Revolution #59, September 3, 2006


Oaxaca: Teacher’s Struggle Grows into People’s Rebellion

This article was submitted by a reader

Oaxaca, Mexico is currently in a state of civil rebellion and is ungovernable. Since Monday, August 21, members and supporters of the Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca (APPO) have taken over radio stations and a television station, and have poured into the streets all day and all night demanding that the state governor, Ulises Ruíz, resign from office.

Several radio stations now controlled by APPO and its supporters have been calling on people to join the struggle, not sleep, go out into the streets, bring food and water to encampments of people at the center Zócalo square and outside of government buildings and join them.

At about 1 a.m. on August 22, an APPO radio broadcast alerted people on the air, “They’re attacking outside. They’ve come for us. We have to go.”

Outside, the police repeatedly fired indiscriminately into the building. Lorenzo San Pablo Cervantes, an architect who had gone to the radio station to support the teachers’ struggle, was shot, and the bullet punctured one of his lungs. He bled profusely and died later at a hospital from cardiac arrest.

As all this happened, the radio called on residents to stop the police patrols and informed people of where they were. The radio hosts insisted, “Compañeros, don’t go to sleep. Stop them.”

People responded to these attacks by blocking roads with barricades. La Jornada, a major Mexican newspaper, reported that throughout the city people kept the doors to their houses open and kept the lights off, remaining vigilant in case anything came up. More barricades went up. Some were made of bricks, tree trunks, tires, and bonfires. Buses were also used as barricades. Dozens of people could be seen on the streets with baseball bats in hand, slingshots, rocks, sticks, and whatever people had at hand.

Lizbeth Caña Cadeza, the procuradora (Attorney General) of the state, admitted on Aug. 22 that this savage attack was part of an “operativa de limpia”—a “cleanup operation”— that included heavily armed patrols and unmarked pickup trucks with police thugs who drove through the streets throughout different areas in Oaxaca.

A few days after the murder of Lorenzo San Pablo, people gathered around the Zócalo to pay tribute to him. Lorenzo’s brother thanked people for their support and said, “My brother was supporting APPO at dawn today. He wasn’t a leader, but he supported this cause. Now he’s a martyr. In his name I invite the people to continue struggling.” Lorenzo was later buried in his native Mixtec mountains.

Protests demanding the resignation of Ulises Ruíz, the PRI governor of one of the poorest states in Mexico, have been intensifying in the past months. It started with a sit-in of an estimated 40,000 teachers that demanded higher pay. It escalated as repression from the government and police increased. One incident included the governor ordering the police to attack an encampment in the Zócalo at pre-dawn hours. The police fired tear gas canisters at the encampment while many of the teachers and supporters, including families with young children, were sleeping.

Protests increased. Significantly, women have played a very fearless and important role in this struggle. Earlier in August, more than 2,000 women marched wearing traditional Oaxacan aprons with messages written on them that read “URO Fuera! (Ulises Ruíz Ortíz Out!) and banged on frying pans with wooden spoons. A group of them marched to the Channel 9 station and marched into the building and occupied it. 

“We are not afraid,” said one of the women. “Whatever happens, happens. We are fed up with this situation. We are fighting for our children. We women cannot stay home.”

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