Oaxaca is not in peace. The conflict that exploded in 2006 continues unresolved, and is an open wound for everyone to see. Under the surface things are boiling and social conflicts seem ready to erupt at any moment. And that’s exactly what happened June 20 in Zaachila. Oaxaca is not in peace. The conflict that exploded in 2006 continues unresolved, and is an open wound for everyone to see. Under the surface things are boiling and social conflicts seem ready to erupt at any moment. And that’s exactly what happened June 20 in Zaachila.
On June 19th some people started to voice around the fact that the "beloved" governor of Oaxaca, Ulises Ruiz Ortiz, was going to assist a public event in Zaachila, the birthplace of the zapotec people.
The new municipal president, Noe Pérez Martinez, had planned a nice event for his political boss. It had been organized undercover, very discretely with special invitations to the local affiliates of the party. However, that morning it was hard to miss the stage with the party’s banner, the hundreds of chairs and the big tarp covering all of it. Rumours spreaded quickly, reaching some in Oaxaca.
The people from Zaachila are proud people, many participated in the popular seizure of the municipal palace in July 2006. It eventually gave birth to an autonomous municipio which standed out from others for being right on the outskirts of the state capital. After the brutal repression of the 25th of November, Ulises would have had liked to have the PFP enter Zaachila but their mandate denied it. The popular municipio held on until the last election of august 8, 2007 when, through what many called fraud, the PRI took back power in Zaachila.
And right in front of the ex popular municipal palace, they would receive the man that so many had learned to hate in the last three years. Officialy, the state governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz was to inaugurate some public works. In reality he was coming to show who are now the "bosses" in Zaachila. It was significant because he had never entered town.
Many peoples who had participated in the movement had decided that Ulises Ruiz Ortiz would not enter Zaachila. After consulting with the people, one of the local teacher’s went to a microphone and announced that URO’s entry wouldn’t be allowed. To the cries of "Viva Zapata" and "Viva Zaachila" they went to barricade the two main corners of the place. A barricade ended up on the corner adjacent to the palace, the people would end up with the PRI-istas at their back in case something came to the barricade. It was a daring act, but the event itself was a provocation from the president in many regards.
It wasn’t long after the barricades were up, that a group of about 15-20 "porros" or paid provocators, appeared on the road. They were identified as the "techos", governements assets from the isthmus, presumably from Juchitan by their name. They were repelled peacefuly by both barricades, but when they showed up a third time, the confrontation started. They came by the unblocked road by the corner of the palace and adjacent to the barricade and tried to join the priistas. People came to impede them and the PRI-istas came behind them making signs for the porros to go through. A few punches were exchanged and others went to open the barricade while the attention was away. Some grabbed concrete blocks. Tension was rising and menaces were flying from both sides, it started to degenerate. Belt buckles, punches, sticks, rocks and concrete blocks were used in the ensuing confrontation. The PRI-ista women were throwing powdered chile in the eyes of the people. Rocks started to fly all around and the people started to retreat at midway to the first barricades. Eight people were wounded, Asarael Torres Carmona of 71 was bleeding profusedly and a young man also had a concrete block thrown at the head.
People were now fighting the porros and PRI-istas with rocks, when a man who turned out to be none other than the municipal president’s father, Natalio Pérez Thomas, pulled out a gun and started to fire at point blank on his co-citizens. They pulled back a bit more toward the barricade, but kept throwing rocks and held their corner firing a few fireworks every now and then.
The confrontation lasted a little bit more than an hour. By the end of it, the anti-riot state police were on their way, all the incoming roads were blocked and barrages were put on for the people coming out of town. The local PRI-istas were, according to rumors, preparing molotov bombs and other weapons. Considering that their objectives had been met, the people decided to clean up the town center and disband until a popular assembly would be held. They would then evaluate the measures to take regarding the municipal president.
One thing is certain, Oaxaca is not in peace and the social-popular movement is still alive and thriving. It was demonstrated by the attendance of the June 14 commemoration megamarch and by the spirit of resistance that was shown on that day as the bases of the SNTE repudiated vehemently their leader Ezequiel Rosales Carreno as traitor.
The impediment of Ulises event’s in Zaachila is another people’s victory and a clear sign that as long as the people’s demands won’t be attended, there will be no rest for the governor. Unless something breaks out, the next foreseeable conflict could very well take place during the upcoming Guelaguetza as the memories are fresh from last year’s repressions which injured many.
As long as there will be no real justice, there will be no real peace in Oaxaca.