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(en) Mexico, LA anarchist Joaquin Cienfuegos: Report from Oaxaca, Mexico 06-25-06

Date Tue, 04 Jul 2006 13:59:32 +0300

Oaxaca, Mexico is the state with largest indigenous populations of
all of Mexico. In most of the villages and towns around the City of
Oaxaca, most of the people do not speak Spanish, only their
indigenous languages are spoken. There are 16 indigenous
languages in Oaxaca, and 16 different indigenouse ethnicities. The
largest indigenous group in Oaxaca is Zapotec. Sixty percent of the
people in Oaxaca are indigenous, that is two and a half million
people, plus the one million indigenous Oaxaquenos who live
outside of Oaxaca in search or work and a better living situation for
themselves and their families.

Oaxaca has a history of indigenous way of life, and surviving against
the odds. Felipa, a companera and vice-president of the
Organizaciones Indias por los Derechos Humanos de Oaxaca /
Indian Organizations for Human Rights in Oaxaca (OIDHO),
mentioned, "In Mexico it is taught that if you don' know Spanish
you're uncivilized. Indigenous people are thought to be people who
do not know anything because they don't speak Spanish sometimes.
We are treated worse than animals."

People in Oaxaca have a history of practicing their own forms of
decision making for centuries. In their communities they have
general assemblies, where the community meets and discusses how
to deal with their everyday problems. They meet, discuss, and have a
consensus process where everyone takes part in the discussion to
make decisions and are able to raise their concerns. Oaxaca also has
a history of communal living. Where people live collectively in
homes and on land. Communal land has existed for centuries, Felipa
explained to me, and I learned that they are different from the ejidos.
Ejidos are expropriated lands from the landlords and the haciendas
after the Mexican Revolution of 1910, and are easier for the
government to attack and take away (which was attempted in
Atenco), but communal lands are harder for the government to steal,
because people have worked them collectively for centuries.

Today I visited Monte Alban. There were great pyramids built, and
their culture was one of great accomplishments on all levels. To me
this is symbolic, because Monte Alban was built by the Zapotecs,
and the pyramids have survived all these centuries as the Zapotec

El OIDHO is an organization that works with indigenous
communities, which include the Zapotecs, Chatinos and
Chinantecos indigenous ethnicities. Since they were founded as an
organization they have been an organization of struggle and
community as well as popular organizing.

I sat down with the Political Commissioner of the OIDHO,
Alejandro Cruz, a lawyer and ex-political prisoner. He explained to
me the history of their movement in Oaxaca:

"It all starts in 1988 with the Mexican president, Carlos Salinas de
Gortari, who they call El Chupacabras. He was the political
intellectual and theorotician on neoliberalism in Mexico. He
implemented the politics and the economics of the US government.
In 1994 he helped implement NAFTA (the North American Free
Trade Agreement), in response to US demands. In 1988 he also
started with the National Commission for Human Rights to cover up
the state repression and to wash his hands of the blood of people
massacred in Mexico. Even before he came to power there was
repression, but no one knew of it. There were massacres in Oaxaca
in 1988 in Santa Maria Aniza and Santiago Moltepec, where 28
campesinos/farmers were killed, but no one knew of this outside of
Oaxaca. This repression all came from the government and their
paramilitaries who were against those who fought for land, for
dignity, and for respect."

"In 1989 a small group of close friends, of four or five people
founded the Organizaciones Indias por los Derechos Humanos de
Oaxaca (OIDHO). There were three lawyers and two companeras.
They were an informal team formed to organize against the
institutionalized violence. They were facing difficult conditions, of
murder, rape, massacre, violence from the state, detentions, and
political persecution."

They were there to support people and communities who were
struggling for their rights, in defense of their land, justice for their
family members who had been killed, justice for people who had
been displaced from their homes, and justice for those who have
been killed.

In 1993 they became a formal organization. They created a
constitution and bylaws, and they had an election to choose
positions for the organization. They have six positions within the
organization which include, president, vice-president, treasurer,
treasurer supplement (or vice-treasurer), secretary, and secretary
supplement (or vice-secretary). So the organization is made up of 6
people, and then they also have commissions. The commissions are,
Political Commission, Networking Commission, Commission of
Women, Communication Commission, and Commission of
Ecology. All the positions are rotated every two years.

Their role as an organization was to struggle for human rights,
which they felt was a collective responsibility. They did not want to
wait for abuses to happen and then react to them, they wanted to
organize within their communities to stop the abuses before they
happened, defend the lands, resist the violence of the caciques
(those in the communities with the political and economic power
and who have a relationship with the power of the state). They
practiced preventitive organizing to stop the violence of the
government and of the system before it happened. OIDHO organized
and built alliances with other communities.

Their structure consists of each community having representation
for the organization. Each community has a similar structure to the
organization from Oaxaca City, with the same roles and positions. In
Oaxaca City they have a general assembly every month or month
and a half, where each community has to send their committees to
communicate their decisions and act as their mouthpiece for
representation for the organization. Women also have their own
assemblies. The organization as a whole has a position of permanent
action, right now they have been in the encampment in the Zocalo
for the teachers and against the governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz for 35
days. They want to build a movement against the violence of the

El OIDHO communicates through their newspaper, Tierra y
Libertad. They also have three pirate radio stations, "Caracol,"
"Nueva Amanacer," "Roca." They also distribute flyers and make
posters to wheat-paste on the streets.

Alejandro Cruz talked about his experience with repression, "I've
been in prison for a year. They charged me with the death of a cop.
Where it was the police who attacked the community (and the
community did defend themselves with sticks, rocks, and bricks),
and where three of our members were injured with real police

One of the demands being put foward by the OIDHO is the
disappearance of the powers. The law at this point doesn`t permit the
complete self-organization and autonomy of the people, so what
their demand is for a popular assembly of citizens, because there is
one already of regions from all over Oaxaca, they want this assembly
to be institutionalized. So people can implement their own decisions
made collectively. They see the pressing issues right now in Oaxaca
that of, political prisoners, struggle for land recuperations and the
resolving the conflicts between communities over land, and the issue
of the state imposing and not respecting the decisions made by the
people and the representatives that the communities elect
themselves. There is a situation of permanent struggle in Oaxaca
with a government who imposes and a people who defend
themselves and their rights.

The struggle against the governor has turn into a huge conflict in
Oaxaca. It has become a popular movement of communities,
workers, and social organizations. The OIDHO is involved in a
movement where they want all the demands of all the different
sectors of the left and the bottom to be met.

The tactics used by the OIDHO is that of putting pressure on the
government until they respect the authority of the people. They
occupy offices of politicians and occupy their buildings, they shut
down roads, they set up encampments, they organize marches, and
hunger strikes until the government respects the decisions of the
people. They have a politic and strategy of forming alliances, where
they unite with other organizations and movements for the long term
struggle (where as a coalition only organizes around a specific issue)
based around certain points of unity and mission statement in

The history of OIDHO is that of alliances. In 1994 they had an
alliance that was 10 organizations strong to suppor the EZLN
(Ejercito Zapatista de Liberacion Nacional). In November of 1997
they formed the CIPO (Consejo Indigena Popular de Oaxaca). In
1999 they formed the AMZ (Alianza Magonista Zapatista), in 2000
COMPA, and in 1995 they formed PUNCN or la Promotora
(Promotora pol la Unidad Nacional Contra Neoliberalismo). Now
they have the new Asamblea Popular Oaxaquena (Oaxacan Popular
Assembly), that is made up of 400 organizations through out the
different regions of Oaxaca. The idea is to win over as many
organizations to unity to create a movement on this level.

There's been some differences with the Other Campaign/Otra
Campana, because they had the Promotora. The OIDHO has always
had a relationship with the EZLN, because of their ideas and
because they're indigenous, but there was some problems when the
Otra Campana came into Oaxaca. The Otra Campana in Oaxaca has
fallen appart. The people who worked with the Other Campaign in
Oaxaca were the CIPO-RFM and Non-Governmental Organizations
who were telling organizations they couldn`t be in the Other
Campaign because they were in La Promotora. It became an
either-or situation. Where as La Promotora has been organizing and
in struggle since 1995, before La Otra Campana. Since the Other
Campaign has fallen appart in Oaxaca, more people have been
uniting with and joining La Promotora. The Promotora has a
difference in vision than La Otra, they've been fighting and are not
starting a new fight because of the Otra Campana, according to
Alejandro Cruz.

They are adehrentes to La Otra Campana because they feel that it's
important to connect the different people organizing and struggling
throughout Mexico. The problems they have with the Other
Campaign (the Frente de Pueblos en Defensa de La Tierra in Atenco
had similar criticisms when I spoke to them) was that of
protagonism, wanting to change things without the process,
imposing things on people organizing and fighting locally, and
saying things that aren't real. Alejandro Cruz mentioned, "We are
not just talking about unity without doing the real work to achieve

The OIDHO takes part in the Alianza Magonista Zapatista which
they formed after there was a split in the CIPO due to internal
conflict and disagreements over the direction of the organization. All
of the organizations involved in CIPO left, and only the organization
of Raul Gatica remained, where the name of CIPO became
CIPO-RFM. The AMZ is made up of OIDHO, FUDI (Frente Unico
en Defensa Indigena / United Front in Defense of the Indigenous),
CODEDI (Comite de Defensa de Derecho Indigena / Committee in
Defense of Indigenous Rights), and CAMA (Colectivo Autonomo
Magonista / Magonista Autonomous Collective). The AMZ is the
alliance between the more libertarian organizations, and this alliance
is more for the long term being that they all have similar ideas and

We also spoke about unity, and how it is not possible of achieving
unity without dealing with the differences that we have. Alejandro
talked about understanding the process and being involved in it.
Everybody involved in alliances still has do their own work, on their
front. There are also issues having to do with opportunism (in it for
their own opportunistic aims) and people who leave the alliances
after there is one conflict in the alliances. Alejandro says that they
rather work with people who will stick it through to the end. People
detect others who are there for the wrong reasons. New people can
come in and participate and observe, but the internal decisions are
made by people who have been there for a while and who are
involved in the struggle.

We asked how we can help OIDHO right now, and they told us by
passing on information everywhere of what is happening in Oaxaca.
People can send letters, faxes, emails to the government regarding
what is happening here. People can form committees to support the
struggle in Oaxaca. They have three political prisoners that need
support. We have a space in the city of Oaxaca that people can
support and they need funds. "We have 10 years of confrontation
with the government, that has weakened us economically and

Alejandro Cruz spoke of the future he saw for Oaxaca, "where
there's an organized movement; where the movement is able to have
strength, structure and organization. If that happens, then we have a
future, we can't create the change on our own, we want an
alternative project to that of the nation. We want to defend and have
control of our own resources. For that we need an organized force.
The government doesn't listen to the people. This is a decisive
moment, either the decisions of the people will be respected or the
government will continue to impose their authoritarianism."

En lucha,

Joaquin Cienfuegos
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