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The Return of the Barbarians

27 November 2007

Without a doubt, this is the longest piece ever posted on the Mex Files. Unfortunately, I’ve had to work from e-mails, and not all programs support accents and punctuation marks in exactly the same way. I did my best to “clean up” the text — and, in one instance (changing “Mexico Plan” to “Plan Mexico”) making a small change. A few typos may have been caused by the changes from platform to platform, but were corrected without note here. I did not edit the footnotes — having only so much time available. I will try to edit the piece later — and to create links where appropriate (or where the Mex Files has commented on the same incidents Albertani mentions).

Whether I agree or disagree with Albertani’s conclusions is irrelevant. The piece deserved wider circulation — and to a more general audience — than it would receive on the Oaxaca Study Action Group Yahoo group. I held off publication until I had heard back from the translator, Kurt Hackbarth, making sure he understood the Mex Files is covered by a “Creative Commons” license, which means others are free to copy and distribute, with attribution.


The Return of the Barbarians


Resistance and state of exception in Mexico


Claudio Albertani

translated from Spanish by Kurt Hackbarth


The tradition of the oppressed teaches us that the “state of emergency” in which we live is not the exception but the rule.

Walter Benjamin


Modern totalitarianism can be defined as the establishment, by means of a state of exception, of a legal civil war that allows for the physical elimination not only of political adversaries, but of entire categories of citizens who, for whatever reason, cannot be integrated into the political system.

Giorgio Agamben



In a small book of great importance for understanding modern times, the Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben analyzes the paradoxical and disturbing concept of the “state of exception”. [1] A typical feature of Nazism, the �state of exception� is the violent response of the powers-that-be to extreme conflicts; it is the empty space that marks the suspension of the legal system as well as the usual relationship between law and authority. Agamben defines it as a no-man’s-land where the traditional differences between democracy, absolutism and dictatorship melt away; the crack barbarism slides through. Far from disappearing with the defeat of classical totalitarianism, the state of exception insinuated itself at the end of the twentieth century as a power paradigm, attaining today its maximum expansion around the world. Everywhere, governmental violence is free to ignore international law and its regulatory aspects with total impunity.


The specter of the dirty war


Agamben’s analysis is directed principally at George Bush’s United States. The “Patriot Act”, enacted at the end of 2001, suppressed habeus corpus and introduced a culture of suspicion typical of totalitarian regimes. Whoever receives the stigma of “enemy” automatically loses his or her most basic rights — beginning with the right to life — and is treated as a pariah, subject to torture, clandestine prisons, assassination and forced disappearance. With different levels of intensity, the model is currently being generalized around the world. In Latin America, it has been principally applied in Columbia and, most recently, in Mexico, as we will see.


According to a journalistic reconstruction, on May 24th, 2007, the State of Oaxaca�s �Unidad policial de Operaciones Especiales� (Police Unit for Special Operations) arrived on the scene of the Del Árbol Hotel due to the alleged presence of an “armed group”.[2] Immediately after, the army arrived. A news bulletin reported the apprehension of four people, supposedly ministerial police from Chiapas who had not handed in their official letter of assignment to the state attorney general’s office upon arrival in Oaxaca. Soon, human rights organizations concluded that the four were not police at all but guerrillas, precisely, two members of the EPR, Gabriel Cruz Sánchez (also known as Raymundo Rivera Bravo), 55 years old, and Edmundo Reyes Amaya, 50 years old, who have since then beendetained and disappeared. [3]


On June 1st, the State Committee of the People’s Revolutionary Democratic Party (PDPR), Zone Military Command of the People’s Revolutionary Army (EPR), released a communiqué demanding that its members be returned alive. [4] The age of each (about fifty years old) indicated that they were neither neophytes nor mid-ranking figures but militants with a long history. Other communiqués followed but, except for precious few exceptions, most of the print and electronic media ignored them.

On June 20th, Alejandro Cerezo, a member of the Cerezo Committee (an organization dedicated to the defense of human rights of political prisoners and prisoners of conscience[5]), received some threatening messages on his cellular phone (given to him by the Interior Department and whose number, along with those of his siblings Francisco and Emiliana, is confidential). On the 26th, he received an e-mail which it is worth quoting in full[6]:



From: tiburcio loxicha <>

To: <>, <>


Date: Tue, 26 Jun 2007

how are you? hot? what’s up with all the disappeared people? family? beloved uncle? fabulous father? That’s life the family in deep shit again, anyway we’re watching the three of you from close by, those from la palma and your beloved family, and your little assface uncle and his little chatterbox friendwho doesn’t stop talking and the other one who talks and talks too, but maybe it’s better they stop talking and keep quiet or I’ll fuck them up. Only god knows, and those dickheads marx and lenin too. Tell mommy and daddy not to be cowards to do what they’re going to do so they can see how we’re going to strip and fuck you but good. Poor uncle and zapatito they though they were hot shit but they dropped like doves out of the sky. See you later lovies. From the sierra del sur. Your real parents. [7]


The Liga Mexicana por la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos (Mexican League for the Defense of Human Rights) (LIMEDDH) pointed out the following: a) the name Tiburcio Loxicha refers to the name Tiburcio, which according to intelligence organs corresponds to Tiburcio Cruz Sánchez, historic leader of the EPR (not being held), supposedly the father of those affected and brother of one of the detainees; b) Loxicha is the region that the intelligence organs mention as being one of EPR influence; c) “misserezos” is an allusion to the message of the young people’s mother. The phrase: “how are you? hot? what’s up with the disappeared people? family? beloved uncle? fabulous father?” [8] clearly refers to the people disappeared in Oaxaca on May 24th; d) “zapatitito” could be a reference to Gabino Flores Cruz, detained on June 14th, 2007 in Ixhuatlán de Madero, Veracruz, and linked with the Other Campaign. [9]


The threats contained the unmistakable mark of psychological warfare. Moreover, they flaunted a high level of information that very probably came from intelligence organs. The conclusion is that the Mexican government considers the Cerezo Contreras brothers to be virtual hostages, susceptible to punishment at any moment, their only crime that of being human rights activists.


On June 27th, a new and anguished communiqué from the EPR asked: “What do we have to do to be considered news? Our comrades have been held for 33 days as detainees disappeared by this criminal government; 33 days of vicious torture while the system keeps trying to find some legalistic way to make us out to be delinquents or terrorists.” [10]


Once again, both authorities and press were silent. Between July 5th and 10th, eight explosions of PEMEX gas and oil pipelines took place, located in Celaya, Salamanca and Valle de Santiago, Guanajuato, as well as in Presa de Bravo, a municipality of Corregidora, Querétaro, seriously affecting the central-northern industrial corridor.


Although it was clear who did it, the Mexican authorities at the beginning spoke of “incidents”. On the 10th, the EPR declared that the attacks were in retaliation for the disappearance of their militants. The communiqué warned that the “harassment will not stop until the governments of Felipe Calderón and Ulises Ruiz return our companions alive”. [11] In the following weeks, the EPR carried out further, demonstrative attacks in Chiapas and in the city of Oaxaca itself, in the days preceding the elections for mayorships and the state legislature. [12]


I do not intend to defend the EPR. Without taking into account the damage the explosions caused to the already-deteriorated Mexican environment, it is clear that attacking PEMEX in these days of neo-conservatism is — to say the least — inopportune; the PAN and the private sector already exist to do just that. Furthermore, the bombings in Oaxaca were used by the local government as electoral propaganda to justify their repressive policies. Even so, it is necessary to recognize that the EPR got the burning theme of the disappeared back onto the table.


In this respect, the posture of the government — both Oaxacan and federal — is chilling: “there are no disappeared; the people being looked for are not in any of the prisons of the national penitentiary system”. [13] After visiting the Campo Militar (Military Field) No. 1, the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) reported that they “did not find the two EPR members supposedly disappeared”.[14] Clearly, even if they had been there (and not in some clandestine dungeon), it is difficult to imagine the army handing them over.


The Attorney General’s Office (PGR) — a federal agency — claimed that nobody officially reported the disappeared as missing, but Nadán Reyes Maldonado, daughter of Edmundo Reyes Amaya, reported that the Oaxacan office of the Attorney General refused to receive the official complaint of her father’sdisappearance. [15]


And the left? Mostly, they ignored it. Particularly clumsy was the silence of the “Other Campaign”, for neo-Zapatistas themselves, as mentioned, were included among the threats.


For his part, the “legitimate” President, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, saw the attacks as being executed by the government itself in order to cover up the myriad of scandals it is complicit in. According to AMLO, the real dirty war is the one the government is waging against himself and the center-left coalition that supports him, the Broad Progressive Front.[16]


Few, very few, demanded what is elemental: the dismantling of the mechanisms of the dirty war and the presentation, alive, of the two disappeared members of the EPR. Doing so does not mean approving of the attacks, nor does it mean supporting the strategy of the armed groups, much less sharing its Marxist-Leninist point of view. What it does imply, solely, is a fundamental act of justice and a minimum of political perceptiveness. For the moment, the offensive has been unleashed against “terrorist groups”, but peaceful activists and common citizens could be next.



Unlinked acts?


With its sixty million poor people — more than half of whom live in extreme poverty — Mexico has recently vaunted two unusual records: the richest man in the world — the telecommunications magnate, Carlos Slim[17] — and the largest confiscation of cash in the history of humanity, $205 million dollars packed into canvas bags in a quiet villa in an exclusive Mexico City neighborhood. [18]

This being the state of things, social control becomes a strategic priority: the country is like a pressure cooker, ready to explode anywhere and at any moment. This explains why the Mexican government is negotiating a “Plan Mexico” with the United States equivalent to the “Plan Columbia” that has so devastated the South American country. With the pretext of combating drug production, organized crime and terrorism, what “Plan Mexico” is really about is eliminating all political opposition south of the Rio Grande. [19]


Equally worrying is the Agreement for Prosperity and Security in North America (ASPAN) that the American government has been promoting since the World Trade Center attacks. Signed on March 23rd, 2005 in Waco, Texas by the then-Presidents George Bush, Vicente Fox and Paul Martin and reaffirmed on August 21st, 2007 in Montebello, Canada, by Harper, Calderon and Bush, the agreement seeks primarily to strengthen US security and secondly trade, economy and the energy sector along the lines laid out by NAFTA.[20]


ASPAN,” Carlos Fazio writes, “is part of the trend towards the militarization and transnationalization of the ‘war on drugs’, manufactured and imposed by the United States all over the continent, to which the ‘war on terrorism’ is now added as part of the same counterinsurgency package. Such a tendency contributes to the reinforcement and re-legitimation of the domestic role of the armed forces and the militarized police corps similar to the one played during the Southern Cone dictatorships, which provoked condemnation and their loss of prestige because of the dramatic effects on human rights”.[21]


ASPAN, then, is a sort of militarized NAFTA planned by Washington and the North American Competitiveness Council (CCAN), a business organization made up of Mexico, America and Canada�s principal businessmen. One of its objectives is to repeal the Mexican non-intervention law, opening the door to the participation of Mexican troops in imperial wars and, especially, the direct intervention of the American army in the internal affairs of the country, just like in Columbia.[22]

For his part, Felipe Calderon’s government is already making significant steps in this direction. In March, the Senate approved an “Anti-Terrorism Law” that criminalizes social protest and makes it possible for social activists to be accused as terrorists.[23]


On May 9th, 2007, the Diario Oficial de la Federación (Official Federal Record) published a decree — signed by President Calderón and the Secretary of National Defense, General Guillermo Galván Galván, creating the Army and Air Force Special Corps, named the Federal Supportive Forces Corps. Their goal: to reestablish “public order and the rule of law” wherever necessary, which has all the makings of a new tool of repression at the direct disposal of the president.[24]


Along the exact same lines of the model imposed by the United States, the National Defense Department (Sedena) and the Public Safety Department (SSP) assert that civil justice cannot try soldiers who commit human rights violations and other crimes while acting as federal police. [25]


In June, an unusual event occurred: the dismissal of the entire command structure of the two principal repressive bodies of the Mexican government: the Federal Investigation Agency (AFI) and the Federal Preventative Police (PFP).[26] The measure was presented as necessary to “combat corruption and avoid the penetration of crime into the state security forces”, but it is clear in the current context that this also has implications for the government’s counterinsurgency strategy.


At the same time, the National Center for Investigation and Security (Cisen) was restructured, the goal of which was to transfer its intelligence functions to the army.[27] Two further events worthy of note: the freeing of General Mario Arturo Acosta Chaparro and the amparo (legal protection) given to ex-president Luís Echeverría.[28] Tried for drug trafficking (for which he spent six years and ten months in Campo Militar #1), the former is one of the people most responsible for the dirty war of the 1970�s. The sentence restores all his rights to him as well as the rank of general.


Rosario Ibarra de Piedra, founder of the ¡Eureka! Committee, denounced the decision as an enormous injustice due to the large amount of testimony proving that Acosta Chaparro was responsible for a large number of forced disappearances and acts of torture in the State of Guerrero.[29]


For his part, Echeverría was tried for the Tlatelolco (1968) and Jueves de Corpus (1971) killings, but one accusation after the other has fallen by the wayside. A masterpiece of juridical contradiction, the most recent ruling establishes that the acts under consideration do, indeed, constitute genocide but, at the same time, exonerates the principal organizer of the acts from all responsibility.


The impunity of Echeverría and other officials — for example, the sinister torturer Miguel Nazar Haro, ex-head of the Federal Security Office, was also released — has even been approved by the Mexican Supreme Court which determined that, even if they were committed, the statute of limitations for the crimes they were being tried for had already run out.


The eagerness to rehabilitate the worst repressors in recent Mexican history goes hand in hand with the constant calls by President Felipe Calderón to the armed forces to “combat the threats of those who attempt to affect the nation’s security with criminal acts”, which directly conveys the idea that the army that is the greatest defender of the legitimacy of the republic.[30]


It is clear that such sermons give carte blanche to the tormenters of Cruz Sánchez and Reyes Amaya – and all the torturers in all of the country�s clandestine prisons – to continue what they are doing with the most complete impunity.[31]


According to the dissident general José Francisco Gallardo — who suffered eight years of prison for having dared to exist on a military ombudsman for Mexico — Felipe Calderín governs in the states by means of his military commanders. “We are at the point of arriving at a bunker state, where the army is in permanent confrontation with civil society and keeps it permanently fearful. This is already happening now, daily, in the south and the border area.” [32]


Only within this disconcerting context — which corresponds to the state of exception described by Agamben — can we understand the detention, disappearance and torture of the members of the EPR. We are not only talking about one barbarous act, but a counterinsurgency maneuver carried out at the highest level. The objective is clear: force the EPR to commit desperate acts so as to then be able to criminalize social movements.


Let us remember that the attempt to link social movements with guerrillas is not new. In the course of the uprising led last year by the People’s Assembly of the Pueblos of Oaxaca (APPO), the then-State Attorney General Lizbeth Caña Cadeza accused the organization of “guerrilla and subversive tactics”.[33]


Those who carried out the kidnappings: the EPR directly accused General Juan Alfredo Oropeza Garnica, head of the eighth military region with headquarters in Oaxaca and an expert in counterinsurgency [34] -who thought with all probability that the guerrillas’ response would be local. If this were the case, the PEMEX attacks were an unpleasant surprise for the architects of the dirty war, which explains the conflicting declarations made about it by government officials.


As part of the same campaign of intimidation, leaks of military intelligence to indulgent reporters linking former political prisoners with the EPR have multiplied in recent months, opening the door to repression.[35] One such reporter, Vladimir Galeana, wrote that the EPR holds its Mexico City meetings at the main office of the Ricardo Flores Magón Libertarian Social Center, an open and publicly-registered group that has absolutely nothing to do with armed struggle and which does not share the EPR’s ideology, though it does have the great sin of having carried out acts of solidarity with political prisoners.[36] Even when the accusations are patently false, the intent is clear: to criminalize dissent.


Furthermore, the definition of “subversive” no longer includes only those who engage in armed struggle, but can, based on necessities, be widened to include political activists, inconvenient journalists (two of whom died last year in Oaxaca[37]) and tiresome human rights defenders.


It is clear that linking the APPO and its sympathizers with the guerrillas provides an unbeatable excuse for justifying repression against the movement. This being the case, when armed groups do not act — as they did not last year — it becomes necessary to invent them. [38] This explains, first, the appearance of phony guerrillas in Oaxaca and after, the open provocation of the kidnapping-disappearing of the two leaders of the EPR. Now as before, the principal target is the APPO, which intelligence organs consider to be a much graver threat precisely because it is “uncontrollable”.


A bloodstained Guelaguetza


The “Guelaguetza” that is officially celebrated in Oaxaca is more a simulation than a genuine folk festival. The tradition,however, is authentic. It goes back to the pre-Hispanic era, when the villages of the central valley worshipped Centáotl — the goddess of corn — in a temple situated on the current hill of Carmen Alto and dedicated to Tláloc, the god of rain. With the conquest, the ritual was turned into the commemoration of the Virgin of Carmel, celebrated on the Sunday following July 16th and repeated eight days later on what was called the “octava”.


With the religious ceremony consummated, the secular festival — called Lunes del Cerro (“Monday on the Hill”) — began on the following Monday with its syncretisms and carnvalesque transgressions. The indigenous people from the city and nearby villages came to dance and exchange gifts to the sound of whistles, drums and flutes. The mescal, the aroma of the food, the smoke from the copal and the tobacco merged into the collective communion and ecstasy dedicated to the regeneration of the community.


In the 1930’s, the tradition suffered another mutation, transforming into a secular ritual at the service of the post-revolutionary State. What is was now about was paying a “racial homage” to the Oaxacan underclass, which — as Hermann Bellinghausen points out — is in itself a racist idea.[39]


The festival began to include delegations from the seven regions (the Central Valleys, the Sierra Juárez, the Cañada, Tuxtepec, the Mixteca, the Coast and the Isthmus of Tehuantepec), who paraded their traditional dress, music and dance before the smiling gaze of the local elite. Soon, it was named “Guelaguetza,” a Zapotec word which evokes the idea of cooperation and reciprocity. “Guelguees” is a compound of the words for “corn field” and “cigar”, as the working of the corn implies mutual support and the cigar evokes a ceremonial, and therefore sacred, element. [40]


In recent years — and especially beginning in the 1990’s — the Guelaguetza has turned into big business, to the benefit of the hotel industry, restaurants, travel agencies and shops that cater to tourists, as well as serving to support the governor in office. At the Guelaguetza Auditorium, regional political bosses fight for the best seats in order to be photographed with the governor and other members of the state bureaucracy.


In 2006, the APPO successfully disrupted the official festival, forcing the hated governor, Ulises Ruiz Ortiz (URO), to suspend it. The APPO then organized an alternative festival at the stadium of the Oaxaca Technological Institute, which saw the participation of indigenous dancers from each of the seven regions of the State of Oaxaca plus an eighth, the Sierra Sur (Southern Sierra Mountains), in homage to the struggle of the Loxicha people. The dancers were accompanied by fireworks, bands and thousands of people chanting their political demands, the most prominent of which being the removal of the tyrant Ulises Ruiz. In spite of the fact that, days before, unknown “guerrillas” had burned the platform of the official auditorium, the event was a success.


This year, the APPO again promoted a non-commercial Guelaguetza. However, the circumstances were now much more difficult. Emboldened by the climate of repression that has taken hold of the entire country, URO wanted revenge. After the repression of 2006, the police presence in the area had become both spectral and terrifying. Detentions were more selective — such as that of David Venegas, APPO council-member who is still being held despite his having received an amparo — and the militarization more discreet, but the reign of terror continued.[41]


With “Operation Guelaguetza 2007,” the state of siege returned which, paradoxically, damaged the tourist industry more than the demonstrations, it being well known that tourists do not appreciate violence. On Sunday, July 15th, the alternative dancers paraded through the streets of Oaxaca,ready for the celebration. Tension was on the rise: various vehicle caravans trying to enter into the city were intercepted and their riders thrown out of the area without any semblance of legality. Under these conditions, the teachers� union decided to move the event to the Plaza de la Danza (the Plaza of the Dance) and not the traditional auditorium located on the Cerro del Fortin (Fortin Hill), clearly now “enemy” territory.


Meanwhile, URO lay in waiting. The opportunity he had been waiting for came on Monday the 16th. Around 11 inthe morning, approximately ten thousand people, including teachers, dancers and APPO sympathizers began marching from the main plaza called the Zócalo to the Plaza de la Danza. At Crespo Street, they set off towards the Fortin Hill, where the official auditorium is located. When they were a kilometer away, they ran into a blockade installed by hundreds of preventative, auxiliary and municipal police supplemented by members of the military. For a half hour, the demonstrators tried dialoguing with the authorities until a rocket flare went off near the El Fortin Hotel. This was the signal. Municipal, preventative and financial police, the PFP and even the uniformed soldiers (an ominous new development) launched a sudden and massive assault on the protestors.


The nightmare was back. The police attacked without qualms while the demonstrators defended themselves however they could, giving rise to a four-hour-long clash which left a total of more than 70 people detained and 40 wounded. Amongst those beaten was the teacher Emeterio M. Cruz, who spent several weeks in a coma and is still suffering the effects of the beating.[42] Although photos exist of the police thrashing him brutally, the Secretary of Civil Protection, Sergio Segreste Ríos, impassively declared that “there is an internal investigation underway, but there is still no proof as to who might have been responsible”. [43]


As had already happened during the November 25th repression the year before, nobody was safe and the forces of order raged against passers-by and reporters alike. Various reporters were injured despite their identifying themselves as members of the press.[44]This is so you don’t keep defending those fucking APPO members”, spat a rabid anti-riot policeman at the lawyer Jesús Alfredo López García, who was lying lifeless on the pavement covered in blood after being beaten with batons and kicked. [45] Even worse was the treatment given to the detainees. The violence — mostly against women, but also against the men — was not an “excess of the moment” but rather a deliberate and strategy, planned from the top, of psychological warfare.[46]



From state of exception to state of rebellion


If terrorism is a technique designed to provoke fear and anxiety throughout the population without distinguishing between military objectives and civilian victims, what the Mexican government is doing against social movements is pure terrorism. It has eliminated the division between the violence that founds and the violence that maintains the law and has declared a merciless war against all those categories of citizens that are not able to be integrated into the political system. The scenes we impotently witness — blood on the pavement, the terrorized faces of innocent people, children, women and the elderly brutalized, activists on their knees before the sadistic gaze of their repressors — reminds one more of Pinochet’s Chile or present-day Iraq more than a country that calls itself democratic.


Whether by fury, impotence or ineptitude, the authorities either do not want to or cannot act within the legal code that supposedly represent. “The police,” Benjamin wrote at the outset of the Nazi era, “intervene for security reasons in countless cases where no clear legal situation exists, … in the form of brutal humiliation, with no relation whatsoever to legal ends.” [47]


A year after Felipe Calderon’s inauguration, the repression has become generalized, labor rights have been practically suspended and the government represses miners, teachers, flight attendants, and all other workers whoinsist upon their rights. According to Rosario Ibarra, in seven years of federal administrations ruled by the PAN there have been nearly a hundred forced disappearances. Likewise, the arbitrary detentions, torture, illegal searches, arrest warrants with no legal foundation, and something new, rape, which did not occur in the 70’s and 80’s.[48]


All of the facts examined here — the detention/disappearing of the EPR militants, the militarization of the police and intelligence body, the rehabilitation of the architects of the dirty war, ASPAN, the Mexico Plan, the suspension of individual rights and the brutalization of defenseless demonstrators — can be explained within the framework of a latent state of exception. Experimented with in Oaxaca, the model is now being extended all across the country, including those states governed by the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD).


In the Montaña region of the State of Guerrero, the attacks by Governor Ceferino Torreblanca (PRD) against the community police, a security and assistance corps created by the Mephaa, Na Savii, Nahua and mestizo communities to defend themselves from political bosses and tree-cutters, are multiplying. [49]


An activist, David Valtierra, founder of Radio ?omndaa (�The Word of the Water�) was detained on August 9th (incidentally, the international day of indigenous peoples). His crime? Defending the customs of his people, fighting for the construction of the autonomous municipality of Sulja (or Xochixtlahuaca), and keeping open a space on the radio where the indigenous Amuzgos could voice their opinions in order to keep excesses of power in check.[50]


In the southeast of Morelos, 13 indigenous communities are fighting against a savage project of urbanization imposed by the PAN governor, Marco Adame, in alliance with predatory business interests. The communities object to the construction of 50,000 dwellings in an ecological reserve and the drilling of enormous wells that would finish off the regions already-strained water resources. Faced with public demand to put a halt to building speculation and safeguard natural resources (water in particular), the authorities in Morelos have launched a campaign to bring the people’s movement into disrepute, arguing that it is “illegitimate,” and also trying to link it to… the EPR! [51]


In August, the counterinsurgency offensive spilled over into the State of Chiapas, governed by the PRD. On the 18th, federal and state police helicopters arrived in the towns of San Manuel y Buen Samaritano in the Lacandon Jungle to evict its inhabitants with the outlandish accusation that they were destroying the mountains of the Montes Azules ecological reserve.[52] The real reason is clear: the operations “are part of a global strategy of clearing out the area with greatest biodiversity, acres of forest and sources of fresh, non-contaminated water in the country and all of Mesoamerica”, as the environmental organization Maderas del Pueblo del Sureste asserts.[53]


On August 28th, federal soldiers raided the town of Venustiano Carranza, Chiapas, looking for a training field and people accused of belonging to the Revolutionary People’s Army (EPR). Similar operations took place at the same time in Pinotepa Nacional, Oaxaca, and in Coyuca de Benítez, Guerrero. [54]


In communities without conflicts but with natural resources, it is the authorities themselves who stimulate the violence. Such is the case — and this is only one example of many — of Santiago Xanica, a Zapotec community in the Sierra Sur mountains of Oaxaca. In this lush, peaceful-looking village, the state government has been provoking bloody confrontations amongst residents who used to be supportive neighbors. The goal here? To break up a tradition of sociability considered to be incompatible with dominant values and, especially, to appropriate the area’s natural resources, the most important of which being its water and biodiversity.[55]


This being the state of things, how is it possible to stop this hideous violence machine?


The investigation and reporting carried out by human rights organizations is very important. In August, a symbolic trial against Ulises Ruiz and Felipe Calderón was held in Mexico City’s Zócalo in which members of the academic, cultural and artistic communities and human rights defenders all participated. The jury’s verdict was categorical: “[throughout the course of the repression] they inflicted pain and physical and psychological suffering along with the cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of both detainees and citizens, in order to force them to no longer participate in social mobilizations.”[56]


Also worthy of note are the repeated exhortations by Amnesty International, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and the International Civil Commission for Human Rights Observation (CCIODH by its Spanish initials) which in one way or another have placed the Mexican government on the defensive. [57]


However, it is essential to recognize that even though such reporting is very necessary, it is not sufficient. What is most important is that social movements become conscious of their own strength and do not let themselves become frightened into inaction. If the powerful beef up their military and security forces, it isbecause they fear new waves of social protest.


It is necessary to unify resistance and construct a wide, inclusive and non-violent movement that works at the national level — and also at the international level in defense of migrant rights in the northern and southern borders — against the militarization of society and the criminalization of protest.


The focal point of such a movement would be the construction of a space that would be autonomous and independent of political parties and whose minimum, basic and unifying goal would be the end of torture, respect for human rights, the freeing of political and social prisoners, and the re-appearing of the detainees/kidnapped. In this way, the dirty war could be ended and the state of exception transformed into a state of rebellion.


September 1st, 2007




[1] Giorgio Agamben, Estado de Excepci�n, Pre-textos, Valencia, 2004.


[2] Carlos Montemayor, �EPR�, LaJornada, July 14th, 2007. Montemayor�s version is based on that of Pedro Ans�tegui, a Oaxacan political columnist linked to military intelligence.


[3] LIMEDDH, �Detenci�n desaparici�n de dos integrantes del Partido Democr�tico Popular Revolucionario, PDPR, en Oaxaca�,


[4] Please see:


[5]On August 13, 2001, the brothers Alejandro, H�ctor y Antonio Cerezo Contreras were arrested and tortured in Mexico City following a number of explosions in banks. Alejandro was freed and exonerated on March 1st, 2005 while Antonio and Hector are still being held in the Almoloya de Ju�rez high-security prison in the State of Mexico.


[6] The original text of the e-mail reads as follows: como est�n? calientitos? que pedo con los desaparecidos? familia? adorado t�o? fabuloso padre? As� son las cosas de la vida otra vez en pedos la family, ni modos los ni modos los tenemos bien cercas a ustedes tres, a los de la palma y a tu querida familia, y a tu tiito cara de culito y a su amiguito habladorcito que no para y el otro tambi�n habla y habla, pero a lo mejor ya no hablan ya se quedan calladitos o ya les cargo la verga. Solo diosito sabe, y tambi�n marxito y leninito culito. Dile a papito y a mamita que nos sean cobardes que hagansus mamaditas para que vean como los vamos a poner a ustedes desnuditos y bien cojiditos. Pobre de t�o y zapatito se cre�an muy chingoncitos y cayeron como palomitas del sur. Hasta luego amorcitos. Desde la sierra del sur. Sus verdaderos padres.




[8] In Spanish: como est�n? calientitos? que pedo con los desaparecidos? familia? adorado t�o? fabuloso padre?


[9] Hermann Bellinghausen, La Jornada, July 6th, 2007. See also:


[10] See:


[11] See:


[12] La Jornada, July 29th and August 2nd, 2007.


[13]Niega la PGR captura de dos guerrilleros�


[14] La Jornada, August 15th, 2007.


[15] Letter from Nad�n Reyes to Florent�n Mel�ndez, Mexican delegate to the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights.


[16]Alerta AMLO de guerra sucia contra �l y elFAP�, La Jornada, July 21st.


[17] Francesc Relea, �Entrevista con el hombre m�s rico del mundo�, El Pa�s, July 12th, 2007.


[18] La Jornada, March 17th, 2007.


[19]U.S. Anti-Drug Aid Would Target Mexican Cartels�, The Washington Post, August 7th, 2007; Nydia Egremy, �Plan Colombia para M�xico�,


[20] The North American Free Trade Agreement came into force on January 1st, 2004, the same day as the Zapatista insurrection.


[21] Carlos Fazio, �La sombra del ASPAN�, La Jornada, August 27th,2007.


[22] For furtherinformation on ASPAN, see:


[23] La Jornada, April 27th, 2007. Not yet approved by Congress, the law is in a sort of legal limbo.


[24]Fuerza sin l�mites�,


[25] La Jornada, August 29th, 2007.


[26]M�xico releva a 284 mandos policiales para luchar contra lacorrupci�n�, El Pa�s, June 25th, 2007.


[27]Cambios en el CISEN�,


[28] La Jornada, June 30th and July 13th, 2007. Another of those responsible for the dirty war in the 70�s, Miguel Nazar Haro, was released several months before.


[29]Aberrante, la liberaci�n de Acosta Chaparro: Rosario Ibarra�


[30] See the Eureka Committee�s letter and Rosario Ibarra�s declarations in La Jornada, July 29th, 2007.


[31] The persistence of torture in Mexico has been denounced by the principal international human rights organizations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. See:; �Human Rights Watch urge a Ulises indagar y sancionar abusos policiacos�, La Jornada, July 25th, 2007.


[32] La Jornada, July 30th, 2007.


[33]Comisi�n Civil Internacional de Observaci�n por los Derechos Humanos�, Informe sobre los hechos de Oaxaca, February, 2007,


[34] EPR, communiqu� of July19th,


[35] See in particular the �Reporte �ndigo� (, Raimundo Riva Palacio�s articles in El Universal and those of Vladimir Galeana (


[36] Vladimir Galeana, �Se activan nuevamente los grupos guerrilleros�, August 24th, 2007,


[37]The 37 journalists assassinated and disappeared in Mexico�


[38]Supuesto comando armado hizo explotar tres petardos en Oaxaca�, La Jornada, October 3rd, 2006.


[39] Hermann Bellinghausen, �La revancha de la Guelaguetza�, La Jornada, July 23rd, 2007.


[40] Interview with Nic�foro Urbieta, July 30th, 2007.


[41] For an analysis of last year�s events, please see my article, �El espejo de M�xico. Oaxaca un a�o despu�s�,


[42] In the two following weeks, the July 16th prisoners were released one by one, not without first suffering all kinds of humiliations. On August 27th, Marino Cruz was released but in a wheelchair, with a catheter and an artificial respirator.


[43] See the photos at:


[44] Reconstruction based on:, corresponding to the days July 16th and 17th, 2007.


[45] La Jornada, August 4th, 2007.


[46] See the testimony of various prisoners at:


[47] Walter Benjamin, �Para una cr�tica de la violencia�, Ensayos escogidos, Ediciones Coyoac�n, M�xico, DF, p�g. 183.


[48] La Jornada, September 1st, 2007


[49]Guerrero: Ataca gobierno estatal a polic�as comunitarios�,


[50] See:


[51] Andr�s Barreda, �Morelos: provocaci�n gubernamental vs. propuestas populares�, La Jornada, August 5th, 2007.


[52] See the official complaint at:


[53] Document cited by Hermann Belllinghausen, La Jornada, August 29th, 2007.


[54] La Jornada, August 28th, 2007.


[55] See: �Informe de la �Caravana de salud y resistencia contra la represi�n y marginaci�n de los pueblos indios de Oaxaca�,


[56] People�s trial against Ulises Ruiz and Felipe Calder�n. Mexico City Z�calo, held on August 3rd and 4th, 2007.


[57] See in particular, and Amnesty International�s latest report, �M�xico Leyes sin justicia: Violaciones de derechos humanos e impunidad en el sistema de justicia penal y de seguridad p�blica�,




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