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(en) Mexico, Oxaca, Alt. Media, Another View of Conflict within the APPO

Date Sat, 19 May 2007 11:43:56 +0300

Propaganda has appeared in the international and national media recently claiming that Marxist groups control the Asamblea Popular de los Pueblos de Oaxaca, the APPO. They are a significant presence in the APPO, as are CIPO-RFM, the Consejo Indigena Popular de Oaxaca-Ricardo Flores Magon, and CODEP, Comite de Defensa de los Derechos del Pueblo, who are Magonista (Flores Magon was an anarchist who influenced Zapata and inspired the Mexican Revolution) groups, members of the PRD, Partido Revolucionario Democratica, the party of Lopez Obrador, teachers, and representatives from the communities. No one group controls the APPO. --- The FPR, one of the Marxist groups, with a sense of desperation, with no weapons, faced with constant harassment and death, attempted in the assembly the 10th and 11th of February to get the APPO to run political candidates. They maintain that this was only for the purpose of outreach to the communities, in order to educate more people to what the APPO represents. They said they think it is very unlikely that they would win the elections. Other groups, including an indigenous anarchist group thought that the APPO should either enter candidates or endorse candidates. At the present time only one FPR member is a candidate in the election. He is also a member of the congress of the APPO and is resigning from the APPO in order to conform to the position of the APPO to not participate in the elections.

The Mexican people are cynical about elections and political parties (reasonably), and the APPO when it was first organized told people it was not a political party (it is not). The proposal to run or endorse candidates was fought virulently by most of the anarchists, and particularly David Venegas, the representative of one of the barricades, Brenamiel. They were successful in resisting this proposal in the assembly of the 10th and 11th of February, however in the process David alienated some people with his aggressive tactics of interruptions and disruptions, and one member of both the congress of the APPO and the FPR, the Frente Popular Revolucionaria, a Marxist group, Guadalupe García Leyva, accused him of being a police agent. Evidently there had been some suspicion of this previously as there were rumors that members of his family are police

After this conflict in the APPO some anarchists and barricaderos (the name given to the people who protected the barricades during the uprising) began forming a group called VOCAL. One of the first organizational meetings was in February in the CIPO house. This organization was to operate within the APPO but autonomously, which seems to mean that “we will cooperate when it suits our purposes, but don’t count on us.”

The CIPO and CODEP until this time had been conforming to the positions of the APPO and were an important part of it. CODEP was very important in the initial foundation of the APPO. Both CODEP and CIPO participate in VOCAL to some extent.

Some history of the movement in Oaxaca would be helpful to understand what happened subsequently. The teachers for 26 years had occupied the Zocalo (central park) while negotiating pay with the state government. Last year their planton (tent city) was attacked in the early morning of June 14 by state police. This had never occurred before. The teachers, along with University students, organizations like CODEP, and community people fought back and went on to take over the entire city of Oaxaca, putting up barricades and essentially bringing state business to a complete halt. The APPO was formed and its primary demand was and still is the removal of the governor and his staff. They refuse to recognize the present state government and have no communication with it.

They held the city until November 2. During this time there were attacks on the barricades and on individuals associated with the movement and many people were killed, beaten, and disappeared. When Bradley Will, an American photojournalist with Indymedia, was killed on October 27, and Rueda Pacheco the head of the teachers union pulled the union out of the APPO (thousands of teachers still participate and at the state assembly this action was denounced), the death of Will was used as a pretext to send in the PFP the Federal Police. The police tore down all the barricades except the one protecting the last APPO radio station at the University, and forced the movement out of the Zocalo to the church of Santa Domingo where they established a planton.

The planton in Santo Domingo was destroyed probably by local police the night following a demonstration which turned violent when the Federal Police attacked after being insulted by some of the participants. The police were repelled at this time but the planton was burned during the night. The situation continued with marches and demonstrations. The people were frustrated and unsure how to bring the movement forward. On the 20th of November the congress of the APPO had a meeting to decide the action of the 25th.

There had been a proposal from the federal government, including elements of the PFP, that on the 25th the PFP would retire completely from the Zocalo to the Parque de Amor which is on the pereferico (loop) that circles the center of Oaxaca. The APPO would enter the Zocalo (the central park) in the march but would not put up a planton (a tent city to occupy the Zocalo) and would retire from the Zocalo at the end of the day. The PFP would not return to the Zocalo. This plan was probably intended to benefit the businesses in the Zocalo who suffered more from the presence of the PFP than the presence of the teachers.

The barricaderos from Brenamiel, who had actually operated from the barricade a little closer to town at the Pitico because there had been conflicts with the teachers at Brenamiel over drugs, alcohol, and extortion, proposed that they instead circle the Zocalo where the PFP were camped, and remain for the night. The FPR wanted to march through the Zocalo and have a rally at the Santo Domingo Church.

The plan of the barricaderos from Brenamiel was accepted with the support of CODEP, CIPO and the Maoist group, however with the stipulation from those in dissent that the APPO would remain one block out so as to avoid direct contact with the PFP.

With an action this provocative it would have been prudent to have come prepared to fight with everything you have at the moment, remained prepared to fight, and have a plan of escape. Instead, after a couple of hours in which there was no confrontation, the majority of the participants, community people who are not on the council but support the APPO, unaware of the danger of the situation, went home to eat.

The areas dominated by CIPO did not remain one block out, and the demonstration was attacked in that location first (it more than likely would have been attacked regardless as the PFP were in Oaxaca to crush this movement.) The only people who had a plan were the Marxists, who retreated to Santo Domingo to regroup in order to defend the APPO. Many of the people who had left, and even some other sympathizers who hadn’t been there previously, ran back to defend, but it was too late, with the APPO sandwiched between local police thugs with guns and the brutal PFP with bigger guns. Hundreds of people were arrested, tortured, and disappeared, and a small number killed.

The APPO moved to the right in the time following the tragedy of the 25th of November and attempted to attribute all violence to provocateurs, which of course is untrue. The barricaderos and anarchists are a very small element of the people willing to fight if necessary. One mason had not been in the demonstration but heard the APPO had been attacked and ran to the zocalo to help. I asked him why and he said, “Because my neighbors are teachers.”

The APPO prohibited wall painting and masks for the first march after the 25th on December 1, because the APPO had assurances from the federal government they would not be attacked if they did not do graffiti and did not wear masks. This was an event for which the barricaderos, CIPO, CODEP, and their sympathizers failed to appear. They were not present in any of the days immediately following the 25th. For this their prestige in the APPO was diminished, although they are still an important force.

The APPO is no longer enforcing the rule about face coverings, as talks with the federal government have been suspended. However the suspension of face coverings, while protecting the genuine APPO spray painters, also made it more difficult for the infiltrators who would follow behind the marches with either left wing provocative (painting collaborator across Flavio Sosa’s face) or anti-APPO slogans.

There was a meeting on March 12 to plan actions for March 15, the international day against police brutality, and an obviously important day for Oaxaca, given the extreme police brutality they have suffered since the movement began. The members of the APPO knew that the new group VOCAL was planning a march for this day, but VOCAL did not petition for the support of the APPO on the 12th, which would have been necessary in order for the APPO to appear as a group, and did not even formally notify the APPO of the march until two or three hours before it was to begin. This was probably because VOCAL was to be introduced that day and the participants did not want to be overshadowed by the APPO. Consequently there were 30 people present. With the police presence of about 200, the participants decided to suspend the march.

A letter was sent to the local newspaper, “Noticias de Oaxaca” on the morning of the 15th of March denouncing VOCAL as priistas (referring to the PRI), police agents, and thugs, supposedly from a member of the congress of the APPO named “Jennifer.” No such person exists and none of the people I have questioned within the APPO know anything about the source of this letter.

David Venegas (nicknamed alebrije which more or less translates as nightmare) the representative to the congress of the APPO from the Brenamiel barricade, was kidnapped by armed men on the 13th of April, beaten, accused of holding drugs (probably planted) and sent to the Santa Maria Ixcotel in the city of Oaxaca. Since then the APPO has been accused of failing to support David, and the FPR has been accused of collaboration with the government and the members of the FPR have been accused of using the APPO for personal advancement.

Perhaps the APPO did not turn out in huge numbers for the demonstrations for David’s liberty, but there have been two or three demonstrations (perhaps more) for David and only David. This number of demonstrations has not been held for any other single prisoner (or really any other demonstration for a single person except one demonstration for the teacher that the police grabbed near the University.) The demonstrations are usually mass demonstrations for all the political prisoners, with thousands of people, many carrying signs showing the picture of a political prisoner. David was mentioned specifically at the mother’s day event of the APPO at which CIPO and CODEP did not appear.

The APPO has been under attack from VOCAL for failing to support David, and on May 15th David sent a letter to the paper that denounced specifically several members of the APPO, including the most frequently seen designated speaker, Florentino Lopez. There was also a big march of teachers as it is international teachers day. CIPO and CODEP were distributing this letter at the march, and David’s father read it in the rally. In the letter David says that the FPR has been circulating a video that is supposed to be proof that he is a police agent. He had supposedly been seen and filmed several times exiting the offices of Heliodoro Diaz Escarraga in the SEPROCI, the Secretaria de Proteccion Ciudadana (the chief of police). The FPR members I have talked with deny knowing anything at all about a video, and Florentino Lopez had told me a few days before that he did not believe David was a police agent.

David said in the letter that Florentino Lopez has been detained two times, the first time was on December 18, when Florentino Lopez and two other people, one a retired former director of the teachers union, were detained for three hours and beaten and then released. One of David’s jailers informed him of the other time, in which the jailer claimed to have detained Florentino and released him under directions from his superior. Florentino denies this ever happened. There was an attempted detention of Florentino at the bus station, in which he and his friends fought off the police. Florentino is certainly more believable than David’s jailer.

David attributes an action to Guadalupe García Leyva, the FPR member who denounced him the 11th of February, that was committed by Ezequiel Rosales Careno. Careno, the secretary of the teachers’ union, denounced the youth who showed up at the May Day march with their faces covered as being provacateurs and thugs and all members of VOCAL. Careno is not a member of APPO and again tried to remove the teachers union from the APPO unsuccessfully in the recent state meeting.

David also says in the letter that there are many members of the both the FPR and the congress of the APPO who are candidates in the elections, but several members of the FPR have told me that there is only one.

This action by David, disorganized and factually incorrect, either intended to fracture the APPO, or a reflection of his desperation, has boomeranged, and probably will destroy VOCAL. May 17th this message was posted after his letter on the internet:

“Las barricadas de 5 señores, colonias Reforma, infonavit, Ricardo Flores Magon, Simbolos patrios,Col. Santa Maria, Montoya, Sta. Rosa, El rosario, Gomez Sandoval, Volcanes, Siete Regiones, Yalalag, San Juanito nos deslindamos publicamente del Mencionado David Venegas a) alebrije mejor conocido ya como POLIBRIJE.
Las sospechas sobre el, que lo señalan como policia al servicio de URO no son nuevas, sino vienen de tiempo atras. Con esta actitud no hace mas que confirmarlo.”

In it the groups from almost all of the major barricades reject David and call him polibrije instead of alebrije. The letter goes on to say that the suspicions that he works as police in service to the governor are not new. With this attitude he has done nothing more than prove it.

David’s action will also inevitably damage the APPO as some people who are peripherally involved will be confused by it and give up, and some will believe the letter. And then somewhere out there are some who know exactly what they are doing.

The hope is that CIPO, CODEP, and the youth from the Brenamiel barricade will remain active in the APPO, because although their influence is not without errors, no group’s influence is without errors; we all make mistakes. They are a valuable part of the movement both theoretically and physically. The CIPO is the one with which I am most familiar, and they are promoting organic gardening. Most of the local vegetables are produced without synthetics because of economics, but it is good to reinforce this and make it conscious. Theoretically they are promoting an anti-authoritarian position, which is an extremely important strand in the APPO, and empowering the indigenous communities (although sometimes in practice it appears to be the reverse).

The FPR members I have come to know are sincere and dedicated. I do not agree with their positions all the time. I think it is a mistake to run candidates and I don’t uphold Stalin or, for that matter, Lenin, although neither one should be ignored. However the FPR is often correct in tactical issues because they study history and theory, and I have seen no one in the movement appear to be as loved as Florentino Lopez

The FPR do not have the gift of media manipulation that is displayed by CIPO, with their dramatic, visually effective demonstrations. CIPO out of all the groups has also done the best job of presenting itself to the international community, although in a little less than straightforward way, as partying pacifists who “only want to be left in peace.”

The correct way forward is going to come from all the voices of the APPO, not from any single group. International support can go to the APPO and there will soon (within a few days) be a link in order to contribute to COFADPPO the political prisoner support group on the web site www.asambleapopulardeoaxaca.com.
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