Monday, July 31, 2006

Oaxaca, Mexico: maybe not so isolated after all

Reports are somewhat conflicting and confusing, but it appears that the highway blockades and isolation of the capital city by striking teachers and their supporters have not materialized. As of last night, the only blockade that could be confirmed by anyone was to the southwest of Tlaxiaco on highway 125 at Chicahuaxtla, de Putla Villa de Guerrero. This blockade, which is reportedly manned by members of the fringe group Comité de Defensa de los Derechos del Pueblo (Committee for the Defense of Citizens' Rights) was demanding money from motorists, and when paid, was allowing motorists to proceed. This is a rural highway and not of much import except to the poor locals who really cannot afford to pay extortion money.

For its part, the state government confirmed only this blockade and denied that any other highways were blocked. This morning, the union and its supporters announced that they would begin setting up the blockades that they claimed were already set up on Saturday and Sunday. Most people to whom I have talked think that the strikers now lack enough committed manpower and popular support to carry out their threats.

In downtown Oaxaca, the number of occupied city blocks, which at one point totaled some 56, has shrunk to 20. Many strikers have gone back home and many more have left the downtown area to maintain their blockades of the state government facilities at various locations in and around the city. It may be that this movement is slowly but surely losing steam.

Picking up the slack, AMLO and his PRD supporters have begun setting up their own tent city in and around the Zócalo in Mexico City. The big rally yesterday was a bit of a disappointment for them. PRD spokesmen had been talking all last week about 2.5 to 3 million marchers for yesterday's rally. Only about 500,000 showed up. Having said that, a half a million is no small number. It just turned out to be 20% of what the PRD predicted it would be. I understand that Blvd. Reforma, where the U.S. embassy is located, and the downtown streets adjacent to the national Zócalo are closed to vehicular traffic this morning.

Keep in mind that we are in a vacation period here. It remains to be seen how much support the Oaxacan dissidents and the AMLO/PRD dissidents will be able to command once everybody has to return to work and to school.

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