From Seccion 22
Little word of the various but interconnected struggles in Mexico have made their way into the U.S. mainstream (or even independent) media. And when it does, it is usually decontextualized, whiny rubbish, such as Oaxaca: living with anarchy, that was posted on the SF Chronicle's joke of a blog, The Ross Report.
But whether Gringolandia is paying attention matters not, for from Oaxaca to Mexico City to further north, the rebellious are causing problems for the ruling class.
The situation in Oaxaca started with what has been an annual occurrence, a teachers' strike. (I do want to note that "started" is a relative term, as the root causes of these struggles can be found in the myriad forces of globalization, corruption, imperialism, colonialism, etc., that have spanned decades, if not centuries.)
Normally, the strike is resolved relatively smoothly, but not this year. As negotiations foundered, the teachers' encampment in the center of the city grew and began encompassing broader anti-government politics. Oaxaca - a popular tourist destination - has been ruled by the iron fist of Governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz, the corrupt PRI boss, at the expense of the poor and indigenous inhabitants. After two mass marches in early June attracted more than 100,000 people each, Ulises' solution was to storm the encampment on June 14.
His approach utterly failed, as the people took back the city center, grew in number, and unequivocally demanded the ouster of Ulises. The Asamblea Popular del Pueblo de Oaxaca (Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca - APPO) was formed, TV and radio stations were seized, and the people began the transformation from protesting the government to preparing to run things themselves. APPO was the vehicle they used to set about doing it. As George Salzman explains,
The Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca (APPO, by its initials in Spanish) adopted a truly revolutionary program by declaring itself the supreme authority in Oaxaca, and asserting the illegitimacy of the entire political structure, which had ruthlessly run Oaxaca as a PRI-terrorist-controlled state for nearly 80 years.
APPO's deliberately broad representation evidently excluded any explicitly political groups, i.e. it was to be a "non-political" formation, truly a peoples' government. As Nancy Davies wrote in her report, "Popular Assembly to Oppose the State Government", its initial meeting on June 17 "was attended by 170 people representing 85 organizations." Included, or at least invited, "were all the SNTE [teachers' union] delegates, union members, social and political organizations, non-governmental organizations, collectives, human rights organizations, parents, tenant farmers, municipalities, and citizens of the entire state of Oaxaca." Its intention was to be open to all the citizens of the state. The only 'absolute requirement' for participation was agreement that Ulises must go.
APPO continues to grow and has effectively become the governing body of Oaxaca. They have shut down the government offices, driven the police out, and started administering the affairs of the state - such as security patrols, economic revitalization, public transit and licensing taxis. Their meetings are open to all (the last one had 309 participants and lasted 11 hours), they make their decisions by consensus and post the meeting notes on their website. Even tonight's traditional Independence Eve grito will be given by an APPO commission instead of just one person.
Where things go from here is a matter of much debate. Will APPO remain open, horizontal, non-violent and unified? A few recent incidents, such as the forceful closure of a government daycare facility and the public shaming of police officers, raise questions. As do the prominent links to Marxist organizations on APPO's website. Will APPO yield to the PRD-dominated state congress - especially if it votes out Ulises - when it convenes in December? Though anarchists will surely find grievance with the state-oriented approach, the radical shift that has been achieved in such a short period is undoubtedly inspirational.
Of course the developments in Mexico City (DF) will play a big role in how Oaxaca goes. Facing a top-down rebellion orchestrated and funded by the PRD presidential candidate Lopez Obrador (AMLO), President Fox and his fraudulenty elected fellow PANista Felipe Calderon (FeCal), face a difficult situation. PRD loyalists have occupied block and blocks of DF and PRD congresspersons have pledged to make governing close to impossible for Calderon. They already shut down Fox's State of the Union address and made him move his grito from DF's zocalo to Guanajuato.
Today, AMLO supporters are packing up their tent cities to get out of the way of a military parade and tomorrow one million are expected to rally in DF's zocalo to proclaim AMLO the rightful president. The PRD will also hold a National Democratic Convention to decide what their next steps should be. Parallel government? Continued civil disobedience? While the PRD may be able to keep this going for a while, I see it running out of steam. They've already given up their encampments and the party's upper echelons continue to use the protesters as pawns in their elite power struggle. People will grow tired of it.
But that doesn't mean Calderon is not scared. And so are other PRIistas and PANistas. La Jornada has reported that 17 PRI governors are urging Fox to intervene in Oaxaca. That "if Ulises falls, Calderon will be next." Plans may be in the works to quell the rebellion in Oaxaca by force. The federal army has mobilized in the Oaxacan mountains and unknown "guerrilla" organizations have been setting up roadblocks outside the cities. The "guerrillas," disavowed by APPO and oddly sporting brand new military gear and spotless, shiny boots, may be just the excuse needed to send the army to occupy Oaxaca.
Not to be outdone, the Zapatistas have finally spoken up again, releasing a communique yesterday outlining the rest of the route of the Other Campaign. More than a few people have been wondering what's up with the EZLN and La Otra. Their solidarity with the prisoners of Atenco is admirable, but did it need to be at the expense of La Otra? And is it not odd their latest communique, while mentioning Atenco and the elections, speaks not a word of Oaxaca? Especially with all the human rights violations occurring? I for one look forward to analyses comparing the Oaxaca and EZLN models of resistance.
These next few months leading up to December's transfer of state and federal power will be critical. Though I am largely a pessimist and fully expect the PAN to come out on top federally, the PRD to co-opt Oaxaca and La Otra to be ineffective, the resiliency, potency, and creativity displayed in the past few months - especially in Oaxaca - is exhilarating and hopeful. May it continue to flourish.
Thanks to the OSAG list for the news and insights it has shared.