Monday, August 07, 2006

Oaxaca, Mexico: More shots fired?

UPDATED: scroll down

Reforma is reporting that there was a confrontation this morning that took place about 6 blocks from my office. Reforma says that a group of 100 APPO shock troops arrived at the state Secretary of the Economy offices. They were met by, according to Reforma, 50 Municipal Police officers who opened fire on the protesters with bullets and tear gas canisters. No injuries are being reported.

The APPO protesters answered with rocks, bottles and Molotov cocktails. The police were driven away. The protesters have now taken possession of a main intersection in Colonia Reforma and are blocking those two boulevards -- Heroico Colegio Militar and Escuela Naval Militar, if you're at all familiar with the area.

I have a little trouble believing this report, in spite of the high regard in which I hold the newspaper Reforma. This action supposedly took place just 6 or 7 blocks from my office this morning and I heard no gunshot reports and no sirens. Also, it is somewhat inconceivable that 50 police could open fire on 100 people, receive rocks, bottles and gasoline bombs in return, and nobody got hurt.

How is it that the police lose every confrontation? And, what is worse, they plan these confrontations in advance. These face-to-face meetings are not surprises for the government officials. But they still lose. How can 50 supposedly armed policemen, fully expecting trouble and knowing from where that trouble would come, open fire on 100 protesters, hurting none of them, and then flee the scene under a barrage of rocks, bottles and Molotov cocktails?

I don't understand it. Regardless of who is right or who is wrong in the overall scheme of things, if the civil authorities decide to maintain order in the streets, then that order must be maintained, period. Every loss of ground, and, far more importantly, every loss of face and respect by the authorities emboldens the lawbreakers. It leads to anarchy on the streets, which is what we are experiencing now, and common criminals will leap into the breach.

While the APPO and SNTE may celebrate these victories, and their record so far against the cops is unblemished, the loss of respect for any semblance of law and order, will, in the end, do grave damage to their cause. Already the teachers' union has suffered severe losses in their ranks. Much of this loss has to be related to the violence that many of the SNTE members want no part of.

Joining ranks with and allowing the APPO to take control of their movement proved to be a bad mistake on the part of the teachers. Now, every incident of theft, vandalism and the overall disastrous economic losses suffered by the citizens of Oaxaca City and State will be and is being laid at the feet of the teachers' union.

What could a high school student, code named "Sixto", working under the direction of another youth, code named "Krispy", possibly know or much less care about the goals of the teachers' union. They don't. They are thugs who know that they can operate with almost certain immunity from the authorities and can do just about whatever it pleases them to do. And they are doing it with regularity.

When this all started back in May it was the annual teachers' union strike, march and downtown encampment. They do it every year and have done so since the '80's. It has now ballooned into a general civil uprising that the majority of the citizenry wishes would just go away.

We've got downtown merchants carrying whistles to signal one another of crimes taking place because the police are afraid to enter the city's center. We've got citizens who live as far away from the downtown as 6-8 blocks who are afraid to leave their houses except in groups. We've got moms with kids afraid to go to the market, if the market is even open.

We've got city bus lines pulling their units off the streets to protect them from hijackers. We've got hijacked buses sitting around in various blockades with their tires slashed and windows smashed out and others that have been burned down to the frames.

The formerly beautiful colonial Zócalo and surrounding colonial buildings have been trashed with their windows and doors broken, furniture and attachments stolen and every exposed wall slopped with one painted slogan or another. We've got more than 50 city, state and federal vehicles, in Oaxaca City alone, hijacked and sitting around in various blockades with their tires slashed and sporting new paint jobs.

There are at least 20 other municipal governments throughout the state that have been brought to a standstill by the APPO and the SNTE by means of blockades and occupations of the city halls. We've got highways blockaded throughout the state with the "militants" demanding a cash toll to allow motorists to proceed. The Guelaguetza festival, the state's biggest and most important annual blowout, has been canceled. The Guelaguetza Amphitheater, the most impressive building in the entire state, has been vandalized to the tune of $5 million in damage.

We've got one radio station and one television station locked down due to fears of occupation, vandalism, kidnapping and theft. We've got three daily newspapers operating with skeleton staffs or only at night due to fears of occupation, vandalism, kidnapping and theft. We've got two radio stations and one television station, property of the state government, occupied and in the control of the APPO. And all because those media outlets were judged to be "unfriendly" to the APPO and SNTE.

And the teachers' union, seemingly aware of its loss of prestige and support, both internally and externally, yesterday discovered that there was, in fact, some pressing need to ally itself with AMLO and his efforts to overturn a legitimate presidential election. The SNTE announced that its ongoing efforts in Oaxaca were, after all, an integral part of AMLO's crusade and the SNTE and APPO would send a contingent to Mexico City to reinforce AMLO's tent city in that city's Zócalo. Help is anywhere you can find it, I guess.

And the state's economy has suffered a loss of well over $50 million and still counting. A $50 million loss in the second poorest state in the country.

The authorities are really up against it now. They have allowed this situation to deteriorate to the point where the APPO and SNTE gangs that are holding the city's center are blockaded and protected by more than 50 government vehicles that will be torched if there is a move made aginst them. By the time authorities manage to overcome the obstacles placed in front of them, there won't be enough left of the downtown worth saving.

The occupied radio and television studios are manned by women and they are protected by a blockade of some 25 city buses with their tires slashed. Any move against the women in an attempt to retake that public property will result in those buses being set afire also. And if the authorities did manage to recover the studios, there wouldn't be much left worth recovering there, anyway.

I'm going to take a walk down towards the trouble spot now -- I'm certainly not going to drive there -- and see what's happening in Colonia Reforma. Wish me luck.

UPDATE I: Well I guess something did happen in Colonia Reforma this morning. This is a tear gas cannister stuck in the windshield of one of the two hijacked city buses that APPO protesters rode in . . . in.

Mark in Mexico Pale Horse Galleries Oaxaca, Mexico. A tear gas cannister protrudes from a windshield of a hijacked bus that APPO protesters rode to a planned government building blockade. They were met by some 50 riot police and a fight ensued. The protesters are still there and the police have withdrawn

Please visit the Pale Horse Galleries online store
for art, gifts and collectibles -- all hand made
by Mexican indigenous artists.

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