State resorts to dirty war tactics in Oaxaca, struggle intensifies

The people’s movement in Oaxaca is growing in militancy and power. In response, the Mexican federal government has attacked movement leaders and supportive workers.

But the movement remains undeterred. At the center of the struggle is the Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca


The movement in Oaxaca is defending itself from organized state repression and violence.

(APPO), a coalition of trade unionists, revolutionary Marxists and progressives came into being in June 2006.

The APPO was formed largely as a result of increased militancy by striking teachers and supporters who were attacked by state police on June 14 in Oaxaca’s capital. On that date, 15,000 workers beat back around 3,000 riot police. Since then, the teacher’s movement has grown into a popular movement demanding the ouster of Oaxaca’s governor, Ulises Ruiz Ortiz of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), and calling into question Mexico’s neoliberal policies that oppress workers, women and Indigenous people.

The APPO has shut down all branches of Oaxaca’s government by blocking government buildings for the last few weeks, has declared the local government void and has sent delegates to the Mexican national congress, requesting that it be recognized as the legitimate representative of the Oaxacan people.

Ruiz and the state government’s response has to get the Mexican federal government to intervene, arbitrarily arrest APPO and other movement leaders, and to send agents and assassins to break up protests.

Capitalists resort to state repression

State repression of the movement escalated significantly on Aug. 6 when around 300 Federal Preventive Police (PFP) arrived in Oaxaca. The PFP had been used in May to brutally put down a popular rebellion in San Salvador Atenco. On Aug. 7, about 30 police, “some in civilian clothes and some wearing ski masks,” attacked people who were blocking the Oaxacan department of finance. The cops used guns and teargas.

Many movement leaders since then have also been arrested and attacked in Oaxaca. The director of the Citizen Defense Committee, Catarino Torres Pereda, was taken secretly to a state maximum-security prison on Aug. 8. The same night, a local university teacher was killed by men on a motorcycle outside the city’s zocalo, which has been occupied by the teachers since June. Soon thereafter, the Oaxaca’s current state secretary of public security announced arrest warrants for 50 leaders of social organizations connected to the APPO.

On Aug. 9, German Mendoza Nube, leader of the Popular Revolutionary Front—one of the largest organizations in the APPO—was arrested by state police. Three Indigenous people, members of the Independent Unifying Movement of the Triqui Struggle, were shot and killed on their way to a meeting that day. Indigenous groups are being targeted because they have called for a new constitution that recognizes their rights. These groups have been some of the most active supporters of and participants in the APPO.

Most menacing, right-wing gunmen shot into an Aug. 10 march of 20,000 people who were demanding freedom for Nube and Torres Pereda. José Jiménez Colmenares, a 50-year-old mechanic married to teacher, was shot at close range and killed. The protesters reacted by detaining around eight suspects. They later found a gun, gloves, police boots and jackets in a nearby house from which the shots had been fired.

On day later, Erangelio Mendoza González, the former secretary general of the teachers union, was arrested along with people who happened to be near him at the time. The others have since been released, but Mendoza González is still being held in an unknown location. A total of eight people have been arrested in this recent wave of repression.

The union that ignited this struggle, section 22 of the National Education Workers’ Union, has withdrawn from an agreement to begin teaching on Aug. 14. The APPO, in solidarity with the teachers, has said that none of its members will go back to work until the Oaxacan governor steps down.

The movement received a boost on Aug. 16 when section 35 of the National Union of Workers of the Secretariat of Health (SNTSSA) announced an indefinite work stoppage. The SNTSSA took action to protest the much-hated Oaxacan governor and to support the APPO’s demands. The health workers are also demanding a resettlement of wage and contract issues.

The SNTSSA’s move will result in the “cancellation of at least 20 thousand consultations and administrative services in 15 hospitals, 650 health centers and in six sanitary jurisdictions of the organization,” reported the Mexican daily La Jornada. Marcos Villanueva Coronado, secretary of the SNTSSA said that governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz, “has shown his incapacity to resolve the political conflicts existing in Oaxaca, and has favored repression.”

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