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People of Oaxaca Rebel

by Brad Sigal |
November 16, 2006
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On May 22, 70,000 teachers went on strike in Oaxaca, Mexico, occupying the center of the city and a large area around it. Oaxaca is one of the poorest states in Mexico and has more indigenous people than any other Mexican state. The strikers took over the center of Oaxaca’s capital city, setting up hundreds of barricades. They demanded a raise for teachers, improved school facilities and meeting students’ needs. They also demanded an increase of the overall minimum wage in Oaxaca.

The occupation of the city center continued while negotiations with Oaxaca’s corrupt governor Ulises Ruíz Ortíz went nowhere. In June the teachers organized two mega-marches of over 100,000 people. On June 14, Ruíz Ortíz ordered a surprise pre-dawn attack on the strikers to try to remove them from the city center. Surprising everyone, the strikers successfully fought off the attack. Two days later they led a march of 400,000 people demanding Ruíz Ortíz's resignation. This gave rise to a movement broader than just the teachers.

The Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca (APPO) was formed with mass popular support and participation to coordinate a broad resistance to Oaxaca’s government. The APPO declared themselves the true authority representing the people of Oaxaca and declared the existing government illegitimate. The APPO liberated the state radio and TV stations, took over government buildings and declared the governor ‘banned’ from Oaxaca. Their main demand is the ouster of the corrupt governor, but the movement has taken on a much deeper and radical character.

On Oct. 27, reactionary paramilitaries opened fire on the protesters, killing some teachers and an American reporter from who was videotaping the protests, which have been largely ignored by the U.S. media. The national Mexican government used that incident as the excuse to send in the Federal Preventive Police - the riot police - to dislodge the APPO from their control of the city.

As Fight Back! goes to press, the APPO was driven out of some areas but has rebuilt barricades in many areas and has mobilized the masses of people to fight off the federal troops around the Autonomous University of Oaxaca Benito Juarez and in other areas. There are plans for national actions across Mexico in November and a call has been made for a nationwide general strike on Nov. 20.