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The battle of Oaxaca

Opinión
08/11/2006
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While the People of Oaxaca prepared to partake in the traditions that are repeated from year to year, spending the day in the cemeteries sharing food, flowers, pains and joys with their deceased, “operation Juárez 2006” unfolded around the Independent University Benito Juárez de Oaxaca (UABJO).

Just as in Iraq, the Ramadan is an opportunity to execute military operations that take advantage of the lowered guard of the resistance movement, the Day of the Dead in Oaxaca, with its rituals and the general demobilization due to the long break (November 1-5), was the occasion that was chosen for taking control of what the military commanders, after having occupied the main square (Zocalo), have considered to be the center core for activities of the Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca (APPO).

The treatment of this conflict, which in previous months had managed, though with many difficulties, to remain within a largely political framework, registered a rapid shift, as of October 28th, towards the military plane. The change was announced after a gloomy day on which groups of irregular forces, presumably linked to the governor Ulises Ruiz, mobilized to create a scene of disordered and uncontrolled violence. The scene was used to justify the presence of the Federal Preventative Police (PFP), a body of military police created for internal security, and whose statue is, by the way, unconstitutional. The military intelligence, under direct orders from the commanders of the Center of National Research and Security (CISEN) which form the High Command (or Joint Command), has taken control of Oaxaca after the incidents of violence (that caused the death of American journalist Bradley Will, among others), thereby turning a political dispute into an issue of national security, for which military operations are put in place.

The operation put in practice is defined by the Minister of the Interior as one of “occupation” in which the PFP works together with the Federal Agency of Investigations (AFI), homologous to the North American FBI. Meanwhile, the Navy and the Army are placed on guard for potential intervention (troops prepared in the military and coastal sectors) and keep watch.

Taking control of the main square was the first step in a strategy apparently thought of as a star which, once having occupied the center, unfurls itself in lines of irradiation towards the peripheries and outside the capital, where evidently exist the roots and deeper origins of a movement that emanates from the peoples of Oaxaca.

Paradoxically, the operation was not intended for the demobilization of the irregular groups responsible for the confusion and deaths on the 29th, but is directed specifically to the places where the APPO maintained a public presence.

The immediate goal consists, then, of dismantling the positions in the main square and in disabling the means of communication that the Oaxacan people would use to communicate among themselves and with the world. But just as in Iraq the delicate operation planned by the Pentagon failed, the taking of the main square in this case only spatially displaced what has never been a just a group of leaders, but an entire people mobilized. The first planning error in this operation is that, being conceived in military terms, it identifies with the enemy as a fixed and delimited being, when its nature is diffused, extended, interwoven and impersonal, because it has a collective and not an individualized personality. The bases of the APPO shifted, creating a sort of strip around the main square that, at one point, inspired an image of the besieger being besieged; but they actually disintegrated into the whole city, recreating their territoriality according to the new circumstances.

In a system of networks such as one that generates a long-maturing community organization, the distribution of roles is derived from daily relationships and the leaderships rely on validation that does not originate from circumstances but from their history in the community. The forms of communication are also diverse and are transmitted via circuits of family or neighbors. Nonetheless, community radios, which have proven their strategic importance in the circumstances of outbursts of conflict, like the gas war on Bolivian soil, have been fundamental for logistic organization at critical moments.

For that reason, the next objective of the military operation was the university campus, a privileged space where ideas are debated and a place where, after the offences against the other forms of communication controlled by the APPO, the university radio continued to function as APPO radio. It was an attractive target because, in one blow, it allowed for an attack on the public university, on free thinking, and on the regime of autonomy that public universities enjoy.  It would also revoke one of the refuge places for the members of the APPO and, like a prize for a job completed, it would destroy APPO radio.

But a government who scorns and stops listening to its people is incapable of understanding it and controlling it when it has decided to fight. In another unsuccessful attempt the PFP, with support of the AFI and the local police, attacked the university precisely on the Day of the Dead. On a long, distressing and combative day, on which the university authorities headed by their President came out in the defence of common sense, democracy and university autonomy, the UABJO managed to repel the attack, which resulted in the retreat of the state’s security forces.

Exposed non-stop to tear gas and pepper spray, threatened with tanks and stray bullets, the Oaxacans inside and outside the university put up a fight that had not been anticipated by the elite strategists of the High Command.  The coordination carried out by APPO Radio (university radio) kept everyone continually informed on the progress of the events and allowed for both guidance for the local combatants, and the coordination of the national and international support that placed Oaxaca at the level of world-wide alert.

Anonymous neighbors donated vinegar to lessen the effects of the gases, threw gasoline or excrements at the tanks, provided lanterns and food, informed about the movements of the PFP and the rest of the participants in the operation, rebuilt the barricades removed by the forces of order...  It was the people of Oaxaca, anonymous and humble but entirely identified with APPO, who defeated the elite forces of repression and defended their university and their dignity.

And while everyone ran with the traditional Molotov bombs or hand-made rockets, APPO radio, installed in the heart of the UABJO, did not cease transmitting.

A difficult moment for the transition of powers in Mexico: the resistance of the Oaxacan people is spreading to the rest of the country, since nowhere are causes lacking; the community experience reproduces itself in each region, with a different style; the outgoing president has stopped governing; the incoming president lacks legitimacy as he is a result of an undeniable fraud.

On the other hand, the missing structural reforms, among which the deregulation to permit energy integration within North America stands out, will only pass through Congress with the approval of a majority that the National Action Party (PAN) does not have and is not able to obtain.  Pressures from the United States and international organizations, exerted on a president designated through the most questioned electoral process since the banishment of Porfirio Diaz from the country in 1910, are apparently provoking nervousness in the elite political spheres of the country. This anxiety is expressed in blackmail, shady deals and blunders. The militarization of the Northern border closes off many safety valves, and December 1st, date of the transmission of power, is approaching like the sword of Damocles, while President Fox prefers to abandon the country to its fate and goes on tour.  And in the anarchy that is left, widely repudiated governor Ulises Ruiz launches his strongest offence against the APPO and the people of Oaxaca in order to remain in power.

This is a difficult, but urgent moment to give birth to another history.  The one that the communities of Chiapas identified, and today is being acted out by the people of Oaxaca, filling the struggle with dignity and hope.

(Traducción ALAI)

https://www.alainet.org/en/active/14417

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