Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Which Side Are You On?

One question that I've never resolved to my satisfaction, is why I write a blog. When I started I saw it as an opportunity to do some writing. I didn't have any grand ideas for my blog and I don't see it as political action in itself.

Ever since I've started I've been feeling obligated to write about certain topics - to write about topics that don't get covered in the mainstream media. To use this odd little platform I have, to raise issues that are important.

I generally haven't been able to do that, because I generally don't have anything to say about those topics. There's a limit to the number of times you can say "This happened; it was awful", or (more rarely) "this happened; it was awesome'.

But there are exceptions, and the situation is Oaxaca is one of them. I would have written about it sooner, but I've been away from home, and it's taken me a while to get a handle on what was going on.


From Democracy Now:

Over the past four months, the residents of Oaxaca - sparked by a teachers strike - had turned the city into an autonomous zone. The police and official government had been kicked out - in its place the protesters formed the Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca or APPO.

For months entire families have been camping outside to oversee barricades protecting the city. The protesters have been demanding the resignation of the state's governor Ulises Ruiz and the formation of a more representative government.

From La Luchita: Paz, Justicia y Libertad:

This all started as a routine labor strike by Section 22 of the Mexican teachers union (often referred to in Spanish language press as "el magisterio") escalated into a state-wide revolt after state police tried to violently evict the encampment of striking teachers on June 14.

The teachers union and the newly formed Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca made the ouster of unpopular governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz, widely considered to have won the election by fraud, their primary demand. As violence by police, paramilitaries and mercenaries escalated, the protesters began barracading their neighborhoods in self-defense. For example, after the Radio Universidad radio station used by the teachers union was attacked, protesters responded with a wave of radio station takeovers. But the protesters also began organizing to put their demand into action, declaring Gov. Ulises "banned" from Oaxaca, seizing government buildings and chasing out politicians from the local and state governments.

Violent attacks had for months been escalating against protesters, in what protesters said was part of Gov. Ulises Ruiz Ortiz's repressive Operation Iron ("Plan Hierro"). Brad Will himself documented this with an article a week ago called "Death in Oaxaca". With the murder of the indigenous teacher Panfilo Hernandez, the death toll was at 9 for the protesters. Meanwhile, political parties and the commerical Mexican media were reporting that the protesters were killing people, often without saying the name of the supposed victim or the time and place of the supposed killing. The killing of dissident teacher Jaime René Calvo Aragón, (who argued for the teachers to return to classes) was blamed by the government on protesters, while protesters blamed the government or paramilitary mercenaries of the PRI of killing the teacher as a pretext to repress the protestors, as reported by La Jornada.

I only wish I'd paid enough attention to learn enough to write about the autonomous zone when it was still an autonomous zone.


On Sunday Mexican Federal Preventative Police entered the city. I don't think I can give a good summary of events so I recommend the following sites:

Narco News
La Luchita: Paz, Justicia y Libertad
Indymedia Oaxaca (if you speak Spanish - I'm sure there are many many other great Spanish sites about this conflict, it's just I can't find them).

Three people died in the assault, and the fight is still on-going.

What Next

The Zapatistas are supporting the Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca:

The EZLN announced that “for the entire day on November 1, 2006, the highways and roads that cross territories where the EZLN are present in the Southeast of Chiapas will be closed."

The battle isn't over.

Why this is important

I'm not writing this as a call for support. I think it's fairly clear that the people of Mexico are doing a far better job of organising and resisting than almost anyone in the first world.

I'm writing this because I want people to know that resistance is met by repression. Efforts to organise and liberate ourselves do threaten the interests of those with power, and will be met with force. To the extent that that doesn't happen to you, is the extent that your priviledge and/or powerlessness prevents you from threatening society.

Thanks to brownfemipower andVegankid for most of the links.

Note for the comment thread: I'm not prepared to host comments attacking the people of Oaxaca or their resistance (disagreeing with me is OK though).

Also posted on Alas.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous11:19 am

    Apart from your leftist sources, who we already know are going to tell it the way they see it, most if not all media and stories coming out of it is saying this is all about pissed off leftists who disagree with the democratic outcome of a recent election that went against them.

    Sour grapes? It sure looks like it Maia. How you can advocate and support for this bunch is madness but not surprising given your attacks on anything democratic that goes against your twisted views of the world.