HUMAN RIGHTS SITUATION IS GRAVE

Today’s e-mail from the Mexico Solidarity Network contains the following:

Mexico is in a precarious situation resulting from an “apparent absence of authority” and “serious flaws in the functioning of the federal government,” according to a yearly report by Jose Luis Soberanes, head of the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH), a government agency. Soberanes highlighted gross human rights violations in Atenco, Lazaro Cardenas, Oaxaca, and Pasta de Conchos that the federal government has largely ignored. “It is indispensable that we begin to be concerned about the type of government we have and the quality of government in some regions,” said Soberanes. He was particularly critical of “police abuses and physical and psychological violence” suffered by residents of San Salvador Atenco, and the police actions against mineworkers in Lazaro Cardenas that “revealed an alarming reality within our security forces.” The CNDH report noted “police persecution tolerated, and perhaps directed” by the federal government, including attacks against Soberanes himself. The CNDH report was particularly critical of former President Vicente Fox: “Official apathy gives authority to groups that work at the margins of society… When a bad leader systematically devalues negotiation, he closes the door to dialogue and opens it to violence.” Soberanes offered a withering and detailed critique of the Fox administration, something he wasn’t willing to do in such unequivocal terms while Fox was still president. This is typical of government functionaries who blame the worst excesses on the past, leaving them for historians to debate, while serious human rights abuses continue under the Calderon administration. President Calderon attended the public presentation of the report and promised to combat delinquency with a firm commitment to defend human rights “with intensity and without pause or fatigue until we end these ruinous activities.” Calderon ran on a platform that included use of an “iron fist” in combating crime.

The PRI governor of Coahuila, Humberto Moreira, joined the criticism of former President Fox. Moreira accused Fox of ordering him to imprison innocent people to cover up mismanagement by officials from the Labor Secretary’s office in the Pasta de Conchos mine disaster last year. “To my face, in Los Pinos, [President Fox] asked me to do things that were immoral, invent illegal activities by people…” said the Governor. Sixth-five mineworkers died in an explosion at the Pasta de Concho mine. Moreira accused the Fox administration of “falsification of documents” after a local newspaper reported that a special Congressional commission found Moriera “co-responsible for the tragedy.”

In related news, Calderon raised salaries for the federal army by about 45%. Troops will also enjoy access to subsidized credit for home purchases. Calderon recently moved thousands of federal troops for temporary duty in the Federal Preventative Police.

5. TEACHERS CONFRONT NEW UNION CHALLENGE IN OAXACA
Teachers from Section 22 of the National Education Workers Union (SNTE), who form an important part of the APPO (Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca), face a threat from the recently formed Section 59, which is challenging for control of the statewide collective bargaining contract. For the first time since their creation at the end of 2006, Section 59 organized a march on Friday in Juchitan demanding recognition by Governor Ulises Ruiz. The march followed a confrontation on Tuesday between the two union sections over control of a technical school in Juchitan, an historically conservative city on the southern end of the Oaxaca isthmus. Section 59, working in conjunction with local PRI authorities, controls less than 200 schools, mainly in the southern part of the state, from a total of 17,500 schools. Section 59 is an attempt to rest power from Section 22 by SNTE national leader Elba Esther Gordillo, who is closely aligned with President Calderon and Governor Ulises Ruiz. On Thursday, Section 22 and members of the APPO occupied the offices of the Oaxaca Secretary General as well as two dozen state administrative offices, demanding control of the 200 schools held by Section 59 and PRI supporters. The impressive, state-wide mobilization was a strong indication that the popular movement in Oaxaca is far from disappearing, despite state repression and paramilitary actions organized by Governor Ruiz
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