October 29th, 2006 – What was an article on the murders in Oaxaca on October 27 changed; the PFP are invading RIGHT NOW.
Author’s Note: The situation in Oaxaca has been changing rapidly, this post has been updated some 20 times since it was first published, look for updates under the OCT 30: UPDATE heading and in the indented sections under each heading. The Zapatistas have just announced something BIG, go to the RESPONSES section for more.
What began as an article about the murders of Oaxacan protesters and a New York journalist changed as La Jornada is reporting that the invasion of Oaxaca by Mexican Federal Preventative Police (PFP) is happening RIGHT NOW. According to Radio Universidad, (reporting live over the internet) PFP have advanced to area around the Oaxaca City center and PFP elements wearing balaclavas over their faces are invading private houses and arresting protest leaders.
At 3:53 Oaxaca time, La Jornada reported that PFP elements have reached the Historic Center of Oaxaca City, while all day Oaxacans have been reporting confrontations with police and “gangs loyal to (Vicente Fox).”
At 4:10, Radio Universidad was asking for people in Central Oaxaca to report whether the town center was occupied by Federal Police. They were also asking people at the barricades not to fall into violent provocations, and to move any non-strategic barricades around Radio Universidad to “defend the voice of the people.”
They also said that, anyone who is willing to risk it, could put sugar in the gas tank of the PFP tanks taking down the barricades. They also said that the tires could be slashed on the cars carrying people, whether uniformed or not, who come to attack barricades and protest centers.
At 6:25 Eastern Daylight Savings Time, Radio Universidad is reporting the the Canal 9 television station, currently run by protesters, is under attack.
At 6:36 EDST, Radio Universidad is reporting that protesters in some places have reported live rounds fired by PFP elements.
At 6:46 they are announcing that an ambulence has been seen transporting PFP forces.
Radio University reported that armed groups dressed as civilians were heading towards the “University City” neighbhorhood where the Radio is to attack the radio station. An announcer responded “We are ready to die here… fighting for our children… in defense of our autonomy… in defense of liberty and justice.” They also reported that around forty people are being detained and taken away by helicopter. Others have reportedly been kidnapped by people who have not clearly identified themselves as police. Radio Universidad warned Oaxacans not to move around Oaxaca alone, but in organized groups. The wife of one disappeared man says that a truck with the Televisa logo were in communication with the kidnappers, though it wasn’t clear to her whether they had been police.
A time line for the events in Oaxaca are available on Oaxaca Indymedia.
OCT 30 UPDATE: The Aftermath
La Jornada is reporting three deaths in the invasion of Oaxaca, nurse Jorge Alberto López Bernal, professor Fidel García y a still unidentified (at press time) fourteen year old. Lopez Bernal was killed, just like Angel Benhumea in Atenco, with a direct hit from a tear gas granade fired by a PFP officer. Fidel Garcia was stabbed to death, and the state government is saying that this was just an argument gone bad, though that seems very unlikely. The APPO spokesperson, Florentino López, is reporting some 50 APPO members have been taken to the 28th Military Zone as prisoners of the state, some of them arrested in house to house raids as reported on Radio Universidad last night.
Ruben Aguilar, the spokesperson for President Vicente Fox, has denied anyone was killed in the police operation, saying from Mexico City “the PFP did not cause any deaths.”
While PFP elements easily entered the Zocalo at the Oaxaca town center, they faced fierce resistance around the TV station Canal 9, and at the Tecnologico bridge. There the “tanquetas” (reinforced tank-like trucks) faced fierce resistance, according to Radio Vulgocracia, a person threw a board with nails in it underneath one of these tanquetas to stop its advance. At seeing this action, a PFP officer is said to have shot the person, whose outcome is unknown. At least one police officer is reported to have been hospitalized with burns from a molotov cocktail.
Radio Vulgocracia is also reporting that others have simply been “disappeared,” and that Radio Universidad went offline because the power was cut (presumably by the police) to their neighborhood.
The PFP tanquetas arrived in the Zocalo at 11 PM. La Jornada reminds that this deadly repression comes after the Minister of the Interior Carlos Abascal had sworn to god in front of the legislator that there would be no repression in Oaxaca.
Another Jornada article reports that the University City neighborhood that houses the Autonomous Benito Juarez University of Oaxaca is the last bastion of resistance in the city. The home of Radio Universidad, the university campus is called autonomous because it is supposed to be off-limits to government forces, to ensure independence from government manipulation. The university rector announced that the university administration is strongly opposed to incursions by the federal police and think all diplomatic routes possible should be taken to secure the primary goal that no lives be lost on the university campus. It seems that the federal police have so far respected this autonomous tradition in the last 24 hours. However, it is important to remember that the 1968 massacre of UNAM students in Mexico City, and more recently the use of the police to break a student strke at the UNAM show that this respect for university freedom can easily be ignored by those in power.
Sources are telling Greg Berger and Amy Goodman that, while the PFP control the city center and several other strategic points, “they are surrounded by protesters,” “the fight is far from over,” and the PFP “still does not control the city.” Gustavo Esteva, founder of the Universidad de la Tierra in Oaxaca and a columnist for La Jornada, is also saying that prisoners are reporting torture in Military Zone 28 where the military has “illegally” involved itself in the operation.
The Secretary of Public Security, Eduardo Medina Mora, has said that seven federal police have been injured, three of them seriously (son de gravedad). He also confirm that one has serious burns from a molotov cocktail.
UPDATE: Oaxacans have begun to rebuild the barricade at the Oaxacan Technological Institute, where several of the fatalities are reported to have occurred on Sunday night.
El Enemigo Común has a list of protest in actions in response to the invasion of Oaxaca.
As the PFP marched on the Oaxaca town center, a march was organizing in “University City” neighborhood to reinforce the defenses of Radio Universidad and march toward the town center to defend it. At 4:55 police were heard attacking the march, causing a panicked cry to ring out on live on Radio Universidad, where announcers asked people not to physically touch the PFP to avoid violent physical confrontations.
Protesters have organized a demonstration at the Mexican Embassy (1911 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW,Washington, DC) on Monday, October 30, 5:00 PM. In New York City protests are being held continually at the Mexican Consulate.
Oaxacans are calling people who can make it to come to Oaxaca, a march is organized in Mexico City, and people around the world are called to protest in front of Mexican Embassies and Consulates at 6:00 PM on Monday, October 30. Zapatistas have also issued a call urging solidarity with the movement in Oaxaca.
Radio Universidad is reminding listeners that people at the barricades need water, food, and blankets to remain in “peaceful popular resistance.” They are also asking for diesel fuel for their ambulance that is running out of case with a injured reporter from the newspaper Excelsior inside.
Mountain Rebel is also announcing an “electronic blockade” of Mexican Consulates and Embassies.
UPDATE: The Zapatistas have announced, through the voice of Marcos, that “for the entire day on November 1, 2006, the highways and roads that cross territories where the EZLN are present in the Southeast of Chiapas will be closed.” They also called for all adherent organizations to The Other Campaign to take solidarity actions with the APPO in Oaxaca, including closing international border-crossings with the United States.
Marcos also announced that“the EZLN has initiated contacts and consulations with other political and social organizations, collectives, groups and persons with The Other Campaign to start Days of solidarity with Oaxaca and to announce, together as one coalition, a nationwide strike (“paro nacional”) for November 20, 2006.”
Furthermore, the EZLN “is calling The Other Campaign in Mexico and North of the Rio Grande to mobilize wherever possible, closing completely, partially, intermittantly, symbolically or actually, the streets, roads, highways, tollbooths, stations, airports or any commercial communications media.
“The message of the Zapatistas that we are sending and will send to the people of Oaxaca is that they are not alone.”
Notimex, the Mexican news service, published an announcement by the national Coordinating Committee of Education Workers (CNTE) in its Spanish initials of a work stoppage in 7 Mexican states. The CNTE is the independent labor union of education workers, and has a strong presence in the states of Guerrero, Michoacán, Tlaxcala, Morelos, Zacatecas, Oaxaca, and in Mexico City. This labor strike is in response to the violent incursion of the PFP.
Greg Berger writes
allies of the APPO took control of the government radio station yesterday in Guelatao, the small town in the mountains two hours from Oaxaca where Benito Juarez was born. From the word on the street, one suspects that today we will learn of many such small victories.
October 30th at 7 AM, students of the UNAM and other youth in Mexico City blocked the main Mexican roads: Avenida Insurgentes, Periferico Sur, and Paseo del Pedregal. Riot police have been clearing these streets, arresting at least 11 participants according to Juan Trujillo.
UPDATE As of 1:00 PM Oaxacan time on October 30, three marches lead by the APPO headed toward the Oaxaca City Zocalo from 1) the barricades in front of Canal 9, 2) the Oaxacan Public Education headquarters, and 3) and La Experimental neighborhood. No reports yet from the protests. La Jornada is reporting that at least 23 prisoners of the PFP have been presented to the Ministerio Publico for processing after being held first at a military base (Zona Militar 28).
Also, surprisingly enough, the head of the PRI party block of legislators, Emilio Gamboa Patrón, is calling for Gov. Ulises Ruiz Ortiz of Oaxaca (also a member of the PRI) to “take an act of conscience” and consider stepping down from his position as governor. Uliese has responded that this is not up for negotiation.
UPDATE FROM NEW YORK According to brownfemipower of the Women of Color Blog, a friend of Brad Will, Dyan Neary, who just returned from Hawaii and who I believe was interviewed Monday on DemocracyNow was arrested at the Mexican Consulate in New York. See New York Indymedia for updates.
BEFORE THE PFP INVASION
Friday October 27th was the bloodiest day in the ongoing uprising in the Mexican state of Oaxaca.
The dead have now been identified as Emilio Alonso Fabián, Bradley Will and Eudocia Olivera Díaz. The fourth reported death, of Esteban Zurita López, is at the center of accusations by both sides of the conflict, with each blaming the other.
Brad Will was a filmmaker from New York Indymedia killed while his camera recorded by “police or paramilitaries according to locals.” Diego Enrique Osorno, writing for Narco News, identifies Emilio Alonso Fabián as a teacher from the Los Loxicha region and Esteban López Zurita a resident of Santa Maria Coyotepec where one of the paramilitary attacks occurred.
Update: These murders occurred as part of a massive coordinated attack by armed, often masked, individuals reportedly working for state political parties. Calling themselves “neighbors” they “acted with impunity” attacking protesters with firearms. Mexican Press has identified as active participants in the murder of Brad Will, the cheif of police (Seguridad Publica) of Santa Lucia del Camino, Avel (sic) Santiago Zárate, the chief of personel of the PRI affiliated City Council, Manuel Aguilar, and a local elected Delegate of the PRI, David Aguilar Robles.
Mexican Press is also reporting that planes full of Federal Preventative Police (PFP) are being sent from Mexico City, supposedly to quell this violence. However, the whole time that the violence against the protesters built up into “low-intensity warfare,” the federal government threatened to send forces, which locals interpreted as a way to repress the Oaxacan people as the PFP had done in Atecno (where the Federal Preventative Police killed two young people, beat many others, deported foreigners, raped female prisoners, and hold more than 30 political prisoners to this date).
The PFP had not come until now for several reasons. One has to do with the fact that Oaxacan Governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz is from the Institutional Revolution Party (PRI) and President Vicente Fox is from the National Action Party (PAN). Fox and the PAN were unwilling to dirty their hands on behalf of an opposing political party, especially before elections or while Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of the Party for Democratic Revolution (PRD) contested the victory of PAN candidate Felipe Calderon. The accusations that Calderon won the election fraudulently also explain why the federal government and the PAN will not pressure Ulises to step down. If Ulises, whose election victory has been contested as fraudulent, is thrown out of power by a popular uprising, then a dangerous precedent has been set for all of Mexican society as far as the political parties are concerned.
Al Giordano of Narco News also points out that the mathematics of a police repression in Oaxaca are different than Atenco. While the PFP sent about 3,000 agents into Atenco, a town of several hundred, the city of Oaxaca is inhabited by half of a million people, several thousand of which appear to be ready to fight at the barricades. The only thing worse than not sending in federal forces would be sending the forces in only to see them get chased out.
ORIGINS OF THE CONFLICT
This all started as a routine labor strike by Section 22 of the Mexican teachers union (often referred to in Spanish language press as “el magisterio”) escalated into a state-wide revolt after state police tried to violently evict the encampment of striking teachers on June 14.
The teachers union and the newly formed Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca made the ouster of unpopular governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz, widely considered to have won the election by fraud, their primary demand. As violence by police, paramilitaries and mercenaries escalated, the protesters began barracading their neighborhoods in self-defense. For example, after the Radio Universidad radio station used by the teachers union was attacked, protesters responded with a wave of radio station takeovers. But the protesters also began organizing to put their demand into action, declaring Gov. Ulises “banned” from Oaxaca, seizing government buildings and chasing out politicians from the local and state governments.
Violent attacks had for months been escalating against protesters, in what protesters said was part of Gov. Ulises Ruiz Ortiz’s repressive Operation Iron (“Plan Hierro”). Brad Will himself documented this with an article a week ago called “Death in Oaxaca”. With the murder of the indigenous teacher Panfilo Hernandez, the death toll was at 9 for the protesters. Meanwhile, political parties and the commercial Mexican media were reporting that the protesters were killing people, often without saying the name of the supposed victim or the time and place of the supposed killing. The killing of dissident teacher Jaime René Calvo Aragón, (who argued for the teachers to return to classes) was blamed by the government on protesters, while protesters blamed the government or paramilitary mercenaries of the PRI of killing the teacher as a pretext to repress the protestors, as reported by La Jornada.
Reporting on this situation has been non-existent on BBC and CNN, though BBC ran a story on the killing of Brad Will, mis-identifying him as William Bradley. This line by the AP is typical of English language press “Fox, who leaves office December 1, resisted repeated calls to send federal forces to Oaxaca until Saturday, a day after gunfire killed a U.S. activist-journalist and two residents.”
Of course, they fail to mention the fact that the shooters have been identified and linked to local politicians and police officials, according to the Mexican commercial press. This intentional lack of reporting shows how they want to show the story that the troops are returning to roses by residents who are sick of protesters. If the facts contradict that analysis, then those facts are left out of the article.
Now that the repression has arrived, the question remains how Oaxacans, Mexicans and people of the world will respond, with apathy or action.
UPDATE: At 7:00 PM Eastern Daylight Savings Time on October 29, I was unable to access Radio Universidad over the internet, but it is back up.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: If you are bilingual (in any two languages) please help get this information out. Go to NarcoNews and volunteer to translate news and information for those less blessed linguistically.
Simon Fitzgerald just returned from Mexico where he reported on The Other Campaign for NarcoNews. He also writes the blog La Luchita