Saturday, October 21, 2006

Q & A with an APPO Spokesperson

Interview with Florentino López Martínez
-a spokesperson for the Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca (APPO)
by Carla from Grassroots Projects
(interview conducted on October 7th)

Editor's note: the situation in Oaxaca continues to shift daily...this interview came over the list of the Oaxaca Study-Action Group...also, exciting developments at the border from last weekend's Border Social Forum to the wednesday and thursday meetings of the Other Campaign at the Tijuana/San Isidro border...where Marcos suggested that the Zapatista Comandantes may one day set up shop in the US and Canada as well...but for now, here's an interview from Oaxaca :-)

1. What is APPO and how is it organized?

APPO was started on June 17th 2006 as a reaction to the eviction. APPO is an umbrella organization in which very different organizations are united, such as labor unions, farmers’ organizations, neighborhood committees, organizations of indigenous peoples, women’s groups, regional groups, and individuals.

Every organization has its representative in the central meeting. Decisions are made based on consensus, so decisions are not based on the majority of votes. APPO has a programme of basic assumptions and goals, such as aiming for a real democratic system, and the struggle against capitalism, imperialism and fascism. The fundamental problem is capitalism; it is because of capitalism that Oaxaca has such a tyrant as governor, Ulises Ruiz Ortiz. APPO wants democracy, in which everybody can participate. The situation as present is the result of fascism, which shows that the working class is being repressed.

2. What happens when the first demand of APPO, that governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz resign, is complied with?

Our aim is a more democratic government that listens to the people more than the current government does. We will continue to fight against repression and for the advancement of human rights and equality. It partially resembles ´La Otra Campaña´ of the Zapatistas, but the organizations united in APPO are much more diverse than those united in ´La Otra Campaña´.

APPO is not part of, or associated with, any political party. APPO concentrates on a struggle that is broader than only the struggle in Oaxaca. Together with other organizations in the country we have to get out onto the streets to counter the current crisis in Mexico. Besides being a local struggle, it is also a national as well as an international struggle to change the world.

3. What do you understand by your use of the term ‘ democracy’?

It is not about having elections every few years, but about the functioning of the system. In Mexico today, there is a huge difference in power and wealth. Democracy is not only something political, but also something economical and social. An example is the fact that TV channels in Mexico are in the hands of a cartel, a group of people that decide on the news that the people will see. In Mexico, people have no rights and people can disappear just like that. There is no equality. In a democracy on the other hand, everybody is equal and people are protected by the law.

4. How does APPO organize the food, drink and money to keep this action running for all these months?

The occupation of the city centre is the only way to be able to change something. After the eviction on the 14th of June, when the people reoccupied the city centre, supporters came to bring us food and drink. This continues to happen up to today. There is much solidarity and help, also from other parts of Mexico and from abroad, for instance from labor unions.

5. Many people in Oaxaca have lost their income or jobs because of the action, which is lasting for 4 months now. How does the APPO deal with this problem?

That is the consequence of our action. Also among them, there is much solidarity. It is a way to build up something. The situation, as it is now, is not the fault of APPO, but of the governor, Ulises Ruiz Ortiz. The repression has been going on for years now, and lately the difference between rich and poor has increased massively. And despite the fact that the people have little to no income, they support APPO.

6. How do you see the future, for instance what will it be like in 10 years time?

The struggle in Oaxaca is a contribution to the global struggle. Both locally and globally, people are struggling for emancipation, against repression and for the downfall of the system. We will be able to harvest the fruits of this struggle in the coming years. The people are taking their lives into their own hands and are looking for new ways to live. Ideas of other organizations and struggles have been of influence to both the struggle in Oaxaca and the basic assumptions of APPO. This is the last stage of the struggle against capitalism. To be able to exist, we have to keep struggling against the new forms of repression that neo-liberalism brings forth. And we have to find new ways ourselves. It is a struggle that is being carried out in the whole of South America. There are the struggles in Venezuela and in Cuba, the struggles of our migrant brothers worldwide, the struggle of the poor and of students in France, and the struggle for land and freedom in Palestine. It is a global struggle and therefore we have to mobilize globally. It is the struggle of workers, who are moving into the same direction.

7. Of which organization within APPO are you a member?

The Revolutionary Popular Front - Oaxaca

8. Is what you say being supported by all the organizations affiliated with APPO?

Before the launch of APPO there were of course many ideas within the individual organizations about building up a new social system and for a revolution. Now, we work together for a better system of living. There is only one way to do this.

9. What does APPO consider an example? Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia?

All organizations that are anti-capitalist and anti-fascist contribute to the international struggle. There are many ways to build up something, for instance in Bolivia the struggle against energy multinationals, and the Zapatistas with the caracoles.

The struggle is very broad, and we have to do our own activities and struggle together on the international level. Another example is the struggle that the people in Atenco have carried out against the building of an airport. By doing actions, the people in Atenco were successful in stopping this airport being built. Nobody holds the absolute truth about how the struggle can best be carried out.

The only truth is learning by doing, progressing in the struggle by carrying out the struggle.

10. What position do women hold within APPO?

A very important position. From August onwards, there has been a separate platform for women, Coordinacion de Mujeres. There has been a women’s rally, for which mobilization has been massive. Women hold a special position within APPO.

Among women in Oaxaca, illiteracy rates are even higher than among men. Many women have had no chance at all. APPO has a special women’s manifesto. The position of women in indigenous communities is very different than in other Mexican groups, in indigenous communities there is less ´machismo´.

11. Could you tell something about yourself?

My name is Florentino López Martínez. I belong to the Mixtec. The Mixtec are one of the most ancient ethnic groups in Oaxaca. I come from a Mixtec village in the surroundings of Oaxaca and also speak the Mixtec language.

12. Could you tell a bit more about the struggle of indigenous peoples?

It is the struggle of the majority of the country. There are many indigenous peoples, all with their own language. Within APPO many indigenous peoples are represented. The organizational forms of indigenous peoples are much more democratic than those of other groups. Therefore this has been used as a model for APPO. Consensus decision-making is traditional among the indigenous peoples of Oaxaca. In the central meeting of APPO we work in this way. All good traditions and customs of the indigenous peoples are being used in the process of democratization.


cwm said...

Thanks for that, RJ. I hadn't seen the interview and thought it was interesting (although it's too bad that he seems like such an unreconstructed Marxist-Leninist from the 1970s).

Do you happen to know anything about the PRD's relationship to all this? Do you know what stance it's taking?

Thanks for a great blog.

RJ Maccani said...

Hey cwm,

Yeah, there are all kinds of folks in both the APPO as well as the Other Campaign. In both cases, the emphasis is more heavily placed on what people are doing/how they organize and less so on what they happen to call themselves.

Other than the style of speech, were there any ideas in the Q&A that you objected to or that sparked particular reflection any which way?

When he says that the organizations united within the APPO are "much more diverse" than those in the Other Campaign, I can only imagine that he is talking about the fact that there are PRD members and leaders within the APPO (and they are barred from the Other Campaign). Although I suspect he is also talking about, perhaps, leninist groups that did not want to organize in the Other Campaign because they have problems with the framework of the Sixth Declaration (although there are many leninist groups that have joined the Other Campaign and are truly interested in building an "other way of doing politics").

In terms of the PRD generally though, it is tricky because there are all sorts of things going on along with the same endemic corruption characteristic of the other two major parties. For example, there are PRD within the APPO, there are PRD building the Democratic National Convention movement around Obrador, there are PRD governors and politicians who are going along with business as usual, there is a large part of the PRD base that is supportive of the Other Campaign, the APPO, as well as Obrador, etc., etc...

One interesting development is the recent declaration and acts of solidarity between the Zapatistas, the APPO, and the Peoples Front in Defense of the Land (Atenco).

I hope this helps!


cwm said...

Hey RJ,

Thanks very much. Your comments do help. I'm really curious about the role of the PRD in all of this. Generally speaking, party membership appears to be much more important in Mexico than in the US, but it's hard to figure out what that means, given all the counter-tendencies (in the PRD as well as the other parties). Anyway, thanks for commenting on this.