Excellent column by Gilberto López
y Rivas in
La Jornada
(en español)
20 October 2006

this page is at http://site.www.umb.edu/faculty/salzman_g/Strate/1996-10-20.htm

      It is totally impossible to read more than a miniscule fraction of the printed material available in the media, corporate and on the internet. The problem for me has always been to find sources of information that are trustworthy. I probably would have missed this article, had it not come to me from a oaxaqueño who, for reasons of safety, is better left unidentified. I've translated it. Any and all corrections welcome.
G.S.    george.salzman@umb.edu

Friday 20 October 2006
Gilberto López y Rivas

The meaning of APPO

It’s not by chance that Oaxaca is the [first] state of the Mexican republic where a popular non-violent civil insurrection of transcendent historical importance, in both its form and content, is taking place. Initially a conflict of a teachers’ union with a corrupt and authoritarian state government, the movement was transformed starting from the brutal repression on the teachers’ encampment by the police and paramilitaries of governor Ulises Ruiz. It became the Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca (APPO) on 17 June of this year.

One of the states with a very high degree of marginalization and poverty, Oaxaca is also the state where 16 peoples or ethno-linguistic groups are located, with their various dialects. Also, there is an extraordinary wealth of autonomous processes rooted in the communities. These are the basic nucleii of their forms of social organization, whose resort to maximum discussion in decision-making is, precisely, the communal assembly.

Since the dialogue of San Andrés, already a new generation of indigenous Oaxacan leaders and intellectuals (some of them prestigious collaborators in our periodical) brought their historical experience to the construction of autonomy, reconstitution of the towns and in elaborating the judicial framework in accord with these demands and realities. It was they who made their hegemony prevail over the rest of the national indigenous movement, distinguished by the solidity and coherence of their arguments.

The composition of Section 22 of the teachers itself points to thousands of indigenous teachers that have played an important role in the democratic struggle and against the imposition and violence of economic and political caciquismo (Mafia-like tactics) imposed by the PRI. Some of them participated in programs as degree candidates in Social Anthropology that the National School of Anthropology and History (ENAH) established in the eighties. They acquired specialized training without abandoning their teaching obligations and carrying out the political tasks that their own communities requred. Also, the existence of organized groups like the Coalition of Bilingual Teachers of Oaxaca, in which there are many leaders and social strugglers with long-term perspectives and a firm commitment to their peoples. The experience of the contingents of indigenous emigrants situated in the United States and in our own Mexico City, with close ties to their original communities and with significant political experiences, have transformed the new environment and left their stamp on the political events happening in the Oaxaca of their birth.

Together with this indigenous component, the effort of APPO came to fruition ? the effort to unify many organizations of civil society which had struggled for decades ? in the fields of ecology, defense of cultural patrimony, human rights, free secular education, gender perspectives, emigrants and many others that had been relatively isolated. These groups, meeting in the Popular Assembly, put foward their proposals for democratization and true social change, and the possibility of working together towards its realization.

APPO shows that a popular government is possible without the presence of bureaucratic machinery, institutionalized political parties and, above all, without the voracious corrupt functionaries that for more than 81 years lived off public money and who are still trying to continue governing in spite of a visible, belligerant opposition of the majority of the Oaxacan people. APPO, at the level of the entire state and also in urban zones, confirms the successful experience of the Zapatista Committees of Good Government which, at the municipal and regional level, for more than three years, have governed starting from the principle “govern by obeying” and which represents a true school for learning about direct, participative democracy, that APPO has emulated in its varieties and specificities.

That’s the reason for the hatred APPO provokes in the governing class, in its intellectuals and the information technology assassins [the media] that seeks to control public opinion and to distort what is occurring in the state. Scandalized, they show the “violence” of popular justice, without denouncing the viciousness and cowardice of the paramilitary forces and parapolice that have, without risk, assassinated nine people and injured others, while the federal government waits for a politically favorable moment to “rescue” Oaxaca. Previous investigations go on accumulating and the intelligence groups go on pointing to who has to be arrested and indicted. This includes [evidence from] the solicitous director of INAH [Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia], who gave his denunciations to the Public Prosecutor against “those who are responsible” for the “grave damage to the cultural patrimony” of Oaxaca, while UNESCO denies the seriousness of such accusations.

Hysterically, the well-meaning are asking for re-establishment of order, reasoning that “the law is not to be negotiated, only applied”, calling for “the state of law” to prevail and fearing that the example of APPO will be nationalized and even globalized: It’s not possible! Everything has a limit. When will the army enter? They have nightmares of an eventual Popular Assembly of the People of Mexico, APPM, being installed in the zocalo of the Capital, and of an equivalent of APPO becoming the government in each state.

What the powerful are not mistaken about, repression is not all powerful nor can it resolve the profound problems; but, above all, already the experience of APPO is, in this decisive hour, a patrimony of all Mexicans.

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

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Last update of this page: 20 October 2006