Indiscriminate Repression on Oaxaca

January 15-21, 2007 – from Mexico Solidarity Network: Oaxaca Governor Ulises Ruiz is applying a coordinated judicial, police and military strategy to control and destroy popular mobilizations that threaten his power, according to a report by the International Civil Commission for Observation of Human Rights (CCIODH). The preliminary report concludes a 33 day investigation that included 420 interviews with officials, community leaders and political prisoners. The Commission confirmed the use of paramilitary groups as well as state and federal police forces in kidnappings, illegal detentions, house searches, beatings, and sexual abuse of both male and female prisoners. The Commission identified 23 assassinations, three more than the National Human Rights Commission named in a recent report and twelve more than the State Attorney General recognizes.

Meanwhile, the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH), a government entity, criticized inadequate conditions for observation and protection of human rights in Oaxaca. “The problem is a result of poverty and inequality, and as long as this isn’t resolved, the problems in Oaxaca will not be resolved,” said Jose Luis Soberanes, head of the CNDH.

The Interior Secretary admitted in a meeting with the APPO that federal and state police were “excessive” in their use of force in breaking up a demonstration last week in support of political prisoners held at Miahuatlan prison. And in a press conference on his first 45 days in office, President Calderon claimed “we live in order and peace.”

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President Felipe Calderon signed an agreement on Friday with leading agricultural corporations to “stabilize” the price of tortillas at 8.5 pesos per kilo, a 40% increase over last year’s prices. Tortillas were selling as high as 15 pesos per kilo in some cities earlier in the week, nearly triple the price of six pesos in November. The agreement covers only the 5,000 largest tortilla vendors, excluding 60,000 smaller vendors, many of whom maintained prices above 8.5 pesos per kilo. In Acapulco, two large distributors publicly announced their prices would be between nine and twelve pesos per kilo, pending a reduction in energy prices by the government. And the National Confederation of Organizations of the Tortilla Industry threatened to close their businesses if the accord is not renegotiated to include reductions in energy costs. Dramatic increases in energy costs and raw materials force many small producers to charge higher prices. While the world price of corn, the main ingredient in tortillas, is on the rise due to increased demand for ethanol in the US market, most of the recent price increases in Mexico are due to speculation by corporate traders. [emphasis added –G.S.]

WalMart will maintain tortilla prices at less than six pesos per kilo, apparently using this “loss leader” to attract customers. And Doctor Simi offered tortillas at his national pharmacy chain for less than five pesos, but only for customers who bought another item. WalMart refused to sell tortillas to Farmacias Similares in large quantities, making it difficult for Doctor Simi, an enigmatic figure who ran for president in the 2006 elections, to maintain his offer.

Rather than stimulating internal production, devastated under NAFTA, Calderon decided to loosen tariff restrictions and import more US-produced corn in an effort to lower prices. The United States is the largest corn producer in the world, and 80% of US production is controlled by Archer Daniels Midland and Cargill.

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