Oaxaca - look what's going down

(Just a letter I sent to a bunch of unfortunate people on my e-mail list.)
In a state in Mexico with little money, and not much of that going to public services, teachers hold their annual strike for better wages and against the imposition of fees on children who go to school.

The state government is less tractable this year, and has police attack the teacher's encampment on the zocalo in Oaxaca.  The teachers, without guns, repel this attack.

A huge, loose network of popular groups pledge solidarity with the teachers, and the central demand of the movement - a demand supported by the majority of people in the state - becomes the resignation or removal of the corrupt governor.

At the same time, they begin setting up new forms of self-government, many directly based on or inspired by indigenous forms of local self-government, and creating a democratic coalition called the APPO, to push for broad changes in state and local government to begin respecting, and meeting the needs, of the population, which is majority indigenous and where many have long been excluded from exercising power and left in poverty.

The state government, while ceasing to function in almost all normal respects, wages a low-intensity dirty war against the rebellious population through police officers in plain clothes and, well, thugs.  They kill at least thirteen people over the course of the half-year since the people's uprising began, and the government ceased to function (while the governor who precipitated the rebellion refuses to leave).  Meanwhile, the protesters, who have put up barricades in the city of Oaxaca to fend off these attacks, kill no one.

A central part of the struggle, from the start, is control of and access to information.  The police destroyed the teacher's small mobile radio station in the initial attack, and student allies soon began broadcasting from a public university.  Supporters of the movement took over a number of government and commercial radio stations, and while state and private security forces have struck back and knocked some stations off the air, the movement is giving voice to a people long excluded from public conversation.

The thirteenth person that the ruling PRI-affiliated attackers kill is an independent, activist journalist from the United States, Brad Will of Indymedia.  Days later, the Mexican federal government sends militarized police into the state.  They do not go after the murderers, but instead use tanks and force to try to dislodge the nonviolent social movements from the city of Oaxaca.  At least one boy is killed by a federal police tear-gas canister.  The people of Oaxaca still hold the zocalo, the city's public space.

What's the box in your living room telling you, if anything?  Do you believe the story sold to you in the newspapers, that this is some sort of evenly-divided internal conflict - does that really ring true, as the struggle continues despite the weight of government against the protesters? - rather than a vast movement of the dispossessed against corrupt and uncaring government?

Reporting on the Drug War & Democracy from Latin America since 2000, the Narco News Bulletin has been reporting from Oaxaca since long before the teacher's strike began, let alone became a revolution.  The U.S. newspapers simply have not had people there, yet they consistently report authoritatively, and always in ways that reinforce entrenched power and exclude the perspective of the powerless.

Please, if you want to understand the situation at all, read Narco News, http://narconews.com/

(Supported by donations to the Fund for Authentic Journalism - http://www.authenticjournalism.org/ )

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About Benjamin Melançon

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Student-on-hold, ex-stocker and failed union agitator, ex-white-collar consultant and now co-founder and developer at Agaric Design Collective, making web sites with open source free software.

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