Standoff continues in Oaxaca, Mexico

After a brutal police attack against a radio and television station, a tense standoff continues in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca, where striking teachers and popular organizations are demanding that right-wing Governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz resign.

Witnesses said gunmen attacked the Oaxacan TV and radio station Aug. 21 in Oaxaca city, destroying its antennas and equipment. The station had been occupied by women belonging to the Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca (APPO) since Aug. 1. Several people guarding the site were wounded, according to news reports.

Similar reports of military action against protester-occupied media stations were reported elsewhere in the state, with at least one activist’s death reported.

APPO, a broad coalition including unions, peasant organizations, municipalities and human rights groups, has declared itself the supreme authority in the state and calls the state government, led by the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), illegitimate. APPO has accused the PRI governor of ordering the killing, torture and kidnapping of opponents as well as wrongful jailings on false charges.

APPO called a statewide work stoppage on Aug. 31. About 50,000 people marched in Oaxaca city on Sept. 1 to press their demand that Ulises Ruiz resign.

“Oaxaca city is enveloped in an enormous curtain of smoke” from hundreds of bonfires lit by protesters, Karla Garza wrote in a report posted on a Mexican communist youth organization web page. City residents are building new barricades and reinforcing existing ones, she said, “to impede armed groups that Ulises Ruiz sends in the night to attack the city while in the day he repeats like a ‘merolico’ (parrot) before the mass media that he is looking for dialogue.”

Teachers belonging to the National Education Workers Union continue their three-month-old strike for higher salaries, a higher minimum wage for workers in the state and better educational facilities for students. The union says much of the state education budget is siphoned off through corruption.

Despite the violence and economic hardship, Oaxaca-based journalist NAncy Davies reports in Narco News that there is widespread support for APPO and the teachers.

Meanwhile, APPO leaders met with the federal secretary of internal affairs in Mexico City Aug. 31 to try to resolve the statewide conflict. More meetings are planned.