At a cusp in human affairs:
the struggle for human dignity in Oaxaca,
a southern state of Mexico

by G.S.  <george.salzman@umb.edu>
7 July 2006

this page is at http://site.www.umb.edu/faculty/salzman_g/Strate/2006-07-07.htm

      There are some people who you’ve just got to love, people like Peter Kropotkin, Bartolomeo Vanzetti and Nicola Sacco, Bertolt Brecht, Pablo Neruda . . . people both fully aware of the terrifying challenges most humans face in their everyday struggles, and who yet keep their hearts open to all — especially the humble — and to keep alive their hopes and efforts for a better world, where all people can live with dignity.

      The struggle for life with dignity is surging in the southern (and poorest part) of Mexico, where the teachers’ strike in the state of Oaxaca has become a massive popular movement to oust the dictatorial governor, Ulises Ruiz Ortiz (URO), and, more significantly, to replace the long-standing political government by a Popular Assembly with no political parties. This breath-taking explosion of anger, confidence and joyous pre-celebration (because URO has as yet neither resigned nor been stripped of his “official” mandate) was ignited on 14 June when URO ordered state police to attack the huge encampment of teachers occupying the central part of the city and 56 blocks surrounding it. The sudden attack started in the pre-dawn hours, with much destruction, injuries and arrests. After some hours, in which the police fired tear gas (including from a helicopter), the teachers forced the several thousand police to retreat and reoccupied the zócalo (the central square) and the surrounding blocks.

 
Teachers camped on and totally occupying the gazebo at the center of the zócalo in Oaxaca City, the capital of Oaxaca State. The park is at the heart of the city. The banner wrapped around the central structure says All power to the people (in red), and underneath is the proclamation (in blue): "Government of the Oaxaca popular struggle will win", by a group (indistinct letters) of students of the Benito Juarez Autonomous University of Oaxaca (UABJO in its Spanish initials). Photo 7 July by Nancy Davies.
 
      The teachers are considerably better off than the impoverished majority of Oaxaqueños, and from when they occupied the city center, about May 22, until the attack on their encampment three and a half or so weeks later, a good many small business people and others in the middle classes were of mixed views towards the teachers’ action, some of them downright critical. But immediately following the police assault support for the teachers surged throughout the state and beyond.
 
High alert: Oaxaca and the Federal Election

      The swelling support for the movement to oust Governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz (URO) and to change the form of government of Oaxaca state has emboldened the participants to insist on this truly revolutionary change at the state level. The idea of doing away with party politics is not unheard of, but its enthusiastic adoption by the newly self-constituted Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca (APPO in its Spanish initials) is sufficiently threatening to the Federal power structure that military intervention might be considered by the president, whoever occupies that office. And the National Action Party candidate, Felipe Calderon, who promised to govern with a hard hand (mano duro), would offer a particularly ominous prospect.

      The Mexican government is as ruthless as most of the world’s nation states, as it has demonstrated repeatedly and continuously, but it is not immune to pressure caused by widespread adverse publicity. It was the intense international sympathy for the Zapatista uprising, stimulated by disseminating the news on the internet, that caused president Carlos Salinas to call a halt to the Mexican military assault in Chiapas, and when his successor Ernesto Zedillo decided to eliminate the Zapatistas he too quickly gave it up for the same reason. They worried that foreign investors would think Mexico an unstable nation, hence not a safe place in which to invest money.

      A good source of up to date information on developments in Oaxaca is the Narco News website, at http://www.narconews.com/. For example, on June 7, a week before the governor lit the fuse, Nancy Davies reported “from Oaxaca’s ground zero” on the Narco News website:

Oaxaca Near Meltdown Over Teacher Strike
More than Just an Educators’ Pay Dispute, the Conflict Is a Sign
of Governor Ruiz’s Inability to Rule a State Fed Up with
Repression and Corruption
Her report begins,

It’s unprecedented and nobody knows what will happen, but nobody is backing down.

Tens of thousands of striking teachers occupy the center of Oaxaca city, sprawled out under camp tents, on top of cardboard cartons, on stairs and walls and benches. The plantón — the occupying camp — has now been going on for fifteen days. It covers 56 blocks, preventing all traffic and access to the heart of the central square, or zócalo.

      The entire report is at http://www.narconews.com/Issue41/article1874.html. The series of reports on this unprecedented uprising in Oaxaca, for the period 26 May 2006 to 22 Oct 2006, is listed in the file, “Coverage of the Oaxaca Rebellion in the Narco News Bulletin, List I” at http://site.www.umb.edu/faculty/salzman_g/Strate/2006-10-22.htm .

      In addition, I have a few items on my website which are not on Narco News, namely:

28 June 2006, Statewide Popular Assembly Meets in Oaxaca. The Fourth “Mega-March” Brings out 600,000 on June 28, by Nancy Davies
http://site.www.umb.edu/faculty/salzman_g/Strate/2006-06-28.htm

17 July 2006, The Real Thing: The people take back their own celebration , by Nancy Davies
http://site.www.umb.edu/faculty/salzman_g/Strate/2006-07-17.htm

      The essay, We are Constructing a Movement in Defense of Life by Judith Cid provides an activist insider’s perspective of the meaning of the Oaxaca struggle and of what it encompasses. Judith’s essay (translated into English) is at http://site.www.umb.edu/faculty/salzman_g/Strate/2006-06-29.htm.


All comments and criticisms are welcome.    <george.salzman@umb.edu>

If you want me to add or remove your name from my “large”
e-mail distribution list, please let me know.

*      *      *
Return to the Latest postings page
Return to the opening page of the Website

Last update of this page: 23 October 2006