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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Chasse aux sorcières a Oaxaca

by Anne Vigna, special correspondent

Mexico: Witch-hunt in Oaxaca

Translated Friday 22 December 2006, by Patrick Bolland

Mexico. Federal and State police units have gone a step further in the repression of demonstrators, students or trade-unionists, in Oaxaca, the city in rebellion.

After 6 months of conflict, the jails of Oaxaca seem completely full. Called in by the local government, the "preventative" federal police force (PFP) has started to transfer members of the APPO (Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca) to various prisons throughout Mexico. On Tuesday, 28 November, the PFP transported 141 prisoners (107 men and 34 women) to a jail in the State of Nayarit, in the northwest of Mexico. A second group is about to leave for the State of Tamaulipas, bordering the United States. In a press release, the interior minister justified these transfers by depicting the detainees as very dangerous.

For Yessica Sanchez, of the Mexican League of Human Rights, the prisoners are being transfered to hide evidence that they have been tortured and mistreated. This is a political conflict, the prisoners are social activists and ordinary citizens, not common-law criminals. The transfers and detentions taking place now in Oaxaca follow a 7th huge demonstration against the Oaxaca governor last week-end that ended up in a violent confrontation with the police. The toll is heavy: several buildings were burnt down, more than 200 people are wounded, 160 demonstrators were detained, and a number of people who were taken away and have not yet reappeared – they have in effect disappeared. APPO mentions 3 people were killed, their bodies have not been found.

Tension and fear are present more than ever in the streets. NGOs defending human rights mention some 60 arrests per day (leaders of APPO, but also students and union members). The offices belonging to social organizations that are members of APPO have been the targets of gunfire and fire-bombing. The governor, who reappeared in Oaxaca after an absence of 7 months, confirmed that "detentions will continue".

The "witch-hunt", as it’s been called in the press, is taking place a few days before the investiture of Felipe Calderon, as Mexico’s new president on Friday, in the Chamber of Deputies. The whole area around the parliament building is being cordoned off for a 1-kilmetre radius. This will be the rallying-point of demonstrations against the presidential election of last 2 July. But the demands will now include "the departure of the police from Oaxaca", as in 1994, after the Zapatista’s uprising, Mexicans were demanding the withdrawal of the army from the Chiapas.

Tomorrow, an 8th large demonstration is announced in Oaxaca. It will still target the governor of Oaxaca, but will also be aimed at Vicente Fox, the outgoing Mexican president.

APPO has lodged a legal complaint against the outgoing president "for violation of individual guarantees and for acts of genocide", and has committed to bringing the case before the International Court of Justice. APPO has also shown videotaped testimonies highly embarrassing for the chief executive, showing the joint action of the federal police, the local police and paramilitary groups brought in by the Oaxaca governor.

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