Dueling marches in Oaxaca; “governability” still not restored

As Mexico’s federal Government Secretary Carlos Abascal appealed to Oaxaca Gov. Ulises Ruiz Ortiz to reconsider his stated intention to remain in office, thousands of the embattled governor’s supporters rallied in the streets of Oaxaca City Nov. 7. That same day, a women’s march demanding the withdrawal of federal polcie was attacked by armored vehicles with water cannons. Meanwhile, the Popular People’s Assembly of Oaxaca (APPO) issued a statement demanding not only the resignation of Ruiz, but of his attorney general Lizbeth Caña, state police chief Lino Celaya and all the local state and municipal police commanders, as well as the withdrawal of federal police from Oaxaca, as pre-conditions for re-establishing dialogue with the federal government.

In the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, striking teachers blocked the Panamerican and Trans-Isthmus highways with their bodies for two hours to press their demands for Ruiz’s ouster and the withdrawal of federal forces. Striking teachers also held a massive march in Juchitan.

Ruiz has launched a state police operation to arrest APPO leaders, and at least five have been apprehended, but the group continues to have open control of the state university campus, which serves as a staging ground for protests. At 3 AM Nov. 7, an explosion tore through a shop near the campus, leaving it gutted. Slogans against Ulises Ruiz were left on the walls.

At a press conference in Oaxaca’s Santo Domingo church, APPO demanded a halt to aggression against its followers, an end to the jamming of the APPO-controlled Radio Universidad signal, the release of over 60 “political prisoners,” and the return alive of 30 “disappeared.” APPO leaders Florentino Lopez, Roberto Garcia Lucero and Rosendo Ramirez Sanchez also demanded face-to-face talks with President Vicente Fox. (APRO, Nov. 7)

In his appeal to Ruiz, Carlos Abascal Carranza warned that he must demonstrate his ability to govern in Oaxaca. “The fact that Ruiz Ortiz is back in the governor’s house does not mean that there is governability.” He said that the federal police presence has “returned order, but not governability.”

Abascal also raised the possibility that Ruiz and elements of his his political machine could be investigated for possible links to the Nov. 6 bomb attacks in Mexico City. Abascal said the federal prosecutor’s office “will not spare any line of investigation into the origins and authors of the attacks.”

He said that President Fox had also appealed to Ruiz to step down. Asked about the threat of violence spreading to the national level, Abascal said there has been a “general condemnation” of violence by Mexican society, including APPO. (APRO, Nov. 7)

“There are just two ways to resolve the problem: First, the governor must convince these groups that he can reach an agreement and form a unity government.. or he should resign,” Abascal said told reporters. (El Universal, Nov. 8)

Above sources archived at Chiapas95

An AP account put the white-clad pro-Ruiz marchers at 15,000, compared with 20,000 at the Nov. 5 pro-APPO “mega-march.” The pro-Ruiz marchers chanted “criminals out of Oaxaca” (an obvious reference to APPO) and expressed support for the federal police presence, while the mega-marchers chanted “get out, federal police.” The AP account also referred to a Burger King outlet near the university which “was smashed, burnt and sprayed with the words ‘murderers.’” It is uncertain if this is the same indicent referred to in the APRO report. (AP, Nov. 9)

Accounts posted to the Indymedia network have estimated the mega-march attendance at up to 1.5 million. (E.g. Santa Cruz IMC, with photos)

See our last post on Mexico and the Oaxaca crisis.

  1. Given the reliability of the
    Given the reliability of the AP articles coming out of Oaxaca and specifically written by Rebeca Romero, it’s not hard to imagine that the number of APPO marchers was 20-50x what was reported, while the PRI march was exaggerated up. Also, a lot of those at the latter march reported that their jobs and families were threatened if they didn’t attend. The same political manipulation that was allegedly used by URO to gain power resonates here as well.

    Also of note, NO media has covered the church’s decision to grant asylum to 3 leaders of APPO, due to threats against their and their families’ lives. Nor have they covered illegal invasions of the University, including jamming the radio, setting off gas bombs within the campus, and physically entering the premise in plainclothes.

    1. Marches in Oaxaca
      Your observations vis-a-vis the AP and particularly Rebecca Romero’s reporting are right on the mark. The march in support of URO and the PRI started out with approximately two thousand marchers. What was not reported is that the majority of them were state employees who were ordered to show up or lose their jobs. Furthermore, after they were counted present at the begining of the march about 80% of them dropped out and snuck away after a few blocks.

      This is pretty common here. There was a march in support of URO a month or so ago, the day before signs appeared on lamposts all over the city offering $50 (pesos) to anyone who would come and march. Those that did never got their 5 dollar bribe, not an inconsiderable sum here where that sum is an days wage for a manual laborer. What they got was a bag with a sandwich and a can of Coke. Just another promise to the people broken by the PRI.

    2. Um, actually…
      The above-cited story from Agencia Proceso (APRO) does mention the jamming of Radio Universidad. Now why don’t you please post your sources about the church asylum offer, incursions onto the campus, etc.?

  2. Mega march
    I witnessed the maga march last Sunday after completing nine days as a leader of a culinary group during Muertos week in Oaxaca. I am no expert, but I would agree that it was likely more than 20,000 people but in no way was it anywhere near to a million or even hundreds of thousands. My group had generally positive experiences in Oaxaca including being cheered by thousands in front of the Santo Domingo Cathedral telling us that we were part of the Pueblo and that “esos gringos no son pollos”. I must admit that even though the sight of the armored thousands of PFP troops was intimidating, and that we were in fear for the protesters’ safety, with the ominous potential of a bloodbath, most of the police remained calm and avoided unnecessary violence. Ruiz needs to go so that the real problems of Oaxaca and southern Mexico can begin to be addressed.