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In Solidarity with the People of Oaxaca PDF Print E-mail
Oaxaca, Mexico has long been one of the country?s premier tourist destinations, with the world-renowned archeological site of the ancient Zapotec city of Monte Alban, a vibrant indigenous culture, diverse artisan and culinary traditions, and natural beauty.

In May this year, Oaxaca?s state-wide teachers? union initiated a strike and non-violent occupation of the city center, demanding better pay and work conditions, as well as improvements to the state?s educational infrastructure. At dawn on June 14, state governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz (popularly referred to as URO) sent in state police to violently break up the ongoing, peaceful teachers? protest. The brutal police action, which included the firing of tear gas from helicopters onto the crowd below, sparked widespread indignation and outrage in many Oaxacans. The repressive tactics backfired resoundingly, and teachers had retaken the city center by nightfall, pushing back the police?mostly through the forces of their numbers and determination.

More importantly, the violent police action sparked a widespread, broad-based, non-violent popular movement. URO has awakened a sleeping giant?thousands of students, housewives, small business owners, workers, professors, professionals, campesinos, intellectuals and artists have come together to demand the governor?s resignation. And they have formed the People?s Popular Assembly of Oaxaca (APPO), made up of at least 350 different civil organizations working in arenas of indigenous issues, sustainable community development, human rights and social justice. They are working to build a transparent, inclusive, participatory political system?true democracy from the grassroots.

On October 30 this year some 4000 Federal Preventative Police (PFP) entered Oaxaca with full riot gear, shields, clubs, tear-gas launchers and gas masks. They were backed up by a fleet of more than 30 armored vehicles?equipped with high-pressure water canons, bulldozer blades, and video cameras?and military and police helicopters.

Mexican President Vicente Fox?s stated reason for sending the PFP to Oaxaca was ?to reestablish order?. The true motivation for the arrival of the federal police and military forces, however, is to break a widespread people?s movement to oust Oaxaca?s corrupt, repressive and illegitimate governor and build true democracy based on social and economic justice and respect for human rights.

The arrival of the PFP has effectively turned Oaxaca into a police state. In the city, and throughout the state, there has been?continues to be?widespread repression and the attendant violations of basic human rights.

On November 8, the Red Oaxaque?o de Derechos Humanos/Oaxacan Human Rights Network issued a report detailing the serious deterioration in respect for human rights since the arrival of the PFP. Since October 27, 103 people have been arbitrarily detained. Most have been sent to military prisons, in violation of Mexican Constitution. At least 38 people remain imprisoned.

Also since October 27, six people have been killed, most by gunmen in civilian clothing linked to the state government. There are 39 documented cases of wounded civilians, including 5 journalists, but those are only the documented cases. Many of the wounded don?t seek ?official? medical due to fear of reprisals, and many observers say the toll of wounded is in the hundreds. The report also documents incidents of torture and disappearances, illegal search and seizures, and incidents of government threats and intimidations. Amnesty International on November 7 issued a press release demanding the release of the names those who?ve been arbitrarily detained and an investigation into the widespread human rights violations in Oaxaca.

Since the conflict began more than 5 months ago, 17 people have been killed, including U.S. journalist Brad Will, shot in the chest by plain-clothed police while videotaping their attack on a neighborhood barricade manned by people sympathetic to the popular movement. On November 9, leaders of the People?s Popular Assembly of Oaxaca (APPO) publicly asked local leaders of the Catholic Church to provide safe refuge after receiving death threats.

Recent Events

On November 25, 2006 in the city of Oaxaca the seventh mega march took place organized by the People's Popular Assembly of Oaxaca (APPO) to demand the renunciation of the governor of the state of Oaxaca, Ulises Ruiz, and the withdrawal of the Federal Preventative Police (PFP) from the city.

During the march there were a series of violent incidents between the protestors and the PFP. In confrontations there were roman candles (fireworks) set off, stones and molotov cocktails thrown. The PFP used tear gas against the demonstrators, beat people, entered houses arbitrarily, and arrested 100's of children, women, adults, tourists and foreigners indiscriminately.Various independent human rights organizations have documented this excessive force and brutality including the fact that many of these arrests included torture and sexual abuse.

The arrested have not been granted their constitutional rights and as of now the whereabouts of many are unknown. There are hundreds of detained and disappeared and reports of dozens of deaths. Families of many of the detained in searching for them have gone to the prisons close to the city and have been denied access and any information related to their relatives. They have also been threatened with imprisonment or death for insisting on seeing their family members and finally were forced to leave. Human rights organizations that have also attempted to reach prisons have been stopped en route, threatened, had names recorded, photographs taken and have not been permitted to complete their work. One hundred and forty-one detainees were sent to a state maximum security prison and later transferred to a prison in the state of Nayarit without informing their families.

On November 30th there was once again a wave of violence by police, paramilitaries and government officials that included arbitrary arrests of whoever was found in the streets, indiscriminate search and ransacking of homes and schools the taking away of various people and teachers while also threatening children. There are now dozens of dead, hundreds of disappeared including children and infants, death threats, intimidation by armed groups, the occupation and burning of homes and offices of organizations of those who are supporters of the people's movement. In part these actions are being coordinated through radio station with government affiliation.

URGENT ACTION For the above we demand the following:

1. An immediate end of acts of intimidation and repression by the federal and state police and government authorities.
2. A guarantee by the Mexican government for the respect of the human rights of all Oaxaque?os most especially those who have been arrested.
3. An immediate end to the arbitrary detention in the streets of citizens.
4. An immediate end to the illegal entry of homes and the imprisonment of women with their infants and children, youth, elderly.
5. Cease the torture and abuse of prisoners.
6. Safe return of those who have been "disappeared".
7. Access of detainees to legal representation, family members and medical attention to those who are injured in order to ensure their well being and protection of their human rights.
8. Immediate withdrawal of the arrest warrants for those who are social activists that includes the leadership of Cactus.
9. Immediate withdrawal of Mexican military from the state of Oaxaca.
10. Respect the human rights and integrity of the leadership and members of Cactus along with their family members to ensure their safety and well being.

Communications listing these demands should be sent to the following:

Felipe de Jes?s Calder?n Hinojosa
Presidente Constitucional de M?xico
Tel. +55 27 89 11 00
Fax. +55 52 77 23 76
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Lic. Francisco Javier Ram?rez Acu?a
Secretario de Gobernaci?n
Tel: +55 5093 3400
Fax +55 5093 3414
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Lic. Ulises Ruiz Ortiz
Gobernador del Estado de Oaxaca
Fax +951 5020 530
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Dr. Jose Luis Soberanes
Presidente de la Comisi?n Nacional de Derechos Humanos
Fax +55 5681 7199
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Lic. Lizbeth Ca?a Cableza
Procuradora General de Justicia del Estado de Oaxaca
Fax +951 5115 519
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Lic. Jaime Mario P?rez Jim?nez
Presidente de la Comisi?n Estatal de Derechos Humanos Oaxaca
Fax +915 513 5185
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For more information visit the Oaxaca Solidarity Network.

Find up to date information on Oaxaca and solidarity actions from around the world at El Enemigo Comun.

Hear from the social movement leaders in the midst of the conflict at Oaxaca Indymedia - (In Spanish).

Contact us

SOA Watch
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Washington, DC 20001

phone: 202-234-3440
email: info@soaw.org