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(en) Mexico, Alt. Media, Oaxaca’s Popular Assembly Throws Down a Challenge to the Governor - an uprising in the making

Date Fri, 27 Oct 2006 23:44:35 +0200

General Strike on October 27, 28, and 29
Divisions in the Teachers’ Union as Members Vote to Return to Classes
OCTOBER 26, 2006: After five months of struggle, the Popular Assembly
movement in Oaxaca has reached an impasse. Many fear the solution will
come through violence, many still hope that the governor Ulises Ruiz
Ortiz (known as “URO”) will end the confrontation by resigning his
office when confronted with even fiercer ungovernability. He says he
won’t. However Oaxaca comes through this moment of struggle, in my own
opinion as an observer, the Popular Assembly movement – born out of a
teachers’ strike that evolved far beyond the teachers’ demands and now
involves countless other groups and individuals – has now surged beyond
the point where it can be obliterated by government actions or a
collapse of the teachers’ resolve.

Some, such as myself, read this traumatic week both as the climax of one
phase, and the inception of a second. By no means would I consider the
teachers’ vote on Thursday to return to classes the death of the Popular
Assembly movement, which has already spread to one third of the states
in Mexico

The teachers’ assembly of Saturday and Sunday to vote on a return to
classes was so highly suspect that the teachers decided to have a second
consultation at the base. The report of the second consultation, which
was scheduled to be reported out on Wednesday, October 25, was postponed
twice during that day. By evening, the delegates had entered the
building. At that moment, the unofficial count of vote results was
28,000 for returning to classes, and a few more than 20,000 for not
returning. Around 8 p.m., amid an already tense atmosphere, shots were
heard close to the side street which abuts the Hotel Magisterio (the
teachers’ union-owned hotel used for meetings). The assembly adjourned.
The directors decided that security was so fragile it was better to

On Thursday, October 26, the meeting was postponed from 9 a.m. to 3
p.m., when Enrique Rueda Pacheco, the leader of the Oaxacan local
“Section 22” of the teachers’ union, finally arrived. Rueda has been the
object of scorn and allegations of selling out since the last
consultation vote, which many believe was tampered with. During the
afternoon wait, a bus was burned, and about eleven shots were fired by
unknown persons. The assembly finally got underway at 3 p.m. The
consultation vote of rank-and-file teachers was officially announced to
be 31,078 in favor of return to classes, and 20,387 against. The date
for opening the schools has not yet been set.

The Oaxaqueños’ income depends to a considerable extent on its two
salaried unions, teachers and health workers, both now without income.
Furthermore, the artisan and tourist segments of the economy have
diminished dramatically during the months of strikes and protests.
Another factor is that after November 15, the school year would be
considered “lost.”

On the other side, the arguments to continue the resistance include what
I imagine to be the inevitable picking off of individual teachers and
Section 22 leaders if URO were to ultimately emerge “victorious.”
Especially in the rural areas, where communications are nearly
non-existent, there would be little to stop the movements’ opponents
from exacting revenge through murder, something the government is
clearly not adverse to (as last week’s murder of schoolteacher Pánfilo
Hernández made clear). Additionally, the division in Section 22 over
whether to continue the strike heralds the demise of the previously
largest and strongest independent union in the country, a betrayal of
those who came out in support, and of those who were killed during the
strike. Since the teachers initiated the Popular Assembly movement and
signed on to the declaration of the Popular Assembly of the Peoples of
Oaxaca (APPO in its Spanish initials) that the departure of URO is not
revocable, it remains to be seen how the teachers, and how many of them,
will remain within the APPO ranks and maintain the struggle.

According to a report in the national daily El Universal, the majority
of the union delegations from the Valles Centrales region have declared
they will fight on until the fall of URO. Whether this means they will
head back to classes is unclear.

The Valles Centrales region, which includes Oaxaca City, is the largest
and most influential of the eight that make up Section 22, and
encompasses 215 of the 743 delegations. This represents 25,000 of the
almost 70,000 teachers in the state. The southeastern Isthmus of
Tehuantepec and northern Tuxtepec regions, which voted in favor of
return to classes, are comprised of 18,000 teachers.

Meanwhile, the APPO issued a “call for a popular peaceful insurrection”
on December 1 if the state’s governor, Ulises Ruiz, has not stepped down
by then. The immediate plan for October 27, 28 and 29 is a complete
blockade of highways and roads, and complete closure of all businesses.
It is supposed to be not only a state strike, but a national one, and
one that will foreshadow the speed, progress and strength of the Popular
Assembly movement.

The December 1 call steps up pressure on President-elect Felipe
Calderón, who faces opposition with civil disobedience actions to his
inauguration on the same day. Under the slogan “Si Ulises no se va,
Calderon no pasará” (“If Ulises does not go, Calderon will not pass”),
the APPO has affiliated with the national anti-Calderón actions. An APPO
spokesman declared on Radio Universidad on Thursday October 26 that this
is a moment of decision. He pointed out that the military is moving
around the state in small groups of five or ten at a time.

Speaking to widespread fears of military incursions (or what is now a
common occurance: military in civilian clothing carrying out attacks),
on Wednesday, October 25, residents of the Sierra Juarez area marched to
Oaxaca City to show their support for the APPO. They and residents of
the surrounding Sierra Norte mountains have complained of the military
occupation to which they are now subjected, with large convoys of
soldiers passing through their communities in the last weeks. Leaders
from towns such as Guelatao, the birthplace of Mexico’s only indigenous
president, Benito Juárez, addressed the teachers’ assembly in support of
the struggle. Messages of support were read out from Mexico City and
from students. Solidarity was the word of the day, offered also from the
United States and other nations. Many believe that the external
attention has been a factor in deterring a bloody repression.
Nevertheless, the votes had already been cast at least a day before the
speeches, and were being reported by the sector delegates.

Virtually simultaneously, the Civil Dialogue For Peace, Democracy and
Justice in Oaxaca held its first plenary to report on results of the
working tables since October 12. The Dialogue group declares itself a
third civil organization, being neither the APPO nor Section 22. Its
goal is to give all citizens an opportunity to speak about the problems
besetting Oaxaca, especially underdevelopment, economic disparity and
social repression.

Not surprisingly, this groups’ program for Oaxaca is similar to that of
the APPO, as is its horizontal structure of organization. It declares
that Oaxaca is in a moment of transition, although the old regime has
not yet fallen. It described the situation as “subnational
authoritarianism.” The document produced in the plenary reads: “There
are many different activists who a seek change and transformation in the
state, from the Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca, which is
establishing forms of alternative popular power, to expressions by some
from the political class, from the business class and from diverse
sectors of society.”

It describes the APPO as an anti-authoritarian non-political movement
characterized by plurality and diversity. Within the APPO, the Dialog
document points out, a single ideology does not exist. “The APPO is a
front for the whole population, open to all; it is a front of
organizations in process of construction. Within the APPO, social
organizations, unions, civil organizations, homesteaders, academics,
church communities, artists, indigenous organizations and campesina
women, peoples and communities come together. The APPO articulates
diverse sectors in a discourse and strategy which has a common
objective: the removal of Ulises Ruiz Ortiz as governor of Oaxaca and
the political transformation of the state.”

During the past week the Dialogue reached conclusions on programs for
the economy, the natural resources, the urban environment, the media and
communications, and education.

In conclusion, the Dialogue declared: “This moment requires us to see
ourselves, and define what it is we want. We agree that a new structure
of government is required, as well as a new legal institutional
structure. We want a new democratic project. Essentially, we propose the
establishing of a New Social Pact…”

With those words, yet another forum for the struggle was established.


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