Saturday, July 15, 2006

Oaxaca, Mexico: hotels blocked, more damage to Guelaguetza

Today the striking teachers have denied their participation in the damage done yesterday to the Guelaguetza Festival amphitheater. The teachers' union says that the APPO, the "citizens' group" that was formed ostensibly to support the striking teachers, is the group responsible for the damage.

Today, several elements of APPO, 50 to 100 strong, blocked access to the high-end hotels in the city. Fortin Plaza, Hotel Victoria, Holiday Inn and Camino Real, among others, were all blockaded, trapping guests inside and denying entrance to others. It would be more accurate to not list Hotel Victoria here. Security personnel at Hotel Victoria challenged the mob and forced it to retire. Instead, the mob blocked the boulevard that leads to Hotel Victoria, accomplishing their goal from off of the hotel's property and out of harm's way.

Two "student" groups, one from Benito Juarez University (UABJO) and another calling itself Coordinadora Estudiantil Normalista del Estado de Oaxaca (CENEO) commandeered 6 city buses and headed back to the amphitheater, the scene of yesterday's arson. They chased off the cleanup and construction crews. The UABJO group then set fire to what was left of the wooden dance stage. The CENEO group objected and the two protesting groups nearly came to blows. According to reports from the scene, the only thing that stopped an open fight was the arrival of reporters and camera crews. So the students attacked the reporters instead of each other.

The CENEO group then retired from the field, denying responsibility for today's damage to the Guelaguetza Festival, which is due to open Monday. The UABJO group then headed back into town where it set up a blockade around the ADO bus station. With the festival set to open Monday, the ADO station is the single busiest spot in the city, probably in the state. The bus station is being enlarged, so the group tore down the wooden walls which surrounded the construction site located immediately behind the bus station. They carried off construction materials and damaged what machinery they could not steal.

As of about 1 hour ago, the APPO group abandoned its blockades of the hotels. I don't know if the main east-west boulevard and the ADO bus station are still blocked or not. Typically, the teachers would abandon blockades and streets closings at between 4 and 5 o'clock but I don't know how APPO and the student groups intend to operate.

These groups are all tied closely with AMLO and the PRD. With all the vandalism, theft, destruction and the interference with the biggest event in the state, the PRD may be quickly wearing out its welcome in Oaxaca. This may be what the state governor, a Priista, and the president, a Panista, have been waiting to see happen.

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