Government and Media Trash 2006
The Campaign to Discredit the Social Movement Shifts into High Gear
By Nancy Davies
Commentary from Oaxaca
August 6, 2009
With the barricades of 2006 dismantled, and the elections of 2010 for governor and 2011 for president looming in the hearts of the ruling class, the federal, state and political powers have undertaken to nail shut the Pandora’s box of the social movement. The media prints and broadcasts rulings and opinions promoted by the government, no matter how bizarre.
Why right now? Barack Obama is coming. The US State Department has to certify Mexico’s respect for human rights, and the US Congress has to approve it in order for funds to flow. The big ticket item is Plan Mexico. In June 2008, the US Congress stipulated that 15% of the funds to be provided by the US to Mexico in the context of the Merida Initiative must be subject to key human rights conditions. The sum to be forfeit if Mexico cannot show itself in compliance amounts to about 15% of the Plan Mexico funds. The Mexican economy, partially destroyed by NAFTA, especially because Mexico is no longer food self-sufficient, took a nasty hit in the latest global economic disaster. The selling price of Mexico’s oil fell, and jobs in the manufacturing sector plummeted.
Desperately, the Calderon government throws up a smokescreen. Here are some examples: 1. the frame-up of Brad Will’s “killer”; 2. Federal Preventive Police (PFP in its Spanish initials) actions in Oaxaca called “legitimate”; 3. media discrediting of the social movement gaining momentum among civil society, specifically focused on protection of natural resources; 4. discrediting Section 22 teachers of the National Education workers Union (SNTE, in its Spanish initials). When all this shit hits the fan within one week, should we imagine it’s just a casual coincidence?
1) The murder of Bradley Roland Will in October, 2006 was “re-investigated” by persons now identified as retired officials of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). The “report” was solicited by the Federal Attorney General (PGR, in its Spanish initials) and presented to Mexican media as an investigation carried out by the RCMP. Various media outlets played the non-scientific and biased report as though the RCMP had opened a separate technical investigation, and independently arrived at an outcome totally contradictory to prior reports. Will, the hired “report” claims, was shot by someone standing nearby, while prior investigations, including Will’s own videos, indicate the shot came from a distance.
This new fake RCMP report became part of a massive campaign to discredit and throw the guilt on the teachers and the APPO, and specifically on the scapegoat Juan Manuel Martinez Moreno, now facing another judicial hearing. The PGR has repeatedly refused to follow up on the original arrests, the most probable assassins, one an Oaxaca policeman, the other a PRI town official, released after two weeks in jail.
Human Rights groups such as Amnesty International, Physicians for Human Rights, Reporters without Borders, Committee for the Protection of Reporters, and the National Commission for Human Rights have condemned the tactics of the PGR. For example, Physicians for Human Rights indicated errors in the PGR’s investigation, including the fact the bullet which hit Will in the chest had ricocheted off a hard red object, such as a red vehicle shown in Will’s videos, thus making it impossible that a person standing at Will’s side had shot him.
The PGR insists on pursuing the investigation precisely when the August 10 visit to Mexico by Barack Obama approaches, and the congress of the USA is discussing funds for Plan Merida. The Will family not only demands a legitimate and impartial investigation of Brad’s death, they have written a letter to President Obama extending their request for justice to all the other deaths. More than twenty movement people were killed by death squads during 2006. Not only have no denunciations been brought, but the number of deaths reported ― see example 2, the Court’s report― has now mysteriously diminished by half.
A pronouncement written for Agencia Reforma by Benito Jiménez, and widely reprinted (see Noticias, August 4, 2009) headlines that the judges legitimized the actions of the PFP in Oaxaca.
“The use of public force in Oaxaca was legitimate during the conflict…” two Circuit Court judges asserted, in an investigation which will provide the Mexico Supreme Court with a base report. The judges note that city was stifled by barricades in more than seventy important places, marches interrupted traffic, encampments were set up, public buildings were blockaded, and businesses in the center city closed. All true, all legal, all peaceful. Traffic was disrupted. Hey, sufficient cause for military attack.
Then the report asserts that the confrontations, “starring” in lead roles Section 22 and the APPO against state and later federal authorities, left eleven dead. What about the death squads? Is this version going to replace the facts entirely? As Flavio Sosa, a long time activist indignantly asked, “Did the other dead commit suicide?” The report also admits that were “excesses” committed by “some” agents; the death squads have faded into oblivion.
The report underlines that the cause of the conflict was “the passivity of state authorities in resolving the problem.” That failure (not calling in force sooner?) belongs to the PRI governor, despite the PRI-PAN alliance which seems to grow and wilt almost daily. The judges also condemn the actions of civil society, which “aided the demands of the teachers union, thereby exceeding their rights for petition and demonstration, and leading to violence and affects on third parties.” It denies the social movement’s pacific nature, it claims the movement caused ungovernability.
The analysis of these judges will be handed to the Supreme Court of Mexico where it will be presented for approval, making it the Supreme Court’s official position.
Paso de la Reina hydroelectric dam, electric rates all over the nation, mining, land ownership, and environmental protection connect closely with the current struggles of Section 22 and the APPO, although the heavy lifting is being done by local non-governmental organizations. Nevertheless, the propaganda cites Section 22-APPO as responsible for causing trouble, that is, resisting neoliberal projects.
The mining case: For two months Section 22 hung banners in the zócalo proclaiming NO TO THE MINE; subsequently the banners came down when the encampment left to make way for the tourists. According to a private source, within Section 22 runs a strong PRI current of teachers also affiliated with other control-seeking groups. This source, an activist against the mining enterprise, told me that this Section 22 PRIista group convinced the town assembly to accept the goodies (computers in clasrooms) offered by the mining company, and give them permission to go ahead.
On Sunday August 2 a confrontation took place on the road toward San José del Progreso, leaving more than ten wounded. Heavy machinery was then implemented to cut the road linking San José to the Oaxaca-Ocotlán highway. The “attackers” come from another town within the Ocotlán municipality, Maguey Largo, very close to the mine site “La Trinidad”, operated by the mining company Cuzcatlán. (However, looking at maps it appears that no Ocotlán area will be exempt from potential damage to the aquifer which serves this part of the central valley.) The mine’s initial phase had been closed due to protests by people from the region, supported by organizations linked to the APPO.
In a press conference, the San José del Progreso councilman Martínez Rivera accused Hilario and Ignacio Vásquez Gómez, Eloí Vásquez Ruiz and Bernardo Vásquez Sánchez who have opposed the mine from the outset, of initiating violence during an information assembly taking place in San José. Reprinted by the media, “somebody” threw a rock – the Maguey Largo people claim it was a mine supporter from San José. Then the fight began; sticks, stones, tubes and bottles flew. A hundred Preventive Police showed up to impose calm.
The media played up big the story attributed to the municipal president of San José del Progreso, Venancio Oscar Martinez, who favors the mining. (Let it be said that one never knows who has been paid off). Criminal complaints will be filed against the above named men for wounding people with intent to murder. “They (some 150) arrived with the desire to kill some of us, but we stayed calm. The people did not respond, although we were more in number. Here are our wounded”, Martinez was quoted. “…behind the protest are the meddling hands of the Asamblea Popular de los Pueblos de Oaxaca (APPO) and of Section 22 of the Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación (SNTE)”.
And: “They want my position and my head, but I am not going to give them those, because they don’t want improvements for the people, but only to control the about nine million pesos that the town receives annually.” He was also reported to have threatened any other anti-mine protesters with “local justice”, i.e. lynching. On a personal note, this same man was quoted naming certain “outside agitators” who inspired the anti-mine resistance movement. Since I was listed, I know first-hand that Venancio Oscar Martinez lies.
According to Martinez, the people of San Jose del Progreso “are tired of aggressions.” He accuses the local priest, Martin Octavio Garcia Ortiz of destabilizing the municipality of San José del Progreso by supporting opposition. It is well known that Father Martin has indeed backed informational efforts regarding mining, which comprises one of the greatest curses in Latin and Central America as well as in Mexico, as recounted by Eduardo Galeano in his book The Open Veins of Latin America. Almost all the mining companies in Mexico are Canadian.
Father Martin has already been threatened, and one of the main organizers was so badly beaten he went into hiding. Now the municipal president asks the bishop of Oaxaca to prevent Father Martin from officiating at masses, so as not to contaminate the young children of San José del Progreso. In the recent past the bishop sided with Father Martin against the environmental destruction of the proposed mine – will see what he does now.
As for Paso de la Reina, the people are blockading the highway into the area.
Discrediting Section 22 teachers of SNTE gives the media lots of business. Tuesday August 4, Secretary General of 22 Azael Santiago Chepi, responded by saying “It’s regrettable that in this country no respect for the State of Law exists, and those charged with imparting justice fall into impudence and pretense.” He alluded to the Circuit judges forthcoming presentation to the Supreme Court, asserting that the document has at its base an intention to discredit the the union. “It’s not possible that the teachers union would have discarded all the evidence that exists regarding the assaults against Oaxacans, the assassinations and the permanent violation of their individual guarantees; it’s really too bad that in Mexico there does not exist a truthful imparting of justice.”
In a press bulletin Santiago Chepi declared that the use of force in Oaxaca “was not legitimate, it was aberrant…the supposed analysis made by these investigators makes clear the link of complicity between the Supreme Court of the nation and the owners with money who exercise power by means of violence in our country, instead of responding to the claims for equity from the people they represent, given that they hold Section 22 and the APPO responsible for events.”
The overwhelming power of the media leaves little hope. Santiago Chepi called on the people, “it is the moment to advance consolidating the power of the people and for the people, so that together with the teachers a better future can be constructed for Oaxacans and all Mexicans.”
Flavio Sosa, being ever less courteous than Santiago Chepi called the forthcoming court paper “tendentious, biased and political.” What I would like to know, is what will Barack Obama say.. All’s well in our democratic partner Mexico, I suppose.
 Will family’s letter to President Obama
 MULT and UTE are two such, which can only be called opportunistic. They joined the movement when it seemed the winner, and have since been backtracking in favor of the PRI governor.
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