<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
 English | Español August 15, 2018 | Issue #41

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Opening Statement, April 18, 2000
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Police Unleash Repression Against Oaxaca Teachers

Growing Demand for Governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz’ Removal

By James Daria and Dul Santamaría
The Ricardo Flores Magòn Brigade Reporting for Narco News from Oaxaca

June 15, 2006

OAXACA CITY, June 14: The expected but unwanted eviction of the members and supporters of the Oaxaca Democratic Teachers’ Union, Section 22 of the National Union of Education Workers (SNTE in its Spanish initials) occupying the Oaxaca City central square occurred on Wednesday, June 14. The operation began at 4:00 in the morning, with approximately 2500 state judicial police entering the teachers’ camp, using violence and teargas, among other weapons, to attack the protesters. This operation, according to Oaxaca Attorney General Lizbeth Caña, was carried out with warrants to raid the union hall and the Teachers’ Hotel, and with arrest warrants against leaders of the SNTE section 22, including Secretary General Enrique Rueda Pacheco, who appears to remain free at the moment. In order to execute the raid, they ejected not only the teachers and the organizations supporting them, but also children and elderly people. In their wake, the police left a path of destruction resembling a war zone.

Foto: Centro de Medios Libres
One of the state forces’ first actions was to take over the union’s buildings, in order to capture the leaders and cut off broadcasts from Radio Plantón. The radio station’s chief said that he was able to escape but that inside the Union Hotel others were arrested, including a union secretary and hotel employee. Narco News later learned that among the first arrests were four Radio Plantón journalists: Arcelio Ruiz Villanueva, Ociel Martínez Martínez, Eduardo Castellanos Morales and Roberto Gazga. The state attorney general’s office says that it arrested nine people in this building, claiming the detainees had firearms and high-caliber ammunition. But after they retook the building, teachers there said that this claim was just a police set-up.

As dawn broke, the Special Operations Police Unit and the Judicial Police clashed with protesters in a fight to control the main square, or Zócalo. The police used tear gasses of different types, which were launched by hand, by grenade launchers, and tossed from state government helicopters overhead. These gas canisters were dropped indiscriminately, as corroborated by one Narco News reporter who found 35 gas canisters along a single city block, all made in the United States. The teachers carried sticks, machetes, rocks, and some were able to protect themselves with shields and helmets they pulled off their attackers. Teachers’ brigades were organized to help provide water, vinegar and Coca-Cola, to help counteract the effects of the gas. Contrary to what we heard reported in the mass media, we saw not a single teacher carrying firearms or Molotov cocktails.

Centro de Medios Libres
The confrontation continued until 9:30 a.m., when the police retreated and the teachers retook the Zócalo, but according to the teachers and others there, the security forces are regrouping in the southeast of the city, waiting for further orders. Another intervention and more violence are therefore expected. The teachers and social organizations are also reorganizing to reinforce their occupation of the Zócalo and unite forces to push back the repression. Students from the Benito Juárez Autonomous University gave a show of solidarity by taking over the university radio station after broadcasts from Radio Plantón were cut off, in order to continue reporting. Other marches and actions are also being organized, which could include teachers from other states who are mobilizing to travel to Oaxaca.

According to Section 22’s public relations secretary, in an interview with Radio Educación, there have been three deaths — which allegedly include a child who suffocated after inhaling the tear gas — and more than twenty people injured who are now at different hospitals across the city. There are unconfirmed reports of several people disappeared.

One week earlier, on Wednesday, June 7, Oaxaca Governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz was symbolically tried, hung and burned in effigy by Section 22, social organizations and the people in general. This “trial” occurred after a large mobilization to unite the voices of dissent from different sectors of society. More than 70,000 Oaxacan teachers participated in this mega-march, along with teachers from other states, parent associations, students, social organizations, indigenous people, and others. According to Section 22 Secretary General Enrique Rueda Pacheco, there were a total of 250,000 marchers, making it one of the most important demonstrations in the history of Oaxaca.

The march’s main theme was the popular trial of Ulises Ruiz Ortiz, but there were also demands for better-quality education, scholarships, school uniforms and supplies for the most marginalized and poor communities, as well as a pay increase for the teachers.

Teachers on Strike

Section 22, the Oaxaca teachers’ union, has a 26-year history of social and workers’ struggle to defend gains and win improvements in education and teachers’ salaries. Part of their strategy is a strike held every year as their contracts are renewed.

This year, the strike has lasted longer than usual, due to the government’s defiance of the teachers’ demands. They have therefore maintained their pressure on the governor with an unending occupation of the Zócalo area of the city – some 40 blocks – that started on May 22. The teachers there come from all across the state of Oaxaca, and engage each day in civil disobedience and direct action. These actions include shutting down tollbooths, tearing down electoral propaganda around the city (elections are July 2), and others, all characterized by their creativity.

On Friday, June 2, Ulises Ruiz gave the teachers an ultimatum, saying they had to return to work June 5 and threatening to dock their pay, sue them for breach of contract and cancel a $5.2 million dollar package that had been proposed to solve the problem.

According to the strikers’ radio station, Radio Plantón (which until today had been on the air continuously for 13 days), the teachers decided to remain on strike. And so they had to double their guard in the Zócalo and adopt other security practices. They now expected a violent intervention on the part of the state.

The Mega-March and Political “Trial”

The reaction from society was mixed. So, with the goal of unity, the teachers’ union called a large march to unite the popular and democratic forces with them, calling for the removal of the current governor. The march began at 3:00 in the afternoon at the monument to Juárez, and the last marchers did not reach the end of the rout — the Plaza de la Danza — until 8:20 that evening.

The march displayed the creativity of society in manifesting its dissent. Aside from the usual slogans, the people made banners, puppets, placards, and even organized a funeral for the governor. Many parents along the route, contrary to what the mass media reported, made an amazing show of support from their balconies.

On the other hand, the part of society that doesn’t know the union’s proposals, or is against them, was obviously irritated by the delays in getting home or to work. The commercial media across the state have promoted clashes between the protesters and the rest of society, surely trying to provoke disturbances to easily justify imposing the same “law and order” seen in Atenco.

At the Plaza de la Danza, overflowing with nearly 300,000 people, the political trial of Governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz began. Ruiz was represented by a cloth doll seated on a stage, covered with money, and seemingly anxious for the trial to be over.

Participating in this mock trial were members of the general society, unions and a great number of social organizations, including: the Popular Revolutionary Front; the Committee in Defense of Indian Rights-Xanica; Section 22 General Secretary Enrique Rueda Pacheco, the Wide Front of Popular Struggle, the Single Workers’ Union of the Santa Cruz Municipal Government; Xoxocotlán; defenders of political prisoner Pedro Castillo Aragón, the Committee in Defense of the Rights of the People; the Front of Democratic Unions and Organizations of Oaxaca; the Oaxacan Popular Indigenous Council; the Indian Organizations for Human Rights in Oaxaca; the Huautleco United Front; the San Blas Atempa associations; the International Network of Indigenous Oaxacans;, the Health Union; the residents of Crespo Street and of the Jalatlaco and Fortin neighborhoods, and others.

The jury was made up of former rector of the Benito Juárez Autonomous Univierty of Oaxaca Felipe Martínez Soriano; researcher Víctor Martines Vázquez, Promotora Nacional contra el Neoliberalismo member Omar Garibay Guerral; Jose Antonio Almazán of the Mexican Electricians’ Union; and Angélica Ayala of the Human Rights Observers Network. With their strong voices of discontent, these organizations accused the governor of being illegitimate, saying he was not elected by the Oaxacan people but rather imposed as governor through a controversial electoral fraud. They also charged him with several crimes that the secretary of the jury read off, as the crowd shouted slogan after slogan as they heard once again each criminal act that Ruiz Ortiz has committed. They found him guilty of irreparable damage to human patrimony, of the assassination of social leaders, of the mismanagement of state finances, of “ethnocide,” of violating United Nations and UNESCO decrees including the guarantee of individual liberties, of promoting violence in the state and of being incapable of resolving conflicts through politics.

The verdict was GUILTY of the crimes that the spokespeople for social, indigenous, civil, parent and teacher organizations read off one by one. The sentence was: “removal from office for lacking the political ability to continue governing this state.” The jury agreed to send this verdict to the state legislature and await a legal response.

As the trial ended, the effigy of Ulises Ruiz, which had been patiently awaiting the decision, was hung and set on fire as the teachers and other demonstrators applauded and sang, happy to see the people’s justice served for once instead of the “justice” of those above. It must be stressed that the violent response to this event from Ulises Ruiz Ortiz came one week later.

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