Mexico News and Analysis, Oct 13-19, 2008

1. APPO ACTIVISTS ARRESTED FOR MURDER OF BRAD WILL
2. TEACHER PROTESTS EXTEND TO 13 STATES
3. ANTONIO VILLALBA OF FAT DIES


1. APPO ACTIVISTS ARRESTED FOR MURDER OF BRAD WILL
An activist affiliated with the Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca (APPO) was arrested this week for the murder two years ago of US journalist Brad Will.  Officials from the Federal Agency of Investigation (AFI) and the federal Attorney General (PGR) took Juan Manuel Martinez Moreno into custody on Thursday.  APPO leaders immediately condemned the arrest as “criminalization of social protest” and declared Martinez innocent.  Will died during confrontations on October 27, 2006, when heavily armed supporters of Governor Ulises Ruiz fired at members of the APPO from a distance of about 40 meters.  Will most likely videotaped the very people who are responsible for his murder, yet federal officials have adopted a line of investigation that Will died from a gunshot fired from less than a meter.  The National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) conducted its own investigation and found that Will died from a gunshot fired from 35 to 50 meters.  The CNDH claims the case has been politicized by Governor Ruiz in the midst of absolute impunity for state-affiliated gunmen and a series of grave irregularities during the initial investigation.  At least five other APPO activists were also arrested this week and charged with covering up the murder.  Dissident teachers began the APPO-led uprising in 2006, educators in Oaxaca and neighboring states have participated in recent demonstrations condemning federal education reforms.  Federal officials may have arrested the activists as part of a broader strategy to dampen enthusiasm for growing protests as the second anniversary of the Oaxaca uprising approaches.


2. TEACHER PROTESTS EXTEND TO 13 STATES
Five months after Elba Esther Gordillo, “President for life” of the National Union of Education Workers (SNTE), signed the Alliance for Quality Education (ACE) with President Felipe Calderon, the movement against the unpopular reform has extended to thirteen states.  In Morelos, Puebla and Guerrero teachers and parents participated in marches, meetings, highway blockades and occupations of union buildings this week.  In Quintana Roo, Campeche and Baja California Sur teachers organized marches of “historic” proportions and work stoppages.  The movement is centered in Morelos, where 20,000 teachers have been on strike for two months demanding an end to ACE.  They receive strong support from teachers in Oaxaca, Michoacan, Zacatecas, Tlaxcala, Chiapas and Mexico City.  This week dissident teachers called for a series of national caravans that will converge in Mexico City on October 23 for a mega-march to the federal Congress.  On the 24th, teachers will travel to Cuernavaca, Morelos, for a giant march and impeachment of Gordillo.  On Saturday, 300 teachers from Mexico City burned an effigy with the body of a rat (a sign in Mexico of a thief) and the head of Gordillo in protest of her plans to distribute 59 Hummers to selected SNTE officials via a raffle.  Teachers have come under increasing pressure to end their growing movement.  The Secretary of Education cut off paychecks to strikers in Morelos and called on parents from right wing groups affiliated with the PAN to open alternative schools.


3. ANTONIO VILLALBA OF FAT DIES
Antonio Villalba, a leader of the Frente Autentico del Trabajo (FAT), passed away on Wednesday night after a long battle with lung cancer.  Antonio was a labor organizer dedicated to the struggle for independent unions, and one of the world’s truly wonderful people.  He will be sorely missed.