The following piece by Erika Lozano, published by Desinformémonos and translated by Scott Campbell, discusses the hunger strike started by women from Eloxochitlán de Flores Magón, Oaxaca, demanding the release of seven political prisoners from the community.
Mazatec women encamped in front of the Federal Judiciary Council in Mexico City to demand the release of their relatives after seven years in prison. Argelia Betanzos, Bertha Reynosa and Carmela Bonfil, from Eloxochitlán, Oaxaca, demanded a meeting with the president of the council, Arturo Zaldívar Lelo de Larrea.
“What brings us here is desperation, since the innocence of our family members has been proven by legal evidence, as has the fabrication of the crimes of which they are accused,” explained Betanzos during an interview. She is the daughter of prisoner Jaime Betanzos Fuentes, and she started a hunger strike on Tuesday, May 25, stating she will not leave until she has an answer. She also denounced that “using the pandemic as a pretext,” there has been no progress in the case on the part of Oaxacan authorities.
On Tuesday, May 18, around 120 students from the Mactumactzá Rural Normal School blockaded the Chiapa de Corzo-San Cristóbal highway in Chiapas, Mexico. The students were protesting changes to the admissions process to the school that would disadvantage working class, rural and Indigenous students. Seen as an attempt to change the makeup of the student body or as a step towards closing the school (which has already been closed four times by the Mexican state), students took to the streets, along with others who joined in solidarity.
In response, Chiapas State Police brutally attacked the blockade, firing tear gas and beating students with batons. In total, 95 people were arrested, 74 women and 19 men, all but two of them students. All 95 were moved to the high-security prison of El Amate. During the course of the arrests and transfer, the women students were forced to strip naked and were sexually assaulted by police. All those arrested are facing charges of rioting with a gang enhancement, violent robbery, damages, and attacks on the public peace and the bodily and cultural integrity of the state.
Teaching Resistance: Radicals, Revolutionaries, and Cultural Subversives in the Classroom is an impressive anthology coming out next month from PM Press incorporating a wide variety of voices examining the practice of radical education both inside and outside the classroom. I’m honored to have a piece included in the collection that chronicles and analyzes the militant 2016 teachers’ strike in Mexico which occurred across several states, was met with severe state repression, and led to broader popular rebellion, particularly in Oaxaca. (Here’s a piece from 2016 providing a brief snapshot of some of the events of that struggle.)
In order to print and distribute as many copies as possible, PM Press is running a Kickstarter campaign through which folks can pre-order the book. There are ten days left on the campaign and I encourage you to support it if you’re able and please help spread the word. Here’s more info on the book:
Teaching Resistance: Radicals, Revolutionaries, and Cultural Subversives in the Classroom is a collection of the voices of fierce, activist educators from around the world with a focus on those in and around DIY/punk subculture who engage inside and outside the classroom from pre-kindergarten to university.
More than just a book for teachers, Teaching Resistance is for anyone who wants to explore new ways to subvert educational systems and institutions, collectively transform (and re-imagine) educational spaces, and empower students and other teachers to fight for genuine change. Topics include community self-defense, Black Lives Matter and critical race theory, intersections between punk/DIY subculture and teaching, ESL, anarchist education, Palestinian resistance, trauma, working-class education, prison teaching, the resurgence of (and resistance to) the Far Right, special education, antifascist pedagogies, and more.
Thanks for supporting radical education and radical publishing!
#ElIstmoEsNuestro Isthmus of Tehuantepec June 2019
The Isthmus of Tehuantepec is a region of Mexico shared by the states of Oaxaca and Veracruz. It is the narrowest part of the country between two oceans: the Pacific to the south and the Atlantic to the north (better known as the Gulf of Mexico), and a meeting point between flora and fauna from the north and south. These characteristics make the Isthmus the most biologically diverse area of the country, an invaluable richness of life concentrated on the territories of 11 different Indigenous peoples. Eight with ancestral lands (Zapotec, Mixe, Ikoots, Zoque/Chimalapa, Zoque Popoluca, Chontal, Chochoco and Nahua) and three peoples who migrated due to displacement and forced relocation (Chinanteco, Mixtec, and Tsotsil). Indigenous peoples who to this day have resolutely protected the natural wealth of our territories.
Facing the imminent threat of the Fourth Transformation government and President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) to impose on the peoples of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, the people of Mexico, and the nation itself, the so-called “Integral Development Plan for the Isthmus of Tehuantepec – Interoceanic Train” (popularly known since 1996 as the “Isthmus Megaproject”), and considering that:
Below is a translation of the most recent statement from the Committee for the Defense of Indigenous Rights (CODEDI) following the ambush and killing of three of their members last night. In the audio interview below, Abraham Ramírez Vázquez, the head of CODEDI and former political prisoner, states the ambush was orchestrated by the judicial police (the armed wing of the state prosecutor’s office) and was ordered by the governor of Oaxaca, Alejandro Murat. For background on CODEDI and its origins in Santiago Xanica, see this article.
The organization CODEDI (Committee for the Defense of Indigenous Rights) is an autonomous organization that works for the indigenous communities of the Southern Mountains, Central Valleys and Coast of Oaxaca, in solidarity with all just causes. We currently work with 50 communities, creating the dream of living in autonomy through daily practices, with more than 20 years serving the peoples of Oaxaca. We are part of different alliances in the state, country, and world; alliances based in processes of autonomy and struggle. The leader of our organization is Abraham Ramírez Vázquez, an indigenous leader from Santiago Xanica who was imprisoned from 2004 to 2011 by order of former governor José Murat, the father of the current governor.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.