Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Oaxaca, Mexico: From bad to worse

A professor of dentistry from Juarez University was murdered just a few blocks from the Zócalo at 10:00 last night. He was driving his car when two subjects on a motorcycle shot him. The car crashed into a house and the killers stopped, opened the car and robbed it of its contents.

Lawlessness in the streets prevails.

During the weekend, the APPO announced that it was consulting with "electrical engineers" to determine the possibilities of causing an electrical blackout over parts of the city. Last night, however, the APPO began broadcasting over the occupied Channel 9 radio station that the authorities planned an electrical blackout, under cover of which they would try to retake parts of the city currently under APPO's control. The APPO called this a "maximum alert" and called upon its followers to be vigilant and "ready to fight". Downtown businesses and restaurants were advised to close up.

My little tour of Colonia Reforma yesterday confirmed that people were, by and large, staying off the streets. I found two government owned vehicles disabled just 4 blocks from my office. One of them was a full sized pickup of the Municipal Police. The other was a mini-pickup belonging to a town or village outside Oaxaca. Both had their tires slashed and glass smashed out. There were glass and bottles strewn all over the street. The mini-pickup was probably not involved in the confrontation but was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

All government offices that I saw, save one, were closed and walls and windows had been decorated with painted slogans or signs. The only office I saw open was INEGI -- kind of like our U.S. Geological Survey and Census Bureau combined, I think. That was odd, I thought, because INEGI vehicles had been targeted for carjacking by the APPO. Why the INEGI offices would be open in the face of all this trouble, I don't know.

The state authorities were left on their own in this fight by the federal government. Yesterday, Governor Ruiz Ortiz had asked the feds for Federal Preventive Police (PFP) help in keeping the highways open. There were some reports that truckloads of PFP officers were seen coverging on the state. However, the federal Secretary of the Interior, Carlos Abascal, said that no federal help would be sent and that the situation would have to be handled "politically".

The APPO is announcing that highway blockades are being installed as was threatened last week. However, the specific highways and the locations of the blockades seem to change almost by the hour. The last word I had was that the two main routes from Oaxaca to the coast were being blocked, as well as the highway to the Isthmus and some other highways out in the boonies somewhere. As of this writing, the major traffic arteries to Puebla and Vera Cruz appear to be open. This situation is very fluid, however.

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