25 January 2008

Oaxaca Today

Oaxaca defies categorization. On the surface a sleepy, postcolonial capital, the city exudes a laid back, as you like it, touristy-yet-authentic appeal. Scratch the surface, though, and you won't be sure what you've found.

Bus prices went up over the holidays, from 3.5 pesos to 4.5 pesos, roughly 10 cents in US dollars. What strikes me isn't the actual, one peso price increase, but the percentage increase. Oaxaca's mass transit fares just jumped approximately 30%! No wonder a handful of student gangsters decided to test their mettle last week protesting the rate hike. Not sure they went about it the right way at all, hijacking a couple buses and involving police in a standoff on the campus of the Universidad Autonomo Benito Juarez, but there are others in Oaxaca with similar sentiments.

Also in Oaxaca these days, the holiday cheer has worn off and demonstrations take place on a regular basis. Some of the marches are so poorly executed that it's hard to tell what the cause is. A rag-tag group of sixty or seventy demonstrators, talking and laughing, strolled past parque Llano last week, half of them holding banners and posters at their sides rather than in full view for public consumption. Something about something, no doubt, important to someone.

As long as we're on about demonstrations, albeit of a different stripe, the lawyers are all vying for positions on the UABJO (Universidad Autonomo Benito Juarez) board, and it's pretty ugly to watch. The noise on the Alcala is unbearable (candidates blasting the centro with their slogans) and accounts of bitter fighting have been splashed all over the papers.

Things have been quiet since the new year, on the whole, but that's bound not to last. I just received this most interesting rundown of events regarding Governor Ruiz, the federal government, and Oaxaca's ongoing political woes, as told by Nancy Davies, via the Oaxaca Study Action Group:

An article which appeared in *El Universal* on January 23 (attached) says that the new Secretary of Government, Juan Camilo Mouriño, called Ulises Ruiz onto the carpet and read him the riot act. Mouriño insisted that Ruiz attend to the teachers Section 22 demands, and to the demands of the APPO – to at least listen and negotiate.

Mouriño was pissed off because there was a demonstration in front of the Bucareli government offices in DF. The federal government wants no return of the open conflict in Oaxaca. Mouriño said URO had better demonstrate governability in the state, and (my favorite part) return his office to the Palacio de Gobierno which he abandoned in May of 2006.

Former governor Diódoro Carrasco Altamirano has been stirring up the fire against URO, leaking to the federal functionaries some facts about his government, and claiming that Ruiz has no contact with the former governors of Oaxaca; he lacks interaction with representatives of the APPO, and, if I am translating correctly, had some cheek to run for governor (and may have been elected via fraud).

Needless to say, URO denies the meeting with Mouriño, and the scolding. An article written by Pedro Matías appears in *Noticias* January 24, page 8A with the headline: " 'No me reuní con Mouriño', dice URO". Translated: "I didn't meet with Mouriño", says URO". Anything which URO denies I suspect to be true. Matías interviewed URO and Ulises reported that he had requested assistance from the Secretary of Government in May, 2007, but there's no record of that request being received. In fact, in the entire article, it reads to me like URO is whining; claiming all he did and tried to do to resolve the conflict. For example, he says he did have dialogue, with the
APPO and its civil organizations.

Matías also interviewed the secretary of Section 22, Ezequiel Rosales Carreño, who declared, "If the gentleman (referring to Mouriño) is accustomed to people coming bowing down with petitions in hand, that's not the case with Oaxaca." The popular movement had asked for interviews and gotten no reply, Rosales says. "The actions of the teachers are going to continue until we have replies to our demands and if the gentleman doesn't want mobilizations he has to attend to the demands of the workers." He added that the Secretary of Government attends to party leaders, to businessmen, to deputies, to senators, to structural reforms; but he pays no attention to the people of Mexico.

Mouriño was appointed to the post of Secretary of Government just this month, so most of what transpired regarding the movement in Oaxaca preceded him. Thus he may be taken aback to see the APPO and Section 22 literally banging on his door. The APPO decided to go to Mexico to hand in to the Supreme Court their accusations against URO on January 24, and clearly their presence in Bucareli set off alarms.

One must assume from history that the PAN is not concerned so much for the people of Oaxaca as it is for the peace necessary to induce foreign investment along the Plan Puebla Panama corridor. Foreign investors don't like local protests and road blocks, and even less do they like unions. Calderon may be thinking he has to placate the social movement for now, and perhaps eliminate it at a more convenient moment.

Emphasis mine. I love it. A whole lot of something-something going on, but if you know what it all amounts to you're a big step ahead of me. Mostly I think Oaxaca has a reputation as a quaint little burg, Mexicana style, and the Tourism Office intends to keep it that way and keep the tourism dollars coming. I also think Nancy is right, and there's a bigger political picture to consider. Perhaps, however, Ruiz is just proving himself less and less likely to be much good to anyone, and therefore less likely to keep his post in Calderon's Mexico. If the meeting actually happened in the first place.

That's the spin from here. To be honest I've lost some of my interest in the internal dialogues (and monologues, and spats) echoing around the Oaxaca Study Action Group. I've also learned that I can't possibly keep up with all the reading I get from Ronald Waterbury and the Oaxaca Study Forum, though I still try and take a look every day. I have officially entered the "keep my head down and work like hell" stage of my Oaxacan experience, which unfortunately makes for less blogging. So be it. I do hope to improve at least a little in February when it comes to blogging, so I hope you'll check back. As always, thanks for reading.