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Julie Webb-Pullman: Ulises Ruiz Turns to Religion

Ulises Ruiz Turns to Religion

By Julie Webb-Pullman

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Barricades mean patriots are present.

Oaxaqeño authorities have yet again demonstrated just how bereft they are of the most minimal observation of human rights. Only a week after attacking a peaceful march of a thousand people in Miahuatlán, Oaxaca, detaining several including minors, disappearing several more, and terrorising family members of about 20 prisoners into seeking refuge in the church housing the International Civil Commission for the Observation of Human Rights (CCIODH), they have turned their attention to the churches themselves.

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Santo Domingo - Closed for Business Sunday 21 January 2007

On Saturday 20 January, the same day the CCIODH was holding a press conference to release the conclusions and recommendations of their investigation into human rights abuses in Oaxaca, (LINK) in which they listed a litany of abuses and criticised the total impunity enjoyed by the perpetrators, State Preventive and Municipal police closed off access to the atrium of the Santo Domingo Cathedral, where representatives of several churches from Oaxaca and other states planned to hold an ecumenical day of peace for Oaxaca.

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Bishop Vera

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Presbyterian Minister Jose Luis

Bishop Raúl Vera López, of the Diocese of Saltillo, Coahuila, and Presbyterian Minister José Luis and there congregation were forced to relocate to a small park a few blocks away, outside of the police barricades, to listen over that day and the next to the testimonies of those brave enough to come forward and share their horrific experiences of torture and abuse at the hands of state and federal authorities during the months of conflict.

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"Day for Peace Born of Justice"

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Symbols representing life, death, faith, and hope.

As these pictures illustrate, it is difficult to imagine just what threat this small group of people observing a religious celebration of peace could possibly pose to the State. Other than telling the truth about what is happening in Oaxaca, that is. Bishop Vera referred to the well-documented outrages committed by the Preventive Federal Police (PFP) and local groups, and “the degree of irrationality and pigheadedness that enables them to maintain power at all costs”.

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Cops blocking the streets around Santo Domingo

He denounced the repressive atmosphere, saying that in walking only three blocks he had to pass three roadblocks and many police. “This is not normal, here in Oaxaca they only respect liberties in a demagogic way.” Vera roundly criticized the Senate of the Republic of Mexico for not decreeing a dissolution of the powers of Oaxaca State Governor Ulises Ruiz despite the state of ingovernability and his abuses of human rights. “In democracies there exist mechanisms to evaluate a government’s performance, but here the Senate refused because of powerful interest groups, without taking the people into account,” he said. The solution he proposed is a peace born of justice, rather than force. “When the power of reason is not valued, when there are no convincing reasons to maintain power, the only way left is the club,” he said, referring to Ulises Ruiz’ use of repression to cling on to power.

The deserted Santo Domingo Cathedral last Sunday, and probably for many Sundays to come, is testament to the state of terror now reigning in Oaxaca, where so many people are too scared to leave their houses except for the most essential needs, where vehicles with black windows and no number-plates cruise the night streets, occasionally snatching up people apparently at random, people who sometimes reappear beaten and tortured, or in prisons, but sometimes are never seen again.

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Robo Cops

Where robo-cops in blue-shouldered uniforms to match their brand-new bikes ride pillion around the streets, watching everything and everyone, reporting back by radio.

Where burly bullies in civilian clothing, fooling no-one, lounge with their mobile phones, calling in who is where, and doing what. Where neighbours denounce each other to turn attention away from themselves. Where families are crushed by the deaths, disappearance, sexual violations of their loved ones. Where they are decimated by family members forced to flee to other states, other countries, to change their identities, their appearance. Where families can no longer live in their own homes or go to their jobs but are forced to stay with friends, relatives, strangers, dependent on their goodwill, to keep one step ahead of Ulises’ thugs. Where the police enter buses at the long-distance bus-stations before departure and videotape the faces everyone on board. Where a police spokesperson said “It is good that most of the people we detain are innocent, it makes everyone else that much more scared.”

Many people are comparing Oaxaca today with Nazi Germany and Stalinist USSR. The comparisons do not end with the obvious similarities in the way the state is terrorising the population, targeting and exterminating entire segments, especially anyone expressing opposition or criticism or merely supporting those that do – it includes the way the wider world is ignoring what is happening, closing their eyes to the evidence, and their ears to the screams.

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Only way left to advise of marches

In May it was the flower sellers of Texcoco and the people of San Salvador Atenco, since June it has been APPO and the people of Oaxaca. Already the religious oppression has begun. If international inaction continues, who will it be tomorrow? And who will be left to tell......

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"Country or death - we will overcome."

Anyone interested in participating in possible International Civil Camps for Peace in Oaxaca, which involves living in at-risk communities for a minimum of two weeks to observe and report on human rights abuses, please contact iccpo @ , including dates of availability.


Julie Webb-Pullman was a member of the CCIODH in Oaxaca. The Preliminary Report of the Commission is expected to be released in Spanish in late February, and in English shortly thereafter.

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