|English | Español||May 24, 2017 | Issue #41|
Police Unleash Repression Against Oaxaca Teachers
Growing Demand for Governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz’ Removal
By James Daria and Dul Santamaría
Foto: Centro de Medios Libres
As dawn broke, the Special Operations Police Unit and the Judicial Police clashed with protesters in a fight to control the main square, or Zócalo. The police used tear gasses of different types, which were launched by hand, by grenade launchers, and tossed from state government helicopters overhead. These gas canisters were dropped indiscriminately, as corroborated by one Narco News reporter who found 35 gas canisters along a single city block, all made in the United States. The teachers carried sticks, machetes, rocks, and some were able to protect themselves with shields and helmets they pulled off their attackers. Teachers’ brigades were organized to help provide water, vinegar and Coca-Cola, to help counteract the effects of the gas. Contrary to what we heard reported in the mass media, we saw not a single teacher carrying firearms or Molotov cocktails.
Centro de Medios Libres
According to Section 22’s public relations secretary, in an interview with Radio Educación, there have been three deaths — which allegedly include a child who suffocated after inhaling the tear gas — and more than twenty people injured who are now at different hospitals across the city. There are unconfirmed reports of several people disappeared.
One week earlier, on Wednesday, June 7, Oaxaca Governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz was symbolically tried, hung and burned in effigy by Section 22, social organizations and the people in general. This “trial” occurred after a large mobilization to unite the voices of dissent from different sectors of society. More than 70,000 Oaxacan teachers participated in this mega-march, along with teachers from other states, parent associations, students, social organizations, indigenous people, and others. According to Section 22 Secretary General Enrique Rueda Pacheco, there were a total of 250,000 marchers, making it one of the most important demonstrations in the history of Oaxaca.
The march’s main theme was the popular trial of Ulises Ruiz Ortiz, but there were also demands for better-quality education, scholarships, school uniforms and supplies for the most marginalized and poor communities, as well as a pay increase for the teachers.
Section 22, the Oaxaca teachers’ union, has a 26-year history of social and workers’ struggle to defend gains and win improvements in education and teachers’ salaries. Part of their strategy is a strike held every year as their contracts are renewed.
This year, the strike has lasted longer than usual, due to the government’s defiance of the teachers’ demands. They have therefore maintained their pressure on the governor with an unending occupation of the Zócalo area of the city – some 40 blocks – that started on May 22. The teachers there come from all across the state of Oaxaca, and engage each day in civil disobedience and direct action. These actions include shutting down tollbooths, tearing down electoral propaganda around the city (elections are July 2), and others, all characterized by their creativity.
On Friday, June 2, Ulises Ruiz gave the teachers an ultimatum, saying they had to return to work June 5 and threatening to dock their pay, sue them for breach of contract and cancel a $5.2 million dollar package that had been proposed to solve the problem.
According to the strikers’ radio station, Radio Plantón (which until today had been on the air continuously for 13 days), the teachers decided to remain on strike. And so they had to double their guard in the Zócalo and adopt other security practices. They now expected a violent intervention on the part of the state.
The reaction from society was mixed. So, with the goal of unity, the teachers’ union called a large march to unite the popular and democratic forces with them, calling for the removal of the current governor. The march began at 3:00 in the afternoon at the monument to Juárez, and the last marchers did not reach the end of the rout — the Plaza de la Danza — until 8:20 that evening.
The march displayed the creativity of society in manifesting its dissent. Aside from the usual slogans, the people made banners, puppets, placards, and even organized a funeral for the governor. Many parents along the route, contrary to what the mass media reported, made an amazing show of support from their balconies.
On the other hand, the part of society that doesn’t know the union’s proposals, or is against them, was obviously irritated by the delays in getting home or to work. The commercial media across the state have promoted clashes between the protesters and the rest of society, surely trying to provoke disturbances to easily justify imposing the same “law and order” seen in Atenco.
At the Plaza de la Danza, overflowing with nearly 300,000 people, the political trial of Governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz began. Ruiz was represented by a cloth doll seated on a stage, covered with money, and seemingly anxious for the trial to be over.
Participating in this mock trial were members of the general society, unions and a great number of social organizations, including: the Popular Revolutionary Front; the Committee in Defense of Indian Rights-Xanica; Section 22 General Secretary Enrique Rueda Pacheco, the Wide Front of Popular Struggle, the Single Workers’ Union of the Santa Cruz Municipal Government; Xoxocotlán; defenders of political prisoner Pedro Castillo Aragón, the Committee in Defense of the Rights of the People; the Front of Democratic Unions and Organizations of Oaxaca; the Oaxacan Popular Indigenous Council; the Indian Organizations for Human Rights in Oaxaca; the Huautleco United Front; the San Blas Atempa associations; the International Network of Indigenous Oaxacans;, the Health Union; the residents of Crespo Street and of the Jalatlaco and Fortin neighborhoods, and others.
The jury was made up of former rector of the Benito Juárez Autonomous Univierty of Oaxaca Felipe Martínez Soriano; researcher Víctor Martines Vázquez, Promotora Nacional contra el Neoliberalismo member Omar Garibay Guerral; Jose Antonio Almazán of the Mexican Electricians’ Union; and Angélica Ayala of the Human Rights Observers Network. With their strong voices of discontent, these organizations accused the governor of being illegitimate, saying he was not elected by the Oaxacan people but rather imposed as governor through a controversial electoral fraud. They also charged him with several crimes that the secretary of the jury read off, as the crowd shouted slogan after slogan as they heard once again each criminal act that Ruiz Ortiz has committed. They found him guilty of irreparable damage to human patrimony, of the assassination of social leaders, of the mismanagement of state finances, of “ethnocide,” of violating United Nations and UNESCO decrees including the guarantee of individual liberties, of promoting violence in the state and of being incapable of resolving conflicts through politics.
The verdict was GUILTY of the crimes that the spokespeople for social, indigenous, civil, parent and teacher organizations read off one by one. The sentence was: “removal from office for lacking the political ability to continue governing this state.” The jury agreed to send this verdict to the state legislature and await a legal response.
As the trial ended, the effigy of Ulises Ruiz, which had been patiently awaiting the decision, was hung and set on fire as the teachers and other demonstrators applauded and sang, happy to see the people’s justice served for once instead of the “justice” of those above. It must be stressed that the violent response to this event from Ulises Ruiz Ortiz came one week later.
- The Fund for Authentic Journalism