Monday, October 09, 2006

Oaxaca, Mexico: Feds are ready, sources tell Reforma

According to the Mexico City daily Reforma, sources inside the federal government say they are ready to enter the city of Oaxaca and take control of the streets (subscription req'd) if negotiations break down between the feds and APPO/SNTE. These unnamed sources further assure the newspaper that arrest warrants will be served.

Who, exactly, the feds would try to arrest remains open to speculation. The tone of the article is that the feds would try to serve existing warrants issued by the city and state against many members of both APPO and the SNTE. I don't know of any federal arrest warrants outstanding. While there have been numerous violations of federal law here, for instance, blocking the airport and federal highways, I haven't heard of any federal arrest warrants being issued or made public.

In Mexico they have a legal resource called an Amparo. It is something like a Writ of Habeus Corpus in the US. Anyone who thinks they may be subject to an ongoing investigation by any prosecutor may have their lawyers ask a judge for an Amparo. The Amparo forces the prosecutors to reveal their investigation and any evidence they may have accumulated. In this instance, the Amparo serves as a kind of Motion for Discovery, but before any formal charges are filed. This supposedly gives a potential defendant a bit of a jump on prosecutors. A defendant can see what the prosecutors may have on him and has the opportunity to head for the jungles of Costa Rica before an arrest warrant can be issued and served. This happens frequently.

If the person believes that an arrest warrant has already been issued, the Amparo can serve to put a hold on the execution of that warrant. The judge who issued the Amparo would then have to review the prosecutor's accumulated evidence to ascertain whether or not that evidence does, indeed, support said arrest warrant. Keep in mind that a different judge, somewhere, issued the original warrant supposedly based upon his findings that the prosecutors had a good case.

This then becomes a contest to find the friendliest judge. The prosecutors get their friendly judge to issue an arrest warrant. The defendant gets his friendly judge to issue an Amparo to hold the arrest warrant. Then the prosecutors and the defendant's lawyers battle over which judge in which court will ultimately decide if there is or is not an arrest. Meanwhile, if the defendant gets cold feet, he heads for the hills -- or the jungles, wherever. This happens frequently.

Reforma reporters were told that, if the feds decide to enter the city, they will do so with 3 coordinated federal forces --the Army, the Navy and the Federal Preventive Police (PFP). They would simultaneously enter several other of Oaxaca state's cities and towns where the APPO and/or the SNTE have taken control of the streets. The federal forces would begin removing the barricades that block the streets. APPO admits to about 250 permanent blockades around the state. I have personally seen about 30 here in Oaxaca on the north, center and east sides of the city. I think that 250 might be a low estimate but that's just my guess. I found two more this morning that had been set up late last week or over the weekend. It looks like they're trying to isolate the big ADO bus station.

The federal forces would also remove protesters who have taken possession of or blocked and closed some 22 government buildings here in Oaxaca city as well as an undisclosed number in other cities and towns. The federal government had offered to send in unarmed PFP agents to peacefully occupy the city and restore some semblance of order. Both the SNTE, on Saturday, and APPO, yesterday, rejected this offer. They apparently want to see guns before they'll move.

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