Too quiet in Oaxaca - Page 2

This Mexican city's volcano of popular unrest has cooled -- but further eruptions are expected

Although the "maestros" did participate in a two-day boycott of classes in May to protest the Calderon government's privatization of government workers pension funds, whether the teachers will take part in an indefinite national walk-out June 1st that has been called by dissident education workers organized in the Coordinating Body of Education Workers or CNTE, remains unresolved at press time.

Nonetheless, the teachers' disaffection with Ulises remains strong and Section 22 spokesperson Zenen Reyes last week (May 23rd) called upon the teachers and the APPO to push for cancellation of the Guelaguetza, an "indigenous" dance festival in July that has become Oaxaca's premier tourist attraction. Last year, the strikers and the APPO destroyed scenery and denied access to the spectacle, forcing URO to suspend the gala event. In its place, activists reclaimed this millennial tradition of Indian cultural interchange by staging a "popular" Guelaguetza in the part of the city they were occupying, and plans are afoot to repeat that celebration this year.

The Oaxaca Popular Peoples Assembly, which came together after the governor sent a thousand police to drive the maestros out of the plaza last June 14th and which at one time included representatives of the state's 17 distinct Indian peoples and many of the 400 majority indigenous municipalities plus hundreds of grassroots organizations, is equally fractured. Having borne the brunt of the repression - 26 killed, 30 disappeared, hundreds imprisoned - the Popular Assembly has been reduced to a defensive posture when only months ago it was an aggressive lightning rod for social discontent.

Even more debilitating than the government crackdown has been the prospect of upcoming local elections August 7th to choose 42 members of the Oaxaca legislature and October 5th balloting for 157 non-Indian municipal presidents (majority indigenous municipalities elect their presidents via traditional assemblies.) While the APPO considers that its goals transcend the electoral process and rejects alliance with the political parties, some Popular Assembly leaders engage in a quirky dance with the left-center Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) which last July almost catapulted Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) into the presidency.

Prominent APPO mouthpiece Flavio Sosa, jailed by Calderon as his first political prisoner, is a former Oaxaca party leader and the PRD has mobilized to achieve his release.

Perhaps the cruelest blow the APPO and the striking teachers struck against Ulises came during July 2nd 2006 presidential elections. Although URO had promised the long-ruling (77 years - at least in Oaxaca) Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) a million votes for his political godfather Roberto Madrazo, the popular movement inflicted the voto del castigo (punishment vote) against the PRI, handing the state to AMLO's presidential bid in addition to electing both PRD senators and nine out of 11 federal representatives to the new congress for the first time ever.

The left party seemed positioned to bump Ruiz again in 2007 by taking the state legislature and neutralizing the tyrannical governor's clout. But instead of rewarding the APPO and Section 22 for having dumped the PRI in 2006, the party has responded by excluding activists from its candidate lists.

"If, at one time, there was hope that elections could provide a solution to the conflict, exclusion of the APPO has canceled them," writes Luis Hernandez Navarro who follows Oaxaca closely for the national daily La Jornada.