Who killed Brad Will? - Page 4

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

Indeed, the barricades gave the Oaxaca struggle the romantic aura of the Paris Commune uprising of 1871 and attracted droves of dreadlocked anarchists to the city.

An uneasy lull in the action gripped Oaxaca on Oct. 1, when Will arrived at the bus terminal, then found himself a cheap room for the night. The break wouldn't last long.

ON THE BARRICADES

Like most non-Mexicans who style themselves as independent reporters, Will had no Mexican media credential and therefore was in the country illegally, working on a tourist visa and susceptible to deportation. To have some credential other than his Indymedia press card to hang around his neck, he got himself accredited with Section 22 and wore the rebel ID assiduously.

On Oct. 14, APPO militant Alejandro García Hernández was cut down at a barricade near Símbolos Patrios, a downtown plaza. Will joined an angry procession to the Red Cross hospital where the dead man had been taken.

In the last dispatch he filed from Oaxaca, on Oct. 16, Will caught this very Mexican whiff of death: "Now [García Hernández lies] waiting for November when he can sit with his loved ones on the day of the dead and share food and drink and a song ... one more death — one more martyr in a dirty war — one more time to cry and hurt — one more time to know power and its ugly head — one more bullet cracks the night."

The dynamic in Oaxaca had gotten "sketchy," Will wrote to Neary. Section 22 leader Enrique Rueda Pacheco had cut a deal with the outgoing Fox government and forced a back-to-work vote Oct. 21 that narrowly carried amid charges of sellout and payoffs. If the teachers went back to work, the APPO would be alone on the barricades and even more vulnerable to Ruiz's gunmen. But backing down was not in the assembly's dictionary, and the APPO voted to ratchet up the lucha (struggle) and make Oaxaca really ungovernable.

Mobile brigades were formed — young toughs armed with lead pipes and nail-studded boards who hijacked buses still running in the city, forced the passengers off, and rode around looking for action. Later the buses would be set afire. Charred hulks blossomed on the streets of the old colonial city. The barricades were reinforced to shut down the capital beginning Oct. 27.

The escalation proved to be a terrible miscalculation. In Mexico City the postelectoral turmoil had finally subsided, and PAN was ready to deal with the PRI; bailing out the governor of Oaxaca was the PRI's price of admission.

It wasn't a good time for inexperienced foreigners. Ruiz's people were checking the guest lists at the hostels for "inconvenient" internationals. Immigration authorities threatened extranjeros with deportation if they joined the protests. The local US consul, Mark Leyes, warned Americans that he would not be able to help them if they got caught up in the maelstrom.

Adding to this malevolent ambiance, a new pirate station popped up Oct. 26. Radio Ciudadana (Citizens' radio) announced it was broadcasting "to bring peace to Oaxaca" and to celebrate the honor of "our macho, very macho governor." The announcers seemed to have Mexico City accents. Wherever they had been sent from, they let loose with a torrent of vitriolic shit — stuff like "We have to kill the mugrosos [dirty ones] on the barricades." The extranjeros, the radio said, were stirring up all the trouble: "They pretend to be journalists, but they have come to teach terrorism classes."

More frightening was this admonition: "Si ves un gringo con cámara, matanlo!" — "If you see a gringo with a camera, kill him!"

This poison spewed out of local radios all day Oct. 26 and 27, but whether Will heard the warnings — and if he did, whether knew what they meant — is unclear.