<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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Silent March for Victims as Dirty War Accelerates

Eight Popular Assembly Leaders Abducted; Four Leaders and Activists are Dead


By Nancy Davies
Commentary from Oaxaca

August 14, 2006

José Jiménez Colmenares, a mechanic by profession married to teacher, was shot in the street while participating in a march organized by the Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca (APPO, by its Spanish initials) on August 10. Two others were wounded. At the front of the march the empty wheel chair belonging to German Mendoza Nube –the Union of Poor Campesinos founder and APPO leader who was arrested on August 9– was pushed, with his photo on the back of the chair.

Mendoza Nube has since been located in the prison in Miahuatlán, Oaxaca, alive and according to the human rights commission, cared for according to his medical problems as a paraplegic and a diabetic.

His assistants at the time he was abducted, Eliel Vásquez and Leobardo López, were released.

Also located in prison in Miahuatlán is the ornithologist Ramiro Aragón Perez. His two companions were tortured and beaten before their release. The three were abducted from the town of Santa Maria Atzompa, allegedly betrayed by the mayor, who is now in plenty of trouble of his own with the townspeople. The mayor was allegedly discovered to be wearing a bulletproof vest and owning a military weapon.

The wife of Ramiro Aragón insists he is innocent of the charge of carrying weapons, and asks the international scientific community to intercede on his behalf. Aragón is known for his studies of birds and the environment.

Still unaccounted for is former secretary general of Section 22 (the Oaxaca local of the Natonal Education Workers’ Union, or SNTE) Erangelio Mendoza González, who was abducted Saturday by agents of the state police near the small town of San Martín Mexicapán.


Triqui women in the Oaxaca zocalo
Photo: D.R. 2006 Nancy Davies
Sunday, August 13, another march, silent, re-traced the route on which Jiménez Colmenares was shot. This march passed without incident, and ended in the zocalo of Oaxaca with several speeches in homage to Jiménez. His brother’s eulogy included José’s concern with reforestation. Those who crowded around the central pavilion still carried the sprays of white flowers which in Oaxaca signify that a soul has gone to heaven. The Triqui women dressed in their traditional overdresses of bright red rested and ate with their weary children.

When Jiménez fell, men on that protest march entered the house from which the shooting took place, searched it, and decided it belonged to a PRI activist. According to La Jornada’s report of August 11, one of the cars parked at the house contained a license plate of the Judicial Federal Police, plus numerous documents and evidence now in the possession of APPO. The house was not occupied. It was thought the house was rented by the police.

The APPO protesters exploded the household gas tanks and left the house in flames. By then reporters were present. The firefighters did not arrive for half an hour.

Outside, the marchers shouted “Ya cayó, ya cayó, Ulises ya cayó.” the movement war-cry, “He’s out! He’s out!”

The press and information secretary of Section 22, Daniel Rosas Romero, named Ulises Ruiz Ortiz (“URO”) as responsible for the state policy of terror – “política de terror” – one reason why the people demand his ouster. Rosas Romero remarked that in just the past 30 hours, the policy of terror has left four dead (as well as four wounded), which amounts to a total of 36 political assassinations committed in the 19 months that URO has held office.
The APPO policy calls for calm and restraint. Nevertheless APPO acknowledges certain violent acts committed by teachers and movement adherents, including: capturing men allegedly shooters, along with three doctors who failed to save Jiménez (all the hostages were subsequently turned over to federal authorities), burning the suspicious house and possibly a couple of vehicles. Ramiro Aragón Perez allegedly carried military issue arms –not permitted by either the state or the APPO.

The teachers have withdrawn their agreement to begin classes on August 14, two weeks early, to make up for weeks lost last May. Those who send their children to private schools will have no complaint. How many public school parents will complain if schools don’t open this year will be a true indication of the movement’s viability. Many parents are with the movement for the long run, especially because of the registration fees charged to enroll their children in the “free” public schools, and the cost of books and uniforms. The teachers, from their side, maintain that those who walk hours to their schools in the mountains would be extremely vulnerable to assassinations. APPO has decided the teachers will not return until URO leaves.

In the past, I often heard teachers described as flojo – lazy – after all, they have two months off every year, and ignorante, as well. Sunday a woman called in to Radio Cacerolas, one of the movement-run radio stations, to denounce teachers from her town who were resting in their homes instead of taking their places on the many blockades in the city of Oaxaca, where they should be, defending the movement!

The words I hear from the movement to describe the “ex-governor” are blatantly denigrating: weasel, donkey, assassin, madman, incapable of governing, liar. To describe the people, the words dignidad and noble are frequent. This is especially important for the indigenous people to whom those words signify their – well, what shall I call it – dignity. Self worth. The movement is a credible mix of teachers, non-profit civil society, intellectuals, unions of all sectors, parents of families, workers, and peasant farmers who come down from the mountains to declare ya basta (“enough!”). Echoes struggle sound everywhere, from videos shown repeatedly on Channel 9, to phrases such as “the movement has no leaders, we are all equal.” Descriptions of the dead and abducted often include that they are adherents to the Zapatista “Other Campaign.”

Radio and television programs explain capitalism, imperialism, genetically modified crops, the sucking out of natural resources, denigration of women, and Plan Puebla Panama. One teacher said, “modernization and neoliberalism are not synonyms.” A new constitution is talked about.

People call in to the radio with denunciations of acts of corruption by authorities and municipal mayors who abuse their offices and betray their obligation to serve the people. I no longer have count of how many towns are mentioned on the radio as having local movements, but it must be more than forty statewide, and I guess that Santa Maria Atzompa, where residents accuse the mayor of betraying Ramiro Aragón Perez to the police, will be among those named this week.

The heroism of the Oaxaca population is established as a mythic part of history even while we live through it. The proudest word is “Presente!” New songs celebrate events and heroes, art works are draped (or painted) on the walls, white flowers or fists are held aloft. The Oaxaca struggle against repression and exploitation is related to that of the nation and the world. Consciousness-raising is a high priority.

All of this suggests to me that a prior and firm ideology, like that of the Zapatistas, cements the movement even while it creates itself. A national forum will take place August 16 and 17 in Oaxaca to discuss the politics and realities of Oaxaca’s situation.

List of the Abducted

  • 08-06-2006 Catarino Torres Pereda. grabbed in Tuxtepec, active member of Comité de Defensa Ciudadana, CODECI, now held in the maximum security prison Centro Federal de Readaptación Social Número 1 La Palma, Almoloya de Juárez en el Estado de México.
  • 08-09-2006 Germán Mendoza Nube, hero of decades of struggle, made paraplegic by the government torture in the ‘80s
  • 08-09-2006 Leobardo Lopez, bystander
  • 08-09-2006 Eliel Vasquez, aid to German Mendoza
  • 08-11-2006 Erangelio Mendoza Gonzáles from San Martin Mexicapan , the ex secretary general of Section 22 of Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación (SNTE)
  • 08-11-2006 Ramiro Aragón Pérez, ornithologist , 34 years old
  • 08-11-2006 Juan Gabriel Ríos, teacher 24 years old, tortured and released
  • 08-11-2006 Elionai Santiago Sánchez, teacher 24 years old, tortured and released

List of the Dead

  • 08-10-2006 Andrés Santiago Cruz, municipal agent of the community of Paraje Pérez, part of Santiago Juxtlahuaca, and a member of the commission for vigilance and safety of the APPO in the zocalo encampment.
  • 08-10-2006 Martínez Martínez, 70, a MULTI leader in the town of Paraje Pérez.
  • 08-10-2006 Octavio Martínez Martínez, 12.
  • 08-10-2006 Eleuterio José Jiménez Colmenares, mechanic, shot during the protest march

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