January 11th, 2007 – Global Women´s Strike writes: In November the Global Women´s Strike met with women from Oaxaca, Mexico, and we committed ourselves to disseminating information about their struggle, their demands, their leading participation in the Asamblea Popular de los Pueblos de Oaxaca (APPO) – Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca – the great unity it has achieved and the harsh repression which aims to defeat it.
Your support is needed:
– Sign and return this letter. We will forward it to the authorities and the media. Send protest emails and faxes to the authorities.
– Donations. We are sending $1,000 to the women of Oaxaca knowing that we can count on international support. We will send everything we collect.
To send a donation in US dollars make cheques payable to Global Women´s Strike, PO Box 11795, Philadelphia, PA 19101, USA; in pound sterling to Global Women’s Strike, Crossroads Women’s Centre, 230a Kentish Town Road, London NW5 2AB, England; in euros to Huelga Mundial de Mujeres, Centro Las Mujeres Cuentan, Radas 27 Local, 08004 Barcelona, Spain or by bank transfer to Huelga Mundial de Mujeres, Caixa Penedes, IBAN: ES94 2081 0249 50 3300003442.
Please write Oaxaca on the back of the cheque.
– Circulate this information as widely as possible. (PDF)
The state of Oaxaca is one of the areas of the world where agriculture first began. Oaxaca´s historic city centre has been given Humanity Cultural Heritage status. Oaxaca is a tourist city, expensive for its low income inhabitants. The majority live in rural Indigenous communities and poor neighbourhoods on the outskirts of the city (colonias). Families are often headed by women whose husbands or sons have emigrated to other states or to the US in search of employment.
Oaxaca is one of the areas where Plan Puebla Panama – superhighways for the multinationals as part of a huge industrial infrastructure to expand the free trade agreement between North and Central America – is being built despite the fierce opposition of Indigenous and other rural communities.
Injustices have accumulated for many years. In the municipalities, little of the resources allocated to Indigenous peoples for community development, ever arrives. And what does arrive is tied to the political parties, or the funds are diverted by the municipal presidents in cahoots with state officials.
In 2004, Governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz came to power through electoral fraud and repression was unleashed. Movement people who were Indigenous, teachers and others were attacked, detained, disappeared and even killed. Ulises Ruiz ´cleaned up´ the Zócalo in Oaxaca city (the main square with the government buildings), preventing Indigenous and other small vendors from selling, as they have always done.
A PEOPLE-TEACHERS STRUGGLE
On the 1st of May, International Workers Day, the teachers unions (Section 22 of the Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores – SNTE and the Coordinadora Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación – CNTE) presented a petition to the government. Instead of responding to these demands, Ulises Ruiz spent millions of pesos on a media campaign which claimed that the teachers had everything they needed.
On the 22nd of May, the teachers called a strike and a people-teachers picket in the Zócalo, which was joined by Indigenous and other grassroots organizations. The Indigenous communities lack all kinds of basic services, and so had a series of economic demands relating to infrastructure: drinking water, electricity, roads, schools, health clinics…The teachers demand better wages, the improvement of school buildings, and resources for the students: free breakfast, shoes, uniforms, books… The Mexican constitution guarantees free education, yet mothers are having to pay registration fees. They have joined the teachers in defense of their own economic and social demands.
On the 2nd of June, the first people-teachers Mega-march was held – 100,000 people took part. On the 7th, a second Mega-march of 200,000 people put Ulises Ruiz on trial.
On the 14th of June, Ulises Ruiz violently evicted the picket without any concern for the women and children on it. They killed some people, asphyxiated children and pregnant women. The tear gas and other chemicals caused women to miscarry and children to be born ill, but people were too frightened of the repression to report this.
Many people who had believed what the media was saying, suddenly realized what was happening. From that moment the demand that Ulises Ruiz had to go became the main demand of the movement which represents the majority of the Oaxaca population.
In response to the criminal eviction of 14 June, Indigenous communities, colonias and many other sectors came out in defense of the teachers and in a few hours regained the Zócalo. The movement called its 3rd Mega-march and succeeded in reinstating the mass picket.
Between the 17 and 21 June the Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca (APPO) was formed as a movement independent of all political parties, with 365 organizations of different sectors, and on the 20th of June a collective provisional leadership was chosen.
On the 22nd of June, Ulises Ruiz called a march, which the popular-teacher movement called the ´March of Shame´ because many had been tricked into marching. There were police, undercover cops, organizations of the political party PRI brought in from other states, workers under threat of losing their jobs who marched against their will, and Indigenous communities who thought they were defending teachers and education. Still, Ulises Ruiz was able to mobilize only 3-5,000 people.
APPO replied with a 4th Mega-march which brought more than one million people to Oaxaca from eight regions of the state. APPO was able to unite the different sectors of the movement – Indigenous and rural people with students, teachers, social security workers, telephonists and colonias. Nuns and priests have joined in defence of the rights of those with least, though the Catholic Church hierarchy has backed Ulises Ruiz.
The creation of APPO was a crucial step in the consolidation of the movement. At first, men were the majority of those elected to APPO’s leading collective; only 7 were women. Then other sectors and municipalities joined. And when the APPO Women’s Coordination was formed 35 women joined the leading collective, and at APPO´s first congress on 10-12 November, there was discussion about how many delegates each sector should have and it was decided that at least 30% of them should be women.
On the 26 of July, APPO decided to take the three powers of the State: government house and the Secretary of Finance, the Chamber of Deputies, and the penal courts. Those who participated most in taking the Secretary of Finance were the women: housewives from the colonias, teachers, and women of all ages from community organizations. They began to get to know each other and they saw the need to have their own action. For the teachers it was an opportunity to participate directly because the unions work through delegations and those who are not delegates remain outside.
AUTONOMOUS WOMEN: HOUSEWIVES, INDIGENOUS, TEACHERS, STUDENTS, RELIGIOUS, DOCTORS, COMMUNITY ORGANIZERS…
On the 1st of August women called a great march, named the Pots and Pans March, in which 20,000 women and children participated, including 15,000 teachers: Indigenous, women from the colonias, from community organizations such as CODEP, OIDHO, CODEDI XANICA, CIPO, FPR, from the teachers unions, nurses, students and Indigenous communities. They chanted: “Take it, man, your wife is rising” and “When women move forward, no man is left behind.”
The Pots and Pans March directed itself at the fourth power – the media – and took over Channel 9 and the state radio. About 350 women went in and the rest surrounded the building to protect them. Nobody stopped them. They asked the radio listeners for water, food and people who could operate television cameras. In a few hours they were able to broadcast. Channel 9 and the radio which they named Radio Pots and Pans, were at the service of the people, broadcasting discussions between women, their demands, and on the 2nd of August for the first time images of the repression which had taken place on the 14th of June.
The Pots and Pans March began as a proposal of the housewives of the colonias who had been brought together by the community organizations like CODEP (Comité de Defensa de los Derechos del Pueblo). The colonias women are one of the most combative sectors: mothers, grandmothers, wives, daughters, aunts and sisters, women are the primary carers of the human species and the first to struggle for justice when their children, partners and relatives are victims of repression. Before there had been no direct communication between the women from the colonias and the teachers, but now they had united and the colonias women said: “I don’t care that my children lose school because this is a lesson of struggle for life.”
This is not the first time that women have organized autonomously. In 1995, the women from CODEP held the first women congress with the participation of various Indigenous nations, and organized joint actions with women from other organizations (OIDHO; CODEDI, FUDI), for example the International Women’s Day march on the 8th of March 1997, the first statewide mobilization of women. Now many women are part of the state council of CODEP and of APPO, and they say that many of the movement men didn’t accept this participation of women on their own behalf, and so women’s autonomy was dropped. Nevertheless on the 8th of March 2005 women demonstrated in the street again and put forward their demands as the women and as the people.
Now many women are more determined than ever. The Pots and Pans March and the occupation of Channel 9 created a space for everyone: “The repression brought us together; also the opportunity to change the situation. On the 1st of August we undid our chains. This is our moment.”
The autonomous actions of the women have changed the relationship with the men: there is more respect, more recognition of the fundamental role of women in the struggle.
THE WOMEN´S DEMANDS
On the 31st of August APPO´s Coordination of Women of Oaxaca (COMO 1st August) was formed. It raised that: “At present and due to the extreme poverty, the conditions for having so many children do not exist, in addition the struggle demands that we should be participating in other areas.”
On the basis of documents from the conference and what the women told us, we have assembled the following demands.
• Equal participation of women and men. • Reclaim the Indigenous traditions, unless they undermine the human dignity of women. • The right to land for Indigenous women: the majority do not own their homes because as women they don’t inherit their land. • To struggle against violence: many are beaten by their husbands; many married whom their parents chose for them. • Literacy: many women over 40 years old don’t know how to read and write and don’t speak Spanish. • Compulsory teaching of the languages of the original cultures of the state of Oaxaca. • The formation of brigades to go to Indigenous communities, villages and colonias to let people know about our experience of struggle. • To struggle against discrimination. • To struggle against the economic system – women are the poorest – and to create an economy based on sustainable development. • No to losing your job because of pregnancy. • Abolition of provisional contracts. • Health services: many women die without having seen a doctor. • Decent housing.
1. Create communal kitchens for each colonia and each block. 2. Form food collectives. 3. Establish comprehensive education programmes. 4. Eradication of alcoholism and drug addiction. 5. Form cultural collectives that enable the Indigenous communities to have cultural interchanges by means of workshops, training courses and forums. 6. Promote projects for production, with adequate economic support, in terms of tools and other material resources for their functioning that enable community development and economic independence of the peoples of our state. 7. Hold study groups about our roots. 8. Promote a massive literacy campaign. 9. Develop programmes for radio and television to broadcast organizing experiences from one people to another. 10. Training on gender equity for boys and men. 11. Develop a project to reclaim Indigenous languages. 12. Stop Channel 13 for two hours and inform people about what is really happening in this grassroots struggle. 13. Contact groups of women in other states to let them know about the problems that we face in this state. 14. Hold an Indigenous Women´s Forum for which the call will be in Indigenous languages. 15. Open an email for COMO 1st August to let people know about our activities.
THE STRUGGLE CONTINUES
On the 21st of August, the women were evicted from Channel 9 and the repression hardened. Ex-president Fox sent the military police (Preventive Federal Police) to Oaxaca, to support Ulises Ruiz in spite of the rejection of the population, because they don’t want Oaxaca to set an example for other states. House raids are continuing and many people have been disappeared and killed, among them Brad Will, an Indymedia US journalist. A number of women have been detained and tortured, raped by the police and the paramilitaries.
In response to this latest attack, on the 19th of November, hundreds of women marched to the Zócalo. They protested the sexual assaults by holdings mirrors which said: “I am a rapist, I am a murderer,” so the police and military could see themselves. They were attacked with gas and water cannons.
But they have not given up. On the 18th and 19th of November in Mexico City, on the initiative of the women and men of APPO, the Popular Assembly of the People of Mexico (APPM) was formed to initiate a government of the people for the people. APPO explained to the organizations present which had come from all over Mexico, that the point of the assemblies is to return to consensus, that each person gives their view and commits themselves in front of everyone, if they don’t keep their word it becomes clear who is committed and who isn’t. Women highlighted their leading role in taking over Channel 9 and in building the barricades, and were warmly applauded.
The Global Women´s Strike in Mexico, England and Venezuela were present at the formation of APPM. We were applauded when we spoke about the struggle of the Venezuelan people for the reelection of President Chávez, and when on offering our support we commented: “As women we want all our work of survival and care to be recognized, from making the coffee to caring for the children along with justice work in the movement where women may be the majority, even though we may not be visible. In a world that kills us with hunger and bullets, the work of survival that we women do is revolutionary. No one knows this better than Indigenous women.”
On the 25th of November the 8th Mega-march took place. In order to justify the most brutal repression, the federal government in cahoots with Ulises Ruiz, got police, paramilitaries and PRI infiltrators to set fire to buildings and cars, and to assault the demonstrators. They have arrested 141 people, among them 34 women who have been treated outrageously – including having their heads shaved. Many men and women are still disappeared or in different prisons, especially in Nayarit.
Another Mega-march took place on the 10th of December, to demand the release of all those who are being held arbitrarily and illegally, that all those who have been disappeared be returned alive, and the cancellation of the arrest warrants.
On the 22nd of December, APPO called for an open public dialogue. See their enclosed letter in Spanish.
OTHER STRUGGLES IN THE MEXICAN CAPITAL
Many struggles are going on all over the country. We only mention that during the months of mobilization in Oaxaca, millions of people all over the country were protesting the electoral fraud committed by Felipe Calderón and proclaiming that Andrés Manuel López Obrador is the president elect. On the 20th of November, the Global Women´s Strike was in the Zócalo of México city when López Obrador was proclaimed president elect by hundreds of thousands of people.
JUSTICE AND FREEDOM FOR OUR SISTERS AND BROTHERS IN OAXACA
Since August, according to information released by the CNDH (human rights commission) and published in the paper La Jornada, 20 people have been assassinated, 349 are being held, among them 34 women, and 370 have been wounded. And it is well known that many people have disappeared. According to APPO´s 22 December letter, since Ulises Ruiz Ortiz took power 71 people have been murdered, 150 raped or tortured in other ways, more than 100 disappeared, and more than 500 detained.
In January 2007, despite constant threats from the police, the women of COMO organized a public collection of toys for the children of Oaxaca. On the 6th of January, about 300 children whose APPO mothers or fathers are in jail, marched through the city centre demanding the release of their parents, and that “the men in uniform in the city´s Zócalo be exchanged for toys and flowers”.
Together with our sisters in Oaxaca, we demand open public dialogue. Justice for women and all our loved ones. An end to rape and other torture. An end to repression. All those who have been detained or disappeared must be returned alive and released. Out with Ulises Ruiz Ortiz. Withdrawal of the Preventive Federal Police. Implementation of APPO´s popular government. Implementation of women’s demands. Invest in caring not killing.
Support by signing this letter and sending it back to us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
It will be circulated internationally and sent to the women and men of APPO, and to the Mexican authorities and consulates.
Oaxaca de Juárez, Oaxaca, a 22 de diciembre de 2006
RECIBEN AMENAZAS INTEGRANTES DE LA COMO EN LA ORGANIZACIÓN DEL FESTIVAL DE DIA DE REYES.
This post is also available in: Spanish