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Oaxaca and Chiapas 

Monday, July 9, 2007

Pedro Matias

This morning we met with Pedro Matias, a journalist with 20 yrs of experience watching governmental abuses in Oaxaca. Last year´s teachers strike was only the last part of a long chain of events. He traced out a history of conflicts in which the government refused to act, leaving open the possibility for people to act with impunity and without fear of punishment. Oaxaca´s curent governor Ulisis Ruiz forms part of this history of institutional violence, including abusing and insulting communities by ignoring their needs. Because of a lack of government action, communities and individuals take justice into their own hands.

Matias also traced out traditions of popular organzing. He broke the organizing efforts into three main categories: agricultural struggles for territory, social struggles for infrastructural needs, and community struggles for the rights of traditions and customs. APPO emerges as a broad based group comprised of 4 sectors: social organizations, teachers, human rights groups, and religious groups. It is not a homogenous organization, but incorporates many divergent interests.

Indigenous communities have contributed 3 forms of organizing in Oaxaca. First is the tequio, voluntary work done in benefit of the community. Second is the guelaguetza which is a gift of pineapple, mango, bread, chocolate. The government has tried to turn this into a folkloric festival, and the communities have reacted against this. Finally is the assembly which contributes a model of consensus decision making processes.

Teachers move beyond their involvement in limited union issues to become more deeply involved in social struggles because of their close relations with communities.

The Centro de Documentación de los Movimientos Armados (CeDeMA) lists 26 armed groups in Mexico, including 4 in Oaxaca.

Matias noted that social movements tend to be better organized in Oaxaca than Chiapas. They have a longer history, and part of this history influenced the Zapatistas in Chiapas.

The entire political class, including the leftwing PRD, tends to be discredited in Mexico. This political elite is willing to maintain themselves in power at any cost, and works to coopt political opponents. A current debate is whether or not to participate in the upcoming fall elections.

Every hundred years Mexico seems to explode in revolution: in 1810 with Independence, 1910 with the Revolution, and people are now wondering what is in store for 2010.

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