Sunday, February 11, 2007

Oaxaca Update: ¡La APPO Vive!

The Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca Lives!

"Reorganize Ourselves to Win!"
APPO web banner announcing this weekend's Statewide Assembly

Here are two reflections/updates that came over the Oaxaca Study Action Group listserve today (and now, Tuesday, 13th as well!) from Nancy Davies, writer of Narco News' first book "The People Decide: Oaxaca's Popular Assembly"...and her partner, George Salzman, has just posted his introduction to that book...oh, and Marcos has released a new communique...and a communique has also been released by the Good Government Council and seven autonomous town councils of the Altos de Chiapas zone Caracol "Heart Center of the Zapatistas in Front of the World".

Here are Nancy's latest, insightful thoughts direct from Oaxaca:

Sunday, February 11th
...If you look outside Oaxaca city, there are dozens of towns in turmoil, because of either PRI crooks uncovered (more likely always known but now confronted), town governments overturned, or schools still held by the PRI Section 59 [government-created teacher's union]. There is a fierce struggle going on in some towns, with literal fighting. Several towns have declared their return to usos y costumbres. A few hundred teachers are still in prison.

The Isthmus is in an uproar over the wind farms. They were "rented" by intermediaries who gave the local owners next to nothing (100 pesos annually per hectare) and then turned around and rented the land to the transnationals at hefty prices. These exemplars of neoliberalism are making grand profits while the local people are left behind. Consciousness now is on the rise, and the struggle to rewrite the contracts is underway.

Autonomy was declared by a collection of Triqui towns. The Costa formed an asamblea. There is a vital movement underway for establishing more community radios.

This weekend the APPO [Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca] is meeting, while other APPO activists are in Mexico City or the USA or Europe or somewhere, getting the support they need. The biggest decision has to do with how to approach the elections. If the APPO can't clean out the PRI this year, then when?

1. What will URO [Ulises Ruiz Ortiz, PRI Governor of Oaxaca] do to prevent the ouster of the PRI in August (state legislature) and October (mayoral) elections? I shudder to think. This is a man who permits the police (not the Federal riot control nor the state riot control, but the local police) to wrap their clubs in barbed wire.

PRI operatives right now are reported to be out in the small towns giving away cement or food, in other words, buying votes. The campaign to vote the PRI out will be seminal, keeping in mind that Oaxaca has never achieved a division of powers between the legislature, executive and judicial branches; and furthermore, those three branches have been dominated exclusively by the PRI. Nor has Oaxaca ever had a law of transparency so that millions of pesos are ripped off each year by caciques who enrich themselves while the towns starve for resources.

If the PRI can be defeated at the polls, that may leave Oaxaca freer to make social changes which are essential and within the power of the state legislature.

2. Essential changes are, however, to a great part dependent on the federal government and the climate of neoliberalism. For example, will the feds allow Oaxaca to "take back" ownership of its natural resources? A good example is the transnational occupation of the Isthmus by eolic generators which produce electricity for transnational profit -not local-, mentioned above. Another is the use of water by Coca-Cola. The water to profit (and some claim that the water is not treated for minerals, etc.) is not quite free to Coke, but is in short supply for local peoples. Other concerns are mining, manufacturing of paper products (Kimberly-Clark), etcetera. The use of natural resources and labor is not benefiting Oaxaqueños whom we know are the second poorest population among the Mexican states.

3. Section 22 of the teachers union is now missing about 5,000 education workers, who went with the PRI and Elba Esther Gordillo. That leaves 65,000, a force to be reckoned with. They have declared themselves for the APPO – and for participating in the marches, etcetera. The marches are not as important as what the teachers can achieve in their towns.

4. If the APPO succeeds in helping the PRI to lose, will it achieve status as a voice to be reckoned with? Or will the public heave a sigh of relief and let go their indignation? Will a new state legislature deliver on a PRD promise to oust URO? The APPO is set to back FAP [Wide Progressive Front] candidates, which might be a nice alternative, but are we so naïve as to suppose that those politicians will not be corrupted? Nope, we're not.

5. If the PRI loses big-time, what will the position of the PAN (nationally as well as locally) then be? And will such a defeat buy the APPO time to move on other issues beyond getting Ruiz thrown out? Ruiz is so tiny a part of the problem!

6. An important question is how to enhance the Oaxacan economy to allow everyone to survive without migrating.

A campaign is underway (once again) to lure tourists, this taking place while the newspapers are filled with photos of razor wire, attacks dogs, mounted riot police, etcetera. Not an attractive destination! Tourism is of little or no interest outside of Oaxaca City, Puerto Escondido and Huatulco. It doesn't effect enough of the general population to be significant as a true economic engine. What is really significant is channeling the profits from natural resources to the local economy, and allowing the local peoples to proceed with sustainable agriculture and small businesses. That is to say, local control.

Tuesday, February 13th
The APPO meeting…ultimately came to consensus at five am, (or by another account at 7 am) after all-night participative debate. The decision is that the APPO itself will not run candidates nor become a political party. Any individuals who choose to offer themselves as candidates from whatever parties may do so; however if such a person is a member of the APPO Consejo (council) s/he will have to resign that position. In other words, the APPO stays true to its original intention to be all inclusive and not a political party.

The punishment vote is ON, hopefully with results as good as those achieved last July. Those of you who are following events (and spreading the word) should be alert to assassinations and arrests. They are inevitable. Don't be fooled by stories like we saw today, which is basically Triquis shoot Triquis. Not so. PRI-allied Triquis shot APPO-allied Triquis, this taking place in the context of the new autonomous Triqui municipality which will certainly vote against the PRI.

I for one am extremely pleased with the APPO decision. Corruption around here is like mold in your bathroom. The APPO wisely can minimize that by staying true to the populace, and working in open meetings to decide the positions it wants to espouse.

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