Saturday, September 30, 2006

The United Farmworkers in Sacramento 1972-1977

The United Farm Workers in Sacramento 1972-1977

Prior to 1972 our activism had been concentrated on antiwar (Viet Nam) work, and for Dolores Delgado-Campbell, in the Chicano community. We worked together in the 1972 McGovern for President campaign and Proposition 22. The antiwar work was winding down.

In the summer of 1972 the Teamsters union raided the UFW; this is the ultimate violation of labor rights. Because of my long history of union activism, I was moved by this betrayal of union solidarity by a corrupt union. Dolores and I discussed the situation and decided to work together to help the United Farm Workers.

Dolores called the UFW headquarters and said we would volunteer. They said there already was a support committee in Sacramento, headed by Joe Serna. We both knew Joe because he and I worked in the same union. We contacted Joe and found out what was being done. A boycott committee had existed in Sacramento during the prior boycott. The existing committee was centered on the Chicano artistas, who eventually become the Royal Chicano Air Force (RCAF). Jose Montoya was perhaps the best known. They helped the UFW with posters and hosted Cesar when he came to town. They also educated people about the UFW within their circle.

We decided to take a more labor union/ church centered approach, and to not only concentrate on the Chicano/Mexicano community but to spread the boycott to new groups. We began by organizing picket lines at local Safeway stores and asking people to not buy grapes. We stayed in touch with Joe Serna. We did not meet regularly with him, but we relied upon Joe for our political front. He handled all political matters, including the Democratic Party. For example, the UFW shared a desk in the Mc Govern campaign for their Proposition 22. One time when we were bill boarding over a freeway overpass he called to tell us to get down from there. He said the call had come in from La Paz.

We began to picket regularly and recruited supporters. This began a four year experience of picketing each week at a local store. At times we would have 10-12 volunteers, at times only 3-4. The Catholic Newman Center served as a place to meet and to plan. A small group of regulars formed, which sustained the effort. Picketing taught us a great deal about political discipline and staying on the subject. The Sacramento effort remained a volunteer effort from 1972-1977. Sacramento can get to 108 degrees in the summer, and it is cold and wet in the winter - but we kept the picket lines going. We did not have any fulltime UFW staff except on brief projects, such as Proposition 14.

I was surprised to picket in Sacramento. I had been raised in a union town, Waterloo, Iowa, and worked in a union town, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Where I was raised, union people did not cross picket lines. Here in Sacramento the general public and many union members did cross. They seemed to dismiss the farm workers as Mexicans, not really a union issue. Later I got on the Sacramento Central Labor Council and came to understand more about the weak level of union solidarity in California.

In years of picketing I was consistently disturbed and angered to watch White or Anglo union members cross the picket lines and not support us. Their racial attitudes out ranked their union membership and union solidarity. That is just the way it was.

Basically the UFW boycotts were won or lost in large union cities such as New York, Chicago, Toronto, and Pittsburgh. In these areas grapes and lettuce were not moving. Our job in Sacramento was to be certain that the Sacramento market did not grow to balance out the loss of markets in the East and in Europe. We were able to hold sales constant, to prevent growth in sales, which was a victory. However, the growers were able to get the U.S. defense department to buy millions and millions of pounds of grapes to send to “our troops in Viet Nam.”

Union and UFW work in California was highly racialized. Many responded or refused to respond to a union appeal based upon the racial nature of the UFW. And, in the Mexican-American community many in the business class and the emerging “Hispanic” professionals actively opposed the UFW. On a picket line we would often get more support in African American neighborhoods than in Mexican neighborhoods. We even encountered counter picketing by Mexicans flying the Mexican flag. There was a constant attempt to isolate the UFW as radical outsiders, which we were not.

Not all parts of the Mexican community were hostile. Sacramento has thousands of people who work in the fields or have recently worked in the fields. When we held food drives or funding drives for farmworkers, working class Mexican families were generous and supportive. On several occasions small groups of people, or families would collect enormous amounts of food and clothing to send to Delano or other locations to support striking workers.

We encountered a number of issues on the picket lines. Nonviolence was a fundamental issue of the UFW and of Chavez personally. One time a customer purposefully sped up in the parking lot and ran into me. Luckily, I fell backward between two cars and received only minor injuries. We called the police. They came, heard the story, and declined to pursue the matter. They decided that there was no crime. Someone in our group got the license number. Through a friend, we contacted the Department of Motor Vehicles and located the person.

I went to their home and explained to them that their action was assault with a deadly weapon (a car), but that the injury was minor. I was not going to pursue further action. This event, and others, tested and developed my own commitment to nonviolence.
Our UFW support work had positive and negative repercussions. One spring we helped workers near Yuba City in a strike in the fruit trees. After a day of picketing, Dolores came down with severe asthma. It took months to recover.

In 1972 a group of student volunteers and I did a human billboard outside the graduation ceremonies at American River College where Dolores worked. We only held up signs encouraging support for the boycott. However, the ARC president was so incensed that he prevented the re-hiring of Dolores the following year. It required a four year complaint with EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunities Commission) to win a settlement that included getting her job back. Later Dolores Huerta spoke at the American Rive College campus and at the CSU-Sacramento campus a number of times.

Working with the UFW also led us to be more active in our unions. I was active in the California Federation of Teachers where a farmworker support committee was created. This led me to some support work for Bert Corona at CSU- Los Angeles, where Bert was not being re-hired because of his political work. This work with Bert led to several decades of work in the immigrant rights movement.

At CSU-Sacramento groups of students helped with the picketing and with the electoral campaigns such as Proposition 14. The UFW was an educational and an organizing experience of great value to campus and union politics. We brought Cesar Chavez to speak several times, twice getting large fees for his speech (over $1,000). He also came for a two-day workshop with the Mexican American Education Project students where he taught us community organizing. We also brought Dolores Huerta and Philip Vera Cruz to speak. We consistently tried to interest students in participating in the UFW projects because such political participation is an excellent educational experience. It develops a critical perspective on U.S. politics. Certainly, the UFW work helped to establish Chicano Studies at American River College and CSU-Sacramento.

The Sacramento efforts were nourished by the consistent volunteer work of a number of people, far too many to list. However, a core group consistently worked with us for months and years. This core group in addition to Dolores Delgado-Campbell and me, included Manny Hernandez, Arturo Fernandez, Rosie and Ernie Calvillo, Luisa and Mike Menchaca, Arturo and Carmen Garcia, Ken Burt, and Dan Bacher among others. We would add to the core by recruiting regularly at the local college campuses. Outstanding student allies included Maria Avila and faculty member, Jose Montoya. The RCAF assisted us with posters.

The large statewide campaigns such as the March on Gallo (Modesto) and the later Strawberry Workers campaign helped us build our group. When up to 30,000 are in the streets you come to understand that you are a part of a much larger movement.

In the summer of 1975, the new Agricultural Labor Relations Law had been passed and the effort of the boycott was switched to efforts to win certification elections.
I worked throughout the summer with Al Rojas in organizing in the Woodland area trying to organize tomato workers. We came within 50 votes of winning a large election at Anderson Ranch, but the election was stolen by cheating at the ballot box. One ballot box disappeared for more than three days and was later “found” in the truck of a ranch foreman. While other ballot boxes were closely contested, this box was mysteriously over 90% against the union. There were so many other elections throughout the state and so many cases of fraud that the UFW did not contest this particular election.

Working for the UFW brought us many friends. One time the UFW brought some 100 workers to Sacramento for a demonstration at the capitol. They had no place to sleep. So, over 50 families slept out in our backyard and all used our one bathroom and shower. The neighbors were quite surprised to see such a line of cars and so many people. They asked if all these people were our relatives in town for some event.

On several occasions we made lasting friends with UFW members and supporters. We particularly got to know Philip Vera Cruz. For decades later in other political and union efforts we encountered former UFW volunteers and we could usually trust them and rely upon them for some common sense. There was a bond among us that created a community of caring.

The work with the UFW taught me more about the U.S. and California political systems than I could have ever learned from a book. And, it taught us about organizing and working with people. The experience shaped our lives for the better. I greatly appreciate all that I have learned and most of the people I have met.

Duane Campbell, Professor, Bilingual/Multicultural Education, CSU –Sacramento.

Author: “Choosing Democracy: a practical guide to multicultural education.” 2004 Merrill/Prentice Hall.

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Monday, September 18, 2006

Saludos desde Puerto Rico

Saludos desde Mayaguez, Puerto Rico:

Just got back from the Summit of the Non Aligned Nations. We had a Puerto Rican delegation of 12 people. We were treated with great respect and dignity by everyone we met.
Ironically the only place where we encountered server problems was in Puerto Rico both at our departure and our return.

Our delegation went openly to Cuba as Puerto Rican independentistas and others from Puerto Rico traditionally do. We have a long historical connection between our nations which predates the US invasion in 1898. At departure Homeland Security officers inspected every item in our luggage with special tissues. The process took so long that four members of our delegation missed the plane to the Dominican Republic. Nevertheless our reception there by Dominican governmental officials who treated us with great respect and solidarity allowed us to make the connection to Cuba successfully.

While in Cuba we had communications with the delegations of all the Latin American Nations present. The Presidents of Panama, Dominican Republic, Venezuela and Bolivia meet with our delegation. The government of Cuba as is their tradition gave us special attention. The head of our delegation Julio Muriente met with Raul Castro. Just before the Puerto Rican honorary delegation head Juan Mari Bras spoke to all the delegates at the Summit, Raul Castro presented him by referring to the poem of Lola Rodriguez de Tio which states: "Cuba and Puerto Rico are like the two wings of the same bird." After our delegation's speech we presented a framed poster as a gift to the Cuban delegation at the Summit

Our purpose at the Non Aligned Nation Summit was to get international support for our demand that the UN General Assembly finally discuss in general session the question of Puerto Rican colonialism. We have at this point more than 20 resolutions from the UN Committee on Decolonization asking backing our right to self determination and independence from the US.

In the final statement of the conference Puerto Rico received the support that we asked for. There is a statement reaffirming the Non Aligned Movement condemnation of colonialism. A statement backing Puerto Rico's right to self determination and independence by any means necessary thus distinguishing between a terrorist and a freedom fighter and finally a statement backing our request for a hearing before the UN General Assembly of our case.

A happy Puerto Rican delegation started our journey home. Cuban officials accompanied us to the airport and facilitated boarding. When we arrived at the Dominican Republic, Dominican officials were there to greet us. Take us to lunch and facilitate our plane connection.

Ironically the problems started again with our arrival in Puerto Rico, the nation of our birth. Homeland Security Officials detained members of our delegation for more than two and a half hours. Again they went through our luggage inspecting and passing a tissue over every item. Again they asked many questions. Again, as we did in our departure, we stated that we had gone to Cuba to the Non Aligned Nation Summit. Our purpose, to espouse the case for Puerto Rican independence.

Each time a Puerto Rican "independentista" leaves our islands we confront "up close and personal" the fact that we are a colony of the most powerful nation on this planet.

Each day of life in this colony, especially during these trying times of Homeland Security, we have a constant reminder of the fact that we unlike our Latin American brothers and sisters are a colony and not a free nation. Today's reminder was provided by the intervention early this morning by the US FBI, for us the colonial police, in the apartment of a Puerto Rican "independentista" couple in San Juan.

Maria M Ramirez
Member of the Movimiento Independentista Nacional Hostosiano de Puerto Rico Delegation to the XIC Non Aligned Summit in La Habana, Cuba.

Mexico's Latest Insurgent Revolt

SEPT. 18, 2006

Part 2 on the meaning of the 16th of Sept.

As of Sept 16th of this year – Mexican Independence Day -- Mexico now
has two presidents… and the nation is quiet. Actually, for the moment,
Mexico has one official president, and two incoming ones; an official
president-elect, and the "legitimate president of Mexico."

Also, Mexico now has two governments (in-waiting) and two republics.
One can even say that Mexico has always consisted of two nations… one
for the benefit of, EuroAmerican elites and their allies and the other
one consisting of its brown Indigenous masses.

This has always been the history of Mexico. Yet, Mexico today is in
unchartered waters. On Sept 16th, more than 1.25 million delegates of
the recently concluded democratic national convention branded the July
2 presidential election as illegal and named Andres Manuel Obrador, of
the PRD (Partido de la Revolucion Democratica), as the legitimate
president of Mexico. They also denounced the incoming president,
Felipe Calderon of the conservative PAN (Partido Accion Nacional), as
an usurper, the victor of a fraudulent election. While Obrador and his
supporters are expected to mount a peaceful resistance campaign, he is
scheduled to take the reins of a "new republic" on Nov. 20 -- another
symbolic date as that is when the nation celebrates its 1910

Meanwhile, current president, Vicente Fox, (morally tainted by his
interference in the July 2 presidential election), is so weak that he
had to skip town to do the traditional Grito de Dolores in Guanajuato
– a major acknowledgement that the moral power of his office has
shifted from under his feet.

The stage is thus set for Dec. 1 when Fox's party colleague, Calderon,
will then become Mexico's 73rd official president. (Obrador's
supporters will at that time also attempt to impede his ascension). At
this point, Mexico will then be split in two… unless some other
development impedes this unprecedented and radical scenario.

For instance, Fox could declare the "new republic" to be illegal and
order the military to seize Obrador and the other insurgent leaders.
(His supporters will not take this sitting down).

Or… akin to people power in the Philippines of a generation ago,
perhaps Obrador's supporters will lay a moral siege on the
presidential palace – vowing not to leave until Calderon abdicates.

Another scenario is that Fox – who has been relatively quiet thus far,
will not do anything, allowing Calderon to militarily put down this
incipient, though non-violent, insurgency.

In any of these scenarios, another force – the Zapatistas and the
nation's Indigenous movement -- could descend upon the capital and
decisively tilt this moral and political battle in favor of the
insurgents. The Zapatistas have thus far stayed out of the entire
electoral fray, instead mounting La Otra Campaña – a campaign that
seeks to create a Mexico that will never again exploit or take
advantage of the nation's Indigenous populations.

The one other possibility is that Obrador's supporters may simply be
permitted to function as a non-violent national opposition movement.
Because the nation is seemingly evenly split (Out of 41 million votes
cast, Calderon won but by 240,000 votes), indeed, it is the military
that may either have the final say… or trigger a wide-scale revolt.

The question on everyone's mind is: how did it get this far?

For this, we have to understand the close 1988 election. Obrador and
his supporters feel that one election was already stolen. In 1988,
during the count, the election computers mysteriously crashed for
several days. Cuauhtémoc Cardenas of the PRD had been ahead, but when
they came back online, Carlos Salinas of the ruling-PRI emerged

That's partially why Obrador and his supporters do not simply accept
the suspect results. He of course has said all along that if there
were a complete recount, he would abide by the results. The nation's
electoral body refused that, thus, the standoff.

Also, the 1994 Zapatista rebellion is in the backdrop, with its
leaders proclaiming at that time that never again would there be a
Mexico without Indigenous peoples (Nunca Jamas un Mexico sin nosotros)
and that women can never again be remanded to secondary status.

With all these dynamics at work, there are too many variables to
predict what is in store for Mexico's future.

* * * * *
The only thing that is certain about Mexico at this historical
juncture is that the meaning of the 16th of September continues to not
only have relevance today, but it is very much alive. The 16th
continues to be – not about claiming Hispanic roots and donning big
sombreros and throwing gritos at beer industry-sponsored events (as is
now customary in the United States), but about a 500-year daily
struggle in which Mexicans everywhere continue to fight not just for
their independence (from Europe and now the United States), but also
for peace, dignity and justice.

Gonzales/Rodriguez can be contacted at: or
608-238-3161. Our columns are posted at:

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Latino Political Clout grows
San Francisco Chronicle
September 10, 2006

Latino political clout grows

Convention a step toward creating national movement

By Tyche Hendricks, Chronicle Staff Writer

Los Angeles

Tapping the passion that drew millions of Latinos
to immigrant rights marches last spring, leaders
from numerous national Hispanic organizations
culminated a four-day conference Saturday with
agreement on a broad political platform.

Participants called it an important step in
building a unified, national Latino political

"It's critical that we have unity, that our civic
organizations unite to make us more powerful in our
struggles," Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa
told the roughly 1,200 participants in the National
Latino Congreso. "We have more in common than the
differences we may have."

Organizers said it was the first time since a 1977
Latino "congress" that so many groups had made a
coordinated push to strengthen Latino political

The event brought together a high-profile roster of
Latino leaders, ranging from United Farm Workers
Union co-founder Dolores Huerta to Villaraigosa,
who was mobbed with admirers after his Friday
luncheon speech, to members of Congress such as
Loretta Sanchez, D-Garden Grove (Orange County),
and Xavier Becerra, D-Los Angeles.

"Thirty years ago you could bring together people
from five states and you could effectively say you
were representing the Latino community," said John
Trasviña, president of the Mexican American Legal
Defense and Education Fund.

Today it's more difficult to bridge the sometimes-
conflicting approaches of political organizations
representing diverse segments of the nation's 43
million-strong Latino population.

Indeed, Latinos make up almost 14 percent of the
nation's population, but the gathering included
many more southern Californians than people from
other parts of the country.

The Latino electorate has grown in recent years,
with a record 7.6 million Latinos casting ballots
nationally in November 2004 and accounting for an
estimated 6 percent of all voters.

A common refrain at last spring's rallies in Los
Angeles and in Chicago, Dallas, Washington, D.C.
and other cities was "Today we march, tomorrow we
vote." But some observers have wondered whether
activist energy would transform into a political
movement, especially when many of the marchers were
not U.S. citizens.

This gathering of seasoned activists, many with
roots going back to the Chicano movement of the
1960s and beyond, began to take the effort a step

"We've seen the largest mobilizations in American
history around immigration; it's the new civil
rights movement," said Emma Lozano, a community
organizer from Chicago. "Now we need to transform
that into political power so we can change these
immigration laws."

Talking with colleagues at a conference was not
enough, said California State Sen. Gil Cedillo, D-
Los Angeles.

"It's about organizing and doing the hard work," he
exhorted the crowd Saturday morning. "When we leave
this congress, we should plan to spend the next 60
days putting voter registration applications in
people's hands."

But the conference was about more than electoral
power, said Antonio Gonzalez, director of the
Southwest Voter Registration Education Project and
a key organizer of the event.

The most burning issue on the conference agenda was
to push Congress to pass comprehensive immigration
reform that offers illegal immigrants a path to
citizenship, but the delegates also passed
resolutions backing a broad range of issues,

-- Electoral reforms, including abolishing the
electoral college and allowing for instant-runoff

-- Universal health care;

-- Environmental protection, including reducing
global warming and strengthening clean air and
clean water laws; and

-- A national holiday to honor United Farm Workers
founder Cesar Chavez.

Though some of these issues are not traditionally
thought of as Latino concerns, they affect that
community, said Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-
Allard, D-Los Angeles.

"The environment has been a concern and a lonely
battle that Latinos have fought for a long time,"
she said. Whether we're talking about asthma or
unwanted manufacturing projects that pollute, we've
been in that battle for a long time."

One of the most significant challenges to Latino
unity is in bridging the gap between newly arrived
migrants, the majority of them undocumented
Mexicans, and long-established Hispanic Americans,
including some who are not sympathetic to the
concerns of illegal immigrants.

But those groups seem to be converging. In a number
of recent elections, including the 2005 mayor's
race in Los Angeles, labor unions and other groups
mobilized hundreds of immigrants, many not
citizens, to go door to door and help turn out
Latino citizen voters. Dolores Huerta lauded the
tactic as a time-honored way to bring new
immigrants into the political process.

The other challenge is bridging the divide between
the Latino "street," the passionate grassroots
activists who have been uncompromising on demanding
full rights for all undocumented immigrants, and
the longtime political activists facing the harsh
realities for a pro-immigrant agenda in a
Republican-dominated Congress.

With 43 million Latinos in the nation, the
political agenda must be a multifaceted one, said
Gonzalez. As for getting everyone on the same page?

"The goal is harmony, not unanimity," said

E-mail Tyche Hendricks
(c)2006 San Francisco Chronicle
And, of course, Dolores Huerta is a Chair of DSA.


Friday, September 15, 2006

Oaxaca's Teachers - Mexico

By David Bacon

At 8:30 AM on October 21, 2002, Oaxaca state police arrested a dangerous schoolteacher.

Romualdo Juan Gutierrez Cortez was pulled over as he was driving to his school in the rural Mixteca region. Police took him to Oaxaca de Juárez, the state capital, where he was held for days on false charges. Gutierrez is the state coordinator for the Binational Front of Indigenous Organizations (the Frente), which had organized a loud, embarrassing protest during a visit to Oaxaca by Mexican President Vicente Fox not long before. Oaxaca Governor Jose Murat was out for revenge.

As Gutierrez languished in jail, Oaxacan migrant farm workers north of the border in California's central valley reacted quickly. They picketed the Mexican consulate, held press conferences, and clogged Murat's phone lines with calls and faxes. In Oaxaca itself, other Frente members organized similar protests. After a week, the governor succumbed to the pressure: Gutierrez was released.

That binational campaign to defend the Frente leader has since been repeated many times. Cooperation across the border is today one of the most important tools Oaxacans have for defending human rights in their home state.

Thousands indigenous people migrate from Oaxaca's hillside villages to the United States every year-among Mexican states, Oaxaca has the second-highest concentration of indigenous residents. They leave in part because of a repressive political system that thwarts economic development in Mexico's poor rural areas. Lack of development in turn pushes people off the land. From there, they find their way to other parts of Mexico or the United States, where they often live in poverty even as they send money home. This economic reality was the central issue in this year's heated presidential election, which was marred by charges of vote fraud.

The people who have been driven from Oaxaca to the United States by economic crisis have carried a tradition of militant social movements with them. By organizing across the border, the Frente and other Oaxacan organizations increase their power. Binational pressure freed Gutierrez from Murat's jail, where local efforts alone might not have succeeded. Many other human rights violations in Oaxaca over the last decade have resulted in cross-border resistance, and the Frente was at the heart of many of these protests.

Winning political change in Mexico itself is central to the Frente's activity. For Oaxaca's indigenous residents, greater democracy and respect for human rights are the keys to eventually achieving a government committed to increasing rural family income. That in turn might make it possible for people to make a living at home, instead of heading to California for survival.

Migration: A Consequence of Economic Reforms

"Migration is a necessity, not a choice," Gutierrez explains. "There is no work here. You can't tell a child to study to be a doctor if there is no work for doctors in Mexico. It is a very daunting task for a Mexican teacher to convince students to get an education and stay in the country. It is disheartening to see a student go through many hardships to get an education here in Mexico and become a professional, and then later in the United States do manual labor. Sometimes those with an education are working side by side with others who do not even know how to read."

Lack of economic opportunity in Oaxaca's villages is a result of Mexican economic development policies. For more than two decades, under pressure from the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and conditions placed on U.S. bank loans and bailouts, the government has encouraged foreign investment, while cutting expenditures intended to raise rural incomes. Prices have risen dramatically since the government cut subsidies for necessities like gasoline, electricity, bus fares, tortillas, and milk.

The government also closed the CONASUPO stores, which bought corn at subsidized prices from farmers to help them stay on the land and sold tortillas, milk, and food to the urban poor. The North American Free Trade Agreement's subsidies to U.S. farmers have forced Mexican agricultural prices down. The end of the ejido land reform system has allowed the reconcentration of land ownership and rural wealth. The sale of government enterprises to private investors led to layoffs and the destruction of unions. Foreign investors may now own land and factories anywhere in Mexico, without Mexican partners.

The Mexican government estimates that 37.7%, or 40 million, of its 106 million citizens live in poverty, with 25 million, or 23.6%, living in extreme poverty. According to a representative of EDUCA, a Oaxacan education and development organization, 75% of the state's 3.4 million residents live in extreme poverty. It is the second-poorest state in Mexico, after Chiapas. Meanwhile, President Fox boasts that Mexicans in the United States-often working for poverty wages-are sending home over $18 billion a year. "Migration helps pacify people," Gutierrez says. "Poverty is a ticking time bomb, but as long as there is money coming in from family in the United States, there is peace. To curb migration our country has to have a better employment plan. We must push our government to think about the working class."

The economic reforms of the last two decades are deeply unpopular, and people like Oaxaca's teachers would change them if they could. But those who have benefited from them have a big stake in suppressing any dissent or advocacy of political and economic alternatives. Governor Murat's campaign to stifle change by silencing Gutierrez is only a small part of Oaxaca's long history of human rights violations.

Teaching Resistance

Oaxaca has many dangerous teachers like Gutierrez. In the in the 1970s and 80s, more than a hundred Oaxaca's teachers were killed in the struggle for control of their union, Section 22 of the National Union of Education Workers. Today Section 22 is one of Mexico's most militant, and in many villages, these teachers are also community leaders and repositories of Mexico's most progressive traditions.

On one recent afternoon, Gutierrez stood at the back of a classroom in rural Santiago Juxtlahuaca, dapper in a pressed white shirt and chinos. Two boys and two girls, wearing new tennis shoes undoubtedly sent by family members working in the north, stood at the blackboard, giving a report and carefully gauging his reaction. As they recounted the history of Mexico's expropriation of oil in 1936, a smile curved beneath Gutierrez's pencil mustache. The expropriation was a high point in Mexican revolutionary nationalism. "Education is a very noble field, which I love," Gutierrez says. "But today it means confronting the government. You have to be ready to fight for the people and their children, and not just in the classroom."

Not just in the classroom, but throughout Oaxaca and also the United States. Today over 60,000 Oaxacans labor in California's San Joaquin Valley alone. Many times that number are dispersed in communities throughout the United States. In the countryside of the Mixteca, village after village has been emptied of working-age residents.
Gutierrez's role in the Binational Front of Indigenous Organizations illustrates his understanding of the need to challenge human rights violations on both sides of the border. If Mexico's indigenous migrants succeed, they may be able to help force a change in the political structure at home, and thereby influence the migration of Mexican citizens abroad.

Suppressing the News

Today, though, Oaxaca's political system is still controlled by Mexico's old ruling Party of the Institutionalized Revolution (PRI). The PRI lost its control over the national government to the National Action Party (PAN) in 2000. While the PAN has more direct ties to Mexico's growing corporate class, and received the bulk of that class's campaign money in the 2006 election, both parties pursue the same neoliberal economic policies that line party leaders' pockets and those of their corporate allies. Efforts to change this system bring down their wrath, as Gutierrez discovered.

"Before my arrest I thought we had a decent justice system," he says. "I knew it wasn't perfect, but I thought it worked. [[[ADD: Then I saw that the people in jail weren't the rich or well educated, but the poor and those who work hard for a living.]]]"" In prison, Gutierrez met members of a local union who had been there for months, along with other political prisoners. "There are over 2,000 complaints of political oppression in the state that have not been investigated," Gutierrez charges. His own case adds one more.

The news outlets that expose these abuses also find themselves in the government's crosshairs. Noticias, an independent newspaper founded in 1978, learned this the hard way. In 2004, the paper exposed public works fraud in the Murat administration. And in that fall's gubernatorial election, Noticias supported the left-wing candidate of the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD). The PRD lost amid charges of vote rigging. On December 1, the same day Murat's PRI successor, Ulises Ruiz, took office, hooligans broke into Noticias's building and threatened the reporters.

More provocations followed, and six months later state police and dozens of thugs belonging to the Revolutionary Confederation of Workers and Peasants (CROC) surrounded Noticias's offices. CROC is a labor federation founded by the PRI in the early 1950s. Though in some areas it functions as a normal union, but often it is a vehicle for the party's brutal bullyboys, who it uses to intimidate opponents.

Amnesty International reports that 102 of Noticias's 130 employees belonged to CROC, but their relationship with the union had been strained, and CROC leadership called a strike "against the express wishes of the Noticias workforce." The Ruiz administration ordered it to stop publishing. Thirty-one workers decided to defend the office, where they were barricaded in for days and not permitted visitors, or even food and water.

Facing a news blockade in Oaxaca, the journalists hit the phones. From inside the besieged newsroom, reporter Cesar Morales got on the air in Fresno, California. He was interviewed by Rufino Dominguez, a Frente coordinator, and journalist Eduardo Stanley, cohosts of a bilingual program for Mixtec migrants on community radio station KFCF. Morales described "an assault by more than a hundred plain-clothes police, and thugs brought in to beat us." He called for help, and letters and faxes from California deluged Oaxaca.

In this case, binational pressure was not enough. The PRI eventually evicted the journalists and closed the paper's offices. Noticias is still distributed in Oaxaca, but it is written, edited, and printed elsewhere. Nevertheless, Oaxacans in California had developed a new ability to use media in their binational campaigns.

The Frente's Cross-Border Social Movement

Oaxacans abroad don't just protest conditions at home. The Frente defends worker rights in California fields, has convinced the state's courts to provide indigenous language interpreters, and helps keep alive the traditions that are the cultural glue binding together Mixtec, Zapotec, Triqui, and Chatino communities.

The Frente was, in fact, founded in California. Leaders like Dominguez have a long history organizing strikes and other movements in Mexico. When they arrived in California in 1987, they started the group with meetings in the San Joaquin Valley, Los Angeles, and San Diego. At first it was called the Mixtec/Zapotec Binational Front, because organizers wanted to unite Mixtec and Zapotec immigrants, two of the largest indigenous groups in Oaxaca.

Soon it had to change its name. Triquis and other indigenous Oaxacans wanted to participate, so the organization became the Indigenous Oaxacan Binational Front. Then Purepechas from Michoacan and indigenous people from other Mexican states also joined, and it became the Binational Front of Indigenous Organizations. Through all the changes, its binational character has only grown stronger.

Oaxacans have formed many other organizations during their long migration through Mexico and the United States. Most of these organizations are composed of members from a single town. The Frente is different and more political, in that it unites people speaking different languages, from different indigenous groups, in order to promote community and workplace struggles for social justice.

Racism against indigenous people in Mexico required them to develop a history of community resistance, and to fight for their own cultural identity. Centolia Maldonado, one of the Frente's leaders in Oaxaca, recalls her bitter experience as a migrant in northern Mexico. "They called us 'Oaxaquitas'-Indians," she remembers. "The people from the north were always valued more. There is terrible discrimination when people migrate."

In 1992, the Frente used the celebrations of the 500-year anniversary of the arrival of Christopher Columbus in the Americas as a platform to dramatize its call for indigenous rights. Dominguez denounced "people who say that Christopher Columbus was welcomed when he came. They never talk about the massacres or the genocide that occurred in our villages, on the whole of the American continent. We wanted to tell the other side of the story. That was the object of the Frente Mixteco/Zapoteco Binacional: to dismantle the old stereotype, to march, to protest."

The Frente's response to the Zapatista uprising on January 1, 1994, strengthened its commitment to cross-border action. The Frente pressured the Mexican government to refrain from using massive military force in Chiapas. From Fresno, California, across the border to Baja California and Oaxaca, Frente activists went on hunger strikes and demonstrated in front of consulates and government offices. That action, Dominguez says, "helped us realize that when there's movement in Oaxaca, there's got to be movement in the United States to make an impression on the Mexican government."

The Frente uses an indigenous institution called the tequio to organize indigenous migrants. In Oaxaca "we must participate in collective work to support our community," Dominguez explains. "That understanding of mutual assistance makes it easier for us to organize." Part of this culture is also participatory democracy, with roots in indigenous village life. The frente's binational assemblies discuss its bylaws and political positions in detail.

The organization's political platform also maintains a focus on the problems faced by transnational communities. It condemns the US proposal for new guest worker programs, arguing that they treat migrants only as temporary workers, rather than as people belonging to, and creating community. Instead, the Frente calls for legalizing undocumented migrants in the US.

It also demands that the Mexican government fulfill the right of Mexican citizens living in the United States to vote in their country's elections. The Fox administration agreed to create a system to handle those votes in the 2006 election, but there were so many restrictions that only about 40,000 of the estimated 12 million Mexican citizens in the United States were able to cast ballots.

Attacks on Human Rights Escalate during an Election Year

In the late 1990s, the Frente in Oaxaca began an alliance with the PRD. Dominguez explains, "Mexican electoral laws don't permit a social organization to run independent candidates, so we have to make an alliance. Within the PRD there are divisions and internal problems, but it's all we have." Within this alliance, the Frente keeps its independence. "We should have a relationship with political parties without losing our identity and being dependent on politicians," Dominguez says.

Gutierrez himself was elected to the state chamber of deputies on the Party's ticket in 2000. "We joined because we felt strongly about their fight for justice for all people in our state. I became the first elected official to go against the PRI in our region." Although Gutierrez and his allies fought for legislation protecting migrants and indigenous cultural rights, the legislature's PRI majority killed their proposals. He served one two-year term - Mexican electoral law forbids reelection.

In the recent presidential campaign, the Frente supported the PRD candidate, former Mexico City mayor Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. Frente activist Leoncio Vasquez said the country faced a clear choice in political direction. "Lopez Obrador declared openly that he'd put poor people first," Vasquez explained. "He's against corruption and corporations who violate workers' and human rights." Raising rural income was the centerpiece of Lopez Obrador's proposals on migration. He was particularly critical of President Fox's support for the Bush guest worker proposal.

During the campaign, attacks on human rights in Oaxaca escalated. On May 19, Moises Cruz Sanchez, a PRD activist in the Mixtec town of San Juan Mixtepec, was gunned down in front of his wife and children as he left a local restaurant. The two gunmen fled, and police couldn't seem to find them.

That month in Fresno the Frente organized demonstrations against a planned visit by Governor Ruiz to California. Response to the protests revealed increasing cooperation between U.S. and Mexican authorities. After receiving a copy of a letter sent to the Mexican consulate to protest Ruiz's visit, Detective Dean Williamson of the Fresno Police paid a surprise visit to the Frente's office on Tulare Street. "It's an official procedure," said Williamson, "in which we're trying to clarify possible threats affecting public security."

Then violence escalated again in Oaxaca. In early May, the state's teachers struck for higher salaries and an end to human rights violations. Thousands of teachers occupied the main square in the state capital. Over 120,000 Oaxaca residents joined them in the largest rally in the state's history. On June 11, Ruiz promised business owners he would use a heavy hand to put down the protest. At four in the morning on June 14, helicopters began hovering over the tents of the sleeping teachers. As parents woke their children, billowing clouds of tear gas filled the cobblestone streets. Hundreds of police charged in. Within minutes, scores were beaten, and one pregnant woman miscarried. But Ruiz underestimated the teachers. They retook the square at the end of the day, and the following morning 300,000 people marched through Oaxaca demanding Ruiz's resignation.

In the following weeks, teachers and other groups calling for Ruiz' removal formed the Oaxaca Popular Peoples' Assembly (APPO). Doctors and nurses joined, shutting down clinics. In a desperate reaction, violence against protestors increased. A state university was killed in the street, and then the husband of a striking teacher, Jose Jimenez Colmanares, was gunned down during a protest march. Pistoleros shot protesters guarding the transmittter for the Channel 9 radio station, after it had been occupied by demonstrators and used to broadcast news of the uprising. Gunmen also fired bullets at two reporters from Noticias, which recently opened another editorial office in the capital.

Indigenous communities, including FIOB, have been heavily involved in APPO. In the Mixteca, protestors occupied the Huajuapan de Leon city hall. Ruiz issued arrest orders for 50 leaders, including three FIOB statewide officials.

On July 2, Mexicans went to the polls. The results gave a microscopic 200,000-vote majority to PAN candidate Felipe Calderon. Demands for a recount and accusations of fraud were immediate.

A million people rallied in Mexico City's main square on July 16, and two million on July 30, to demand a recount. The PRD and its candidate refused to accept the results without one, as they did in 1988, when it appeared that fraud robbed leftist candidate Cuauhtemoc Cardenas of victory. Pointing to attacks on striking steel workers in Michoacan and Sonora, the police assault on Federal deputies and the stationing of tanks outside the Mexican Congress, and the raging conflict in Oaxaca, Dominguez says "Mexico is approaching a situation of ungovernability, which is spreading to all parts of the country. A tiny group is trying to hold onto power by increasingly violent and illegal means."

Despite the demands of thousands of people encamped for weeks in downtown Mexico City, and continued rallies in the zocalo, Mexican election authorities refused to make a complete recount, and certified Calderon as Mexico's next president. Nevertheless, millions of Mexicans see a clear difference in political direction between the party and the social forces that support it, and the current political establishment.
More importantly, they are challenging the lack of human rights that keeps that establishment in power. The Frente is an important part of that movement. "Indigenous people are always on the bottom in Oaxaca," Vasquez says. "The rich use their economic resources to maintain a government that puts them first. Big corporations control what's going on in Mexico, and those who criticize the government get harassed constantly, with arbitrary arrest and even assassination. That's one of the reasons why people from our communities have been forced to leave to find a means of survival elsewhere."

David Bacon, Photographs and Stories

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Fox Cancels Mexico City Sept. 16 Celebration

Fox Cancels Mexico City Independence Day Celebration (Update1)
By Patrick Harrington

Sept. 14 (Bloomberg) -- Mexican President Vicente Fox canceled plans to kick off Independence Day celebrations in Mexico City tomorrow to avoid potentially violent clashes with election protesters.

Fox will instead hold an Independence Day ceremony tomorrow in Guanajuato state, where Mexico's movement to separate from Spain began, Interior Minister Carlos Abascal said at a press conference in the capital. Fox's decision follows an agreement passed by Mexico's Senate today asking him to relocate the celebration.

The cancellation marks the second time this month protesters loyal to Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador have forced Fox to abandon an official celebration. The disruptions orchestrated so far by Lopez Obrador, who finished second in Mexico's July 2 presidential election, raise concern that President-elect Felipe Calderon may be hamstrung in his efforts to govern after he takes office Dec. 1.

``Lopez Obrador is still the leader of an ill-defined opposition movement that will continue for the near future,'' said Juan Lindau, chairman of the political science department at Colorado College in Colorado Springs. ``I don't see the protests going away in the next six months to a year.''

Supporters loyal to Lopez Obrador blocked Fox from giving his final State of the Nation address before Congress on Sept. 1.

Leaders of three Mexican political parties today formed a coalition to oppose Calderon in Congress, a move that will make it tougher for him to push through legislation allowing private investment in the oil industry.

Countering `Right Wing'

Lopez Obrador's Party of the Democratic Revolution united with the Workers' Party and the Convergence Party to counter what they call a ``right-wing movement'' led by Calderon. The three-party front holds 157 seats in the 500-seat lower house and 34 seats in the 128-member Senate.

``We're never going to negotiate with Calderon because he's an illegitimate president,'' said Jesus Ortega, Lopez Obrador's campaign manager and a former senator. ``We're going to be in the streets as well as in Congress.''

Such a coalition may thwart Calderon's promise to amend Mexico's constitution to allow private investment in the oil industry -- a key to bolstering growth in Latin America's second- biggest economy -- and to change legislation to allow oral testimony from crime victims. Amendments require a two-thirds majority in Congress in Mexico.

Calderon, 44, has vowed to shift his agenda to placate supporters of Lopez Obrador. The new government plans to add 60 billion pesos ($5.5 billion) of spending in the first year to broaden access to health care, housing subsidies and other government benefits for Mexico's poor, Ernesto Cordero, the public policy chief in Calderon's transition team, said in an interview.


Mexico's electoral court last week confirmed Calderon as the winner of the July 2 presidential election, the closest in the country's history. He is scheduled to take office in December.

The opposition coalition will probably remain united against Calderon for at least a year before weakening as mid-term elections approach in 2009, said Jorge Chabat, a political scientist with the Center for Economic Research and Teaching in Mexico City. Voters will replace all 500 lower-house deputies during the mid-term contest because they cannot seek re-election under Mexican law.

``Opposition to Calderon is strong now because the presidential election just took place,'' Chabat said in a telephone interview. ``In one or two years these parties are going to have to start thinking about the consequences of their actions and how they affect voter intentions.''

To contact the reporter on this story: Patrick Harrington in Mexico City at

Last Updated: September 14, 2006 17:33 EDT

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Monday, September 11, 2006

Latino Congress takes anti war position

Historic Latino Congreso Takes Strong Anti-War Stand
by Medea Benjamin

Billed as the most comprehensive gathering of Latino leaders in the US in three decades, over 1,600 delegates and observers attended the Latino Congreso in Los Angeles from September 6-10. The Congreso grew out of the massive mobilizations of Latinos this spring for immigrant rights, and was a forum to discuss not only the status of immigration reform, but also a wide range of issues from how to best use Latino voting power to global warming to the economic empowerment of Latino communities. Mayor Antonio Villarraigosa and numerous Latino Congresspeople greeted the participants, who represented a diversity of labor, student, environmental, health and community development groups.

The convention was organized by some of the largest Latino advocacy groups in the nation, including the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), the William C. Velásquez Institute and the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC).

The war in Iraq was not high on the agenda. Of the dozens of workshops and plenaries, only one session was dedicated to the war—a panel that included Fernando Suarez del Solar, a man who lost his son Jesus in Iraq and has been speaking out against the war ever since. But the elected officials who addressed the crowd—Congresspeople, mayors, city council members—failed to mention the war, and when Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez spoke at a reception for Latina leaders, she advised Latinos to enroll in schools like West Point and the Naval Academy so they could get good jobs in the military.

When the delegates convened in a plenary session to discuss proposed resolutions, however, the first to come up was an anti-war resolution proposed by Rosalio Muñoz, coordinator of a group called Latinos for Peace and a veteran of the Chicano Moratorium against the war in Vietnam. The resolution represented a radical position for a Congress sponsored mainly by organizations that have never taken a public stand on the war, in part because many of their members are military families and they don’t want to appear disrespectful to the soldiers.

Entitled “US Withdrawal from Iraq War”, it condemned the aggressive recruitment of Latino youth into the military, the spending of billions on war instead of much-needed community services, and the post-9/11 racial profiling that has hurt all people of color. It called for a withdrawal of troops from Iraq and a foreign policy focused on diplomacy and peaceful development.

“Polls show that 70% of Latinos oppose this disastrous war,” said Muñoz, “but few Latinos have been speaking out. It’s time for that to change.”

Amendments were proposed from the floor to make the resolution even stronger, like calling on elected Latino officials to take leadership in promoting legislation to bring the troops home. To the surprise of even Muñoz, not one delegate spoke out against the resolution, and when the voice vote occurred, a lone “nay” was overwhelmed by a sea of emphatic “ayes.”

Among those delighted with the vote was Fernando Suarez del Solar. “Ever since my son was killed in Iraq, I’ve been trying to organize the Latino community to come out against the war,” said Suarez del Solar, “but many of our elected leaders and community organizations have been afraid to step forward for fear of being labeled unpatriotic. So the passage of this resolution represents an important milestone in our community.”

Another indication of the strong anti-war sentiment at the Congreso came from the enthusiastic response to a petition being circulated by the women’s peace group CODEPINK called Give Peace a Vote. Part of a coalition effort of Voters for Peace designed to create a strong anti-war voting bloc, the petition asks people to pledge that they will only vote for candidates who support a speedy withdrawal from Iraq and no future wars of aggression.

“People were so eager to sign and were thankful for a way to express their outrage against this war,” said Edith Mendez from CODEPINK, one of the signature-gatherers.

One of those eager to sign was Jose Carrillo, a delegate from Wisconsin and a union official with the United Auto Workers. Carrillo has two sons in the military who are presently serving in Iraq. “Latinos often join the military because they have a sense of responsibility to serve this country and the want to prove they are patriotic Americans,” he said. “It’s important to honor the sacrifices our soldiers are making, but at the same time we have to speak out against what many of us consider an unjust war.”

Rosa Furumoro, a professor of Chicano Studies and a speaker on the anti-war panel, said that more and more Latinos are becoming concerned about the militarization of the public schools. “With the military reaching all the way down to our elementary schools,” she said, “we see our youth being socialized to go to war while students in wealthier communities are being socialized to become doctors, lawyers and businessmen.”

While Latinos have historically been underrepresented in the military, this is rapidly changing, with recruiters aiming to bring Latino representation up to 22% of recruits, almost double what it is today.

Daniela Conde, a student at UCLA and a member of the student group MEChA, echoed the concern about the aggressive recruitment of Latino youth. “I began to understand how the war has affected my community when I saw my friends being recruited into the military and how they became dehumanized. I want to see the high schools preparing Latino youth for college, not for war. And I want to see this country spending money on uplifting poor communities, not killing people overseas.”

Antonio Gonzales, one of the key organizers of the event and a heavy hitter in the Latino community, was delighted by the open expression of anti-war sentiment at the Congreso. “An unjust war will always be opposed by Latinos because our fundamental principle is justice for all,” he said. “Now we have to find more effective ways to connect the Latino community with the peace movement.”

Medea Benjamin ( is cofounder of the human rights group Global Exchange and the peace group CODEPINK.


Sunday, September 10, 2006

National (?) Latino Conference

Latino Leaders Convene First National Latino Congress
in a Generation

By Aaron Glantz

OneWorld US
September 7, 2006


Thousands of Latino community leaders from across the
country convened in Los Angeles Wednesday for what
organizers say is the first massive gathering of Latino
community leaders, organizations, and elected officials
since 1977.

"The Latino Congresso is deigned to do something that
the Congress in Washington is not doing--paying
attention to issues of importance to the Latino
community," explained John Trasvina, who heads up the
Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund

Organizers say 2,000 people will participate in the
four-day gathering, which is co-hosted by Los Angeles
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. The goal is to come away
with a unified program on immigration, labor rights,
health care, the environment, and even foreign policy.

Equally important, organizers say, is to maintain
momentum gained in May, when millions rallied around
the country to protest a harsh immigration measure,
which had been passed by the House of Representatives.

The demonstrations forced Congress to shelve the
proposal, HR 4437, which would have made it a crime to
be an undocumented immigrant in the United States or to
help those who remain in the United States illegally.
It would have also required churches and non-profit
organizations to require proof of legal status before
providing charity and would have mandated construction
of a giant fence along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Having killed that measure, leaders in the Latino
community are hoping to gather enough momentum to push
forward a proposal they see as immigrant-friendly.

"We want Congress to be more practical in dealing with
the immigration issues. We want to deal with these
issues as a whole," Arizona State legislator Steve
Gallardo told OneWorld. "Controlling the border is
important but it's just one piece of the puzzle."

What immigrant groups want most, Gallardo said, is a
legal path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

"The fact is our job market is dependant on
undocumented workers," he argued. "Agriculture would
just falter if the undocumented were not there. Look at
the housing market. The State of Arizona had a $1
billion surplus and that was due to the housing market.
Who do you think builds that housing? Undocumented

Gallardo is part of a growing number of Latino
officials elected nationally as the ethnic group grows
in population and a higher percentage become citizens.
Three Latinos currently serve in the U.S. Senate--the
highest number in history. Twenty-three serve in the
House of Representatives. There are 232 Latino state
law-makers--almost double a decade ago.

But Gallardo said that rise in representation is
creating a backlash. In 2004, the State of Arizona
passed Proposition 200, which barred all state services
for undocumented immigrants. New measures have been
introduced every year since. This fall, Arizona voters
will consider a proposition forbidding judges to grant
bail to the undocumented.

The trend has hardly been limited to Arizona. In
California, Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger ousted
incumbent Democrat Gray Davis pledging to revoke
driving license privileges for undocumented immigrants.

"What you're seeing now is a reaction by the entire
country for some kind of immigration reform," Gallardo

In such an environment, Latino organizers are looking
toward this week's Congress in Los Angeles, which will
conclude Sunday with a get-out-the-vote training, as a
way to put forward a united front.

"This Congress comes at a time when the Latino
community is mobilized," said Angela Sanbrano, head of
the National Alliance of Latin American and Caribbean
Communities (NALACC). "We not only need to march. We
also need to develop policies and strategies that show
that our marches have impact on policies at all levels
of government."

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Mexican Left to create parallel government

Mexico Leftist to Create Parallel Gov't
- By MARK STEVENSON, Associated Press Writer
Tuesday, August 29, 2006

(08-29) 14:12 PDT MEXICO CITY, Mexico (AP) --

Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, convinced he won't be awarded the presidency, has vowed to create a parallel leftist government and is urging Mexicans not to recognize the apparent victory of the ruling party's Felipe Calderon.

While his party lacks the seats in Congress to block legislation, Lopez Obrador can mobilize millions to pressure his conservative rival to adopt the left's agenda — or to clamp down and risk a backlash.

Both scenarios are possibilities as the former Mexico City mayor lays out plans to create his own government to rule from the streets, with the support of thousands who are already occupying protest camps throughout downtown Mexico City.

Some predict his parallel initiative — which Lopez Obrador's supporters call the "legitimate government" — could turn those protest camps into the core of a violent revolt, especially if the government tries to shut it down.

Such violence broke out in the southern city of Oaxaca after Gov. Ulises Ruiz sent police to evict striking teachers. Outraged citizens' groups joined the protests, setting fire to buildings and public buses, seizing radio and TV stations and forcing the closure of businesses in a city known throughout the world as a quaint tourist destination.

"Everything we do, from property taxes to permits to natural resources, will go through the 'legitimate government,'" said Severina Martinez, a school teacher from Oaxaca camped out in a tent in Mexico City's main Zocalo plaza. "We won't have anything to do with the official government."

Some supporters took out a newspaper ad Tuesday, calling on Lopez Obrador to set up his own treasury department and said all Mexicans "should channel federal revenues to the new treasury department."

Lopez Obrador is encouraging his followers to disobey Calderon, whose 240,000-vote advantage was confirmed Monday by the country's top electoral court. The seven magistrates stopped short of declaring Calderon president-elect, but they have only a week to declare a winner or annul the election.

"We do not recognize Felipe Calderon as president, nor any officials he appoints, nor any acts carried out by his de-facto government," Lopez Obrador said after the court ruling, which he claims overlooked evidence of fraud in the July 2 elections.

Lopez Obrador's Democratic Revolution Party, or PRD, increased its number of congressional seats in those elections and became the second-largest bloc, behind Calderon's National Action Party, on Tuesday as new lawmakers were sworn in.

But it holds only a quarter of the seats — not enough to block legislation, especially if Calderon forges a likely alliance with the former ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party. That alliance would hold a majority in each house of Congress.

Lopez Obrador has ruled out negotiations with what he calls the "spurious" and "imposed" government. Because PRD legislators fear crossing him or his fervent followers, they can't cut deals to get their own legislation approved, making them even weaker.

"There is no possibility that we federal legislators in Congress will start any dialogue with the government," said PRD Senate leader Carlos Navarette, considered one of the party's moderates. "We will never forget that the leader and director of the Mexican people's action and the left is Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador."

Lopez Obrador's plan is to have his government help the poor, oppose privatizations and make the news media — which he has accused of ignoring him — more "truthful and objective."

It's not clear how he plans to do that, but his supporters are already planning to hold an alternative swearing in ceremony to rival the official inauguration on Dec. 1.

People close to Lopez Obrador say he is assuming the role of his hero, 18th century President Benito Juarez, who led a roving, "unofficial" presidency from 1863 to 1867 during the French invasion, before driving out the invaders and executing the French-installed Emperor Maximilian.

"Juarez ran the government from a carriage and restored the republic," said Rosario Ibarra, a human rights activist who frequently shares the stage with Lopez Obrador at his rallies. "We just hope there won't be any need to shoot anyone."

So far, protesters have only scuffled with police. Some fear the movement could turn violent, although Lopez Obrador says it will remain peaceful.

The administration of President Vicente Fox hopes it will all just boil down to some fiery rhetoric and posturing.

"We think this is a symbolic, political act that has no validity in the affairs of state," Fox's spokesman, Ruben Aguilar, said Tuesday. Asked about Lopez Obrador's plan to declare himself head of state, Aguilar noted that "in this country, everyone is free to say whatever they want."

There is no question that Lopez Obrador is taking his "legitimate government" or "government in resistance" — the exact title has yet to be determined — very seriously.

Asked whether Lopez Obrador would wear some version of the presidential sash during his swearing-in ceremony, PRD spokesman Gerardo Fernandez accused reporters of poking fun at the candidate. He also upbraided those who spoke of plans for an "alternative government."

"What Andres Manuel has suggested is not an alternative president," Fernandez said. "It will be a legitimate government with a legitimate president."


WOPs, With Out Papers

Derogatory slang term for Italian immigrants. Meaning, With Out Papers. An immigrant without papers. In the current U.S. press, this person is called an Illegal alien. What is the difference between the current persons without documents ( Wops) and the traditional immigrants of Italian, Irish, Finnish, German, and other immigrant groups?
The difference is changes in the U.S. immigration law. These laws began to change after 1900. They were further racialized in the 1920’s. The 1960’s Civil Rights Act made racial discrimination in immigration law.
The current WOPs seek the same opportunities to earn a living and to feed their families as earlier immigrants.
Instead of calling them “illegal aliens” I recommend use of WOP.

Evo Morales from Bolivia: Capitalism has only hurt Latin America

"Capitalism Has Only Hurt Latin America"


Bolivia's President Evo Morales, 46, talks to DER
SPIEGEL about reform plans for his country, socialism
in Latin America, and the often tense relations of the
region's leftists with the United States.

SPIEGEL: Mr. President, why is such a large part of
Latin America moving to the left?

Morales: Injustice, inequality and the poverty of the
masses compel us to seek better living conditions.
Bolivia's majority Indian population was always
excluded, politically oppressed and culturally
alienated. Our national wealth, our raw materials, was
plundered. Indios were once treated like animals here.
In the 1930s and 40s, they were sprayed with DDT to
kill the vermin on their skin and in their hair
whenever they came into the city. My mother wasn't
even allowed to set foot in the capital of her native
region, Oruro. Now we're in the government and in
parliament. For me, being leftist means fighting
against injustice and inequality but, most of all, we
want to live well.

SPIEGEL: You called a constitutional convention to
establish a new Bolivian republic. What should the new
Bolivia look like?

Morales: We don't want to oppress or exclude anyone.
The new republic should be based on diversity, respect
and equal rights for all. There is a lot to do. Child
mortality is frighteningly high. I had six siblings
and four them died. In the countryside, half of all
children die before reaching their first birthday.

SPIEGEL: Your socialist party, MAS, does not have the
necessary two-thirds majority amend the constitution.
Do you now plan to negotiate with other political

Morales: We are always open to talks. Dialogue is the
basis of Indian culture, and we don't want to make any
enemies. Political and ideological adversaries,
perhaps, but not enemies.

SPIEGEL: Why did you temporarily suspend the
nationalization of natural resources, one of your
administration's most important projects? Does Bolivia
lack the know-how to extract its raw materials?

Morales: We are continuing to negotiate with the
companies in question. The current lack of investment
has nothing to do with nationalization. It's the fault
of the right-wing government of (former president)
Tuto Quiroga, who stopped all investment in natural
gas production in
2001 because, as he claimed, there was no domestic
market for natural gas in Bolivia. We plan to start
drilling again. We have signed a delivery agreement
for natural gas with Argentina, and we are also
cooperating with Venezuela. We have signed a contract
to work an iron mine with an Indian company. This will
create 7,000 direct and 10,000 indirect jobs. We have
negotiated much better prices and terms than our

SPIEGEL: But there are major problems with Brazil.
Bolivia is demanding a higher price for natural gas
shipments. Doesn't this harm your relationship with
(Brazilian) President Luiz Inácio "Lula" da Silva?

Morales: Lula is showing his solidarity. He behaves
like a big brother. But we are having problems with
Petrobras, the Brazilian energy company. The
negotiations are very difficult, but we are

SPIEGEL: Petrobras has threatened to end all of its
investments in Bolivia.

Morales: This isn't coming from the Brazilian
government, but from a few Petrobras executives. They
print these threats in the press to put us under
pressure. Brazil is a major power, but it has to treat
us with respect. Compañero Lula told me that there
will be a new agreement, and that he even wants to
import more gas.

SPIEGEL: Bolivia doesn't sell natural gas to Chile
because the Chileans took away Bolivia's access to the
sea in a war more than
120 years ago. Now a socialist is in power in Chile.
Will you supply them with natural gas now?

Morales: We want to overcome our historical problems
with Chile. The sea has divided us and the sea must
bring us back together again. Chile has agreed, for
the first time, to talk about sea access for Bolivia.
That's a huge step forward. The Chilean president came
to my inauguration, and I attended
(Chilean President) Michelle Bachelet's inauguration
in Santiago. We complement each other. Chile needs our
natural resources and we need access to the sea. Under
those circumstances, it must be possible to find a
solution in the interest of both countries.

SPIEGEL: What influence did Venezuelan President Hugo
Chavez have on the nationalization of Bolivia's
natural resources?

Morales: None whatsoever. Neither Cuba nor Venezuela
was involved. I managed the nationalization myself.
Only seven of my closest associates knew about the
decree and the date. Although I did meet Chavez and
(Cuban leader) Fidel Castro in Cuba a few days before
the announcement, we didn't talk about
nationalization. I had already signed the decree
before I departed for Cuba, and the vice president
gave it to the cabinet. When Fidel asked me in Cuba
how far the project had progressed, I told him that we
planned to announce the nationalization in the coming
days, but I didn't give him a date. Fidel warned me to
wait until the constitutional convention. Chavez
wasn't aware of anything.

SPIEGEL: Chavez wants to install a socialism for the
21st century in Venezuela. His ideological advisor
Heinz Dieterich, a German, was recently in Bolivia. Do
you intend to introduce socialism in Bolivia?

Morales: If socialism means that we live well, that
there is equality and justice, and that we have no
social and economic problems, then I welcome it.

SPIEGEL: You admire Fidel Castro as the "grandfather
of all Latin American revolutionaries." What have you
learned from him?

Morales: Solidarity, most of all. Fidel helps us a
great deal. He has donated seven eye clinics and 20
basic hospitals. Cuban doctors have already performed
30,000 free cataract operations for Bolivians. Five
thousand Bolivians from poor backgrounds are studying
medicine at no charge in Cuba.

SPIEGEL: But Bolivian doctors are protesting the
Cubans' presence. They say that they deprive them of
their livelihood.

Morales: The Bolivian state doesn't pay the Cuban
doctors any salaries, so they're not taking anything
away from the Bolivians.

SPIEGEL: Do you know how Castro is doing?

Morales: Yes, I spoke with him on the phone today. He
has been feeling better for the last two days. He told
me that he'll be well enough to attend the summit of
nonaligned nations in Havana in September.

SPIEGEL: And he'll give a speech then?

Morales: Certainly. It's an opportunity he won't miss.

SPIEGEL: The Americans are worried that Chavez is
gaining too much influence. Aren't you making yourself
dependent on Venezuela?

Morales: What unites us with Chavez is the concept of
the integration of South America. This is the old
dream of a great fatherland, a dream that existed even
before the Spanish conquest, and Simon Bolivar fought
for it later on. We want a South America modeled after
the European Union, with a currency like the euro, one
that's worth more than the dollar. Chavez's oil is
unimportant for Bolivia. We only get diesel under
favorable terms. But we are not dependent on
Venezuela. We complement each other. Venezuela shares
its wealth with other countries, but that doesn't make
us subordinate.

SPIEGEL: The Latin American left is fracturing into a
moderate, social democratic current, led by Lula and
Bachelet, and a radical, populist movement represented
by Castro, Chavez and yourself. Isn't Chavez dividing
the continent?

Morales: There are social democrats and others who are
marching more in the direction of equality, whether
you call them socialists or communists. But at least
Latin America no longer has racist or fascist
presidents like it did in the past. Capitalism has
only hurt Latin America.

SPIEGEL: You are the first Indian president in
Bolivian history. What role will indigenous culture
play in your government?

Morales: We must combine our social consciousness with
professional competency. In my administration,
intellectuals from the upper class can be cabinet
ministers or ambassadors, as can members of Indian
ethnic groups.

SPIEGEL: Do you believe that the Indian peoples have
developed a better social model than the white,
Western democracies?

Morales: There was no private property in the past.
Everything was communal property. In the Indian
community where I was born, everything belonged to the
community. This way of life is more equitable. We
Indians are Latin America's moral reserve. We act
according to a universal law that consists of three
basic principles: do not steal, do not lie and do not
be idle. This trilogy will also serve as the basis of
our new constitution.

SPIEGEL: Is it true that all government employees will
be required to learn the Indian languages Quechua,
Aymara und Guaraní in the future?

Morales: Public servants in the cities are required to
learn the language of their region. If we already
speak Spanish in Bolivia, we should also be fluent in
our own languages.

SPIEGEL: Are the whites treating the Indians better,
now that you're in power?

Morales: It's gotten a lot better. The middle class,
intellectuals and the self-employed are now proud of
their Indian roots. Unfortunately, some oligarchic
groups continue to treat us as being inferior.

SPIEGEL: Some critics claim that the Indians in
Bolivia are now racist toward the whites.

Morales: That's part of a dirty war the mass media are
waging against us. Wealthy, racist businessmen own
much of the media.

SPIEGEL: The Catholic Church has accused you of
wanting to reform religious instruction. Will there be
no freedom of religion in Bolivia?

Morales: I am Catholic. Freedom of religion isn't at
issue. But I am opposed to a monopoly when it comes to

SPIEGEL: Some large landowners have threatened violent
resistance to the planned land reforms. Whose land do
you intend to seize?

Morales: We will expropriate large land holdings that
are not being farmed. But we want democratic and
peaceful agrarian reform. The 1952 land reform led to
the creation of many tiny, unproductive parcels in the
Andean highlands.

SPIEGEL: Bolivia is divided into the rich provinces in
the east and the poor Andean highlands. There is a
strong movement for autonomy in the east. Is the
country at risk of breaking apart?

Morales: This is what a few fascist, oligarchic groups
want. But they lost the vote over the constitutional

SPIEGEL: Bolivia is an important narcotics producer.
Your predecessors had illegal coca plantations
destroyed. Do you intend to do the same thing?

Morales: From our standpoint, coca should be neither
destroyed nor completely legalized. Farming should be
controlled by the state and by the coca farmers'
unions. We have launched an international campaign to
legalize coca leaves, and we want the United Nations
to remove coca from its list of toxic substances.
Scientists proved long ago that coca leaves are not
toxic. We decided on a voluntary reduction in the
amount of acreage being farmed.

SPIEGEL: But the United States claims that the
majority of the coca harvest ends up in the cocaine

Morales: The Americans say all kinds of things. They
accuse us of not fulfilling the conditions of their
development aid. My pro-capitalist predecessor
administrations supported the massacre of coca
farmers. More than 800 campesinos died in the war on
drugs. The United States is using its war on drugs as
an excuse to expand its control over Latin America.

SPIEGEL: The American Drug Enforcement Agency, the
DEA, has agents stationed in Bolivia who advise the
military and the police in their efforts to combat the
drug trade. Will you be sending them home now?

Morales: They're still here, but they are no longer in
uniform or armed, as they were before.

SPIEGEL: How is your relationship with the United
States? Do you plan to travel to Washington?

Morales: A meeting with (US President) George W. Bush
is not planned. I do intend to travel to New York to
visit the UN General Assembly. When I was still a
member of parliament, the Americans didn't let me into
the country. But heads of state don't need a visa to
travel to the UN in New York.

SPIEGEL: You broke your nose while playing soccer a
few weeks ago. Are you playing less these days?

Morales: Does my nose still look crooked? Playing
sports has always been my greatest pleasure. I don't
smoke, I hardly drink alcohol and I rarely dance,
although I used to play the trumpet. Sports helped get
me into the presidential palace. My first position in
the union was that of sports secretary. I was head of
a soccer club in the countryside when I was 13.

SPIEGEL: Why don't you wear a tie?

Morales: I never wore a tie voluntarily, even though I
was forced to wear one for photos when I was young and
for official events at school. I used to wrap my tie
in a newspaper, and whenever the teacher checked I
would quickly put it on again. I'm not used to it.
Most Bolivians don't wear ties.

SPIEGEL: Mr. President, thank you for speaking with

The interview was conducted by Jens Glüsing and Hans
Hoyng and was translated from German by Christopher