Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Oaxacan Teachers Continue Fight for Democracy in Mexico Despite Brutal Repression

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Memorial Service for Jose Jimenez Colmenares
As millions of Mexican people continue their protests of the recent fraud and undemocratic practices that denied PRD leader Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador the Presidency, Oaxacan teachers are continuing their Fight for Democracy in Mexico despite brutal repression by the state.
Filmmaker Jill Freedberg reports in her blog that the teacher's strike which has evolved into a popular movement calling for the resignation of governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz is now deteriorating rapidly. She says, "International solidarity is critical now. The world needs to send a strong message to the state government in Oaxaca that state violence against a peaceful movement is unacceptable."
Rank and file members of the
AFT [American Federation of Teachers] are calling for stronger solidarity and support for Oaxacan teachers. The AFT passed a solidarity resolution in July at their summer convention. From a UFT activist in NYC -
The resolves in this resolution include the condemnation of the state police for attacking our striking brothers and sisters as well as the condemnation of the use of state violence to break a teachers union. It also expresses support for the demands of Local 22 of the SNTE (Teachers Union) for fair salaries and funds for adequate buildings and supplies. The last part of the resolution asks that the AFT Executive Council considers contributing funds to replace the teacher's radio equipment which was destroyed by the police.
University of Kentucky Professor Tad Mutersbaugh posted this exchange from a Oaxacan teacher colleague yesterday on the UFTers to the stop the war listserve:

Teacher's Letter:
"I received your message and wanted to write that the situation within the teacher's union is really difficult. We are living a terrible repression under Ulises Ruiz Ortiz's government. Today at 12:30 a.m. a concerted attack was launched against the teachers who were guarding the radio stations. 40 pickups full of police leveled their guns at our companions and fired without regard for who might be wounded or killed. During the attack one teacher (male) was killed and another (woman) wounded.

"We are placing guards at each of our camps and in reality we are armed only with our conscience, reason and right. We ask anyone who can help us to please let others know about the situation we are living by any means at their disposal.

"The daily reality that we live through in Oaxaca should be told, despite the media curtain that makes it difficult for even other Oaxacans to know the truth.

"I would like it if [the university where I study] would raise its voice and let the world know about the situation, I would hope that their understanding of social problems would press them to help us, but it seems that the one-time leaders of social struggle have lost their voice."

TM: Are you safe? How are feelings among the teachers? How is your support among Oaxacans? (I email her for more details because of the terrible recent attacks, but also because as a mother and a teacher who works in the neighborhood where she lives, she was initially reticent to strike.)

Teacher: "In truth after last night we are afraid even though we don't say so. No one wants to be exposed but we are aware that we have to go forward until this is finished. The consensus without a doubt was that we go together to the end. We are all saddened by the attitude of Governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz. Our leaders wanted us to participate in the strike in a limited, representative fashion in order to keep us safe, but we voted to strike as a group, to keep together. At this time there are very few around us who remain quiet and indifferent and we are aware of this. I can assure you that most have consciousness and awareness of what is happening. With respect to our personal security no-one, absolutely no-one is safe in the camps, but after our consensus decision I can assure you that we will continue to the end."
Lastly, for more on the historical and political context - see Znet contributer John Gilber's recent article Pistol Policy: State denial and repression in Oaxaca

Throughout the past week gunmen of have opened fire on members of the People’s Assembly of Oaxaca (APPO for its initials in Spanish) killing four and wounding at least 10....
Organizations and citizens across Oaxaca formed the APPO shortly after the governor, Ulises Ruiz Ortiz’s (Institutional Revolutionary Party) failed June 14 raid on a teachers’ encampment in downtown Oaxaca City. The teachers had been camping out, on strike, since May 22. The APPO united the teachers’ union and a broad swath of political and social organizations to demand the immediate renunciation or destitution of Ulises Ruiz. The APPO led massive marches with up to half a million people in attendance before deciding to step up their civil disobedience tactics on July 26 by shutting down all branches of the state government, setting up encampments around government office buildings. On August 1, some 3000 women led a women’s only march through town that led to the unarmed take over of the state television and radio corporation, CORTV. APPO’s explicit strategy is to generate “ungovernability” (ingobernabilidad) to force Ulises Ruiz’s exit from office.

The response of Ruiz and the state government has been to simply disappear from downtown Oaxaca, to lobby the federal government to intervene, to arbitrarily and illegally detain APPO leaders, and—apparently—to send thugs and gunmen to terrify and break up the APPO protests....
Full Gilber article on Znet.
For more go to
Jill Freedberg's blog

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