Beyond Oaxaca: Popular Resistance in Mexico


Originally published in the January/February issue of Left Turn magazine.


June - The Zapatistas, an indigenous movement based in Chiapas, release the “Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle,” proposing the building of a national and worldwide non-electoral, anti-capitalist movement “from below and to the left.”

September 16 - One hundred sixty-two social organizations; 55 political organizations; 453 NGOs, groups and collectives; 103 indigenous organizations and Mexican Indian peoples; and 1,624 individuals, families, neighborhoods, and communities join with the Zapatistas to begin a national movement inspired by the Zapatistas’ Sixth Declaration. Playing off of the election year campaigns of the electoral parties, this movement is dubbed “the Other Campaign.”


January 1 - Subcomandante Marcos, the Zapatistas’ spokesperson, takes on the civilian title of “Delegate Zero” and begins a scheduled six-month listening and speaking tour of Mexico to build the Other Campaign.

May 1 - Mexican immigrants lead historic mobilizations throughout the United States on International Workers’ Day.  This “Day Without Immigrants” is mirrored in Mexico under the banner of “Day Without Gringos.” Having already passed through Mexico’s 17 southern states, Delegate Zero gives a bold speech as part of the demonstrations in front of the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City.  He announces that a national movement is building that will “expel from this country… the great capitalists, including - of course - the American capitalists.”

May 3 - The Peoples Front in Defense of the Land (FPDT), adherents to the Other Campaign from the autonomous municipality of San Salvador Atenco in the outskirts of Mexico City, comes to the aid of its members who are being attacked by police for attempting to sell their flowers in nearby Texcoco.  The conflict expands as hundreds of federal police arrive to attack and arrest the FPDT. Delegate Zero announces the suspension of his tour and calls for civil and peaceful solidarity actions with the people of Atenco.  Solidarity actions spread throughout Mexico and at least 50 countries around the world.

May 4 - Municipal, state and federal police widen their attack on Atenco and those who mobilized to defend them.  The police arrest 207 people (including the leadership of the FPDT), kill two, and rape and sexually abuse 23 women.  Delegate Zero places the blame on all three of the major political parties and the commercial media and begins a campaign to break the media distortion of the events and to liberate the prisoners.

May 22 - Striking teachers occupy the town square, or zócalo, of Oaxaca with protest camps demanding a greater education budget for Oaxaca.  The teachers belong to Section 22, a democratic local of the National Union of Education Workers that has held annual protest camps in Oaxaca for the past 26 years.

June 14 - Three thousand state police attack the teachers’ encampment before dawn, firing tear gas from helicopters and beating teachers.  Supporters throughout the city come to the aid of the teachers and together they retake the zócalo and expel the police.

June 17 - The state teachers union and 85 other social and political organizations, NGOs, collectives, and human rights organizations from throughout Oaxaca join together to form the Oaxacan People’s Assembly (APPO).  The teachers suspend their original demands and join together with APPO to push for Governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz’s resignation or ouster in retaliation for his ordering the police raid.

July 2 - Amid widespread allegations of fraud, electoral officials fail to declare either the populist candidate, Andrés Manuel López Obrador of the PRD, or U.S. government-supported Felipe Calderón of the PAN, winner in the presidential elections.

July 30 - Obrador calls for a protest camp to occupy the main zócalo of Mexico City and several major avenues, including Paseo de la Reforma.  Unlike the repressive responses to other recent civil disobedience actions, the city’s PRD government financially and materially support the massive tent city that emerges.  Obrador’s main demand is for a full vote-by-vote recount.

September 5 - The Federal Electoral Tribunal certifies Calderón as the victor in Mexico’s presidential elections. Obrador refuses to recognize the tribunal’s decision and declares that he will establish a parallel government representing the “true, authentic republic.”

October 19 - In a historic development, Delegate Zero holds his first meetings in Tijuana at the U.S. - Mexico border with Other Campaign adherents not just in Mexico, but from “the other side” as well.

October 27 - The APPO begins a three-day general strike in Oaxaca and cals for a “popular peaceful insurrection” on December 1 if Ruis has still not stepped down.  This steps up pressure on President-elect Felipe Calderón, who faces opposition with civil disobedience actions to his inauguration on the same day.  After a string of paramilitary killings in August through October, state police and government-aligned thugs kills two people, including New York City Indymedia journalist and activist Brad Will.

October 29 - In an echo of the attacks on Atenco, Mexican Federal Preventive Police (PFP) invade Oaxaca City to “restore order,” killing two more people and arresting 50.  The police fail, however, to incite a violent response from the APPO or to subdue the popular movement.

October 30 - National and international mobilization in solidarity with the people of Oaxaca surges.  The Zapatistas call on the rest of the Other Campaign to join them in shutting down roads, highways, and the media on November 1 and for a nation-wide general strike on November 20.  In the United States and elsewhere, friends of murdered journalist Brad Will join Mexican immigrants, teachers, and left radicals in continuing international solidarity actions with the APPO.

November 2 - The PFP fire tear gas into the Benito Juarez Autonomous University of Oaxaca in an apparent attempt to disable Radio Universidad, a key communications tool of the popular movement.  After four hours of pitched battles, neighbors and students force the police and their riot tanks to retreat.  Spirits of the APPO and their  supporters rise and many believe that the federal occupation will soon become unsustainable.  National and international solidarity and identification with the APPO continues to expand.

November 10 - Amid an ongoing dirty war that has disappeared approxiamately 50 students and APPO leaders since the PFP invasion, three thousand gather to begin creating a new constitution for Oaxaca.  The first step is the creation of a more permanent governing structure with executive and legislative powers.  The provisional directorship of the APPO is dissolved and 260 representatives from throughout the state form the State Council of the Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca (CEAPPO).