Mexicans brace for Oaxaca protest

Mass rally planned to mark crackdown two years ago that left 27 protesters dead.

Human rights groups say that 27 people were killed in protests in 2006 [EPA]

There is unease in the southern Mexican city of Oaxaca. 

A huge rally is due to take place aimed at reminding the authorities of the bloody crackdown on locals, students, teachers and activists by state and federal police on June 14, 2006.

The violence, which human rights groups say left 27 people dead, began after a strike by teachers over poor pay developed into a broad demonstration against social and economic conditions in the poor Mexican state which shares the city’s name.

Protest organisers expect to see at least 50,000 people on the streets of the southern city on Saturday.

In fact, protesters, mostly teachers from the dissident ‘Seccion 22′ teachers’ union, have been gathering in the city’s main square since May.

On the surface, the political atmosphere is much calmer than during the clashes of 2006, and ahead of the anniversary there were no police or soldiers in sight.

But the protesters’ cause has not changed, it has only been exacerbated by the violence which they say was brought upon them by the authorities.

Shaken, but focused

If you speak to protest organisers – known as the Asemblea Popular del Puebla Oaxaqueño (Appo) – they seem shaken but determined.

Over the last two years, the government has been cracking down on Appo leaders in the heart of the city and the Oaxacan countryside. 

Appo expects 50,000 protesters
on Oaxaca’s streets [EPA]

At least 25 people have been shot dead in the past year alone.

However, they remain unbowed and continue to demand the resignation of Ulises Ruiz Ortiz, the Oaxaca governor who many say stole the 2004 election and then used violence to repress his opposition.

Ortiz dismisses the accusations and says there is no proof that he  ordered arrests, detained or tortured people.

Beyond the immediate aim of unseating the governor, many protesters say they want to see the strengthening of democracy in one of Mexico’s poorest states.

But lately they have been trying to work out how to achieve that goal.

Some say it must happen through the electoral system, while others worry that the system is too corrupt and will never lead to the profound, systematic changes that are so necessary.

The protest march on Saturday could help in unifying people in achieving their political aims.

Ortiz’s Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) has ruled the state government in Oaxaca for nearly 80 consecutive years.

When asked if it was a good idea for one party to hold power for such a long time, Ortiz said: “I hope we govern for 100 more.”

For many locals though, the thought of another hundred years is not particularly appetising. They still have no basic drainage facilities or electricity in their homes.

Source: Al Jazeera