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Firsthand Accounts, photos from Oaxaca at Bound Together
by reZz (rezrezrez [at]
Friday Dec 1st, 2006 2:59 AM
Bay Area resident Tristan returns from Oaxaca with accounts of uprising and popular democracy in Oaxaca.
"People are being incredibly brave, facing off police," in defiance of the corrupt Oaxacan State Government of Ulisys Ruiz, said Bay area resident Tristan, speaking to a capacity crowd at Bound Together Books on Thursday.
by reZz Friday Dec 1st, 2006 2:59 AM

Tristan called the Popular Assembly for the People of Oaxaca (APPO) “one of the most directly democratic organizations of its size. They have withstood months of attack by local and federal police and other groups,” going on to describe the open assemblies that APPO uses to make decisions. Tristan recounted an incident where people at a popular assembly rather spontaneously renegotiated all of their delegates because, just before they were to be ratified, one woman pointed out that there were only a few of the delegates would be women. Immediately, proposals for 30 and 50 percent quotas for women delegates were proposed and passionately debated
by reZz Friday Dec 1st, 2006 2:59 AM
§Violence in Oaxaca
by reZz Friday Dec 1st, 2006 2:59 AM
Oaxaca is now in the grips of violence as the federal government cracks the whip. In an effort by the government to regain control of the city from encampments run by popular assembly distributing food and creating revolutionary media, police have been heavily deployed. At least 20 are dead, many more "disappeared" and an untold number of people have been arrested to be sent to jails where people are routinely raped and beaten to death. “All of my friends out there have been jailed [in the last few days], and they said for me not to come because its too dangerous,” Said Tristan.
§More Repression Promised
by reZz Friday Dec 1st, 2006 2:59 AM
Today, right wing Felipe Calderón will assume power amid alegations of election fraud. He has so far reneged on pledges to share power by appointing party cronies and has promised to take an even harder line on APPO.
§Viva Brad!
by reZz Friday Dec 1st, 2006 2:59 AM
Current Oaxaca events can be found here. More information, mostly in Spanish, can be found at
Some of Tristnan's articles and photos from Oaxaca can be found here

and here

Comments  (Hide Comments)

by Dave Miller
Friday Dec 1st, 2006 10:58 AM
I was in Oaxaca for "election" of URO and have seen first hand the results when people feel they have been shut out of the political process. I have been following this situation since the inception in May of 2006. I spent considerable time in the city during July and August, and have numerous friends, mostly Oaxaca natives, that live in and around the city. In addition, over the last eight years, I have partnered with locals to provide humanitarian, economic, and spiritual healing to some of the most impoverished areas around the city and in the outlying valleys.

I personally saw polling places closed in the middle of the day when Gabino Cue was running for election and saw how distraught his supporters were when news of his defeat, however improbable, was announced. I have seen the evidence of the attack of June 14th and there are no words other than brutal and illegal to describe it.

But the time has come for some balance. As APPO has taken over this movement, the city has been left behind. Buildings have been destroyed. Businesses have been forced to close, some forever, the victims of slow sales, looting, violence, and fear. And lives have been disrupted. Hundreds of thousands of children have been unable to attend school because of the protests in Oaxaca.

How is this helping the city of Oaxaca? This is no longer a peaceful movement. The moment APPO approved the hijacking and burning of busses, and the violent takeover of radio and television stations, this went from non violent protest to one of violence and intimidation. Normal, peaceful people of Oaxaca became prisoners of fear and the whims of the leaders of APPO. You dared not venture into city at night because it was not safe. If you normally returned home after work on the bus, you needed to find another route because the “people’s movement” might take your bus over at any time. If you had a car, who knew when APPO would barricade your neighborhood and prevent entry? I was personally confronted by members of APPO, with masks and steel pipes, one night while escorting two female friends to their home.

I am not excusing the actions of the government. They too are culpable in this disaster, but enough has been written about their role in all of this. What I am saying is that APPO also shares in the blame for what has happened to this once beautiful city in Southern Mexico.

Is anyone connected to APPO aware that tourism is the number one industry in Oaxaca? That means every single person, Zapotec, Mixe, Mixtec, or any of the other indigenous groups, receives a net economic benefit from the tourism business. If so called “dirty capitalist” money ceases flowing into Oaxaca, many of these people groups will forever be far worse off than they were in April of 2006 before all of this began. Has APPO, or any of the other myriad number of “reporters” from places like the “Narco News” and “Bay Area Indy Media” been outside of the city and talked to the residents and artisans of places like Tlacolula, Atzompa, San Bartolo Coyotepec, and Teotitlán del Valle? Why not cover their story? I believe it is because you will hear people say end this! They need to work so they can feed their families and they want to send their kids to school.

Is anyone connected with APPO aware that education is a proven way out of poverty? How is preventing hundreds of thousands of children from receiving an education helping address that? Numerous studies show that the longer people stay in school, the less chance they have a living a life mired in poverty.

The pictures in the zocoló of the “Revolutionaries” held up as models for the ongoing protests, Marx, Lenin, & Stalin to name a few, were some of the biggest violators of human rights we have ever seen. Why are they held up as models? Why have people writing from this area not reported these facts? Let’s be honest, fair, and balanced when we report the news.

Should URO go? Yes he should. Will he? Probably not. Get over it and work to ensure the fairness of the next election. How is continuing to hold this city in the best interests of a majority of the people? I am sure that if you were to take a vote today, most Oaxaqueños would vote to restore order and begin the process of healing their city. And that would mean no APPO, no need for soldiers on the corners, and a chance to walk freely again in a Zocoló that was once the envy of all of Mexico!
by .
Friday Dec 1st, 2006 12:24 PM
i couldnt read your whole comment but you are inherently a racist white male justifying the slaughter of the indigenous because of your convoluted and ignorant american myopia
by Dave Miller
Friday Dec 1st, 2006 1:35 PM
Anonymous posted: i couldnt read your whole comment but you are inherently a racist white male justifying the slaughter of the indigenous because of your convoluted and ignorant american myopia. First of all, I fail to see where anything I said can even be remotely understood to justify the slaughter of indigenous people. Not knowing where you are from, it is difficult for me to respond. I guess you may be right. I am a stupid American white guy. A guy stupid enough to care enough about Oaxaca and its people to spend significant amounts of my time serving others. Have you ever seen a person receive a pair of glasses and be able to see for the first time? How about receive medicine for a sick newborn baby? All I am trying to say is that there are typically two sides to every situation. Has the government of Oaxaca acted badly? Yes they have! At times horribly. Has APPO? I believe they have too. If you would like to even bother posting your name and responding to any of the specifics of my post, I’d love to continue the dialogue.
by tom hampson
Friday Dec 1st, 2006 9:12 PM
Dave Miller is exactly right. Our friends mostly moderate, but all left of center and all very opposed to the current Governor, our god daughter who has not been able to attend school since May, all are suffering for the stupidity of the governor and the APPO. I think the most telling symbol was the communist party booth in the zocolo where the posters of Marx, Lenin, and Stalin were proudly displayed. Stalin for god's sake. A good example of the level of critical thinking among the far left there. Another symbol was the ugly grey pavers that the governor paid his cronies to replace the native green stone--another symbolic irony was that the protests have defaced the governor's defacing of the zocolo.

There are no winners. I won't even honor the comments of the anonymous--except perhaps to say it is a good example of the critical thinking referenced above.
by Un Retrato de Rebelion
Friday Dec 1st, 2006 10:33 PM
Oaxaca: Portrait of Rebellion
Thank God for IndyMedia! I am glad in these times that we have Internet power to help spread the word about current events in Oaxaca and all others places where people are fighing for their humane rights and waging resistance against fascist repression! +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ Peter S. Lopez ~aka Peta Email= +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
by anon
Saturday Dec 2nd, 2006 6:55 PM
Tom-- A communist group had a picture of Stalin in the Zocalo. That tells next to nothing about APPO or tens of thousands of people participating in the Oaxacan rebellion. I saw a picture of Stalin at the PRD-AMLO encampment in Mexico City does that mean that PRD has a Stalinist agenda?

by ???
Saturday Dec 2nd, 2006 6:57 PM
Are you sure it wasnt Fox, with the mustache they look a bit alike....
by tristan
Sunday Dec 3rd, 2006 7:06 PM
To Dave and others like him,
I would like to know how you would propose to change the world without inconveniencing anyone. It sounds good but how? There have been times when APPO has gone a bit far but the context has to be taken into consideration. When the other side murders 20 people it may be necessary to close streets to cars so that it it harder to do drive by shootings. One drive by (November 5) shot a young man 100 feet from where i was and he was lucky to live.
Tourism-it is gret for people to have jobs and all. Most tourist money, the vast majority, goes to larger hotels, beach resorts and the like. It would be interesting to see what percentage of tourist revenue goes to indiginous people in small rural villages. I do not think it is much. many of the indiginous regions you mention are not the "victims" of APPO's actions but are APPO themseles. APPO is very strong in most indiginous areas. It is the least indiginous areas that the PRI is stronger.
I think you fail to see the larger picture. people fight and suffer now to get a better future. I thought it was bizarre that you used the example:"Have you ever seen a person receive a pair of glasses and be able to see for the first time?" One of the demands of Section 22 (the teachers union) was free glasses for school kids who can't afford them. That is how this all started (and 80 years of brutal PRI rule). Im glad you are able to give some kids free glasses, but until everyone has glasses the struggle will go on. You talk about education but that is the point. The teachers are struggling to provide the best education to students. Their demands include glasses and shoes for those too poor to aford them and free lunches so that poor kids can focus on their studies.
As far as what APPO is doing to the city, just remember that APPO has had marches with more people than live in the entire urban area of Oaxaca city.

p.s. I don't like Marx either but I don't think he fits on the list of "some of the biggest violators of human rights we have ever seen."
by cp
Sunday Dec 3rd, 2006 8:12 PM
Yep. I was just talking to a conservative about how they should support this in Oaxaca, if they don't want poor immigrants coming to the U.S. They responded by saying that americans shouldn't take sides in other countries and that people there can sort out their own affairs, and that we should shut down the State Department, and that U.S. air force bases in other countries are only there because they were invited.

Speaking of rights violators - look at this congressman from Illinois, Jerry Weller. After being elected in 2004, he got married to the daughter of the Guatemalan dictatator Efrain Rios Montt, who directed the slaughter of nearly 200,000 Mayans and others who were in his way during the 1980s. Perhaps this didn't register to many americans as it was happening because the number was smaller than the toll in Cambodia etc. and there were other wars going on in adjacent countries. Weller's wife is currently in the Guatemalan congress in her father's party, although she just proposes laws relating to smoking regulations or women's education. Weller serves on the committee setting up CAFTA and international western hemisphere policy. I guess nobody really objects to violators like this though.
by Brian Cumings
Monday Dec 4th, 2006 7:47 AM
My well-informed guess is that Dave Miller has done more for Oaxacans than Tristan ever will. APPO's aggressive approach will gain them little, except perhaps the scorn of their countrymen. How building barricades and confronting authority in a society that is as traditionally run by the caudillos as Mexico will get glasses for the poor kids is beyond me. Gandhi showed over a half-a-century ago that non-violence and being willing to go to jail for your cause were the surest ways to topple injustice and indifference, although folks like APPO seem to have missed that memo. Want to get classes for kids in Oaxaca? How about starting by getting some and taking them down there yourself. Which, by the way, folks like Dave Miller have done before and will do again. Tristan's own personal myopia is frighteningly naive, not to mention ill-informed: Marx's political theories resulted in the deaths of tens of millions (if not hundreds) of people. Any group foolish enough to have posters of Lenin, Marx, Engel, and Stalin posted at their home base is worthy of contempt, if for no other reason than for their lack of historical insight.
by Dave Miller
Monday Dec 4th, 2006 8:31 AM
Hey Tristan,

I appreciate your response. You make some great points, however since a lot of those villages are, in fact pretty dependant on tourism, I still fail to see how depriving them of those tourist dollars is actually a net gain financially. While I am sure APPO does have a lot of support in some of those villages, the majority of people I have talked to just want the protests to end and wish to see a return to “normalcy” in their lives.

As for the specific demands of APPO you mentioned (glasses, shoes, etc), I’d like to hear how APPO proposes to make this happen. Many supporters of AMLO, and also usually by extension APPO, say the government should provide these things. But how does a government without developed resources do this. I know many would like to believe that if corruption were ended, the money would be there. But history belies that hope. Rarely are governments able to cut corruption to the degree that they are able, if they even desire, to fund those types of relief efforts. Others would call for the election of people more responsive to the people, like Hugo Chavez or perhaps AMLO, but again history shows that more left leaning populist leaders themselves become as big a part of the problem as anyone else. The problem is much bigger than most people in Mexico wish to acknowledge. In the US we have a saying that “All politics are local.” That seems to hold true in Mexico as well. How does your Federal Gov’t provide aid to needy areas and maintain the services it is expected to maintain throughout the rest of the country?

I do understand the larger picture on a lot of these issues. I have sat with groups of children in many small villages in Oaxaca and asked the following question, “What do you want to do when you grow up?” Each time I receive the same response, “I want to go to the US.” If children only 6 years old can see this as part of their future, hope in their homeland is extinguished. It is one of the reasons I work in Oaxaca. I believe people should have the option to self determine where they want to live.

I also believe what began as a peaceful protest has morphed into something much different and that what it has become is sapping it’s strength. If you are aware of Martin Luther King, it was his determination to keep his movement peaceful that gave it power. African Americans never burned busses, took over radio stations, never threw Molotov cocktails, etc. The leadership of that movement forbade those actions, but seem to be encouraged, or at least tolerated by APPO.

How does defacing the Zocaló further the cause? How does graffiti further the cause? How does burning buildings further the cause? I know the gov’t is brutal, I know they violate people’s rights, but are not these actions just as violent albeit in another form?

If APPO had resisted the urge to become violent and change what had been an annual peaceful protest, I am sure the people of Oaxaca would be better off today than they were before. In closing I will say that the actions of both APPO and the PRI backed gov’t of URO have contributed to a downturn in direct financial, spiritual, and medical aid that would have flowed into Oaxaca were it not for the continued violence.

Tristan, I hope one day we can meet either in the US or Oaxaca. I plan to be there in February.
You made a good point in invoking Gandhi, weather you are aware of it or not. He championed nonviolence, his movement did not always follow suit. Like APPO. Gandhi was a complex individual, and by many indications may have beaten his wife, was very public in his support of caste barriers and perhaps had an eating disorder.

Nontheless, India is now free of foreign rule and the theorists such as yourselves can argue about weather it was the armed uprisings, the legal Congress Party movement (which, like the PRI has become liberal after decades of supposedly supporting the revolution), the salt marches, the nonviolent direct actions or hundreds of millions praying to their hindu gods which caused the British to leave.

Another important thing to remember is that supporters of Gandhi and the Congress Party, like the PRI, were not necessarily adverse to the idea of wealthy Indian people treating their country in the same manner as the Brits had.
by Ulrike
Sunday Dec 10th, 2006 7:14 AM
Yes - why be so aggressive and assertive. Just do the good works that you can do by yourself, and the charitable people of the United States will also be happy to chip in and accomodate all the other economic refugees created by the corrupt governor and central government in that region, as they immigrate up here. Perhaps the people in leadership over there will eventually recognize the persuasive suggestions of the people and implement some reforms and provide the glasses themselves. After all, England eventually let Canada be somewhat sovereign without a revolution.
by Ulrike
Sunday Dec 10th, 2006 7:18 AM
that westerngrizzly blog didn't strike me as particularly smart. I don' t know how you could have factual errors in opinion pieces, but you do.