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Police enters Oaxaca University and threatens radio station

2007-07-06

We spent today at Radio Universidad. I was with some reporters, working to document the situation at Radio Universidad and the Cinco Senores barricade. Today there were small groups of people sitting and standing all over the place, many more than on previous days. The kitchen, which had been a collection of barrels filled with live coals in the open air, had moved across the pathway, and was now much more formal, with tarps on all sides.

We sat down and a man sitting next to us asked, "What do you think about what is going on here?"

"It is complicated," I responded. "It seems like the longer we are here, the less we understand." He laughed.

He explained that he is a teacher working in a small pueblo outside of the city. He had returned to work several weeks before, despite enormous pressure from the town government (PRI politicians) to oust him and the other teachers. But they continued to work, despite fears for their personal safety, because of support from local families. He was stranded in Oaxaca today because he could not get transportation back to his town.

I went over to the puesto de socorro (first aid station) where they had a steady stream of injured people from yesterday. Most had burns or bad cuts, many of the burns from rockets, deep and serious, on their hands. One young man passed off while they were cleaning off his burn.

Shortly later we heard a report that police were gathering to attack the university. What to do? If they attacked the university, it would be very very bad. Although many parts of the movement are peaceful, the guards at the Radio Universidad have no intention of giving up their posts, and I suspect they will do whatever they can to deflect an attack. As far as I know they have no firearms, but they are prepared with home-made rockets, slingshots with piles of rocks, and molotov cocktails. If the police truly want to enter, and arrest the people running the radio, as we have heard, there will probably be a great deal of violence.

We desperately wanted to stay, so the reporters could document anything that might happen, and so that I could help with any needed medical care. After going back and forth for literally hours, as it got later and darker, we decided to leave. With very, very heavy hearts we passed through the gate guarding the Radio Universidad area, and walked/ran as quickly as we could to the nearest big street where we could catch a cab. As our cab left the University area one of my friends saw pickup trucks filled with PFPs heading might happen, towards the Cinco Senores barricade.

I have now arrived in my relatively comfortable hostel, feeling terribly conflicted about leaving Radio Universidad. We are listening to Radio Universidad over the internet. So far, there has been no significant violence. What follows is a very rough translation of some of the broadcasts.

They are asking people to come to the University area, to defend the radio. They are also asking for bottled water, cigarettes, lighters, clothes, rockets.

At 8:30 there is an ominous announcement over the radio. At 9 pm tonight the PFP are authorized to enter the University. Until now the University officials have continued to insist on the autonomy of the university, refusing entry to any local or federal police. From what the Doctora had said over the last few days, she was involved in negotiations to maintain this protection around the Radio Universidad area, but apparently they have now decided to allow the police on.

A call comes in from streets outside of the university to report a convoy of 5 trucks filled with PFPs near the University area. The caller is outraged because none of the trucks have license plates, so there is no way to hold specific troops accountable for specific actions. "This is an abuse of human rights!" he states.

La Doctora Berta is announcing over the radio. She states that in the Park of Love, there are 7 trucks of PFPs. Near the river, which is close to the University, there are six patrols of police, only one marked clearly as police.

She then calls out several names of people, "please contact your families immediately. They do not know where you are and they are worried."

Doctora Berta reads a list of people located at one of the local jails. "This is good news!" she exclaims. "We know were they are, and they have not been hurt or tortured." Seems odd, no? to be happy people have been found in jail. But that means that they aren't disappeared.

We hear pops and booms from across the city, sounds like tear gas or some other firearms, but could be just firecrackers celebrating a wedding or birthday.

La Doctora continues to read off names of people located in different jails around the city, repeating the names several times. It is 8:55, and the police may enter within minutes, but she continues with a calm and determined voice. "Con corazon ardiente, y mente frio" she often says. "With burning heart and cold mind."

More pops and booms. La Doctora continues to read off names.

She then offers commentary on the interference and repression of communication and news in Oaxaca. Then returns to reading of names, "Because families must know where their loved ones are."

After reading more names she lists the items needed for the Radio Universidad encampment. "Clothes, especially women's pants size 5 to 11, jackets because it is so cold, shoes, blankets, glass bottles, rockets, cigarettes. And people listen, the cigarettes are not for me to smoke, no they are not for me. I buy my own cigarettes. We use them to light the rockets."

She then exhorts the people of Oaxaca to proceed peacefully. "Do not give the police a reason to respond to us with violence. Be peaceful. Do not fight. We will just give them an excuse to hurt us, to kill us. But although the people of Oaxaca are peaceful, we are not stupid."

They have a musical break, then Doctora Berta announces that some police are traveling around the city in a taxi, and she announces the license plate number.

"Tomorrow we have a march! We are going to be crazy with so much marching. Marching is wonderful for the health, for the heart, for the circulation, for the muscles, for the respiratory system. Well, unless they throw tear gas. But if we have masks with vinegar, we will be fine, because this protection is magnificent. We will march from the University to Santo Domingo."

"And we must reflect, that the force of yesterday could break us. If we all go running, and hide, imagine if I was to hide under my bed. If we fun, we lose the movement. But if we stay strong, organized, We have to bear it until the 1st. We still have 4 days to go, and these days will be very difficult. . . In these 4 days we have to be firm, we have to continue strong in the struggle. United, everyone remember, organized and disciplined."

"Tomorrow we are going to Santo Domingo, and we are going to recreate our encampment in Santo Domingo [the xxx were burned.].

"And just think -- the PFP will have to go back to Mexico City because of the demonstrations expected there on the 1st of December. We just have to wait until they leave, and then we will win."

The radio continues with music, announcements of names of the jailed, and phone calls. It is now 10 pm, and so far all is calm.

A call comes into the radio, reporting that an office where APPO people work and sleep is burning. The caller does not know who has started the fire, but he suspects it is people affiliated with the government. Someone tried to burn this building before, but only the door burned. The radio announcers ask if any firefighters have arrived, and the caller says no.

"Well, you must call them immediately. Please, get off the phone and call them."

"Of course," he says, "Hasta la victoria siempre." and hangs up.

Doctora Berta reports that she has received threats that her house will be burned tonight. She calls to her neighbors, please protect the house. Make sure that the security cameras in our neighborhood are on and working. Without them we won't know who does it." and then goes on to request that specific people report to their families, because they are out of contact, and their families are very worried. "Eddy XX (couldn't get last name), please call your abuelita (little grandmother)."

"And why do people hate and love me so much? I just work here on the radio and the first aid station."

At 10:30 a call comes from Mexico City, where people are barricading roads in solidarity with APPO and the movement in Oaxaca. She says, "This is the least we can do. The people of Oaxaca have suffered detentions, violence and more for 6 months, and we can at least put up barricades to show our support. And the struggle in Oaxaca is not just territorial, it is about all of us working for better circumstances for all people."

La Doctora expresses great appreciation for the national support that the movement has received. She then asks that all people coming to support the movement do just that -- support -- and that they respect the decisions made by APPO and others for the direction and tone of the movement here.

Time continues to pass. I wonder whether there will be an attack tonight. It seems likely, probably early the morning when people are tired from staying vigilant, and when many of the people of Radio Universidad are sleeping. But, as always, who knows?

It is almost midnight, and the radio is reporting police have surrounded the area, but have not yet tried to enter the Radio Universidad compound.

Shots were fired two different times into one of the first aid stations near the Radio Universidad. No reports of injured or killed people.

I will send this report out now, and follow with another as more things develop.

As always, please keep the people of Oaxaca, and all those struggling for justice, in your hearts and minds.

Cuidense,
Xochitl



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