Who killed Brad Will? - Page 2

And why has the murder of an American journalist in Mexico gone unpunished?
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photo by Raul Estrella for El Universal

But using outlets like Indymedia, he — like Wolf, who spent seven months in prison to avoid giving the police a copy of his video outtakes — represented part of the future of journalism.

Will's journey to the land where he would die began right after Sept. 11, 2001. Dyan Neary, then a neophyte journalist, met Will in a South Street skyscraper elevator coming down from the WBAI studios from which Amy Goodman broadcast soon after the terrorist attacks.

"We walked down the piles. They were still smoking," Neary remembered in a phone call from Humboldt County. "We were both really scared. We thought this was not going to be resolved soon. Maybe never. So we thought we should go to Latin America, where people were still fighting."

Will and Neary spent most of 2002 and 2003 roaming the bubbling social landscape of Latin America. In Fortaleza, Brazil, they confronted the director of the Inter-American Development Bank during riotous street protests. They journeyed to Bolivia too and interviewed Evo Morales, not yet the president. They traveled in the Chapare rainforest province with members of the coca growers' federation. They hung out in Cochabamba with Oscar Olivera, the hero of the battle to keep Bechtel Corp. from taking over that city's water system. Everywhere they went, they sought out pirate radio projects and offered their support.

In February 2005, Will was in Brazil, in the thick of social upheaval, filming the resistance of 12,000 squatters at a camp near the city of Goiânia in Pernambuco state, when the military police swept in, killing two and jailing hundreds. On his videos, you can hear the shots zinging all around him as he captured the carnage. Will was savagely beaten and held by the police. Only his US passport saved him.

Undaunted by his close call, Will picked up his camera and soldiered back through Peru and Bolivia, and when the money ran out, he flew back to New York to figure out how to raise enough for the next trip south. He was hooked. In early 2006, drawn like a moth to flame, he was back, tracking Subcomandante Marcos and the Zapatistas' Other Campaign through the Mayan villages on Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula.

In the spring of 2006, Will was back in New York as he tracked the Other Campaign and the incipient rebellion in Oaxaca on the Internet from his room in Williamsburg. (The rent gougers had forced him out of the Lower East Side.) He was poised to jump south again, friends say, but was worried that he would just be one more white guy getting in the way.

In the end, the lure of the action in Oaxaca pulled him in. He bought a 30-day ticket, caught the airport shuttle from Brooklyn to John F. Kennedy International Airport, and flew south Sept. 29. His return was set for Oct. 28. He never made that flight.

THE COMMUNE OF OAXACA

A mountainous southern Mexican state traversed by seven serious sierras, Oaxaca is at the top of most of the nation's poverty indicators — infant mortality, malnutrition, unemployment, and illiteracy. Human rights violations are rife. It's also Mexico's most indigenous state, with 17 distinct Indian cultures, each with a rich tradition of resistance to the dominant white and mestizo overclass. Oaxaca vibrates with class and race tensions that cyclically erupt into uprising and repression.

The Party of the Institutional Revolution, or PRI, ruled Mexico from 1928 to 2000, the longest-running political dynasty in the world. The corrupt organization was dethroned by the right-wing National Action Party (PAN) and its picaresque presidential candidate, Vicente Fox, former president of Coca Cola México.

But in Oaxaca, the PRI never lost power. While voters were throwing off the PRI yoke all over the rest of the country, in Oaxaca one PRI governor had followed another for 75 years.