Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Oaxaca, Mexico: State Sec'y of Tourism says, "Guelaguetza is ready!"

Beatriz Rodríguez
Ready for what?

Oaxaca State Secretary of Tourism Beatriz Rodríguez says that "Everything is ready for the festivities to take place." Uh-huh.

In a press conference in Mexico City, Ms. Rodríguez admitted that the success of the festival depended on the ongoing negotiations between the state officials and Sección 22 representatives (the teachers that seldom attend classes, preferring instead to march in the streets and camp out in the zócalo) who are demanding the return to their control more than 100 schools where the kids' parents have thrown them out as well as with APPO representatives who are demanding that all their thugs and criminals be released from jail. The Secretary also said that she was much more concerned with word-of-mouth recommendations from tourists than she was with official US State Department travel warnings (which advise avoiding the state like the plague until at least next October 19).

Secretary Rodríguez also took a shot at the federal government for some 50 million pesos which was supposedly promised to the state for "promotions" and was not forthcoming. She said that the state had poured some 60 million pesos into the effort but the federal government must now fulfill its promises. The fact that the state of Oaxaca is a black hole of anti-matter into which untold billions of pesos have disappeared without a trace over the decades of PRI rule was not mentioned. At least not by the Secretary.

What you have to do here is read between the lines just a bit as I have done parenthetically. Secretary Rodríguez said,
These negotiations are important. I understand that they are making adcances and are going well. In the case of the teachers (Sección 22) they have already agreed to rezonification (massive pay raises totaling billions of pesos) which was an demand since a year ago. (This was agreed to by the federal government last October, so this issue has been moot for, uh, almost 8 months.)

Today in Oaxaca there is a symbolic encampment (in the zócalo) and pressure like that of last year does not exist. But everything is ready for the Guelaguetza festival start (as is APPO which will try to force its cancelation as they did last year). There is total security (except for the downtown where there is not a policeman in sight within 4 blocks all around the zócalo. I found 6 Preventive Police officers hiding in the Juarez market 2 blocks south of the zócalo yesterday. This is, however, an improvement over last year when there were no cops anywhere within 10 blocks of the zócalo). Hotel occupancy is growing. I don't want to say that Oaxaca is better than ever, but it is improving gradually.
Then she made this astonishing statement:
The word-of-mouth warnings by people who came here and experienced the conflict (last year) hit us harder than any official warning by the United States because 80 percent of the visitors come here without first consulting the internet (in other words, through rank ignorance of what's going on here). In any case, word-of-mouth and news reports forced our hotel occupancy rates down to 18% last December instead of the historical average of 80% (and if people had been following the ongoing disaster on the internet, occupancy would have been about 0%). Today we are at about 30-35% since February and a complete recovery is predicted to take two more years (depending, of course, on Sección 22, APPO and a river of federal funds being swallowed up by Oaxacan anti-matter).
Here is a description of the "symbolic encampment" downtown as of yesterday at high noon:
APPO and Sección 22 have control of the south side of the zócalo.
They are sleeping under the portico of the former government palace, now a museum which is, of course, closed to the public.
They had 2 cars with loudspeakers atop pulled up to the band shell in the zócalo itself where no vehicles are allowed, supposedly.
They have control of the north side of the zócalo as well, with tarps attached to the east side of the hotel, blocking the hotel entrance as well as the travel agency there.
They have taken over the entirety of the Alemeda which is the plaza in front of the cathedral.
Illegal street merchants have moved back into the zócalo and the Alemeda, with illegal pirated DVD's being the most popular items on display.
Along the row of restaurants on the west side, beginning at the northwest corner of the zócalo nearest the Alemeda, there were 2 tables of about 50 occupied -- 4%.
At both the soutwest and southeast corner restaurants, about 1 in three tables had customers -- 33%.
There was not another single table occupied in the several restaurants along the east side of the zócalo to the Italian Coffee on the northeast corner, where 2 gringo capitalist pigs occupied one table -- 2%.
The big hotel restaurant along the north side had 4 people sitting at one table -- 2%.

Quite symbolic if you ask me -- and even if you don't.

What Secretary Rodríguez is really saying is that her office has made its Guelaguetza preparations and if the festival fails and buses are burned and tourists chased off and unarmed traffic cops tarrred and feathered and banks robbed and business people assaulted and blood runs in the streets, as is all likely, it ain't her fault.

Which is quite true, by the way.

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Cross posted at Pale Horse Galleries

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