Teachers Support the APPO and the Ninth
Oaxaca Government BlocksS Access to Public Spaces with Razor Wire and Dogs
February 3, 2007
Ulises Ruiz Ortiz (URO) keeps one law for the people and another for his government of Oaxaca. Supporters of the Popular Assembly of the Peoples de Oaxaca (APPO) have been thrown in jail on charges of “impeding public transit”, or blocking access on public roads, or access to public buildings. URO repeatedly has maintained the Oaxaca zócalo and the plaza in front of the temple of Santo Domingo as no-go areas, to prevent a return of the APPO encampments. On February 3 he outdid himself with razor wire barriers, attack dogs, billy clubs wrapped with barbed wire, and the presence of 4,000 riot police (the Las Noticias number), many of them mounted on horses.
Excitement was running underground like electric wires in anticipation of the Ninth Megamarch scheduled for Saturday, February 3, which was designed to show that the APPO is alive, and to demand the departure of URO and the release of political prisoners. Among them the imprisoned is Flavio Sosa, a high-profile APPO activist.
One friend (gringa) dropped by Thursday to inform me of two important items: one, that Molly Ivins has died, and the other that the teachers were pledged to march. She was eager to tell me that the teachers, in the midst of trying to reconstruct their damaged union, had met and decided to maintain their support of the APPO. They would march, despite the confusion generated by Enrique Rueda Pacheco who declared two months ago that the teachers union is dissociating from the APPO.
My friend also told me that flyers advertising the march were being placed under windshields of cars parked along the streets. She appropriated one, justifying her act by telling me, “Well, nobody with a car is going to this march anyhow!” But how else are people learning about it? Mostly word of mouth. The people of Oaxaca do miracles of self-organizing and information dissemination with no formal media outlets.
Las Noticas did publish an article on Friday quoting an APPO spokesperson who denounced foreseen efforts of the government to infiltrate the march with troublemakers. Watching the procession from the sidelines, I did hear one group of young guys shouting “To the zócalo! To the zócalo!” – but nobody followed them. For the government’s part, Ulises Ruiz assured the citizens that the march could proceed with no government intervention, but the marchers better not cause trouble. To assure a lack of trouble, riot police were deployed and all entrances to the zócalo were barricaded. The Santo Domingo area was guarded by troops plus attack dogs, who spent the day dozing in the sun.
During the preceding day I spoke with Fernando, a baker and strong APPO supporter. I asked him what he thought would happen on the march day, if there would be a big turnout. And he replied, “The teachers will march. There better be a big turnout or we’ll never get out of this hole.”
The greatest anxiety beforehand among the public had been the uncertainty surrounding participation of Section 22 of the National Education Workers Union, SNTE in its Spanish initials. Their long-delayed state assembly finally took place outside of the city of Oaxaca, in the town of Huahuapan de Leon, without the assistance of Enrique Rueda Pacheco who is labeled a traitor. (Rueda did not show up at the march “for reasons of security”). On February 2, Section 22 of SNTE issued a flyer, plus the same declaration as an ad in Las Noticias ADDRESSED TO THE GENERAL PUBLIC. It states, in sum, the following:
1. The education workers have not and will not renounce the struggle to oust Ulises Ruiz. “We don’t forget, and we don’t forgive the assassinations, torture, persecution, disappearances and arbitrary arrests committed against the people of Oaxaca, and in particular against the democratic teachers, in complicity with the Federal Government.”
2. The education workers are with the APPO all the way: “We helped build it and we will keep on participating. It is the most important organizing initiative for Oaxaca’s struggle against the dictatorial government.”
3. The education workers condemn Elba Esther Gordillo and Felipe Calderon, and the use of education money for self-enrichment. “We don’t accept the formation of a new teachers section in the union, designed to fracture the union.”
4. The education workers stand against neoliberal policies, privatizations, salary adjustments, reduction in social spending, and the concentration of wealth among a few. “We defend the popular economy and the economic well-being of all Mexicans.”
5. We (the teachers) are complying with agreements signed with the government, but the Secretary of Government (for Internal Affairs) is not.
“In the face of this situation, we education workers can not sit with our hands folded. The democratic teachers are in the struggle; we have not surrendered and we won’t surrender, and on the basis of a mature policy, we go on united and organized until we achieve our objectives and those of the people of Oaxaca.”
I stood on the street corner to time the march of teachers, workers, students and assorted leftist, Communist, and indigenous groups; the march required about 25 minutes to pass by. That was not a mega-march by the standards established before the November 25 government attacks, but it was respectable in numbers (I guess maybe 30,000) and lively. The excitement was palpable, and new graffiti sprouted like dandelions on the lawn, and upon the freshly painted walls, naming URO an assassin. Most of the banners demanded "Freedom for Political Prisoners", including a large stenciled portrait of Flavio Sosa.. One display consisted of the head of URO, with blood dripping from his severed neck, but most banners demanded his resignation in more traditional slogans – Ya cayo! and the ever-popular Fuera!
The scene was lively enough to assure me that the Asamblea Popular de los Pueblos de Oaxaca has not vanished. It is apparent that the governor has misjudged the tenacity of the people, and he is keeping a hard hand on the repression.
Since the governor is making no political concessions, the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI, in its Spanish initials) legislative and party leaders proclaim that they will win the August statewide elections. The APPO has declared itself willing and ready to work against the re-election of the PRI state legislators, and the PRI mayors (whose election takes place in October). According to APPO spokesperson Florentino López, the APPO reserves the right to back candidates in the united anti-PRI campaign, without itself becoming a political party.
It has been suggested that after the elections the APPO will evaporate or be co-opted by the new legislators. I don’t think so. Much remains to be seen of how the APPO and the teachers will organize and strengthen during the next six months.