Sunday, December 17, 2006

Oaxaca, Mexico: PFP main force moving to military quarters

Beginning at 1:00 AM this morning, the main force of the federal police (PFP) began to move out of the Zocalo, Parque Llano, Santo Domingo and the Alameda (in front of the cathedral). In other words, they are pulling out of the city.

The PFP has moved the bulk of its personnel, now numbering only about 600, as well as its equipment into "military installations". That would include the military fort on the east side of town and to the military installation at the airport. For the first time since the 14th of July, city and state policemen are now present in the downtown.

Police and security patrols across the city will be carried out by city and state policemen "accompanied by PFP elements". The city and state policemen are wearing bullet resistant vests and some are carrying tear gas launchers, which one reporter in Reforma unfortunately refers to as "bazookas".

The city and state policemen are otherwise unarmed with the exception of "commanders". The city and state police patrols will all be accompanied by PFP officers who will, I can assure you, be armed to the teeth.

The object here is to remove the military presence from public view while maintaining it in close enough proximity to respond to any major problems. I don't think anyone, with the exception of some high ranking politicians, would be entirely comfortable were the PFP to pull up stakes and head for home. That would leave us all at the mercy of city and state police forces as well as the state's attorney general who have proven to be, er, squirrelly, to put a fine point on it. Frikkin' dangerous, to not put too fine a point on it.

Temporarily, each of the nine access points to the Zocalo is being guarded by 8 state policemen who are being guarded by 2 PFP officers (har). There are about 20 more in front of the old government palace which also used to be a museum before being sacked by the striking teachers and APPO. Of the 20, I don't know how many are PFP. I'll have to go downtown to check.

I don't think that this is a really big deal. It is apparent that the federal government is unwilling, at least at this point in time, to turn responsibility for the city's security over to the state. Everyone was surely aware that the PFP could not remain deployed forever in the city's center. Some day they would have to leave, even if only to move a mile or two away.

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