Mexico: Solidarity and Self-Organization in Earthquake Aftermath

Originally published on It’s Going Down

On Tuesday, September 19, a powerful earthquake struck central Mexico. With a magnitude of 7.1 on the Richter scale and the epicenter just south of the city of Puebla, it has caused numerous deaths and widespread damage in Mexico City and the neighboring states of Puebla, Morelos and the State of Mexico, along with reports of loss of life and structural damage as far south and west as the states of Oaxaca and Guerrero.

Dozens of buildings collapsed in Mexico City alone and at the time of this writing at least 230 people have been reported as killed. The earthquake occurred just hours after a national earthquake drill and commemoration of the 32nd anniversary of the 1985 quake in which more than 10,000 people were killed. The 1985 tragedy is a seminal moment in modern Mexican history not only for the massive devastation caused but also due to the negligence, corruption and opportunism which marked the government’s response, especially when contrasted with the tremendous mobilization and solidarity of civil society in successfully self-organizing rescue efforts in the face of the state’s abdication of responsibility.

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Insumisión: Community Self-Defense Against Narcos and the State

community-police-tixtla-guerrero

Originally published to It’s Going Down
By Scott Campbell

As those of us in the U.S. come together to plan for the incoming Trump regime, hopefully we can find some inspiration and affinity with the ongoing resistance happening in Mexico. After this summer’s teachers’ strike and popular mobilizations collapsed, communities and organizations in Mexico have returned to the essential but none-too-glorious work of building community self-defense and organization to maintain their gains and prepare for the next uprising that will inevitably occur.

This edition looks at communities around Mexico creating and defending autonomy, taking matters into their own hands to provide for their security from the state, organized crime and corporations. There are also updates on prisoners, community media and Ayotzinapa. This will probably be the final Insumisión of 2016. Since starting in March, we’ve put out 14 of them and appreciate that people find them useful. In 2017, we are hoping to expand our Mexico coverage and part of that will be a trip I am planning to take in a couple of months to connect face-to-face with many of the organizations you read about in these columns and to produce exciting original content. To help make that happen, please contribute to and spread the word about our fundraiser for the trip.

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The People and Teachers Unite Against the State and Neoliberalism in Oaxaca

The below article, written in mid-August, appeared in the October 2016 print edition of Maximum Rocknroll. For the latest on the teachers’ strike in Mexico, see my most recent Insumisión column.

March in Oaxaca on August 22.

March in Oaxaca on August 22.

By Scott Campbell

In the fall of 2008 while in the city of Oaxaca, I walked with David Venegas in the plaza in front of the Santo Domingo Cathedral, a massive four-block church and former monastery whose construction first began in 1572. We were returning from the courthouse nearby, where Venegas had to report every 15 days. A prominent member of the Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca (APPO) and the anti-authoritarian group Oaxacan Voices Building Autonomy and Freedom (VOCAL), Venegas was arrested, beaten and tortured in April 2007, held for eleven months on charges of “possession with intent to distribute cocaine and heroin, sedition, conspiracy, arson, attacks on transit routes, rebellion, crimes against civil servants, dangerous attacks, and resisting arrest,” and eventually conditionally released. Until he was found innocent in April 2009, one of those conditions was his semi-monthly presentation at the courthouse. As with any trip he made in public, Venegas had at least one person accompany him to provide some security against being arrested or disappeared.

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Insumisión: It Was the State

Originally posted to It’s Going Down
September 29, 2016
By Scott Campbell

Several significant events have unfolded during the past couple weeks in Mexico, from an end the teachers’ strike to the commemoration of major key dates for the resistance. As ever, the repression and impunity with which the Mexican state operates has continued unabated. There’s a lot to cover, so let’s jump right in.

Ayotzinapa

Protests in Chilpancingo, Guerrero on September 25.

Protests in Chilpancingo, Guerrero on September 25.

On September 26, 2014, students from the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers’ College in Ayotzinapa, Guerrero were traveling to Mexico City to participate in the annual mobilization marking the October 2, 1968 Tlatelolco massacre. They were intercepted by state forces in Iguala, Guerrero, where police opened fire, killing six – three students and three passersby. Forty-three other students were disappeared and to this day their location and fate remain unknown.

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Insumisión: Cracks in the Resistance as the Teachers’ Strike Wanes

Music on the highway blockade in Nochixtlán, Oaxaca.

Music on the highway blockade in Nochixtlán, Oaxaca.

Originally posted to It’s Going Down
By Scott Campbell

As the teachers’ strike in Mexico continued into the start of the school year, the last Insumisión column noted the tense situation developing, particularly in Oaxaca, with the break down of negotiations between the teachers union and the government and the arrival of hundreds of more federal forces to the state. While there was a show of force by the Oaxaca state government before dawn on Sunday, September 11, the feared widespread repression did not occur. Instead, the struggle against the neoliberal educational reform and structural reforms in general has lost some of its consistency and coherency as various state sections of the National Coordinator of Education Workers (CNTE) take different approaches following the start of the school year.

Initially, the CNTE seemed to be holding to its stance that the strike would continue until the educational reform was repealed. When classes were to start on August 22, teachers in Oaxaca, Chiapas, Guerrero, Michoacán and parts of Mexico City remained on strike. Instead of classrooms opening, mass marches and blockades inaugurated the school year in Chiapas and Oaxaca. Teachers installed 25 highway blockades in Oaxaca that they held for 48 hours, except in Nochixtlán, which lasted for four days. In Chiapas, teachers blockaded four entry points into the state capital of Tuxtla Gutiérrez for two days, not allowing trucks belonging to transnational corporations to pass.

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Insumisión: Schools Remain Closed as the State Amasses Forces of Repression

Originally posted on It’s Going Down
By Scott Campbell

As the strike against educational reform by teachers belonging to the National Coordinator of Education Workers (CNTE) in Mexico enters its fourth month, the conflict between the people and the neoliberal narcostate seems poised to take another turn, a potentially violent one. The government is running out of tricks, leaving the likelihood it will return to its old standby, state violence, all the more likely.

When the strike first began on May 15, the government’s tactic was to ignore the teachers, refusing to talk to them. As that failed and support for the teachers grew, it tried brute force, leading to the Nochixtlán massacre on June 19, a day when twelve were killed. That repression caused national outrage and succeeded in turning a teachers’ movement into a popular one. The government then offered up negotiations as a fig leaf, yet meeting after meeting made clear that the state had no actual interest in negotiating anything. The school year started in Mexico on Monday, August 22, but teachers remain on strike and schools have not opened in Oaxaca, Chiapas, Guerrero, Michoacán and parts of Mexico City.

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Mexico: Some Disruptive Reflections on the Murder of Compa Salvador Olmos

protest-huajuapan-chava-salvador-olmos-anarchistOriginally posted on It’s Going Down
From Contra Info
Translated by Scott Campbell

We write this after reading the “Statement from the Huajuapan Libertarian Bloc on the police murder of compañero Salvador Olmos ‘Chava’[more on Chava in English] as we believe given the escalation of the war and advancing repression on anarchist/libertarian settings it is necessary to clarify our positions in the interest of identifying the enemy’s multiple forms, as they are often reduced to criticisms of “government injustices” or simply “to believe that evil is embodied in a person or politician” and not the reality that it is the entire system of rulers and ruled who together actively participate in the maintenance of the capitalist social order.

Let it be clear! The following words are in no way aimed at tarnishing the memory of compañero Chava or to start polemical bickering, nor to cause fighting amongst ourselves, this is above all a reflection from compañeros for compañeros and we hope it is taken as such.

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Insumisión: Amidst the Barricades, Building a Movement for the Long Run

guelaguetza-popular

Fists raised at the Teachers-Peoples Guelaguetza as the names of the fallen from Nochixtlán are read.

Originally posted to It’s Going Down
By Scott Campbell

Next week, teachers in Mexico belonging to the National Coordinator of Education Workers (CNTE) will mark three months on strike. Three months without pay, of sleeping in encampments far from home, of funerals, arrests, disappearances, beatings, fear, uncertainty, and endless hours of marching. Yet the union has remained steadfast in its demand for the repeal of the educational reform and by doing so has created space for a much larger movement to emerge alongside it. What appeared at first as solidarity is increasingly moving toward coherent unity, as the people see their demands reflected in those of the teachers and vice versa. This mutual identification is rooted in an understanding that the forces responsible for creating the innumerable injustices occurring in Mexico can be traced back to neoliberal capitalism as deployed by a corrupt narcostate operating with impunity.

While events in Mexico haven’t been making headlines in the past couple of weeks, the struggle is still on. Along with mobilizing effective displays of its vitality, the movement has been using the decline in repression after the Nochixtlán massacre and the ongoing negotiations with the government to build sturdier foundations for the inevitable confrontations that lie ahead – be they during this phase of resistance or ones that will follow.

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Insumisión: From Teachers’ Strike to People’s Rebellion

Originally published by It’s Going Down
By Scott Campbell

With the ongoing teachers’ strike that has morphed into a widespread rebellion, primarily in Oaxaca and Chiapas, we haven’t put together a more general roundup of resistance and repression in Mexico in some time. While that struggle is very much alive and well, the intensity with which it is unfolding has diminished some. This column will first take a look at the past three weeks of that conflict (if you need to get up to speed, check out this piece) and then cover some of the other recent events around the country.

The teachers belonging to the National Coordinator of Education Workers (CNTE) have now been on strike for more than two months. Since the massacre by federal and state forces in Nochixtlán, Oaxaca on June 19, in which eleven people were killed, the conflict has taken on an increasingly popular dimension. This has looked like direct actions, marches, material support and expressions of solidarity from across Mexico and beyond, in numbers far too large to recount individually.

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Oaxaca: The Discourse of Fear, Rumors and Lies

pueblo-street-art-oaxacaBy Griselda Sánchez
Desinformémonos
July 14, 2016
Translated by Scott Campbell

June 19, 11:09:01pm – Are you ok?? Rumors are spreading here about a curfew. What do you know? Be careful, ok? We’re here if there’s something we can do to help. And in that way, more than 15 people from Mexico City sent me text messages or called to tell me that they were getting messages saying that there was – or would be – a power cut in the city of Oaxaca, that the police had already entered the main square (Zócalo) to remove the teachers who have had an encampment (plantón) there since May 15. I told them that I was listening to Radio Universidad and Radio Tu’un Ñuu Savi and that they weren’t saying these things. It was a very difficult day…In the morning, the State and Federal Police tried to remove the blockade of federal highway 190 maintained by teachers and parents in Nochixtlán. In that police operation nine people were killed by gunfire and there were dozens seriously wounded. For hours in the afternoon, in Hacienda Blanca and Viguera – the entrance to the state capital – two Federal Police helicopters bombarded with tear gas grenades the people who were resisting on the barricades in order to block the path of the police. These helicopters also fired on houses in the neighborhood and on the school where people had set up a first aid site to treat the wounded. My compañeros with independent media went to cover that location while I went to the Zócalo. I arrived in time to witness an informational meeting given by the teachers. The spokespersons informed us of what was happening a few kilometers from here. They indicated where barricades would be put up to protect the plantón, and also asked for calm and to pay no mind to the rumors. They said that moments before a woman passed by shouting: “They’re coming, the police have arrived!” – placing the plantón on alert, which like an anthill began to mobilize. The businesses abruptly shuttered. Some people approached the main table to deliver bags of medication, food, vinegar. It’s true, that afternoon reeked of uncertainty…and uncertainty and rumors are not a good combination because they spread rapidly, penetrating your skin and paralyzing you. That was the state’s strategy: to create fear, weariness, and paralysis.

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