The Battle of Oaxaca
La Jornada, 20th June 2016
It isn’t simply another of the many Oaxaca wars. It is part of a much deeper and wider war, which isn’t even contained in the national territory. But the battle being waged in Oaxaca has special significance in that war, in the great war.
It is a long announced battle. In Oaxaca it was known that they were postponing many aspects of the ongoing confrontation until after the elections. It was clear that after the elections the blows, provocations, final assault would worsen. They began preparations everywhere.
On June 14, all Oaxaca was remembering. It was a remembrance against the forgetting: today’s scenario seemed to be a faithful mirror of 10 years ago. We were seeing a rerun of the same movie: the teacher mobilization, the sit-in the zócalo, the marches, the teachers’ demands, a fierce media campaign … And the authorities again betting, as then, on Section 22 getting exhausted; on growing citizen irritation; on the people’s fear of violence and loss of income and jobs.
The June 14 march that arrived at Oaxaca City’s zócalo expressed residual experience. For nearly 10 hours, alongside the teachers in their encampment, many diverse sectors creatively expressed the ways in which today memory inspires action.
The Espacio Civil, Civil Space, is a new arrangement of very different kinds of groups and organizations, who are retaking the experience of 2006 to give it new forms. Their declaration “Ten Years Building New Roads” was formulated in the framework of government violence “to impose the bad so-called education reform” and in the context of “an exemplary teacher and popular resistance to the imminent risk that the black repressive night we lived through on the November 25, 2006, might return.”
Oaxaca’s civil society spoke out with conviction for the necessity of learning from 2006, “not only to close a cycle that left us full of wounds and pains but to open new stages of struggle that we might not make the same mistakes and that we might absorb the positive teachings of the movement.
“Today many people are struggling to defend their territory against mining, windfarms, and for respect of their autonomy and their uses and customs, their culture, for the care of their natural resources, their forests, the water and biodiversity. Today we consider it necessary to further the construction of a common agenda that might unify teachers, neighbourhoods, pueblos, young people, women, adults in fullness, and all those of us who aspire to and are willing to struggle for Oaxaca and a better Mexico.”
At the start of the Day of Reflection 2006-2016, Espacio Civil issued a call to strengthen the teachers’ movement and the struggles of neighbourhoods, communities and pueblos to bring down the labour reform disguised as educational reform and the structural reforms and to stop the repression. Only together, it was emphasized, “will we achieve the release of our political prisoners, the safe return of our disappeared, and that a long night of pain and repression against the teachers and neighbourhoods and pueblos of Oaxaca might not be repeated.”
On that day they began to blockade the roads. In Nochixtlán and on the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, the people took to the street to close passage to truckloads of militarized police heading to Oaxaca City. Aircraft began arriving at the Oaxaca Airport. Many thousands of people, from all sectors of society, encouraged and supported the blockades, and they began to weave social solidarity.
Human Rights Groups Issue Communiqué
On Saturday afternoon, the Tepeyac Human Rights Centre of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, and the Network of Community Defenders of the Peoples of Oaxaca issued a communiqué in which they considered absurd and senseless the federal government’s response to social protest. They argued that the escalation of violence exhibits a political class that seeks to perpetuate itself
“in the logic of power and confrontation, rather than promoting opportunities for dialogue that might open channels to this fractured democracy.”
At the same time, they appreciated the wisdom of women and men of the pueblos, groups and emerging groups in
“proposing a creative resistance, pondering the meaning of life and building a just society.”
Oaxaca is burning. There is clear awareness of the moment of danger. Therefore, from every corner, an appeal is sent out today for courage—both the courage that expresses moral outrage shared by a growing number of people and the courage that means valour, integrity and the ability to walk with dignity and clarity in these dark times. The battle has just begun.
Translation by Jane Brundage