The crisis in Mexican politics deepened last week as the right-wing government moved in a significantly more repressive direction.
In the southern city of Oaxaca, protests by teachers, workers, students and indigenous people against the corrupt regime of state Gov. Ulisis Ruiz Ortiz, ongoing since last spring, have cost dozens of protesters’ lives. Now, coordinated with the inauguration of a new president in Mexico City, state violence against protesters has escalated significantly.
More violent clashes have taken place between demonstrators of the Popular Association of the Peoples of Oaxaca (APPO) and the Federal Preventive Police (PFP). At least three more people have died in the past week and severe damage has been done by fires (set, some suspect, by agents provocateurs working to help the government).
Several hundred people have reportedly been arrested and are held incommunicado since the PFP suppressed an APPO demonstration Nov. 25. The movement has been forced to abandon its control of the Autonomous University of Oaxaca radio station and to go underground to avoid arrest or worse.
Armed, government-backed patrols are stopping people and taking them off buses. People assumed to be plainclothes officers are reportedly rounding up people thought to be APPO leaders and “disappearing” them, even taking teachers out of their classrooms.
There are worrying stories about beatings and torture. Yet APPO and other opposition forces in Oaxaca and around Mexico have vowed to continue protesting.
Meanwhile, the new right-wing president, Felipe Calderon of the National Action Party (PAN), was finally inaugurated Dec. 1, despite demonstrations by supporters of his rival in the July presidential elections, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of the Revolutionary Democratic Party (PRD).
Since the election, the PRD and other left forces have credibly accused the outgoing government of President Vicente Fox Quezada, also of the PAN, of stealing the election, which was decided by a razor-thin margin. Massive demonstrations demanding a recount were brushed aside.
Calderon was given the presidential sash in a ceremony characterized more by haste than dignity, to the tune of opposition boos.
Calderon’s big business-oriented cabinet is giving the Mexican left and people’s social movements great cause for worry.
As secretary of the interior, which in Mexico controls internal security including police agencies, Calderon chose the former governor of the western state of Jalisco, Francisco Ramirez Acuña. Ramirez is considered a hard-line repressor of the popular opposition.
Ramirez was the subject of a formal complaint to the Mexican Senate’s Commission on Human Rights because of his vicious suppression of anti-globalization protests in the state in 2004. His opposition used colorful terminology such as “barbarian” and “fascist” to describe Ramirez.
Designated Attorney General Medina Mora and other cabinet members are also oriented toward using repression against widespread unrest caused by the decline in living standards of Mexican farmers and workers under the neoliberal regime of President Fox and his PRI predecessors.
The left and the people’s social movements are denouncing the Calderon regime and especially the repression in Oaxaca.
Zapatista spokesman Subcomandante Marcos, who has been working over the last year to create centers of resistance to neoliberal policies all over Mexico, has called for national and international demonstrations in solidarity with the people of Oaxaca.
Tim Pelzer contributed to this story.