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By Sergio Ferrari
The political class, or a good part of it, does not want to return to the Oaxacan issue so as not to recognize the series of serious human rights violations that occurred in our State in 2006 and 2007. Most of them investigated by recognized institutions such as Amnesty International .
If the Oaxacan crisis and the popular explosion of 2006 shocked the international community, today the dynamics of that Southeastern Mexican state has taken a back seat in the media. However, for the local population, the 23 dead, the disappeared, and the hundreds of prisoners as a result of the conflict - that is, citizen mobilization in general - constitutes valuable accumulated political capital. "Despite the sacrifice and enormous costs, the social movement won in that process," Marcos Arturo Leyva Madrid points out as his main thesis. Who in an exclusive interview also evaluates the current state of the Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca (APPO), the body that led the popular uprising at that time. Leyva is the founder and director of EDUCA, an independent organization dedicated to popular information and communication and to strengthening citizen participation, especially indigenous people. And an active actor in the Oaxacan social movement.
Q: It seems that OAXACA recently disappeared from the international agenda. Is it really so?
A: At the media level, it not only disappeared from the international agenda but also from the Mexican one. I insist: I think it is a media phenomenon. The political class, or a good part of it, does not want to return to the Oaxacan issue so as not to recognize the series of serious human rights violations that occurred in our State in 2006 and 2007. Most of them investigated by recognized institutions such as Amnesty International .
Q: How did the political class get rid of the Oaxaca issue?
A: From a media attack against the social movement. Trying to make the emergency situation we were living and the social and political conflict disappear from the news agenda. The State Government launched campaigns to clean up its image. The last one, based on the slogan: "Don't let them tell you… come and meet us", presents the supposed official achievements. With a lot of television advertising at peak times.
An unresolved crisis
Q: What is the situation of the real Oaxaca today, the day-to-day?
A: It is still in its worst crisis. Although 2006 saw the most violent expression of the crisis, it continues and is deepening. In terms of repression of social movements; in terms of the corrupt management of the financial resources of the State. Lately, for example, it was discovered that Governor Ulises Ruiz, using public funds from our State, had a hospital built in the Mexican capital, managed by his own wife. The press denounced the embezzlement of the state health secretary for several million pesos, but so far nothing has been done. The conflict continues in the context of other conditions. In 2006 there was an explosion, the escape valve. Let us remember that on November 25 the repression was brutal. Today the crisis manifests itself in another way: drug trafficking, violence, the death of two police chiefs linked to the state government ... An execution that no one investigates. Power "forgets" facts that it should not remember. I think we are still experiencing a long-term, historical crisis. And therefore the answers must correspond to this logic. Some thought that 2006 bottomed out, but it is clear that it was an escape valve and that we have to wait. On the other hand, it cannot be denied that what is happening in Oaxaca is linked to national political dynamics and that the Mexican crisis impacts and has repercussions in Oaxaca.
New citizen participation
Q: What is the state of the social movements and the APPO today?
A: The APPO expresses the social movements of Oaxaca. It is a kind of movement of movements. Some claim to present it as an organization. And since there are no large mobilizations today, then everything would have ended, including the APPO. In my view, APPO is the
expression of the social movement, not an organization, and it is much more widespread than is thought. In Oaxaca we are experiencing a breakdown in society, organization and conscience. The current rebellion is not expressed as in 2006. But there are other living manifestations. Young people from urban areas and
increasingly active and present suburban; greater spaces based on associations and social actors that promote thousands of proposals. For example, the solidarity caravans that go through the municipalities or conflictive regions. And other initiatives, such as the tianguis (popular markets), which not only serve to trade products but are also cultural and meeting spaces. Or expressions of resistance such as that of neighbors who some time ago opposed the installation of a large supermarket that would have involved the demolition of several dozen old trees.
It is also important to assess the strength that the women's organization is taking and its relevant role. On August 1, the Coordinator of Oaxacan Women was formed.
Q: If one takes into account that in 2006 there was a great tug-of-war between the social movement and Governor Ulises Ruiz and that he is always at the head of the State ... Couldn't we think of a popular defeat?
A: Certainly some of our organizations suffered greatly. Perhaps we were not sure what to offer as an alternative to the fall of Ruiz. And perhaps tactical rather than strategic mistakes were made. But the movement in general won because it installed an agenda of transformation. Joint spaces never seen before were created. A great citizen force was exercised. People keep organizing more and more. And a feeling of discredit of the institutions has deepened. Many say: "How is it possible that after voting for a Governor nothing can be done to remove him despite his proven mismanagement ..."
Social movement: tactical withdrawal
Q: To better understand the current dynamics, it could be said that the APPO is experiencing a certain tactical retreat today ...
A: I think so. Perhaps at first it was not even well conceptualized and more than anything the product of brutal repression and harassment by the State.
Q: And the next step for the future?
A: You have to start regrouping and reorganizing the action. You have to create the space that facilitates it. The Board of Directors structure today is almost non-existent. You have to think about how to coordinate. And discuss the essence of the APPO. If it is understood as an organization, I think we will have a difficult future. If we understand it as movement of movements, it will be more appropriate. Especially when there are many grassroots initiatives that continue to work actively, launch proposals, push… It is important, I insist, to rethink the essence and nature of the APPO. And while the demand for the removal of Governor Ruiz continues to be essential, it is necessary to promote and prioritize other axes, other types of proposals.
Q: Could you give us an example from the life of your organization, EDUCA, how this change of priorities of daily work has occurred since 2006 to this part ...
A: Although the essential axes are the same, there have been adaptations, the product of a deep reflection. For example, before 2006 we promoted intense public advocacy work, which was carried out especially at the legislative level. Currently, we do this at the base, in the squares, in the streets, in the communities. Within the framework of our concept of popular education. Working hard on the educational processes of the communities. Before we had the Citizenship Building Program. Now it is called Political Transformation, because we have gained clarity about the idea that the construction of citizenship must lead to a concrete transformation. If before we bet on a program called Municipality and Indigenous Peoples, today we conceptualize it as the Right of Indigenous Peoples, which, although it touches the municipal space, is broader than it.
Now we have a much clearer vision of the need for communication, for news, to create instruments in that sense, to take advantage of electronic media.
The challenge of solidarity
Q: To conclude, a question that touches abroad. During 2006 and part of 2007, Oaxaca was at the center of the activity of numerous committees, groups, and international solidarity associations. That too declined a lot. What is your own vision on the challenges of solidarity with Oaxaca?
A: For our part, to better explain to you that the crisis continues but is expressed in a different way than the one that was manifested in the 2006 conference. To emphasize that it is not a defeat of the social movement but of the
contrary. I think that for solidarity, it is important to understand that what happened in Oaxaca takes place within a national framework and that Mexico must be placed in the eyes of international institutions, both with regard to human rights and security. And to say with force that in Mexico the expected democratic transition did not take place. That there is still to build it. And for this, international pressure and solidarity will continue to be essential.
* Sergio Ferrari back from Oaxaca
Portrait of EDUCA
EDUCA was founded in 1994 to promote and strengthen the processes of organization and integral development of the marginalized and indigenous Oaxacan communities. As a civil actor it contributes to strengthening the
citizen participation, social processes and local governments. It encourages lobbying and management with government agencies to influence public policies that lead to the consolidation of a democratic state. It carries out its work independently of the Churches, the Government, and the Political Parties. Maintaining with them a relationship of respect and work ties within the framework of autonomy of operation. (SFi)