Mexico: Repression in Oaxaca intensifies

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FRFI 195 February / March 2007

Intense repression against the people of Oaxaca unleashed five days before the inauguration of Felipe Calderon as president of Mexico on 30 November has led to a temporary set-back for the mass movement organised by APPO, the Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca. More than 200 activists were arrested and transported to distant prisons where they were subjected to beatings and other forms of torture. Dozens of others have been murdered. With the livelihood of millions of peasants threatened by subsidised corn imported from the US and three quarters of the population living in poverty, the new president wants to show the working class and oppressed of Mexico that resistance to his neo-liberal programme will be crushed without mercy.

The first attempt to crush APPO’s resistance at the end of October ended in failure as the risen people beat back a combined assault from marines and federal police. APPO has been demanding the resignation of Oaxacan state governor Ulises Ruis since the summer because of his brutality and corruption. During the first 15 months of Ruis’s administration 29 activists were assassinated. From June to October 2006 at least 18 were assassinated. In November the repression intensified, and over the two months to the end of December, 24 were assassinated (APPO statement, 30 December 2006). On 12 January, teacher Enriqueta Santiago was seized by paramilitaries and was later found dead, shot six times. The result is that for the moment APPO is in retreat, although it has called a ‘mega-march’ for 3 February.

Calderon depends on Ruis’s Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) to provide sufficient support in Congress for a constitutional amendment to privatise PEMEX, the state-owned oil industry. The PRI has demanded its price: the crushing of APPO, and Calderon is delivering. As further indication of his priorities, Calderon has increased the military budget by 30% whilst keeping the social budget to a mere 10% of foreign and domestic debt service. However, there is no sign that the current stagnant state of the Mexican economy will improve, and plenty of indications that conditions for the mass of people will deteriorate. NAFTA has progressively reduced tariffs on the import of corn; over a million families have been forced off the land from the dumping of subsidised US corn. All tariffs on imported corn and beans will be abolished on 1 January 2008 which will threaten the livelihoods of millions more. Bush’s proposed construction of a wall the length of the US-Mexican border will prevent those displaced from joining the 2.4 million who have emigrated to the US over the past six years. Mass opposition to Calderon and the Mexican ruling class is bound to emerge.
Robert Clough