<i>"The Name of Our Country is América" - Simon Bolivar</i> The Narco News Bulletin<br><small>Reporting on the War on Drugs and Democracy from Latin America
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Opening Statement, April 18, 2000
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Ya Basta (“Enough Already”) in San Blas, Oaxaca

A Citizenry Took a City Hall by Storm… Thirteen Months Later, Zapatista Subcomandante Marcos to Visit the Still-Occupied Government Palace

By Michael Kummer
The Other Journalism with the Other Campaign in Oaxaca, México

February 6, 2006

On January 1, 2005, the people of San Blas Atempa, Oaxaca, tired of a dozen years of single-party rule under a political boss named Agustina Acevedo Gutierrez, threw her out of City Hall with rocks, sticks, gasoline and fire.

Today, thirteen months later, the government palace remains under rebel control while the official administration – still receiving state and federal budgets – works in exile out of a different building, with the political boss now a state legislator, trying to get back in control on her home turf.

Cars burnt durring the uprising last year in San Blas
Photo: D.R. 2006 Annie P. Warren
It is into this volatile situation that Zapatista Subcomandante Marcos – on his six-month tour of all of Mexico as “Delegate Zero” – enters tonight, Monday, February 6, at the invitation of the fighting people of San Blas Atempa.

It was on the Eve of New Year 2005 when the citizenry of San Blas Atempa “rose up with stones.” Acevedo’s hand-picked successor as mayor was about to be installed, so the woman known locally as “La Tina Guada” (in the native Zapotec language it means “Tina who is not from here,” but in a play on words common to these lands, in Spanish it phonetically says “the tub already filled with water”) chose to sleep overnight in the palace – the city hall – on her final night as mayor. She appeared the next morning from the palace balcony in an arrogant show of power. At one point that morning, say local residents, she stuck her tongue out, mocking the seething crowd. To install her lackey in the mayor’s chair, she had bypassed state election laws and simply issued a fiat, via a “public assembly” in which – they cannot forget – police forces under her control let her supporters in and kept opponents out.

According to townspeople, as the political boss known as Tina taunted the public, first came the hail of rocks and bricks, hurled up toward the balcony. Then her own security forces – with AK-47 automatic weapons – fired into the crowd. Four bullet-wounded citizens and the man who brought them to the hospital were then arrested and remain, today, political prisoners.

Women from the town of San Blas.
Photo: D.R. 2006 Annie P. Warren
The people responded immediately. They burned the cars of her functionaries that were parked all around the palace. Then some poured gasoline upon the cement floor of that same palace. The flames climbed up the staircase toward the political boss. (One source explained to the Other Journalism: “She escaped, covered with gasoline over her clothes and hair, only after pleading for her life. The farmers told her they would burn her alive. Then they claimed not to have any matches and let her run away.”)

On that violent night City Hall was converted it into an “Autonomous Municipality.” The same words that the Zapatistas of Chiapas use to speak of their communities are now the words that the peasant farmers of San Blas Atempa (population 17,000) use to describe a local government that can govern even without funds from above. “We have fought for recognition at the various levels, but our claims are neglected,” explained Doctor Francisco Salud Acevedo during the Other Journalism’s visit to this town on February 4. Dr. Salud is one of 72 citizens of San Blas that have arrest warrants hanging over their heads stemming from those stormy events.

“We have tried to get help from regional and state level,” said Dr. Salud – which translates as “Doctor Health” in Spanish – “but nobody has listened to us.”

Meanwhile the townspeople guard the palace and each other. “Each of us donates as much as he can spare and we come here as often as we can,” explained one of the farmers during his shift.

Inside the San Blas town hall.
Photo: D.R. 2006 Annie P. Warren
“Señora Agustina Acevedo Gutierrez used to pay us 500 pesos (about US$50) if we would enter her party and vote for her, but after such a long time it had really been enough and many of us started to vote for the candidate we liked best,” explained one woman that we interviewed in the local market. “Doctor Salud’s election rallies drew three or four times more people than at Señora Agustina Acevedo Gutierrez’s events. But she was just so desperate to win so she probably burnt or hid our votes so that her candidate would win.”

The political prisoners still incarcerated today are Alfredo Jimenez Henestrosa, Feliciano Jimenez Lopez, Jorge Reyes Ramirez and Roberto Ortiz Acevedo. “They were brought to the hospital in Salina Cruz and from there they transferred them to a hospital in Oaxaca City. Another transfer sent them to the Tehuantepec prison. Jose Luis Sanchez, our compañero who went with them, was imprisoned as well,” said one relative of one of the political prisoners.

“Luckily we did not kill her,” said one local woman wearing a traditional Zapotec huipil, or blouse. “That would have made us assassins. We are not assassins, we are just simple people who demand our rights.”

In these hours before the visit by Zapatista Subcomandante Marcos, the Other Journalism publishes the word of the rebel forces of San Blas Atempa, direct and without censorship: the text of the words of the Popular Autonomous City Hall, offered to your journalists and to the public last Saturday.

To be continued…

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The Narco News Bulletin: Reporting on the Drug War and Democracy from Latin America