25 March 2008

Update From Oaxaca

Things are quiet in Oaxaca, if you don't count the heavily armed police helicopter circling the city, presumably looking for culprits or clues as to the daylight disappearances of two wealthy politico/empresario (politician/businessman) types over the long weekend.

Nancy Davies posts the following:

A helicopter has been circling overhead for three consecutive days with
armed (armed with what? I don't know what weapons but surely either high powered arms or tear-gas launchers) [sic] Abductions took place on both Friday and Saturday, and I assumed that the chopper was trying to locate a car (Is that silly? Yeah.) The kidnapped men were taken by the same m.o., which was that hooded men entered on Friday a restaurant and on Saturday an auto sales place, and simply hauled away their targets, both of whom are men with money (why kidnap a poor person, eh?) but I do not know if they are wealthy by the sweat of their brows or by some other method -the first one was a former PRI legislator and the uncle of former governor Diodoro Carrasco, so that's a clue.

I don't actually know anything about the kidnappings, so I pass all this on without comment.

I will comment on another statement she makes, however:

I truly believe that Oaxaca is ungovernable. My own opinion, for what it is worth --and I think that what has happened, is that the APPO and the
teachers opened the lid on what has been underneath simmering along. It is total corruption, free impunity to break all laws, repression and/or authoritariansim over the distant pueblos, buying votes, etcetera. Once the lid was off, although URO has done all he could to break Section 22, break the PRD, break the social movement --in other words, to regain control, I believe it is a hopeless task. Although he can destroy more, and install more repression, the box is open, the cows are out of the barn, whatever metaphors you choose, violence and agitation are rampant. Some of it is instigated by people who see a chance to improve their situations, and some of it is instigated by "bad guys" who are threatened with loss of control (and hence loss of income).

I generally turn to Nancy's writing first for a clear idea of events that take place in Oaxaca. Her politics are quite left-leaning, as is evidenced by the appearance of her work almost exclusively on the Narco News website, and in her characterizations of the beautiful struggle in her book, The People Decide. Her politics generally figure secondarily, for me as a reader, to the informational content of her writing. As a friend of mine recently said to me about other news outlets, "These newspapers agree with my prejudice." I can let the rest go by because Nancy Davies offers consistent, English language analysis of issues in Oaxaca and, while I am not a leftist and certainly not an anarchist, I can more or less accept the tone of the work that comes out of the Narco News mill.

Today however I have to take issue with Nancy's perspective and ask what, exactly, she means when she says that "Oaxaca is ungovernable." Does this mean there is a failure of governance, law, and order in Oaxaca? Because except for the run of the mill Mexican political corruption in the state, I fail to see this. Certainly, the people who control the city appear to be above the law. And that's about par for the course, since they control, if not how the law is written, then certainly how it is executed and enforced.

I do not share Nancy's view that because the APPO and the teachers' strike of 2006 opened the lid on issues that have been simmering beneath Oaxaca´s surface, then Oaxaca therefore is at present devolving (or evolving, depending on your perspective) to a state of ungovernability. Yes, that lid appears to have been cracked, but by all accounts the unresolved problems are happily stuffed back inside to roil and ripple beneath the surface, likely not to rear their heads forcefully again until the next gubernatorial election in two or three years, when the PRI plots how to retain their hold on the Governor's Palace and the various groups of the broad people´s movement--or of the APPO, if you prefer--unite once more under the banner of hatred for a common enemy.

By the accounts of those I've spoken with (people whom, I must confess, by and large agree with my particular prejudice), the majority of Oaxacans identify neither with the teachers nor the APPO nor the government. This majority simply wants the city to be tranquil enough to attract the tourists who fuel Oaxaca's economy, and thus maintain the availability of work in the city. No work equals no security, and that comes across as the biggest factor on most people's minds.

So will Oaxaca's "ungovernable" nature lead to another round of skirmishes in the streets in 2008? Friends here suspect that when the teachers of Section 22 rally in May to renew their annual list of demands, the demands will not be outrageous and the government will be quick to oblige a much compromised version of whatever list is submitted, which the teachers will in turn be quick to accept. In this way both sides of the unresolved conflict will walk away quietly. APPO remains the wild card, potentially, but I repeat: without a common cause or enemy to unite all the wildly divergent groups represented across the pueblos, there is little to suggest that the leaderless APPO can inspire so many parties to agree upon and rally around any common message.

I will not go so far as to make my own predictions. The one thing everybody here will bet on is that you can't bet on anything. I imagine it a flight of fancy, however, to suggest that Oaxaca is out and out ungovernable. That, to me, suggests Oaxaca is also unpoliceable, and anyone here to witness the state's aggressive police patrols would likely argue the opposite. I simply find myself saying, again as many times before, "Vamos a ver." We will see.