Saturday, December 23, 2006

Oaxaca, Mexico: Look who's talking.

APPO keeps insisting that it is holding meetings in Mexico City with the Secretary of Interior during which various agreements, pacts, settlements and promises are being made between APO and the federal government. However, the federal government keeps insisting on saying nothing.

Tuesday, an APPO spokesman said that Interior had granted APPO permission to "exercise our human rights" to march back into and reoccupy the Zócalo. Furthermore, APPO said that it would do so yesterday. APPO said that the agreement with Interior was that APPO could occupy the Zócalo during the day but had to leave "in the afternoon".

I found this hard to believe, what with the preparations for the "Radish Night" and other Christmas festivities being planned. So I took a little trip downtown yesterday morning and found barricades at all the entrances to the Zócalo being manned by about 1000 state policemen backed up by PFP officers. Not exactly Welcome Wagon-ish.

And in fact, the APPO march yesterday did not get within 3 blocks of the Zócalo.

Both APPO and Sección 22 of the striking teachers have been making lots of noise about high level meetings with Interior, but in light of the deafening silence from Interior as well as some other curious incidents, I have doubts that any such meetings are actually taking place at all. And if there were any meetings, the results seem to be somewhat less than APPO and Seccion 22 are representing them to be.

For instance, last week, Enrique Rueda Pacheco arrived with much fanfare in Mexico City for what he claimed was a meeting with the Secretary of Interior himself. But an undersecretary met Rueda Pacheco two blocks away from the Secretary's offices, on the street and in front of reporters, and told Rueda Pacheco that the Secretary would not be meeting with him today and that the teachers union leader should "call for an appointment". Rueda Pacheco had to turn around and go home.

Reforma says that evidence of some kind of agreement was on display during yesterday's march because APPO leaders asked their people not to start spray painting all the downtown buldings again. Reforma reports that no buildings were sprayed. El Universal, however, says that most merchants along the march's route closed up shop and then some stuck around and engaged in shouting, shoving and punching matches with marchers who started spray painting their businesses.

In addition, even Reforma reports that marchers pasted up posters with photos of Rueda Pacheco captioned, "We're looking for this traitor". That's because there has been a major break between Seccion 22 and APPO. Rueda Pacheco says that the teachers union will not follow the route of APPO in marching, painting, shouting and other "non violent" demonstrations. Like, you know, burning buses, smashing windows, kidnapping government employees, arson, robbery, vandalism and the like.

That, to the minds of APPO, is treachery and betrayal. To be fair to Rueda Pacheco, he's got some competition down here now. In order to avoid a direct confrontation with him, and also because all the leadership has been vacationing in Hawaii and too busy to think of anything else, the national SNTE as commissioned a new teachers union section here.

It will be Seccion 59 and its membership will be comprised of teachers who don't truck with Seccion 22 and its annual strikes and Zócalo occupations (31 consecutive years and counting). At last report there were some 5000 teachers in the state in open rebellion against their Seccion 22 and its leadership. The real number could be 2 or 3 times that.

That presents Rueda Pacheco with some real problems. While the SNTE announced it would continue to recognise Seccion 22 as a legitimate Oaxacan arm of the SNTE, the new Seccion 59 will be the other arm, so to speak. The challenge to Rueda Pacheco is which arm will be the right arm, so to speak. If the federal and state governments as well as SNTE national begin to bless the new section with more blessings than Seccion 22, Rueda Pacheco's Huatulco retirement account could suffer a real blow.

Meanwhile, back at APPO, the state governement has paid a reported minimum of 1.3 million pesos in bail money to get all but about 74 of the arrested APPO followers released from prison. I reported earlier that the state governement was paying to bail the rioters out of jail with public money and now we have a preliminary number.

APPO says it has an agreement with Interior that APPO will be the "sole negotiator" over the 74 still remaining in jail. APPO also says it has an agreement with Interior that no more arrest warrants will be issued and no more outstanding arrest warrants will be served. I doubt that, but anything's possible.

For its part, the state government is saying nothing, too. There has been no mention of public money being used to post the bail of almost 150 arrested rioters. Even down here, I don't see how such a thing is legal. In any event, it's happening. I think it must be the Christmas Spirit, or something.

I might also note that APPO has promised to hold their own "parallel 'Radish Night'" festivities. Initially, APPO said they would do so in the esplanade in front of Santo Domingo. However, after several hundred policemen arrived and made that possibility, er, impossible, APPO said it would seek another venue.

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