<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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Situation Heats Up in Oaxaca Prior to Teachers' Union Decisions

Tensions are High as Resistance Groups Organize and Plan Their Next Move


By Nancy Davies
Commentary from Oaxaca

May 26, 2009

The Oaxaca zócalo has resumed all the signs of battle. Banners flew on Saturday and Sunday, the weekend of May 23 as the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI, in its Spanish initials) supported vendors who sat on the sidewalk alongside their Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca (APPO, in its Spanish initials) counterparts. The table of Denunciations, the Committee in Defense of the Rights of the People (CODEP, in its Spanish initials) table and the APPO table all were occupied with people and print-outs.


Photos: Nancy Davies D.R. 2009
This spirited display follows the decision by Section 22 of the National Education Workers Union (SNTE, in its Spanish initials) to not accept the last government offer ― as it was deemed “minimal and insufficient” ― and also follows a forum discussing the state’s political prisoners held on Saturday at Carmen Alto Plazuela, north of the zocalo.

The forum included the families of the disappeared as well as Miguel Angel Granados Chapa, who writes a nationally syndicated column called Plaza Publico and is host to a radio program of the same name. Granados said what many are already thinking: this situation can’t go on. The government isn’t working. We are on the verge of a massive upheaval. He pointed out that authoritarianism, criminalization of social protest, the dirty war against citizens who oppose the government and/or citizens who try to claim their human rights and the rise in the number of forced disappearances are bad indications. Protest has been non-violent. Government crackdowns have not and are not.

Oaxaca stands at a double anniversary: three years since the annual teachers encampment (plantón) in 2006 – which ended with government repression on November 25 – and two years since the most famous disappearances of two men from the People’s Revolutionary Army (EPR), Edmundo Reyes Amaya and Gabriel Alberto Cruz Sanchez. In all, six Oaxacans have disappeared, two of whom are Triqui women Daniela Ortiz Ramirez and Virginia Ortiz Ramirez. Lauro Juarez is (was) also a Triqui man. The sixth is Francisoco Paredes Ruiz.

The conference was called Forced Disappearances in Mexico. The case of the EPR was sponsored by the Families of Loxicha Prisoners, United Movement of Triqui Struggle (MULT, in its Spanish initials), Until We Find Them (Hasta Encontrarlos in Spanish), Popular Unity Party (PUP, in its Spanish initials), and the Popular Indigenous Assembly (API, in its Spanish initials). What is interesting is that in the past MULT, PUP and API were as likely to support the PRI as they were to support APPO and Section 22. They have been consistent only in their opportunism, so one might wonder what the current opportunity is that they see.

Granados Chapa pointed out that not only has the government refused to negotiate with the EPR, but it has ignored recommendations of the National Commission for Human Rights, something which governor Ulises Ruiz can do because there is no enforcement of the Commission’s recommendations.

Nadin Reyes, the daughter of Edmundo Reyes spoke, as did the sister of Cruz Sanchez. These two women now accept what seems like a life-long obligation to demand the whereabouts of their relatives. Many assume the two men are dead; the daughter and sister won’t accept that as truth because the government won’t give convincing evidence of their death. The last time the government announced that their bodies had been found Nadin Reyes refused to give samples of DNA because, she asserted, the government would just answer ‘Yes’ to them without verifying the assertion.

But families of the two EPR men are just one grain of sand on the beach of resistance, which continues to grow. In the zócalo there are banners demanding the release of several prisoners (including the man held for killing Brad Will, next to a photo showing Will’s actual assailants), prints of murdered and beaten persons in opposition to the government and signs for NO MINES and NO ACE. ACE is the “quality education reform” which Section 22 believes will lead to privatization of education.

Then, at approximately 2:20 in the morning of Monday May 25, 2009, at least three vans of State Preventive Police entered the teachers encampment, according to a press release issued by Section 22. Several of the police got out of vans trying to arrest members of the social movement of Oaxaca. Finally they detained a man named Juan Chávez Palacios, a member of the Indigenous Brigades of ‘94 and originally from the town of Juquila. He is approximately 60-65 years of age.

Juan Chávez Palacios was surrounded and, given his age, did not offer any resisitance to the arrest. Several police obliged him to get into the police van which left for an unknown destination. After this arrest other vans enclosed the plaza with at least three vans for each corner. Since it was dark license plates or serial numbers were impossible to see. Several police emerged from vans hidden along the streets while other vans circled in the blocks around the zócalo encampment.

At approximately 4:00 that same morning the majority of the vans of the Preventive Police left the encampment. At about 4:30 A.M. Chávez Palacios was located being held in the barracks of the State Police in Santa Maria Coyotepec. Entrance to see him was denied. These actions, the protesters say, indicate serious intimidation and aggression against the encampment of teachers, supporters, families and friends of the political prisoners Victor Hugo Martinez and Miguel Angel Garcia, wome dominate the zócalo of Oaxaca.

During the day on Monday the zócalo looked “normal.” That is, hung with every kind of banner and crowded with street vendors. Radio Plantón, the teachers’ radio station, broadcast news of the night’s events.

Around the state, confrontations occur daily, as the people slough off the PRI caciques and return to their assembly way of governing, especially since elections in July became the daily fare. Banners now proclaim, “Do not give your vote in exchange for food!”

Section 22 will hold a work stoppage on Thursday and Friday this week, prior to a final decision on their next move. The union’s determination to uphold social justice shelters a host of dissatisfied Oaxaqueños. Tensions are deep and squabbles, whether ideological or manufactured by infiltrators, are disastrous. If Section 22 can fight on with strong support it might mean we are on the road to a serious overhaul of Oaxaca government.

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