UPDATED: Please scroll down. It has exploded!
If you just flew into Oaxaca, you're not reading this because you're stuck in the airport and you'll be there for a few hours. APPO's march started just a few minutes ago at the Government Palace at Santa María Coyotepec which effectively closes the airport highway.
If you are attempting to enter the city from Mexico City/Puebla, you may or may not be able to do that. In any event, the toll that you pay at the toll booth will go directly into the pockets of APPO.
If you are attempting to leave the city for Mexico City/Puebla/Tehuacan, turn around and come back because those highways are blocked.
If you had a meeting scheduled today with the "Voice of APPO", Cesar Mateos Benítez or Jorge Sosa, Flavio's cousin, it has been canceled. Poof! They were "disappeared" last night by PFP supersecret undercover commandos. Abracadabra. Now you see them, now you don't.
The PFP has packed up all of its sleeping and dining gear, tents, awnings, sleeping bags, extra clothing, etc. and tucked everything away out from underfoot. They've got 28 heavy trucks, 29 SUV's and pickups, 13 riot tanks, 2 backhoes (for piling up and burying bodies of women and children in mass graves, no doubt) and 2 ambulances all sitting at the ready in the Zócalo and the Alameda (the square in front of the cathedral).
They've strung barbed wire and concertina wire across 9 different approaches to the Zócalo. At the moment of writing this they have no less than 20 men stationed at each of the 9 lines with hundreds more sitting in the Zócalo, gearing up to join them.
For their part, APPO says they plan to keep better control over their people today than they were able to last weekend. This past Monday (Revolution Day), 300 APPO thugs and criminals got so far out of hand that, at one point, the now disappeared and then panicked Mateos Benitez claimed they weren't APPOites at all, but "infiltrators". Today, Marcelino Coache, member of APPO's rapidly shrinking "Press and Propoganda Commission", says that APPO's 260 "regional coordinators" will each be responsible for one respective group of this week's thugs and criminals.
Each "security brigade" will consist of an unknown number of rioters, divided into groups of five. A buddy system in quintuplet, I suppose. The regional coordinators are each making a list and checking it twice so as to preclude those pesky infiltrators who made everyone so uncomfortable last weekend, especially inside the Hotel Camino Real and those plants that were so peacefully sitting in their pots.
It will go something like this:
"Su nombre?"Or something like that.
"Estás un infiltradero?"
"Yo? No way, José!"
UPDATE I: First photos are in.
Marchers on Símbolos Pátrios, south of the downtown.
UPDATE II: The marchers have arrived at the PFP circumference. There are not yet any reports of major problems.
All along the marchers' route the local merchants and businesses closed up shop prior to their arrival. Many businesses did not even try to open today.
The PFP has taken control of the rooftops both inside and outside their lines. PFP "snipers" armed with slingshots and marbles are patrolling the upper atmosphere.
UPDATE III: The APPO marchers have begun to encircle the PFP positions around the Zócalo and Alameda de León, the square in front of the Cathedral. These two central squares lie adjacent to one another to have control of one you must have control of the other.
APPO vows to besiege the PFP for 48 hours, allowing neither ingress nor egress. That's not a big deal in light of last week's now forgotten vow to besiege them 24/7 until the governor resigns and the PFP turns tail and goes home. It is still quite cool here and the temperatures will dip into the 30's (F) tonight. Unfortunately, the day dawned completely cloudless this morning and remains so. What we really needed was a cold rain. I think I'll don a feather, go outside and do a rain dance. The neighbors all think I'm nutz anyway.
UPDATE IV: A brief sidelight: Antonio Portillo Salazar, alias “El Portillo", an APPO thug imprisoned last year on vehicle theft and armed robbery charges, escaped from prison, was on the lam for a few weeks, was re-captured and tossed back into the slammer.
Now El Portillo claims that he paid a prison guard commander 100,000 pesos to allow him to slip out the back door. El Portillo has written two letters, one to the Federal Commission on Human Rights and the other to APPO. In the letter to the Human Rights Commission, El Portillo complains that his family and friends put up the bribe money and are demanding to be repaid. El Portillo claims that since he blundered into a police patrol and was recaptured, he should get his money back. The guard commander, surprisingly, cannot seem to recall this particular episode.
In El Portillo's second letter, the one to APPO, he asks APPO to surround and lay siege to the prison until the guard commander refunds his 100,000 pesos.
Even El Portillo appreciates the hilarity here.
UPDATE V: APPO marchers armed and committing acts of vandalism along the way, according to . . . APPO.
The Oaxaca daily Las Noticias is a virulently anti-government (anti- current governor, actually) newspaper that has allowed itself to become the voice-in-print of APPO and Sección 22 of the SNTE, the teachers union. What is interesting to watch here is that many of the Noticias reporters are experienced professionals who inadvertantly report what they are seeing. Then, because of their APPO sympathies, they either don't realize what is is they just reported or they try to cloak it in respectability.
Here's the link to this updated report from along the marcher's route. It's in Spanish, but I'll translate the most interesting parts.
Noticias says " . . . a brigade is painting. Using 20 different stencils with different slogans, the APPO members are protesting against globalization, multi-national businesses, the PFP as well as demanding the ouster of Governor Ruiz Ortiz."
What the reporter is saying here is that the APPOites are splashing paint on the sides of homes and businesses all along the route. That's vandalism. All of that paint is going to have to be covered or removed, eventually, at property owners' expense. And, if someone were foolish enough to try to prevent the vandalism of their property, they would most assuredly be soundly beaten or killed and their property burned to the ground. Because, you see, it is a basic human right to damage or destroy your property in pursuit of some higher cause, like cheaper tortillas and more expensive and foul tasting hamburgers because Double Whoppers with Cheese are no longer allowed to compete.
I'll go on: "Protesters are carrying rocket launchers, rocks and gasoline bombs in case they are frightened or feel intimidated along the way by the PFP." I don't think any comment from me is even needed about that declaration.
Now comes this hooter: "Sand bags, razor wire, like that used by soldiers in Irak, and anti-riot tanks serve to shield the PFP." Irak? The hell you say! I knew George Bush and Donald Rumsfeld could somehow be blamed for all this.
UPDATE VI: Ok, here we go, as if we didn't know this was going to happen. APPO gunners have begun launching rockets at the belt buckles of the PFP lines on Macedonio Alcalá (down the street from Santo Domingo). Other APPO sappers have scaled the sides of buildings and are fighting it out at medium range with PFP officers who are also on the rooftops. The PFP officers are armed with slingshots and tear gas launchers. The APPO thugs are armed with rocket launchers, slingshots and gasoline bombs. Downtown real estate continues to take a pounding.
Here's where the fight is now taking place, right on the other side of that dumpster.
These are the men now involved in the street war. That's their commander on the left.
I can hear the choppers circling overhead now as air surveillance tries to keep the ground forces apprised. The choppers will also be launching tear gas at APPO's rooftop sappers.
UPDATE VII: The APPO thugs learned a hard lesson last weekend. The PFP loaded its water cannons with chile and then shot for the eyes of the rioters. Right now, the APPO attackers are maintaining a 150 foot gap between themselves and the the PFP water cannons, just out of effective range. I don't see how the attackers can gain an advantage with this tactic. If they stay out of range of the water cannons, they have no hope of winning any territory.
UPDATE VIII:This is not good. The APPO rioters have broken into the Hotel Camino Real. Ah, man. It's the nicest hotel in the city, built inside an ex convent which was originally constructed in 1576. You can imagine the architecture, fountains, 400 year old wall frescoes and more. APPO did some significant damage to the hotel's exterior during last Monday's riot and have now gotten inside the hotel to finish the job. This is going to be a real shame. I'd think it was just about time for some gunsmoke.
UPDATE IX: The PFP is advancing!! This is good news. The PFP not only has refused to cede any ground, they are advancing north on Macedonio Alcalá. That's no solace to the employees and owners of Hotel Camino Real, which is one block east on 5 de Mayo. The PFP has advanced about a block. APPO is claiming that the situation is out of their control, again and, once again, it's "infiltrators". pardon my French on this Thanksgiving Day weekend (for y'all up there, anyway) but APPO is led by a bunch of lying sons of bitches.
UPDATE X: Or why did I opt for Roman numerals? The PFP has taken Santo Domingo! This is great news, but I don't think they'll hold it. They don't have enough men or equipment to hold this much of the city's center. Santo Domingo is 5 blocks north of the PFP's outermost defensive line. I haven't checked a map but there must be some 20-30 intersections that the PFP would have to lock down whereas, up until today, the PFP only held 9.
Still, it's a significant defeat for APPO. Most of the occupiers at Santo Domingo were, up until their camp was burned last week, peaceful, though quite naive, believers in the "movement". Since the camp was burned, it has mostly been occupied by the long haired, Birkenstock wearing Indy Media types who would hang around all day pretending to be active participants in the next great revolution, then head for the nearest cheap hotel to drug up and drop out.
Man! Reports from explosions are now almost constant.
That can only mean that the PFP is pushing the APPO rioters ever closer to Niños Heroes and, er, moi.
I can't take it anymore. It's pitch black here but I've got to go take a look. Don't tell my wife. I'll be back in an hour, God willing.
UPDATE XI: I'm back. I walked right into the middle of them. The APPO rioters have been chased out of the downtown. They've moved to the intersection of Niños Héroes and Avenida Juarez/Calz. Porfirio Díaz. They were in the process of forcing cars and trucks to stop so that they might be used for campfires.
I made a quick left turn (I was on foot) down Ave. Juarez towards Parque Llano -- Parque Benito Juarez. The park was full of them. They are all young hoodlums, punks. They were burning 3 cars in front of the Juarez Theater. A big gang of about a hundred or so was standing in the street throwing boulders, ripped out of the newly refurbished park, at the State Courts building. Other smaller groups were using poles to break open the side windows of the building and bash through the doors. There are steel bars which probably will keep them out of the building unless they really want to get in. If they get in, the damage will be horrendous. I hope the secretaries and clerks backed up all their computer files before they went home last night. I couldn't see the theater but I would imagine they have smashed down the doors and are romping around inside.
What you need to keep in mind is that there is no one to stop them. State and local police hit squads will no doubt be out and about tonight snatching anyone they can catch and taking potshots at anyone they can't. As far as any law enforcement protection for Juan Q. Public, there ain't.
I tried to get into the VIPS restaurant but the manager waved me off. I got one photo of the burning cars but it's not worth posting. The image is mostly black, indicating that this particular work of art was conceived after dusk. It appears to have a fire burning in the middle of it, indicating that APPOites, like the Neadertals before them, have discovered fire. If you would like a copy, deposit $5.00 in my PayPal account and you can have your own personal copy of 3 Burning Cars At Parque Llano (Copyright 2006). Sorry, no free previews.
I returned past the ADO bus station. It was beginning to fill up with those Indy Media, Birkenstock types. It looks like their grand adventure has ended badly. I saw maybe a dozen or so with backpacks loaded. Look out, Puerto Escondido, here they come.
UPDATE XII: El Universal had a reporter inside Santo Domingo with the Fat Man, Flavio Sosa when he lost control of his troops. He stood on a balcony and shouted at them through a bullhorn. The tete-a-tete went like this:
Fat Man: "We've got to maintain order because we are going to lose a fight like this."What's disturbing about this, besides the fact that APPO leadership can no longer control the criminal gangs that it organized and bankrolled, is that it took place "above one of the Santo Domingo gardens". That means that the APPO thugs had gotten inside Santo Domingo. This could be a cultural disaster for all of Mexico. Santo Domingo, besides being one of the most beautiful colonial buildings in the world, also houses a museum. It is filled with priceless artifacts. everything from skeletons, jewelry and sculpture from ancient Zapotec tombs at Monte Alban to Benito Juarez's desk that he used as governor and president. I don't even want to think about it.
Fat Man's followers: "Shut up you son of a bitch and come down and fight!"
Fat Man: "Calm down. Let's all calm down, comrades."
Fat Man's followers: "No f**king way, you fat, stupid ox."
Fat Man (to reporter): "APPO declares the situation out of control."
UPDATE XIII: Reports are appearing in Notimex, El Universal and Reforma tha the PFP, realizing they had routed the gangs that confronted them, started running down the streets of the center city, chasing down and arresting everyone they could catch. The newspapers are saying that the PFP is using an especially virulent tear gas. The rioters were trying to use vinegar and Coca Cola to combat the effects but without success.
A reporter said that some moron drove a small car downtown today right into the middle of the fight. A PFP officer, fearing that the man was a rioter who was trying to run down police officers, fired a tear gas cannister at him, point blank.
It look like the PFP caught a lot of them. The gang stoning and trying to break into the State Courts Building in front of Parque Llano has set the interior of the building ablaze with gasoline bombs. What remains of the rioting thugs are now ensconced in Parque Llano and "daring" the PFP to come after them. In light of today's failures, that would not seem to be the most prudent of dares to make.
Some more photos from today's street battle:
The Fat Man's army
Look at what the PFP confronts. The PFP fights back with slingshots and marbles.
Losing ground fast.
La Crónica is reporting that two reporters were hurt, one seriously when he was hit in the head by a tear gas canister. That doesn't sound good.
Note to Eunice Goetz: Everyone has to believe in something. I believe I'll have another another another drink.
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TAGS: Oaxaca, Mexico, Oaxaca teachers strike, APPO, PFP, supersecret undercover commandos, Where is everybody?