Friday, August 18, 2006

Oaxaca, Mexico: Situation normal, all FU

That is to say, another striking teacher was shot, this time up near Etla, another march of thousands in the streets demanding the head of the king governor, the 4 main highways to and from the city being blocked off and on all day and some 80,000 workers contributing to a work stoppage all day. At least there were very few people downtown.

This work stoppage thing is interesting. The way it operates is that all the workers report to their respective jobs but, after they get there, they don't do anything. That's why I had to bag my own groceries at the Gigante supermarket when the store was filled with red-shirted employees. I thought that was astonishing. There were almost as many employees in the store, at least around the checkout lanes, as there were customers. But nobody would bag my groceries. Waaaaaaaaah! Unfortunately, Gigante management had managed to get enough cashiers to work that I did not have to check myself out, thereby being unable to take advantage of some serious discounting.

The teacher was shot by someone at the northwestern highway blockade. Other teachers gave chase but the assailants escaped. I have it on good authority from my close friend Pablo Pérez that the shooter was pissed off at being stuck in traffic for hours when he was sure that his wife was going to get pregnant today and he wanted desperately to be here when it happened. The governor was, of course, held personally responsible.

I continue to receive emails from people asking whether it is safe to visit. I can only reiterate what I have stated several times in the past. If you don't happen to be anywhere near where the bullets are flying, you have nothing to worry about, kind of like downtown Detroit or East L.A. or even Baghdad. Furthermore, if you do find yourself in the middle of a fracas but are not positioned in the flight path of a 9mm lead projectile, you'll still probably be OK. My question would be, "Why would anyone consider coming here right now?" This is not a nice friendly place and there is no police protection whatsoever throughout some 50 blocks in the city center.

A downtown merchants association has been formed which includes some 350 individual store and shop owners as well as about 1000 people who rent the various stalls, booths and cubicles in the two big downtown markets. They are demanding that the police answer calls to the area. The police say they are responding to calls to within some 20 blocks of the downtown but the merchants (and yours truly) say it ain't so.

The police are blaming their lack of response to the fact that the emergency services center -- 066 here, like your 911 -- was attacked last week by APPO and put out of commission. The real reason they aren't answering what few calls that do get through is that a call to arrest a shoplifter would have to answered by 2500 heavily armed federal troops. That's the only way they could get into the city's center and get out again in one piece . . . maybe.

The four main highway blockades are being operated thusly. The protesters block the highways for 2 hours and then allow the stacked up traffic to move for 30 minutes. The blockades are set up east of the city to block the highways from the isthmus, the two southbound highways from the beaches and the northwest highway from Puebla - Mexico City. The luxury busline ADO canceled all trips to the city from, well, everywhere, I guess.

IMHO, these strikers, protesters, anarchists, socialists, communists and assorted hangers-on are making a big mistake. They are blockading the highways into the city. They should instead be blocking the exits. Once you're here, here you stay. Then they should include in the blockade the airport and all the banks and money exchange centers. They should block all the ATM machines 24/7. Now you'd have a situation where no visitors could leave, they couldn't get money to pay for their forcible extended stays in the local inns or for food or to have their underwear laundered.

Then, in a very short period, you'd have, instead of a few thousand striking teachers and APPO members, tens of thousands of irate people, from tourists to truck drivers, all hungry and wearing smelly underwear, marching in the streets and shouting, "Down with governor what's-his-name! We wanna go home."


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