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Violence and Misinformation Abound in Oaxaca

The usually tranquil Southern Mexican tourist town of Oaxaca – with its large, shaded plaza and gallery-lined alleys – had transformed into a political pressure cooker over the past few months in what began as a seemingly routine teacher's strike in late May. The lid then blew straight off yesterday as Mexican federal police surrounded the city, battling protesters and students who barricaded themselves in Juarez University and around the city.

blockade

Blockade” by Mediocre

Mark in Mexico, the director of an English language school in Oaxaca, has been covering the step-by-step escalation of violence with his typically relentless anti-leftist sardonicism. On Thursday Mark wrote that the “striking teachers union has voted to return to classrooms this coming Monday, October 30. It will be a short workweek in any case because of the Day of the Dead holiday on Thursday and Friday.”

On the same day, politically moderate news anchorwoman, Ana Maria Salazar noted on her blog that President Elect Felipe Calderón “condemned the take over of radio stations in Oaxaca by radical groups and he offered to take a firm stance to return the calm to that state. President Vicente Fox called on the people [of] Oaxaca, teachers and civil society to find a constructive solution to the Oaxaca conflict, since ‘time is running out.'” Salazar also reminded readers that APPO, the Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca, had threatened to disrupt Felipe Calderón's December 1 inauguration if Oaxacan governor Ulises Ruiz was not removed from office.

Few if any bloggers, however, took President Fox's remark that “time is running out” to mean that federal police officers would be flown in just two days later. On Friday three major developments likely expedited the arrival of the armed federal troops. First, bolstered by the decision of the teacher's union to return to the classroom, Governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz said in an interview [ES] on the program Código 2006 that federal police would indeed intervene in the months-long conflict and restore order without bloodshed. In the interview Ruiz Ortiz said that the federal officers would be unarmed and accompanied by human rights observers and members of the press. He also made a disturbing response regarding allegations that the government was employing paramilitary forces. As Mark in Mexico comments:

When asked about the charges by some insurgents that the government was using paramilitary forces to intimidate them, the governor replied that his government didn't need paramilitary hit squads because “My government has the police.” Hmmm. That could be construed a couple of different ways. He could have been saying, “My government doesn't need paramilitary groups to maintain law and order because the police will do that.” Or, he could have been saying, “My government doesn't need paramilitary forces to drive around blowing people away because my police will do that.”

Two more deadly developments followed Ruiz's interview. First, APPO's citizen radio station [ES] reported the death of Emilio Alonso Fabián, a teacher whose body was found 1.5 miles outside the city. At the same time – as Sameer Padania has documented – American Indymedia journalist Brad Will was gunned down by what were apparently anti-APPO paramilitarists. (More information on the life and death of Bradley Will can be found at NYC Indymedia, The Narco News Buelletin, and New Market Machines)

The immensely popular leftist blog, El Sendero del Peje copied [ES] a piece from El Proceso which described the atmosphere on Friday:

Mientras el embajador de Estados Uni-dos en México, Antonio O. Garza, deploraba el asesinato en esta ciudad del periodista Bradley Will –su “muerte sin sentido, dijo, destaca la necesidad de que se retorne al imperio de la ley y el orden” en la entidad–, la Asamblea Popular de los Pueblos de Oaxaca (APPO) reportó que en las balaceras del viernes 27 en la capital del estado falleció también el maestro del sector D-III-34 de Candelaria Loxicha, Emilio Alonso Fabián.

Y en tanto que el asesinato de Bradley, quien formaba parte del centro de prensa independiente Indymedia Nueva York, acaparó los titulares de las páginas noticiosas en internet y en los programas informativos de radio y televisión por tratarse de un comunicador estadunidense, los integrantes del movimiento reportaron más de 16 heridos, un desaparecido y tres profesores secuestrados. El gobierno estatal reconoció tres muertes.

While the US ambassador to Mexico, Antonio O. Garza deplored the assassination here of journalist Bradley Will – his death “senseless, he said, emphasizing the need to the rule of law and order” in the matter – the Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca reported that the teacher Emilio Alonso Fabián was also killed in the gunfire on Friday the 27 in the state capital.

While the assassination of Bradley, who was part of the independent press center Indymedia New York, monopolized headlines around the world of online news sites and radio and TV programs because it dealt with an American reporter, members of the movement reported more than 16 injuries, one disappearance, and three kidnapped teachers. The state government recognized three deaths.

The following morning President Vicente Fox ordered in the Federal Police and APPO responded by setting up strategic barricades throughout the city. On Sunday morning, as armed federal agents slowly made their way from the closed-off airport to the city proper, Mark in Mexico took a brief walk to monitor the atmosphere:

Back to Juarez University. I walked a brief distance towards the university at about 8:15 this morning and I could see that the more radical students had already hijacked an ADO bus (luxury tour bus) and had it parked across the boulevard. There was also some kind of a big semi truck and trailer rig parked diagonally across the street. They won't be there long.

APPO radio is asking the “citizens of Oaxaca to come out into the streets to protest the federal repression.” The response has been less than overwhelming. APPO has also called for a “massive march” for 4:00 this afternoon to protest “the repression of out human rights”. It looks like they'll be lucky to get 50 people to participate in that one.

He then continued to document throughout the day as federal forces faced off with APPO's armed wing. Several Mexican bloggers have criticized the conflicting reports by the mainstream media. In a post titled “Crisis in Oaxaca: Who Do We Believe?” Rodrigo Javier shows screenshots from two popular news outlets, Reforma and El Universal. According to Reforma, police were removing the blockades and freeing access around Oaxaca's historic center. El Universal, on the other hand, insisted that highways were blocked and that APPO's barricades were being strengthened. The contrasting claims inspired a dispute in the comments section [ES] over which media outlets were aligned with either radical groups or the government.

bus

oaxaca – bus burning and the [federal police are] in the corner waiting” by Ilanhelman

The prolific leftist blogger José Daniel Fierro went one step further in his allegations when he claimed [ES]:

Tras la jornada de violenta represión vivida ayer en la localidad mexicana de Oaxaca, la llamada ‘prensa libre’ no sólo se limitó a difundir las consignas del gobierno federal mexicano, además ocultaron lo que estaba pasando realmente en la ciudad y ‘fabricaron’ sus noticias, más cercanas a sus deseos que a lo que estaba sucediendo, todo ello para legitimar una actuación brutal, ilegítima y en múltiples aspectos ilegal.

El periódico Milenio, asegura que el operativo se realizó “con estricto apego a la legalidad”, obviando el allanamiento de viviendas (ilegal sin orden judicial) y las detenciones arbitrarias y posteriores encarcelamientos de numerosas personas en campamentos militares.

In the news of the violent repression endured yesterday in the Mexican locality of Oaxaca the so-called “free press” not only limited themselves to the slogans of the federal government, but furthermore concealed what was really happening in the city and “fabricated’ their news stories more along the lines of their own desires than what was actually taking place; all to legitimize a brutal operation which was both illegitimate and, in multiple aspects, illegal.

The newspaper Milenio, assured that the operation was carried out “with strict regard to the law,” not mentioning the unlawful entry into homes (without a judge's order) and the arbitrary detentions and subsequent incarcerations of numerous people in military camps.

police

the police is on his way to enter the zocalo” by Ilanhelman

Humanidad Breve Espacio De Vida Mortal extends the criticism [ES] to TV Azteca for its programming priorities. In a post titled “Medios o Miedos” (“Media or Lies”):

Como ustedes saben, hoy TV Azteca organizó un divertimento en el Zócalo de la ciudad de México donde se conjugaron la fe del mexicano y el show business, así como el hambre de rating. Por supuesto, me refiero al show mediático de la estatua de Juan Pablo II y como pasa siempre,los de Azteca prefirieron mantenernos ignorantes ante lo de Oaxaca (salvo unos cuantos cortos informativos) con tal de asegurarse puntos de audiencia.

El día de hoy, mientras el señor Norberto Rivera aplaudía la entrada de la fuerza pública a la ciudad de Oaxaca, en el Zócalo de la Ciudad de México miles de creyentes aplaudían a la inerte estatua de Juan Pablo II (construida con las llaves del “corazón de todos los mexicanos”, como si en México no hubiera protestantes, musulmanes o simplemente ateos), con el pan y circo de La Academia y compañía.

As you all know, today TV Azteca organized an event in the Zocalo of Mexico City which married Mexican faith with show business, all in the hunger for ratings. Of course, I'm referring to the show about the statue of Juan Pablo II and, just like always, how TV Azteca prefers to keep us ignorant of what was happening in Oaxaca (save a few short interruptions) in order to ensure viewers.

Today, while Mr. Norberto Rivera applauded the entrance of public force into Oaxaca, Mexico City's Zocalo had thousands of believers applauding a motionless statue of Juan Pablo II (constructed with the keys of “the heart of all Mexicans,” as if in Mexico there weren't Protestants, Muslims, or simply atheists) with the National Action Party and the circus of La Academia and company.

Then came the newest developments on Monday morning when PAN and PRD representatives in the Mexican Chamber of Deputies drafted a resolution demanding the resignation of Ulises Ruiz Ortiz. The embattled governor responded promptly by filing a petition with the country's supreme court to invalidate the resolution.

As APPO and the Federal Police continue to face off in Oaxaca's streets, David Moreno remains pessimistic about President Fox's decision to have dispatched federal officers. Writes Moreno:

Cierra su sexenio con violencia, con un país en descomposición. Nunca supo o nunca quiso entender, que existían enormes problemas sociales que necesitaban ser atendidos.
Pero se equivocan Vicente Fox y su camarilla: la incursión de la PFP no va a ser una solución al conflicto, por el contrario la crisis regional puede agravarse hasta convertirse en una de carácter nacional. Fox y cía (Calderón incluido) en su torpeza no parecen darse cuenta que existe una gran crispación en el país. Que desde el 2 de julio, un conflicto mayúsculo está en puerta, y con decisiones que les manchan las manos de sangre, solo están contribuyendo a agravar la complicada situación nacional.

[Fox] will end his term with violence, with a country in decomposition. He never knew or never wanted to understand the existence of enormous social problems that needed to be dealt with. But Vicente Fox and his followers were mistaken: the incursion by the Federal Police will not be a solution to the conflict. On the contrary, the regional crisis might worsen and become a national problem. Fox and company (Calderon included), in their clumsiness, do not seem to realize that a great tension exists in the country. That ever since the July 2 [elections], a major conflict has surged, and that decisions which cover their hands in blood are only contributing to the aggravation of the complex national situation.

Will APPO accept defeat? Wil Governor Ruiz Ortiz step down? Will more victims get caught in the crossfire? It's too early to tell, but as developments progress, they are making their way to the internet in real time. Mark in Mexico continues to update his blog almost hourly as does Rodrigo Javier [ES]. You can tune into APPO's Radio Universidad and listen to the broadcast in real time or check into Oaxaca's Indymedia site [ES] for regular updates. La Hora del Pueblo [ES], a “blog of civil disobedience,” is posting videos from Oaxaca as they are made available.

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