Newspaper siege, political violence continue in Oaxaca

The offices of the Oaxaca daily Noticias continues to be under siege by loyalists of the state’s entrenched political machine—yet, amazingly, the paper continues to publish. This July 15 report from Dos Mundos, Kansas City’s bilingual newspaper:

Journalists held hostage in Oaxaca

By Mischa Byruck

The employees have been unable to leave the building for twenty days. Reporters without Borders, an international non-profit organization that protects the rights of journalists worldwide, immediately condemned the occupation, stating that the “strike” is “the act of persons external to the paper and is just a means used by the local authority to silence it.”

None of the 102 employees of the paper count themselves among the “strikers.” The occupation began shortly after the election of the state of Oaxaca’s new governor, Ulises Ruiz Ortiz, a member of PRI. The paper strongly supported his opponent.

Soon after the election, Amnesty International indicted the new state government, which now has effective control of the three branches of government, as well as the state police, for physical abuse and corruption.

PRI, which ruled Mexico for seventy years, lost power on the federal level in 2000. It is allied with all the unions in the country.

The protestors blockaded the entrance to the building and cut off the electricity. At night they get drunk and rattle the windows and doors of the building, shouting threats to the people inside and making it impossible to sleep. Among the protestors are plainclothes policemen.

The Mexican Commission on Human Rights immediately requested that the state government intervene, but a representative for the governor answered that such would happen only when the paper agrees to cease publication.

The newspaper has continued to print from a plant outside of the city, but last week a truck carrying newspapers was seized, its driver threatened, and the newspapers confiscated.

“The government of Oaxaca now persists in harassing the street vendors who sell Noticias, because it pains them to see someone printing the truth,” said Armando Pérez Rivera, director of the Independent Democratic Organization of Street Vendors in the state of Oaxaca.

The paper, one of the few news outlets in the area that is openly critical of the state government, has suffered similar occupations and harassment before.

Among the various groups that have called on the state government to cease and desist are the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and the Latinamerican and Caribbean Catholic Organization of Communication (OCLACC).

On Friday, July 1, after more than two weeks of occupation, president Fox indicated a desire to see the situation resolved, but he has done little to enforce this statement.

See our last report on the crisis in Oaxaca.

Meanwhile, in spite of the Mexican government’s pledge to free all indigenous political prisoners (see our last post), on July 11 Oaxcaca state police arrested three leaders of a civil campesino organization, the Popular Revolutionary Front (FPR), including disabled schoolteacher German Mendoza Nube. The organization claims they were arrested with unnecessary violence, and disputes the government’s version of events. They are being held in connection with an apparent attempt to assassinate a state medical worker at the village of Santa Cruz Tepenixtlahuaca. The FPR says the men were urging peasants to boycott government services, but were not involved in violence. (APRO news agency, July 11, online at Chiapas95)

See our last post on political violence in southern Mexico.

  1. State government agrees to dialogue; violence continues
    The administration of Oaxaca Gov. Ulises Ruiz Ortiz has agreed to a dioalogue with indigenous groups, imposing only one condition—that the issue of the siege at Noticias is off the table. The FPR, the Promoter for a National Unity against Neoliberalism and the Popular Indigenous Council of Oaxaca (CIPO) have agreed to the talks on issues including human rights and political prisoners. In response to the news, 11 inmates in Oaxaca’s prisons who were on hunger strike have broken their fasts. (APRO, via Chiapas95, July 14) Meanwhile, a local meeting of the CIPO in the village of Sola de Vega, San Cristobal municipality, was violently broken up by an armed posse of some 100 led by the municipality’s mayor July 11, the group reported. (CIPO communique, July 16, via Chiapas95)

  2. Fox agrees to Noticias investigation
    President Vicente Foix agreed to call an investigation of the siege at Noticias after 1,000 marched in support of the newspaper in Oaxaca. (AP, July 20)