Timeline of Recent Popular Resistance in Mexico
by RJ Maccani
(created for the upcoming issue of Left Turn Magazine)
One of the most devastating earthquakes in the history of the Americas strikes Mexico City. Although the government reports that “at least 9,000” people are killed, many residents suggest that the number reached as high as 100,000. The government fails to adequately respond to the crisis and a surprising “civil society” response emerges to fill the void.
Cuauhtemoc Cárdenas, candidate of the newly created Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), is leading the vote count in Mexico’s presidential elections. A computer glitch is created and, when the smoke clears, Carlos Salinas de Gortari of the ruling PRI party is declared the president of Mexico. Salinas proceeds to dismantle major gains of the Mexican Revolution (1910-1917) and the PRD consolidates itself as a “center-left” electoral force.
In preparation for the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the Salinas government ends Mexico’s historic commitment to land reform by dismantling Article 27 of the Constitution. Many peasant organizations unravel while the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN), a clandestine, armed indigenous movement in the state of Chiapas, receives a wave of new affiliations.
Thousands of members of the EZLN often referred to simply as “the Zapatistas,” emerge to take over major population centers and hundreds of ranches in Chiapas. Releasing their “Declaration of War,” they call on the people of Mexico to rise up with them to depose the PRI and begin a democratic process to elect a more legitimate government. Following the popular sentiment throughout Mexico, less than two weeks after the uprising, the Zapatistas begin pursuing “freedom, justice, and democracy” through political means.
The National Action Party (PAN), a rightwing opposition party, successfully defeats the PRI for the first time in 71 years. President-elect Vicente Fox promises many institutional reforms as well as solving the conflict in Chiapas “in 15 minutes.”
The Zapatistas march in caravan from Chiapas to Mexico City to demand the constitutional recognition of indigenous rights and culture based on agreements made between the government and the EZLN in 1996. In spite of the mobilization of millions of supporters, the Mexican congress, including the center-left PRD, instead pass a racist and neoliberal reform that is signed by the president and later upheld by the Supreme Court, effectively closing the door to legal change for the Zapatistas and the indigenous movements of the National Indigenous Congress.
The Zapatistas announce the creation of Good Government Councils. A deepening of the Zapatistas’ de-facto autonomy, the councils also mark a major step in separating the military organization of the EZLN from the civil life of the communities.
The Zapatistas release the Sixth Declaration from the Lacandon Jungle, proposing the building of a national and worldwide non-electoral and anticapitalist movement “from below and to the left.”
162 social organizations, 55 political organizations, 453 NGOs, groups and collectives, 103 indigenous organizations and Mexican Indian peoples, and 1,624 individuals, families, neighborhoods and communities join with the Zapatistas to begin a national movement inspired by the Zapatistas’ Sixth Declaration. Playing off of the election year campaigns of the electoral parties, this movement is dubbed “the Other Campaign.”
Subcomandante Marcos, spokesperson of the Zapatistas, takes on the civilian title of “Delegate Zero” and begins a scheduled six-month listening and speaking tour of Mexico to build the Other Campaign.
Mexican immigrants lead historic mobilizations throughout the US on International Workers’ Day. This “Day without an Immigrant” is mirrored in Mexico under the banner of a “Day without a Gringo.” Having already passed through Mexico’s seventeen southern states, Delegate Zero gives an emboldened speech as part of the demonstrations in front of the U.S. embassy in Mexico City. He announces that a national movement is building that will “expel from this country… the great capitalists, including -of course- the American capitalists.”
The Peoples Front in Defense of the Land (FPDT), adherents to the Other Campaign from the autonomous municipality of San Salvador Atenco on the outskirts of Mexico City, come to the aid of their members who are being attacked by police for attempting to sell their flowers in nearby Texcoco. The conflict expands as hundreds of federal police arrive to attack and arrest the FPDT. Delegate Zero announces the suspension of his tour and calls for civil and peaceful solidarity actions with the people of Atenco. Solidarity actions spread throughout Mexico and to at least fifty countries around the world.
Municipal, state, and federal police widen their attack on Atenco and those who mobilized to defend them. The police arrest 207 people (including the leadership of the FPDT), kill two, and rape and abuse sexually 23 women. Delegate Zero places the blame on all three of the major political parties and the commercial media and begins a campaign to break the media distortion of the events and to liberate the prisoners.
Striking teachers occupy the town square, or Zócalo, of Oaxaca with protest camps demanding a greater education budget for Oaxaca. The teachers belong to Section 22, a democratic current of the National Union of Education Workers that has been carryout protest camps in Oaxaca for 26 years.
Three thousand state police attack the teachers’ encampment before dawn, firing tear gas from helicopters and beating teachers. Supporters throughout the city come to the aid of the teachers and together they retake the Zócalo and expel the police.
The state teacher’s union and 85 other social and political organizations, NGOs, collectives, and human rights organizations from throughout Oaxaca join together to form the Oaxaca Peoples Popular Assembly (APPO). The teachers suspend their original demands and join together with the APPO to push for Governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz’s resignation or ouster in retaliation for his ordering the police raid.
Amidst widespread allegations of fraud, electoral officials fail to declare either the populist candidate, Andrés Manuel López Obrador of the PRD, or US government supported Felipe Calderón of the PAN, as winner in the presidential elections.
Obrador calls for a protest camp to occupy the main Zócalo of Mexico City and several major avenues, including Paseo de la Reforma. Unlike their repressive treatment of other recent civil disobedience actions, the city’s PRD government financially and materially supports the massive tent city that emerges. Obrador’s main demand is for a full, vote-by-vote recount.
The Federal Electoral Tribunal certifies Calderón as the victor in Mexico’s presidential elections. Obrador refuses to recognize the Tribunal’s decision and declares that he will establish a parallel government representing the "true, authentic republic."
Seven indigenous leaders of the EZLN, taking on the civilian titles of “Delegate One” through “Delegate Seven,” arrive in Mexico City to attend gatherings in support of Atenco’s remaining 30 political prisoners and to discuss the national political context with adherents to the Other Campaign. Delegates One through Three remain in Mexico City while Four through Seven return to Chiapas to report back to their communities.
With Delegate’s One through Three remaining in Mexico City to agitate for the freedom of the prisoners of Atenco, Delegate Zero resumes his listening and speaking tour, now traveling through Northern Mexico to finish this first leg of the Zapatistas’ participation in building the Other Campaign.
In a historic gathering, Delegate Zero holds his first meetings in Tijuana at the US/Mexico border with Other Campaign adherents not just in Mexico, but on “the other side” as well.
After five months of struggle, Governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz has still refused to step down and the Mexican Senate has refused to force his resignation. The APPO movement has deepened over the months and is being replicated in many other states of Mexico and in communities in the US as well. The APPO begins a three-day general strike in Oaxaca and is calling for a “popular peaceful insurrection” on December 1st if Ruiz has still not stepped down. This call steps up pressure on President-elect Felipe Calderón, who faces opposition with civil disobedience actions to his inauguration on the same day. After a string of paramilitary killings in August through October, state police and government-aligned thugs kill two people, including NYC Indymedia journalist and activist Brad Will.
In an echo of the attacks on Atenco, Mexican Federal Preventive Police (PFP) invade Oaxaca City to “restore order” killing two more people and arresting fifty. The police fail, however, to incite a violent response from the APPO or to subdue the popular movement.
National and international mobilization in solidarity with the people of Oaxaca surges. The Zapatistas call on the rest of the Other Campaign to join them in shutting down roads, highways and the media on November 1 and for a nation-wide general strike on November 20. In the US and elsewhere, the friends of murdered journalist Brad Will join Mexican immigrants, teachers, and left radicals in continuing international solidarity actions with the APPO.
The PFP fire tear gas into the Benito Juarez Autonomous University of Oaxaca in an apparent attempt to disable Radio Universidad, a key communications tool of the popular movement. After four hours of pitched battles neighbors and students force the police and their riot tanks to retreat. Spirits of the APPO and their supporters rise and many believe that the federal occupation will soon become unsustainable. National and international solidarity and identification with the APPO continues to expand.
Amidst an ongoing dirty war that has disappeared approximately fifty students and APPO leaders since the PFP invasion, three thousand gather to begin creating a new constitution for Oaxaca. The first step is the creation of a more permanent governing structure with executive and legislative powers. The provisional directorship of the APPO is dissolved and 260 representatives from throughout the state form the State Council of the Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca (CEAPPO). A nationwide National Assembly, modeled after the APPO, is scheduled to take place in Mexico City on November 18-19. At least twelve states are expected to send delegates to the Popular Assemble of the Peoples of Mexico (APPM)
Friday, November 17, 2006
Timeline of Recent Popular Resistance in Mexico