<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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Oaxaca State Government’s Transfer to Juchitán Canceled: “The Conditions Do Not Exist”

The Teachers’ Union in this PRI-Dominated, Indigenous City Joins the Popular Mobilization

By Hermann Bellinghausen
La Jornada

September 5, 2006

Narco News Editor’s Note: The executive, judicial and legislative branches of the Oaxaca state government had been scheduled to travel to the city of Juchitán today as part of that city’s celebration of the 140th anniversary of the local indigenous people’s victory over the French army. Many in the social movement that has occupied far-away Oaxaca City and brought political life in the state to a standstill feared that the state government would install itself there permanently and attempt to reestablish control from an “alternative capital city.”

JUCHITÁN, OAXACA, September 3: Events unfolded quickly this past Saturday, to the point that the mayor of Juchitán, Alberto Reyna Figueroa, had to ask that Governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz not carry out the transfer of power of the three branches of government to this city, as had been planned for Sept. 5, because “the conditions do not exist.”

This morning in San Blas Atempa, the Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca (known by its Spanish initials APPO) in the isthmus region agreed to a popular mobilization in order to stop the aforementioned transfer of powers. The mobilization will also demand the disbandment of the three branches of the state government and the resignation of the governor, as APPO has been doing since June.

For its part, the Juchitán sector of the democratic teachers’ union, meeting in the city’s Technological Institute, agreed to join the mobilization. The assembly heard from an APPO commission from Atempa of the plan to meet up on the morning of Wednesday, Sept. 5, and march to the Juchitán town center in order to stop the formal arrival of the governor, the Congress, and the Supreme Court. The teachers’ union and the popular movement have occupied the government buildings in and around the state capital since last June.

Even though Reyna Figueroa officially confirmed that the transfer of powers would not occur, the APPO and teachers’ union march will still go forward; citizens of Juchitán will also participate in a separate contingent.

Plans for a celebration to officially declare Juchitán a “heroic” city continue. It was here on September 5, 1866, that the Zapotec combatants defeated the invading French army. One hundred and forty years later to the day, the municipal president will read the declaration and the planned festivities will proceed. Today they began with a marathon and bicycle race downtown and an evening concert of the Ba’Du Naxhi Children’s Philharmonic Band in front of the municipal palace.

The Juchitán municipal council consists of activists from the Coalición de Obreros, Campesinos y Estudiantes del Istmo (the “Coalition of Workers, Peasants, and Students of the Isthmus” known by its Spanish initials COCEI). Although the council “sympathizes” with Governor Ulises Ruiz of the PRI, it decided against inaugurating the new government here because the popular mobilization of teachers and others that demands Ulises’ downfall and has proved Oaxaca to be ungovernable had already arrived in Juchitán.

The timid stickers in the windows and doors of the municipal offices pray, “Ulises, we are with you,” but there does not seem to be much of an echo of this sentiment in the population, which in fact will participate in the march on September 5, headed by APPO and Section 22 of the democratic teachers union.

The graffiti against Ulises Ruiz that appears on many walls was painted over without anyone having returned to rewrite the slogans as of today. The city hall and municipal office buildings around the plaza were quickly painted white this afternoon, not to convert it into the new “capital” of the exiled state government, but to prepare it for the celebration of the “heroic” declaratory ceremony.

Social and political organizations from Tehuantepec, Reforma, Jalapa del Marqués, Unión Hidalgo, Matías Romero, Juchitán, Salina Cruz and other municipalities participated in the APPO’s isthmus meeting. They also held a meeting with their hosts, the teachers’ assembly and the popular council of San Blas Atempa, in which they decided “that the independent struggles of the isthmus will not be isolated; they will always be united,” according to a representative of the regional APPO. Dr. Francisco Salud presided over the meeting.

It’s worth remembering that the popular resistance in San Blas Atempa, which dates back to January 1, 2006, is a pioneer in the current movement against Ulises Ruiz. On that day, the people of Atempa, in a large assembly, refused to recognize the mayor, who they considered “imposed” by the PRI cacique (local political boss) Agustina Acevedo, a local legislator and later a candidate for the national congress. Since then, Francisco Salud has headed the popular council, which was violently repressed on two occasions by the government of Ruiz Ortiz.

On February 6, large crowds of people received the Other Campaign and Subcomandante Marcos in Atempa and confirmed their adherence to the Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle. Three weeks later, on March 1, the police expelled the popular council from the municipal presidential building. The building remained a no man’s land until June 14 when, in response to the police attack against the teachers’ strike in Oaxaca City, the people retook the plaza and nearby government buildings of San Blas Atempa. This is a municipality with strong Zapotec roots that borders the city of Tehantepec.

Today at noon, at the conclusion of the APPO meeting, two older men, spokesmen for the Popular Assembly of Atempa, insisted that the primary demand is that Governor Ulises Ruiz step down. Other demands (such as the recognition of the popular government of the municipality) are secondary. The government of Dr. Salud functions by consensus and tequio, a traditional system of collectively organizing work.

The resistance of San Blas Atempa knows no rest. On May 4, the treasurer of the popular council, Faustino Acevedo, was assassinated on the doorstep of his house as he was preparing to leave for the second National Indigenous Congress, which was to take place in San Pedro Atlapulco in the state of Mexico.

The two old men conversing with the reporter, standing among dozens of men and women who guard the council, point out that cacique Agustina Acevedo was defeated in the federal elections on June 2, both here and in the entire electoral district. “In case they needed proof that nobody supports that woman,” says one of them. The other finishes confidently: “Our town has already made it clear which government it wants.”

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