Monday, 22 October 2007

Return of the marches in Oaxaca

October is seeing a resurgence in political activity on the streets of Oaxaca. First came the thousands-strong march on October 2 to commemorate the 1968 massacre of students at Mexico City university, naturally with a large student contingent, although the teachers also turned out in force after their two-day strike.
Nobody was the winner of the local elections the following Sunday with over half the electorate not bothering to vote. Fraud on the part of the governing PRI party was widespread, with the governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz caught on tape ordering employees to vote for PRI, which won by suspiciously small margins in many municipalities. In the capital Oaxaca, the 'Convergencia' candidate, supported by elements of APPO (the Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca) lost by a narrow margin to the PRI candidate.
However, this was all par for the course and there were no large mobilisations the following week. On Wednesday 18th the opposition PRD called a demo in Xoxocotlan, a district of Oaxaca City, and a few hundred marched the 3 or so miles to the Zocalo (central square).
Thursday 18th was the first anniversary of the murder of teacher Panfilo Hernandez Vasquez. He was shot three times in the stomach by undercover police waiting for him outside a meeting. Around 5,000, mostly teachers, from all over the state marched from the Fuente de las 7 Regiones to the Zocalo. Unlike on October 2 there was no redecoration of the colonial architecture en route. Panfilo's widow and the widows of some of the 22 others murdered by the police held wreathes and banners at the front and gave speeches at the Zocalo.
As well as demanding justice for those murdered, none of which have been investigated, the teachers demanded the release of the political prisoners, the cancellation of pending court cases and the return of schools seized by the rival Section 59 of the teacher's union - Section 59 was set up last year with government funds as a rival to the long-established Section 22. As seems normal on marches here, it was self-organised, with traffic being redirected by those at the front. For photos visit:

Next Saturday will mark the first anniversary of the murder by police of US Indymedia journalist Brad Will and a mass mobilisation has been called for the weekend by APPO. Mexico was recently ranked 136 in a world ranking of press freedom by watchdog 'Reporters without Borders', below such beacons of free speech as Columbia and Morocco.
Mobilisations have also been called by APPO for October 29 to mark the anniversary of the invasion of the Zocalo by Federal Police and November 25.

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