Protesters for Oaxaca Gather in Boston: Mexican Consul Confronted at a Day of the Dead Celebration at Harvard
03 Nov 2006
Boston, Mass. – About 150 protesters from several cities in Massachusetts (Boston, Worcester, New Bedford) and Providence, Rhode Island, joined forces to protest in front of the Mexican consulate yesterday to raise awareness and demand justice for the people’s resistance in Oaxaca. They did so as an international red alert was raised from Oaxaca announcing that Radio Universidad was being attacked by federal forces injuring 15 men and 9 women between the ages of 19 and 78 years old; at least one person has been reported to be in grave condition. The Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca (APPO), a democratically elected body with representatives from worker, teacher, student, and women groups, are asking for the immediate resignation of Governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz, who is accused of having created a repressive and corrupt state in Oaxaca.
PHOTOS - Boston Oaxaca Solidarity Protest
Police and paramilitary assaults on the people of Oaxaca have lasted for over five months now, leaving eight people dead on October 19 alone, and resulting in the death of New York Indymedia reporter and U.S. citizen, Brad Will, on October 27 from a gunshot wound to the chest. On October 29, the Federal Preventative Police (PFP) was called by President Vicente Fox to quell the protesters and entered the city. Since then, a total of 32 people have been reported disappeared and at least three dead, according to the Human Rights Comission in Oaxaca.
According to Reporters Without Borders, three people have been identified as suspects for the murder of Brad Will: municipal policeman Juan Carlos Soriano, municipal personnel chief Manuel Aguilar, public security director Abel Santiago Zárate and a member of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which controls the state government, and Pedro Caramona, a former paramilitary. No arrests have been made so far.
Protesters in Boston read the names of Oaxacans dead, including those that have been killed since the city was barricaded five months ago by activists from the inside out as a way to protect themselves from attacks from government forces. Protesters in Boston also marched around the block twice chanting for peace and justice in Oaxaca. A small group attempted to enter the consulate to deliver a letter but were refused entrance by police. Officers said the building was suddenly closed to the public and threatened to arrest anyone to didn't leave the premises immediately. . Since Monday, October 30th, at least 14 cities in the United States and cities as far as London, Barcelona, Rio de Janeiro, and Brasilia have protested police repression in Oaxca. While the consulates in New York City and Barcelona were occupied by protesters resulting in several arrests, the protest in Boston was carried out for the most part peacefully.
Around 6:30 pm, protesters found out that the Mexican General Consul himself, Porfirio Thierry Muñoz Ledo, was attending a Day of the Dead celebration at the Peabody Museum at Harvard University, and decided to confront him personally about the killings in Oaxaca. A protester approached the Consul with a letter demanding him to sign an immediate cease of hostilities in Oaxaca. “This letter is against the paramilitary assassinations, against the invasion of the federal police, against the disappeared and kidnappings in Oaxaca. Will you sign it for us?” he said.
Consul Muñoz said he would not be made to sign any document and added, “Mexico is in favor of peace and tranquility and the role of police has been so far to re-establish order in the city of Oaxaca. Mexico respects human rights and the government is doing all it can so that things return to normality.”
“Entonces la sangre esta en sus manos (Then blood is in your hands),” responded the protester and proceeded to dump a glass of red wine on the Consul’s hands. The police was immediately summoned to remove all protesters from the museum’s premises. No injuries were reported.
“This man refuses to condemn the murder and disappearances of poor indigenous Mexican people in the state of Oaxaca who are not doing nothing more but stand for democracy. He’s celebrating death, not the Day of the Dead,” said the protester.
“My friend Brad was assassinated by the paramilitary paid by the Mexican government, so what you’re going to do about it. Don’t pretend that the paramilitaries weren’t involved in the massacre. There are pictures of government officials with guns who assassinated my friend,” another protester told the Consul, confronting him.
Meanwhile, after a seven-hour siege on the Benito Juarez Autonomous University’s radio, members of the APPO forced the Federal Preventative Police to retreat. Radio Universidad is the only station still broadcasting for the Popular Assembly movement of Oaxaca, therefore being the target of government forces in the area. Mexican law established back in 1969 prohibits the incursion of law enforcement into autonomous universities, unless requested by the university rector. The rector of the Benito Juarez University categorically rejects the presence of the PFP and did not give his approval to the agency to enter the campus.
George Salzman, one of the many independent journalists that are currently reporting from Oaxaca wrote for Narco News, “It’s 8:40 pm and Radio Universidad is still alive. I don’t know what will happen later tonight or tomorrow. It appears that the PFP were driven back. The Oaxaquenos really believe that “Los pueblos unidos, jamas sera vencidos” (The people united will never be defeated). I hope to hell they’re right.”