Oaxaca activists on hunger strike as Senate mulls solution

As odds for the legal removal of Gov. Ulises Ruiz seemed to narrow Oct. 16, Oaxaca activists camped out in Mexico City’s historic center began a hunger strike aimed at pressuring the federal government to find a solution to the five-month crisis. Senate sources indicated to the daily El Universal that a bid to declare the Ruiz administration unable to govern will likely fail in the looming vote. The paper reports that a subcommittee majority has prepared a report concluding that no “disappearance of powers” is justified in Oaxaca. However, Government Secretary Carlos Abascal, who is charged with settling the Oaxaca conflict, seemed to differ with the Senate committee, saying, “The local authorities haven’t had the capacity to maintain peace, order and security. That’s why what’s happening in that state is happening.”

The hunger strikers – 21 so far – are among hundreds maintaining a public vigil in front of the monument to Benito Juarez, a Oaxaca native and Mexico’s most respected president, in the capital’s Alameda Park. Asked how long the protesters will fast, APPO spokesman Flavio Sosa said, “Until there is a solution.”

Abascal has on several recent occasions denied that he has plans to send in the army to take back Oaxaca City from the APPO protesters who now effectivelt control it. But asked directly Oct. 15 if he would send in the Federal Preventive Police (PFP), he said, “All in it’s time, all in it’s time.”

Cruzita Ramirez Ramirez, one of the fasting teachers, said a crackdown would only widen the crisis. “By not giving us a peaceful solution, they would be falling into a horrible error,” she said. “If there is no peaceful solution in Oaxaca, all the other states will soon unite.”

Over the weekend, Elba Esther Gordillo, the official head of the National Syndicate of Education Workers (SNTE), threatened to have the Oaxaca chapter, Section 22, removed from the national union. Gordillo, who fell out with the PRI last year and is now close to president-elect Felipe Calderon of the PAN, criticized the Oaxaca teachers for acting politically rather than in the interest of the SNTE. Section 22 has traditionally acted independently of the national union.

All three major parties responded negatively to Gordillo’s sudden involvement in the situation. “It’s the last thing we needed,” said Carlos Navarrete, Senator for the Democratic Revolution Party (PRD), which is in favor of dissolving the Ruiz government if he doesn’t step down. “A rift in the teachers union is only going to aggravate the state’s political situation.” (El Universal, Oct. 17)

On Oct. 13, Abascal had announced a deadline of Monday the 16th for the striking teachers to return to work. APPO responded that the ultimatum is “closing the way of dialogue.” (La Jornada, Oct. 16)

Meanwhile in Oaxaca City, a public funeral was held in the central plaza for Alejandro Garcia Hernandez, the APPO activist shot dead by gunmen at a roadblock Oct. 14. Manuel de Jesu’s Ramirez Martinez, the father-in-law of Alejandro Garcia, said: “They know it in the Senate, they are not blind: there are sicarios [hired assassins] here, and the eight deaths in the struggle demand justice.” (LaJornada, Oct. 16)

All sources archived at Chiapas95

See our last posts on Mexico and the struggle in Oaxaca.