As heavily armed police forces were preparing to put an end to a month-long rebellion in the state of Oaxaca in the poor south of Mexico, the world was reached by news that a New York-based independent journalist, Brad Will, had been shot.
He had arrived in the restless capital of the state, also called Oaxaca, some weeks earlier, and was documenting the spirit of resistance and the brutality it faces from both paramilitary groups with connections to the party PRI as well as to authorities. He was shot on the 27th of October and his death received wide attention and also put focus on the other dead since the rebellion started, including Professor Emilio Fabián and Esteban Zurita who were killed in the same shooting.
The conflict in Oaxaca begun in May 2006, when a teachers’ strike was attacked by police, and developed into a large scale popular movement. On June 17, the Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca (or APPO, from the initials of the Spanish name, Asamblea Popular del Pueblo de Oaxaca) declared itself the governing body of Oaxaca. The Popular Assembly (which formed in June) convened representatives of Oaxaca’s state regions and municipalities, unions, non-governmental organizations, social organizations, cooperatives, and parents. APPO is urging everyone to organize popular assemblies at every level: neighborhoods, street blocks, unions, and towns. “No leader is going to solve our problems,” members of APPO repeat.
One of the main demands of APPO is the removal of Governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz of the party PRI, who they say is the source of the attacks on the teachers’ strike as well as the later shootings. Ortiz has even come under criticism inside his own party for his failure to “manage” the troubled state.
Federal Police invade Oaxaca
Brad Will was shot while doing his work, documenting an attempt by Oaxaca citizens to re-take a barricade they had been driven away from by armed men. On the tape that remained in his camera after his death you can hear a long series of gunshots and clearly see the shooters. After this, a large crowd of APPO supporters gathered, walked towards the barricade, and chased the shooters into a nearby building. While outside of this building, Brad Will and others were shot. His shooting was used as a pretext by the federal government of Mexico to send in a massive police force of 3,500 federal police and 3000 military police armed with water cannons, high-powered rifles and riot equipment into Oaxaca, with a backup of 5,000 army troops waiting just outside the city. The resistance against their incursion was largely calm and peaceful, including several huge marches in support of APPO and the rebellion. The main clashes followed when the federal forces tried to close down the radio station of APPO, located at the Autonomous University of Oaxaca, which failed when the local population surrounded the police and forced them to withdraw. The APPO arranged a “Constitutive Congress” on the 10th to 12th of November.
FYEG issued the following press release after the shooting of Brad Will:
Only two weeks after the murder of Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya, another brave journalist, Brad Will from New York, has been shot while on duty. He was apparently shot by police or paramilitaries while covering the story of striking teachers demanding the removal of the governor Ulises Ortiz in the city of Oaxaca, Mexico.
Ska Keller, spokesperson of FYEG, says: “The situation in Oaxaca is unacceptable from the perspective of human, labour and media rights. President Vicente Fox uses this shooting as a pretext for authorising the entry of the Federal Preventive Police to crush the strikers in a way that is both absurd and tragic. We demand that the government of Mexico does not escalate the situation and negotiates a dignified social peace. The shooting must be fully investigated and the responsible brought to justice. If it was indeed performed by police, then this has direct consequences for the legitimacy of the state government of Oaxaca.”
Markus Drake, communications officer of FYEG and ex-indymedia-reporter, says: “The Other Campaign, of which Brad Will was a part, has been under attack since its beginning. In the words of Will in his final article: “one more death-one more martyr in a dirty war-one more time to cry and hurt-one more time to know power and its ugly head-one more bullet cracks the night-one more night at the barricades”. Will’s death shows that Mexico needs another way of doing politics.”
If you want to find out more about APPO or the conflict in Oaxaca, some possible sources are: