<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 #59

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Al Giordano

Opening Statement, April 18, 2000
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Section 22 Protests Another Murder with a 72 Hour Shutdown of Oaxaca

The Town of San Pedro Jicayán Throws Out Political Parties: “We are Prepared to Assume Power…”

By Nancy Davies
Commentary from Oaxaca

September 4, 2009

National Education Workers Union (SNTE, in its Spanish initials) Section 22 halted business in Oaxaca to protest another teacher’s murder. More than twenty teachers were shot in the repression of 2006. No one was ever held accountable.

After a seventy-two hour shutdown of fifty government offices, statewide highways and schools, the government of Ulises Ruiz Ortiz (URO) capitulated to the teachers demands — at least on paper. URO’s negotiating team “promised” actions on several fronts:

1. About 58 schools still held by Section 59 (the PRI scab union) will be recovered for Section 22, while the 59 people weigh other options. This agreement includes suspending both irregular education services and the present salaries for Section 59.

2. At least 27 arrest warrants against the shooters will be issued. Along with the slain teacher Norberto Camacho Sarabia, a woman teacher was wounded in the arm and twenty other people were injured. The Secretary of Public Security indicated that elements of the State Investigative Agency would be in charge of the investigation.

3. A request will go to the state legislature asking for “disappearance of powers” in Santiago Laollaga (which experienced a similar stand-off, but with no serious injuries), and San Pedro Jicayán, site of the shootings. Supposedly, in the meantime the two PRI municipal officials will follow “the law,” i.e. turn over schools and not kill anybody.

The agreements were signed by a tri-partite commission: Jorge Toledo Luis, Secretary General of Government (Segego); Evencio Nicolás Martínez Ramírez, the state Attorney General (PGJE); Abel Trejo González, the head of the State Institute for Public Education in Oaxaca (IEEPO); Javier Rueda Velásquez, the Secretary of Public Security in the state.

Azael Santiago Chepi, the Secretary General of Sección 22, spoke to a crowd of thousands of teachers waiting in the Oaxaca zócalo after the negotiation session closed. He stated the accords are a good thing in order to avoid a repeat of 2006. In my opinion, that was not an idle threat. He told the teachers gathered, “We also demand the cessation of repression, the cessation of hostilities, because tolerance has its limits and we are not going to permit one murder more. Besides, we’re going to recuperate the schools by whatever means, as our compañeros did in the Central Valley and the Mixteca, in this sense we will stay mobilized… we are prepared to really assume popular power which we have yearned for so much… Section 22 will be in solidarity with others… we have to find agreement on one single point: the struggle against the state.”

Azael Santiago Chepi, in the zócalo
D.R. 2009 Francisco Ramírez
In the aftermath of the shooting on August 28 when a group of Section 22 members tried to recuperate the primary school Libertad, the community assembly of San Pedro Jicayán met and voted to re-install the former governing method of usos y costumbres, which has no political parties. The current PRIistas: edil (mayor) and officials were evicted from office and the asamblea selected a new municipal president and other officials. The next step will be to get the state legislature to approve a change of government, which the executive government now offers as part of the teachers settlement, to submit to the legislature.

However, the edil Leonardo Eliezer Silva Palacios denies having anything to do with the attack that killed Artemio Norberto Camacho Sarabia, and wounded Leonides Celia Mejía, who was taken to the general hospital in Santiago Pinotepa Nacional. Reportedly she is pregnant but recuperating and the baby was not injured. Another severely wounded person is a father and municipal agent of Santiago, in the municipality of San Pedro Jicayán. His condition is reported as grave. The municipality of San Pedro Jicayán is located in the Oaxaca region called La Costa, about 416 kilometers from Oaxaca on the border with Guerrero. The school had been in the hands of the PRI and Section 59.

Some three thousand teachers from the town of Pinotepa Nacional previously appealed to officials to intervene in the case, but the authorities headed by Leonardo Silva Palacios, placed themselves on the PRI side, keeping Section 59 in control. When the physical attempt to recuperate the school was launched, at least twenty people were wounded, among them other parents aiding in the assault. The leaders of the shooters were identified as Julio Antonio Mejía, ex-municipal president and retired lieutenant of the Mexican Army, and former representative Sebastián Merino. Their cadre wielded everything from pistols to shotguns and even AK-47 rifles. The teachers, as usual, carried sticks and stones.

As for Silva Palacios, he claims to be completely innocent, ensconced in the Municipal Palace. He says the Education Institute of the State (IEEPO) told him to stay out of the quarrel. Silva Palacios stated that the shooters are not PRI militants, but simply ordinary citizens. As for Section 59, its director Erika Rapp Soto denies any involvement of her PRI- supported splinter union in the shootout.

The new council of San Pedro Jicayán consists only of indigenous original residents, who are quoted in Noticias as saying, “we agree to assume this task because it was a decision of the elders, the professionals and the other inhabitants of the towns. We were named by usos y cotumbres as in prior times when we chose our municipal authorities who really governed for the well-being and social peace of Jicayán.”

Furthermore, stated the elder Juan Lopez Santiago, “We are not going to permit them to send us unknown people; we want a new municipal president but we want it to be a person native to our town, who is the equal of all of us, who knows us and respects us.”

Across the state, many organizations stood up to be counted. They are mainly small, campesino and indigenous groups, not city intellectuals, but perhaps for that reason more significant. Omar Esparza Zarate, president of the network of indigenous community radios of the southeast of Mexico and a member of the agrarian indigenous Zapatista movement MAIZ, said: “This assassination committed against the teachers of Section 22 of the SNTE is another demonstration that the government of Ulises Ruiz seeks to control all the sectors of society with a view toward the next election in 2010, since the PRI government fears it will lose the governorship. So it is looking to intimidate the (civil) organizations with its paramilitary groups.”

Esparza Zarate said that a call was made to all the organizations to make common front to struggle and raise resistance “in all the corners of Oaxaca,” to force the government to respond to the demands of the indigenous communities.

Along with Esparza Zarate, the National Indigenous and Campesino Front (FNIC) consultant Jaime Martínez Gordillo condemned the aggression against Section 22 teachers by the PRI paramilitaries of Section 59. As he demanded that the government clear up the facts and detain those responsible, he placed FNIC in solidarity with Section 22 , and in case Section 22 seeks assistance, “ ... the organizations and the citizenry will seek alternative ways to demand legal compliance. “ FNIC counts on perhaps a thousand activists.

A Coordinator of the Front for Indigenous Bi-national Organization (FIOB), Rubén Eleuterio Santillán, also made a call to the governor. The Center for Human Rights and Consultancy to Indigenous Peoples (CEDHAPI) headed by Maurilio Santiago Reyes indicated: “... we believe that these events are not isolated, they are situations that have occurred in other moments and the CEDHAPI always has come out against these atrocities, since groups exist (dedicated to) PRI political power, caciques, who are protected directly by the top leadership of the state.” The coordinator of another group, Defense of the Rights of the People (CODEP) talked about similar events in the regions of Tehuantepec and in the Mixteca. Cástulo López declared, “... the events of San Pedro Jicayán were perpetrated by groups of criminals promoted by the state…Ulises Ruiz Ortiz is the one directly responsible for having created the Frankenstein of Section 59 which acts in a paramilitary style to erode Section 22…”

As Cástulo Lopez indicates, the political struggle in Oaxaca daily grows riskier. “Oaxaca has an enormous list of political crimes, more in the administration of Ulises Ruiz… we live in a political authoritarianism which we are convinced must come to an end with a change of the economic model and of the regime…”

All the various pressures induced URO to capitulate, at least in appearances. How seriously does he take the groundswell of what seems to me to be a frightening proximity to revolution?

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