by Libertas Anticorp
We got to the City of Oaxaca in the Central Valleys in the southern part of the country just two days before the departure of the Bety Cariño and Jyri Jakkola Humanitarian Caravan from Mexico City to take food and water to San Juan Copala. This autonomous municipality, adherent to the Other Campaign, is a political initiative promoted by the Zapatistas and the Independent Triqui Movement for Unification and Struggle (MULTI), a rupture from the historic MULT organization, now involved in the system of electoral politics and local power bosses.
The teachers’ union and social organizations related to the APPO are camped out in the city’s Zocalo. As in 2006, this plaza is a space that has been won by the protests and organization of the Oaxacan movement.
At the center of the encampment are the San Juan Copala tents. People there told us about some of the solidarity activities being organized in the city of Oaxaca, as well as in other parts of Mexico and the world, including Vancouver, Canada; Paris, France; Portland, United States; Barcelona, Spain, and different places in Greece, Germany, and Italy, among others.
Marches, rallies, street blockades and other activities will be going on in Mexico City and other parts of the country at the same time the Caravan enters Copala just after 9 in the morning of June 8. These activities will not end until the next day, when the mission of breaking the siege is accomplished, putting an end to the paramilitary kidnapping of around a hundred indigenous Triqui families in their own land.
Once again, the free and independent media are playing an important role in Oaxaca. Just as independent communication was a vital priority in 2006, hundreds of media activists are either on their way or have arrived in these lands to give voice to the struggles that power has opted to smother in deathly silence.
There’s no doubt that going on the Caravan is a big risk in light of recent events. Everyone remembers what happened last April 27, when the last Caravan was ambushed with high caliber bullets that are only used by the Army. In this ambush, human rights defender Bety Cariño and Finnish ecologist Jyri Jakkola were murdered, and many others were arrested, beaten, and tortured. This attack is one of a long list of threats and hostilities that have occurred ever since the autonomous municipality was formed and have become more intense in the last 6 months, to the extent that they’ve turned into a war of extermination against an indigenous people struggling for autonomy and freedom.
In Copala, dozens of people have been killed, including the two young women who were independent radio announcers, and most recently, a major indigenous leader and his wife, converting these outrages into everyday events.
Some say that this is an inter-ethnic conflict, or in other words, a dispute between indigenous groups, but over and above this is the reality of an aggressor that goes unchecked by the laws of the State or by its repressive forces. On the contrary, all indications are that it is trained by the armed forces and receives government support and impunity for committing murders, kidnappings, and the subjugation of people under the threat of death.
Lukewarm statements by the Oaxaca state government range from advising people to call off the Caravan to refusing to accept responsibility for protecting the Caravan to looking for a functionary to hold responsible for the situation. It’s known that there are groups of drug traffickers in the area, making the political map even more complex.
UBISORT (Union for Triqui Social Welfare) is the group that has systematically engaged in paramilitary repression. It has refused to accept any responsibility for guaranteeing the safety of the Caravan, and has gone so far as to block the entry ways into Copala by using heavy machinery to move enormous stones, leaving ditches that make it impossible for vehicles to get by.
These hours are full of tension, with the memory still fresh of the attack on the first Caravan, and the awareness of the more recent repression in Palestinian waters against another humanitarian caravan by the Israeli State.
The risk is great, but the outrage is even greater. The Triquis in the Central Valleys know it. You can tell by the absorbed looks on their faces. Their families don’t have water, light, food, or medicine, and they live with the fear that they or their loved ones will be shot and killed if they go outside their homes.
They also know it may well be suicide to travel the only road into this town where rebel hearts beat. These are hard times for humanity. What’s at stake is showing whether it’s possible to be brother and sisters instead of wolves, and whether it’s possible to win out over power and money in gaining hearts and minds.
It’s not the first time that the Mexican State has leveled all its force against autonomy. The memory of what happened in Tlalnepantla, Morelos, is still alive, where blood and fire put an end to the autonomy joyfully initiated by the people only a few days before.
Pessimism is strong. Yesterday’s attack on the strikers at Cananea is not a good sign. The State is a criminal machine. Yet the people of Oaxaca, the solidarity from those on the bottom, the rebellious spirit that sings and dances and smiles in spite of the gravest misfortunes, can change the balance and create hope.
The people of this land say that we are born to die and that when land gives out, death is required to make the land come to life again. It’s something like sowing seeds. The fruit dies so life can be born anew.
This post is also available in: Spanish