrest the highly visible people of the APPO and the teachers.
Although Human Rights organizations demanded to know where and who was being held, or an account for the dead, it was not offered.
Seeking safety, the most visible of the APPO and teachers threatened asked for sanctuary within the church and were granted it by the church official Wilfredo Meyran, who a day later was overridden by the bishop of Oaxaca, Jose Luis Chavez Botello. The bishop, in a news conference, declared that the church was devoted to the kingdom of heaven and could not get involved in earthly politics. Meyran is a long-time ally of former bishop of Chiapas Samuel Ruis, and appeared with him when Ruiz was in Oaxaca in support of the APPO.
University classes were scheduled to resume on Monday, but many did not due to the violent conditions around the university campus. Some professors decided it wasn’t safe; some students made the same decision. At the same time, the static blocking of Radio Universidad continued, and the blockade of University City was maintained, so that in effect the information coming from the APPO was unavailable. The radio broadcasters were unable to leave University City for fear of their lives, and remained, living inside the autonomous area.
Radio Ciudadano, also known as Radio Patito, continued broadcasting names of the movement adherents as well at those of teachers, with suggestions to capture or harm them. This station is generally regarded as supported by the PRI government. The names of the Radio Universidad broadcasters are well known and have been made public. Human rights protests to prevent the pro-government station from issuing threats have been ignored. By the end of the week, November 10, the Radio Universidad signal was completely blocked.
At virtually the same time, a nationwide National Assembly, modeled after the APPO, is being constructed. The national convention of state delegates will take place in Mexico City on the 18th and 19th of November. It will analyze the national situation, the actual situation of the member assemblies, establish its own form and rules, and plan its national action. To date, about twelve states are expected to send delegates to the Asamblea Popular de Pueblos de Mexico, the APPM.
Although Ulises Ruiz in Oaxaca tries to portray in the mainstream media that all is returning to normal (the PFP boys eat popsicles while standing on guard blocking entry to the zocalo) my personal observation as your commentator is that the movement will remain active and resolute.
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