We go to Mexico and our continuing coverage of the popular uprising in Oaxaca. On Sunday thousands of people marched to demand the resignation of State Governor Ulises Ruiz and the withdrawal of federal police. Ruiz sent a massive police force to crack down on the protests — led by the Popular Assembly of the Oaxacan People — APPO. We get a report from the streets of Oaxaca. [includes rush transcript]
- Report on Oaxaca by independent journalist and Global Exchange Human Rights Fellow John Gibler and Rick Rowley of Big Noise Films.
AMY GOODMAN: Independent journalist and Global Exchange Human Rights Fellow John Gibler is on the ground in Oaxaca. He filed this report.
JOHN GIBLER: On Sunday, the Oaxaca People’s Popular Assembly, or APPO, took to the streets for the first time since federal police lifted the last protest camp in Oaxaca, beating and imprisoning over 140 protesters and opening the way for state police to carry out a witch hunt for APPO organizers. In the following days, state police pulled people off the streets and from their homes, raising the number of detentions to 200.
Felipe Calderon took office on December 1, amidst chaotic protests inside Congress, stepping into the presidency with the weakest mandate in Mexican history. Calderon’s campaign promise was to maintain order with an iron fist, but his first acts in office seemed more like preparations for war.
PROTESTER 1: He cuts the education budget. He cuts from healthcare. He cuts from the arts. And he raises the army’s budget. So where are we going?
JOHN GIBLER: On Calderon’s third day in office, federal police, acting on an arrest warrants issued by a Oaxaca state judge, captured the APPO delegation scheduled to reopen talks with the federal government the next day. State authorities have issued similar warrants for hundreds of APPO protesters, driving many into hiding and fueling speculation that the federal crackdown and ongoing detentions had finally defeated the movement. With the APPO’s presence virtually erased from Oaxaca City, Sunday’s march was a crucial test of the movement’s ability to retake the streets.
PROTESTER 2: APPO has decided to regenerate its internal organization to break the fear and terror imposed by the state and federal governments, to once again begin to take the streets. The fact that people are able to break the fear and go into the streets is a complete triumph for us.
JOHN GIBLER: And people did go into the streets. Some 15,000 marched for miles from the outskirts of Oaxaca City to within three blocks of the federal police barricades around the town plaza. Protesters carried pictures of imprisoned and missing friends and family members. Most of the prisoners taken during the federal police raid were transferred to a medium-security prison in Nayarit, four states away and out of reach from most Oaxaca families.
Yesica Sanchez with the Mexican Human Rights Defense League reported that prisoners were held incommunicado for days to prevent human rights workers from detecting signs of torture. But the prisoners, who were denied medical attention in jail, had been beaten too badly for the signs to go away.
PROTESTER 3: Most of the people have had their heads broken. They have stitches and broken cheekbones and blood still in their eyes. In one case, a woman had her right leg completely destroyed by the beating they gave her.
JOHN GIBLER: Along the length of the march, local residents came out to support the protest. The APPO reiterated its principal demand, the governor’s removal from office, and also called for the withdrawal of the federal police from Oaxaca City, the demilitarization of the countryside and the immediate release of all political prisoners.
Organizers exercised extreme caution to avoid infiltration by agitators that could lead to acts of violence and successfully steered the protest away from police barricades. The march ended peacefully, with protesters filling the Plaza de la Danza. APPO organizers remain defiant in the wake of the most severe crackdown in the six-month conflict. They claim that they have not been defeated and vow to continue their struggle until all their demands are met.
PROTESTER 4: For us, it was not a defeat, because the Popular Assembly was inspired by the indigenous communal assemblies. If we have resisted for more than 514 years and our institutions have resisted, our Popular Assembly will continue resisting. It wasn’t a defeat. On the contrary, this gives us more strength to continue.
JOHN GIBLER: In Oaxaca City for Democracy Now!, this is John Gibler with Big Noise Films.