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La Jornada > Cobertura de "La otra campaña"

Nodos Comunes

.. Caosmosis ..

Rage One (blog)

martes, junio 27, 2006

Report from Oaxaca, Mexico 06-25-06 (by Joaquin Cienfuegos)

First of all, I want to apologize for the previous reports, and their grammatical and spelling errors. My friend Eric helps me edit these before he posts them up on websites. I don´t proofread them before I send them out, to save time because I´m usually in internet cafes. Anyway, the proofreading and editing should happen later, and if you´re reposting these, feel free to correct the errors as well.

Report from Oaxaca, Mexico 06-25-06

Oaxaca, Mexico is the state with largest indigenous populations of all of Mexico. In most of the villages and towns around the City of Oaxaca, most of the people do not speak Spanish, only their indigenous languages are spoken. There are 16 indigenous languages in Oaxaca, and 16 different indigenouse ethnicities. The largest indigenous group in Oaxaca is Zapotec. Sixty percent of the people in Oaxaca are indigenous, that is two and a half million people, minus the one million indigenous Oaxaqueños who live outside of Oaxaca in search or work and a better living situation for themselves and their families.

Oaxaca has a history of indigenous way of life, and surviving against the odds. Felipa, a compañera and vice-president of the Organizaciones Indias por los Derechos Humanos de Oaxaca / Indian Organizations for Human Rights in Oaxaca (OIDHO), mentioned, In Mexico it is taught that if you don´t know Spanish you´re uncivilized. Indigenous people are thought to be people who do not know anything because they don´t speak Spanish sometimes. We are treated worse than animals.

People in Oaxaca have a history of practicing their own forms of decision making for centuries. In their communities they have general assemblies, where the community meets and discusses how to deal with their everyday problems. They meet, discuss, and have a consensus process where everyone takes part in the discussion to make decisions and are able to raise their concerns. Oaxaca also has a history of communal living. Where people live collectively in homes and on land. Communal land has existed for centuries, Felipa explained to me, and I learned that they are different from the ejidos. Ejidos are expropriated lands from the landlords and the haciendas after the Mexican Revolution of 1910, and are easier for the government to attack and take away (which was attempted in Atenco), but communal lands are harder for the government to steal, because people have worked them collectively for centuries.

Today I visited Monte Alban. There were great pyramids built, and their culture was one of great accomplishments on all levels. To me this is symbolic, because Monte Alban was built by the Zapotecs, and the pyramids have survived all these centuries as the Zapotec people.

El OIDHO is an organization that works with indigenous communities, which include the Zapotecs, Chatinos and Chinantecos indigenous ethnicities. Since they were founded as an organization they have been an organization of struggle and community as well as popular organizing.

I sat down with the Political Commissioner of the OIDHO, Alejandro Cruz, a lawyer and ex-political prisoner. He explained to me the history of their movement in Oaxaca:

It all starts in 1988 with the Mexican president, Carlos Salinas de Gortari, who they call El Chupacabras. He was the political intellectual and theorotician on neoliberalism in Mexico. He implemented the politics and the economics of the US government. In 1994 he helped implement NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement), in response to US demands. In 1988 he also started with the National Commission for Human Rights to cover up the state repression and to wash his hands of the blood of the people of Mexico. Even before he came to power there was repression, but no one knew of it. There were massacres in Oaxaca in 1988 in Santa Maria Aniza and Santiago Moltepec, where 28 campesinos/farmers were killed, but no one knew of this outside of Oaxaca. This repression all came from the government and their paramilitaries against those who fought for land, for dignity, and for respect.

In 1989 a small group of close friends, of four or five people founded the Organizaciones Indias por los Derechos Humanos de Oaxaca (OIDHO). There were three lawyers and two compañeras. They were an informal team formed to organize against the institutionalized violence. They were facing difficult conditions, of murder, rape, massacre, violence from the state, detentions, and political persecution.

They were there to support people and communities who were struggling for their rights, in defense of their land, justice for their family members who had been killed, justice for people who had been displaced from their homes, or justice for those who have been killed.

In 1993 they became a formal organization. They created a constitution and bylaws, and they had an election to choose positions for the organization. They have six positions within the organization which include, president, vice-president, treasurer, treasurer supplement (or vice-treasurer), secretary, and secretary supplement (or vice-secretary). So the organization is made up of 6 people, and then they also have commissions. The commissions are, Political Commission, Networking Commission, Commission of Women, Communication Commission, and Commission of Ecology. All the positions are rotated every two years.

Their role as an organization was to struggle for human rights, which they felt was a collective responsibility. They did not want to wait for abuses to happen and then react to them, they wanted to organize within their communities to stop the abuses before they happened, defend the lands, resist the violence of the caciques (those in the communities with the political and economic power and who have a relationship with the power of the state). They practiced preventitive organizing to stop the violence of the government and of the system. OIDHO organized and built alliances with other communities.

Their structure consists of each community having representation for the organization. Each community has a similar structure to the organization from Oaxaca City, with the same roles and positions. In Oaxaca City they have a general assembly every month or month and a half, where each community has to send their committees to communicate their decisions and act as their mouthpiece for representation for the organization. Women also have their own assemblies. The organization as a whole has a position of permanent action, right now they have been in the encampment in the Zocalo for the teachers and against the governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz for 35 days. They want to build a movement against the violence of the government.

El OIDHO communicates through their newspaper, Tierra y Libertad. They also have three pirate radio stations, Caracol, Nueva Amanacer, Roca. They also distribute flyers and make posters to wheat-paste on the streets.

Alejandro Cruz talked about his experience with repression, I´ve been in prison for a year. They charged me with the death of a cop. Where it was the police who attacked the community (and the community did defend themselves with sticks, rocks, and bricks), and where three of our members were injured with real police bullets.

One of the demands being put foward by the OIDHO is the disappearance of the powers. The law at this point doesn´t permit the complete self-organization and autonomy of the people, so what their demand is for a popular assembly of citizens, because there is one already of regions from all over Oaxaca, they want this assembly to be institutionalized. They want this popular assembly to make their own decisions. They see the issues right now in Oaxaca, that of, political prisoners, struggle for land recuperations and the resolving the conflicts between communities over land, and the issue of the state imposing and not respecting the decisions made by the people and the representatives that the communities elect themselves. There is a situation of permanent struggle in Oaxaca with a government who imposes and a people who defend themselves and their rights.

The struggle against the governor has turn into a huge conflict in Oaxaca. It has become a popular movement of communities, workers, and social organizations. The OIDHO is involved in a movement where they want all the demands of all the different sectors of the left and the bottom to be met.

The tactics used by the OIDHO is that of putting pressure on the government until they respect the authority of the people. They occupy offices of politicians, and occupy their buildings, they shut down roads, they set up encampments, they organize marches, and hunger strikes, until the government respects the decisions of the people. They have a politic and strategy of forming alliances, where they unite with other organizations and movements for the long term struggle (where as a coalition only organizes around a specific issue) based around certain points of unity and mission statement in Oaxaca.

The history of OIDHO is that of alliances. In 1994 they had an alliance that was 10 organizations strong to suppor the EZLN (Ejercito Zapatista de Liberacion Nacional). In November of 1997 they formed the CIPO (Consejo Indigena Popular de Oaxaca). In 1999 we formed the AMZ (Alianza Magonista Zapatista), in 2000 COMPA, and in 1995 we formed PUNCN or la Promotora (Promotora pol la Unidad Nacional Contra Neoliberalismo). Now they have the new Asamblea Popular Oaxaquena (Oaxacan Popular Assembly), that is made up of 400 organizations through out the different regions of Oaxaca. The idea is to win over as many organizations to unity to creace a movement on this level.

There´s been some differences with the Other Campaign/Otra Campaña, because they had the Promotora. The OIDHO has always had a relationship with the EZLN, because of their ideas and because they´re indigenous, but there was some problems when the Otra Campaña came into Oaxaca, which has fallen appart in Oaxaca today. The people who worked with the Other Campaign in Oaxaca were the CIPO-RFM and Non-Governmental Organizations who were telling organizations they couldn`t be in the Other Campaign because they were in La Promotora. It became an either-or situation. Where as La Promotora has been organizing and in struggle since 1995, before La Otra Campaña. Since the Other Campaign has fallen appart in Oaxaca, more people have been uniting with and joining La Promotora. The Promotora has a different in vision than La Otra, they´ve been fighting and are not starting a new fight because of the Otra Campaña, according to Alejandro Cruz.

They are adehrentes to La Otra Campaña because they feel that it´s important to connect the different people organizing and struggling throughout Mexico. The problems they have with the Other Campaign (the Frente de Pueblos en Defensa de La Tierra in Atenco had similar criticisms when I spoke to them) was that of protagonism, wanting to change things without the process, imposing things on people organizing and fighting locally, and saying things that aren´t real. Alejandro Cruz mentioned, We are not just talking about unity, without doing the real work to achieve it.

The OIDHO takes part in the Alianza Magonista Zapatista which they formed after there was a split in the CIPO due to internal conflict and disagreements over the direction of the organization. All of the organizations involved in CIPO left, and only the organization of Raul Gatica remained, where the name of CIPO became CIPO-RFM. The AMZ is made up of OIDHO, FUDI (Frente Unico en Defensa Indigena / United Front in Defense of the Indigenous), CODEDI (Comite de Defensa de Derecho Indigena / Committee in Defense of Indigenous Rights), and CAMA (Colectivo Autonomo Magonista / Magonista Autonomous Collective). The AMZ is the alliance between the more libertarian organizations, and this alliance is more for the long term being that they all have similar ideas and goals.

We also spoke about unity, and how it is not possible of achieving unity without dealing with the differences that we have. Alejandro talked about understanding the process and being involved in it. Everybody involved in alliances still has do their own work, on their front. There are also issues having to do with opportunism (in it for their own opportunistic aims) and people who leave the alliances after there is one conflict in the alliances. Alejandro says that they rather work with people who will stick ith through the end. People detect others who are there for the wrong reasons. New people can come in and participate and observe, but the internal decisions are made by people who have been there for a while and who are involved in the struggle.

We asked how we can help OIDHO right now, and they told us by passing on information everywhere of what is happening in Oaxaca. People can send letters, faxes, emails to the government regarding what is happening here. People can form committees to support the struggle in Oaxaca. They have three political prisoners, we have a space in the city of Oaxaca that people can support and they need funds. We have 10 years of confrontation with the government, that has weakened us economically and physically.

Alejandro Cruz spoke of the future he saw for Oaxaca, where there´s an organized movement, where the movement is able to have strength, structure and organization. If that happens, then we have a future, we can´t create the change on our own, we want an alternative project to that of the natio. We want to defend and have control of our own resources. For that we need an organized force. The government doesn´t listen to the people. This is a decisive moment, either the decisions of the people will be respected or the government will continue to impose their authoritarianism.

En lucha,

Joaquin Cienfuegos

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