Armed forces, including local and Federal police (in and out of uniform) and various paramilitaries loyal to Governor Ulysses Ruiz have seized control of the streets of Oaxaca city, showing complete disregard for the human rights of activists who have been rallying for months against the policies of Ruiz. The current clampdown took place in the wake of the latest “megamarch” on November 25.
The protests began in May, 2006 with a strike by a local teachers union and have since grown into a broad-based movement, the Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca (APPO) (click here for their Spanish language website, with photos and regular updates) calling for the removal of Ruiz, who is accused of systematic corruption and human rights violations. At least 17 have died in the protests, including independent American journalist Brad Will. Forty people are in jail and twenty-five people are missing.
The ferocity of the repression of the Oaxaca government is alarming, as is the government’s use of plain-clothes police and paramilitary groups to contain the uprising.
The repression of the government is an unwelcome reminder of the systems of brutal State control that Latin American nations have worked hard to dismantle following decades of dictatorship in much of the region.
In the beginning of this week, paramilitaries set fire to the local office of the New Left Front in Oaxaca City. There were 25 people in the building and 24 escaped. One individual has disappeared.
In an open letter, UNOSOJO (The Union of Organizations of the Sierra de Juarez) an indigenous group from rural Oaxaca and an ally of Grassroots International, highlights the police and military use of firearms and prohibited gases against protestors. More than 100 people have been wounded in the conflicts including 20 people who are recovering from gun shots.
The human rights of members of the APPO are being violated as the repression escalates. The government has transferred all detainees to a maximum security facility in another Mexican state, as the police consider the detainees “extremely dangerous.” This is another example in a long history of the federal and state governments attempting to brand movements working for social justice in Oaxaca as dangerous criminals.
Grassroots International, in solidarity with our partners and friends in the social movements of Oaxaca, rejects the widespread use of violence and violation of human rights against activists and the use of State-terror to quiet legitimate political protest. Join us in supporting the people of Oaxaca and holding the Mexican government accountable for the violations of freedom of speech and assembly and for the ill treatment of its political prisoners.