June 15, 2006

Mexico Police and Teachers Clash Ahead of Polls

Filed at 0:32 a.m. ET

OAXACA, Mexico (Reuters) - Thousands of Mexican police firing tear gas fought a running battle with striking teachers in a southern city on Wednesday in the latest violence between protesters and security forces before July elections.

Backed up by a helicopter clattering overhead, police on foot briefly dislodged teachers from the main square in the city of Oaxaca where they had been camped for three weeks demanding higher wages.

Witnesses and press reports said shots were fired during clashes in downtown streets. One policeman was shot in the leg before the teachers retook the square, popular with tourists visiting the picturesque city.

State Gov. Ulises Ruiz denied a report by the teachers' union that police had killed three or four people and then taken away the bodies.

``They should tell us where they are because no policeman knows anything about this and no hospital has it registered. I think this is another lie,'' he told a radio station.

The incident, and others, have fanned tension in the run-up to the July 2 presidential vote, a close battle between leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and conservative Felipe Calderon.

Oaxaca is the highland capital of the southern state of the same name which is run by the Institutional Revolutionary Party, running third in the presidential race.

The 40,000 teachers vowed to continue the strike, and have threatened to disrupt voting in Oaxaca for the presidential election. This week they blocked employee access to the state office of the Federal Electoral Institute.

Interior Minister Carlos Abascal said late on Wednesday that authorities had ``no new plans to use force'' to end the protest, and invited teachers' leaders and Gov. Ruiz to take part in talks on Thursday morning to resolve the conflict.

Television news showed images of police officers clearing tents, rocks and debris from the colonial city's central square, after it had been temporarily abandoned by protesters



Lopez Obrador, often accused by conservatives of being a populist rabble rouser, called for dialogue.

``It's best to avoid conflict, like in medicine it's best to use preventive medicine,'' he said in the border city of Tijuana. ``Yes to dialogue, yes to agreement, yes to negotiation,'' he told a rally.

In May, police put down riots in San Salvador de Atenco, a town near Mexico City. Demonstrators, opposed to efforts to evict illegal flower vendors, had attacked and abducted police officers. Two protesters died in the crackdown.

Two steel workers were killed in April in battles with police sent in to break up a strike, part of a long and bitter work stoppage by miners and metal workers nationwide.

President Vicente Fox's spokesman Ruben Aguilar said the upheaval in Oaxaca, like the previous trouble, was not a sign of instability around the presidential vote.

``In no way does the government consider them hot spots or insoluble problems, much less do they put at risk the electoral process,'' he told reporters.

Enrique Rueda Pacheco, head of the teachers' union, told local radio: ``We must resist, we are used to ... years of struggle and to the repressive government.''


Two longer pieces below. And a poster.

Many CA, Texas, and other state school districts have formal relationships with the Mexican consulate. Google the name of the school district, and Mexican Consulate, or Consul. You may find smaller cities with Mexican consulates in them too. Just google Mexico consulate and the city.

Nobody needs permission to create a demonstration. Just get a sign, announce, it, and go do it.

Then do it some more.

Mexican Consulate of San Diego
(619) 231-8414
1549 India St
San Diego, CA 92101

Mexican Consulate
1010 8th St, Sacramento, CA
0.2 mi W - (916) 441-3287
Mexican Consulate
Sacramento, CA
0.3 mi S - (916) 441-0421

Consulate of Mexico
532 Folsom St, San Francisco, CA
1.5 mi NE - (415) 354-1700
Embajada de Mexico en los E...
Inicio Embajada de Mexico en los Estados Unidos de America | 17 de Mar 2006, Secretaria de Relaciones Exteriores. ...
Mexican Consulate
540 N 1st St, San Jose, CA
41 mi SE - (408) 294-3414
Mexican Consulate
115 N 4th St, San Jose, CA
42 mi SE - (408) 213-2250

Consulate General of Mexico
2401 W 6th St, Los Angeles, CA
2.1 mi W - (213) 351-6800
Embajada de Mexico en los E...
Inicio Embajada de Mexico en los Estados Unidos de America | 17 de Mar 2006, Secretaria de Relaciones Exteriores. ...
Mexican Consulate
828 N Broadway, Santa Ana, CA
30 mi SE - (714) 835-3069

Mexican Consulate
2409 Merced St, Fresno, CA
1.1 mi SW - (559) 233-3065

Many CA school districts have formal relationships with the Mexican consulate. Google the name of the school district, and Mexican Consulate, or Consul. You may find smaller cities with Mexican consulates in them too. Just google Mexico consulate and the city.

Nobody needs permission to create a demonstration. Just get a sign, announce, it, and go do it.

Then do it some more.


Massacre of Teachers in Mexico, 11 Dead

Urgent Protest Thursday, June 15, 5 p.m.

Outside the Mexican Consulate General,

27 East 39th Street (between Madison and Park Aves.)

Dear all,

Most of you will have heard by now of the violent repression of striking teachers in Oaxaca camped in the central plaza of Oaxaca City.  The 70,000 schoolteachers in Oaxaca have been on strike since May 22nd, demanding a pay raise, differential pay for teachers working in high-cost regions, resources for school infrastructure, free school breakfasts, school supplies, and scholarships for students. For much of this time thousands have been camped in the centre of the city to press their demands.

This morning, state police attacked the encampments with riot police and helicopters. They also raided the union headquarters, a hotel that houses teachers and the Union's radio station. Despite the force used against them, teachers were able to regain control of the main plaza and the blocks around it.

With all the chaos, the reports we have received of casualties are not firm and are sometimes conflicting, but it appears that at least 5 people, including one teachers' child, have been killed, dozens wounded and dozens more detained. There is fear that there will be more violence as police backed by federal re-inforcements attempt to take the plaza again.

If further violence is to be prevented, the Oaxacan teachers will need the support of the international community to pressure Mexican authorities to reign in their security forces and return to the bargaining table. We are requesting of the organizations of the IDEA Network to at least send letters of protest to the Mexican President and the governor of Oaxaca, with copies ot the Mexican section of the Trinational Coalition to Defend Public Education (see addresses below). However, it will have a much stronger impact if your organization can send a delegation to the Mexican consulate or embassy in your city to deliver the letters directly (and better still if some of you remain outside the consulates and embassies wiht signs denouncing the violence)..

I am attaching with this message information that we have received from the Mexican section of the Trinational Coalition about the conflict in Oaxaca, as well has an eyewitness report we received a few hours ago from the coordinator of the Oaxacan teachers' union's research institute. I am also enclosing copies of the letters the IDEA network has sent to Mexico's president and the governor of Oaxaca. Please feel free to modify the letters and use them for your own organization.

Thank You,

Steve Stewart,
Technical Secretary,
IDEA Network

Contact information below:

  Lic. Vicente Fox Quesada
Presidente Constitucional de México
Fax 55 5277 2376,

Dr. José Luis Soberanes
Presidente de la Comisión Nacional de Derechos Humanos
Fax: 55 5681 7199

Dr. Ricardo Sepúlveda
Coordinador de la Unidad para la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos de la Secretaría de Gobernación
Fax: 55 5128 0234

Lic. Ulises Ruiz Ortiz
Gobernador Constitucional del Estado de Oaxaca
Fax. 01 (951) 51 65 966,51-60677/ fax: 51-63737/ cel: 0449515470377

gobernador@oaxaca.gob.mx with copies to  urama@prodigy.net.mx antonio_icn@hotmail.com   radioplanton@hotmail.com , and the Mexican newspaper La Jornada svaladez@jornada.com.mx

From: David Riker <riker@igc.org (forwarded through Monty Neil)
Dear Friends,

I'm writing about the situation in Oaxaca. As I write, the capital city is under siege. At approximately 5AM this morning the state police attacked the teachers occupation of the city center. Though reports are sketchy, it seems that three teachers have been killed, as well as a young girl. The teachers have taken three or four police hostage. A raging battle is underway to control the zocalo, the center of life in Oaxaca, and the heart of the teacher's encampment. In the dawn raid the teachers were forced out, but the local paper, Noticias de Oaxaca, has reported that at 9:30AM local time the teachers, armed with rocks and sticks, re-took the main square. Police are firing tear gas from helicopters right now. Thousands (tens of thousands) of people are involved in running battles in the streets. And there is the fear that upwards of 3500 federal riot police -- deployed to Oaxaca in the last two weeks by Vicente Fox -- are about to enter the city.

I've just gotten off the phone with friends in the center. They described the scene on the streets this morning at about 7:30AM. Hundreds of people crying from the mix of tear gas, smoke bombs and some other pepper  spray. The men forming groups to launch the assault to retake the zocalo. Mothers telling their boys to take care of themselves as they fell into line. From the rooftops of the single story houses you can watch the helicopters flying overhead shelling tear gas canisters into the crowds. There is a heavy fear, but also, I was tol,  you could hear the sound of people marching and singing.

As a brief background, you might want to read:  http://www.narconews.com/Issue41/article1874.html

The teachers occupation of the city, known in Spanish as a 'planton' began 23 days ago. More than 80,000 teachers from every municipality in the state had converged on the capital to press a list of demands for more resources for education. They have had two mass marches, the most recent bringing more than 120,000 people out, the largest demonstration in the city's history. The planton has become an annual event since more than a decade, and I will never forget last year's planton which happened while I was still living there. For about ten days the teachers occupied the entire center of town, sleeping on the streets under tarpaulins stretched overhead. They were extremely well organized and the city center was never more alive. The teachers and their families would cook large meals on open fires, play guitar and sing, rest on folded cardboard in the shade. They set up their radio station "Radio Planton" and played music on loud speakers. There were first aid tents, propaganda tents, mass meetings on every corner.

This year, many have remarked that the planton, and the teachers' mobilization generally, has been different. The question is: If the teachers brought 80,000 to the city, who are the other 40,000? I'm not close enough to give a good answer, but what I understand is that the teachers have offered an opening which hundreds of small community groups and social justice centers from around the state have chosen to follow. The past two years under the new PRI governor Ulises Ruis has intensified the level of state repression. Scores of activists in small villages have been killed, hundreds arrested and still in jail as political prisoners. The spike in repression was so great that Amnesty International sent a delegation to Oaxaca in May of 2005 to investigate. It appears that when the teachers marched on the capital three weeks ago they were joined by tens of thousands of others from the villages in what is becoming a broad movement to depose the governor. Ruis has refused to meet with the teachers, and has managed to pull in his party's promisary notes to about half of the state's municipal mayors who signed a decree condemning the teachers action. But there is a palpable sense that the social movements are converging and that something new is underway.

During the past three weeks, the movement has shown a great level of strength and creativity -- occupying the city's airport, smashing the newly-installed parking meters throughout the city center, occupying the toll booths on the main road from Oaxaca to Mexico City -- not to stop the cars, only to stop the collecting of tolls, and the very fact that they have occupied the zocalo has great significance as the new governor, after spending upwards of $100 million to 'beautify' the zocalo, decreed that it was now off-limits for any demonstrations.

Three nights ago, Ruis met with business leaders at a late night gathering and promised to use the 'mano dura' or hard hand. There were reports that the first 1500 federal riot police were camped in the nearby town of Tlacolula. This morning the governor appears to have proven himself a man of his word. Some reports have said that the tear gas in the city center is so thick you can't see the hand in front of you.

I have not seen any reports in the US media, BBC etc. There is some information on indymedia's Mexico site, some more on the online version of Noticias de Oaxaca -- both in Spanish. ( http://www.noticias-oax.com.mx/) I know that the police have shut down the teachers' radio station 'Radio Planton' but as of 12:00 noon Oaxaca time the students' radio station 'Radio Universitario' was still broadcasting and "you can hear the broadcast from every window and door in town." The students themselves have occupied the university, but the latest reports suggest that the police are heading there now.

I'm writing this in the hope that you can help spread the word, and alert others in the network of media to turn their attention to the struggle ongoing.

In solidarity,


A Rouge Forum Poster

The struggle heats up,

All the best,