Monday, June 19, 2006

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Oaxaca... part 2

The latest reports are that everyone is negotiating... and, OFFICIALLY, not negotiating Ulises Ruiz Ortiz' removal from office -- by which we can assume they are. "Mark in Mexico", which I recommended yesterday for its photos, gives the impression that this would be unprecidented. Not at all -- Oaxaca has a long history of resistance (the Aztecs never were able to control the place and, the local Zapotecs complained about the first Spanish officials -- they were too damn stringy and just didn't cook up well; Benito Juarez made his name as a national leader by resisting Santa Ana) and Mexicans have a habit of tossing out leaders quite regularly. Even under the worst of the old PRI system, incompetent State Governors who couldn't maintain control were prevailed upon to "retire" -- or, if they really screwed up, find themselves appointed deputy consul somewhere like Leon, Nicaragua. It's a little more difficult now -- especially if the Administration needs a particular governor (Morelos seems stuck with their PANista Governor, who openly paid out bribes to state legislators -- on the floor of the legislature -- to stop his desafuero over money-laundering, bribery and murder charges). PAN was ready to remove and replace AMLO in Mexico City (and managed to force him to temporarily retire for a couple of days) over bogus charges, so there's no reason Ruiz Ortiz' can't be removed. And, remember, AMLO made HIS national reputation helping throw out a governor in Tabasco. Incidentally, Delores Paderna, the PRI candidate for Jefa de Gobernacion in Mexico City, made HER reputation as an honest governor, appointed to replace a crook removed by the federal government. "Mark from Mexico" seems to be calling for miliary intervention. Highly unlikely. Since their unhappy experience in the 1970s, the Army itself has shied away from being used to settle political disputes. The Federal Police might be called in, but that would be an admission of failure on both the State, and Federal, Administration's parts. Given the mood of the State (and the protests are not just in Oaxaca City, but all over the state) the goveror will probably be prevailed upon to retire for some face-saving reason or another. I don't think he'll face disafuero and criminal charges, but it looks like the teachers have one at least part of their demands. Oaxaca was a stronghold of the old-time political caiques, and it looks as if their era is coming to an end. Even if the Governor stays (which is possible), he's managed to piss off even reliable "consesus voter communities" (those indigenous groups that still vote by village) like the Triquis -- not necessarily a disaster for the PRI, but one that means governance is going to have to open up beyond the old guard. My feeling is this is what really troubles Fox -- PAN always prefers to deal with PRI traditionalists over the "new PRI" or PRD. PAN has never been particularly powerful in this part of the country, and the PRD and the Zapatistas are going to capture the disaffected voters. So -- if necessary -- the governor is expendable. Ruiz Ortiz' has never been a popular governor. His candidacy and eventual election in December 2004, while no surprise, has always had a dubious quality about it. During the campaign, he was attacked for his ties to the -- uhh -- colorful then governor, Jose Murat (who tried to create a fake "terrorist" threat by arranging a self-assassination attempt -- which he fucked up, getting himself injured for real -- think of the Reichstag fire planned by Homer Simpson) -- and more seriously, for his ties to secret paramilitary organizations. Mexican commentators used words like "alchemy" to describe his election Gabriel Cué, who ran on a PRD(socialist), Convergencia (rural middle-class) and PAN(conservative) fusion ticket. While there were plenty of accusations of dirty tricks and shady voting, the speculation was that Oaxaca -- having always been a PRI fiefdom -- was basically written off by the Administration -- and, at the time, the Administration was trying to find allies within PRI -- specifically from Esther Elba Gordillo, who just coincidentally, is the head of the Teachers' Union (SNTE). The Oaxaca teachers, and most on the left despise her. Even the "fair and balanced" mass media -- and foreign papers -- call her "Señora Hoffa". When they don't call her a "charro" (a union leader coopted by the government and "powers that be"), they call her a chupacabra -- a blood-sucking horrible monster. La Crisis -- never "fair and balanced" but slightly more literary, calls her "Lady Macbeth" (for those who read Spanish, one of the better things La Crisis ever did was a special on Esther with the alliterative title "Truculenta trayectoria de la cacique, asesina, corrupta, tramposa y traidora Elba Esther". Especially in Oaxada, union dissidents who crossed Elba Esther tended to fall off high places, or shoot themselves in the back -- or have mysterious one-car accidents. Oaxacan teachers occupied Mexico City's Zocalo for months and months in 2002 and 2003 attempting redress. And, it seems like forever, that teachers have been striking in Oaxaca state itself. Most of the dissidents, are -- naturally -- from the left, or sympathetic to the Zapatistas. And, this year, teachers had a new -- and suprising -- grievance: history classes. Lat year, the Secretaría de Instrucíon Publica made changes to the History curriculum that de-emphasized the role of indigenous Mexicans to spend more time on the colonial era. Mexicans take their history very, very seriously. In mostly Indigenous Oaxaca, this change was especially unpopular. When recent scandals involving textbook publishers surfaced, teachers -- and parents -- throughout Mexico took to the streets. In Mexico City, this particular grievance went unnoticed, since it coincided with the recent Texcoco Flower Wars . In Oaxaca, it is only a side issue, one too esoteric to even be noticed by outsiders. And -- lest we forget -- Presidential and Congressional elections are only two weeks away. The immediate crises appears to be over, but there are still years of grievances to work out. No matter what's done in around the negotiating table, there will still be street actions... but a "civl war"... I don't think so.


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