Oaxaca, the city in resistance, erupts after PFP attacks marching demonstrators, arresting over a hundred, killing three.
November 27, 2006 – Simon Fitzgerald writes: What was supposed to be a peaceful eight-mile march to the Oaxaca City Center from the offices of the repudiated Governor of Oaxaca Ulises Ruiz ended in violent confrontations that spiraled into a five hour battle between police and protesters this past Saturday. This confrontations started less than an hour after the start of a “48 hour peaceful siege” of the Federal Police encampment in the Zocalo.
The authentic John Gibler (who recently published an article for Miami Herald’s Mexican partner El Universal) reports today on Democracy Now, that police detained some 160 protesters and that there are unconfirmed reports of 3 protester deaths. What is known is that some two or three hours into the battle, police fired live rounds at protesters, in addition to massive amounts of teargas. Protesters also burned government buildings and broke windows on private business around the city, though it was unclear if certain business were specifically targeted or why.
Gibler also relays reports, confirmed by the director of the Hospital General Dr. Felipe Gama, that “plain-clothes gunmen, like the paramilitaries that have killed with impunity in the last months, entered hospitals around the city looking for injured protesters.” Other witnesses claim that the gunmen threatened hospital staff with guns drawn and dragged some protestors from the hospitals.
The 160 people arrested were subjected to brutal beatings with batons and teargas fired at them from close range. Tear gas canisters fired at close range by the PFP have already killed one person in Oaxaca previously, and also killed Alexis Benhumea this past May in San Salvador Atenco.
The Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca also published a report on the confrontations, translated into English by Narconews. They identify some of the actors in the round-ups and arrests as Oaxacan ministerial police, which the PFP recently declared “out of control” for their violent, vigilante attacks and detentions of APPO members and others opposed to the government of Ulises Ruiz Ortiz.
During such “spontaneous” detentions, APPO supporters have endured torture at the hands of their kidnappers.
Gibler also reports that the APPO planned to reinstate their encampments at 8 AM this morning. New York Indymedia has a small piece with photos from Gibler. I will be listening to Radio Universidad, which seems to be affected by some incomplete jamming of their signal, for updates. “La Doctora” is saying that there has been a “complete suspension of all constitutional rights in Oaxaca.”
Nancy Davies has just published from Oaxaca an account of this weekend’s events on Narco News. She writes:
At about 5:00 the PFP began to react to the protesters. In my opinion, there were some young people present who wanted to go beyond verbal insults and attack the PFP so as to drive them from the zocalo. Furthermore, there is no doubt that some of the protagonists were infiltrators who sparked the physical fighting. During this time the APPO, by way of radio broadcasts. was asking for a pacific and calm protest. Given that there had been sexual abuse of Oaxaca women by police the day before, and that the numbers of the PFP had increased, it did seem inevitable that confrontation would erupt. By 2:00 the usually busy pedestrian streets were deserted, and virtually all the shops surrounding the zocalo were locked.
After about an hour of the show-down, the PFP began to shoot at the demonstrators. The state ministerial police and the PFP began moving into some specific areas such as the Llano Park, Crespo Street, the Abastos Center, and other points. In this sweep they arrested approximately forty, including twenty women. Several were wounded. There were no warrants or official causes for arrests other than possible affiliation with the APPO or with barricades.
The PFP together with state police had been waging this ongoing detention against the members of the social movement in Oaxaca. Vans carrying police in civilian clothes, as well as other PFP forces, were carrying out massive detentions in several places in the city, including in front of the University, against citizens who were not carrying identification…
Battles were waged up and down the seven or eight blocks to the north and south of the zocalo, until they reached the ADO bus station on the main street of Niños y Heroes de Chapultepec. Ironically, the bus station was crowded with tourists trying to flee the embattled city while the Government forces were dedicating themselves to making the city once again “safe” for the business and tourist industries. The teargas followed them to the bus station.
At the same time, the esplanade of Santo Domingo church was cleared and burned of APPO tents and tables.
In the face of the overwhelming attacks, the APPO decided to retreat from the field, which happened around 10:00 PM, with the now-famous “La Doctora” of Radio Universidad assuring her listeners that the shame fell on the government, not the people, who struggle with dignity for their rights. Many people took refuge in friendly homes and were able to avoid the police sweeps.
Meanwhile, blockades had been placed on the super-highway Cuacnopalan-Oaxaca, in the municipality of Nochixtlán, located about 80 kilometers from the state capital, and in the toll booth of Huitzo, some 25 kilometers away, to try to impede the entrance of APPO sympathizers into the city. It is difficult to say how many people were prevented from arriving. For those already in the city, the so-called Radio Ciudadana was broadcasting advice to government followers to throw hot water and muriatic acid from their roofs onto APPO sympathizers. The radio broadcasters have been identified as Alexis and Marco Tulio, affiliated with the PRI.
“Be careful,” Radio Universidad explained, “there are many PFP who are electrifying the wires on the roads. The PFP are in unmarked vans. This is the seventh mega-march, bring your placards, your slogans, be ready but don’t fall into provocations.”
Marches have occurred almost daily in the past week. Maintaining a steady drumbeat, although not a loud one, women marched against the sexual assault of a woman by the PFP. Students marched against the presence of the PFP in Oaxaca, and more students from the Technological Institute of Oaxaca protested the detention and the torture of their peer, Eliuth Amni Martínez Sánchez, suffered at the hands of the federal agents during the confrontation on Monday, November 20. Martinez Sanchez was located in Tlocolula Prison, thrown onto the floor of a cell in, missing one fingernail, with a severe head wound, a broken nose and a broken kneecap. The lawyers who found him obtained his transfer to a hospital. Thereafter, students from the Technological Institute demanded that the Institute honor its commitment to close down if violence against students continued. The Institute is now closed.
Sunday night, the time of writing this commentary, the radio is announcing that there is a possibility of another battle and to defend the barricades around Radio Universidad, whose signal has been steadily interrupted by government blocking.
At this time Radio Universidad is saying that there has been an attack on the medical team at the Siete Principes area (the medical school area). Last night, the voice of “La Doctora” announced that the PFP and state police had entered the hospital dressed as medical doctors, and then were able to arrest patients. The radio is also announcing a march for Monday morning to protest the situation.
Not spoken is that only a week remains before the inauguration of Felipe Calderon as the president of Mexico. Today a meeting of member APPO states took place in Mexico City.
In other news, the Oaxacan and Mexican prosecutors have reportedly decided to ignore prosecution of the shooters caught on tape firing the fatal shots that killed Bradley Will. They are reportedly hoping to prosecute the APPO members that escorted him to the hospital in ambulance, under the theory that the shots that hit him in the chest, fired by local police and politicians, did not kill him. Rather APPO members are said to have fired the fatal shots on him later as he lay bleeding. The theory is so ridiculous, contrary to witness reports, news from mainstream sources like El Universal, and contradictory to the photo and video of Will’s murder that the politically motivated prosecution of APPO members for Will’s death seems unlikely to be successfully carried out.
Simon just returned from Mexico where he was a reported on “The Other Campaign.” for Narconews. Updates can be found at La Luchita.