A US anarchist reports from the struggles in Mexico
north america / mexico |
indigenous struggles |
Tuesday July 04, 2006 15:27 by Joaquin Cienfuegos - Cop Watch Los Angeles, the Si Se Puede Los Angeles Labor Collective morph3030 at yahoo dot com
The following is a correspondence from Joaquin Cienfuegos, traveling throughout Mexico reporting on the struggles on the streets, the anarchist movement, the Other Campaign, the Zapatista’s, and the over all radical climate that is building.
The following are the first two report-backs combined into one.
Report from Mexico City DF 6-16-06
by Joaquin Cienfuegos
I arrived in Mexico City at 6:00 AM (4:00 AM Pacific Coast Time). When I arrived to El Zocalo (or Downtown Mexico City) signs and banners stood out in the town square for support of the EZLN and La Otra Campana/Other Campaign. Banners read, "Vivan los Zapatistas/Long live the Zapatistas"
and "Free Political Prisoners in San Salvador Atenco."
In the evening, I attended an event at the Centro Social Libertario-Ricardo Flores Magon. They held a speaking engagement for 2 organizers and writers from the Basque Region in Spain. One of the speakers, Juan Ibarrondo, mainly spoke about the libertarian science fiction novel he recently wrote entitled "Retazos de la Red," which was also the name of the event. The Centro Social Libertario - Ricardo Flores Magon is a social space on the way to becoming a community center that is run by a collective Colectivo Autonomo Magonista that is linked up with other collectives and organizations in Oaxaca under the Alianza Magonista Zapatista. The event was a forum presentation by the speakers followed by group discussion.
The novel gave a criticism of science and technology, because this was the cause of an apocalyptic event due to global warming because of science and technology. The topic of the discussion was based on the destruction of the environment due to the direction of capitalism. The main speaker, Juan Ibarrondo, also talked about his post-leftist view on production and factories, or what they say, "the abolition of work." At the same time he gave a criticism of Green-Anarchists, or Anarcho-Primitivists, (as white and American), because of their belief that there needed to be a human holocaust. Primitivists believe that human beings are the cause of the destruction to the environment, not capitalism, so humanity needs to be wiped out (except for the primitivists of course because their idea and their way of life will save themselves and anybody that follows them). He also criticized dogmatic anarchists who say that to have an identity or to own your identity is death. That position disregards indigenous struggles where their fight for liberation is also upholding their identities as indigenous people. In the discussion there was some talk of the struggle in the Basque region in Spain. A woman asked if there was much participation of women, the other speaker answered (which reminded some of the movement in the US), "They’re not that involved because they’re not comfortable with how these groups work."
I did disagree with some of the Utopian arguments made by the speaker, who spoke of this future Utopia -- that will come about on its own without the need for organization, collective - class struggle, and revolution. The discussion was pretty lively but there was no talk of organizing, just a focus on ideas around a Utopia, the collective and the individual, Kropotkin, and Bakunin. I participated in the discussion and posed a question to the main speaker, Juan Ibarrondo. I introduced myself and mentioned I was visiting from Los Angeles, CA. I talked about my political position as an Anarcho-Communist, and my view on the importance of the ecology but also strategizing and organizing in communities. How the problem is not technology or science, but the monopoly by the capitalists of technology. If humanity had direct control of the means of technology and production (and if they’re conscious) they would use technology for the benefit of humanity not profit as done under capitalism. I also asked him about his idea about the abolition of work and the anarcho-communist position of building the institutions and structures that will replace the capitalist system, their social relationships and its oppression. He answered that his criticism is for the position that factories don’t make people and individuals. There was also intellectual discussion following this by the members of the collective space. While this anarchist event didn’t really interest me much, I did get a chance to connect and meet with the compas from the Centro Social Libertario.
The compas filled me in on what events were coming up in Mexico City and which I should attend. We talked about the Other Campaign, and my collective organizing work in Los Angeles where I talked about Cop Watch LA, what we do and how we want to participate in the process of building autonomy, self-determination and the self-defense of our communities. I talked about what is going on with La Otra Campana organizing in Los Angeles. I talked about my experience with the Los Angeles Chapter of the Southern California Anarchist Federation. They told me about their efforts to build something similar throughout Mexico. I talked about my criticisms of the anarchist movement in the US and the privileged leading it and building an organization of the oppressed that come from these oppressed communities. The comrades have edit a newspaper entitled Autonomia, and also work to edit with the Alianza Magonista Zapatista newspaper entitled, Viva Tierra y Libertad. It was great meating with the Colectivo Autonomo Magonista, and they said they will connect me to what is going on in Mexico in terms of the Other Campaign (which they’re adherents to, and so is Cop Watch Los Angeles) and the libertarian-anarchist movement throughout Mexico. I will continue to build a relationship with these compas who also wanted to participate in the speaking tour of the Consejo Indigena Popular de Oaxaca-Ricardo Flores Magon, where they can present a view of the entire struggle in Oaxaca not just one of an organization.
Report from Mexico City DF 06-17-06
By joaquin Cienfuegos
Today I had more of a chance to walk and talk to people, especially the people who seem to have some support for the movement being built within the Other Campaign. There is a general feeling from a lot of people that they are tired of all the political parties; they want to seek freedom from their rule. A lot of people see them all falling soon.
In the early afternoon I attended the Chopo Cultural Tianguis. The Chopo has been around for 25 years and has been a place where young people in Mexico City can come together, hang out, buy their clothes, their music, and get whatever resources they need for their lifestyle. There are vendors for graffiti writers, punks, metal heads, artists, skaters. At the end of all the vendors there is usually music. El Chopo happens every Saturday. Today there was an emo band that was playing, and I got a chance to talk to some of the people who were vendoring. Some gave me their contact information to go to their house so they can hook me up with some music. I talked to some of them about politics, and they all anticipated the fall of the Mexican government.
I had a chance today to visit El Museo de Fida Kahlo in Coyoacan, Mexico. This part of the city seemed to be more for tourists, where there were more cafes and had more of an artsy crowd. The museum was great. As for Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, they were great artists, but they were into old ideas and were very eclectic. Frida Kahlo seemed to be into Marx, Mao Tse Tung, Stalin, and Trotsky (even though she didn’t have a picture of him on her wall).
Throughout the day I met people who had tables set up in support of the EZLN and La Otra Campaña. I had a chance to talk to some of them, and mentioned that I was from Los Angeles. Many people had already heard about the struggle in the South Central Farm in Los Angeles and were asking questions about it, I will try to get them some information in Spanish (if people can also send me updates of what is going on and information on the farm in Spanish, that would be great).
In the evening I hooked up with people at the Centro Social Libertario-Ricardo Flores Magon and el Colectivo Autonomo Magonista (CAMA). They were holding an asemblea popular or an assembly of anarchists from all over the City of Mexico. There were different trends from Mexico City, anarco-punks, Magonistas, anarco-comunistas, and anarco-feministas. They read the notes on the last assembly that they had, where the discussion was around the role of anarchists within the Other Campaign (there are disagreements with the groups involved, for example the Communist Party of Mexico and their position that they are the vanguard party of the proletariat and their upholding of Stalin). Other points from the last assembly included, knowing our objectives as anarchists before we jump on board of anything, criticism of Subcomandante Marcos´ protagonism, and some anarchists thought that there shouldn’t be a division between the adherents and those who aren’t adherents to La Otra Campaña. The points of unity or principles of unity that they came up with were: Autonomy, Horizontalism, Self-Organization (autogestion), and Direct-Democracy.
In the assembly of today the discussion was more focused around a national encuentro of anarchists in Mexico City that will happen closer to elections in Mexico. The discussion was focused around a proposal of building a national federation, and/or a much more solid organization of the different collectives of anarchists throughout Mexico. The anarchists of Mexico City would propose this at the encuentro to the anarchists of Mexico. They would organize around the unity of anarchism and around people who identify themselves as anarchists. The encuentro will be held for two days, one will be for the Aderentes de La Otra Campaña (adherents of the Other Campaign), and the other day will be open for all anarchists whether they’re aderentes or not. There was also discussion of security for the encuentro and acknowledging that they’re living in a super-repressive atmosphere in Mexico right now (that anarchists are suffering from as well as anybody rebelling, resisting, organizing, and fighting).
The idea of building a federation nationally, but connecting with people internationally, was something that everybody consensed on. There is an urgency in Mexico in general, but as well as anarchists and libertarian socialists in particular, to build a movement nationally. Anarchists in Mexico feel that regardless of which party wins, building a strategy, find tactics based on which party wins, The PAN are Francoists or Neo-Francoists who persecuted anarchists in Spain, the PRD has also repressed anarchist contingents in Mexico DF. I was able to share some of my own experience in Los Angeles in this discussion, but also I let people know that they know the situation and the conditions in Mexico and I know the ones in my communities (ultimately they’re going to do what they feel is best for themselves, as a visitor I can only give my experience in my community and create a space so we can learn from each other’s struggle) which are much different at this point. I talked about my experience within the Southern California Anarchist Federation and the Los Angeles Chapter, and how it failed because the unity was around anarchism, and there were some political differences, and a divide between those who were serious about a revolutionary organization and those who wanted an anarchist network. I also acknowledged as another compa at the meeting did, that it’s important to keep on trying if you fail once, to keep on learning from experience. I mentioned how this is what also happened with us, the collectives and projects still exist and we’re still organizing, and working closely with people we have more unity with politically and strategically. I talked about the project that I´m working with now and how we want to participate in the process of building self-organization (autogestión), autonomy, self-determination, and the self-defense of our communities. The people within that organization, along with others, are also building a specifically revolutionary, anti-imperialist, horizontal, solid organization (federation, but the structure is still being discussed) made up of people who come from oppressed communities and the oppressed themselves (I gave my opinion also and my critique of the anarchist scene in the US and how it is made up in the majority with people with privilege white, middle-class/upper-middle class, males where we feel the oppressed need their autonomy because our ideas and our urgency to free is much greater but where we can support from privileged communities who are also organizing and fighting for their own liberation). We discussed organizing in communities workplaces, and schools. We then discussed the anarchists role within popular social movements in particular the Other Campaign (which has become a movement on the national level with support internationally from people who are building in other communities, regions, and countries).
There was a question asked about what are the social movements that anarchists support in the US or the ones we work in within the US. I could only talk to the ones that I´ve been involved with recently. I talked about Cop Watch, what we do, and what is our goal, and why feel that we need to organize for autonomy, self-determination, and self-defense within our communities. I talked about our involvement at the South Central Farm (some people had heard about it already). I also talked about the immigrant rights movement and the marches that took place in Los Angeles recently. Also I wanted to offer our solidarity, and my position that the best solidarity we can offer for the people of the world is a revolution and building a revolutionary movement in the US (that is connected to people fighting internationally) because this country is responsible for the suffering of people around the world and the people in oppressed communities within the US.
P.S. people thought my last name Cienfuegos, :] was great, we talked about Camilo Cienfuegos from Cuba and his libertarian ideas.
The following are the second and third correspondences from joaquin Cienfuegos coming from DF and Atenco, and cover much of the repression being witnessed across the country.
A boy dressed in a traditional Aztec outfit plays the horn among others as they join in a march of thousands Monday, June 12, 2006, in Mexico City, Mexico. Thousands marched Tuesday to the city's historic Zocalo plaza in protest of those still held by police after the violent clashes between protesters and police in nearby San Salvador Atenco in early May.
Report from Mexico City 06/18 and Atenco 06/19/06
Report from Mexico City DF 06-18-06
I visited two historical sites today, El Templo Mayor de Tenochtitlan and Tlatelolco. These two sites I visited by coincidence but to me it struck something and connected to a couple of current events.
Mexico City or Tenochtitlan was founded by the Mexica in 1325. The city was so large that in 1521 when the Spanish invaders came, they were quoted saying, In all the places we´ve been to, even Rome, we have never seen so many people in one place and such creations (as in the pyramids). The Spanish exterminated most Mexica and other indigenous people through mass slaughter, rape, and disease forcing to assimilate to their way of life and culture (as well as forced slavery, stratification based on how much European blood one had, and dehumanization of indigenous people which for the most part still exists today in Mexico, Latin America, the United States, and elsewhere). Templo Mayor, or Great Temple, stood at the Zocalo or the town center of Tenochtitlan. It was a double pyramid dedicated to Tlaloc (god of water and rain) and Huitzilopochtli (god of war), there were other special temples, and schools. This was all destroyed when the Spanish came in 1521, building a Catholic cathedral afterwards.
Later today I visited Tlatelolco, which was the site of a student massacre in 1968 by the military and the police. This happened on October 2, of 1968 en la Plaza de las Tres Culturas in Tlatelolco, Tenochtitlan. There were uprisings all over the world around this time, there was worldwide discontent and rebellion which was being echoed in Mexico City by the students at Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico (National Autonomous University of Mexico). The world´s eyes were also on Mexico this year on the eve of the Olympics, and the students used this to their advantage to protest politicians for not fulfilling promises of the Mexican Revolution of 1910 of eliminating poverty and inequality, and the limited levels of democracy in the political system. Students and workers protested in Tlatelolco in their thousands, chanting, Mexico Liberty! The army and police surrounded the square, along with armored vehicles and tanks, started shooting live ammunition into the crowd including bystanders, and removing the bodies in garbage trucks. It seemed that the U.S. government had something to do with this (as always when there is some massacre or genocide in the world since they´re experts at it). The U.S. government gave the Mexican government, radios, weapons, ammunition and riot control training in preparation for Olympics security, the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) station in Mexico City produced almost daily reports tracking developments within the university community, they even bought off a student and had him try to discredit the student movement as to being tied to the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI).
All this rang home for me. Not just with my own experiences and particular ways that I´m still affected by colonialism and capitalism, but with the current situation in Mexico. These massacres and genocides are happening today in Mexico, Latin America, United States, Palestine, Africa, the Middle East and different parts of the world the U.S. government and military have their greedy and bloody tentacles on. Today in Mexico it is happening in Atenco, and it is happening in Oaxaca.
Report from Atenco, Mexico 06-19-06
San Salvador Atenco, Mexico is a small town 20 miles just outside of Mexico, City and bordering Texcoco. Atenco is a town that it is a transitional phase of a rural town to an urban town and it is made up of different people, campesinos, families, indigenous people, teachers, workers, and small business owners. Atenco is more known for the rebellion that took place there in 2002 and the repression and attacks on their community in May of 2006. Today I traveled to San Salvador Atenco to visit with people and see if I could connect with someone there. When I arrived from Texcoco, it wasn´t long before I noticed graffiti on walls from the Frente de Pueblos en Defensa de la Tierra (Communities Front in Defense of the Land), El Ejercito Zapatista de Liberacion Nacional (EZLN), and La Otra Campaña. I visited the community center of the Frente de Pueblos en Defensa de la Tierra (FPDT) and met with the lead coordinator and director of the Frente and the compass of the Frente. They met with me, and talked with me, and took me in as one of their own companeñeros. They were some of the most humble revolutionary people I´ve met.
El FPDT was formed in 2002, when people in Atenco rose up when the Vicente Fox government was trying to expropriate their land to build an airport that would destroy local agriculture and remove people from their homes. People rose up with machetes, shovels, and various tools, to say, Tierra Si! Aviones No! (Yes to Land, No to the Airport!) This struggle set an example and inspired many people throughout Mexico and the world, and they themselves received inspiration by the Zapatistas.
The people in Atenco defeated the government in building an airport, and in 2006 the coward government retaliated and held Atenco under siege. In Texcoco, which is neighbor to Atenco, on the morning of May 3, 2006, the state police blocked flower vendors from setting up their stands at the local market. The police then attempted to clear the vendors, beating and arresting anyone who resisted. The community of Texcoco called on their neighboring community in Atenco to support, and they did by blocking a highway to Texcoco in protest. The police attacked the demonstration, and the community members defended themselves with machetes, clubs, Molotov cocktails, and bottle rockets. The police were held back for the entire day. The next day, May 4th, saw some of the most horrific police brutality witnessed by a community.
The compañeros y compañereas del FPDT explained to me what had happened when over three thousand Federal Police, State Police and the local police came into their community. The police surrounded the small city of Atenco, shot tear gas, and beat anyone and anything (including animals) that came across them. They had six police helicopters circling the communities, with PRIstas (neo conservatives of the PRI) from the community, who were bought off, pointing out the houses where members of the FPDT lived in. Hortensia Ramos, the director of the FPDT, said, This act of repression is an act of revenge by the government for having stopped their project of building an airport, a project that would have made them millions.
After the raid two people were dead, a 14 year old shot by a 38 caliber of the Special Forces and a 20 year old, Alexis Benhumea, who died from a tear gas canister that hit and fractured his head. Many women were raped, 47 have come forward but no one knows the exact number. There are still prisoners being held under trumped up charges. Three prisoners are under maximum security, being accused of kidnapping, and attacks on the media, who happen to be part of the leadership of the FDPT, Nacho del Valle, Felipe Alvarez, and Hector Galindo. There are 28 others being detained for attacks on the media and two under aged youth are also detained. There were 5 people illegally deported, four of them women, also raped (who were there because of the Otra Campaña). There were people detained and beaten from all sectors: students, farmers, indigenous people, house wives, elderly, youth, sick and disabled people (in one case beating a paraplegic man and then detaining him). On the way to prison was when the police raped and continued to beat prisoners. They illegally entered people’s homes, stealing from them, and arresting entire families, not thinking of the psychological effects this would have on children. One 14 year old was beaten into a coma. It seemed to me all these psychological and physical torture tactics used on the people of Atenco were taught by US police departments and the US government (who is best at carrying out occupation and raids on communities as we see in South Central because of the gang injunction, and we saw at the South Central Farm).
The police were´t able to destroy the movement of the FDPT, where other members who hid from the police and were able to escape capture were able to take their place and continue the work of in their communities and with La Otra Campaña. People would tell me what they did to escape and how they fooled the police. They saw this siege not only as an attack on human rights, but an attack on their autonomy.
Throughout the day compas from Atenco hung out with me and I with them. We talked about our political views and I told them about what type of organizing I´m doing in Los Angeles with Cop Watch LA and how this organization are Aderentes to the Otra Campaña. They received the idea of organizing for autonomy from police and observing the police better than anybody else I´ve talked to in the city (even though a lot of people thought the project was good, with the people in Atenco this struck more home because of recent events and their history of organized self-defense). Hortensia defended the position of the FDPT at a television interview she invited me to for a Venezuelan T.V. show (where the hostess also heard about the struggle at the South Central Farm when she asked me if I heard about it after, I told her where I was from).
‘The police are coming into our communities not to talk to us, but to massacre us, and to impose themselves on us and our autonomy. They´re coming in to kill us, and beat us. We are not going to allow ourselves to be beaten down. We use the machete, along with shovels and picks because those are our tools. Just because I´m a teacher doesn´t mean I don´t work the land and I don´t live off of it, I use the machete too. Naturally we know how to use these tools and we use them to defend ourselves.’
When I talked to her later we talked about this idea of self-defense on how many people in the US (depending on their social position) reject the idea, but how the people I work with closely uphold it and we also think we need to prepare and organize ourselves in this way in our communities, because this system is killing us and we understand this. Hortensia said, ‘We have to integrate the idea of self-defense into the social consciousness of people.’ This made me think of the South Central Farm, and how self-defense is something that needs to be discussed and maybe even brought into that struggle, and not just relying on the tactics of pacifism.
Siempre en lucha,
Report from Atenco, Mexico 06/19/06 and 06/20/06
"We carry our tools of work, which are our machetes, when we´re marching, because the police are carrying their tools of work, their guns and clubs. If they use their tools, then we use our tools."
-Hortensia Ramos of the Frente de Pueblos en Defensa de la Tierra
The Frente de Pueblos en Defensa de la Tierra (FPDT) has continued to organize and take action. Along with the people being detained there are 221 under house arrest. People basically saw the attack as a form of terrorism. They attacked to terrorize the community in revenge of their victory over their airport plan -- and to scare people who are supporters, members, and sympathizers of the FDTP, and the people who are neutral -- as to show them, this is what will happen to you if you side with the "macheteros" (what they call the FDTP, and they uphold with pride). The government wants to get the message accross, that if you stand up, if you speak out, if you organize your community for a better life and to defend yourself, you are going to get killed, raped, beaten, imprisoned, and tortured.
The Frente de Pueblos en Defensa de la Tierra, has no leaders, only coordinators (who Ignacio del Valle is), and the coordinatnors lead by example. One of the comrades from Atenco quoted Marcos on why he feels horizontality is important, "If they want to destroy our struggle, they have to build more prisons, hospitals, and cemetaries to put us all in."
The tactics of the state is to go after any formal leadership hoping to destroy the organization, which is what they intended to do with the FPDT. They are definately going to have trouble doing that. The struggle is so deeply integrated into the families that live in Atenco, that some of the compas I talked to are 2nd and 3rd generation organizers and coordinators with the Frente, and they see organizing the youth as one of the most important tasks (as community organizing). One of the compas, who is a student, even said, if it wasn´t for my grandparents and parents who are campesinos and know what it is to work the land and the ejido, I wouldn´t be involved today.
In atenco they have what are ejidos, communal lands. Which have been a way in which communities have sustained themselves in Mexico for centuries and especially after the revolution in Mexico of 1910. These communities have been attacked today by imperialism and privatization -- which is where the struggle in Atenco began. Today women, youth, and families grow food cooperatively in the ejidos of Atenco. Some of the most common food they grow is corn, beans, wheat, and asparanto. The community upholds the land and live off of it. Most everyone in atenco has some connection to the ejido and this is why the struggle there has deep roots with families and the community.
Report on Atenco Mexico 6-20-06
How the Movement in Atenco was born:
In more than ten thousand acres of land, in Chimalbacan, Ciudad Nezahualcoyotl, in the municipality of Texcoco (in the towns of Santa Cruz, San Felipe, Tocuila, Magdalena Panoaya, San Andres), in the municipality of Atenco (in the towns of Colonia Francisco I. Madero, San Salvador, Acuexcomac, Nexquipayac, Istapa, Santa Rosa), Ecatepec, on October 21, 2001 the government expropriated their land. From this day on, the people started organizing in the Frente de Pueblos en Defensa de la Tierra, with the founders Ignacio del Valle (who is detained in a maximum security prison) and his daughter America del Valle (who is clandestine). All of the people organizing were farmers and their families.
Before they had formed the Frente they had a small organization, but through the struggle against the expropriation of their lands they won the solidarity of more people from their community, from indigenous people, and from other communities. At this point they mobilized, and from that moment there was police repression as well. They started investigating the Frente de Pueblos en Defensa de La Tierra, and who they were.
The PRIstas who live within these communities have different interests than the farmers and the majority of people. They were the ones principally who started contacting the authorities. They would give information on who were the leaders, what they did, how they did it, and who participated to the enforcers of the government and their intelligence. At that time the PRI was in power in the state of Mexico and have remained in charge of the state of Mexico.
The Frente is made up of its members, its supporters, and its sympathizers. Then you have those in the community who are neutral, and then you have the PRIstas who are the minority. The majority of the community are farmers. All the Frente had to do to call on the community was to release three bottle rockets in the air, which is the call on the people. The people`s own consciousness as Atenquenses made them join in on the fight, according to a compa from the FPDT (Frente de Pueblos en Defensa de la Tierra), and their hatred for the police. Their symbol of the Machete was born, because that was the tool of work as farmers and peasants, and that´s going to be their symbol forever.
A compañero from the Frente tells the story of their struggle, "First the community organized in their community, and they closed and retook their highway. Then we mobilized in the city of Mexico. People got involved and youth joined in because of their parents and their families. In November, we had a huge march on horseback, with bicycles, and in cars. This is when we first got repressed by the police, on the way to the march. They hit horses so people fell from them, they hit us with batons, and shot tear gas."
They continued to march and to defend themselves, and sent the first message to the government that they weren’t going to let themselves get beaten down and stopped. There was a split in the media, some supported, and even said, "They needed to manifest and defend themselves, was the government expecting them to give the police roses?"
From then on, there was always a police presence at their marches, riot police, traffic police and so on. They also had a successful march in Toluca, the capital.
They always upheld self-defense of the people, but they also didn´t romanticize violence, they recognize that there´s a difference. They were tired of letting themselves get beaten up.
There was a year of protests and demonstrations. The governor of the state of Mexico was Arturo Montier. He was preparing to go visit Alcoma, and on a Thursday, July 11, 2002 (a date everyone from the FPDT remembers), there was a demonstration against the governor. On a bridge there was a very bloody confrontation between the police and the demonstrators. The police hid under the bridge and came out to attack the march. People were beaten, tear gassed, and shot at with live ammunition. Ignacio was hit with a tear gas canister on the head, and two people were shot in the ankle. Women and men were detained. This was all preplanned by the police, because they knew of the activities of the FPDT beforehand (who have infiltrators in their organization as well, who give information to the police). There were state police and plain clothes police who attacked the march.
People who resisted were able to get away and back to Atenco. They called on Atenco by sending out the three bottle rockets in the air. On this day the people of Atenco shut down the road and highway in Atenco. The media started calling them, Los Macheteros, and they´re proud to be that. From that day there were political prisoners. People got away from the police at the march by hiding in people´s houses and ejidos, some were turned in but many of them got away. Ignacio del Valle was taken to a hospital, the police dragged him out of the hospital, beat, tortured him, and detained him. One compañera was able to get away by changing herself into a nurses uniform.
It came down to taking up drastic strategies to saving themselves and the prisoners detained. They held police as hostages in their center until they released the political prisoners. They had the civility of not beating, torturing, or raping the police that they held captive, whereas the police and the state do not. There was more state repression, they surrounded all of the periphery of Atenco, and shut down all entrances of Atenco. All of the state owned media was against them, but they had to do this because they had no other choice. At this point they got the support that the media did not give them, from social movement organizations, students, progressive lawyers with economic resources, food, and moral support. This to me always seems a better strategy than relying on the state owned corporate media for support who never will stand with the people because they are tools of the government to control people by disinforming the public. We have to rely on our strengths and create solidarity with other communities and organizations to minimize our weaknesses. The movement in Atenco was able to defeat the government on this occasion. The political prisoners were freed and they didn´t build an airport.
When the attack on Atenco happened on May 4th, the media also supported the police, and promoted the people defending themselves as the problem. The police beat independent photographers and tried to take their cameras as the corporate media exploited the insecurities of people. They kept repeating the images of demonstrators beating a cop in self defense. They didn´t show the massacre that happened by the police in Atenco. They didn´t talk about the people who were killed, Javier Cortes and Alexis Benhemua. The only people who investigated were an independent human rights organization, Miguel Agustin PRODH.
The prisoners are being held for kidnapping, attacks on media, and organized crime. The political prisoners have been on hunger strike since they were detained. None of the cops have been punished for THEIR organized crime on the people of Atenco. They said they didn´t carry weapons, that Alexis was killed by the Frente.
"The prisoners have proof of what was done to them, the police don´t have proof of what they say we did."
"The government is scared, because they knew that the Other Campaign is a success. We were connecting with everyone and all social organizations from the left and the bottom, and everyone who was anti-party, anti-imperialist, and anti-capitalist."
-From political prisoners being detained
In Texcoco, a day before the attack, the state government said that the flower vendors could sell, and they made an accord with the FPDT. When the day came, the police blocked the flower vendors again, so the vendors along with the FPDT, who were doing security for them, marched in Texcoco. The police attacked them and they defended themselves. The police shot rubber bullets, tear gas, mace, and projectiles that knocked people unconscious. They detained the organizers of that march, and the people in Atenco shut down their highway and held two local police hostage. The community of Atenco tried dialogue before the police came into Atenco. In an interview the human rights organization Agustin PRODH did with 3 state policemen who had confessed that the orders from the top were, "beat anything that moves."
The Frente de Pueblos en Defensa de la Tierra, is an action based organization. They say that they´re not there to get the media attention, but they are there to take action and to liberate Atenco and the political prisoners.
(I will report on Atenco later next week when I return to Mexico City / Tenochtitlan).
Note: In the next three days I spent time with my family in Michoacan, Mexico who I hadn´t seen in years. It was great to see them and share stories and hardships. We have different levels of misery on both sides of the border but neither of us are living well off. They shared with me stories of work, and attempts crossing to the other side of la linea, and what they had to go through. It was good seeing them.
Report from Oaxaca, Mexico 06-23-06 and 06-24-06
I entered the City of Oaxaca in the afternoon. The first thing that was visible was the graffiti and the wheat pasting that was anti-government, anarchist, and anti-governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz. A police station was covered in Anarchist A´s.
I met with comrades from the OIDHO, Organizaciones Indias por los Derechos Humanos de Oaxaca (Indian Organizations for the Human Rights of Oaxaca) who are part of the Alianza Magonista Zapatista (Magonista Zapatista Alliance). The next day they took me to their encampment at the Zocalo where teachers have been fighting and struggling for the last couple of weeks.
The teachers union, Seccion 22, has recuperated the Zocalo for the last couple of days demanding an end to the privatization of education (that would make it only accessible to the rich where as of now it´s free and accessible to anyone). Their new demand has been that the PRIsta (member of the Partido Revolucionario Institutonal / Institutional Revolutionary Party) governor, Ulises Ruiz Ortiz, resigns.
On June 14, 2006, 40,000 teachers in the Zocalo were attacked by the police at 4 AM. Five thousand police entered the Zocalo, burning back packs, tents, food, and supplies that belonged to the teachers. They attacked the people who were camping, which were the 40,000 teachers and 500,000 people who supported them. To this day there is an uncertainty of how many people were killed, but a child and a teacher is certain. There are people who have been disapappeared, meaning they were taken by the police and no one knows where they are and if they are alive.
After the police attacked, the teachers and the popular movement in support defended themselves with sticks, rocks, and whatever they could pick up from the street. El OIDHO was there, and one of the comrades was telling me what happened. When the police detained 12 teachers inside the police quarters, the teachers held 8 cops in detention inside the teacher encampment (with sticks and rocks). The teachers were able to negotiate the release of the teachers, and they released the cops. There were hundreds of injured on the side of the teachers and on the side of the police.
The police destroyed the pirate radio station of the teacher encampment, so youth from the university (Universidad Autonoma de Benito Juarez en Oaxaca) retook the radio station at the university to inform the public over the struggle of the teachers.
The support for the teachers and the anti-government sentiment is in the majority today in Oaxaca. The reason why the struggle has been successful has been because they have popular support. There were 500,000 people who joined in at the encampment who aren´t teachers.
The state still tried to repress the encampment by shooting rubber bullets, tear gas and by beating people. They shot tear gas canisters from aboard helicopters (that the state own media uses as well to report on PRI organized marches in support for Ulises). They broke into the ExPalace and shot rubber bullets from windows they broke from the second floor. However, the people outnumbered the police.
Today en El Zocalo, a social organization, El Frente Amplio de Liberacion Popular (The Broad Front for Popular Liberation) distributed some food for the teachers and people who were in support of the struggle there.
The organizations involved are, Seccion 22 (the teacher´s union), PUNCN (Promotora Por La Unidad Nacional Contra el Neoliberalismo / Promoter for the National Unity Against Neoliberalism which OIDHO and the Alianza Magonista Zapatista is part of), FSODO (Frente Sindicato de Organizaciones Democraticas de Oaxaca / Syndicate Front for the Democratic Organizations of Oaxaca made up of unions throughout Oaxaca in solidarity), Padre de Familia (Father of the Family), students, the community, and people. These organizations and individuals have organized mega-marches in the City of Oaxaca, and a fourth mega-march is in planning. Today there was also a popular assembly of the different regions of Oaxaca in the city, which the Alianza Magonista Zapatista took part of.
The atmosphere in Oaxaca today is of rebellion and there’s a wanting for liberation of bad governments, and a wanting for self-determination and autonomy.
(I will continue to report on Oaxaca in the next couple of days).
Report from Oaxaca, Mexico 06-25-06
By Joaquin Cienfuegos
Oaxaca, Mexico is the state with largest indigenous populations of all of Mexico. In most of the villages and towns around the City of Oaxaca, most of the people do not speak Spanish, only their indigenous languages are spoken. There are 16 indigenous languages in Oaxaca, and 16 different indigenouse ethnicities. The largest indigenous group in Oaxaca is Zapotec. Sixty percent of the people in Oaxaca are indigenous, that is two and a half million people, plus the one million indigenous Oaxaquenos who live outside of Oaxaca in search or work and a better living situation for themselves and their families.
Oaxaca has a history of indigenous way of life, and surviving against the odds. Felipa, a companera and vice-president of the Organizaciones Indias por los Derechos Humanos de Oaxaca / Indian Organizations for Human Rights in Oaxaca (OIDHO), mentioned, "In Mexico it is taught that if you don' know Spanish you're uncivilized. Indigenous people are thought to be people who do not know anything because they don't speak Spanish sometimes. We are treated worse than animals."
People in Oaxaca have a history of practicing their own forms of decision making for centuries. In their communities they have general assemblies, where the community meets and discusses how to deal with their everyday problems. They meet, discuss, and have a consensus process where everyone takes part in the discussion to make decisions and are able to raise their concerns. Oaxaca also has a history of communal living. Where people live collectively in homes and on land. Communal land has existed for centuries, Felipa explained to me, and I learned that they are different from the ejidos. Ejidos are expropriated lands from the landlords and the haciendas after the Mexican Revolution of 1910, and are easier for the government to attack and take away (which was attempted in Atenco), but communal lands are harder for the government to steal, because people have worked them collectively for centuries.
Today I visited Monte Alban. There were great pyramids built, and their culture was one of great accomplishments on all levels. To me this is symbolic, because Monte Alban was built by the Zapotecs, and the pyramids have survived all these centuries as the Zapotec people.
El OIDHO is an organization that works with indigenous communities, which include the Zapotecs, Chatinos and Chinantecos indigenous ethnicities. Since they were founded as an organization they have been an organization of struggle and community as well as popular organizing.
I sat down with the Political Commissioner of the OIDHO, Alejandro Cruz, a lawyer and ex-political prisoner. He explained to me the history of their movement in Oaxaca:
"It all starts in 1988 with the Mexican president, Carlos Salinas de Gortari, who they call El Chupacabras. He was the political intellectual and theorotician on neoliberalism in Mexico. He implemented the politics and the economics of the US government. In 1994 he helped implement NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement), in response to US demands. In 1988 he also started with the National Commission for Human Rights to cover up the state repression and to wash his hands of the blood of people massacred in Mexico. Even before he came to power there was repression, but no one knew of it. There were massacres in Oaxaca in 1988 in Santa Maria Aniza and Santiago Moltepec, where 28 campesinos/farmers were killed, but no one knew of this outside of Oaxaca. This repression all came from the government and their paramilitaries who were against those who fought for land, for dignity, and for respect."
"In 1989 a small group of close friends, of four or five people founded the Organizaciones Indias por los Derechos Humanos de Oaxaca (OIDHO). There were three lawyers and two companeras. They were an informal team formed to organize against the institutionalized violence. They were facing difficult conditions, of murder, rape, massacre, violence from the state, detentions, and political persecution."
They were there to support people and communities who were struggling for their rights, in defense of their land, justice for their family members who had been killed, justice for people who had been displaced from their homes, and justice for those who have been killed.
In 1993 they became a formal organization. They created a constitution and bylaws, and they had an election to choose positions for the organization. They have six positions within the organization which include, president, vice-president, treasurer, treasurer supplement (or vice-treasurer), secretary, and secretary supplement (or vice-secretary). So the organization is made up of 6 people, and then they also have commissions. The commissions are, Political Commission, Networking Commission, Commission of Women, Communication Commission, and Commission of Ecology. All the positions are rotated every two years.
Their role as an organization was to struggle for human rights, which they felt was a collective responsibility. They did not want to wait for abuses to happen and then react to them, they wanted to organize within their communities to stop the abuses before they happened, defend the lands, resist the violence of the caciques (those in the communities with the political and economic power and who have a relationship with the power of the state). They practiced preventitive organizing to stop the violence of the government and of the system before it happened. OIDHO organized and built alliances with other communities.
Their structure consists of each community having representation for the organization. Each community has a similar structure to the organization from Oaxaca City, with the same roles and positions. In Oaxaca City they have a general assembly every month or month and a half, where each community has to send their committees to communicate their decisions and act as their mouthpiece for representation for the organization. Women also have their own assemblies. The organization as a whole has a position of permanent action, right now they have been in the encampment in the Zocalo for the teachers and against the governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz for 35 days. They want to build a movement against the violence of the government.
El OIDHO communicates through their newspaper, Tierra y Libertad. They also have three pirate radio stations, "Caracol," "Nueva Amanacer," "Roca." They also distribute flyers and make posters to wheat-paste on the streets.
Alejandro Cruz talked about his experience with repression, "I've been in prison for a year. They charged me with the death of a cop. Where it was the police who attacked the community (and the community did defend themselves with sticks, rocks, and bricks), and where three of our members were injured with real police bullets."
One of the demands being put foward by the OIDHO is the disappearance of the powers. The law at this point doesn`t permit the complete self-organization and autonomy of the people, so what their demand is for a popular assembly of citizens, because there is one already of regions from all over Oaxaca, they want this assembly to be institutionalized. So people can implement their own decisions made collectively. They see the pressing issues right now in Oaxaca that of, political prisoners, struggle for land recuperations and the resolving the conflicts between communities over land, and the issue of the state imposing and not respecting the decisions made by the people and the representatives that the communities elect themselves. There is a situation of permanent struggle in Oaxaca with a government who imposes and a people who defend themselves and their rights.
The struggle against the governor has turn into a huge conflict in Oaxaca. It has become a popular movement of communities, workers, and social organizations. The OIDHO is involved in a movement where they want all the demands of all the different sectors of the left and the bottom to be met.
The tactics used by the OIDHO is that of putting pressure on the government until they respect the authority of the people. They occupy offices of politicians and occupy their buildings, they shut down roads, they set up encampments, they organize marches, and hunger strikes until the government respects the decisions of the people. They have a politic and strategy of forming alliances, where they unite with other organizations and movements for the long term struggle (where as a coalition only organizes around a specific issue) based around certain points of unity and mission statement in Oaxaca.
The history of OIDHO is that of alliances. In 1994 they had an alliance that was 10 organizations strong to suppor the EZLN (Ejercito Zapatista de Liberacion Nacional). In November of 1997 they formed the CIPO (Consejo Indigena Popular de Oaxaca). In 1999 they formed the AMZ (Alianza Magonista Zapatista), in 2000 COMPA, and in 1995 they formed PUNCN or la Promotora (Promotora pol la Unidad Nacional Contra Neoliberalismo). Now they have the new Asamblea Popular Oaxaquena (Oaxacan Popular Assembly), that is made up of 400 organizations through out the different regions of Oaxaca. The idea is to win over as many organizations to unity to create a movement on this level.
There's been some differences with the Other Campaign/Otra Campana, because they had the Promotora. The OIDHO has always had a relationship with the EZLN, because of their ideas and because they're indigenous, but there was some problems when the Otra Campana came into Oaxaca. The Otra Campana in Oaxaca has fallen appart. The people who worked with the Other Campaign in Oaxaca were the CIPO-RFM and Non-Governmental Organizations who were telling organizations they couldn`t be in the Other Campaign because they were in La Promotora. It became an either-or situation. Where as La Promotora has been organizing and in struggle since 1995, before La Otra Campana. Since the Other Campaign has fallen appart in Oaxaca, more people have been uniting with and joining La Promotora. The Promotora has a difference in vision than La Otra, they've been fighting and are not starting a new fight because of the Otra Campana, according to Alejandro Cruz.
They are adehrentes to La Otra Campana because they feel that it's important to connect the different people organizing and struggling throughout Mexico. The problems they have with the Other Campaign (the Frente de Pueblos en Defensa de La Tierra in Atenco had similar criticisms when I spoke to them) was that of protagonism, wanting to change things without the process, imposing things on people organizing and fighting locally, and saying things that aren't real. Alejandro Cruz mentioned, "We are not just talking about unity without doing the real work to achieve it."
The OIDHO takes part in the Alianza Magonista Zapatista which they formed after there was a split in the CIPO due to internal conflict and disagreements over the direction of the organization. All of the organizations involved in CIPO left, and only the organization of Raul Gatica remained, where the name of CIPO became CIPO-RFM. The AMZ is made up of OIDHO, FUDI (Frente Unico en Defensa Indigena / United Front in Defense of the Indigenous), CODEDI (Comite de Defensa de Derecho Indigena / Committee in Defense of Indigenous Rights), and CAMA (Colectivo Autonomo Magonista / Magonista Autonomous Collective). The AMZ is the alliance between the more libertarian organizations, and this alliance is more for the long term being that they all have similar ideas and goals.
We also spoke about unity, and how it is not possible of achieving unity without dealing with the differences that we have. Alejandro talked about understanding the process and being involved in it. Everybody involved in alliances still has do their own work, on their front. There are also issues having to do with opportunism (in it for their own opportunistic aims) and people who leave the alliances after there is one conflict in the alliances. Alejandro says that they rather work with people who will stick it through to the end. People detect others who are there for the wrong reasons. New people can come in and participate and observe, but the internal decisions are made by people who have been there for a while and who are involved in the struggle.
We asked how we can help OIDHO right now, and they told us by passing on information everywhere of what is happening in Oaxaca. People can send letters, faxes, emails to the government regarding what is happening here. People can form committees to support the struggle in Oaxaca. They have three political prisoners that need support. We have a space in the city of Oaxaca that people can support and they need funds. "We have 10 years of confrontation with the government, that has weakened us economically and physically."
Alejandro Cruz spoke of the future he saw for Oaxaca, "where there's an organized movement; where the movement is able to have strength, structure and organization. If that happens, then we have a future, we can't create the change on our own, we want an alternative project to that of the nation. We want to defend and have control of our own resources. For that we need an organized force. The government doesn't listen to the people. This is a decisive moment, either the decisions of the people will be respected or the government will continue to impose their authoritarianism."