Photos and story By David Bacon
[dropcap]M[/dropcap]exico City, Mexico — In September, indigenous Triqui women and their children protested against a wave of killing in their home town, the autonomous community of San Juan Copala in Oaxaca. The Triqui protestors are living in tents in the zocalo, the main plaza in the center of Mexico City, calling on the government to act to protect people in Oaxaca. Other Mexico City activists join them.
While their parents meet, children play, sleep and eat in the tent in the zocalo, under the tables where their families make jewelry to sell in the streets. The women accused the governor of Oaxaca, Ulisses Ruiz (who is about to leave office), of supporting an organization, UBISORT, which has murdered and raped women as a tactic of political repression.
In the latest incident on September 7, Natalia Cruz Bautista and Francisca de Jesus Gracia, two active supporters of the autonomous community, were attacked. They were returning from meeting with the families of Alberta “Bety” Cariño and Jyri Jaakkola, a Finnish solidarity activist, who were both murdered in a caravan seeking to lift UBISORT’s blockade of the town in Oaxaca.
The old ruling Party of the Institutionalized Revolution was defeated for the first time in Oaxaca’s history in July, when voters elected Gabino Cue, the candidate of a joint opposition. A statement by Triqui women activists says, “We are convinced that those who commit these acts of aggression enjoy impunity given by the federal government, and are intended to pressure Oaxaca’s new government.”
Joining the Triqui women in the zocalo is Elva Nora Cruz, the sister of a fired member of the Sindicato Mexicano de Electricistas (SME), the Mexican Electrical Workers Union. Workers and their families have been protesting for a year the actions of the Mexican government in firing 44,000 electrical workers and smashing their union, in October, 2009.
Cruz is a member of the SME’s women’s organization, Mujeres de Luz, Luchando con Fuerza (Women of Light and Strength), a play on the name of the company dissolved by the government in its effort to smash the union and privatize electricity, Luz y Fuerza del Centro.
Leobardo Benitez Alvarez has been living in a tent in front of the office of the Federal Electricity Commission on the Reforma in downtown Mexico City since the workers were fired a year ago. Since then, he and many others have been participating in protests throughout Mexico, supporting the Triqui women, striking miners in Cananea, and other social movements.
The fired electrical workers have created a paper mache monster with the faces of government figures, that sits prominently in front of the office of the Federal Electricity Commission on the Reforma in downtown Mexico City.
Martin Esparza, SME general secretary, accuses the government of conducting “a permanent campaign against unions and workers in the public sector,” citing as well the recent forced bankruptcy of the country’s national airline, Mexicana.
The union recently ended a hunger strike in the zocalo, which went on for more than 70 days, when the government agreed to negotiate over the union’s demands for the return of workers to their jobs and restoring the union’s legal status.
After several weeks, however, Esparza said that for Labor Secretary Javier Lozano, “the only solution is to criminalize our union’s leaders, throw us in jail, and make our union disappear. This is not just a labor conflict. Our courts have now ruled that any worker’s job, contract or union can be eliminated at any time, regardless of what our constitution and labor law say. This is a basic violation of the rights of every Mexican.”
David Bacon is the author of Illegal People — How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press, 2008). For more articles and images, see http://dbacon.igc.org