Oaxaca: dialogue continues, military presence grows

After rejecting an offer from the federal government to end the five-month standoff in Oaxaca, striking teachers and community leaders are preparing a counter-proposal in the tense negotiations. Meanwhile, thousands of teachers and activists have arrived at the outskirts of Mexico City after marching 466 kilometers (290 miles) from Oaxaca.

The counter-offer to be presented to Government Secretary Carlos Abascal is expected to reiterate demands that Oaxaca Gov. Ulises Ruiz resign his post. President Vicente Fox's administration maintains that only the Senate has the power to remove Ruiz.

Late on the night of Oct. 7, both the Oaxacan People's Popular Assembly (APPO) and the local Section 22 of the national teachers union, which have led the protests, rejected a government offer that would have likely increased the teachers salaries, arguing the offer was "unilateral."

The teachers are also demanding that thousands of Army and Navy personnel posted in Oaxaca - in what they claim are preparations to crack down on the movement - be removed.

In announcing the rejection, Section 22 leader Enrique Rueda Pacheco said "we have decided to open ourselves to negotiation, but that does not mean we're taking off the table our demand that Mr. Ulises Ruiz resign." (El Universal, Oct. 9)

Under the rejected offer, the federal government would insist that the Senate address the possibility of dissolving the Oaxaca state government, allowing the government to appoint a new governor to replace Ruiz. However, there was no guarantee that the measure would succeed, and the legislative process itself could take several months to complete.

Oaxaca City remains under the effective control of APPO, which has erected barricades throughout the city, and occupied the central sqaure. On Sept. 6, APPO activists detained three police officers at the village of Zaachila, on the city's outskirts, before releasing them two hours later. The police maintained they had been kicked and punched while in captivity. (El Universal, Oct. 10)

Military sources say stepped-up patrols in Oaxaca's Sierra del Sur are in response to the supposed presence of Popular Revolutionary Army (EPR) guerillas in the mountains. But military forces are now distributed throughout the state: at Ixcotel, on the Pacific coast, 3,837 infantry troops are at the ready; 624 in Mihuatlá; 645 in Pinotepa Nacional, 609 in Nopala; 372 in Juxtlahuaca; 442 in Tuxtepec; 104 in Tlaxiaco; 489 in Coxocon; and 185 in Huajapan de León. Across the state line in Puebla, 489 troops are now stationed, and 455 across the western state line in Guerrero. Four Bell helicopters as well as Schweizer military planes have also been mobilized in what the government is calling "Plan DN-III-E" against armed groups and narco gangs in Oaxaca. (P