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Desde el Zocalo Capitalino de Oaxaca: Hablan los Maestros
Nine files follow: FRSC ID zapotec / conditions in oax schools (6:15) / papel de maestros (2:42) / rx a la rechaza (2:36) / cambios que seria (5:48) / el gob nuevo y popular (2:00) / repression y presos (3:19) / coop with national movs (2:11) / mensajes a los oax en cali (4:29)
We spoke with two teachers, Flavio & Fabian, in the Central Zócalo for a while before decided to find a quiet(er) space to record an interview: We decided on the UABJO, Autonamous University of Oaxaca-Benito Juarez. It proved to be a little loud, itself.
Audio files in mp3 format are in Spanish. English translation is transcribed below each file.
The first file is a message in Zapotec, greeting Oaxacans living in California and including a station identification for Free Radio Santa Cruz, 101.1 FM.
Flavio: Well, for my part I'm an elementary school teacher, a teacher of bilingual and rural education. The conditions in the school I teach in are quite disfavorable. The four walls of our classrooms are aluminum, the roof too. Dirt floor. there's no furniture. We don't have the infrastructure we'd like to have in order to develop better academic activites. I work in a rural area of Oaxaca. Despite a government effort that started in 1996, poverty continues to marginalize our people. The governments, state and federal, resolved a few of the grievances people had, but nonetheless the support has remained in the hands of the regions political chiefs, and the benefits and resources haven't made it to the communities. I want to say that
our region has twenty six Municiple Agencies. And the resources remain under the power of the Municiple Presidents (+/- Mayor), who haven't resolved the poverty felt in the region out where I work.
Fabian: My name is Fabian, and I work in a secondary school ( grades) close by here in Oaxaca City, about an hour by car to the community, but just like my friend here, there aren't the conditions necessary to develop academic activities. Despite the fact that it's close to the city, we don't have desks or seats either. We have borrowed seats from an elementary school, all broken and we always have to fix them. We don't have adequate materials. And we don't have even one teachers desk, to support the work we do. The government tries to say that it's supporting Indigenous communities, but it's not true. They don't feel the poverty, the sadness. And it's a hardship for the indigenous communities, where people don't have the money to support the school financially. So a government agency--like my friend said--local government is where all the resources are, directed by the government. So they give out a little money (to the schools), but only when they want. If they don't want, then they just keep all the government funds. This is really serious, recently especially with this movement picking up, that the government won't give out the money teachers ask for, that the schools are supposed to have. First there's the rezonifications, school breakfast, uniforms & shoes, grants, portables, construction of classrooms... a long list of needs that the government has never followed through on. Because honestly, there is money in Oaxaca. And there's federal government money in Oaxaca. But they're the ones that spend it, and it doesn't reach the indigenous communities. And then there's medicine in the rural communities. There just aren't medicines. Sure, there's a clinic. There's a building where supposedly, according to the government there's a clinic, but there's no medicine. the only thing they've got is for simple things, for dirrea, or for first aid-type care. But a serious sickness? They can't count on this kind of health care, but the government pats itself on the back, saying it supports Indigenous communities, which is just not true. So this is what we face as indigenous communties, and as teachers we're very aligned with our communities, where we see the poverty and feel it. And in truth, the government has come in to the community, but in order to swindle the people. You can't give a quality education if you don't have adequate materials, if you lack the things you need. And if you ask for funds? They just say there's no money. Or they'll give you a fraction of what you need. They don't support the people. Even though we're within an hour of the city, we're really isolated. And why? Because the government never expected people waking up. So now they're protesting, and the government is reprimanding them. They start imprisoning and killing the people who stand up and who organize.
Flavio: The role of the teacher in this movement in Oaxaca is of relevance because we, over the past 26 years of struggle, have been demanding that the state and federal governments meet the needs of the people, in terms of education, health, infrastructure, the whole series of problems that the communities face. We're been carrying them and voicing them during these 26 years of struggle. Nonetheless, on May 22, when we started the coordinated fight, when we set up the encampment, like my friend mentioned, the government reacted differently. They sent in the police. They sent in the granaderos. And since our demands are social demands, there was a response on the part of society when we were repressed on June 14th. And because of that this is no longer a teacher's struggle--it's the fight of all the Oaxacan people. The role of the teacher is important because we started the whole thing--and we've got to finish it, too. And that's why we can't go back to our classrooms! We can feel our students waiting for us. We can feel their parents, too, waiting for our return. Those authorities who have been supporting us, they too await our return to class. And they've told us. Because we've gone back to talk to our communities, to give them information, and they tell us that we have their support. This is the important role that the teachers play.
Flavio: My reaction to the rejection of the referendum is that is was totally sensible. it (the rejection) was correct for the same reasons we just gave. we can't go back to work as long as Ulises maintains power. FOr us as teachers, first of all, we don't have a guarentee of safety for us to return to class. Secondly, our demands have not been met! The problems we put forth from the beginning have not been resolved, so we can't return. Thirdly, the Secretary of Government (Abasco) in the Federal Government has responded to us, but with proposals that have political motives--there's nothing concrete. He doesn't speak of any quantities of money. So what the Federal Government is saying, is that the new administration coming in, that of Felipe Calderon, will have the next six years to resolve your problems. So this is why we can't go back to work. This is why we say rejecting the return to work was correct. The solution, the agreement, came from the State assembly (of the teacher's union) Sunday, yesterday (10.22). So we'll do another referendum, over the next couple of days, to see what we want to do. Do we go back to class? or do we continue the strike? We remain clear that we have to continue the fight, for the reasons we've given.
Fabian: I want to say something about that, about what he was saying. Sure, right now we're hurting financially. A lot of our comrades really need some pay, but having the maturity to see that we have to finish what we've started, like my friend said. This struggle has met resistance, and who doesn't want a paycheck, since we've gone ten weeks without pay? We're all out of money, but that doesn't matter, what matters is our dignity. And right now we're recieving the support of the people, and of the University, too.
Flavio: APPO has been working, has been to some forums, where different groups of Oaxacans have participated, has presented a series of Constitutional reforms for the State of Oaxaca. This is what we have to do the very day after Ulises is gone. We can't stand there with our arms crossed and say, 'What now?' No. That's why we have to be ready to propose real structural reform. How we can alter the course of politics for the state of Oaxaca. There has to be a profound reform, so that people are able to feel justice after living with injustice. This is the first step, the next step.
Question: In what structures, then? Everyone says, yes, we want reforms, something different. So apart from the removal of Ulises, the day after, what structures specifically do you want changed? What changes do you want to see? The people of APPO, the people in your communities, teachers? You mentioned Justice--so in the courts? How do you want to reform that system? Education, of course? THe Healthcare system? What do you want to change? What reforms are you looking for?
Flavio: As for education, first of all, we'd stop the system of Escuelas Particulares in Oaxaca. We have to defend the spirit of the 3rd article: No to Privitization of Education! It's important with respect to the education system. Already there are schools of 'high quality,' and there's this exam, administered on a federal level, but administered by a private corporation. It's supposed to measure your level of knowledge, and it extends your certification, the "Certification of Quality," and this certificate exceeds the one you get from an institution! That's not how it should be. That's just one example. Another, is Article 27, which was reformed in 1992 to permit the privitization of land. With this, the fed gov begane a program called PROCEDE. It's a program where I can obtain permit for land. I can go and ask for legal title to land (which was previously communally held). This is the privitization of land. And within this is of course the privitization of water. Privitization of mineral resources, which are rich in some regions of our state. Our mountains, they intend to Privitizate. They won't permit that we, as people and as towns, use and administrate our own resources. This is why they reformed Article 27, giving a pass to corporations. ANd then there's Article 123, the right to work, the right to assemble, to free expression. For work, we have the right to the eight hour day. But with NAFTA and the globalization and neoliberal politics, they want to eliminate that, including the elimination of labor unions, so we have no rights as workers over our bosses. These are the crimes they're committing. THis is why we have to defend ourselves, to position ourselves against the new government coming in.
Question: So you were saying that after Ulises is removed the goal is to have control of your own resources--control of water for each farm and each town. So what can be done, what changes can be made to the government, to the system of government. You just mentioned the 'new government.' What form would a new government take?
Flavio: The new government, for us, has to be a government that has to listen to the people--a democratic government that respects the communities and the towns in their self-determination. I should say that in Oaxaca there are 570 municipalities (+/- counties). Of these, 17 are run by the political parties. The rest are operated by a system called "Usos y Costumbres" ('Traditional ways'). These municipalities have a legal process of consultation within the communities. This is what we want--that the government recognizes our form of organization, that it respects our self-determination which comes from our community assemblies rather than imposing their laws on us, determined by their congress and their political system.
Fabian: I'll say it again, that there is no guarantee that we return to classes, not until this man leaves office, and not just that, until he leaves Oaxaca, because he's killed many comrades, and now he's sending the army and paramilitaries to intimidate people in indigenous communities, spreading fear amongst people, in indigenous communities where people have nothing with which to defend themselves, nothing. We're poor, and the government takes advantage of this poverty to intimidate and spread terror. They say to start class will stop the movement, but it's a lie. The government uses lots of strategies to try to defeat us.
Question: Speaking of repression, who can speak about the political prisoners of this movement? The central demand is for the exit of URO, but there are people who are still encarcerated, still disappeared, still awaiting freedom, and we don't have their names, their stories, their words, the information that is kept in secret.
Fabian: the analysis you're showing, what will happen to those who've died, first of all, the more than 11 who've fallen as part of this struggle, but what's going to happen to the others who are imprisoned, who are held in detention, who have been disappeared, this is what the government wants--to silence the people. Or to slow the movement and release the prisoners, but the thing is that doesn't guarentee anything--that's not the demand as Mr. Mendoza says, that "my head isn't up for negotiation." That the movement keeps going forward. One comrade who was the Secretary General of Section 22 (Teachers Union), the government took him, and imprisoned him here in Oaxaca, and others too who are inside, they say that we must move forward. They say that they don't want to be taken or used as pretexts by the government, as leverage to stop the movement, because they want it to continue. That's their recommendation--it's not important, because they've already decided. Those, too, who have died, who have fallen, they had this hope for change. So we can't go to the communities and say, we're finished, the movement is over. It's a sad thing. We've barely cared for our dead, and you've got to go to work. And the tyrant government is right there, taking advantage of us, of not just the teachers but of all of Oaxaca.
Question: This morning I was reading some news online and I heard about a meeting that is coming up in the next few weeks between the Other Campaign (of the Zapatistas), representatives of APPO, and people from the Movement in Defense of the Land (from Atenco). With your travels throughout Mexico, what hope do you have for a movement that incorporated these three organizations or for a movement that is nationwide, for Oaxaca but also for all of Mexico?
Flavio: What they are trying to do is to build democracy in the nation. They're bringing these forces together so that all of Mexico remembers. It's an important meeting. APPO is now on the national stage, and we have a lot of strength. We hope that through meeting with others who have that strength on a national level, we come out even stronger. Those from San Salvador Atenco have been attacked aggressively by the Federal Gov't. The EZLN has been in defense of Indian Land. And we, as APPO, we ask for justice. So I hope we can all be stronger with this kind of assembly.
Question: What message do you have for listeners in the US, and for the Oaxacans living on the other side, in California elsewhere?
Fabian: I want to invite you, fellow Mexicans living in the US, to keep following this movement and staying conscious of it. It's not just about the teachers, it's about the whole people, and the issues that we face here in Oaxaca, poverty above all. So we're inviting the people who are listening to continue to form APPOs in the states. And how do we start doing that? By getting information out: through the web, through video, in whatever form people can see what the government is doing. This is what we want--for our people to see how our government works: punishing, stealing, killing. So we hope you continue to form Popular Assemblies, and at least that you stay informed, and try to get the truth straight from Oaxaca. Get whatever information you have, to develop a vision for change, what do we want to see for Oaxaca? To stop the facist government and to have a democratic government, that listens to the people, not just to the investors. THat protects the people, listens to them. SO keep forming APPOs and stay informed about what's happening in the State of Oaxaca!
Flavio: A warm greeting to everyone, who're living along other borders of our country, all over the world. Remember that this is a struggle for the people of Oaxaca, and for our identity, where we're from. Because it's true that they travel to other countries, but it's not a voluntary thing, it's because of the poverty, the lack of opportunity, the lack of education. That's why we look elsewhere for a better life. But we know that over where they are they still live in unfavorable conditions. So it's important that we keep our roots strong in all parts of Oaxaca. It's a just and dignified struggle, that allows us to give new opportunities for the next generations. We're still surviving, but we're worried for what will come for future generations. This is what we want to say to our fellow Oaxacans who live on the other side--that they remember the conditions that we live in here in Oaxaca. A warm greeting to them.