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An Incarcerated APPO Counselor Reports Receiving a Death Threat from the State Governor

David Venegas Reyes Visited in Prison by a Governor Emissary; Repression Against Autonomist Movements Increases


By Oliver D.
Special to The Narco News Bulletin

May 9, 2007

“To the reactionists of today we are revolutionists, but to the revolutionists of tomorrow our acts will have been those of conservatives.”

-Ricardo Flores Magon

Oaxaca de Juarez, Oaxaca, may 3, 2007: At 24-years-old and as a clever, honest and articulate young man, David Venegas Reyes has all his life in front of him, and before falling prey to the state repressive machinery everything seemed to indicate a bright future for the Oaxaqueno. After all, he was at the point of completing his studies as an engineer in agronomy, specializing in zoology at the national university in Chapingo, when he chose to join his people in the growing social movement. He had heard of the battle of the 14th of June and was moved. He joined in Oaxaca’s struggle and emerged from the conflict more or less unscathed. He ended up as the chosen representative of the Brenamiel barricade, one of the biggest ones, and as a Counselor in the APPO (Assembly Popular of the People of Oaxaca).

Even though he had left his studies, he learned a lot at that time and even though everything had gone quiet after the collective trauma inflicted on the population he kept on in the struggle. Only this time, the nature of it was quickly changing, the brutal repression of November was replaced by the more conventional anti-insurrectional low-intensity dirty war combined with heavy state propaganda. Attacks where now coming from inside the movement as well as outside.

Venegas represented some of the most marginalized young people of the city and put much faith in them, he helped them to gain self-esteem and to raise awareness. I first noticed him in the first state assembly on February 10 and 11, where he showed respect of the diverse forms of contestations: the right to cover oneself for security reason, the right to express oneself through paintings on the walls, by bringing works of art to demonstrations, etc. He was also one of the loudest defenders of the APPO’s founding principles, in defense of which he fell under many attacks from what would emerge as the reformist, co-optive mostly Marxist-Leninist-Stalinist organizations within the movement.

With hiccups of authoritarianism, the members of these organizations, the FAP (Frente Amplio Progressivo), FALP (Frente Amplio de Lucha Popular) and the FPR (Frente Popular Revolutionario) at the lead, pleaded “on a tactical basis” to haul the APPO insignias in the coming electoral process in favor of the PRD. David among others reminded them that most of the people represented within the APPO didn’t believe in the party system and had come to agreement that they didn’t believe in the electoral process. He was then demonized, one member of the FPR going as far as accusing him of being an infiltrated agent. However in the end, the peoples will was maintained: The APPO wouldn’t go in the electoral process.

With newly made alliances and friends he participated in the elaboration of an autonomist space within the APPO where projects could be elaborated more efficiently. The fight within the APPO would continue, but much energy was now put in VOCAL (Voces Oaxaquenas Construyendo Autonomia y Libertad; Oaxacan Voices building Autonomy and Liberty). A manifesto was published, the meeting space was anti-political parties and the idea was to strengthen the different types of struggle and reinforce the different autonomic processes of the peoples and towns.

Cultural journeys and events were planned, the news got out, and as soon as the group became known it fell under attack from both sides. In the APPO Assembly a resolution had been reached to collaborate with VOCAL for a march on the 15th of March, the international day against police brutality. However, on that fateful morning a “spokeswoman of the APPO” said that they were disassociating from this group (VOCAL) of “priistas, porros and infiltrated agents.” A mere thirty people showed up, and proving the accusations wrong, dozens of fully armed cops started to videotape and harass them. David proudly brandished the megaphone to denounce the repression and ask for freedom for the political prisoners. Facing the up and coming repression they left in small groups, one of which jumped in a taxi and was taken in chase for more than half hour through the city by two pick up trucks full of agents wielding automatic weapons.

The attacks continued in the “Extraordinary” Assembly of March 17th and an effort was made to clarify the situation. The media were at it too, some singing the governor’s praises, others passing it’s communiqués: The “vandals” and people painting in the marches had been identified and would be taken care of, with a report that plastic type explosive had been found hidden near the Brenamiel Barricade along with paintings of the EPR guerillas (Ejercito Popular Revolutionario, or Popular Revolutionary Army), etc. Other groups were attacked in this campaign, mainly Indigenous Rights organizations. However, the activities kept going, there were more marches and more bonds were created within the newly formed space.

Venegas was kidnapped on April 13 by eight armed men dressed in black, waving automatic weapons. They took him in their red non-license-plate-bearing truck and disappeared with him for more than ten hours before he reappeared in a security house in the Reforma neighborhood. By that time they had forged an accusation against him of drug trafficking, displaying him in front of the media with the cocaine and heroin they had planted on him. His swollen face was a testimony to the beating he had received, his bail was denied and he was transferred to the penitentiary of Santa Maria Ixcotel where “arrest orders” awaited him. He is now accused of having burned the Federal Tribunal on the 25th of November, of sedition and of drug trafficking.

It was clear that the idea was to present him as a mere delinquent, a drug addict inclined to violence. They made him the chief of the barricades and all those who paint the city. The state communiqué was repeated in almost the exact words in the different medias. The daily Imparcial added that the march on the day of his kidnapping was attended by a “discreet and subtle” police force when referring to the 200 state agents with video cameras, guns and sticks waiting for the 100 would-be protesters at the march rally point.

More marches were organized, one ending up at the penitentiary. VOCAL launched an international campaign alongside the family receiving hundreds of signatures from organizations, collectives and individuals supporting its immediate liberation, among them Amnesty International, Doctora Bertha and José Bové, French candidate to the presidency. Paintings, stickers and posters started to appear in every city corner: “David Venegas Libertad,” “Freedom for the political prisoners.” The daily Noticias, the most read newspaper of the state, offered fair coverage of his case, publishing many of David’s letters to the oaxaquenos. It was made clear that the case was politically motivated.

The APPO Council showed support, on paper at least, and one has to wonder if it wasn’t just to preserve its credibility. Few from their ranks and almost no teachers showed up at the marches, especially the one organized by VOCAL on April 27 of which the 100 or so participants were followed and monitored by three trucks full of antiriot cops and three teenagers were caught and arrested. The defamation and propaganda campaign stepped up against VOCAL: as much as the governor had welcomed the APPO to the electoral process prior to the first assembly, as much as the autonomic and self-management processes seemed to be hated.

VOCAL continued with its agenda and true goals, ironically enough by playing an active part in the organization of the Second Regional APPO Assembly in the isthmus. Ironic, because the MLN ”Stalinist“ who are trying to control the APPO from their ”central council“ want to impart their line from the council to those below, while the assembly mode works the exact opposite way. The April 29 Assembly in Defense of the Land took place in the rebel, poor and proud town of San Blas Atempa, whose recent and exemplary fight against the local cacica (despot) had left many deaths and made more than 97 political prisoners. A radio was set up to transmit live, many contacts were made in what needs to be a common fight against the Plan Puebla Panama, and the peoples autonomy was reaffirmed and strengthened.

On May 2nd VOCAL was viciously attacked by the Secretary of the Teachers Union, in a simplistic and demagogic way. He said that on May Day basically everyone wearing bandanas and t-shirts over their heads were VOCAL and that every possible graffiti and other problem had been made by them. The fact was, however, that on April 30 most of the VOCAL participants had left for Mexico City to participate in events organized for the upcoming days in commemoration of the violent repression of the people of San Salvador Atenco. No VOCAL contingent walked in Oaxaca on May 1. A few conscious painters asked for David Venegas liberty on the walls, but most of the paintings were made by small bands of young wannabe punks and members of the FPR or other organizations painting hammers and sickles.

After the march, and on an individual basis, anarchists, punks, barricaderos and students regrouped to go defend Radio University which had been taken the previous day and had came back on air. However, it had been taken by the “student APPO” whose leader-chief was an FPR member: multiple faces of Stalin and Lenin had been painted on the different buildings, one at the side of a big anarchist sign that had been X-ed out by red paint. Very few people were defending the radio, almost exclusively “communist” members. They would only let the newcomers reach the microphone under tight conditions and after much negotiation, in front of the hypocrisy of these Stalinists calling the “pueblo” for food and support all the while subtly imparting their line and monopolizing the airwaves, they decided to withdraw their support and instead take the rectory of the University for the night. Barricades were erected the next day for the liberation of the political prisoners as part of the National Strike and in the afternoon the “radio” called for a press conference to not only disassociated itself from the group but also to demonize it.

As evidenced by the absence of any real base of people guarding the radio, the marginalization process within the social movement came into a new light. It seems obvious and without surprise that there is no support from the base for a Stalinist type of dictatorship within the APPO; the barricaderos, the colonos, the townsfolk participate less and less in the broad movement because they rightly feel that they have been let down at the profit of some organizations and syndicates. On May Day a small group could be heard yelling “The teachers walked for their money and then abandoned and forgot the people.” A comment was made within the barricades that crystallized the idea of resentment within some of the people toward the “Council,” “Para nosotros los ballaceros y pa’ ellos las fotos.” (For us, the bullets and for them, the photos.) The low intensity war goes on and is reaching new levels.

On May 2 the family received an alerting news from Venegas: a man had been sent from the office of Governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz and the minister of Public Security, Sergio Segreste Rios, to obligate him and his family to negotiate his liberty, otherwise he would be transferred and killed in another penitentiary. Unwilling to cooperate he sent the next letter to the media:

“On the day of May 1, in the morning, I received a surprise visit by an unknown person. Instead of giving me his name he said, call me ‘Tacho Canastal,’ and said that he had been sent by Ulises Ruiz Ortiz and Sergio Segreste Rios, who, in a supposed meeting with them the day before, had ordered him to talk to me. The message was clear: they invited me to accept that someone from my family enter in a dialogue with the government for my liberty. The threats: that they know someone in my family was participating in what he called the ‘desmadre’ (chaos), asked for that person to calm down, and said that if that person refuses to negotiate they would transfer me to the ‘Penal de Altiplano’ or (the federal prison at) ‘Almoloya’ and that the government had all the reason to kill me. (This last part he told me word for word).

“I know that the pragmatic thing to do in the political sense is to enter into a dialogue, keep this visit a secret and try (to where my dignity reaches) to profit from my liberty and avoid being killed. But I am not a politician and to me, between pragmatism, political negotiation and treason, there isn’t too much difference.

“I do (write) this so that all who receive this message will know that if the things described above happen to me, that they know who is responsible, they have first and last names. As well, to express to the Dignified and Combative People of Oaxaca, my profound trust that their struggle and the mobilizations will obtain my liberation and liberation for all the political prisoners of Oaxaca.

“Today, the government made me aware that there is something worse than being incarcerated in a prison, and that is to have my family threatened.

“It wasn’t enough for the government to have me imprisoned; now they want me to serve as a calming mechanism to the people’s insurgency. I don’t doubt that in order to obtain their freedom many would do so; they are the one’s who, when the people yell, ‘rebel!’ they yell ‘negotiate!’

“I clearly and honestly retain the conviction that my Brothers and Sisters of the people of Oaxaca will obtain my freedom and freedom for all the political prisoners of Oaxaca. If it wasn’t this way, and if the people of Oaxaca got frightened and gave up the fight, in this improbable moment, I still would not be ready to enter into a dialogue or negotiate my freedom. Ricardo Flores Magon, in the face of the abandonment he suffered on the part of the unions and the people, when he became a prisoner, said that, this abandonment did not give him the right to abandon or betray his ideals.

“I think tha, being incarcerated, as a domesticating mechanism in service of the government, is worse than being a political prisoner. I wouldn’t be able to look into the eyes of the clean and honest faces of all of you, my brothers and sisters who are out there fighting for a better world.”

David Venegas Reyes, Ixcotel Penitentiary, Oaxaca May 2, 2007

The impunity and corruption of the Federal Government and the Oaxacan state must be denounced. Their human rights abuses and crimes must be accounted for and punished. The war against the people and the militarization of the state/nation must be evidenced and stopped. The authoritarian and reformist organizations must be presented for what they are, the historical co-optors of social movements and traitors of revolutions of the type that created deadly regimes in China, N. Korea, Cambodia, Afghanistan, Poland and Russia: Regimes that massacred dozens of millions of their own peoples and jailed and tortured countless many. Hitler’s portrait could have had legitimately been painted alongside those of Stalin and Lenin, if only for that reason the organizations vindicating these anti-autonomous and anti-libertarian principles such as the FPR should be kicked out of the APPO and be exposed for what they are: historical tools of recuperation for the capitalist system.

Putting the APPO back in the hands of the people was what Venegas was fighting for, with a council that only reflected the will from below, one that could listen to the propositions and preoccupations of its regional bases and help strengthen them and coordinate them. With the respect of the Constitutive principles and the spirit in which they were created, the APPO has the potential to become a real tool for the transformation of power within the state. It represents a direct threat to the feudal dominion of Ulises Ruiz and his minions over the oaxacan state as well as to national stability hence to internal security. This analysis is proven right by the heavy repression deployed against the people on both state and federal part and for the dirty counterinsurgency tactics deployed against the oaxacan people. If they didn’t fear, the people up in their ivory towers wouldn’t need to waste all this money on propaganda, show of forces and repressive operations. The future belongs to us; as was said by M. Gandhi “first they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”

Join the international campaign to free David Venegas: signatures of support and proposals of help and assistance can be sent directly to vocal@riseup.net

Help propagate the information on what is happening in Oaxaca, check www.oaxacalibre.org for more information and resources on David’s case.

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