|English | Español||January 21, 2018 | Issue #62|
Citizens Protest Lack of Consultation about Canadian Mine in San Jose del Progresso
Popular Forces Occupy City Hall and Threaten to Incinerate Hostages
By Nancy Davies
D.R. 2009 Noticias
Inside the municipal jail, the councilor Pedro Francisco Gonzalez Gopar lamented that no state authority had offered to negotiate with the protesters to free the hostages. Hanging onto the bars, he demanded that the state government look for a solution to the problem, which has gone on for months. He stated that if the town asks for a disappearance of powers he would resign his office. Moments later he was escorted to the telephone in the Municipal Police office to speak with Joaquin Rodriguez Palacios, sub-secretary of government. Rodriguez Palacios had spoken on the radio in an interview in which he claimed a woman had been taken hostage too, but that fabrication only served to further enrage the population.
The phone conversation was reported as: “They are telling me that the police forces are coming here, so I want you to take into account sir that we are under detention and we are dancing on a loose cord. I want you to stop this. The situation is that they will set us on fire. So we need you to stop this. There are twelve of us here and the only thing I ask is that you stop this because we are here and the situation is very tense.”
Fifteen minutes later when the protesters reorganized in front of the town hall, the first federal police approached the main street. The other cops, in nine pickup trucks and a van, halted about 100 meters away. The protesters had already brought out the municipal police and their companions from the jail, tied them to the pile of wood, placed the plastic bottle of gasoline nearby. They threatened to burn the hostages to prevent any repression on the part of the PFP. The church bells clanged and rockets flared. The people’s battle stations received citizen reinforcements.
PFP Commander Marte, standing in front of the police force, managed to assure the protesters that the cops did not come to rescue the hostages, but on the contrary would make a phone call to ask government officials to commit to negotiation. After five hours of tension and mutual recriminations, government officials and town representatives agreed to free the twelve hostages and install a negotiation session.
The issue of disappearance of powers for San José del Progreso will go to the state legislature, which in these cases in known to do nothing. The issue of a legitimate town assembly to discuss the mining operation will probably not resolve anything either, since many people already leased their land rights without knowing why they should not. Forums on environmental damages caused by mining were silenced by church officials because the lead organizer was the local priest, Father Martín.
The town has been “aided” by Section 22 of the National Teachers Union who, I was told privately, included teachers affiliated with MULT ( A Triqui-based indigenous group corrupted by the PRI) to “help” local committees make a decision. The almost-candidate for governor Gabino Cue advised the population to accept the mining company’s offer of computers in the schools in exchange for land leases. The organization CODEP - (committee defending the rights of the people) – which back in July and August worked to organize the townspeople subsequently withdrew, declaring that CODEP would not contradict a town assembly’s decision. Now, with some APPO assistance, the protesters claim an assembly decision never occurred, but that decisions were made only by town councilors in exchange for pay-off from the mining company. Oscar Venancio Martinez Rivera is generally regarded as one of the big beneficiaries. People suspect that the Health official was bribed for environmental permissions.
Once again government negotiations have been promised. The mini-uprising indicates that promised negotiations with town authorities give bad results for participatory democracy. Murky waters prevail in Oaxaca, as usual.
- The Fund for Authentic Journalism