<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 December 18, 2017 | Issue #48


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Remembering the Repression, Refreshing Our Spirits

On the One-Year Anniversary of the Police Occupation of Oaxaca City, the Popular Assembly is Still Fighting


By Nancy Davies
Commentary from Oaxaca

November 27, 2007

The peoples of Oaxaca marked the first-year anniversary of the fierce state and federal police repression of the Oaxaca social movement on November 25. There was not a cop in sight.


Elbow-to-elbow in the march of the morning of November 25, 2007.
D.R. 2007 Nancy Davies
The first event of the day marched into the Oaxaca zocalo around noon, a procession of peoples and banners reminiscent of all the Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca (APPO, in its Spanish initials) marches of the past year and a half. Nothing impeded their entry; a speaker’s platform and various banners were set up in much the same way as we have seen them, both before and after the repression of November 25, 2006. The APPO refuses to give up.

Horacio Sosa, arrested along with his brother, APPO activist Flavio Sosa, was released from prison on November 16, 2007 when the courts finally acknowledged there were no grounds to keep him behind bars. Nor were there grounds to arrest or hold the approximately 500 other citizens (not all APPO activists) picked up during the November 25 repression, 2006. Most of them have been released. Flavio Sosa and five others arrested before November, are still held. One of the movement demands is for the release of these “political prisoners.” Another demand is to arrest the perpetrators of assassinations, beatings, torture, vandalism and fires. These shooters and thugs are widely believed to be employed by the government; none is in prison.

However, one APPO segment, consisting of the communist groups Popular Revolutionary Front (FPR) and Broad Front of the Popular Struggle (FALP), plus the New Left (Nueva Izquierda) and a split Committee of Oaxaca Women (COMO), did not attend the Third State Assembly of the APPO on November 17-18. The FPR/APPO spokesperson Florentino Lopez declared that no such meeting would take place. He was quoted in the local daily newspaper Noticias de Oaxaca, which accepted him as the APPO spokesperson. Instead, Lopez announced at the same press interview, there would be a November 25 march at 4:00 PM, leaving from Llano Park to conclude at the Pañuelito garden. He did not mention the morning march.

Between the two marches a meeting was scheduled at the Hotel Magisterio, of the Third Assembly of the National Front against Repression.

As it turned out, the Third Statewide Assembly of the APPO on November 17 -18 did meet, with perhaps several hundred in attendance. On the anniversary day of the 25th, the second event of the day, previously announced by Lopez, had no FPR or FALP presence, except for individuals seeking restoration of their spirits. No red banners waved over the hundreds who gathered in the afternoon sun. The event was a mystical Oaxaca return to roots. No masked youngsters spray-painted the buildings, as did happen during the morning march. Instead, red and white carnations, wild flowers, and candles were carried through the streets where movement people had been arrested or wounded in 2006. A band accompanied the procession, playing music “not funereal, but not frivolous either,” at each pause.

What happened between November 18 and November 25?

Ezekial Rosales, Secretary of Section 22, announced all three events in one single article printed in Noticias on November 23, stating “the APPO is more united than ever”. He claimed there are no divisions but only different ideological positions. He emphasized that the release of Horacio will give more spark to the teachers popular movement, instead of halting its advance.

But Rosales did not convene a Section 22 assembly in time to reach an agreement so that the teachers would participate in the Third Assembly of the APPO. The teachers as a body did not attend a meeting in which by rights they would have the most important presence.

Despite evident rifts in the APPO, Rosales seemed to be proven correct as anniversary events actually took place. The morning to mid-day march showed a lot of spirited unanimity as slogans were shouted and thousands of fists flourished in the air. The march lasted three hours before arriving at the zocalo, where speeches denounced the government. Perhaps more interesting than the speeches were the numbers of Mexicans awaiting the march, apparently seeing for the first time photographs of the 2006 repression, as well as dozens of CDs and videos displayed for sale on the pavement of the Alameda.


Photos of the November 2006 repression on display in the zocalo.
D.R. 2007 Nancy Davies
The late afternoon event included ceremonies to “restore spiritual equilibrium,” mourn the dead, heal the injured, and unite people through traditional indigenous Oaxaca rituals, including a candlelight march. Many people injured, psychologically or physically or both on November 25, 2006, lit candles and turned to face the four cardinal points, while women spiritual leaders dressed in white wafted burning copal and prayed, to help heal the participants. Among the “healers” stood Chiapas men in their ritual hats of ribbons. It was an event supported by and attended by civil organizations such as Limeddh, EDUCA, and VOCAL, whose presence at the ceremony overrode thoughts of internal dissension and the absent FPR– how can you quarrel at a cleansing ceremony?

I spoke to Victor Raul Martinez Vasquez, an UABJO professor of sociology and author of several books, including a recent analysis of the movement. I asked him, what about the accusations being hurled back and forth between rival groups within the APPO? He replied that those rifts, basically between communists and anarchists, have been going on since the 1970s in Oaxaca movements, and should not be regarded as urgent or even debilitating. According to Martinez, Governor Ulises Ruiz has managed to provoke internal dissension by making statements implying that some unnamed groups received “aid” from the government. Since each group knows that its own members were neither offered nor accepted any favors, the assumption has been that it’s the other group that did so – and thus the mistrust. Martinez expressed a hope that unity would once more prevail. He did not mention other rumors, such as that Rosales was accepting money or Lopez was being paid to sow dissension.

On the other hand, an opinion piece by Ernesto Reyes, also in Noticias November 23, entitled “Chaos in the APPO” refers to the accusations hurled back and forth between “the moderates” and “the radicals.” Reyes makes the case that Ulises has “won” because he has not only effected a rift in the APPO, but also convinced many people that the APPO was responsible for vandalism and even for the death of Brad Will, which allowed the intervention of federal police and promoted distrust among people via government-slanted newspapers and mainstream television. Reyes concludes that “outside of these commemorative dates, dismay and social autism is growing in the state.”

This is clearly a view not shared by Victor Raul Martinez and other Oaxaqueños who came to partake of the day’s commemorative events. I also spoke to Manuel García of MAS (Movement toward Socialism), and while he is not as philosophical as Martinez, he also mentioned that this is how the government operates and has managed to destroy movements since the 1970s. Manolo, as he is called, told me that the important task is not to bring back into the fold the FPR, FALP, Nueva Izquierda (outgrowth of the PRD) or any others who right now choose to pursue electoral politics. The expression Manolo used is “they are drunk with politics,” and since, as the Third Assembly minutes state, the APPO is not and never has been about electoral politics, the APPO should hold firm to its first mandate. The problem according to Manolo is that organizing at the base has been slack, and proposals for concrete actions have been few.

My disagreement with Manolo’s position is that in a horizontal organization such as the APPO, organizing has always been self-organizing. As Manolo spoke, organizing sounded to me like recruiting, which is not the same as raising consciousness. He believes that organizing should be taken up as it has been in the past, by teachers, on a local level.

The failure to dislodge Ulises Ruiz has left the movement’s only organizing goals to consist of freeing prisoners and punishing the guilty. While these are essential, even noble goals, for the general public they don’t suffice as compensation for the miserable conditions of daily life. A more concrete goal, for example to repair roads or remove trash, might encourage more participation.


Cleansing ceremony in the afternoon of November 25.
D.R. 2007 Nancy Davies
Toward that end, Manolo recommends assemblies of the colonias (poor and working-class neighborhoods) and other smaller entities, to put the APPO back on a positive footing and to recruit fresh interest. He also opined that joining yet another organization, – the National Front Against Repression (Frente Nacional Contra la Represión) – will further fragment the APPO’s strength, and is designed to do so. Others disagree, believing a national organization is a powerful tool to bring pressure on the Mexican president.

The APPO members are scheduled to attend asambleas of Jalisco and Mexico, in December. They will attend scheduled meetings in Mexico DF and in Guadalajara. Thus those invested in the APPO as an organization have more at stake, almost a career, than those who go about their lives as citizens, even though those citizens participated in marches and barricades.

While the APPO council members are chewing themselves up, the APPO in the sense of “todos somos la APPO” (“we are all the APPO”) is waiting in the wings. The complexity of what is actually happening is based on questions like: Can rival ideologies come together over common goals? What properly are those goals? Can horizontality be maintained? Can political party affiliations be subsumed in the common interest? The government use of infiltrators and bribes almost pales in comparison; these tactics are by now well known. A horizontal structure to give voice to a popular struggle must once again confront them, and thus far history has no success to report in Mexico.

Meanwhile I have not spoken with anybody who says the movement is dead, or even hopeless - although they do say, “it’s painful” to see what the organization is doing to itself. “Me da pena” is a quote from one concerned person — and the same goes for me.

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