29 January 2008

Oaxaca Today, Part 2

CORRECTION:I say below that we walked by the law school on Saturday night and saw hundreds of police in riot gear patrolling the University election. That actually took place on Friday night, January 25.


In a follow-up to her informal update last week, which I republished here, Nancy Davies offers the latest on what's happening at the federal level regarding Oaxaca and Ulises Ruiz Ortiz. She summarizes an article by Luis Ocejo Martinez from Sunday's Noticias, stating that we now know Ruiz did indeed meet with Secretary of Government Juan Camilo Mourino, and that the expectations for Ruiz run as follows:

1. guarantee governability in the state and attend to the teachers and social movement demands before there's another uprising; 2. free Flavio Sosa as a way to lower the temperature of the APPO; 3. re-establish normality in the government and re-occupy the palacio gobernmental which was turned into museum by URO and used for private fiestas; 4. deal with the problems of University Autonomous Benito Juarez of Oaxaca (which just suffered an election for rector of the Law School. Each candidate hired his own thugs. I happened to be walking outside the law school building Friday night and saw a couple of hundred armed riot police waiting on the sidewalk. The two who spoke with me said they were waiting for the election results and the explosions. The police actually arrested four known porros (hired thugs), but later released them. Apparently all elections at UABJO are conducted in a similar way, the rival groups represent the faculty, the students, and the union of university workers. The fourth group, hidden from view, is the governor. UABJO is considered to be among the worst public universities in the nation because of corruption and lack of resources.)

The big number 5 is that Governor Ruiz consider accepting an ambassadorship to some foreign country. This was slipped into the conversation as a measure to re-establish governability, and Ocejo offered no further details about this federal government proposal, except that it seems genuine. Rumors of such offers abounded under Fox, too, along with URO's refusal.

I have heard this rumor about the governor maybe leaving town, and have no sense of whether it's any more likely to happen now than was rumored in the past. Davies goes on to cite the candidates vying for the post of interim-governor, since Ruiz still has three years left on his term. By the look of it, things don't exactly improve for Oaxacans if Ruiz takes on the ambassadorship to nowhere. The picks to follow him are pretty grim, and Nancy articulates why in her update. I tend to think the list of names could change a couple dozen times, too, between now and whenever an interim candidate is needed, however this may be naive. Like everywhere, the political community in Oaxaca is deeply entrenched, so you see the same handful of faces vying for the same handful of positions for decades, as is the case with one of Ruiz's would-be successors, a loyalist to former governor Carrasco, who, Nancy argues, is the real force pushing for Ulises to be removed.

On a sidenote: We unwittingly walked by the Law School on Saturday night as well, and had a similar experience of arriving between columns of troops in riot gear with machine guns bordering the entire facade of the building, working at various outposts all around the block, and standing ready at staging areas across the contiguous streets. Also present were the requisite support squads for each candidate, made up largely of youth. A Oaxacan law student friend of mine told me that candidates pay youth, who may not even be students at the law school, to rally on the candidate's behalf, and also promise to deliver the youth their law degrees, regardless whether they are students in the university or not. Incidentally, my friend is not a student at UABJO, but at URSE, a different (and more highly regarded) law school in Oaxaca.