Oaxaca: At a cusp in human affairs
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Oaxaca: At a cusp in human affairs

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John Ahni Schertow
July 7, 2006
 

At a cusp in human affairs, by G.S.

There are some people who you’ve just got to love, people like Peter Kropotkin, Bartolomeo Vanzetti and Nicola Sacco, Bertolt Brecht, Pablo Neruda . . . people both fully aware of the terrifying challenges most humans face in their everyday struggles, and who yet keep their hearts open to all — especially the humble — and to keep alive their hopes and efforts for a better world, where all people can live with dignity.

The struggle for life with dignity is surging in the southern (and poorest part) of Mexico, where the teachers’ strike in the state of Oaxaca has become a massive popular movement to oust the dictatorial governor, Ulises Ruiz Ortega (URO), and, more significantly, to replace the long-standing political government by a Popular Assembly with no political parties. This breath-taking explosion of anger, confidence and joyous pre-celebration (because URO has as yet neither resigned nor been stripped of his “official” mandate) was ignited on 14 June when URO ordered state police to attack the huge encampment of teachers occupying the central part of the city and 56 blocks surrounding it. The sudden attack started in the pre-dawn hours, with much destruction, injuries and arrests. After some hours, in which the police fired tear gas (including from a helicopter), the teachers forced the several thousand police to retreat and reoccupied the zócalo (the central square) and the surrounding blocks.

The teachers are considerably better off than the impoverished majority of Oaxaqueños, and from when they occupied the city center, about May 22, until the attack on their encampment three and a half or so weeks later, a good many small business people and others in the middle classes were of mixed views towards the teachers’ action, some of them downright critical. But immediately following the police assault support for the teachers surged throughout the state and beyond.

High alert: Oaxaca and the Federal Election

The swelling support for the movement to oust Governor Ulises Ruiz Ortega (URO) and to change the form of government of Oaxaca state has emboldened the participants to insist on this truly revolutionary change at the state level. The idea of doing away with party politics is not unheard of, but its enthusiastic adoption by the newly self-constituted Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca (APPO in its Spanish initials) is sufficiently threatening to the Federal power structure that military intervention might be considered by the president, whoever occupies that office. And the National Action Party candidate, Felipe Calderon, who promised to govern with a hard hand (mano duro), would offer a particularly ominous prospect.

The Mexican government is as ruthless as most of the world’s nation states, as it has demonstrated repeatedly and continuously, but it is not immune to pressure caused by widespread adverse publicity. It was the intense international sympathy for the Zapatista uprising, stimulated by disseminating the news on the internet, that caused president Carlos Salinas to call a halt to the Mexican military assault in Chiapas, and when his successor Ernesto Zedillo decided to eliminate the Zapatistas he too quickly gave it up for the same reason. They worried that foreign investors would think Mexico an unstable nation, hence not a safe place in which to invest money.

A good source of up to date information on developments in Oaxaca is the Narco News website, at http://www.narconews.com/. For example, on June 7, a week before the governor lit the fuse, Nancy Davies reported “from Oaxaca’s ground zero” on the Narco News website:

Oaxaca Near Meltdown Over Teacher Strike More than Just an Educators’ Pay Dispute, the Conflict Is a Sign of Governor Ruiz’s Inability to Rule a State Fed Up with Repression and Corruption

Her report begins,

It’s unprecedented and nobody knows what will happen, but nobody is backing down.

Tens of thousands of striking teachers occupy the center of Oaxaca city, sprawled out under camp tents, on top of cardboard cartons, on stairs and walls and benches. The plantón — the occupying camp — has now been going on for fifteen days. It covers 56 blocks, preventing all traffic and access to the heart of the central square, or zócalo.

The entire report is at http://www.narconews.com/Issue41/article1874.html. Narco News has a series of reports on this unprecedented uprising in Oaxaca, as follows:

26 May 2006, The Desperate Government in Oaxaca. “When they start beating up photographers and shoving around elderly women, they must be frantic”, by Nancy Davies http://narcosphere.narconews.com/story/ … 224823/957

7 June 2006, Oaxaca Near Meltdown Over Teacher Strike. More than Just an Educators’ Pay Dispute, the Conflict Is a Sign of Governor Ruiz’s Inability to Rule a State Fed Up with Repression and Corruption, by Nancy Davies http://www.narconews.com/Issue41/article1874.html

8 June 2006, The Battle of Oaxaca Through an Ex-Pat’s Eyes. Eager to See the World Get Better but Not Able to do Much About It, Suddenly the “Revolution” Comes to Our Door, by George Salzman http://www.narconews.com/Issue41/article1879.html

12 June 2006, Stand-off Continues as Oaxaca Teachers’ Strike enters Fourth Week. Teachers Soliciting Signatures to Impeach Governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz in a Struggle Between Civil Society and the PRI, by Nancy Davies http://www.narconews.com/Issue41/article1888.html

14 June 2006, Teachers Repel 3,000 Police from Oaxaca’s Historic Center. Thousands of Police Surround the City Center as Strikers Hold Their Ground, by Geoffrey Harman
http://www.narconews.com/Issue41/article1896.html

14 June 2006, “The Center of the City Looks Like a War Zone”. Scenes of Chaos in Downtown Oaxaca City as Striking Teachers Defend Themselves from Police Attack, by Nancy Davies http://narcosphere.narconews.com/story/ … 185948/465

15 June 2006, Police Unleash Repression Against Oaxaca Teachers. Growing Demand for Governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz’ Removal, by James Daria and Dul Santamaría http://www.narconews.com/Issue41/article1898.html

15 June 2006, Oaxaca Teachers Retake the Center of the State Capital, Waiting for Negotiations. The Day After a Failed Police Invasion, Strikers Seek Removal of Governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz, by Nancy Davies http://www.narconews.com/Issue41/article1903.html

17 June 2006, In Oaxaca Mega-March, 400,000 Send A Firm No to the Repression by Governor Ulises Ruiz Ortíz. Blockades and Occupations Throughout the State; San Blas Atempa Takes Back its Autonomous City Hall, by Nancy Davies http://www.narconews.com/Issue41/article1906.html

21 June 2006, Oaxaca Teachers Organize “Popular Assembly” to Oppose the State Government. Talks with Federal Negotiators Cancelled as Teachers’ Strike Dedicates Itself to Ousting the Governor, by Nancy Davies http://www.narconews.com/Issue42/article1928.html

21 June 2006, Four Weeks that Shook Oaxaca. A Teachers’ Strike Evolves from a Labor March to a Celebration of Resistance to a United Front for Widespread Discontent, by Geoffrey Harman http://www.narconews.com/Issue42/article1929.html

22 June 2006, Protest in Front of Mexican Consulate in Los Angeles Demonstrates Outrage Over Repression in Oaxaca. Carrying Bilingual Signs, Vigil Participants Demand Resignation of Governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz, by Margarita Salazar http://www.narconews.com/Issue42/article1930.html

23 June 2006, Oaxaca Government Stages “Protest March” Against Striking Teachers. Word on the Street Reveals that Many Demonstrators Were Paid to March or Threatened with Job Loss; Teachers Remain in Control of City Center, Demanding Governor’s Resignation, by Nancy Davies http://www.narconews.com/Issue42/article1931.html

24 June 2006, The Uprising of Oaxaca – How Far Can it Go? Two Issues Must Now Be Resolved: Removal of Governor Ulises Ruiz and Resolution of the Teachers’ Educational Demands, by Nancy Davies http://www.narconews.com/Issue42/article1936.html

27 June 2006, A Call from the Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca. The Next “Mega-March” Will Be Held on June 28, As a Popular Struggle is Constructed “From Below”, by the Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca http://www.narconews.com/Issue42/article1939.html

29 June 2006, A Teacher in Every Town. Forty Percent of Oaxaca’s Municipal Governments Are In the Hands of Educators’ Union Supporters, as Mobilizations and Assemblies in the State Capital Keep Growing, by Nancy Davies http://www.narconews.com/Issue42/article1942.html

1 July 2006, “No Truce; Not One Step Back” Oaxaca Popular Assembly Holds its Fifth Meeting, Refuses To Recognize The State Government and Vows to Install a Popular Government on July 5, by Nancy Davies http://www.narconews.com/Issue42/article1949.html

3 July 2006, Oaxaca Voters Punish the PRI. Citizens Denounce Electoral Fraud In a Show of Democracy from Below, by Nancy Davies http://www.narconews.com/Issue42/article1958.html

The essay, We are Constructing a Movement in Defense of Life by Judith Cid provides an activist insider’s perspective of the meaning of the Oaxaca struggle and of what it encompasses. Judith’s essay (translated into English) is at http://site.www.umb.edu/faculty/salzman … 06-29.htm.

This page is at http://site.www.umb.edu/faculty/salzman_g/Strate/2006-07-07.htm

All comments and criticisms are welcome.

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