Civic unrest plagues study abroad location

Violence has escalated in the once vibrant colonial town of Oaxaca, Mexico, as 30 people were injured in a six-hour standoff between police and protestors just outside the University of Oaxaca campus. The police chased protestors – who had been occupying the downtown square for thepast five months – onto the grounds of the University , which maintains a law of academic freedom, and therefore bans federal officers from having jurisdiction.The conflict has been ongoing since the annual strike for improved teachers’ benefits began on May 22. 70,000 teachers constitute the statewide union, which has taken over the square in downtown Oaxaca. On June 14, Governor Ulises Ruiz ordered the police to use force, including throwingtears gas from helicopters, to dismantle the protest.In response, the teachers joined forces with organizations and activists to create the Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca (APPO), which has become the driving force in the uprising that demand the resignation of Ruiz.On Sept. 21, 5,000 people marched to Mexico City to present their claims to the Senate.Both Houses of the Congress passed declarations demandinging Ruiz to withdraw from office, according to The Washington Post. Gustavo Esteva, a Mexican intellectual, activist and UVM’s 2006 commencement speaker, said, “In order to legally oust the governor, the Senate should declare ‘desaparici??n de poderes,’ which says that the constituted powers are no longer governing.”On Oct. 4, the minister of the interior invited 100 well-known Oaxacaquenos to a meeting in Mexico City to discuss and sign a social pact. However Indigenous leaders denounced the Pact on the grounds that Oaxacan minorities were not represented at the meeting and walked out.The meeting did fulfill its function, no pact was signed, and a second meeting was cancelled. On Oct. 27 Brad Will, an American activist and journalist, was killed by paramilitaries while documenting the protests. Will was killed when shots were fired directly at the protestors. The New York Times reported that out of the five suspects in custody for the murder, two are local officials and two are police officers.In response to Will’s death, Mexican President Vincente Fox, ordered the dispatch of 4,500 federal police officers into Oaxaca, who were aggressively confronted by protestors.”On Oct. 29, the Senate joined the Chamber of Representatives in a petition to the governor to resign which the governor reacted immediately with an appeal to the Supreme Court accusing them of power abuse…and stated that he will never resign,” Esteva said.”The people of Oaxaca, mostly indigenous, are taking into their own hands, their lives with amazing political and sociological imagination. Their peaceful and democratic struggle against a corrupt government is a challenge to well established paradigms of both right and left. It is basically a struggle for freedom, autonomy and convivialit – looking for a world in which many worlds can be embraced,” Esteva said.”We now have the first ‘body count’ produced by a group of NGOs and grassroots organizations: 17 dead, 138 injured, 57 in jail and many disappeared,” he said on Oct. 31.A resident of Oaxaca, Sergio Beltran said, “The only thing we could answer is that here in Oaxaca things are tense, but a lot of hope is flourishing from the incredible capacity of people’s self-organization, and that we wake up every morning convinced that the future could only be better after all these days of struggle.”