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Oaxaca Update

From IndymediaFrom Indymedia

by Jacob Muller

Tensions run high in the city of Oaxaca following the recent wave of
apprehensions and detentions. On November 24 and 25 alone, 141
people were detained, and detentions have continued. Armed police
municipal, state, and federal roam the streets on foot and in police
and unmarked vehicles. Police are conducting searches (with and
without warrants) of the homes of those suspected of supporting the
Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca (APPO). Many supporters of
the popular movement are also being followed, harassed and
intimidated by police usually in civilian clothing.

The arrest in Mexico City of the most high profile APPO leader,
Flavio Sosa, along with his brother and two other APPO leaders on
Dec. 4 was a surprise to many. Hours earlier Sosa had announced a
meeting with the federal government to continue negotiations and to
ask for the release of more than 214 political prisoners currently
being held. The fact that the federal government announced a
renewal of dialogue with APPO, while at the same time arresting it's
leaders is yet another example of the wide gap between the
government's words, and it's actions.

Sosa's arrest which was orchestrated by both state and federal
authorities clearly illustrates the fact that federal government
continues to collaborate closely with the government, particularly
the police forces, of Gov. Ulises Ruiz Ortiz (URO). The principal
demand of the APPO, before continuing on to negotiation of other
issues, has been the resignation or removal of URO. Sosa's arrest
is also a message to others in opposition to URO that the repression
the application of mano dura (iron fist) policies will continue
under the new presidential administration of Felipe Calderon. As a
result other APPO leaders, as well as others who are part of the
popular movement, are in hiding.

In Oaxaca city, municipal, state and federal police both armed and
in uniform and plain clothed continue patrolling the streets;
vehicles pulled over while police check papers, etc. is a regular
sight. Many local grassroots organizations have been, and continue
to be, under surveillance by plain clothed agents. Some
organizations have closed offices or curtailed regular office hours
in response to the widespread detentions and intimidations. Phones
at the offices of many grassroots organization have reportedly been
tapped. Due to the heavy, very visible police presence and the
recent widespread repression and persecution, in the popular
movement has for the moment been immobilized.

In spite of the government's attempts to crush the popular movement
through widespread, often arbitrary detentions, and harassment and
intimidation through an highly-visible police presence, the recently
formed state-wide APPO Council (CEAPPO) on Dec. 3 issued an
announcement that they continue in regular meetings. In a recent
announcement, CEAPPO called for a for members and supporters to
participate in a march on December 10, and said:

"[T]his new stage of struggle that we have named the "Stage of Peace
with Justice, Democracy and Liberty without Ulises Ruiz Ortiz" is,
at the same time, a novel exercise to continue the struggle that the
APPO is learning to build with patience, perseverance and wisdom.
Our original peoples taught us this on November 28 and 29 at the
Forum of Indigenous Peoples of Oaxaca, when they told us that
the "path must be taken slowly," which is what we are doing now,
without losing sight of the common objective, which is the profound
transformation of living, working, academic and recreational
conditions for our people."

CEAPPO continues to call for the removal of URO, and is calling for
the people of Oaxaca to "organize and carry out mobilizations and
protest actions to spread the `Stage of Peace…', the call for the
release of political prisoners, the return of the disappeared, the
cancellation of orders of apprehension, an end to illegal arrests,
an end to gag orders, the withdrawal of the Federal Preventive
Police (PFP), and what brought us all together: the departure of the
murderer Ulises Ruiz from Oaxaca. We call for this to happen in all
regions of the state through our regional, municipal and sectorial
Popular Assemblies".

Other groups have issued calls for the release of all political
prisoners and an end to the police state that is currently being
imposed in Oaxaca, including Senator Gabino Cue, who ran against
(many argue successfully) URO in the last Oaxacan gubernatorial
election. The Partido Revolutionario Democratico (PRD), the party
of Manuel Lopez Obrador, has agreed to assume the legal defense of
APPO leader Flavio Sosa.

And a newly formed group of internationally-known Oaxacan artists
and intellectuals, the "Comite' de Liberacio'n 25 de noviembre" (Nov.
25 Liberation Committee) has the stated mission of freeing all
political prisoners, including many in APPO who are charged with the
serious crimes of sedition and rebellion.

URO has recently been working to clean up his image, offering up a
plan for state reform. He even offered to include APPO in public
planning and dialogues something many observers note with bitter
irony, considering that 214 APPO supporters are currently in prison.

The ongoing surreal nature of the conflict was again illustrated
when Federal Preventative Police (who've maintained a camp and
ongoing presence in the zocalo the heart of the city since the end
of October) cleared out, paving the way for a visit by Oaxaca's
mayor, Jesus Angel Diaz Ortega on Dec. 3. The mayor smiled, grabbed
the hands of hesitant children, bought some gum from young
indigenous street vendors, and planted poinsettias for the coming
Christmas season all while photographers sympathetic to the
government dutifully snapped away. One only needed to walk a block
from the scene to see a stark contrast to the
cheerful, "everything's ok" scene being recorded at the zocalo
armored vehicles and hundreds of armed police in anti-riot gear.

Since the beginning of the conflict, 17 people most supporters of
APPO--have been killed, including U.S. Indymedia journalist Brad
Will. There have been no police casualties.

More than 214 political prisoners are being held in state and
federal prisons. There are widespread reports of severe beatings
and torture of some detainees.

Nonetheless, the Dec. 4 Associated Press story spawned from the
mayor's photo opportunity at the zocalo while conceding that many
residents say the conflict is far from over reported that "[t]he
troubled southern Mexican city of Oaxaca is visibly returning to