In Oaxaca, Questions Abound About 11/25 Fires

During the battle for control of Oaxaca on November 25, fires damaged a hotel, comsumed cars, and gutted government offices.  Few doubt that protesters armed with molotov cocktails were responsible for some of the blazes.  But many Oaxacans are asking questions about who really started the fires that destroyed offices housing key records of the administration of Gov. Ulisses Ruiz.
Mario (not his real name) owns a restaurant in the Zocalo.  He has lost a lot of business during the six month uprising in Oaxaca and places the majority of the blame squarely on a government that left the state's poor majority with no other way to demand their rights.  Still, he thinks the APPO (Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca) is guilty of its own excesses.  But he doesn't believe they were the ones who set fire to the courthouse and other government buildings on November 25.

"I believe [Governor Ulises Ruiz] is responsible for a few of the burnings of the buildings, he said,  "The government buildings were made of concrete.  Molotov cocktails don't cause that kind of damage."

Such theories abound in Oaxaca.  And Sara Mendez of the Oaxacan Network in Defense of Human Rights believes that there is good reason for suspicion.  According to Mendez,

"The burnings of many of the buildings [on the 25th] were not burnings that would benefit the APPO at all but rather burnings that contained records that would reveal the details of corruption."

Those details likely included the illegal transfer of state funds to the campaign of presidential candidate Roberto Madrazzo.

No concrete evidence has emerged to prove exactly who set the fires.  The state and federal governments have closed the case -- but according to independent journalist John Gibler, the people currently being held on arson charges in the federal prison in the distant state of Nayarit were detained before the fires started.

It is unlikely the investigation will ever be reoppened.  Ruiz's Party of the Institutional Revolution (PRI) controls the judiciary and the office of the attorney general in Oaxaca.  And at the federal level, President Felipe Calderon and his National Action Party (PAN) depend on an alliace with the PRI to maintain power.  

But Oaxacans will continue demanding the truth.

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Sean Donahue is a poet, healer, activist, and freelance journalist wandering through New England.