Saturday, August 05, 2006

Oaxaca, Mexico: No police response to city center - citizens and visitors are on their own

August 4, 2006:

At 1:00 in the afternoon, Claudia Canseco walked down Macedonio Alcalá, which runs from Niños Heroes past Santo Domingo to the Zócalo. I've walked it a hundred times. She was walking with her 10 year-old daughter.

They came upon a gang of youths spray painting pro-APPO slogans on a wall. The gang began to chase her and her daughter.

She ran back down the street with her little girl and managed to reach her house. The gang of thugs stayed outside.

She called 060 (911) and asked for police assistance. She was told, "We cannot respond to your emergency at this time. We are not responding to any emergencies in the center of the city."

Mrs. Canseco demanded help. "Listen, Miss, I demand that you send me some help. They could be killing me at this moment and you say you are afraid to send anyone because they might be kidnapped by the teachers. And what am I supposed to do?"

Her answer: "And you don't stop to think that a policeman could be lynched? That's why we can't cover any emergency in the downtown area. Those are the orders given by the directors and the coordinators of public security."

Mrs. Canseco argued with the emergency services dispatcher for another 5 minutes, gave up and hung up the phone.

Mrs. Canseco lives 7 blocks from the teachers' tent city, which would put her home in the area of the Holiday Inn, and says that, since the teachers moved into the downtown in May, she hasn't seen a single police patrol car on her street. She says that she and her neighbors are afraid to leave their homes for help or to even go to work every day.

Now, this is new. Mrs Canseco says that last Thursday morning she saw an 18 year-old foreign girl, clothes partially torn off, fleeing down the street from 3 pursuers. This is the first I have heard of any foreigners having problems. She says that her neighbors had to rescue the girl and that, the next morning, their reward was the shattered windshields of 3 of their cars.

Mrs. Canseco demanded that Governor Ruiz "hitch up his pants and fix the situation."

Mark in Mexico has received several emails as well as comments to some posts taking me to task for reporting the facts on the ground here as I see them. I have been accused of "making people paranoid" and of "scaring away the tourists". How do you think Mark in Mexico would feel today if I had encouraged that 18 year-old girl's family to "come on down". How do you think that young girl and her family would feel about Mark in Mexico today? Bad, I should think. Real bad. On both sides.

I would be so bold as to suggest that anyone who encourages visitors to come to Oaxaca City, or, indeed, anywhere in the state right now, would be committing an irresponsible act as well as endangering the welfare, possibly even the lives, of those prospective visitors.

I won't do that.

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