Saturday, January 06, 2007

Oaxaca, Mexico: APPO puts its women and children on the front lines

The APPO menfolk, thoroughly cowed by the PFP, have decided to confront legal authority with the women and children. This all started a few days ago when, by twos and threes, APPO supporters drifted into the Zócalo through police lines and gathered inside the cathedral. After some 300 had packed themselves inside, they demanded that the attendant priest offer a Mass on their behalf or in their honor, I'm not sure which.

After the hastily organized and hastily performed ceremony had concluded, the APPOites moved outside the cathedral and began to chant the usual "Death to Ulises" refrain. Police gathered and confronted them nose to nose. With their backs to the cathedral doors, however, the APPOites were fairly sure the police would not try to remove them by force. The cops stayed cool and after the APPOites got hoarse, they drifted away.

Governor Ruiz issued a statement saying that this tactic would not be tolerated in the future and there would be no more demonstrations permitted in the Zócalo area. So the APPOites sent in the women and kids to do the sapper work. The women set up some tables in front of Santo Domingo on Thursday and sent out emissaries door to door to collect toys for underpriveliged children. They then announced that they would be giving away the toys on Friday.

The police once again deployed to Santo Domingo and forced the women to leave. The APPO lawyers went to a federal judge to get an "amparo", which is a many splendored legal thing here in Mexico. In this case, it was somewhat akin to a temporary restraining order, requiring that the government give the APPOites "transitar libremente en las inmediaciones de Santo Domingo y en el resto de la ciudad." In the King's English, "free transit rights." Or so say the APPO lawyers although no one has seen this particular holy document as of yet.

Governor Ruiz's response was to say that APPO, along with everybody else, had free transit rights, they just couldn't set up tables or otherwise interfere with others' free transit. This not being allowed to interfere with others' free transit thingy is quite foreign to Mexicans. They pretty much expect the right to shut down or divert traffic, block sidewalks, barricade highways, turnpikes and bridges, block building entrances and spread paint, trash and garbage just about wherever they want and whenever they want for whatever reason they see fit; be it protesting too many taxicab permits or selling dysentary laced tacos or illegally imported cheap Chinese toys or whatever. Other people's rights be damned.

Anyway, Governor Ruiz, knowing that giving APPO an few meters meant they would return for a few square kilometers, decided to obey the letter of the law, or at least the amparo. He decided that everyone would be guaranteed free transit in and around Santo Domingo, not the least of which would be the 500 policemen he packed around it this morning. When the APPOite ladies arrived with their tables, the police refused to allow them to install themselves on the Santo Domingo esplanade.

There was some shouting and a little pushing and shoving but the cops held firm. So the ladies moved a block to the west to García Vigil street and set up their tables there. They then proceeded to give away toys and treats and organize a children's protest march. They gathered up their kids, some 300 of them according to this report, and marched them down the street chanting APPO slogans they had had plenty of time to memorize since they'd been out of school for 4 months.

So women and children now constitute the front lines of APPO. I wonder if they'll take a lesson from the Iranians who bought hundreds of thousands of cheap plastic keys from a Chinese plastics company. They then handed out these "keys to paradise" to 12 year olds and sent them marching in front of their troops, each child holding his key up high, to "detect" land mines planted by Saddam Hussein's Iraqi army.

Nah. I don't think even APPO has accused Governor Ruiz of planting land mines under Macedonio Alcalá . . . yet. APPO's lawyers, however, intend to seek a criminal indictment against the governor for ignoring the amparo. I think the judge who issued it knew exactly what he was doing. "Free transit" means just that. The right to transit freely. The judge did not mention stopping for 8 hours or 80 days and occupying sidewalk space, thereby interfering with others' rights to "transitar libremente".

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