<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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Mexico’s Supreme Court Accepts the Case of Oaxaca

Once Again the Zócalo Vibrates with Color, Voices, Music, and Video Replays of Government Attacks


By Nancy Davies
Commentary from Oaxaca

June 21, 2007

The Supreme Court of Mexico has decided to appoint a commission to investigate serious violations of human rights which occurred in Oaxaca between May 2006 and January of 2007.

Those violations included the attack on sleeping protesters on June 14, 2006 and the subsequent murder of at least 25 sympathizers of the popular movement, along with 575 arbitrary detentions and more than 300 wounded. As of yet, nobody has been charged with any of those crimes. The alleged murderers of the US journalist Brad Will were jailed and promptly released.


D.R. 2007 George Salzman
According to Noticias of June 20, the Court justices rejected the attempt by Ulises Ruiz Ortiz (also known as “URO”) to prevent the investigation, after he said he “accepted the recommendations” of the National Commission for Human Rights (CNDH). URO’s lawyers argued that such “acceptance” was sufficient.

The Court stated it is not. Nor is the court limited by CNDH recommendations, nor is it limited to wrongdoing by state officials. Federal persons such as the Federal Preventive Police were also denounced by the aggrieved APPO activists for violations including sexual assault and torture.

All the responses have been, up to now, farcical, given the quantity of evidence. That these events in Oaxaca have to be investigated by the Supreme Court speaks to the failure of the entire legal and judicial structure not only in Oaxaca, but in Mexico. The Supreme Court has been obliged to take up similar cases in other states as well.

The National Human Rights Commission had suggested an investigation of the Oaxaca perpetrators, including two state government cabinet members – Lino Celaya and Lizbeth Caño – who now top the list of PRI proportional candidates for the state legislature. They were removed by URO from their cabinet posts only to be kept quiet (my supposition) and were given another option for their careers. Clearly URO ‘s “acceptance” did not include any actions against them or anyone else. He offered an “apology” to the teachers, which was firmly rejected since no legal actions against the perpetrators, including URO himself, is part of “I’m sorry.”

The teachers and the APPO demand release of the remaining prisoners, acceptance of the teachers’ union demands, and the departure of URO from office. As the banners in the zócalo proclaim, the APPO “neither forgets nor forgives.”


D.R. 2007 George Salzman
The Supreme Court’s investigation, with a vote of eight in favor and three opposing the request, was solicited by a federal House of Deputies petition. The Supreme Court will name the commission members and the Court must agree that the rules by which it proceeds follow constitutional requirements for such investigations. Not only the actions and omissions of the authorities will be scrutinized but also the possibility of violations committed by individual persons within the state government or federal forces.

It’s hard to imagine that two dozen people were assassinated without somebody having committed a crime. But perhaps I am too hopeful in supposing that an investigative commission, Supreme Court or no, will actually come forward with charges.

New Oaxaca state deputies will be elected in August. Between now and then I guess that URO will continue to behave prudently, at least here in the city where we can see it. This includes an absence of police in the zócalo where the new plantón of teachers and the APPO constructed its tents and banners on Monday, June 18. This encampment, which began as plantón lite has gathered vigor with each passing day. Once again the zócalo vibrates with color, voices, music, and video replays of government attacks. Vendors’ wares laid on the sidewalks effectively hide the dismal cement “remodeling” and the cement-walled flower beds lined with skinny geraniums. The current teachers’ encampment does not involve closing classrooms because the APPO and teachers established a revolving schedule for their presence in the encampment.

The traditional Wednesday evening danzón dance shifted from in front of the Catedrál at the zócalo to the plaza at Santo Domingo, where earnest couples danced before an audience seated on folding chairs. Danzón is a serious affair of practiced steps and turns – very formal. Another confrontation declined: that was nice, too.

Despite the palpable sense of excitement as the public, whether in marches or in crowds watching videos, responds to the movement’s second wind, less confrontational postures prevail. My personal sense of it is that URO’s losing. The APPO and civil society can afford to be calm, and by keeping up a slow steady pressure simply wait it out until the August election. Logic says that if the PRI and the PAN suffer another punishment vote, URO will become an albatross. Politics being what they are, someone may suggest he spend more time with his family. On the other hand, if the PRIAN wins, commentary may be sent from deep in Belize.


D.R. 2007 George Salzman
Leaving fortune-telling aside, civil society proceeds with publicized meeting after meeting, organizing the people. For example, the Dialogue for Peace, Justice and Democracy work-table on Water and the Environment met on June 20. It issued a plan to protect the Sierra Norte and its inhabitants in a process which would involve the inhabitants themselves. (That’s a departure!) The problems include the opening of an access road, with consequent land speculation, as well as a proposed large government-sponsored dam. The city of Oaxaca lies between the two sierras, north and south of the city. Water for the city has become scarce, and fails altogether to reach several communities, while the water from San Felipe del Agua, a community which marks the boundary between the city and the Sierra Norte, is being sold to private dealers.

The simple fact that such a citizen conference took place with the presence of at least two government environment employees, and spoke openly to the necessity of presenting any development plan to the authorities of the towns concerned, indicates real changes in the governing mood of Oaxaca. To many observers such as myself, it looks like a breakthrough against the personal tyranny of URO.

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