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The Popular Assembly Movement Advances While Neoliberalism Stalls

Throughout the State, Communities Continue to Organize Themselves in Resistance


By Nancy Davies
Commentary from Oaxaca

January 8, 2007

Here’s a run-down of events in Oaxaca that support my perception that the Popular Assembly movement is growing:

1. The Council of the State Popular Assembly (APPO) announced the creation of more autonomous municipalities and autonomous territories, naming San Juan Copala and Villa de Zaachila (a small town near the capital of Oaxaca) as models to follow for the achievement political rule more in favor of equality.

Among the entities in rebellion, the APPO recognized the January 1, 2007 creation of the Free and Autonomous Municipality of San Juan Copala comprised of 20 communities inhabited by about 20,000 indigenous Triqui who “dis-owned” their municipal authorities and declared an autonomous municipality, calling it San Juan Copala, and declaring their affiliation with the APPO. According to the APPO announcement, they voted to reject their prior “constitutional” government. A Council of Elders handed the leadership baton to the “presidente popular” José Ramírez Flores, a 32-year-old campesino who attended school to the sixth grade, as reported in Milenio on January 2.

The Triqui people who decided to declare themselves autonomous formed part of three prior municipalities, Juxtlahuaca, Putla de Guerrero y Tlaxiaco. “We know the government is not going to recognize us, but we are going to recognize (the new entity) as our own government and we are going to support it. We are going to govern ourselves because they (the municipal governments) are not indigenous, they’re not Triqui, and they don’t know how to govern,” asserted Jorge Albino Ortiz, council member of the APPO on behalf of the Unified Movement for the Triqui Independence Struggle (MULTI, Movimiento Unificado de Lucha Triqui Independiente.

“... This was also something we learned from the APPO, taking decisions ourselves regarding what pertains to us,” Albino Ortiz added. According to the members of the new government, since taking office in December of 2004, Ulises Ruiz has been responsible for 70 political assassinations in the area. The state authorities acknowledge only 48.

2. At least thirteen alternative governments have formed, among them: San Miguel Chimalapas, Santo Domingo Tehuantepec, San Blas Atempa, Jalapa del Marquez and Santiago Xilotepec, located in the region of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec; plus San Antonio Castillo Velasco, San Francisco Telixtlahuaca, Santa Cruz Xoxocotlán and Villa de Etla, in the region of Valles Centrales. Additionally, Asunción Nochixtlán, Tlaxiaco and Putla de Guerrero, in the regions respectively of the Mixteca and the Oaxaca Coast, have set up new governments.

Most of these towns overtly engaged during the 2006 six month struggle of the APPO, to oust the PRI and establish their autonomy. The political delegate and member of the state directorship of the APPO, Florentino Martínez López, alluded to profound and very advanced work of organization in the diverse regions where the sympathy of an important number of sectors and organizations joined the APPO.

He said that in each one of the municipalities where the APPO has foreseen the installation of alternative governments, problems of ungovernability are prevalent. These long-standing problems resulted from abuses and excesses that the legally constituted authorities committed. Lopez Martinez explained that in each one of the municipalities they have received no legal help and so they had “no other option than to rebel and create their own governments,” Milenio quoted.

3. On December 30, 2006 the Peoples Assembly of Oaxaca, APPO, issued a notification (attached below) in which it announced the establishment of a dialogue and open public negotiation, where a discussion will deal with the complaints of the peoples of Oaxaca. The goal is to end to poverty and to equalize the economic political and social development of the state.

4. The First Regional Assembly of the peoples of the Isthmus will take place in Ixtepec the 27th and 28th of January, 2007. That announcement says, “Our state has the opportunity to reorganize itself and structure its development starting with our own way of life…We are not seeking a political manifesto but rather a consultation to strengthen our forms of relating to each other and to include us all as actors in our collective life.”

The topics be discussed by the Isthmenians are Economy, work and alternative businesses; Education, culture and communication; Health and the environment; Women and diversity. The invitation, was signed by the organizing groups and individuals :APPO-Istmo, Otra Campaña-Istmo, Radio Totopo, Grupo Solidario de la Venta, Colectivo Corta Mortaja, Guietiqui Bibaani, Ayuntamiento popular San Blas Atempa, CECACI Juntos en el Camino A. C, Unitierra-Istmo, and individuals Damián López and Lucas Avendaño.

It carried the added note: bring your blanket and bring something put on the common table to make the food sufficient for all (cheese, totopo, beans, rice, sugar…)

5. The daily Oaxaca newspaper Noticias published an article with the headline “In spite of the repression the democratic movement is rebuilding and advancing”, written by Víctor Manuel Gómez Ramírez, a member of the Socialist Workers Movement and of the State Council of the APPO, who reports that the process has its ups and downs. However, Gómez states, “…we have come to understand that our adversary is not merely Ulises Ruiz or Felipe Calderón. The true enemy of the Oaxaqueño peoples, the Mexican peoples and all the peoples of the world, are the money men, national and foreign, who want to sack and exploit all the natural energy, cultural and human wealth of our peoples.” He cites the raise in the minimum wage of less than two pesos a day (yes, 18 cents a day) and the fierce repression unleashed against Oaxaca; the cuts to education and the “supposed” reorganization of the police forces to combat narcotrafficking, although many believe narcotrafficking is organized by the state governors. The principal reason for reorganizing the police, according to Gómez, is to confront the popular insurgency as it increases.

The most threatening neoliberal projects for Mexico are Plan Puebla Panamá and the linked Trans-Isthmus corridor. (Do we think there is no connection between this proposed project and the new popular assembly of the Isthmus?) The intention of Calderón is to continue privatizing the natural wealth. The puppet state governors, Gómez writes, will try to destroy or co-opt the unions, and the popular, political and citizen organizations which don’t obey the federal government dictates.

Thus, he says, it is necessary to strengthen the Asamblea Popular de los Pueblos de Oaxaca, the Asamblea Popular de los Pueblos de México, the Otra Campaña and all the other peoples’ initiatives. About a dozen new assemblies are underway in other states in Mexico, among them Jalisco, Puebla, Michoacan and Guerrero.

“The task,” Gómez avers, “is to get over our dependency on leaders and bosses who at the first winds of change submit to a patron or to the government. It’s necessary to create horizontal organizations with broad methods of coordination; in the unions we should break with the bureaucratic structures that hinder participation at the bases; in the communities we should strengthen community assemblies so that decisions are taken in benefit of the peoples; in the [smallest units of neighborhoods] we should create committees or councils of representatives for every block, street building or sector; in the schools, committees to represent the classroom, the section or the subject; in the market we need to eliminate the corrupt leaders in the service of the bad governors, creating committees of delegates or representatives by section.

“All these democratic organs should be independent of electoral political parties and of whatever organ is unsuitable to the group…they should elaborate a program… which responds to the needs of all…and includes from the beginning the principle of revocability, which is to say, that whichever representative or delegate who doesn’t work out should immediately be changed by the same assembly who named him.”

The struggle continues, with due recognition to how important self-organizing is, until URO is out and the prisoners are freed, Gómez concluded.

I would like to point out that Gómez Ramirez is a teacher but not an academic. He is a socialist, but not seeking a political party affiliation for the APPO. His article, I think, constitutes an event in and of itself.

Virtually simultaneously, an article appeared on December 27, 2006 called “Globalization in Retreat”, by Walden Bello, and published in Foreign Policy in Focus. (Walden Bello, “Globalization in Retreat” Silver City, NM and Washington, DC: Foreign Policy In Focus, December 27, 2006).

In it, Bello gives his analysis of how and why transnational capitalism, or neoliberalism, is up against the wall. His first assertion is that neoliberalism has failed because it was intended to prolong the demise of capitalism. He says, “ …The IMF is practically defunct. Knowing how the Fund precipitated and worsened the Asian financial crisis, more and more of the advanced developing countries are refusing to borrow from it or are paying ahead of schedule, with some declaring their intention never to borrow again. These include Thailand, Indonesia, Brazil, and Argentina. Since the Fund’s budget greatly depends on debt repayments from these big borrowers, this boycott is translating into what one expert describes as “a huge squeeze on the budget of the organization.”

Their practices has created havoc where they have been implemented: “The World Bank… having been central to the debacle of structural adjustment policies that left most developing and transitional economies that implemented them in greater poverty, with greater inequality, and in a state of stagnation, the Bank is also suffering a crisis of legitimacy.

“ …the actual results of neoliberal policies…have been more poverty, inequality, and stagnation. …Moreover, the advocates of eliminating capital controls have had to face the actual collapse of the economies that took this policy to heart. The globalization of finance proceeded much faster than the globalization of production. But it proved to be the cutting edge not of prosperity but of chaos. The Asian financial crisis and the collapse of the economy of Argentina, which had been among the most doctrinaire practitioners of capital account liberalization, were two decisive moments in reality’s revolt against theory. ..The final factor, not to be underestimated, has been popular resistance to globalization. The battles of Seattle in 1999, Prague in 2000, and Genoa in 2001; the massive global anti-war march on February 15, 2003, when the anti-globalization movement morphed into the global anti-war movement; the collapse of the WTO ministerial meeting in Cancun in 2003 and its near collapse in Hong Kong in 2005; the French and Dutch peoples’ rejection of the neoliberal, pro-globalization European Constitution in 2005—these were all critical junctures in a decade-long global struggle that has rolled back the neoliberal project. But these high-profile events were merely the tip of the iceberg, the summation of thousands of anti-neoliberal, anti-globalization struggles in thousands of communities throughout the world involving millions of peasants, workers, students, indigenous people, and many sectors of the middle class.

“…The retreat from neoliberal globalization is most marked in Latin America. Long exploited by foreign energy giants, Bolivia under President Evo Morales has nationalized its energy resources. Nestor Kirchner of Argentina gave an example of how developing country governments can face down finance capital when he forced northern bondholders to accept only 25 cents of every dollar Argentina owed them. Hugo Chavez has launched an ambitious plan for regional integration, the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA), based on genuine economic cooperation instead of free trade, with little or no participation by northern TNCs, and driven by what Chavez himself describes as a “logic beyond capitalism.”

Finally, Bello calls neoliberalism a “spent force” whose demise must be managed in such as way as to minimize the economic chaos on the horizon.

A “spent force” indeed – here in Oaxaca and in Mexico, the struggle to convince the dead political parties and institutions that they are indeed dead continues. News of the popular assemblies arrives daily. The determination to resist has arrived, and if not yet for all, the number grows. Most people recognize the effects of failed neoliberal economics and the social chasm between the haves and the have nots, even though they can not yet articulate why.



APPO Notification:

TO THE PEOPLE AND CIVIC ORGANIZATIONS, ACADEMICS, INTELLECTUALS, NATIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL POLITICIANS AND ARTISTS

WE ARE BUILDING A PUBLIC AND OPEN BOARD FOR DIALOGUE AND NEGOTIATION

Today has made clear to the eyes of the world, that the origin of the conflict in which the state of Oaxaca lives has been the product of innumerable assaults and crimes committed by Ulises Ruiz Ortiz (URO) since the beginning of his administration against we the indigenous communities, municipal authorities, social organizations, residents of neighborhoods, defenders of human rights and of the cultural patrimony and the ecology, religious groups, students , merchants and transportation workers, who making our just claims and demands received as reply the cancellation of our constitutional guarantees and the systematic violation of our fundamental human rights betrayed in the most brutal persecutions, incarcerations, torture and political assassinations in the memory of Oaxaqueños. Faced with these grievances, the 7th of June of 2006 in the political court in which all of us sectors and peoples of Oaxaca who have been offended by Ulises Ruiz, for seven hours presented the denunciations and proofs of our accusations, for which the natural conclusion of so many humiliations was to fight for the departure of Ulises Ruiz as governor of the state.

The political assassinations committed by Ulises Ruiz against the people of Oaxaca reached the level of genocide. During the first 15 months of his administration 29 were assassinated. From June to October of 2006 at least eighteen were assassinated and from November to date, twenty-four were assassinated during the occupation of the Federal Preventive Police and they were denounced by the National Commission for Human Rights, an organization that has been distinguished by its indifference to the violation of human rights in our state, since in seven months it has done nothing to stop such crimes against all the people. In sum, when at least 71 were assassinated for defending their constitutional guarantees and their fundamental human rights. To these state crimes one can add more than 100 disappeared, more than 500 detained with invented charges and by any light they are a repressive reply and show the seditious use of the laws when at least 150 were tortured and raped by state and federal police, more than a hundred orders for arrest by which they are persecuting social activists and members of the APPO (Asamblea Popular de los Pueblos de Oaxaca) around the entire state. Furthermore, the state and federal police have entered more than a hundred homes without presenting orders for arrest issued by any court, taking prisoners to high security. They have been liberated by the presence in Mexico of international human rights organizations, which declared the unconstitutionality and illegality of all the arbitrary events committed against innumerable Oaxaca citizens.

The previous examples, which have been documented by diverse human rights organizations, show that Ulises Ruiz Ortiz is the author of a genocide, that he has been violating constitutional guarantees, basic human rights, state and federal laws and nevertheless is free, making a joke of the state of law. Therefore, all the accusations, red tape and orders of apprehension put out by the authorities under his administration against the social activists lack objectivity, impartiality, legality and legitimacy, since he can not be judge and part of the conflict where the fundamental demand is his departure as governor and his punishment for all the crimes committed against the people of Oaxaca.

We have turned to all the legal and institutional ways which our constitution offers without obtaining a positive reply, since the parties of the PRI and the PAN have placed their interests and political deals ahead of the norms of the constitution. We asked the chamber of deputies political judgment against Ulises and they did nothing. We turned to the senate of the republic to ask them to declare the failure of power and is established in the constitution and their reply was negative despite that the executive, legislative and judicial functions could not be found anywhere since their buildings were blockaded by the different APPO groups. An evident situation of ungovernability existed in the state, a condition named in the constitution to make possible the declaration of failure of powers. We sought from the one responsible for internal policy, the secretary of internal affairs, to find a political solution to the conflict in the state, and his inability and closed mind impeded any negotiated solution to the problem.

Today it is apparent that the intention of the federal government to intervene in the Oaxaca conflict was to sustain Ulises Ruiz Ortiz as head of the government of the state, against the will of the Oaxaqueños, and to destroy the popular movement of the APPO.

The new administration of the president Felipe Calderón has declared publicly that “it is disposed to talk with whoever wants to talk”. The APPO talks, but not under the conditions in which it is really a pretense, where it seems that their only intention is to wash their hands and justify the excesses and the violations of human rights committed by the forces of the federal military police, restricting the number of the members of the dialogue commission of the APPO, defining the agenda times and pacing of the discussion in an unilateral manner. Given the aforesaid we propose:

THE ESTABLISHMENT OF AN OPEN AND PUBLIC BOARD FOR DIALOGUE AND NEGOTIATION, where an agenda that deals in an integral manner with the problems that the peoples of Oaxaca face can be discussed. [Its purpose] would be to make it possible to end poverty and aid economic, political and social development in our state, For that we propose five thematic core ideas to develop.

AGENDA FOR THE BOARD

URGENT MEASURES

Departure of Ulises Ruiz and punishment for the his crimes committed against the people of Oaxaca. For this purpose a Truth Commission (Comisión de la Verdad y la Justicia, COVEJU) should be established by organizations of national and international human rights, to investigate all the crimes committed by during the administration of URO.

Immediate and unconditional freedom for all the political prisoners and presentation of the disappeared. Immediate cancellation of all the orders for arrest against social activists and those who struggles for the cause of defending human rights and the social demands of the Oaxaqueño peoples.

Immediate indemnification to the families of those who died for political or social issues during the administration of URO.

CREATUION OF A CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY TO DESIGN A NEW CONSTITUTION FOR THE STATE OF MEXICO.

DESIGN AND IMPLEMENTATION OF POLICIES FOR ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT FOR THE STATE OF OAXACA.

DESIGN AND IMPLEMENTATION OF POLICIES FOR SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT FOR THE STATE OF OAXACA.

DESIGN AND IMPLEMENTATION OF POLICIES OF DEVELOPMENT FOR THE INDIGENOUS PEOPLES OF THE STATE OF OAXACA.

COMPOSITION OF THE BOARD ON THE PART OF THE APPO (to the extent possible, this will deal with adapting the experience of the committee of development used by the EZLN)

Members of the APPO. It will be composed of representatives of the different pueblos, social organizations and sectors which form part of the APPO.

Consultants, observers and speakers (ASOI) of the APPO. It will be composed of representatives of bodies, and persons in the fields of national and international human rights, academia, politics, intellectual pursuits and science.

STEPS FOR THE DEVELOPMENT OF THIS PROPOSAL

Contacts for proposals to constitute the international and national group and invite them for a first meeting to take place the 8th of January in the city of Oaxaca, to explain and exchange points of view on the objectives, times and rhythms of the table of dialogue and negotiation with the federal government.

On January 10, in the framework of the national struggle, in their role as speakers, the ASOI will hand to the federal government the petition for the establishment of the board with the agenda, character and composition that we are proposing.

In parallel, after the 8th of January all the members of the board will continue breaking down the thematic areas to give them substantive content with the goal that the whole world will have a clear view of the components for making possible the development of our state.

Mechanisms should be established for permanent participation and direction on the apart of the distinct peoples and sectors by means of forums, reunions, meetings which should have agendas no later than the 10th of January.

This proposal for the board has three political objectives:

  1. To break the scheme of negotiation in “brief and in darkness” (a small and conditional commission) in which the present SEGOB tries to put us, where they define the agenda , composition, times and pace.
  2. To place the political initiative on the territoy of the dialogue board, where with the participation of the members of the ASOI, the federal government has to respond that it does not accept a board of this nature and in consequence it will be demonstrating that their openness to discourse is a lie.
  3. With the thematic proposal we will be demonstrating URO’s limited and deceitful convocation, and we will establish a programmatic proposal that permits recuperation of the distinct sectors of Oaxaca society in a logical plan which will be possible to carry out.

POPULAR ASSEMBLY OF THE PUEBLOS DE OAXACA

¡ALL POWER TO THE PEOPLE!

Oaxaca de Juárez, Oaxaca, a 30 de diciembre de 2006.

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