Since being sworn into office on the first of January, 2005 Oaxaca, México’s governor, Ulises Ruiz Ortiz, of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), has been making good on his promise to “do away with the social problems” (i.e. popular resistance) in the state. Returning to the old, brute tactics of his party, the governor has been utilizing his power to stifle any group or community which opposes his rule. After only two weeks in office, he ordered the arrest of over 150 activists and organizers. In what can be described as a labyrinth of repression, the governor and his party are supporting paramilitaries and their reign of terror throughout the state. Autonomous and rebel communities face the constant threat of violence and death as massacres, brutality and politically motivated detentions have become commonplace.
Members of atx indymedia have been in Oaxaca the last two weeks documenting government support for paramilitaries and the revocation of constitutional rights throughout the state.
Attacking the Freedom of Expression
On 17 June, 2005 an armed mob calling themselves an industrial union (CROC) employed by the paper gathered outside the offices of Noticias de Oaxaca. Using the pretext of a “strike,” they tried to shutdown the paper’s daily operations . The Revolutionary Confederation of Workers and Peasants (CROC) is state-run (PRI) and comprised of paramilitary forces ; only a small handful of the numerous CROC “strikers” actually worked for the paper. For over a month 31 Noticias employees were held up inside their building while CROC thugs occupied, with complete impunity and police support, the street below. On 18 July, the mob, armed with pickaxes, sticks, knives and handguns, entered the building and forcibly removed the 31 workers sequestered inside. Three Noticias employees were beaten severely, two more have disappeared. Noticias has been largely critical of the governor and his heavy-handed methods of rule, as well as of the paramilitaries who have been terrorizing communities throughout the state.
During the month-long standoff, Noticias continued producing the paper from their blockaded building. At first, they attempted to use their printing press to produce the daily. The papers were thrown out the windows to vendors below who were then beaten by paramilitary forces and plain clothed police. Noticias then began printing from a press in the town of Tuxtepec. Vendors in Oaxaca City have reported that police were offering bribes to stop selling the papers, while threatening those who continued distributing the paper. One vendor reported that his stand was burned down the night after he refused a pay-off from the police. Also, thousands of copies were outright stolen by police officers (over 10,000 alone on 29 June; half of the newspaper’s overall circulation of 20,000).
During the siege on the 18th of July, the intersections surrounding the Noticias office were blockaded by municipal and State Preventative Police. The two ends of the block where the office is located were blockaded by crowd control fences, paramilitaries, riot police, and government agents. An Indymedia reporter gained access to the roof of Noticias´ office the night of the siege and filmed broken windows and men occupying the building. Another Indymedia reporter was given access to an executive of Noticias who explained the situation and presented their thorough documentation of paramilitary and police cooperation throughout the month long ordeal.
Video 1: This video includes a clandestine interview with an anonymous Noticias executive from the night that he and 30 others were violently evicted from the paper´s office by paramilitaries after a 30 day siege. The images seen in this video were handed over to Indymedia reporters by this executive and clearly demonstrate police collaboration in the siege, the stealing of Noticias newspapers, and beatings of vendors.
Video 2: This video includes the second half of the interview, and also includes footage videotaped by Indymedia reporters the night of the eviction. This footage clearly demonstrates police collaboration with the paramilitaries. Blocking one end of the street where the Noticias office is located, we see barricades reinforced by riot police, and on the other end of the street, we see barricades reinforced by paramilitaries. One Indymedia reporter gained access to the roof of Noticias the night of the eviction, and shows paramilitaries and “porros” (young urban paramilitaries) holding the street. The last scene in this footage demonstrates the politics of Governor Ruiz, in that paramilitaries are sweeping up the broken windows they destroyed during the eviction in order to hide the fact that it ever even happened.
Pictures taken by Noticias reporters during the siege clearly show police collaboration with paramilitaries. Here we see plain clothed and uniformed police officers protecting the paramilitaries during the 30 day stand-off. We also see police and paramilitaries beating newspaper vendors who were trying to rescue their stolen papers.
We have translated and published the lead article from Noticias de Oaxaca the day after the siege of the headquarters, 19 July, 2005.
[ Despojan NOTICIAS a sangre y fuego Español and English | Indymedia México report | Committee to Protect Journalists | Photos from protest march two days after the siege ended ]
Governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz v. Civil Society
On July 11, 2005, indigenous communities throughout the state of Oaxaca begin to mobilize to Mexico City to protest against state sponsored repression and the revocation of their constitutional rights. One such caravan was stopped on the highway by more than 300 heavily armed riot police. The riot police searched the caravan, stole money from the peasant farmworkers, took their buses, beat 3 men publicly, and told the peasants to walk back home. It seems that Governor Ruiz chose to give these peasants one more violent act of repression to protest about. The irony of the situation is that this took place on the eve of the state’s nationally recognized, indigenous, cultural expression festival, the Guelaguetza.
Video 3: On 11 July indigenous communities throughout the state of Oaxaca, under the auspices of COMPA, began to mobilize caravans to México City in order to protest against state sponsored repression and the suspension of their constitution rights.
On 14 July, members of COMPA (Oaxacan Antineoliberal Popular Magónista Coordination) met with Governor Ruiz who officially agreed on a number of the organization’s demands. COMPA also blanketed and brought the demands of a number of other groups to the discussions, forming the Promotora por la Unidad Nacional contra el Neoliberalismo, which included Noticias, the FPR (Popular Revolutionary Front) and the radical teacher’s union called Seccion 22.
The highly unusual meeting with the governor assured COMPA that three demands would be met. First, that there would be respect for dialogue with the Promotora, a dialogue which may have never been realized had it not been for the growing popular power of COMPA throughout the state. Next, it was agreed that there would be an unconditional release of all Promotora affiliated political prisoners. Lastly, a new dialogue would be setup to discuss community demands in exchange for putting off the Jornada de Lucha, or Days of Struggle, which were scheduled to take place during the widely popular Guelaguetza festival (coincidentally the siege of Noticias´ offices in downtown Oaxaca occurred directly after the Guelaguetza wrapped up). Originally, Governor Ruiz would not meet with the Promotora if Noticias was to be present, however, the Promotora brought their demands to the table, and the governor agreed to address the issue in a timely fashion. Governor Ruiz allowed the siege and shutdown of Oaxaca’s largest newspaper.
PRI Police and Paramilitaries in Oaxaca: from Santiago Xanica to San Isidro Vista Hermosa
Upon taking power, Governor Ruiz began imposing municipal presidents (mayors) in autonomous communities that have, because of widespread corruption and government support for paramilitaries, banned all political parties. One example of overt corruption is the diversion of federal and state funded municipal grants to party affiliates only. Non-party affiliates consistently do not receive Ramo-28 and Ramo-33 funds for schools, roadways, clinics and municipal development programs, a violation of the Mexican Constitution. Thanks to the help of organizations such as CODEP (Committee Organized in Defense of the Rights of the People), OIDHO (Oaxacan Indigenous Human Rights Organization), and COMPA, such municipal funds are demanded through the letter of the law, and then, if that fails, through escalating public demonstrations. Many of these communities have returned, or are fighting to return, to traditional means of self-organization called Uses and Customs, which demands horizontal organizing outside of the corrupt party system.
Santiago Xanica is one such community that has expelled political parties. Upon the imposition of a PRI mayor by Governor Ruiz, community members refused to participate with “their” mayor in mandatory communal work days (called tequios) and chose to organize the construction of a communal home autonomously. In an attempt to violently quell opposition to his party’s rule, Ruiz sent militarized State Preventative Police to suppress resistance to his imposed mayor’s authority. State Preventative Police surrounded community member who were participating in their communal work day, and attempted to massacre them. The massacre was astonishingly thwarted by rocks, sticks and courage. In the ordeal police shot three community members, who were also members of COMPA, and arrested them (they have come to be known as the Xanica 3 —- political prisoners who Ruiz agreed to release by mid December in the 14 July agreement). After the attempted Xanica massacre COMPA mobilized two permanent sit-ins, one in Oaxaca City, and one in Mexico City. At the sit-in in Mexico City, COMPA members approached the president of the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) Jose Soberanes, (who then promised COMPA a commission of three human rights observers to join them in a meeting with Governor Ulises Ruiz on 3 February, 2005. A delegation of COMPA organizers made their way back to Oaxaca City for the meeting. On 3 February they received a phone call from the Sub-Secretary of Governance, Joaquin Palacios who then invited the COMPA commission to a 1pm appointment to set the agenda for the meeting with the governor later that day. Directly after this meeting, in the parking lot of the hotel in which they met, the three members of the COMPA commission were detained by State Preventative Police, all in the presence of the three CNDH observers. Two of the COMPA members were released within hours, and a third, Alejandro Cruz, of the Zapatista Magonista Alliance, was kept prisoner. Within hours of this incident two other CODEP organizers, Samuel Hernandez and Jaquelina Lopez were detained in the offices of CODEP in the presence of one of the CNDH observers. Under the auspices of Governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz and the General Secretary of Governance Jorge Franco Vargas (also known as “chuckie” from when he was an urban paramilitary in his college days), the puppet Sub- Secretary of Governance Joaquin Palacios now has a record of backstabbing social organizations during dialogues.
Indymedia reporters have uncovered more evidence of collusion between paramilitaries in Oaxaca and the state PRI government. On 4 July, 2005 the small town of San Isidro Vista Hermosa was invaded by a paramilitary force numbering over 500 individuals, mostly men from a neighboring town called Santa Cruz Nundaco. Vista Hermosa is a sub-community of Nundaco and subject to its rule. For the last 50 years Vista Hermosa has been trying to de-annex itself from Santa Cruz Nundaco. This attempted separation and independence has resulted in years of violent disputes between the communities
For the last 50 years Nundaco has provoked violence in the region in order to demand Vista Hermosa’s continued membership in their community. The most recent provocation came in the form of a false road construction project which would rip through the community of Vista Hermosa. This project is both a fraud and a provocation for the following reasons:
One: Nundaco did not discuss the road construction with Vista Hermosa what so ever, and began excavating with a bulldozer the land without permission.
Two: Vista Hermosa is actually interested in a route to the otherwise inaccessible community of Rio Brillante, and would have helped plan the project.
Third: The roadway that Nundaco began to build leads to an impassible precipice, in other words, to nowhere, as documented by IMC reporters.
On 3 July, under orders of Arturo Pimentel Salas members of the paramilitary group FNIC (National Indigenous Farmworker Front) from the community of Nundaco, moved a large bulldozer into Villa Hermosa and began ripping through their land. Vista Hermosa community members contacted the Sub-Secretary of Governance Joaquin Palacios and the State Preventative Police to halt the un-permitted road construction. Palacios invited a commission of community members from Vista Hermosa to a dialogue in Oaxaca City on 4 July. While in the dialogue, during which Palacios assured the safety of their community, cell phone calls came in describing a paramilitary force of over 500 people entering the community of Vista Hermosa with high power rifles, handguns, sticks and machetes. The last cell phone call received described the kidnapping of several community members; later to be confirmed as 39 members of five families. The 5 families have now been released but they have also been displaced from their community, and have sought refuge in a COMPA safe house. FNIC brandishes protection from Governor Ulises Ruiz, General Secretary of Governance Jorge Franco Vargas, and their puppet Sub-Secretary of Governance Joaquin Palacios.
IMC reporters have conducted interviews with victims of the Nundaco paramilitary attack and visited the ravaged municipality.
Video 4: On 16 Saturday Indymedia reporters visited the community of San Isidro Vista Hermosa in order to document the damages left behind by a paramilitary attack. The reporters also visited 39 members of five displaced families in a COMPA safe house and documented their accounts of the attack, which includes property destruction, bullet holes through roofs and doors, and beatings.
Photos: 1 | 2
COMPA (Oaxacan Anti-neoliberal Popular Magonista Coordination) was created in the summer of 2002 in response to the Travesty of Teojomulco ; the detention of 17 scapegoats from the community of Las Huertas Santo Domingo Teojomulco, accused of the massacre of 26 indigenous workers from the community of Santiago Xochitltepec. The massacre of the 26 indigenous people took place on 31 May, 2002 in a place known as Agua Fria. The 26 indigenous workers were being transported in the back of a dump truck when stopped by 5 masked men with high-powered rifles in Agua Fria. The 5 paramilitaries opened fire into the bed of the truck and then ordered the driver to dump the bodies into the road. At which time, the killers opened fire once again. Among the 17 detained Teojomulco prisoners were two grade-school children, 2 middle-school children, and a 69 year old woman. Teojomulco was a PRI community which, then governor, Jose Murat expected to fall through the cracks. However, the community was able to count on the support of a popular power organization known as the Sierra Sur Front, which then mobilized the otherwise apolitical community to a permanent sit-in at the Oaxacan state capital. At the sit-in, the FSS was approached by other organizations such as CODEP (Committee in Defense of the Rights of the People), the UCP (Union of Poor Farmworkers), AMZ (the Magonista/ Zapatista Alliance), OIDHO (the Oaxacan Indigenous Human Rights Organization), and other organizations. Put together, they decided to create COMPA. Over the last 3 years, right up until the last days of Murat’s governorship, COMPA demanded the release of all Teojomulco prisoners; the last 4 of whom were released on the last day of Murat’s term. COMPA effectively used escalating, direct-action strategies, over the course of the last 3 years, to gain freedom for the prisoners. Today, COMPA’s political prowess is the driving force behind the Promotora National (the National Promotional Body against Neoliberalism).
CODEP-ONPP (Committee Organized in Defense of the Rights of the People-National Organization for Popular Power) was founded in Putla, Villa de Guerrero, Oaxaca over 13 years ago. CODEP is a social organization fighting for the rights of indigenous people, farm workers, teachers, workers, students, and poor people in general. CODEP follows the letter of the law to demand municipal services for communities which do not espouse to any of the 3 political parties (the PRI, the PAN, and the PRD). When legal means are exhausted CODEP initiates escalating, direct-action strategies to demand their peoples’ rights as stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The ONPP is the national version of CODEP.
Promotora por la Unidad Nacional contra el Neoliberalism (National Promotion for Unity against Neoliberalism) is a coalition created in order to address the issues of state sponsored repression and the revocation of constitutional rights in the state of Oaxaca. It has forced the state government into a dialogue by threat of direct actions.
Jornada de Lucha has become a tradition in the state of Oaxaca during different state sponsored events, which occur four times a year. Part of an escalating direct action campaign in order to demand justice and dignity in the state. COMPA and other organizations employ Jornadas de Lucha in order to effectively have their demands met by the state by threatening direct actions which would impede said state sponsored events from happening without a hitch.
The Guelaguetza is a state sponsored, nationally revered, indigenous cultural expression festival held in the state of Oaxaca; Guela, meaning cultural expression and guetza, meaning gathering. However, the Guelaguetza is nothing more than a Walt Disney version of indigenousness in that, young, meztiso performers parade into the city of Oaxaca to celebrate the wealth of indigenous culture while simultaneously the indigenous communities of Oaxaca suffer miserable conditions and are exposed to state sponsored repression on a daily basis.
There are 2 types of paramilitaries. In the global north, paramilitaries are understood to be militarized police (in violation of such constitutional amendments as possi cometatus- meaning the military and the police must be separate). In the global south however, since the early 60s paramilitaries have come to be known as militarized civilians who execute deniable atrocities for the state and its economic interests. The purpose of paramilitaries is to give the illusion of plausible deniability in acts of state sponsored repression. This strategy of low-intensity warfare was created by the Pentagon and the CIA (the training manual for these practices can be found at the School of the Americans/ Western Hemispheric Institute for Security Cooperation in Fort Benning, Georgia)
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