“In Oaxaca: The Dinosaur’s Last Hours”

Pedro Matias
Proceso, November 14, 2010

“Be careful. The dinosaur is wounded and afraid . . .but his tail still thrashes and he’s dangerous. Watch him carefully. A frightened dinosaur can act stupidly.” Father Francisco Wilfrido Mayren

The statistics that will be absent from Ulises Ruiz’ sixth and final report as Governor of Oaxaca include 200 assassinations of social activists, opposed politicians, and indigenous leaders.

Missing also will be the files on 600 detentions, 380 cases of torture, 7 forced disappearances, assassinations of 4 reporters and other outrages that still go unpunished though fully documented by civil rights organizations plus 264 calls for attention to grievances listed by the Interamerican Court of Human Rights, 40 constitutional charges against the Governor for improper dismissal of functionaries, discrepancies in the use of public funds and various offenses against municipal presidents.

During his 2004 electoral campaign, Ruiz promoted himself as the Benito Juarez of the 21st century. When in power, he converted himself into Porfirio Diaz, Mexico’s infamous dictator of the late 19th and early 20th century.

“Only God creates and dismisses governors,” Ruiz announced when Oaxacan teachers and APPO, the Assembly Popular People of Oaxaca, demanded his resignation in 2006. It is nevertheless fair to say that Ruiz’ security in power came not from the hands of God but from the dedication of his own political party PRI which defended him even while the state burned. Note too that the Supreme Court of the nation has judged Ruiz guilty of violating human rights in Oaxaca but has failed to initiate the appropriate legal processes against him. As for Mexico’s executive branch, Calderon and his people no sooner installed themselves in the President’s office than they struck a deal with PRI insuring that Ruiz would never be threatened.

True to his campaign promise to tolerate neither marches nor strikes, Ruiz’ first year in office was marked by the repression of civil organizations, the imprisonment of its leaders and the persecution of those openly opposed to his rule.

Professor Porfirio Santibañez Orozco of the Benito Juarez University in Oaxaca has studied the record of governance in Oaxaca and concludes that the worst political regimes in Oaxaca’s recent history were those of Jose Murat (1998-2004) and Ulises Ruiz (2004-2010).

Murat began his administration with attacks on PRD Senator Hector Sanchez Lopez and the activist Heriberto Pazos, leader of the Triqui organization MULT (Movimiento de Unificacion y Luchas Triqui) and ended his time as Governor with a weird attack on himself that Santibañez characterizes as “an attack on common sense”.

“Ruiz has no limits at all,” Santibañez concludes. “When he came into office he already had bloody hands from his involvement in the death of Serafin Garcia Contreras and almost immediately rewarded those directly responsible for the murder with federal jobs.”

Santibañez says the violence initiated by Ruiz is carefully designed to intimidate not only those who oppose him but is also directed at those who are potentially dangerous because they know too much about him and the repression experienced by so many in 2006, people like the two thugs who worked for Ruiz and were recently murdered in front of Santo Domingo. “It’s clear,” Santibañez says, “that Ruiz is trying to erase all evidence regarding crimes he committed against so many in 2006” when Oaxacan police arrested, imprisoned and tortured hundreds, forced others to leave the country and murdered many.

Father Francisco Wilfrido Mayren Pelaez, “Padre Uvi”, a Roman Catholic priest and coordinator of the Diocesan Commission on Peace and Justice, believes the recent murders of two social leaders, Catarino Torres and Heriberto Pazos, will eventually be solved but right now “We should be very careful: the dinosaur is wounded and afraid because of his failures and crimes but his tail still thrashes and is dangerous. Watch him carefully. A frightened dinosaur can act stupidly. . . .”

Flavio Sosa, a spokesperson for APPO in 2006, now an elected Workers’ Party delegate in the local congress accuses Ruiz of initiating a reign of state terror. . . . “His intentions are clear: if people won’t love him, make them fear him. And if they won’t fear him, get rid of them. We’re not governed by statesmen in Oaxaca, we’re ruled by terrorists.” Locked up in a maximum security prison for his participation in the conflicts of 2006, Sosa says Oaxaca is now moving through a particularly dangerous period. “Ruiz’ great fear” he says, “is that he might be jailed and is therefore broadcasting a message, `Don’t even think about going after me because I can bring you and everybody else down if you do.’

Others suggest the well publicized murders of recent days are a smoke screen designed to take the attention away from the clear corruption of Ruiz’ administration and the millions of dollars gone missing into unidentified hands and pockets.

As Sosa puts it, “Ruiz’s six years in power have been marked by corruption and impunity, shady deals with contractors, land purchases in Huatulco and Puerto Escondido, departments in Miami and Spain, disappearances, torture and death. . . . If there’s no genuine transition to democracy in Oaxaca, armed struggle is in our future. Ruiz must be judged for the crimes he’s committed, for the disasterous condition of the state, the violation of human rights, the tortured and the disappeared. But in sharp contrast to the way he dealt with us, he should have a fair trial before an impartial jury capable of sorting through the evidence and coming to a just conclusion.


Blog of Zapatista Support Group Wellington, Aotearoa/New Zealand


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