SIPAZ Activities (July – October 1999)


3 February 1824: Creation of the State of Oaxaca.

1858-1872: A Oaxaqueño in the Presidency of the Republic Benito Juárez, an indigenous Zapotec from Oaxaca, becomes a key figure in Mexican history.

Beginning of XXth Century: Ricardo and Enrique Flores Magón, two brothers from Oaxaca, found the journal Regeneración, one of the few publications where the dictatorship of Porfirio Diaz (also from Oaxaca) is openly criticised. The Magonista cause gained followers throughout Oaxaca and continues to have an influence in the state today.

March of 1967: by means of a presidential decree, 28 communities from Chiapas are moved to a parcel of land of 594 hectares in the Chimalapas region, a territory historically owned by Oaxaca. The resulting conflict remains unresolved.

In 1977 a conflict which was initially a student affair spreads to the whole of society in Oaxaca. Social, labour, agrarian and political issues are at stake including for instance a labour conflict in the Oaxaca-Pacifico and Estrella del Valle transport companies where a strike is called in response to a large increase in transport tariffs in the Isthmus region, and in response to the arrest of the leaders of farmers and urban squatters. Oaxaca moves towards a situation of ungovernability, characterized by strong social polarization.

In February 1977 several farmers are killed when a demonstration is broken up in Juchitán. In San Juan Lalana, the state police kill farmers protesting in front of the municipal prison against the arrest of people from the town. Given the chaotic situation in the state, the federal Congress sends a commission of legislators to evaluate the situation in detail. On March 2, 1977, while the commission is still in Oaxaca, a demonstration of university students and workers is repressed by the police who shoot indiscriminately at demonstrators. Two people are killed and dozens wounded by bullets. On March 3, 1977, nearly the entire city is occupied by the army. The federal government forces the governor and the university’s deans to resign. One of the deans is Martinez Soriano, a figure who continues to appear in the following decades (even in 2006) . The federal government compels the local Chamber of Deputies to install a temporary governor, General Eliseo Jiménez Ruiz.

Eliseo Jiménez Ruiz, the general previously responsible for destroying the Lucio Cabañas guerrilla movement in the state of Guerrero is chosen as temporary governor. He has been denounced for introducing his methods into Oaxaca, in particular, use of a notorious irregular unit called the White Brigade which was particularly active between 1977 and 1979, persecuting “subversive elements” throughout the country. Thousands of citizens are illegally detained; some are executed while others simply disappear in what is commonly referred to as “the Dirty War” (which took place across Mexico during the 1960s and 1970s).

Between 1980 and 1985 Governor Pedro Vázquez Colmenares plays a key role in containing the popular revolts. He also creates seven delegations of the state government (one in each region) to represent the executive power and bring it closer to the town councils. The delegations provide legal, technical, administrative and financial aid to the town councils, and they also receive requests, proposals, suggestions, and complaints from civil society. Vázquez Colmenares also plays an important role in the Huatulco Bay tourism project. He resigns after being appointed as the General Manager of Airports and Auxiliary Services.

In 1985, while serving as a federal deputy, Jesús Emilio Martínez Álvarez is designated as the Interim Governor of Oaxaca.

From 1986 Heladio Ramirez Lopez is governor; of Mixtec origin, he had previously had a long career in PRI. He began his political career in the farmers’ sections of the PRI. His six years in office are characterised by apparent tranquillity. Nevertheless, he has been denounced for gradually developing his own patronage network based on favours and complicity.

August 1990: The governor presents his proposal for reforms on indigenous rights to the lower house of the Federal Congress.

1991: The comuneros of Chimalapas initiate a process of agrarian reconciliation, inviting the ejidatarios from Chiapas to become comuneros as well.

In 1992 Diódoro Carrasco Altamirano (from the PRI) becomes governor.

27 January 1993: The State Commission of Oaxaca for Human Rights is created.

Beginning of 1994: The Triqui Movement for Unity and Struggle (Movimiento de Unificación y Lucha Triqui, or MULT), an indigenous organisation in the Triqui region in the south east of the state declares its solidarity with the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN), which had staged an armed uprising in Chiapas on 1 January 1994. Following concern in the government about Zapatista influence in Oaxaca, the Union for Social Welfare in the Triqui Region (Unión para el Bienestar Social de la Región Triqui, or UBISORT) is established to counter the influence of the MULT. Affiliated with the PRI, it is considered a paramilitary organisation by its opponents.

1994: The La Venta wind power station is built in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec.

30 August 1995: The state congress approves a reform to the Code of Political Institutions and Electoral Procedures of Oaxaca, in order to formally recognize a role for indigenous usos y costumbres (customary law).

28 June 1996: In the state of Guerrero, an armed group, the Revolutionary Popular Army (EPR), rises in commemoration of the Aguas Blancas massacre. Around a hundred men and women, armed and with their faces covered, present their Manifesto of Aguas Blancas, in which they denounce the fact that “institutional violence” is just as present as it was in the times of Lucio Cabañas Barrientos and Genaro Vázquez Rojas [i.e. the most repressive period of the Dirty War]. They declare that they have taken up arms against exploitation and oppression: “As opposed to institutional violence, the armed fight is a legitimate and necessary resource of the people in order to reclaim its sovereign will and to restore the rule of law”. One of their main demands is justice. Later that day, an armed confrontation takes place between a group of EPR guerrillas and state judicial police in Zumpango del Río. Three police officers are injured.

29 August 1996: Two months after their first public appearance in Aguas Blancas, Guerrero, the EPR (Revolutionary Popular Army) mounts attacks in La Crucecita, Huatulco, Oaxaca, and 5 in other states. The confrontation in La Crucecita serves as a pretext for repression against indigenous people in the Loxicha Region in the Southern Sierra of Oaxaca. Arbitrary detentions, forced disappearances, murder, robbery, rape, and harassment against defenceless inhabitants are reported. The indigenous communities are accused of numerous federal crimes and supposed ties to the EPR. According to social organizations, in the subsequent years there are at least 200 illegal detentions, 150 cases of torture, 32 unlawful house raids, 22 extra-judicial executions, 22 forced disappearances, 137 people imprisoned for reasons of political affiliation or conscience and innumerable cases of sexual abuse, harassment, death threats and unlawful penal processes.

18 December 1996: A violent combined police and military operation is carried out in the Zapotec community of Asunción Lachixila, Municipality of Santiago Camotlán in the Loxicha region. More than three hundred officers from the army, the federal judicial police and the preventive police arrive in 38 vehicles and three helicopters armed with machine guns. They enter the settlement and neighbouring communities which are part of the Unión Indígena Zapoteca Chinanteca Emiliano Zapata (UIZACHI-EZ), unlawfully breaking into houses, beating old women and men and illegally arresting seven farmers.

10 June 1997: The wives, mothers and children of the prisoners from Loxicha stage a permanent protest in front of the city council of Oaxaca, demanding impartiality in the judicial process, as well as the punishment of those responsible for illegal detentions and executions.

8 January 1998: A group separates from the EPR, calling itself the Revolutionary Army of the Insurgent People (ERPI) and aiming to become more closely involved with rural communities and their decision making processes. The ERPI represents the most important segment of the EPR militants in the neighbouring state of Guerrero. The ERPI undertakes both military actions and political activities and is ideologically close to the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN).

18 April 1998: Sixteen members of the Consejo Indígena Popular Ricardo Flores Magón (CIPO-RFM) are arrested in Tuxtepec. More than five hundred officials of the judicial police, the preventive police and the army participate in the operation. At the same time, 25 members are arrested in the Town Council of Putla de Guerrero and five more in Puerto Escondido.

End of 1998 José Murat (of the PRI) becomes Governor of Oaxaca State.

1999: A new armed group appears in the region of Papaloapan, with the name of Regional Workers, Farmers and Urban Council of Tuxtepec (CROCUT). It has been accused of being a paramilitary group, of receiving protection from high level state and federal officials, for carrying powerful weapons (reserved by law for exclusive use by the army), as well as for committing a series of crimes with impunity.