Nine Dead: Indigenous Teacher Assassinated in Oaxaca City
The APPO Declares Maximum Alert After Reports of PRI Members Preparing Attack
By Enrique Mendez and Octavio Velez
October 20, 2006
OAXACA CITY, OCTOBER 18: Indigenous elementary school teacher Pánfilo Hernández was murdered tonight with three gunshot wounds to the abdomen as he was leaving a neighborhood meeting of the Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca (APPO in its Spanish initials), in the El Pozo neighborhood of the city’s Jardín section.
This occurred as the APPO decreed a “maximum alert” in its downtown occupation and neighborhood barricades due to persistent reports that the Institutional Revolutionary Party would enter the historic downtown area with “shock troops” to dissolve the occupation. In fact, incursion “rehearsals” were reported, in response to which National Peasant-Farmer Federation (CNC) leader Elpidio Concha passed out machetes among his followers in a rushed meeting near the central market.
Preventive Police Officer Detained
The assassination of teacher Pánfilo Hernández, of the Zimatlán sector, occurred at 9:00 p.m., as he left the community center on Bugambilias street, near the San Luis Beltrán highway. There, several people in a blue Jetta without plates shot him at nearly point-blank range with a 45-calibre pistol and wounded him three times in the abdomen. Two other bullets hit a wall. A bloodstain was left on the sidewalk, and nearby residents found three spent shell casings.
Although the Red Cross brought him to the city’s Hospital Civil, the teacher died in Operating Room 9 due to internal bleeding, according to the Public Ministry representative assigned to the hospital.
At 11 p.m., the APPO’s “mobile brigades” brought Preventive Police officer Martín Ruiz Martínez to the main plaza, accusing him of having shot the teacher, though the Office of the Special Prosecutor for Teachers’ Union Affairs, to which he was ultimately delivered, announced that the policeman had been mistakenly apprehended. Nevertheless, the protesters demanded he be punished and even shouted, “burn that killer!”
APPO spokesman Florentino López Martínez said that this new killing forms part of the climate of hostility and aggression against the movement, which requests the removal of Governor Ulises Ruiz. He also reported other acts of intimidation. For example, he said, fellow APPO leader Adolfo López Ortega was filmed, allegedly by agents of the CISEN itellegence agency, as he walked down Ferrocarril Avenue. The men filming him were driving a white Suburban, with Mexico City plates 195-UCW. Later, said López Martinez, López Ortega’s family received anonymous telephone calls threatening them with death.
Return to Classes Under Consideration
Meanwhile, the plenary session of secretaries of Oaxaca local Section 22 of the National Union of Education Workers (SNTE) agreed tonight to open a consultation with the more than 70,000 teachers of the state to ask if they accept the proposals from the Department of the Interior and, in that case, if the school year will resume or if they will continue the strike initiated last May.
The response from the union’s grassroots will also be subject to the Senate’s upcoming decision on whether to recognize that there is a “disappearance of powers” or to reject that path as a solution to the state’s conflict. The consultation would not mean that the movement had abandoned its demand that Ulises Ruiz Ortiz leave the governorship, “which is not negotiable or optional for the union, or for the Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca.”
[UPDATE: La Jornada reports on the morning of October 20 that the Senate has rejected the proposal to recognize a “disappearance of powers,” which would have effectively removed Ulises Ruiz and other state authorities from power.]
The consultation process was agreed upon despite the fact that union leader Enrique Rueda Pacheco sought a return to classes, under pressure from one faction of teachers complaining of the economic strain after the Ulises Ruiz administration blocked payment of their salaries eight weeks ago.
APPO members and parents of students gathered in front of the union hotel – where the meeting of secretaries was being held – to demand that Section 22 not back down and that it keep up the struggle. With a megaphone pressed against the doors of the hotel’s auditorium, the demonstrators chanted: “The conscious teacher does not give up or sell out!” and “Teachers, you started this and you have to finish it! Ulises has not left, you have to kick him out!”
The majority of the secretaries went against the union leadership and decided on a consultation to be held Thursday and Friday, whose results will be evaluated on Saturday in a statewide assembly. The two questions that will be proposed to the rank-and-file are: “Do you accept the proposals of the Department of the Interior,” and “Do you agree that the school year should begin a) Monday, October 23, b) Wednesday the 25 or c) Monday October 30?”
Nevertheless, Rueda Pacheco clarified that if the teachers do not accept the Interior Secretary’s proposals, the second question becomes irrelevant and invalid. In a press conference after the plenary, he explained the accords and said that, as the consultations are held, this plan of action would begin on Thursday October 19 in conjunction with the APPO “to make the Senate pass a decree in favor of the Oaxacan people and declare ‘disappearance of powers.’”
The actions during these days will also “define the instruments to reestablish peace and decide how to a new Oaxaca will be built politically.” He said that the sit-in in front of the Senate in Mexico City will be maintained, and expressed his support for the APPO members on hunger strike.
He also expressed Section 22’s position with respect to the SNTE president Elba Esther Gordillo Morales, who formed a commission on Sunday to analyze the petition of the Central Council of Struggle (CCL, a smaller group of teachers in Oaxaca that opposes Section 22) to be constituted as an official local, designated Section 59. With this, said Rueda Pacheco, Gordillo “wants to get involved in the Oaxacan conflict.”
He called Elba Escher Gordillo’s declarations “unfortunate. We repudiate them; they deserve no further attention from us and do not matter.” The important thing, he said, is the democratization of the national teachers’ union and that “the clique that has controlled the union leaves.”
He also rejected the document that the SNTE’s formal head sent to Section 22 yesterday, analyzing the substitution of that local for one imposed by Gordillo Morales. “We will not accept any discussion with the union. Right now it is of no relevance that Elba Esther Gordillo or Mr. Ochoa want to get involved with the movement. We will not attend any meeting with them or take into account any demand,” he warned.
Meanwhile, as the PRI members prepared an operation to “retake” the historic city center, APPO mobile brigades resumed their invasions and evictions of public buildings, starting with the office of the Secretary General (although they only painted graffiti here) and finishing in the building of the official state newspaper.
At the same time, and as part of “Operation Iron” that suggests plans for mass arrests of teachers and APPO members, the state government has nearly finished renovating the Tlacolula women’s prison, where one of the only three current prisoners is Juan Ruiz Harp, cousin of billionaire former Banamex owner Alfredo Harp Helú.
The renovations include dividing each of the 200 cells to create 400, increasing the prison’s capacity.
And while the state government’s efforts concentrate on how to dissolve the social/teachers’ movement, police vigilance in the streets has become lax, which has influenced the APPO’s criticism of the municipal and judicial police.
This has led to everyday occurrences of: motorists ignoring stop signs and double-parking downtown, restaurants throwing trash into the streets at night, cars that get into accidents are looted. Common criminals are detained by private citizens who have organized a neighborhood watch program and also rely on the APPO’s mobile brigades for safety.
“I Am a Thief and a Rapist”
For example, two people were detained this morning. One tried to rob a daycare center near the market and was later released; the same day he returned, threatening a teacher with a gun and striking three children. On June 15, a teacher said, he had robbed the same center, entering through the back door at 7 in the morning and attempting to rape one of the teachers.
This time, residents detained him, beat him and tied him to a tree until police arrived. The people, after ripping his shirt off, wrote on his back “I am a thief and a rapist.” They also hung a sign on him which read: “Take a good look at me, I am a thief and a rapist. I entered a daycare center.”
The police put him in handcuffs and, at the request of the neighbors and mothers of children at the daycare center, was taken on foot to the police station at the market to later be brought before a judge.
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