Oaxaca Under State of Repression
After the Subcomandante Marcos’ Visit, PRI and State Government Attack Communities that Support the “Other Campaign”
By James Daria and Dul Santamaria
The Ricardo Flores Magón Brigade, Reporting for Narco News
March 10, 2006
When Zapatista Subcomandante Marcos (“Delegate Zero”) and the Zapatista Sixth Commission visited the state of Oaxaca in February as part of the Other Campaign, the purpose was to listen to the “simple and humble people who fight.” What Marcos heard was a panorama of repression that the state has lived in for many years. Shortly after the visit, the people of Oaxaca again came under a wave of violent political repression against those that say “ya basta!” (“enough!”) to the injustices of the bad governments. However, now the adherents to the Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle are organizing to fight back.
A press conference was held on Monday, March 6, 2006 by individuals and organizations that make up the Other Campaign in Oaxaca. The purpose of the conference was to shed light on the recent wave of human rights abuses and political violence in their state and promote their continued activities against political repression and the building of a campaign to free political prisoners.
What follows is an outline of three of the injustices that have been committed against people or communities that participated in some way in the Other Campaign. Unmentioned here are the events in San Blas Atempa. This self-declared autonomous municipality and ally of the Other Campaign was occupied by hundreds of state police one week ago in an event already covered in the pages of Narco News.
SAN JUAN BOSCO CHUXNABAN - February 19, 2006
The events of Chuxnaban have been documented in local newspapers. While the events as portrayed in the local media are accurate there are allegations of misinformation on the part of both the state and municipal governments and reporters by members of the local government. The town of San Juan Bosco Chuxnaban, a Mixe indigenous community in the Northern Sierra, is politically divided into two camps. On one side are the local members of the PRI and their cohorts and on the other side are community members who participate in the community assembly and elect their officials through the process known as “usos y costumbres.” The focus of this struggle has been the control of the agencia of San Juan Bosco Chuxnaban. In Mexico, several towns and villages are often grouped together into a single “municipality.” An agencia is a smaller body that governs a single town and is beneath a larger municipal government, in this case the municipality of San Miguel Quetzaltepec.
On February 19 at one o´clock in the morning, according to documents released by the San Juan Bosco Chuxnaban agencia as well as a report published in the local newspaper Noticias the next day, this community suffered an invasion of over 60 heavily armed state judicial police. Under a barrage of tear gas and gunfire, this community became a war zone. The masked police shot indiscriminately throughout the community and perpetuated acts of violence against the citizens.
During the operation three community members were specifically targeted and arrested and one was disappeared. Lorenzo Canseco Hernández (former official in the local agencia), Anastacio Morales Vasquez (former town secretary) and Pioquinto Vásquez Martinez (current treasurer of communal properties) were arrested and members of their family beaten in the process. Filomeno Flores Sanchez could not be located after the incident and it was presumed that he was arrested. He was found alive a day later in a forest near the highway with his hands handcuffed behind his back.
The pretext for such violence, according to the state Solicitor General’s office, is the supposed involvement of the detainees in the rape of Cleotilde Álvarez Peralta and the homicide of police officer Eleonides José Sanchez. According to documents released by the Chuxnaban agencia on February 20, the local government denies “that our compañeros that are now detained have committed any illegal act….Their only crime was that of having served and being at the service of our community fulfilling…the norms and mandates that our ancestors have taught us and which to us are the supreme law.”
Another document released the previous day states: “We know that behind these actions can be found people who want to cause division and confrontation in our community…” and that “these people…are encouraged and backed by the government and the PRI.” The document lists a number of local citizens who are supposedly affiliated with the PRI and have helped to divide the community. In another document released by the agencia they accuse these same people of various acts committed in the past that link them with political violence.
An article that appeared in Noticias on February 27 claims that the detainees are “Zapatista leaders” and have used their past government posts to manipulate the community. This article was written by Gabino Sànchez Vasquez, a former municipal president of San Miguel Quetzaltepec. In this article Sànchez portrays the group of supposed PRI supporters as victims of the detainees. However, the Chuxnaban agencia accuses the same Gabino Sànchez Vasquez of being one of the main people responsible for the division of their community and of being the ringleader of the PRI supporters in the area. If the agencia´s allegations are true, they hint at a smear campaign on the part of Gabino Sànchez. The detainees have been known Zapatista supporters who taught the community about human rights. Although it has not been confirmed, sources say that the three persons detained were present during the plenary sessions of the Other Campaign in Guelatao on the 8th of February and that the repression is a result of their participation in said conference
SAN MIGUEL PANIXTLAHUACA - February 26, 2006
According to Indian Organizations for Human Rights in Oaxaca a member of the local government of San Miguel Panixtlahuaca violated the rights of one of the town´s citizens. According to a document the group has released, the community of San Miguel Panixtlahuaca, a Chatina community in the district of Santa Catarina Juquila, has been facing aggression due to the abuse of power by local politicians allied with the PRI. In response to the community organizing in defense of their “usos y costumbres” and natural resources, the agents of the municipal government have armed themselves and issued death threats against members of the community, against members of the Commission for Communal Properties, and against Indian Organizations for Human Rights in Oaxaca. (This Indian Organizations for Human Rights participated in the Other Campaign and also forms part of the Oaxacan Promotor of National Unity Against Neoliberalism.)
According to the details released by said organization, on Sunday February 26th, the town’s assistant sports commissioner, Elias Cuevas Soriano, had an argument with citizen Enrique Ruiz Garcia. Cuevas Soriano asked Ruiz Garcia why the latter’s son-in-law, Modesto Mendoza Mendoza, the deputy of the municipal president, has not participated in the local government. Ruiz Garcia responded that his son-in-law was elected by “usos y costumbres” and refuses to work in the local government now that it is controlled by members of the PRI. Elias Cuevas Soriano reacted to the remark by violently attacking and kicking the 60-year-old man. Enrique Ruiz Garcia suffered broken ribs and other injuries and was treated in a hospital in Oaxaca City. Local and state authorities have refused to investigate the case.
The document released by Indian Organizations for Human Rights in Oaxaca places the blame for these actions on members of the local municipal government as well as the state government of Oaxaca. “These violations have as their goal the elimination of community organizing and also the provocation of violence in said community to create a climate of anxiety and in this way have pretexts to further repress the population, which is not willing to sell their rights to the highest bidder.”
SANTIAGO CUIXTLA – March 4, 2006
According to the same press conference by adherents of the Other Campaign in Oaxaca, violent acts were committed by members of the local governments in the Chatina region of the Oaxacan coast. A document released to the media on March 4 by the Oaxacan Promotor of National Unity Against Neoliberalism claims that on the same day in the indigenous Chatina community of Santiago Cuixtla in the municipality of Santos Reyes Nopala, agents of the government and police fired upon a community assembly. The community assembly was called because the day before, the municipal president of Nopala had begun excavating sand and gravel from the river belonging to Santiago Cuixtla without the authorization of the commissioner of communal properties.
In this town there are two different governments – one elected by the community through “usos y costumbres” and another imposed by the PRI municipal government of Nopala. The community assembly is the governing body of the people and was called together to discuss the exploitation of their natural resources. While the community assembly was in session, the PRI mayor of Santos Reyes Nopala, Fredy Gil Pineda Gopar, town councilmen Julián Díaz and Miguel Villanueva, the mayor of Santiago Cuixtla imposed by the PRI against the decisions of the community assembly, Filiberto Hernández Romero, and members of the police fired upon the community assembly with high powered weapons. According to said document, the municipal president, Fredy Gil Pineda Gopar led the action and personally fired at the assembly. Jesus Carmona Mijangos and Marino Cruz Canseco were severely wounded. Seven more were detained and one person, Tomás Ruiz Carmona remains disappeared. Ruiz Carmona was elected mayor of Santiago Cuixtla by the community assembly. One of the wounded and everyone who was detained are members of the organizations Popular Revolutionary Front and Indian Organizations for Human Rights in Oaxaca, both of whom played an important part in the Other Campaign in Oaxaca. The building which houses the offices of the agencia were then occupied by the illegitimate authorities of Santiago Cuixtla and their violent cohorts from Santos Reyes Nopala. The community-elected authorities of the agencia were evicted and the offices continued to be occupied by agents of the PRI.
“The Struggle Continues…”
The state of repression under which the people of Oaxaca are suffering is largely connected with the continued authoritarianism of the PRI. As the elections are drawing near, local caciques (political bosses) are working hard to ensure PRI dominance in their regions and to do away with any and all opposition. A driving social force of opposition is the Other Campaign. While the government did not repress the public activities of the Other Campaign during the time Marcos was here, it seems the regime is working against the social bases of the alternative that the Other Campaign represents.
A persistent force for social change in Oaxaca has been the Oaxacan Promoter of National Unity against Neoliberalism, often simply called “el Promotor,” whose members also help to make up the Other Campaign. On March 8, International Women´s Day, this organization held two marches that were violently repressed by the police. In the state capital, a peaceful march of women demanding the release of political prisoners and the cessation of political repression tried to enter the public square. The march was stopped by over 200 riot police. The women circled the square a few times trying to exercise their right to free speech. They were unsuccessful and chained themselves to the metal barricades blocking their entrance. They offered the police flowers and upon their refusal threw them at their feet. In another march in the city of Puerto Escondido, the Promotor blocked a highway trying to seal off access to the airport to call for a dialog with state authorities to solve the problems in the two Chatina communities described above and for the release of the political prisoners detained in the incident. The protesters were met with tear gas, beatings and arrests as the police attempted to break up the demonstration.
The social forces of the Other Campaign and the continued presence of the Promoter have given impetus to continued struggle. The Other Campaign has expressed its commitment to building a statewide and national movement for the release of political prisoners that will begin on March 15, the International Day Against Police Brutality. The Promotor has called for a statewide struggle beginning on March 20.
Whatever the organization, the citizens of Oaxaca have demonstrated their solidarity with the people and communities that suffer this violence and have joined together to demand that governor Ulises Ruiz cease the repression against the marginalized people. These people now have the hope of a just and dignified life. Their only “crime” is that of manifesting their opposition and demands to claim their individual and collective rights, not just in Oaxaca but throughout Mexico and the world as well.
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