<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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San Blas Atempa to Defy Threats by Oaxaca State Government with a Protest on Tuesday

A March from Prison to the Occupied City Hall on the International Day(s) of Protest Against Police Brutality


By Al Giordano
The Other Journalism with the Other Campaign in Oaxaca

March 13, 2006

SAN BLAS ATEMPA, OAXACA; MARCH 13, 2006: A dozen days after 800 state police seized the Autonomous City Hall building of San Blas Atempa, the standoff continues. If this were a chess match the current score would be called a stalemate: the forces of civil disobedience in this town of 14,000 where the indigenous majority still speaks Zapotec are locked out of their government center, but so are the forces of political boss Agustina Acevedo Gutiérrez (a.k.a. “La Tina Guada”) that lost the building 14 months ago.


Oaxaca state police in San Blas Atempa.
Photo: D.R. 2006 Bertha Rodríguez Santos
Today, a hundred state troopers surround an empty City Hall.

Tomorrow, the unconquered townspeople will march toward them.

In the past two weeks representatives of Oaxaca’s repressive governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz have held four negotiating sessions with the rebels of San Blas: a citizenry that has adhered, en masse, to the Zapatista Other Campaign and which received Subcomandante Marcos last month with a multitudinous nighttime rally. A fifth negotiating session is set for today but nobody expects a breakthrough because “the government engages in doubletalk,” according to one San Blaseño.

The state government has offered to free the town’s nine political prisoners and cancel arrest warrants against 72 citizens if the rebels agree to join a coalition government with the forces of the detested political boss Acevedo. Despite the imprisonments, arrest warrants, violence and occupation of their town by police forces, the San Blaseños have firmly rejected the offer.

“The people don’t accept the deal,” said Dr. Francisco Salud Bautista told the Other Journalism on Monday in San Blas. “First we want the police to leave and the political prisoners to go free. Until that happens there cannot be any agreement.”

Meanwhile, yesterday, the embattled political boss Acevedo Gutiérrez (with full page ads this week in local newspapers urging citizens of the region to support her candidacy for the federal congress, “for equality in gender”), went to nearby Tehuantepec to campaign, but was met by a one-hour blockade of 100 taxi drivers and their vehicles from that city. “Let’s make it clear,” José Martín Guzmán López, leader of a taxi drivers’ union with historic connections to Acevedo’s Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI, in its Spanish initials) told the daily Tiempo del Sur newspaper. “This blockade is against the traitor of transportation Augustina Acevedo, and not against other candidates of the PRI.”

And last night, in the adjacent town of Huilotepec, townspeople angry with what they call a corrupt municipal government of the same PRI party took a cue from San Blas and seized their own City Hall, this time with the support of municipal police officers who have their own labor grievances with an unpopular mayor. Also last night, the Huilotepec citizens pledged to send “half” of their ranks to join the protest march set for Tuesday by the pro-democracy forces of San Blas.

An Isthmus Brushfire

In this arid dry season when forest fires are common throughout the region, another kind of brushfire is burning: one of rebellion against impositions from above. The once isolated struggle of San Blas now receives support regionally, nationally and internationally through the Zapatista Other Campaign. According to Subcomandante Marcos’ words in the central region of the country – in Querétaro last week – the situation in San Blas, together with other recent acts of police repression in the state of Oaxaca, was the catalyst for the Other Campaign to call a national “day of protest against police brutality.” (March 15 is considered to be an international date to that end; in a Zapatista communiqué last week, Marcos errantly cited March 14 as the date: suddenly, there are protests scheduled for both days – Tuesday and Wednesday – throughout the Mexican Republic.)

According to Dr. Salud (literally “Doctor Health” in Spanish), one of the negotiators for the San Blas citizenry in the negotiating roundtables, representatives of Oaxaca Governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz read about Tuesday’s planned protest march “on the Internet” and came to him with a printed copy of the news. “They told us that if we march, as planned, to City Hall, that they will send in more police.”

Undeterred, the protest will go on as planned, beginning at 10 a.m. at the federal prison in Tehuantepec, now home to nine San Blaseños whose only “crime” was to be wounded by police (four in January 2005, and five more in March of 2006) and who were taken from the hospital to jail. From the prison, their neighbors will march to the regional offices of the federal attorney general (PGR, in its Spanish initials), then to the regional offices of the Oaxaca state government – both in Tehuantepec – and then on to their stolen City Hall, surrounded still by heavily armed riot cops.

Last week, 300 citizens of San Blas met – during the meeting they watched the video newsreel “Marcos Goes to Jail” by the Other Journalism with the Other Campaign, and listened to an audio file downloaded from the Enlace Zapatista weblog of Marcos’ words of solidarity from Querétaro; both presentations were received with standing ovations – and they vowed to struggle on.

While San Blas’ citizens in resistance are pleased with the public statements by Zapatista “Delegate Zero” and the subsequent expressions of solidarity they’ve received from around the country and the world, “it is still not enough,” said Dr. Salud. “We need all the social organizations and NGOS to unite in solidarity with this municipality of San Blas Atempa, so that justice, peace and the will of the people will be respected. San Blas Atempa feels that it stands alone, marginalized and defenseless. We ask for more media coverage as well.” (To date, three alternative media organizations in the Other Campaign have followed up on Marcos’ February 6 visit to the town: El Cortamortaja in nearby Jalapa del Marquez, Radio Totopo in Juchitán, and the Other Journalism of Narco News.)

Meanwhile, political boss Agustina Acevedo Gutiérrez, whose congressional campaign will bring her to other nearby cities of Salina Cruz, Ixtepec, Tehuantepec and Jalapa del Marques, can expect more of the kind of opposition that she found yesterday from the taxi drivers of Tehuantepec between now and the July 6 election, as the Other Campaign spreads the word – from below and to the left – of her repressive anti-democracy reign in San Blas.

“She and the governor are saying that the situation in San Blas is already fixed, that peace has been established,” noted Dr. Salud. “But that is a lie.”

Tomorrow’s protest march, in defiance of the threat by Oaxaca’s famously repressive state government to call out more cops against the people, indicates that the political “stalemate” has simply led to the next match on this strategic chess board of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec (the region where a gargantuan battle is brewing over plans for a massive “energy park”): a continuing rebellion – spilling over now into other towns and cities – that police repression, bloody and ugly though it may be, is impotent to quell.

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