Reports: govt repression in Oaxaca continues

MEXICO CITY — In the wake of a militant teachers’ strike for higher wages in the southern Mexican city of Oaxaca that began in May 2006, and a subsequent mass movement to oust Oaxaca state’s repressive and allegedly corrupt governor, both the state and federal governments continue to torture, imprison and kill members and supporters of the Oaxaca People’s Popular Assembly (APPO), according to two recent human rights reports.

The International Civil Commission for Human Rights (ICCHR), a nongovernmental group, charges in a new report that Oaxacans detained by the federal and state police have been tortured with “electric shock, physical aggression, burns as well as psychological torture.”

Numerous outrages have been committed against women, “including rape, the cutting of hair, physical violence [and] being made to undress and pose in humiliating positions.” The report states that both women and men were raped by police and in some cases military personnel.

According to the report, between June 14, 2006, and Jan. 31, 2007, the police detained 366 persons. Some were arrested without warrants. Many detainees have been denied fair trials and defense lawyers have had difficulty getting legal documents to help their clients.

The report says that state and federal police have violently broken up peaceful protests and attacked and harassed members of the media. The army and police have also attacked civilians, using tear gas and guns.

In addition, armed groups dressed in civilian clothing “have been responsible for disappearances and illegal detentions, searches and shootings,” it says, and in some cases, they have “used police vehicles, and their actions involved the participation of elected officials.”

Twenty-six people have died so far in the conflict, the ICCHR reports.

The human rights report also criticizes the government-sponsored National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and the Oaxacan Human Rights Commission, which “have intervened only in a reserved and insufficient manner, even after having confirmed some of the violations.”

The report concludes by stating that the ICCHR “considers that the events that have occurred in Oaxaca form part of a judicial, police and military strategy ... whose goals are to control and intimidate the population in areas where community-based, nonpartisan social movements are unfolding.”

For its part, the official NHRC, in a new report of its own, accuses federal, state and municipal authorities of being responsible for the torture of some APPO activists and supporters, arbitrary and illegal arrests and jailings, and the deaths of 20 people.

A source in Mexico’s military intelligence services, who requested anonymity, told the World in an interview that the pattern of violence against APPO is part of a systematic government effort to destroy the popular movement.

The Mexican government is currently headed by President Felipe Calderon of the right-wing National Action Party (PAN). PAN governments, beginning with that of ex-President Vicente Fox, working with the government of Ulises Ruiz Ortiz in Oaxaca state, ordered the National Civilian Intelligence Agency (CISEN) to infiltrate APPO, the military source said. CISEN agents provided crucial information that helped both governments counter the movement.

“They knew everything about leading members of APPO, including what time they ate at to what medicines they consumed,” the source said. “They knew in advance what actions APPO planned to undertake.”

The next stage was to arrest key leaders and activists to terrorize other leading APPO members, including the movement’s grassroots supporters. Many have been placed in jails outside Oaxaca to help demobilize the movement. As a result, “APPO is nearly dead,” the source said.

The source said that PAN governments have viewed APPO as a threat because it enjoys broad public support in Oaxaca.

In the meantime, municipal police in Oaxaca city arrested APPO member Carlos Daniel Lara Jiminez April 3, reported APPO council member Zenen Bravo Castellanos. Police tortured Lara Jiminez, trying to extract information from him about the whereabouts of several high-profile APPO members. He was then released 15 hours later, “but with severe injuries to his neck and ribs,” stated Bravo Castellanos.

APPO is demanding the resignation of the Oaxacan government of Gov. Ruiz, which the popular movement accuses of repressing opponents. APPO is also calling for the release of its 43 imprisoned members.

tpelzer @ shaw.ca