Report from Oaxaca, Mexico 07-07-06
Update on the Situation in Oaxaca: the popular assembly, the teacher’s strike and the future.
Several New Reports below, just scroll down for previous days reports from Oaxaca y Atenco. sorry. We will try to organize these in a better way very soon.
The 70,000 public school teachers who went out on strike on May 22nd,
entered their sixth week of camping out in the streets of Oaxaca City
The popular assembly that formed after the police repression against
teachers, on June 14th, continues working together with the teachers
seeking strategies to bring down the governor of Oaxaca.
On July 1st and 2nd (election day), social organizations and teachers
from Oaxaca city maintained the encampment, while rural teachers
returned to their communities for two days, to talk with parents and
community members, encouraging them to vote their opposition to the
PRI and the PAN. While some interpreted this as an outright
endorsement of the center-left PRD candidate Lopez Obrador, it
actually looked more like a plebiscite than a vote in favor of the
For the first time in history, the PRI lost in Oaxaca, with 9 out of
11 districts voting for the PRD. This has significant implications
for the Governor of Oaxaca, who belongs to the PRI, and many believe
the teachers’ mobilizations had a profound influence on the election
results throughout the state.
Throughout the week of July 3rd – 7th, teachers continued carrying
out direct actions. One day all of the highways leading in and out of
the state were blockaded. The next day, all entrances to the city
were closed down. Teachers blockaded McDonalds, the local Coca-Cola
bottling plant, and other large companies. A public exhibition of
resistance art, created by the teachers in their 45 days of struggle,
was mounted in the public plaza outside Santo Domingo church.
The Popular Assembly proposed that teachers who had been teaching
classes this year return to their communities for two weeks to finish
the school year, while teachers who don’t have classes this year,
together with social organizations, maintain the encampment. This
proposal arose out of the concern that many rural teachers feel a
strong commitment to the community authorities and parents in the
towns where they teach. While the process for deciding on this
proposal was initially contested by many teachers who felt they
weren’t sufficiently consulted by their state assembly, the proposal
was ultimately accepted.
So, beginning this weekend (July 7th), rural teachers will return to
their communities to finish the school year and to talk with parents
and community members, encouraging them to return with them to the
encampment on July 22nd, where they have committed to stay until the
governor of Oaxaca steps down.
On July 24th, the teachers and the Popular Assembly will hold an
Alternative Guelaguetza. The Guelaguetza is an annual festival of
indigenous art, culture, music and dance, in the city of Oaxaca, that
has become increasingly commercial and has come to represent cultural
appropriation more than celebration. Teachers are encouraging
foreigners NOT to attend the Guelaguetza, and instead to attend the
Radio Planton (the teachers’ community radio station) is back on the
air, after being completely destroyed by police on June 14th.
It will be important to keep a close eye on developments in Oaxaca,
over the next couple of weeks. Election fraud at the national level
has generated a new level of tension throughout the country. There
are fears that teachers returning to their communities will face
repression by local PRI authorities. At the same time, the number of
people in the encampment in center of town will decrease
significantly. With the elections over, the Governor of Oaxaca has
less to lose politically, and with the Guelaguetza approaching, many
fear another attempt to “remove” the planton could result in another
wave of violence.
An example of the ongoing possibility for repression, on June 30th, a
university student who had been supporting the teachers by reporting
for Radio Planton and Radio University was attacked and beaten by
PRI-ista students at the same unviversity. His initial diagnosis was
paralysis, from the blows to the back of his neck. His diagnosis has
improved, but his condition still remains delicate.
Rebellion in Oaxaca
The week following the early morning police assault on the 14th, the
maestros and supporters occupied the zocalo only from the hours of 8
AM to 8 PM. However, they have been doing other things. Friday the
16th they organized the Third Megamarch in Oaxaca, woth a reported
300,000 turning out. The folks in the town have also Showed huge
support, cheering from the streets alongside the march and bringing
food to the striking teachers and their supporters. Tuesday the 20th
marked the Maestros statewide assembly, which I don’t have a huge
amount of information on, other than that they’ve decided to make
decisions by taking a vote. Since the beginning of the maestros
planton, many other social groups have been involved helping out, and
promoting their interests. Saturday the 17th was the first Oaxacan
Popular Assembly, a meeting of many of the more radical folks who have
been helping out, as well as more mainstream groups trying to get a
neck in on the action.
OPA states tht it is an effort to build a unified opposition to
Oaxacan Governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz and the PRI, who ordered the bloody
police attack. Present at the meeting were folks from the PRD
(Democratic Revolutionary Party,) two socialist parties, the
electricians union, the telephone union, social security union, The
university facvulty of architecture and language, as well as several
radical social justice groups based in the pueblos, such as the
anarchist CIPO-RFM, and the socialist groups CODEP and OIDHO. All in
all a total of 376 folks showed up at their first meeting, and
,deciding to make their decisions by concensus, they agreed on a
document demanding for the immediate destitution of Ulises Ruiz Ortiz.
On monday the 26th a delegation from OPA went to Mexico City to
deliver one million signatures on a petition for his destitution. It
should be noted that these folks overlap some, because many of the
members of the radical social justice groups happen to be maestros as
well, and are constantly pushing from the inside to radicalize things.
CIPO RFM recognizes that these organizations are never a place where
unity is created, rather they are a place for negotiations and power
struggles. However, seeing that this social movement is the most
important in Mexico right now, that it is important to the future of
their pueblos and all people in Oaxaca and in Mexico, they have
decided that they need to participate and continue to try and push
from the inside to educate the others and have a hope for a more equal
Wednesday Ulises Ruiz Ortiz organized a march “in defense of
education,” the local paper reported that it arrived with “french
perfume and the smell of onions,” commenting on the fact that while
some of Ulises`upper class followers made it there, a large number of
the marchers were hired campesinos. Even while paying them, he still
managed to garner less than ten thousand folks.
While many of the maestros have been scared away from returning to the
zocalo, the social justice groups have been filling in their gaps, and
wednesday the 21st also marked the first day returned to 24 hr
occupation. The campesinos, activists, and teachers have built huge
barricades on the streets surrounding the zocalo, have rocks and
sticks piled up for the impending attack, and are busy building unity
on the inside. The army has troops stationed in a part of the town
called the Cinco SeÃ±ores, and when a report was issued that they were
mobilizing the afternoon of the 22nd, the people here quickly
commandeered buses and set up blockades, gathering at the perimeters
to meet the oppressors. It turned out to be a false alarm, but it
shows that they are prepared.
Thursday the 22nd CIPO-RFM and other social rights groups occupied the
offices of TV channel 9from 8 AM to 4 PM to protest media
disinformation and privatization.There have also been marches in the
towns outside of oaxaca city, and yesterday a group of maestros
blocked the highway on the isthmus of tehuantepec for a number of
hours, burning a bus in the action. Wednesday the 28th will mark the
4th Megamarch in Oaxaca, demanding the destitution of Ulises Ruiz
All of these things point to a growing social movement within Oaxaca
that is on the verge of being revolutionary. I saw a poster yestyerday
that said “Ulises Ruiz Ortiz, the only governer able to unite all of
the people of Oaxaca, but AGAINST him.”
Report from Mexico City DF 06/28/06
By Joaquin Cienfuegos
(I hope to send the Images from my trip later today if I can get my camera to work). Yesterday and the day before I spent mostly traveling from Oaxaca back into Mexico City. Before I left Oaxaca I passed by the house of the
Consejo Indigena Popular de Oaxaca â€“Ricardo Flores Magon to pick up
some materials for a speaking tour that weâ€™re working on in the South
West US to support the struggle in Oaxaca (where the CIPO-RFM will be
participating and speaking).
I arrived in the evening of 06/27/06 to Mexico City and attended a cultural event at the Universidad Autonoma Metropolitana â€“ Xochimilco / Autonomous Metropolitan University â€“ Xochimilco Campus. There was a week of activities happening at UAM-X for La Otra Campana, my friend from Atenco, who is a member of the Frente de Pueblos en Defensa de la Tierra, goes there and is part of the Sexuality and Queer Organization at the campus (we talked about how this struggle of queer liberation was important and should be fought, and how challenging the culture of machismo within our communities was a big part of organizing within our communities). The event yesterday, June 27th, was a photo exhibition called,â€œAtenco: Represion y Vida Cotidiana / Atenco: Repression and Every Day Life,â€ and it was also an exhibition of paintings with the collaboration of the Committee Liberty and Justice – Jacobo and Gloria. There were paintings there by Jacobo Silva Nogales, who is a political prisoner along with his wife Gloria Arenas who are political prisoners for six years, have suffered repression, and have been tortured because they fought and organized for justice for the oppressed and the poor in Mexico. My favorite painting from Jacobo Silva Nogales was one entitled â€œZapata Machetero,â€ which he dedicated to the FPDT in Atenco, it was a portrait of Emiliano Zapataâ€™s face constructed by machetes. A story posted next to the painting was that of the FPDT and their close relationship to the Ejercito Zapatista de Liberacion Nacional (EZLN), and how they even provided security of Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos and defended him and broke through police barricades when they surrounded the house he stayed in when he was in Cuernavaca. There were photos also in exhibition of the repression in Atenco on May 4th, a long with a look into the daily life of the people in Atenco through photos.
NATIONAL ANARCHIST ENCUENTRO
Today in the morning I attended a National Encuentro (Gathering) of
Anarchists from Mexico (with a couple of people from Southern California as well, Los Angeles and Santa Ana). The national gathering was to discuss building an anarchist federation throughout Mexico. People also wanted to provide an alternative gathering for the Otra Campana; to have a collective analysis on the Otra, get an understanding on everyoneâ€™s view on the Otra, and hear of everyoneâ€™s local organizing experiences. The encuentro was scheduled for two days, and I stayed for the first part of the first day and the last part of the second day (I had other commitments, but also was able to contribute to the encuentro, talk, and meet other anarchists from all
over Mexico â€“ DF, Zacatecas, Oaxaca, Guadalajara, Chihuahua, Baja Califaztlan, Guanajuato, along with other places).
We had a go around at the encuentro to hear of everyoneâ€™s experiences,
and also some of our failures and victories. I noticed that people
are faced with the same obstacles and similar experiences in attempts
of building anarchist organizations or trying to connect anarchists.
Everyone was there to continue to try and build a movement, and
connect with each other â€“ where they wanted to learn and grow from the
mistakes theyâ€™ve done in the past. In Oaxaca they had some failed
attempts where you had some people who were more dedicated than
others, people didnâ€™t have a basic program to start out with, they
tried working with organizations but felt like they were being used.
They felt that building a network was best so that everyoneâ€™s
political differences would be respected. Right now they had formed
networks with different organizations to support the struggle against
the governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz in Oaxaca.
In Mexico there were different collectives from different parts, and they were all there to figure out what to do to combat the mistakes done in the past. Some talked about how individualists and collectivists clashed, were some individuals want to move the collective, the lack of consistency (where people scheduled meetings, and no one showed up to them), how when outreaching anarchists only focused on people who are politicized already and students, how anarchism is not explained to people and how it relates to them, where they saw that theyâ€™ve become a sectarian group of anarco-punks, nothing was being done to integrate themselves (by speaking at schools or doing outreach), there was a lack of formation, lack of study, lack of organization, lack of discussion (so that people can get practice at defending their ideas, and finding other ways of struggling besides just
marching. The Colectivo Autonomo Magonista (Autonomous Magonista Collective) talked about what they want to do in terms of building an analysis of different libertarian movements, building a movement nationally and internationally, building a clear vision about a libertarian movement, having self-criticism on our mistakes, and looking at history and learning from it (Magonismo, Federacion Anarquista Mexicana / Mexican Anarchist
Federation, the 1980â€™s â€“ the student struggles and anarco-punks in Mexico), and building an organization that is able to coordinate. The Colectivo Autonomo Magonista (CAMA) says that anarchism doesnâ€™t just exist in one sector, it exists in all sectors, â€œWe donâ€™t just have to build an anarco-punk scene, we can rebuild anarcho-syndicalism in Mexico.â€ A woman who worked with Indy Media Center in Mexico talked about how anarchism is a way of life, itâ€™s an analysis, and itâ€™s not a lifestyle. For some, when the state becomes too real for them, and they suffer repression, they go home. She said that the libertarian movement has to have a function; it has to act within the social movements, and organize in a broader way so we can be stronger.
In Guanajuato theyâ€™ve had a collective thatâ€™s been in existence for a long time â€“ where if people tried to join it they would be rejected. That collective also only focused on the immediate work and not on the revolutionary organizing for the long term, the camarada (comrade) from Guanajuato had a criticism that because theyâ€™ve been around for such a long time, and donâ€™t allow for new ideas, theyâ€™re stuck on dogma, and do not evolve their thinking. They also had a criticism of the punk scene, for having an immature understanding, and their ideas being based on whatever new scene existed, and how it is just a rebellious phase for many. In
Guanajuato theyâ€™re involved in supporting the struggles of miners.
In many different regions they talked about drugs and alcohol was a problem and a huge obstacle in their organizing. Where punks just wanted to get drunk and high, and not do any work. In Chihuahua they talked about how in the year 2000, they had a collective of 40 punks to start out with, and throughout time those 40 punks stopped coming around (they left because they were overwhelmed by the system, they just got into drugs, or when they saw that things didnâ€™t change overnight). They say that they donâ€™t work with anarchist teachers who just talk, they work with community and social movement organizations that are anti-capitalist, they work within the movements, and they also work with people from Juarez who have Zapatista ideas.
I participated in this discussion as well. I talked about some of my
experiences with the Southern California Anarchist Federation, our failures and our victories. I said that it was important to look at both the victories and failures of our experiences so we can keep on fighting. Also, that there isnâ€™t a need for an anarchist movement, but there is for a horizontal revolutionary organization that has a relationship with the popular movements (revolution is a popular struggle, and it is not made by a handful of people), with a strategy, a base for popular support within our communities (so we can all continue to struggle), and to organize those who donâ€™t call themselves anarchists around our principles (like mutual aid, horizontalism, autonomy, self-organization, self-determination, and self-defense). Having structure is important, and the role of our organization is to lead by example (in terms of how to struggle, and
how we can organize), and democratizing knowledge is part of the process of building horizontalism (some people have more experience than others, and shouldnâ€™t hold knowledge as private property). Finally I talked about my vision of a federation of revolutionary community councils, locally, regionally and internationally. We have a lot to learn still, and what is
needed is a revolutionary movement of the oppressed.
Later on in the day, I met up with a couple of people from Southern
California that I knew, and we went to another event at UAM â€“
Xochimilco on La Otra Campana. The event was a conference entitled,
â€œLa Otra Campana: De Cuando se Organizan lod De Abajo (The Other
Campaign: When those from the Bottom Organize).â€ The speakers
included, Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos (Sexta Commission of the
EZLN), Arturo Anguiano (Adherent to the Otra), Sergio Rodriguez (from
Rebeldia Magazine), Yan Maria Yaoyolotl (Organization of Lesbian
Zapatistas and Mujer Arte), and Francisco Cruz (militant of the
Socialist Workers Party, Partido Obrero Socialista). We arrived there
a little late and the auditorium was full, and we had to stand in the
back. We only got to hear the person from the socialist party and
Marcos speak, and most people in the auditorium I think were there to
see Marcos (My friend from Corona, Debbie,almost passed out after she
touched him : ] ).
Marco spoke about the Otra Campana and what it means and how it is going. Some of the things he talked about were traditional politics, anti-capitalism, and the anti-capitalists within La Otra. â€œIn traditional politics, those above put forward their politics, their program, and their principles. The analysis and politics need to come from those who are involved in the movements. The plan is being unraveled by those discussing around the points of the 6th declaration. The politics from above are always where they talk and we listen, we changed that relationship, where people talk and the EZLN listens, so we can build a different relationship built on mutual respect. The Other Campaign is built on mutual understanding, everybody with their way, with their flag, with their demands, with their voice.
Anti-capitalism of the left, that is said easily but it means to have a position against the systemâ€¦there is a system of capitalism, that is build on exploitation. Weâ€™re not all the same and we are not all equal. There are those who have everything, and those who have nothing. The first ones have because of the second ones. Under capitalism there are those who have money, the capitalists. Then there are those who only have the capacity to intellectually and physically work. This system produces wealth then it concentrates it. Itâ€™s responsible for robbing workersâ€¦, for prisoners.., no healthcareâ€¦, lack of justiceâ€¦, privatizing educationâ€¦, warâ€¦, social conflictâ€¦, racism against indigenous peopleâ€¦, violence towards womenâ€¦, the attacks and dehumanizing of homosexuals and transgender peopleâ€¦, authoritarianismâ€¦, the criminalization of youthâ€¦, and the destruction of
history and culture. Anti-Capitalism is to go farther away from this. Itâ€™s about destroying this system and building something else in its place.â€
Sub Marcos also talked about socialists and anti-capitalists within the Other Campaign, â€œSocialists arenâ€™t the only anti-capitalists within the Other Campaign. There are Anarchists and libertarians. Those who say socialism should only be within the Other Campaign mean their socialism. Anarchists do not say their way of thought should lead and be the only ones within the Other Campaign.â€
At the end of the day, the folks from Southern California and I went
to stay at an encampment in Toluca (the capital of Mexico), at the
prison Almoloya where the prisoners of the Atenco Repression of May
4th. People have vigils there every night and sleep outside of the
prison. They have a media center, kitchen, and have people doing
security at night. They play music all night long for the prisoners,
out of a sound system, that night we listened to Silvio Rodriguez, the
speech from Subcomandante Marcos of earlier, and Pink Floyd.
Report from Toluca, Mexico and Mexico City DF 06/29/06
Unfortunately this was my last day in Mexico, and I felt sad the
entire day (I tried to stay longer but had run out of money). I fell
in love with the people that I met in Mexico, their humbleness, their
rebel spirit, and their revolutionary aspirations that were in
In the morning people from Atenco, and other municipalities came to
organize actions at the different hearings for the political
prisoners. People split up and went to the different prisons where
political prisoners were being held, Santiaguito, La Palma, and
Almolaya prisons. The Southern Califas folks and I went to La Palma,
the maximum security prison where three people were being held
(Ignacio del Valle, Felipe Alvarez, and Hector Galindo). There were
some flower vendors from Texcoco who came, a woman from Texcoco said,
â€œWe called on the people from Atenco and they came, so weâ€™re here
supporting their political prisoners.â€ A woman from Catepe, a
municipality just outside of Atenco, spoke from a sound system that
was set up right outside of the prison and said, â€œWeâ€™re all Atenco, it
doesnâ€™t matter if youâ€™re from Guadalajara, from Guerrero, Chiapas, or
from California.â€ She later said, â€œWe had machetes to defend ourselves, but we never cut or hurt a police officer. Now if you attack us we will, because you massacred us.â€ Talking to other women from Atenco they told me, â€œI rather be working sweeping floors than be a cop. Itâ€™s a much more dignified job.â€ Another woman sitting next to her told me, â€œThey [cops] live off the people, and then they kill the people.â€ The speakers from the mic sent messages to the political prisoners that the women and men are still fighting. A friend that I met from Atenco, whoâ€™s uncle was being held inside La Palma, told me that the military might be sent into Atenco the day of the elections, he told me, â€œWe never had military before at our protests,â€ he said as he pointed at twenty to thirty Mexican soldiers, â€œThey think this will intimidate us, but this only enrages us more.â€
The campesinos created their own chants, and even songs that they
yelled and sang outside of the prison. Some of them were, â€œAlexis no
murio, el gobierno lo mato (Alexis didnâ€™t died, He was killed by the
government),â€ they sang, â€œNaranja dulce, Limon Partido, Pinche Gobierno ya estas podrido, si quieras guerra te la daremos, pero los presos los sacaremos (in song: Sweet orange, slice lemon, fucking government youâ€™re already rotten. If you want war weâ€™ll give it to you, but the prisoners will be freed.â€
Later in the day I caught a bus back to Mexico City, for the Anarchist
Encuentro that was still going on at the Centro Social Libertario â€“
Ricardo Flores Magon. When I got there we were talking about organizing an anarchist contingent at the mass mobilization being planned on July 2nd, against all the political parties, and in support of the struggles in Atenco and Oaxaca. We talked about forming affinity groups or cells of 3 in case the contingent was broken up, and we also talked about security (where we discussed having cameras to observe, document, and a form of defense, but also having walky-talkies to coordinate with the rest of the security of the
march). There was a good discussion around how we would deal with repression if it came down on us.
After this, the adehrentes of the Otra Campana met to discuss the
upcoming National Assembly for the adherents of the Otra Campana. The
points of unity around the anarchist participation in the Other
Campaign included, 1. Libertarian organization, 2. There is a possibility for libertarian struggle within La Otra, and 3. Support for the social movements within La Otra. Along with these points of unity there were serious concerns and criticisms that came from comrades from all over working within La Otra, who were proposing building a libertarian bloc within La Otra. The concerns included protagonism (where people seek to put themselves out there like the saviors of the people, or to build a cult of personality around them), to bureaucratic organization, and even compas from Juarez some social organizations working within La Otra went as far as to call the anarchists terrorists for dressing, thinking and struggling different.
We had a discussion around the different concerns for a couple of
hours. Around protagonism, in particular concerning La Otra, I donâ€™t
think itâ€™s the individuals in the EZLN who are at fault principally.
I think people from the time theyâ€™re born theyâ€™re trained in thinking
that someone else has to solve their problems for them, that someone
will make the decisions for them, and I think people sometimes build
Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos to be that. We have to challenge
this, and provide a means to where people can organize themselves
without this relationship. The individuals who donâ€™t challenge this
when it happens are also at fault, as coordinators and organizers, our
job isnâ€™t to always put ourselves out there, taking credit for things
we do not do or do on our own, or impose ourselves. We have to seek
to democratize knowledge, build collective ownership, and distribute
power. We talked about the importance of uniting with the ideas we
agree with within the Other Campaign (which was why most of us were adherents to the 6th Declaration of the Selva Lacandona), but at the same time criticize and call out things we disagree with and oppressive actions, language and behavior. You canâ€™t have unity if you there is oppression or if there isnâ€™t any respect. If there is no respect for anarchists, women, queer people, or different collectives and states that are involved in the campaign there canâ€™t be unity or solidarity. You canâ€™t have solidarity if there is opportunism, where organizations and individuals use the campaign for their on interests of centralized power (in particular authoritarian communists). We talked about having a clear analysis as anarchists within this national movement on why weâ€™re anti-capitalists, anti-imperialists, and
anti-oppression. We need to get our vision out there, and how we think we can get there and how we can organize ourselves. I talked about why I think itâ€™s important to keep our independent position within this movement, and continue our collective work that we were doing already. This is the time to propose a better future and organize to make that a reality.
The comrades asked me to stay with them that night, and asked me to
stay longer in Mexico (which I tried to do). I hung out with
camaradas from Zacatecas, Chihuahua, Guadalajara, Chiapas, DF, and we
talked and exchanged stories. They asked me a lot of questions about
California and Los Angeles. They asked me what part of LA I lived in,
and I told them I grew up in South Central and they heard stories of
how the situation was there. They showed me solidarity, and talked
about organizing street youth, gangs, punks and hip hop heads, the
funny thing I told them was that most of the organization of Cop Watch
Los Angeles was that. They thought it was good to hear about an
organization made up of the oppressed (women, people of color, queer,
trans, working class people).
We talked about music, and our favorite hard core punk bands, and we talked about how hip hop is also from the streets. I told them I listen to all types of music, and when we organize fundraisers and gigs we sometimes even have cumbia bands perform. I mentioned one of my favorite bands, Sin Dios, and some friends mentioned that a vegan punk band boycotted them in Mexico because Sin Dios had mad a comment about animal liberation, and said human liberation should come before animal liberation. I told them that I agreed with that, and was saying it before I heard of Sin Dios. W talked about the American punk scene influence on Mexico (the animal liberation, and veganism, and the complacentness with privilege of the American punk scene). I mentioned how a lot of my friends who are punk donâ€™t even
look the part (and the ones who are, are really different from the privileged punks) and come from the ghettos and barrios (and combine hip hop and punk sometimes) and we see that the anarchists who focus on animal liberation do so because it allows them to lead in a movement without challenging sexism, white supremacy, capitalism, homophobia and their own privilege. A brother from Zacatecas had heard of the South Central Farm, and talked about supporting the struggle by doing outreach to the Zacatecasâ€™ community in Los Angeles. A lot of us stayed up all night writing a statement that was going to be read at the National Assembly of Adherents to the Other Campaign. At points we would argue over our different positions, over language, and how to define ourselves, but this is part of the process of learning how to organize ourselves collectively.
Concluding the Visit to Mexico.
Overall in my time in Mexico I learned huge lessons. As I was talking
to a brother from Chihuahua, about the struggles that I encountered,
â€œIn the cities, weâ€™re still in preparation, weâ€™re still thinking of the struggle in terms of ideas, but in Atenco and Oaxaca theyâ€™re already putting it into practice.â€ There is definitely a lot to learn from those movements, and myself I would like to bring back into my organizing in Los Angeles and how we can adapt these lessons to our conditions in our communities.
There were different organizations, and not everybody worked together
either. People had concerns for different organizations, even if they
shared similar politics. Although, that relationship wasnâ€™t antagonistic, movements just had mutual understandings that they couldnâ€™t work together at this point. When criticism was raised, even if people were inside the same movement or in the Other Campaign, they did it in a way that helped strengthen the movement and the relationships they had within the movement and the Other Campaign.
I also think that there are many things that are similar with some
communities in Mexico and communities in the US, and some things that
are different. In Mexico there is racism towards indigenous people or
anyone who is dark skinned, and in the US white supremacy is also
responsible for the oppression of people of color. If you donâ€™t speak
Spanish in Mexico, youâ€™re seen as inhuman, just as if you donâ€™t speak
English in the US. The culture of machismo, religion, the system of
patriarchy and other things still subjugate women, queer, and transgendered people in Mexico as in the US. Poor people, working class people, farmers and peasants, are exploited and robbed by the capitalists, in a more overt and brutal way in Mexico due to imperialism, but many similarities with immigrants and workers in the US. There is repression in the US as in Mexico, but there is a difference. Most tactics in torture, in brutality, and rape are coming from the US, but we donâ€™t suffer this type of repression on the level that the people in Atenco and Oaxaca were witnessed to. In oppressed communities in the US we have a low intensity war, in the communities in Mexico theyâ€™re higher intensity because of imperialism and
the government in Mexico has to keep people in check for their masters in the US. We also have resistance in the US, and organizations from oppressed communities have similar ideas to those movements in Mexico (some of us more than others), but the people in Mexico have more experience in struggle. My comrades in Cop Watch Los Angeles actually have a lot of similar ideas to organizations like el Frente de Pueblos en Defensa de la Tierra and Organizaciones Indias por los Derechos Humanos de Oaxaca, but weâ€™re still building our base, getting organized, preparing, studying, and training. We are dealing with different conditions in the US, with a big propaganda machine, with a more cohesive state, and with people being content with their privileges and luxuries of living inside the empire.
The government of Mexico, though, is in trouble. They see these
revolutionary popular movements as a threat to their interests of selling Mexico to the highest bidder, so recently they have unleashed some of the most vicious repression in an attempt to kill these movements. The tactics of the state is to attack the head of a movement, hoping that the rest of the structure of a movement would fall apart. Theyâ€™ve had trouble doing this when a popular movement exists within the communities, and a base of support exists for the revolutionaries and militants (as in the Campesinos (farmers) in Atenco and the Majesterio (teachers) in Oaxaca (as well as the
movement for the disappearance of governments in Oaxaca).
As long as you have a hierarchical, oppressive system and a state that
imposes; where it doesnâ€™t allow for the people to govern themselves, then you will have a people who are ungovernable. This has been the case of struggles that exist in Mexico. At the same time when you have a centralized power structure, those in power will do anything to keep their power. They will even go as far as to massacre, rape, detain, and brutalize people. Those in power can be beaten though, and they have been beaten in the past, with an organized force and a popular movement that has revolutionary aims and is able to sustain itself for the long run and defend themselves from attacks from the sate.
Report from Oaxaca, Mexico 06-25-06
By Joaquin Cienfuegos
scroll down for previous days reports from Oaxaca y Atenco
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, minus the one million indigenous OaxaqueÃ±os who live outside of Oaxaca in search of 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 compaÃ±era and vice-president of the Organizaciones Indias por los Derechos Humanos de Oaxaca / Indian Organizations for Human Rights in Oaxaca (OIDHO), mentioned, â€œIn Mexico it is taught that if you donÂ´t know Spanish youÂ´re uncivilized.
Indigenous people are thought to be people who do not know anything because they donÂ´t speak Spanish sometimes. We are treated worse than animals.â€
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 just as the Zapotec people.
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 theoretician of 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 the people of Mexico.
Even before Salinas 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 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 compaÃ±eras. 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, or justice for those who have been killed.
In 1993 OIDHO 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. 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 government.
El OIDHO communicates through their newspaper, Tierra y Libertad. They also have three pirate radio stations, â€œCaracol,â€ â€œNuevo Amanacer,â€ â€œRoca.â€ They also distribute flyers and make posters to wheat-paste on the streets.
Alejandro Cruz talked about his experience with repression, â€œIÂ´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 bullets.â€
One of the demands being put foward by the OIDHO is the disappearance of the powers. The law at this point doesnÂ´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. They want this popular assembly to make their own decisions. They see the 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 Oaxaca.
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 we formed the AMZ (Alianza Magonista Zapatista), in 2000 COMPA, and in 1995 we 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 creace a movement on this level.
ThereÂ´s been some differences with the Other Campaign/Otra CampaÃ±a, because they had the Promotora. The OIDHO has always had a relationship with the EZLN, because of their ideas and because theyÂ´re indigenous, but there was some problems when
the Otra CampaÃ±a came into Oaxaca, which has fallen appart in Oaxaca today. 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 CampaÃ±a. Since the Other Campaign has fallen appart in Oaxaca, more people have been uniting with and joining La Promotora. The Promotora has a
different in vision than La Otra, theyÂ´ve been fighting and are not starting a new fight because of the Otra CampaÃ±a, according to Alejandro Cruz.
They are adehrentes to La Otra CampaÃ±a because they feel that itÂ´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 arenÂ´t real. Alejandro Cruz mentioned, â€œWe are not just talking about unity, without doing the real work to achieve it.â€
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 goals.
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 ith through 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, we have a space in the city of Oaxaca that people can support and they need funds. â€œWe have 10 years of confrontation with the government, that has weakened us economically and physically.â€
Alejandro Cruz spoke of the future he saw for Oaxaca, â€œwhere thereÂ´s an organized movement, where the movement is able to have strength, structure and organization. If that happens, then we have a future, we canÂ´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 doesnÂ´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.â€
Si Se Puede Collective (Los Angeles)
06-24-06 Oaxaca, Mexico
“The atmosphere in Oaxaca today is of rebellion…..”
Today en El Zocalo, a social organization, El Frente Amplio
de Liberacion Popular (The Broad Front for Popular Liberation) distributed some food for the teachers and people who were in support of the struggle there.
The organizations involved are Seccion 22 (the teacherÂ´s
union), PUNCN (Promotora Por La Unidad Nacional Contra el
Neoliberalismo / Promoter for the National Unity Against
Neoliberalism â€“ which OIDHO and the Alianza Magonista
Zapatista is part of), FSODO (Frente Sindicato de Organizaciones Democraticas de Oaxaca / Syndicate Front for the Democratic Organizations of Oaxaca â€“ made up of unions throughout Oaxaca in solidarity), Padre de Familia (Father of the Family), students, the community, and people. These organizations and individuals have organized mega-marches in the City of Oaxaca, and a fourth mega-march is in planning.
Today there was also a popular assembly of the different
regions of Oaxaca in the city, which the Alianza Magonista
Zapatista took part in. The atmosphere in Oaxaca today is of rebellion and theres a wanting for liberation from bad governments, and a wanting for self-determination and autonomy.
Si Se Puede Collective (Los Angeles)
I entered the City of Oaxaca in the afternoon. The first
thing that was visible was the graffiti and the wheat
pasting that was anti-government, anarchist, and anti
governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz. A police station was covered in
I met with comrades from the OIDHO, Organizaciones Indias
por los Derechos Humanos de Oaxaca (India Organizations for
the Human Rights of Oaxaca) who are part of the Alianza
Magonista Zapatista (Magonista Zapatista Alliance). The
next day they take me to their encampment at the Zocalo
where teachers have been fighting and struggling for the
last couple of weeks.
The teachers union, Seccion 22, has recuperated the Zocalo
for the last couple of days demanding an end to the privatization of education (that would make it only accessible to the rich â€“ where as of now itÂ´s free and accessible to anyone). Their new demand has been that the PRIsta (member of the Partido Revolucionario Institutonal / Institutional Revolutionary Party) governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz.
On June 14, 2006, 40,000 teachers in the Zocalo were
attacked by the police at 4 AM. Five thousand police
entered the Zocalo, burning backpacks, tents, food, and
supplies for the teachers. They attacked the people who
were camping–40,000 teachers and 500,000 people who supported them. To this day there is an uncertainty of how many people were killed, but a child and a teacher is certain. There are people who have been disapappeared, meaning they were taken by the police and no one knows where they are and if they are alive.
After the police attacked, the teachers and the popular
movement in support defended themselves with sticks, rocks,
and whatever they can pick up from the street. El OIDHO was
there, and one of the comrades was telling me what happened.
When the police detained 12 teachers inside the police quarters,
the teachers held 8 cops in detention inside the teacher encampment (with sticks and rocks). The teachers were able to negotiate the release of the teachers, and they released the police. There were hundreds of injured on the side of the teachers and on the side of the police.
The police destroyed the pirate radio station of the teacher
encampment, so youth from the university (Universidad
Autonoma de Benito Juarez en Oaxaca) retook the radio
station at the university to inform the public over the
struggle of the teachers.
The support for the teachers and the anti-government
sentiment is in the majority today in Oaxaca. The reason
why the struggle has been successful has been because they
have popular support. There were 500,000 people who
joined in at the encampment who werenÂ´t teachers.
The state still tried to repress the encampment by shooting
rubber bullets, tear gas and by beating people. They shot
tear gas canisters from aboard helicopters (that the state
own media uses as well to report on PRI organized marches in
support for Ulises). They broke into the ExPalace and shot
rubber bullets from windows they broke from the second
floor. However, the people outnumbered the police.
Si Se Puede Collective (los Angeles)
6-20-06 Report on Atenco Mexico
How the Movement in Atenco was born:
In more than ten thousand acres of land, in Chimalbacan,
Ciudad Nezahualcoyotl, in the municipality of Texcoco (in
the towns of Santa Cruz, San Felipe, Tocuila, Magdalena
Panoaya, San Andres), in the municipality of Atenco (in the
towns of Colonia Francisco I. Madero, San Salvador,
Acuexcomac, Nexquipayac, Istapa, Santa Rosa), Ecatepec on
October 21, 2001 the government expropriated their land.
From this day on, the people started organizing in the
Frente de Pueblos en Defensa de la Tierra, with the founders
Ignacio del Valle (who is detained in a maximum security
prison) and his daughter America del Valle (who is clandestine). All of the people organizing were farmers and their families.
Before they had formed the Frente they had a small organization, but through the struggle against the expropriation of their lands they won the solidarity of more people from their community, from indigenous people, and from other communities. At this point they mobilized, and from that moment there was police repression as well. They started investigating the Frente de Pueblos en Defensa de La Tierra, and who they were.
The PRIstas who live within these communities have different interests than the farmers and the majority of people. They were the ones principally who started contacting the authorities. They would give information on who were the â€œleaders,â€ what they did, how they did it, and who participated, to the enforcers of the government and their intelligence. At that time the PRI was in power in the state of Mexico and have remained in charge of the state of Mexico.
The Frente is made up of itÂ´s members, itÂ´s supporters, and
itÂ´s sympathizers. Then you have those in the community who
are neutral, and then you have the PRIstas who are the minority. The majority of the community are farmers. All the Frente had to do to call on the community was to release three bottle rockets in the air, which is the call on the people. The people`s own consciousness as Atenquenses made them join in on the fight, according to a compa from the FPDT (Frente de Pueblos en Defensa de la Tierra), and their hatred for the police. Their symbol of the Machete was born, because that was the tool of work as farmers and peasants, and â€œthatÂ´s going to be their symbol forever.â€
A compaÃ±ero from the Frente tells the story of their struggle, â€œFirst the community organized in their community, and they closed and retook their highway. Then we mobilized in the city of Mexico. People got involved and youth joined in because of their parents and their families. In November, we had a huge march on horseback, with bicycles, in cars. This is when we first got repressed by the police on the way to the march. They hit horses so people can fall from them, they hit us with batons, and shot tear gas.â€
They continued to march and to defend themselves, and sent
the first message to the government that they werenÂ´t going
to let themselves get beaten down and stopped. There was a
split in the media, some supported, and even said, â€œThey
needed to manifest and defent themselves. were they expecting to give the police roses?â€ From then on, there was always a police presence at their marches, riot police, traffic police and so on. They also had a successful march in Toluca, the capital.
They always upheld self-defense of the people, but they also
didnÂ´t romanticize violence, they reconize that thereÂ´s a
difference. They were tired of letting themselves get beaten up.
There was a year of protests and demonstrations. The governor of the state of Mexico was Arturo Montier. He was preparing to go visit Alcoma, and on a Thursday, July 11, 2002 (a date everyone from the FPDT remembers), there was a demonstration against the governor. On a bridge there was a very bloody confrontation between the police and the demonstrators. The police hid under the bridge and came out to attack the march. People were beaten, tear gased, and shot at with live ammunition. Ignacio was hit with a tear gas canister on the head, and two people were shot on the ankles. Women and men were detained. This was all preplanned by the police, because they knew of the
activities of the FPDT beforehand (who have infiltrators in
their organization as well, who give information to the police). There were state police and plain clothes police who attacked the march.
People who resisted were able to get away and back to
Atenco. They called on Atenco by sending out the three bottle rockets in the air. On this day the people of Atenco shut down the road and highway in Atenco. The media started calling them â€œLos Macheteros,â€ and theyÂ´re proud to be that. From that day there were political prisoners. People got away from the police at the march by hiding in peopleÂ´s houses and ejidos, some were turned in but many of them got away. Ignacio del Valle was taken to a hospital, the police dragged him out of the hospital, beat, tortured, and detained him. A compaÃ±era was able to get away by changing herself into a nurse uniform.
It came down to taking up drastic strategies to saving themselves and the prisoners detained. They held police as hostage in their center until they released the political prisoners. They had the civility of not beating, torturing, or raping the police that they held captive. The police and the state does not. There was more state repression, The police forces surrounded all of the periphery of Atenco, and shut down all entrances of Atenco. All of the state owned media was against them, but they had to do this because they had no other choice. At this point they got the support that the media did not give them, from social movement organizations, students, progressive lawyers â€“ with economic resources, food, and moral support. This to me always seems a better strategy than relying on the state owned corporate media for support â€“ who never will stand with the people because they are tools of the government to control people by disinforming the public. We have to rely on our strengths and create solidarity with other communities and organizations to minimize our weaknesses. The movement in Atenco was able to defeat the government on this occassion. The political prisoners were freed and they didnÂ´t build an airport.
When the attack on Atenco happened on May 4th, the media also supported the police, and reported as though the people defending themselves was the problem. The police beat independent photographers and tried to take their cameras as the corporate media exploited the insecurities of people.
They kept repeating the images of demonstrators beating a cop in self defense. They didnÂ´t show the massacre that happened by the police in Atenco. They didnÂ´t talk about the people who were killed, Javier Cortes and Alexis Benhemua. The only people who investigated were an independent human rights organization, Miguel Agustin PRODH.
The prisoners are being held for kidnapping, attacks on media, and organized crime. The political prisoners have been on hunger strike since they were detained. None of the cops have been punished for THEIR organized crime on the people of Atenco. They said they didnÂ´t carry weapons, that Alexis was killed by the Frente.
â€œThe prisoners have proof of what was done to them, the police donÂ´t have proof of what they say we did.â€ â€œThe government is scared, because they knew that the Other Campaign is being a success. We were connecting with everyone and all social organizations from the left and the bottom, and everyone who was
anti-party, anti-imperialist, and anti-capitalist.â€
-From political prisoners being detained
In Texcoco, a day before the attack the state government
said that the flower vendors could sell, and they made an accord witht he FPDT. When the day came, the police blocked the flower vendors again, so the vendors along with the FPDT who was doing security for them marched in Texcoco. The police attacked them and they defended themselves. They shot rubber bullets, tear gas, mace, and projectilies that knocked people unconscious. They detained the organizers of that march, and the people in Atenco shut down their highway and held two local police hostage. The community of Atenco tried dialogue before the police came into Atenco. In an interview the human rights organization Agustin PRODH did with 3 state policemen who had confessed that the orders from the top were â€œbeat anything that moves.â€
The Frente de Pueblos en Defensa de la Tierra, is an action
based organization. They say that theyÂ´re not there to get the media attention, but there to take action and to liberate Atenco and the political prisoners.
(I will report on Atenco later next week when I return to Mexico City /Tenochtitlan).
Si Se Puede Collective (los Angeles)