Not to Command or Obey

Indigenous people defend their autonomy in Oaxaca

I am a wild being, a child of nature, because of this I feel any atack directed at my freedom. My soul is animated by the pulse of the mountains that watched my birth, a vigorous beat, a pure beat. — Ricardo Flores Magon

Right now the government of Oaxaca is conducting a low-intensity war against indigenous peoples who have organized to defend their traditional way of life. The state’s jails have been filling every day with social fighters, activists, indigenous people, and campesinos. It is also common to find people grieving for compañeros or family members who have been killed by despotism and governmental tyranny.


Constant aggression, persecutions, detainment, jailing, intimidation, and raids bring suffering to the members of the Indigenous Popular Council of Oaxaca- Ricardo Flores Magon (CIPO-RFM). CIPO is made up of 20 communities and about 2000 members in Oaxaca’s seven regions. In the face of constant struggle, the position of this organization has been to radically oppose the destruction of the forests and the presence of paramilitary. The paramilitary want to infiltrate the communities because the people oppose privatization of their lands and they recognize that political parties are only for greed—that politics can only divide, trick and maintain oppression through paramilitary power.

Due to CIPO’s well-organized, anti-authoritarian resistance, the government intensified the campaign of repression against CIPO in April 2003. Members were threatened with psychological torture and death, if they continued to struggle for the indigenous communities against the interests of the government and the rich.

In response to the innumerable injustices, the indigenous people of the CIPO decided to start an indefinite rally in April 2004 and occupy the Zocalo (central plaza) of Oaxaca City. Under the banner “For Reorganization and Free Association of the People– Not to Command or Obey,” they denounced the repression and demanded a cease of hostilities, the destruction of the forests, and the punishment and murders of their people.

Five months later, very early in the morning and without prior warning or any justification, the occupation was brutally evicted. More than 150 “Executors of the Law”, including federal uniformed and undercover police armed with batons, poles, pistols, high caliber guns, tear gas, and dogs savagely beat the people. The police pulled them by their hair, destroyed their belongings, broke their cameras and sound equipment, and threw away their food and art.

Finally police stuffed people into two unmarked trucks where they continued beating them saying they were going to rape the women and kill everyone. Various active members who were injured and tortured are now prisoners in Oaxaca prisons, including the prison of Ixcotel.

Now the CIPO-RFM does not exist; only dreams remain. What once was CIPO-RFM is now AMZ (Alianza Magonista-Zapatista), a mix of pro-Magonista and pro-Zapatista organizations.

January 2005, Xanica, Oaxaca

Using the tactics of the Dirty War of the 60s and 70s, more than 230 police have established martial law in the indigenous Zapoteco community of Santiago Xanica, making raids and arbitrary detentions.

It’s been 6 years since the town of Zapoteca, in the southern mountains of the state, began a struggle to defend their collective rights to automomy, mainly the right to elect their own government according to tradition. In February 1999, the state government imposed an authority and since then, the community has not had peace or freedom. It took 2 years of struggle to get the illegitimate municipal president to quit.

In August 2004, the government, with help from rich agribusiness ranchers, appointed Sergio Garcia as municipal president, violating indigenous election codes. Two-thirds of the indigenous election assembly walked out, demonstrating Garcia’s illigitimacy. The election assembly sets requirements for election elegibility, including community service requirements, which were ignored by Garcia.

The Committee for the Defense of the Indigenous Rights of Santiago Xanica (CODEDI) then began the impeachment of Sergio Garcia. Since the government broke the customs and practices to fraudulently impose an authority complicit with Oaxaca’s government, the brutality of the repression has increased. This endangers the lives of CODEDI members and other Santiago Xanica residents. CODEDI resolved not to do community services or assist tequios (community work days) called by Sergio Garcia after January 1, 2005 .

On January 15, a few minutes before noon, the (Federal) Preventative Police, lead by the impostor president, with 2 patrols of local cops, surrounded indigenous workers who had formed a tequio and began shooting. In the crossfire more than 80 people of Xanica were injured. Among them were Abraham Ramirez Vazquez, director of CODEDI Xanica, who was critically wounded, and 2 youths, Juventino and Noel Garcia Cruz, who were under arrest in the hospital and afterwards transferred to Oaxaca’s penitentiary.

On January 16, undercover and State Police with high caliber weapons harassed compañeros from the region under the orders of Sergio Garcia and the community’s priest. Since then more than 250 ministerial and state police have been working to choke out the popular discontent. This has a cost of blood and violence, cancels out guarantees of basic rights of freedom of movement, freedom of expression and demonstration, and violates the most fundamental human rights.

For more information, contact:

Colectiveo Autonomo Magonista