By: Octavio Velez, Noticias. June 14, 2011
Translated by: Erica Lagalisse, June 14, 2011.
On the five year anniversary of June 14, 2006, when state police attempted to evacuate the protest camp (plantón) of teachers from the Seccion 22 of the National Educational Workers Union (SNTE) and other social organizations from the Historical Centre of Oaxaca de Juárez, neither ex-Governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz, nor ex-Secretary General of Government Jorge Franco Vargas, nor any of their collaborators, have been held accountable for the rights violations they have been deemed guilty of by the Mexican Supreme Court of Justice (SCJN).
The tribunal found Ruiz Ortiz, along with ex-Directors of State Preventative and Ministerial Police (the PPE and PME respectively) Manuel Vera Salinas and Manuel Moreno Riveras clearly responsible for rights violations, but the Attorney General did not conduct an investigation during Ulises Ruiz Ortiz’s mandate, for obvious reasons. In fact, Vera Salinas was later designated Director of Transit and then Director of the Police Academy in Benito Juárez, Quintana Roo. And last April, soldiers of the Mexican Army discovered an espionage centre in that very municipality – generally known as Cancun. The centre was being operated by none other than Vera Salinas, then serving as Security Coordinator in the office of Councillor Gregorio Sánchez Martínez, PRD and PT pre-candidate for governor.
The Death Caravans
In 2006, the Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca (APPO) accused Moreno Rivas of heading the so-called “death caravans” to illegally assassinate and arrest APPO sympathizers. One year later, the Popular Revolutionary Army (EPR) also blamed Moreno Rivas for the arrest and forced disappearence of their comrades Edmundo Reyes Amaya and Gabriel Alberto Cruz. More recently, in 2010, he was accused by Aurora López Acevedo, ex-Secretary of Transport during the government of José Murat Casab, for heading the group of unknown persons that kidnapped and raped her.
June 14, 2006
On June 14, 2006, state police tried to dislocate the protest camp (plantón) that teachers from the Seccion 22 of the SNTE and members of social organizations had installed in the city centre. Then Secretary General of Government Jorge Franco Vargas had bet on the use of force after the SNTE rejected the bargain offered by the state administration in response to its list of demands. They failed however, and thus began the great social and political conflict in Oaxaca that year.
At approximately four o’clock in the morning, hundreds of agents from the Special Operations Police Unit (UPOE) as well as those from the State Preventative Police (PPE), Tactical Intervention Unit (UMIT) and Special Operations Group (GOE) left their barracks in a convoy heading for the city centre. A half-hour later, then Secretary General of the SNTE Seccion 22 Enrique Rueda Pacheco broadcast a red-alert warning to the demonstrators and their broader social base of support via Radio Plantón, calling for them to prepare “to resist the repression that the government is mounting”; “We will confront their attack in an organized way, with cool heads and burning hearts…Wear wet rags and handkerchiefs as protection from the tear gas”, he called out.
About five minutes later, the police, having already seized the union locale on Division Oriente street, approached the protest camp by way of Bustamente, Las Casas, Armenta y Lopez, Independencia, Hidalgo and Valdivieso. They came shooting hundreds of tear gas bombs in an effort to disperse the 40 000 education workers througout the streets. In the SNTE Seccion 22 offices situated on Armenta y Lopez, agents detained Eduardo Castellanos, Acelo Ruiz and Oziel Martínez, all then transmitting on Radio Plantón, and confiscated the radio transmission equipment. At the same time, over in the union locale, SNTE Seccion 22 Executive Committee Secretary Roberto Pérez Gazga and locale administrator Miguel Bautista were arrested also.
Castellanos narrated the entry of the police into the union building via Radio Plantón: “…We can hear the bombs, its 5 in the morning, the soldiers are getting closer, they are entering the building to repress us, you can hear the explosion of the bombs…”, and the transmission cut out. Then Director of State Public Security, Manuel Vera Salinas, said that soldiers under his orders then confiscated four guns, three of them AK-47s, and a backpack containing explosives from the union locale.
Aided by the townspeople, men and women, young and old, 20 minutes later the teachers regrouped to confront the police with pipes, sticks and stones on the corners of Independencia and 20 de Noviembre; Independencia and 5 de Mayo; Macedonio Alcalá and Morelos; Morelos and 20 de Noviembre; Morelos and 5 de Mayo; Bustamante and Guerrero; Flores Magón and Trujano, among others. Oaxaca was thus turned into a battlefield. While police attacked with tear gas and pepper spray, the teachers, with only wet rags to cover their faces, responded with stones and still-fuming tear gas canisters shot by police which they picked up with wet rags and blankets. The education workers confronted the police singing the national anthem and “Venceremos”.
Around 7:10 am, the teachers started to requisition city buses to use them as barricades on the police lines established on the corners. At approximately 7:45 am, the 40 000 teachers had regrouped almost in their entirety, and began to corner the police who had run out of tear gas canisters for their fire-arms, forcing them to retreat to the Alameda de León and the Zócalo. Police in UPOE helicopters flew over the Historical Centre shooting tear gas and various other grenades on multiple occasions, but that did not stop the teachers either.
At 8:50, the thousands of townspeople had swelled further and they proceeded to engage the last battle. After offering up their last defense, the police were obliged to withdraw and abandoned the Zocalo by way of Bustamente street. Agents from UMIT, finding themselves surrounded, shot off their 38 and 9 millimeter pistols at the demonstrators without having reported any injured. During their escape, 8 agents of the UPOE and the State Preventative Police were detained by the teachers. All were beaten, locked up – some naked – and remained in their custody in the Basilio Rojas Primary School located two blocks from the Zocalo. During the retreat, Margarito López Aragón, subdirector operative of the Ministerial State Police, was also captured and brought to the same nursery. Around 9:20 am, after a bloody battle, the agents gave up the plaza to the racket of thousands of teachers.
The teachers of Oaxaca will march over 8 km today, from the Crucero de Viguera along highway 190 to Madero avenue, then along to Hidalgo to end in the Alameda de León and the Zocalo of Oaxaca de Juárez.
This post is also available in: Spanish