Tuesday, December 26, 2006


Mexico, December 26th

Amy Goodman hasn't forgotten the people of Mexico. Have you? In southern Mexico’s Oaxaca City supporters of the People’s Popular Assembly of Oaxaca again took to the streets on Friday to demand the resignation of Gov. Ulises Ruiz, the release of political prisoners and the withdrawal of federal police from the city. Various cities in 37 countries held protests as part of a day of international solidarity with the APPO. Democracy Now producer Elizabeth Press is in Oaxaca.
ELIZABETH PRESS: Some 8,000 people marched on Friday in Oaxaca. People in the march were angry, but they were also afraid. This APPO member did not want to be identified. APPO MEMBER: [translated] This march is to show the people, the world and every society that the Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca is alive and present. We have never given up the fight, and we will keep moving forward. We will never give up the call for the resignation of Ulises Ruiz Ortiz. We have to show that the APPO and the teachers of Oaxaca are continuing the struggle. ELIZABETH PRESS: The march stayed clear of the city center, or zocalo, to avoid contact with state police, who had barricaded all the entrances. Family members held signs of the disappeared and detained. Youth re-tagged freshly painted buildings, and the march ended peacefully in a rally at Danza Plaza. Rene Trujillo is a member of the student sector of APPO. He marched despite having been detained and beaten weeks before for his involvement with the popular movement. RENE TRUJILLO: [translated] They beat us even though we had been beaten already. We were interrogated. Right away, they started asking questions about other people who were participants in the movement, and they tried to suffocate us with plastic bags. Later, they gave us electric shocks on various parts of our bodies while they continued to ask us the same things, asking us for names and addresses of friends in the movement, asking us who were the leaders of the popular movement, who was running the radio, how many people were there at the university radio station. At the same time, they hit us with wet rags so the marks didn't become visible. There was an attempted rape. They pulled down one of my friends pants and tried to rape him. They threatened to kill our families ELIZABETH PRESS: This weekend was also the century-old Festival of the Radish, in which Oaxacans carve, yes, giant radishes. On Saturday, APPO held its own alternative night of the radishes, even after the federal police tried to shut it down. These radish sculptures depict the conflict between police and the People's Assembly. On Sunday, another 18 prisoners were released from the Oaxacan state prison. From Oaxaca, this is Elizabeth Press reporting for Democracy Now!
No photos of giant radishes yet, but here's where they should show up. From MSN News and Analysis, it sounds as if the government has succeeded in a key goal, namely severing leadership of the SNTE Local 22 Teachers Union from the community-based APPO: [On December 16th], federal and state authorities reached an agreement to release 43 political prisoners, many of whom left the federal prison in Nayarit exhibiting signs of torture and wearing clothing drenched in blood. Five days later, another 16 members of APPO walked out of a Oaxaca state prison. All of the arrestees were released on bond, which totaled more than 52 million pesos [i.e., over a quarter million dollars bail for each one]. No one is quite sure who posted the bonds, though speculation is that Governor Ulises Ruiz, under pressure from federal authorities, used state funds to free APPO members. The state Attorney General did not object to any of the releases, an indication of the increasing weakness of Ruiz in the face of unabated protests demanding his removal. This still leaves more than 100 political prisoners associated with the APPO in both state and maximum security federal prisons and dozens of disappeared APPO supporters. Section 22 of the teachers’ union tried to claim credit for the releases, while also formally breaking with the APPO. Enrique Rueda, head of Section 22, said the APPO “believes that marches are going to resolve their problems, but they’ve had 15 days and they haven’t resolved anything.” The formal leadership of the teachers union, part of the CNTE, has long been at odds with the APPO, though more than a third of the local union membership continues to identify closely with the APPO. So, see, everything is sweetness and light... officially.
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