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(en) Mexico, Alt. Media, The Uprising of Oaxaca* – How Far Can it Go?

Date Mon, 26 Jun 2006 07:50:33 +0300


Two Issues Must Now Be Resolved: Removal of Governor Ulises Ruiz and
Resolution of the Teachers’ Educational Demands
OAXACA CITY, June 24, 2006: Oaxaca is a contentious state, with
conflicts in towns, on public and communal lands. Assassinations
each year number between 20 and 30. The state has 570
municipalities, but in 2004, 750 cases of agrarian conflict.
Ulises Ruiz Ortiz (URO) has united the people of Oaxaca – in
opposition to him, and to the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI,
in its Spanish initials), which has maintained a strangle-hold on
Oaxaca for more than seventy years, maintaining caciquismo (the
power of local political bosses) and aggravating the agrarian conflicts
to divide the people. Selling their votes to the PRI is how towns
obtain what should be rightfully theirs, including schools and
educational supplies.

The Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca (APPO) has now
met three times. Today, June 24, 2006, at the close of the APPO,
the general secretary of the Section 22 of the National Education
Workers’ Union (SNTE), Enrique Rueda Pacheco, held a press
conference in which he assured the public that the teachers’
strike will be settled this weekend.

Now the question becomes, can the education demands, which may
be settled soon, be separated from the demand for URO to resign?

By all reports, the range of APPO attendees extends from the
PRI-affiliated, to the anarchists and revolutionaries on the far left.
The APPO declared itself unified by a desire to oust URO.
Today’s decisions, beyond Pacheco’s statement, are not yet
known.

However, Pacheco announced on Friday, June 23, 2006 that the
threatened boycott of the July 2 election won’t happen.
That’s a withdrawal of previous threats by the union.

Pacheco announced a new group of mediators for the education
negotiations, among them some of the least militant personalities of
Oaxaca: artist Francisco Toledo, Archbishop José Luis Chávez
Botello, the emeritus bishop of Tehuantepec, and businessman
Carlos Guzmán Gardeazábal.

The union refuses to negotiate with Governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz or
with any federal official of second rank – the union demands
talks with somebody who has real power, that is, the Secretary of
Government (“Segob,” equivalent to Secretary of Interior),
Carlos Abascal Carranza, or somebody equivalent.

Segob has made it clear that it cannot negotiate with regard to
URO’s removal, but will negotiate with regard to education,
which is as much a federal matter as a state one.

Meanwhile, the city of Oaxaca bubbles with spontaneous
demonstrations of support for Section 22’s call to remove URO.
Yesterday, Section 22 received ten tons of supplies delivered in
solidarity by the Union of Mexican Electricians, and an unscheduled
people’s march sprang up in the Oaxaca City neighborhood of
Rosario, picking up anti-Ruiz voices along its way to the center. It
replaced the previously announced and then cancelled fourth SNTE
“mega-march.”

Blockades and work-stoppages were announced by Radio
Universidad, the united student-teacher station operating out of the
Benito Juarez Autonomous University.

Presentations aired on Radio Universidad discuss the exploitation of
Oaxaca under the North American Free Trade Agreement
(NAFTA), Plan Puebla-Panama, neoliberalism and globalization
– previously unmentioned subjects. Information percolates
among the general public, which formerly held few conversations on
subjects which were the province of “intellectuals” and
student radicals. In call-ins to the station, housewives and retired
people are suddenly talking about “class” differences. They
mention the World Trade Organization and the benefits the rich
receive. They mention URO as aligned with capitalist powers and
decry how some who call for a return to the classrooms by the
teachers actually send their own kids to private school. Many voices
are indigenous.

The consciousness-raising politicization of Oaxaca has arrived.

The APPO is having a moderating effect on the teachers, while the
strike is radicalizing the people. The foremost demand, that URO
resign as governor, has not softened; it’s hard to see how either
the APPO or Section 22 could back off on this issue – now that
the entire state is ungovernable – without losing any future
support from the public.

The astonishing unification of Oaxacan society may be what pushes
the teachers’ Section 22 to bury its own internal differences
– something that could not be achieved during the tour of
Oaxaca by Subcomandante Marcos in his role as Delegate Zero for
the Zapatista Other Campaign. At that time, Delegate Zero
expressed his unwillingness to meet with groups that could not
resolve their own internal conflicts to unite in a common struggle
against the authoritarian government.

The Zapatista method of permitting everyone to speak, and listening
to them indefinitely, is not practical for the APPO (not surprising
given this urgent and stressful time period), but the sessions are still
very long. Also, the APPO decided not to function by consensus, but
by majority vote. The APPO declared that political parties, like the
press, are not allowed in the assembly, but naturally many
individuals espouse positions in accord with their politics.

In a marathon session, the second meeting of the Popular Assembly
of the People of Oaxaca took place on June 20, 2006 lasting from
noon to nine o’cock at night. The participating unions included
the Health Workers Union, the Telmex (private telephone company)
workers’ union, the Benito Juarez University workers, and the
bus drivers’ union. A total of 79 groups participated, including
popular and student organizations, municipal authorities, social
organizations and independent citizens. Today, the day of the third
APPO, I hear the student announcers on the radio calling for the
presence of colonos and colonas – residents of the suburbs.

At the second meeting several accords were achieved, including how
the assembly should be made up and how to maintain
communications between different sectors. A very difficult issue will
be how to maintain civil peace and conduct a parallel government
– before, after or parallel to Governor Ruiz, who is now
optimistically referred to as the ex-governor.

Among the action points discussed were the boycott of the federal
elections of July 2 (which was cancelled) and further marches and
blockades of offices and highways. A statewide work stoppage called
for Friday, June 23 was cancelled. A shopping boycott called against
the supermarket Pitico, the pharmacy Ahorra, and some of the
zócalo (central plaza) restaurants didn’t happen. The Oaxaca
zócalo, still in the hands of the teachers, was well-guarded on all
sides but open enough for pedestrians to enter.

The entrance to the university building where the second APPO met
was controlled by students and other youngsters, all of them
members of the Committee for the Defense of Human Rights who,
with faces covered with bandannas, carried sticks and machetes and
blocked access to the press.

Among the groups present were the Wide Front for Popular Struggle
(FALP), and the Revolutionary Popular Front (FRP), as well as the
Union of Revolutionary Youths of Mexico, the Committee for
Defense of the People, and the General Strike Council of the
Autonomous National University of Mexico.

An anarchist faction seeks the removal of powers from all the
branches of government in Oaxaca: legislative, judicial and
legislative.

A substantial number of the teachers and delegates are adherents to
the non-violent Other Campaign of the Zapatistas.

The majority of delegates belong to social non-governmental
organizations, which work in Oaxaca to improve conditions for the
people without overt politic affiliations, as is required by Mexican
law. These organizations were among the first to call for
non-violence after the June 14 attack, and pledged their support to
the united struggle against Ruiz. They constitute non-militant,
middle-of-the-road factions which hope to forge from the APPO a
unified popular sector which will act in a reasonable and balanced
way (read, non-radical) in negotiating with the government, and
continue as an ongoing public voice, regardless of the outcome of
the current negotiations.

Many young folks, of course, are implacably radical.

How to maintain the startling moment of unity is the big question.
The question for many teachers after this weekend may be, can I go
home now? Within Section 22 itself divisions break out between
PRD (Party of the Democratic Revolution) and PRI supporters. The
national SNTE, led by Elba Esther Gordillo (a widely disliked PRI
militant known for both her fierce combativeness and corruption)
opposes the presidential candidate Roberto Madrazo. Section 22 is
split within, into pro-Gordillo and anti-Gordillo factions, as well as
PRD supporters.

The outcome of the federal presidential elections July 2 looms on the
horizon. Although Fox won’t jeopardize the candidacy of the
PAN candidate Calderón by interfering (the reports of federal troops
nearby turned out to be rumors planted to intimidate the teachers),
should Calderón or Madrazo be elected, the situation changes.
Thus it looks more urgent for Pacheco to agree to some resolution of
the teachers’ educational demands before July 2.

The teachers’ educational demands focus on the neglected
educational infrastructure and restructuring teachers’ salaries.
Education in Oaxaca is poor, and the illiteracy rate is around 25
percent (compared to about 8 percent nationally), with most of the
illiterate being indigenous women. Many teachers complain of
having to conduct classes in shacks made of laminated cardboard
and of a lack of books, supplies and food for the children who arrive
hungry. URO was roundly denounced for his neglect of education.

“Ruiz has remained deaf to all demands and necessities of
Oaxacan society, causing widespread dissatisfaction in all civil
sectors,” the APPO declared in its first meeting. Ruiz is accused
of the unauthorized use of public resources for Madrazo’s
campaign. So when he claims there’s no money for education
the public response is understandable outrage.

Ruiz is also accused of the destruction of the historical, natural and
cultural patrimony, harassment of independent media, excessive use
of police and repression of unions and independent organizations.

Section 22 went on strike on May 21, 2006, establishing an
encampment in downtown Oaxaca City, which effectively brought to
a halt the center city’s tourist and commercial activities.

The police attacked the teachers’ strike encampment on June 14
before dawn. A popular corrido (ballad) hit the airwaves of Radio
Universidad on June 16, celebrating the teacher-heroes.

The new people’s assembly held its first meeting on June 18,
2006. Today, June 24, the third APPO took place at the Hotel
Magisterial. Two clear issues must now be resolved: removal of
URO and resolution of the educational demands.

Tomorrow, Sunday, a cultural fiesta in support of the teachers will
be held in the zócalo.

[http://narconews.com/Issue42/article1936.html]
====================================
* Antiauthoritarian anticapitalists are in the core of the uprising
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