The Oaxaca Uprising

Ever get the feeling that being in the US means we’re stuck in the boonies, while the real earth-shaking events are going on elsewhere? Which brings me to Oaxaca.

oaxaca01.jpg

In Oaxaca, Mexico, there’s a full-fledged uprising against government corruption, and against corporate globalization. And this is a non-violent uprising relatively non-violent uprising.1 From CounterPunch:

Squarely positioned in the “south of the south,” Oaxaca has kept its head up proudly through period after failed period in the great big Mexican globalization laboratory. In a state where 76% of the population lives in abject poverty, the only thing that seems to have “trickled down” is a broad consensus that neoliberalism has grossly failed the region. It’s no surprise, then, that last June’s teacher’s strike drew widespread support from indigenous groups, students, unions and civil society organizations. When you’re working yourself into poverty and your kids are hungry, it’s not hard to find common ground with your neighbors-something’s got to change.

That change came together in a demand to oust the notoriously corrupt Oaxacan governor Ulises Ruiz, a bastion of elite power in the region. The APPO2 has been occupying strategic parts of Oaxaca since, establishing a parallel people’s government and rendering Ruiz’s administration ineffectual. Last week the Secretary of the Interior and both houses of the Mexican Congress called for Ruiz to step down. It seemed APPO was on the verge of victory.

Yet APPO’s clear commitment to non-violence and a negotiated solution has been met with fierce military escalation on the part of the Mexican government. As the number of troops, tanks and helicopters began to rise, so too has the tally of ilegal detentions, murders, forced disappearances, torture and police misconduct.

oaxaca02.jpg

I frankly don’t have much to say about the situation. I’m watching it with excitement and fear, hoping they can make it work, hoping that the government’s brutality will not escalate. I might eventually think of something more intelligent to say, but in the meanwhile, some links:

From another article in CounterPunch:

They will also be the seeds of popular rebellions in other places. The Oaxacan rebellion is a reminder that an evaluation of the consequences of free trade and globalization is indeed overdue – and that the World Bank has no right to be the evaluator. The people who have suffered the consequences should evaluate the system. Too often in the North, the reports of protest and rebellion around the world are seen as disparate battles or isolated complaints and not as part of a growing consensus that something is gravely wrong. Those who have benefited from free trade rules, especially those living in countries that designed these rules, have a responsibility to get the message.

No Sweat (an anti-sweatshop group) has a recent events in Oaxaca timeline. Wikipedia’s page on Oaxaca protests is also a useful backgrounder (for now, at least).

Tomas Cruz, born in Oaxaca but currently living in the US, has a much less dry backgrounder here.

The Narco News “Other Campaign” page — the best radical English-language news source about Oaxaca.

A collection of essays and sketches by Peter Kuper, an excellent American cartoonist currently living in Oaxaca. (The drawing at the bottom of the post is by Kuper – click on it to see a larger version).

Barucha Peller reports on how women’s issues have (and have not) been incorporated into APPA. Although Peller clearly supports the Oaxaca barricadistas, she writes with more skepticism and more acknowledgment of the conflicts within APPA than I’ve seen elsewhere.

Letter-writing campaign to the Mexican government.

Letter-writing campaign to the US Congress
.

If you’d like to donate money to help. And then, another place to donate.

oaxaca_kuper.png

  1. Compare this to Iraq, for example, in which thousands or tens of thousands have been killed by insurgents. As far as I know, the “insurgents” in this case have so far not killed anyone. []
  2. APPO stands for Asamblea Popular de los Pueblos de Oaxaca, which translates as “Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca.” From Wikipedia: “The APPO was created and convened for the first time on June 17, 2006. It declared itself the de facto governing body of Oaxaca. Its body included representatives of Oaxaca’s state regions and municipalities, unions, non-governmental organizations, social organizations, and cooperatives. It encouraged all Oaxacans to organize popular assemblies at every level: neighborhoods, street blocks, unions, and towns. Its leaders empasized that “No leader is going to solve our problems,” and asserted the need for common civilians to organize and work beyond the scope of elected officials. While the primary demand of the APPO has been the removal of the governor of Oaxaca, they have also called for broader economic, social and political transformations, as well as changes in the state’s political constitution.” []
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19 Responses to The Oaxaca Uprising

  1. Pingback: Egotistical Whining

  2. 2
    Tuomas says:

    In Oaxaca, Mexico, there’s a full-fledged uprising against government corruption, and against corporate globalization. And this is a non-violent uprising.

    Um.
    (by clicking on the first picture).

    November 20th, Oaxaca: About 5 thousand people marched to the zocalo. There, people got on top of trucks, barricaded the zocalo and began protesting the police. The police lunched teargas, after which began hours of battle. Protesters defended themselves with slings, fireworks, and bazookas, and constructed barricades around the APPO planton in Santo Domingo plaza, just blocks away from where the police were advancing from.

    Police used multiple rounds of teargas and concussion grenades. There was at lesat one protester gravely injured. People cheered as rockets out of bazookas were launched into police lines a block up.

    I wouldn’t exactly categorize bazookas as non-violent. And that blockquote (with my emphases) was just the indymedia, who I presume are pro-Oaxaca.

    On emotional level at least, I do sympathize with people of Oaxaca (hey, one people, one nation), but non-violent this was not.

  3. 3
    RonF says:

    I sympathize with the people of Oaxaca. From what I’ve read and heard their government is blatantly corrupt to the point that true democracy does not effectively exist in the region. A missioner priest from our Church who works in that area gave the homily in my Church the Sunday before last. We are taking up special collections and are funding her prison ministry there. The women hav especial issues, since they generally don’t have nearly as much support as the male prisioners do. They make markers for prayer books that they sell as well to raise cash so that they can survive behind bars.

    If anyone wants to contribute, let me know. I swear that every penny will go directly to this woman, and that every penny she gets as contributions goes to support her ministry.

  4. 4
    Robert says:

    Hooray, violent socialist revolution. Let’s hope THIS spreads.

    Although their grievances and concerns look legitimate (from this distant vantage point), I’m not sure how this is going to help anyone. It’s just going to get a bunch of people killed.

  5. 5
    Ampersand says:

    On emotional level at least, I do sympathize with people of Oaxaca (hey, one people, one nation), but non-violent this was not.

    Point well taken; what I wrote was flat-out wrong. Chalk it up to my writing without sleep.

    What I meant is that this is relatively non-violent, in the sense that no one on the uprising’s side has killed anyone on the other side (as far as I know). The uprising is generally attempting to use non-violent techniques; the violence generally is happening when the police attack. (And the police have killed several people.)

    I’ve updated the post to correct my error.

  6. 6
    RonF says:

    Is it a socialist revolution when one socialist group replaces another? I have to wonder what legal recourse there is for addressing the grievances of the people. I’m no expert on Mexican law (either theoretical or applied), so I have no idea what it would take, or if it’s even possible, to impeach this guy. If the money people and the judiciary are sufficiently wired in, it may be practically impossible.

    Sometimes I think that capitalism and democracy follow G. K. Chesterson’s comment on Christianity: “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it’s been found difficult and hasn’t been tried.”

  7. 7
    Robert says:

    I don’t think they have a legal recourse, Ron; Mexico is a fundamentally broken country, politically-speaking. (Which is why I’m not saying “burn the rebels!” – they’re engaging in what they think is the only way to get improvement in their situation. It’s just not going to help.)

  8. 8
    Ampersand says:

    There’s no guarantee that this will help. There was no guarantee the American revolution would work, either.

    But I think internal, popular uprisings have a much better chance of working than, say, invading from without and trying to impose a good government with an army — a policy you’ve strongly favored in the past.

    We have to see where it goes. Right now, the greatest potential for violence is from the Mexican government, not from the uprisers; which means that attention and pressure from other governments, and in particular the US, can make a difference.

  9. 9
    Robert says:

    I didn’t say it wouldn’t work; I said it wouldn’t improve their situation.

  10. 10
    RonF says:

    Back in ’68, Mayor Daley I was answering questions at a press conference on why the cops acted as they did in Grant Park during the Democratic Convention in Chicago. In a classic example of Daley’s command of the English language, he said “The policeman isn’t there to create disorder; he’s there to preserve disorder.” I wonder if that’s going to be the role of the Federal cops in Oaxaca. I hope not.

    Violent revolution is the last recourse to get a settlement of one’s grievances. But when the powers that either deliberately repress or neglectfully ignore all other methods, then this is the result. People aren’t sheep, although they’ll act like it for a long time. But then, this is no news.

    Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

  11. 11
    brownfemipower says:

    This is a remarkably pessimistic thread!!!! I’m not sure how a group that has been standing up to a violent militaristic government for over 6 months could be dismissed so easily as “it won’t improve their situation”…it doesn’t make sense. Oaxacans are so much better organized–they have literally spent the last 12years (if not more–) grassroots base building and organizing popular support. They do not have the support of many of the more priviledge upper class in oaxaca, but they absolutly have the support of the indigenous populations in mexico and the lower working classes in oaxaca–that is how they have been able to sustain this resistance for six months. That’s remarkable and inspiring and amazing–and maybe citizens in the u.s. should loose a little of the heavy pessimism and taking note of how grassroots basebuilding is done.

  12. 12
    Robert says:

    but they absolutly have the support of the indigenous populations in mexico and the lower working classes in oaxaca–that is how they have been able to sustain this resistance for six months.

    That’s wonderful. And it turns them into a group of people who can earn a competitive living in the global marketplace…how, exactly?

  13. 13
    Ampersand says:

    And it turns them into a group of people who can earn a competitive living in the global marketplace…how, exactly?

    I hadn’t been aware that was the primary issue.

    But to answer your question, if they succeed in reforming (or replacing) the government on an anti-corruption platform, that could make a big difference economically. Non-corrupt government institutions are actually pretty essential to being able to grow a healthy economy. If people can start businesses, import and export, and get loans and permits without having to bribe dozens of officials, that can be a huge boost to a local economy.

    Brownfemipower:

    I’m not sure how a group that has been standing up to a violent militaristic government for over 6 months could be dismissed so easily as “it won’t improve their situation”…it doesn’t make sense.

    I don’t understand how Robert, who was so optimistic, and so full of “it’s worth the pain to bring about change” when it came to invading and occupying Iraq — which was obviously a hopeless situation — can fail to see that there’s so much more hope in a situation where the local population has already shown a great ability to organize a workable and democratic government-like institution, and where change is being driven from within.

    I have to admit, Brownfemipower, that I’m a naturally pessimistic person. But you’re right, there’s every reason to hope the uprising in Oaxaca will succeed and turn out well.

  14. 14
    Robert says:

    …an anti-corruption platform [could] make a big difference economically. Non-corrupt government institutions are actually pretty essential to being able to grow a healthy economy. If people can start businesses, import and export, and get loans and permits without having to bribe dozens of officials, that can be a huge boost to a local economy.

    An anti-corruption, pro-capitalist, business-friendly globalization-oriented administration could indeed make a huge difference.

    So could the anti-corruption socialist nightmare that I imagine the revolutionaries want.

    The only difference would be in the direction of the difference.

    I’m skeptical about the prospects for success in Iraq, too, Amp. The distinction is that in the case of the Iraq gamble, the positive outcomes range as high as “we don’t have to kill a billion people”. That makes even a very large gamble a potentially rational proposition. You’re nuts if you risk your house on a $10,000 poker hand; you might be perfectly reasonable to risk your house on a gamble that gives you a 10% chance to take ownership of Microsoft.

    I wish the ground-down folk of Oaxaca well, of course. Nothing would please me more (particularly as an immigration restrictionist) than to see a happy, prosperous, democratic Mexico.

  15. 15
    drydock says:

    1. The Oaxacan rural crisis and of course the poverty existed long before NAFTA. So while neo-liberalism is bad Mexican economic nationalism is no alternative. Maybe the liberals here are willing to make the jump that the problem is beyond corruption but an endemic exploitive social order.

    2. Well, the cops, porros and paramilitarities have killed 16 people. The cops are doing drive bys. I talked to somebody that witnessed the cops fire a machine gun at a radio station. So can’t we say that self-defense should at least be expected?

    3. The Iraqi insurgents are for the most part quasi-fascist sectarians, the situation in Mexico is totally not comparable.

    4. At the moment the movement is calling for the ouster of the govenor Ruiz though he’s just the figurehead of the PRI who have been in power for a long time. So I would call the movement a radical democratic reform movement (at this point) and not revolutionary in that they aren’t calling for an upending of property relations. A critique of APPO and this position is here:

    This is what Recuperation looks like:The Rebellion in Oaxaca and APPO
    http://www.infoshop.org/inews/article.php?story=20061115000958350

  16. 16
    brownfemipower says:

    And it turns them into a group of people who can earn a competitive living in the global marketplace…how, exactly?–

    Their goals are completly different than what the goals of many civil rights groups are here in the u.s.–They are not *trying* to earn a competitive living in the global marketplace.

    See here: Today we are not only struggling against a local tyrant, but against an entire system, which for many years has implanted its political and economic structures and continues to import external cultural forms in order to dominate us.

  17. 17
    Robert says:

    They are not *trying* to earn a competitive living in the global marketplace.

    Then they face difficult and precarious prospects for existence, for all around them, other people are.

  18. 18
    RonF says:

    The violence continues. The missioner we support in Oaxaca has not been able to leave her residence or church to carry out her prison ministry. Apparently she’s afraid that the violence will increase this weekend.

    From: Mary Ann [mailto:xxxxxxxxxxxxx]
    Sent: Tuesday, November 28, 2006 7:12 AM
    To: [our pastor]
    Subject: Re: Prayers

    And it is marvelous! This means that (when I can get back in) we’ll have fruits & vegetables for the prisoners, detergent for their clothing, and some for each to buy water. Incredible!

    The violence of the weekend destroyed some historic buildings. Or at least completely gutted them. Very sad.

    On Nov 27, 2006, at 6:38 PM, [our pastor]wrote:

    glad bill got the check so quickly. in one offering, we raised about one-third of our commitment, and people were so moved.

    so good to see you, too.

    —–Original Message—–
    From: Mary Ann [mailto:xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx]
    Sent: Monday, November 27, 2006 6:28 PM
    To: [our pastor]
    Subject: Re: Prayers

    Dear Bob,
    Bill informs me that a check arrived today – amazingly fast and efficient of your and your congregation. Thank you all very much. Once I am able to get into the prison again, the men and women I work with will be thrilled beyond words.

    The situation continues tense. We just don’t know what will happen. And the new president is to be inaugurated on Friday. Tension upon tension.

    Bless you all. I loved seeing you.
    MA

    The Rev. Mary Ann
    Priest in Charge
    xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
    Oaxaca, Oaxaca, MEXICO
    xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

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