Oaxaca is the Football, and the PRI, PAN and PRD Are Kicking it Around
None of Them has Figured Out a Way to Score
By Nancy Davies
Commentary from Oaxaca
September 29, 2006
OAXACA CITY: With so many big feet in the game, the Oaxaca population is getting battered. The latest was the alarm for the arrival of the Federal Preventive Police, who in fact are present, in quarters. If ordered to do so by President Fox, they will come in with maximum force and “clean up.” How exactly that could happen, I don’t know, because “cleaning” the zocalo would disperse no more than a few thousand people. Blockades are in many areas , at the radio stations and government buildings, and would all have to be attacked simultaneously to minimize citizen support in any one place. The popular teachers’ movement most likely contains two million sympathizers within the state, and sympathizers in neighboring states as well.
My reasoning against attack may be too simple. There are three and half million in the state: the nation’s largest indigenous population, the nation’s largest teachers union, and the nation’s poorest, or close to it. Put it all together and it spells trouble for a repressive force. More, I would say, not like kicking a hard ball but like squeezing a balloon.
The morning of Thursday, September 27 after the latest terror-tunes were heard, I walked as usual down to the zocalo for a look-see. This was supposed also to be the first of two days of a work-stoppage by the business community. I have not yet figured out why they would want to do that, and I suspect they haven’t either. Some ask for federal forces to intervene for law and order, some ask for the federal government to take Ulises Ruiz Ortiz (“URO”) out of the state government, some ask for the federal forces to intervene on behalf of human rights and thus on behalf of the movement, some would frankly appreciate the establishment of military law. Nobody likes URO, nobody wants bloodshed or perpetual war. No wonder President Fox doesn’t want to do anything. In these contradictions, it’s a lose-lose decision.
Only the popular teachers’ movement remains consistent, demanding the ouster of URO.
So, the work stoppage. The buses and taxis were running, and the normal stall-and-crawl traffic was wending down the main north-south street. No work stoppage there. I made it into the area of the “blockades”, which in this part of the city consists, in daytime hours, of many women sitting on the ground with their embroidery. I dropped off some photos from the USA, of teachers in sympathy. Big smiles.
In the zocalo, the first thing I noticed was the smell of fried bananas, a sweet odor that can be recognized for a city block. The food vendors, the CD vendors, the fruit, soda, water, popsicle, clothing, salad bowl and jewelry vendors were spread around the sidewalks surrounding the kiosk where the usual banners hang. On three sides the tourist cafes were closed – no cappuccino today, but since no tourists were present either, it was irrelevant. The small super-market was open as usual. The little shops – maybe three were closed, despite the grand headline by Noticias that 6,000 businesses would be shut down. What I think happened is that 6,000 signed up, and when morning arrived with still no attack by the Federal Preventive Police (PFP) force, they shrugged and opened up. The big central market stood open, with a sheepish sign saying “We will close for one of the two days of the work-stoppage.” Tomorrow, I guess.
I stopped at the movement tables to get some word on what had happened during the night. I guess I’m the only one in Oaxaca who slept poorly. Nothing happened.
The teachers voted again last week to maintain their strike until URO goes. This was followed on September 27 by the most recent teachers’ vote in their assembly, again, not to return to the classrooms until URO leaves. The teachers also demand the release of the movement’s political prisoners: Germán Mendoza Nube, Evangelio Mendoza González, Catarino Torres Pereda and Ramiro Aragón Pérez. No change there.
The APPO foot march – Oaxaca to Mexico City – changed its route to prudently avoid the state of Puebla, where resides one of the governors who is thought to be “domino numero uno” if URO goes. The marchers have been fed and brought water and fruit along the way, both by local people and by the vans the APPO sends. They sleep indoors or in vans, off the ground. A photo in Noticias shows them accompanied by an open truckload of soldiers, who don’t appear to be hostile. Nevertheless, the APPO has designated a contingent of members to walk ahead of the two to three thousand people on the road, to act as a “guard.” They are armed with the usual sticks and pipes.
I headed out of the zocalo for two blocks and saw some shops closed and some open. I rewarded one of the open shops, which has a chain competitor, with a purchase of two glass beer mugs, setting me back four US dollars. Then I went home to read the newspapers.
Teachers declare “maximum alert” was the headline. At the very same time, the Secretary of Internal Affairs, Carlos Abascal Carranza, stated “we are neither anticipating nor ruling out the use of federal forces”. What’s going on?
The URO’s Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) has only the power of alliance, it’s too small now to carry off anything on its own.
The President Fox’s National Action Party (PAN) needs the PRI to beat back a surge against its president-elect Felipe Calderon whose victory the left-wing Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) believes was fraudulent. If the PAN lets URO fall, that would be taken as a sign that the PAN won’t support any of the other PRI officials whose heads would roll if a popular movement sweeps the country. Thus far, historical political rivals the PRI and the PAN have been united by their common fear of a widespread uprising of some kind led by López Obrador. On the other hand, Fox has been reluctant to overtly support the unpopular URO.
The PRD is quick to point out what is going on. If the PAN cuts loose the PRI, it cannot out-vote the PRD.
The PRD, we may recall, was formed not two decades ago, mostly by dissident PRI members, so it’s not as if the PRD is the knight in shining armor. That is to say, it knows how to kick the ball.
Many of the Oaxaca APPO back the PRD, and expect to be backed in return. This puts pressure on the PRD. But many of the APPO follow other political currents, many to the left of López Obrador, who, after all, is another capitalist in populist mode. What kind of currents? Well, the APPO itself is a movement without political pretensions. It’s in a daily battle to rein in the socialist, communists, Trotskyites, and PRD elements, along with adherents to the Zapatista Other Campaign, so that a focus will be placed on its own popular assemblies.
It is the APPO politic that attracts the indigenous and campesino adherents. The socialists tend to be urban intellectuals. The APPO model is being presented in other states, and the APPO has sent out delegates to further that work, much as have the Zapatisas to further their position.
Of the above named groups, all have a political agenda with a clear political leader or aspirant thereto, except for the Zapatistas. Like the Zapatistas, the APPO is horizontal in structure, or at least it’s trying to be. The “movement leaders” supposedly are dispensable, and like the union assemblies, from which the teachers move their consensus up the ladder from the base, this is what the APPO is all about. That’s why the teachers, the Zapatistas and the APPO fit. The issues of each group, not the method, constitute their differences. Nevertheless they all are concerned with the poverty of the many and the wealth of the few, and the disregard for the indigenous population. The APPO is openly anti-neoliberal, as are the Zapatisas
So what’s a political party to do? La Jornada had a headline September 26 that read: “The renunciation of Ulises Ruiz was never considered in the meeting carried out at Los Pinos” (between URO and Fox). Huh? We also read that URO was offered once or twice a face-saving kick upstairs to federal office, but declined. He wants to stay as state governor.
So Fox and the PRI governors have a new political strategy, which as I read it, sounds like buying off the struggle. Written in La Jornada by Rosa Elvira Vargas: “…a new political strategy to resolve the conflict in Oaxaca… consists of a new economic proposal to the teachers of Section 22… and in an offer to the organizations making up the APPO, to reform various laws and local institutions and solve specific political problems, like the liberation of political prisoners.” It took 11 governors and more than two hours to conceive of this plan: “An integral package which takes care of the demands of the teachers’ Section 22. Second, attending to the social claims and a profound political reform: what the prisoners of Loxicha demand, what the APPO demands, the businesses, all of that is on the Oaxaca agenda. Third, the coordinated, respectful responsible action of all the governments – municipal, state, federal – seeking what is the best policy and the agreements to resolve this conflict.”
A package of reforms of institutions, electoral methods and a transparency law was presented. Along with this was the idea that somehow URO would be monitored by the federal authorities, sort of a governor’s house arrest procedure.
This incentive package was followed by claims and disclaimers regarding the use of federal forces. Fox is saying that he’ll resolve the Oaxaca crisis before he leaves office. Maybe.
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