<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 #47

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Al Giordano

Opening Statement, April 18, 2000
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November 2 Redux

The Governor of Oaxaca Still Wields the Hammer

By Nancy Davies
Commentary from Oaxaca

November 5, 2007

Oaxaca now stands at the first year anniversary of the battles and the repression that supposedly “ended” the teachers popular social movement. The slogans painted on the walls repeat: we don’t forget and we don’t forgive. What does that really mean?

Photos: D.R. 2007 Nancy Davies
To reconstruct what occurred on November 2, 2007, first one should recall that this was the date in 2006 on which the pueblos defeated the advancing police, in the battle to prevent the shut down of Radio Universidad. The people won mostly because the Federal Preventive Police et. al. were not allowed to use firearms—the episode devolved into a seven-hour rock throwing contest, and many thousand of people came to the aid of the besieged radio station which was then the only source of trustworthy news. “La Doctora,” Bertha Muñoz, broadcast in her calm inimitable fashion, during the hours of defense.

The events of November 2, 2007 were announced as “cultural events” in the context of Days of the Dead: memorial ceremonies for the slain, a photo exhibition, testimonies by families of the murdered, a rally, a parade. Events were scheduled to begin very early, at 6:30 AM, and I believe that was to initiate the blockade at Cinco Señores and Avenida Universidad, an intersection of several streets meeting in rotary style.

According to news reports (La Jornada, Noticias de Oaxaca, even the ADNsureste website belonging to Rebecca Romero, the reporter we love to hate) when the intersection was blocked, somebody called the cops. I doubt they had to call too loudly, the alert was out, and probably the governor had the police units at the ready.

By mid-morning, the only presence in the intersection was a police occupation.

According to the official release, sixteen activists of the Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca (APPO) had been arrested; according to the APPO, it was forty people, accused of blocking the road. A couple of trucks were used to form a barrier, and that was not on the program. Gotcha! The blockade of one lane of traffic could not have required more than a few men, however, so the arrests, whether fifteen or forty, were clearly reprisals and repression. Phone calls from the arrested teachers and Appistas in jail claimed that they were mauled and knocked around.

The Mexican League for the Defense of Human Rights, Limeddh, issued a press communication regarding the detention and subsequent release of the APPO sympathizers as follows :

Oaxaca de Juárez-

Today, November 2, is the one-year anniversary of the resistance when the people of Oaxaca faced the Federal Preventative Police (PFP), who tried to enter the buildings of University City to dislodge the Radio of the Benito Juárez Autonomous University of Oaxaca. The thousands of Oaxaqueños, sympathizers or not with the social movement, managed to repel the police units using stones, sticks and above all, organization and solidarity.

To celebrate the one-year anniversary of this event, the Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca convoked political cultural events in the intersection of Cinco Señores in the city of Oaxaca, where, in as part of the traditional celebration of Day of the Dead from 6:00 they planned an altar consisting of a sand rug (tapete) to remember the assassinated, prisoners and disappeared of the conflict in the year 2006, as well as the participation of numerous artistic groups in the course of the day.

As had been widely announced, at 6:00 a.m. a group of persons waited with trucks of sand to make the tapete , closing one of the four accesses to the intersection. Around 7:00, several trucks of the “bunker” type used by the Police Unit for Special Operations arrived at the site, along with convoys of several pick-ups of the state and municipal police, as well as para-police on motorcycles. They interrupted the demonstration with these vehicles in an irresponsible way, with the risk of running down the demonstrators. At that time, with the use of excessive force, they arrested an undetermined number of people and installed an operation in this place by which they were inspecting the belongings of passersby and stopping the “suspicious” from participating in these events. At the same time, the residents of the neighborhoods adjacent to the site have denounced the incursion of police units into private homes to search for participants whom they might have hidden.

Up to the present, two wounded have been reported who are in the Civil Hospital, around 43 people have been arrested and taken to the headquarters of the Secretary of Civil Protection in Santa María Coyotepec. According to the denunciations of these detained, they were beaten in these (police) facilities. The detained now have been freed, but there is talk of two people missing.

These repressive actions on the part of the state government are a bad sign for a solution to the root causes of social conflict generated precisely by the authoritarianism which has characterized this government. Trying to silence the protest of the citizenry by means of police force and terror reflects no more than the political incapacity to direct life in a state submerged in poverty and desperation that seeks democratic forms of participation.

Democratic life in a society is possible only by means of constructive dialogue and shared social responsibility. But once more it becomes clear that the announcement of Ulises Ruiz Ortiz to tackle reforms of the state are only a pretense, because his actions of a political fascist show us that the doors for democracy are closed.

The repression of this demonstration results from an enormous political stupidity, first because it is a Mexican tradition to create offerings to remember those who have died; second, because the social movement was trying to peacefully commemorate the fact of having resisted stoically an aggression by the Federal Preventative Police against a university space; and finally, it was dealing with an artistic demonstration announced ahead of time. The repression of this demonstration of a people who for more than a year have resisted outbreaks of violations of their human rights, results in shame for a government that repeats to itself “nothing is going on in Oaxaca” (en Oaxaca no pasa nada), when we all know that the consequences of the strategies of the state of intimidation and terrorism provoked confrontations that will be increasingly difficult to control. The least that the government could have done is respect the celebration which has been announced beforehand, for the sake of the search for reconciliation.

In the face of these facts, the Mexican League for the Defense of Human Rights states that:

We hold Ulises Ruiz Ortiz responsible for the aggressions carried out against the participants in the social mobilization, as well as the aggressions they could suffer subsequently, given that in this moment they were still being threatened by police in the peaceful demonstrations they are carrying out.

We condemn the partisan use the government has made for the umpteenth time of the system of the justice department to criminalize social protest.

We demand respect for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Treaties and International Conventions on Human Rights ratified by México.

I heard that the afternoon events would go on as planned, preceded by a march. I went — to the wrong place. I have trouble guessing where the APPO will go! I saw one man from one of the civil organizations headed out to the Hotel Magisterio – one of the teachers union’s meeting places – but never thought to ask him if they were returning by the same street. Luckily I heard on the radio inside a small convenience store – a nice man let me sit inside while I thought I was waiting to see the march arrive – that the march was leaving the Hotel Magisterio and walking the highway, past the abastos market, out to Cinco Señores. I hailed a taxi and arrived just in front of the march, at the supermarket. We shoppers stood unable to leave the area, just short of the Cinco Señores intersection. The speeches were given by the APPO and teacher spokespersons. The road was blocked by the crowd. I didn’t hear any horns bleat. People paid attention. I would guess maybe 800 to a thousand sympathizers were present; the Oaxaca Libre website says 1500 ultimately participated in the symbolic circle, and many people like me watched from the sidelines, along the route and from rooftops.

Meanwhile the arrested people were let go as a result of mediation by the Sub-secretary of Government, Joaquin Rodríguez Palacios, who had the task of relieving the tension. The police declared how important it was to the city that the intersection be open, that nobody has the right to impede traffic, that is was necessary to obey the rules. Nevertheless, the constitution guarantees the right to demonstrate, Rodríguez said.

The arrested and released APPO people did not pay the fines levied against them, due to “administrative failures.” Rodríguez claimed that was a show of good will on the part of the government.

After the speeches the APPO, led by a broad front line of women with arms linked, moved into the Cinco Señores intersection, forming a huge circle of people – a human blockade. While a tape broadcast Bertha Muñoz speaking from wherever she currently resides (she left Oaxaca in fear for the lives of herself and her children), the heavily armed police lurked in various side-streets. The helicopter which flew overhead in the morning was gone.

I left about five o’clock, while the circle was chanting and singing, with fists thrust into the air in the show of solidarity and anger now so familiar. The police stayed until the demonstrators dispersed. There have not been any reports of after-hours snatches of APPO people, but the police had cameras; they identify everyone in range.

Days later I am left wondering what exactly happened. Having shown that the government retains absolute control, did Ruiz let the few brave enough to return in the afternoon have their crumbs of commemoration? Or did Ruiz back down? Did the APPO win again on the anniversary of the battle for Radio Universidad? Or was it a win for the human rights workers, the alternative media, and the tourist industry – yes, this year tourists returned to Oaxaca, to look at how the local people remember their dead, not get dead. Maybe that was all Ruiz was concerned about.

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