The APPO [1] Lives
commentary from Oaxaca
by Nancy Davies [2]  <>
11 December 2006

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      Sunday, December 10 was Human Rights Day. It was also the day for the eighth mega-march, called by the Asamblea Popular de los Pueblos de Oaxaca (APPO) to reaffirm their presence and their determination.

Eighth mega-march going east on Calzada Madero

Photo in La Jornada, by Blanca Hernández.

      The on-lookers arrived in a slow stream, through the Plaza de la Danza, down the stairs and along the street. They arrived like mercury, silently moving in the bright sun. It was not the march that moved me to tears. It was those small clusters of onlookers along the way, positioned in the shade of small parks and plazas. A few applauded when the leaders went by, arm in arm, representing the APPO, the teachers, the indigenous municipalities, the families of the dead, tortured, disappeared and imprisoned, and the PRD. A few applauded when families marched past holding aloft their family photos. But the greater number of onlookers stood silently, with expressions of stoic patience. Once again they stood in support of the APPO, whose marchers shouted, “I am the APPO, you are the APPO, we are all the APPO”.

      As our local informant Ignacio said, “The fuse has been lit.” The movement cannot be put out, no matter who, or how many, are arrested. The front of the march was led “shoulder to shoulder, elbow to elbow” by the current leaders of the APPO who step forward to fill gaps left by the detained, by the families of the arrested and disappeared, and by members of the FAP (the Broad Progressive Front).

      The anticipated presence of the Revolutionary Democratic Party (PRD) in the march did not happen. The PRD presence had been a cause of conflict. “We don’t agree that the PRD only mentions their prisoners,” said Flavio Sosa, prior to his own arrest; and, “ (it) only tries to hang on itself the medal of throwing out Ulises Ruiz Ortiz (URO)” said Víctor Manuel Gómez Ramírez, a member of the Council of the APPO (Consejo de la Asamblea Popular de los Pueblos de Oaxaca).

      The spokesperson for the APPO, Florentino Lopez, mentioned that “it’s somewhat late” for the PRD to announce they favor the “failure of powers” judgment against Ulises in the state and seeks negotiations with the PAN (National Action Party) to once again place the subject of Oaxaca on the national agenda.

      As a result, the PRD was represented in the front of the march by just two well-known PRD figures, Rosario Ibarra (she is president of the Human Rights Commission in the national senate) and Salomón Jara who joined the march at its start at the Vigueras crossroads which leads into the city; and two previously not-so-well-known: the national leader of the PRD, Leonel Cota, who has declared for the APPO, and its Secretry General, Guadalupe Acosta Naranjo.)

      The indigenous population, who had the most reason to enlarge the turnout, was also scantily represented, by the three municipal presidents carrying their official staffs of office. In total, my guess was about ten thousand marchers, but given the terror thrust on the population during the first week of December, that show of courage was impressive. The Plaza de la Danza, located in the historic center, is five block from the zócalo which has been heavily guarded against entry by the PFP, and this day all guards were reinforced.

      After the march many small groups of participants moved away to other areas to meet. These circles of teachers, or others conferring, have become a well-recognized sight in Oaxaca during the past six months; they are the segments of some assembly or other instructing their representative. In the Plaza de la Danza the large public meeting was to inform a crowd of more than 1,000 about the arrested activists and the disappeared. From the sidewalk above the plaza I watched an elderly woman wearing what looked like a new outfit: a hat, gold wire-rimmed glasses and a thin nylon turquoise dress. She looked to me about 85 years old, with a walnut-wrinkled face incongruous beneath a cheerful pink hat. She stood watching and listening with her head just reaching to the height of the retaining wall. In her hand she held one of the flyers handed out along the march route. She stood in the sun until I was completely exhausted and left.

      The speakers called on all the popular assemblies in other states to “defend our rights in the face of the rapacious neoliberal politics”. According to the non-governmental human rights groups, 80% of those swept up in the arrests had nothing to do with the APPO but were merely in the wrong place at the wrong time. Our informant Ignacio said he knew personally of a woman and her twelve year old daughter who were hauled off, to separate prisons. The daughter was assaulted sexually by the woman guard at the prison where she was held.

      He also showed me the wound on his leg he received on November 25. “I was lucky,” he said, “because when the API (Police Investigative Agency) circled around in back of the APPO, I was already out of the circle. I had run into a side street to recover from the tear gas, and they missed me.” he also said that the schools in the Valles Centrales agreed to go back to classes with the word of URO that they would not be attacked. That of course was not a promise that URO kept. Ignacio said that when the teachers in his school learned the PFP was on its way to their school, three well-known leaders immediately decided to leave, and classes were dismissed as other teachers wanted to depart, too. However, some of the third grade kids wouldn’t leave. They wanted to stay and confront the police. According to the Ignacio, it was something of a struggle to clear the building. Eventually they all got out, and nobody was hurt in that school that day.

      The reappearance of the APPO lifted the mood of the city today, I sensed, in a way that the re-painting of the blocks of buildings could not. The APPO means that people are not defeated.

      For those who like to peruse the headlines of a newspaper, I can recount for you that the headlines in the Monday, December 11 edition of the daily Noticias of Oaxaca included one EXIGEN, two PIDE and one PROPONEN. That is to say, the one DEMAND was by the eighth mega-march for the release of the political prisoners. The two REQUESTS were first the familiar one by the Catholic bishop for everybody to find a peaceful solution; and the other by Ulises Ruiz for the return to Oaxaca of the political prisoners he ordered shipped out of state to Nayarit, “so that they could be closer to their families”. That very touching latter “request” includes the 141 activists of the APPO arrested on the 25th and 26th of November.

      The PROPONEN was that the “APPO PROPOSED” to the Secretary of Government (Segob) that the government pay indemnification for the harm committed against the people and the state of Oaxaca, and the removal from office of five state government functionaries: the secretary for citizen protection, the attorney general, the director of the ministerial police, the director of public security, and the coordinator of public municipal security. The APPO’s other demands, the departure of URO, the withdrawal of the Federal Preventive Police (PFP), the freeing of the APPO prisoners, the cancellation of arrest warrants and the presentation alive of the disappeared, remain firm.

      The painter Francisco Toledo addressed the families of the disappeared and detained in front of his Institute of Graphic Arts (IAGO), demanding on their behalf information that will allow the families to locate their missing members.

      There were no incidents on the day of the march initiated by either the APPO which stayed away from the heavily guarded central areas and Santo Domingo church, nor by the PFP who stood in their riot gear in the sun guarding the nearly empty tourist spots.

      Oh, I forgot the rest of the front page of Noticias, two other items – the death of Pinochet of Chile, and an article whose headline reads “PAN and PRD Unite Against Local Taxes”. Plus the weather, the soccer scores, and the usual calendar count for Noticias readers about the attacks the newspaper suffered at the hands of the government, “743 Days of Impunity”.

End of Nancy’s commentary

International solidarity with the people of Oaxaca

      The first, and possibly the most important need of the incipient revolution in Oaxaca is for people in the rest of the world to know what has been happening and why it may be a profoundly significant development, if it is not prematurely crushed. Despite the severe repression by the federal government in the past month and a half, and by the State of Oaxaca, I believe the people of Oaxaca, and Mexico, will not allow themselves to be terrorized into submission. I believe they will not abandon their struggle. Our task – those of us who have some international contacts – can be to help get the information and understanding out. Widespread dissemination of honest information is both crucially needed and greatly lacking; misinformation is abundant.

      The Oaxaca Study-Action Group (OSAG),[3] is a Yahoo discussion listserv. OSAG describes itself as (in English): “an international non-governmental network in solidarity with the communities of Oaxaca. OSAG’s network communicates with thousands of people around the world, by using the internet and personal contacts. OSAG is a part of civil society, not affiliated with any government or political party”, y en español como: “una red internacional no-gobermental en solidaridad con las comunidades de Oaxaca. La red de OSAG comunica con miles de las personas alrededor del mundo, usando el internet y los contactos personales. OSAG es un parte de la sociedad civil, no afiliada con ningún gobierno ni partido político.”

[1] The APPO stands for La Asamblea Popular de los Pueblos de Oaxaca, The Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca.

[2] Nancy Davies’ reports and commentaries appear primarily on the indispensable Narco News website, which is at .

[3] The Oaxaca Study-Action Group website is at
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