May 6, 2008
On the second day of the Caravan on the “Jaguar Path for the Recovery of our Historic Memory and Territorial Defense” we stopped over in San Blas Atempa, a town known for its constant struggle for autonomy against the local power bosses and their corruption.
We expected it to be a difficult visit due to the vile murder of Paulino Salud Landis on May 4, just two days ago. He was killed during the commemoration of another murder that happened two years ago, that of Faustino Acevedo Bailón, ex treasurer of the autonomous town of San Blas Atempa. We agreed to hold an event in solidarity with their struggle and in repudiation of the recent murder.
The event took place in a climate of tension: PRI party members were roaming around the streets with a threatening attitude and their was a municipal police patrol truck standing by.
A little history…
Two years ago the political life of San Blas Atempa was still being manipulated by the local power boss Agustina Acevedo Gutiérrez, an important ally of Ulises Ruiz Ortiz. She had been a state representative and municipal president for several years and before that was a leader of the cane workers on the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. She has taken control of governmental resources that have come into the town from the Programasa, Procampo, and Oportunidades programs and others. These funds are only given out to PRI sympathizers at the orders and convenience of “la señora,” as the Blaseños call her. Wielding her power, she had worked her will on the municipal presidents of San Blas and has disposed of communal lands, selling terrain without previously consulting the campesinos, thereby provoking, irritability, confrontations, and social divisions among them.
In the municipal elections in September of 2004, an important social movement was organized in which more than half of the people of San Blas Atempa showed their discontent with the PRI system and their resistance to the measures imposed by “la señora.”
The PRD postulated Dr. Francisco Salud Bautista as a candidate, and during his campaign he promoted social mobilizations, creating panic among the PRI members who were engaged in longtime strategies of buying votes and co-opting voters. Dissent increased and rumor had it that people would not allow the inauguration to take place on January 1, 2005.
When the day came, people began to show up at the municipal headquarters to resist the inauguration. The PRI members and their gunmen had already been standing guard inside the presidential offices since the early morning hours. When the word went out over the loudspeakers, people closed in on the government building. Then the violence started.
On January 9 of the same year, the townspeople chose their leader in a community assembly called the People’s Autonomous Town Government. It was headed by José Luís Gutiérrez, and negotiations began with the state government for the liberation of political prisoners and the disappearance of powers demanded by the townspeople. These demands were never met by the governor.
In the early morning hours of March 2006, the municipal building in San Blas Atempa was surrounded by 700 ministerial police. The repression was unleashed and those involved in the Blaseña civil resistance were driven out. There were ten arrests and 94 arrest warrants issued against San Blas Atempa residents.
Four months later, with the evacuation of the teachers’ encampment in the city of Oaxaca and the beginning of the brutal repression of 2006, the police abandoned San Blas Atempa to shore up the police forces in the city of Oaxaca, and the townspeople took over the municipal building once again. The operations of the autonomous town government have been limited, however, due to lack of resources because the state resources coming into the town still go directly to the hands of the PRI members. In the last elections the PRI took over the town government once again and the violence and repression heightened against the people of the People’s Autonomous Town Government.
The Blaseños received us in the main plaza in front of the municipal building. The building is now empty and in the hands of the people who made up the People’s Autonomous Town Government from 2005 to 2007. Thus, the PRI moved their offices from the municipal building into a private home.
During the event, the townspeople identified the intellectual authors of the murder of Paulino Salud Santis: the current PRI party municipal President Jaime Rito Salinas, “la señora” Agustina Acevedo Gutiérrez, and the representative Sofia Castro.
One of the speakers at the event said: “How long must we put up with this repressive killer government. How long must we live in uncertainty, ungovernability, and injustice. We don’t want confrontation. We don’t want violence, hot tempers, discord, and killings. We don’t want any more of this repression. We want San Blas Atempa to be a free, sovereign, peaceful, democratic town, where there’s respect for the will of the people, where we struggle to defend the interests of the people…We have to struggle united and well organized so that San Blas Atempa will become the town we’ve always dreamed of.”
Youth Encounter of the Oaxacan Social Movement