Oaxaca: escalation follows assassination of activist

Protesters held four people captive for hours Aug. 11, charging they were behind the assassination of a protester in the conflicted southern Mexican state of Oaxaca. The Federal Agency of Investigation said protesters were finally induced to turn the captives over to its agents at a local television station that had been seized by the protesters. The protesters demand the four be charged in the death of Jose Jimenez, 50, who was killed the previous day during a march by the Popular Assembly of the State of Oaxaca (APPO) calling for the resignation of Gov. Ulises Ruiz. The shots were fired from a house as the march of some 8,000 protesters passed; protesters later set fire to the house. Jimenez, a mechanic and the husband of a striking teacher, was dead on arrival at hospital. APPO, which accuses the governor of using force to repress dissent and rigging the 2004 election to win office, charged Ruiz was behind the shooting. The governor denied the allegations and condemned the violence. (Seattle Times, AP, Aug. 12; La Jornada, Aug. 11) The Oaxaca state government has threatened to arrest all APPO leaders. Four have already been arrested, and APPO charges three more were “disappeared” the night of Aug. 10 (La Jornada, Aug. 11) One of the arrested APPO leaders, German Mendoza Nube, is a paraplegic who suffers from diabetes. Witnesses say he was beaten with a rifle butt when he was arrested by plainclothes state police. (La Jornada, Aug. 10)

In related news, student supporters of APPO who have seized control of the radio station at Benito Juarez Autonomous University reported Aug. 9 that the transmitter had been sabotaged the previous night with sulfuric acid. They said they had detained three “porros” (provocateurs) who were responsible. (La Jornada, Aug. 10)

Attacks are also reported on APPO supporters in remote rural areas of the state. On Aug. 9, three Triqui indigenous leaders from the Independent Movement of Triqui Unification and Struggle (MULTI) were killed in an ambush by unknown gunmen on a mountain road. (La Jornada, Aug. 10)

See our last post on Mexico and the Oaxaca crisis.

  1. Dirty war in Oaxaca
    It seems to me that we Americans concerned about events in Oaxaca, and in particular about the armed attacks (and now the first documented murder) against teachers and mobilized Oaxaca peasants and workers, need to be speaking up.

    My question: how can we best do this? Letters to NY Times and papers stateside that have poorly reported, or mis-reported, these events?
    Or a letter signed by many concerned USA citizens and widely distributed via the net and to the Mexican government? Every day, I think it becomes truer that ‘the whole world is watching.’

  2. More details
    From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Aug. 13:

    A supporter of a teachers’ strike that began May 22 in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca was shot dead during a march of some 20,000 strikers and supporters on the afternoon of Aug. 10 in the state capital, also named Oaxaca. According to witnesses, there were shots from inside a house on Ninos Heroes Street as the center of the march passed by. Mechanic Jose Perez Colmenares was hit as he marched beside his wife, the teacher Florina Jimenez Lucas, and the marchers dispersed in a panic. Perez Colmenares died at the Santa Maria Clinic, a few meters from the site of the shooting. Two other marchers were injured and treated in hospitals.

    Members of security groups set up by the march’s sponsors, the Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca (APPO) and Section 22 of the National Education Workers Union (SNTE), attacked the house with stones and captured four men they found there, along with a pistol. A fifth man escaped. Thinking he was hiding inside, the security group set the house on fire to try to flush him out. Strike supporters captured four more suspects later; they were all taken to the studios of Canal 9, the station operated by the state-owned Oaxaca Radio and Television Corporation (CORTV). (A group of hundreds of women took the station over on Aug. 1, and it has been used since then to broadcast bulletins from the APPO.) The strikers turned the eight suspects over to federal agents the evening of Aug. 11.

    Oaxaca state attorney Rosa Lizbeth Cana Cadeza says Perez Colmenares was killed during a dispute at the house, which belongs to the Santa Maria Clinic, whose owner is one of the suspects picked up by the strikers. (La Jornada, Aug. 11, 12) Despite efforts to break the strike, the teachers and their supporters have tied up Oaxaca’s Historic Center for almost three months and have carried out militant demonstrations around the city and in other parts of the state to push demands for cost-of-living increases and the removal of Gov. Ulises Ruiz Ortiz.