Oaxaca, the end (so far)

Update: We managed to smuggle the punk rocker, who had been hiding at my youth hostel over night, on a second class bus to Mexico DF. There was just one police check point on the way, and they did not get suspicious when he said he was going to DF, while moaning and generally seeming disinterested in them.

The Federal Police (PFP) reaching the entrance of the Autonomous University of Oaxaca
The Federal Police (PFP) reaching the entrance of the Autonomous University of Oaxaca

As anyone who has been in any kind of confrontations of scale can witness, uncertainty and rumours tend to take over as sources of news, as newspapers are used mainly to distribute lies that are meant to support one or the other side. And although I have known that from various confrontations in Europe, it never reached the intensity it has here.
In the last this has only grown. The events of Saturday scared most foreigners away from the university, and the camp in front of Santa Domingo was permanently destroyed. Effectively that has meant that foreign news CAN NOT have any real source of news, and whatever you read in them MUST BE made up or copied from those Mexican papers who have a part in the conflict themselves (La Jornada probably being the best source nevertheless).
Three of us stayed until the end though, and because the others do not write, this should be the last (foreign) report from the university camp.
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Oaxaca, how to fight a battle and loose…

Update: All of those we had believed to be lost ended up being well and alive, living at the university. The three guys who had placed their stuff at my hostel had just been too scared to go back into town and Irma turned out to have moved to another part of the university.

For some of the activists here, the only way of “winning” in Oaxaca is not by throwing out the governor, but by actually evicting the police from the Zocalo physically. And even if they do not have a majority in the APPO assembly, they still pursue that goal.
This is how I experienced the battle here three days ago, that was “lost” (given the above criteria for winning) by the APPO.

On the morning of Friday November 25th, I arrived back in Oaxaca from Mexico, DF. Although there had been a minor confrontation with some 5x demonstrators hurt here on Monday November 20th, generally everything looked like before I left this place on Sunday the 19th. I found a youth hostel close to the Santa Domingo church, with only a French crack addict living there besides me, and went down to the square in front of the church. There I met the 20 year old punk rocker and two of his friends, one of whom at least was a student. They had been on a free APPO bus from Mexico DF that night, and it wasn’t the first time: “I’ve been taking nine tours down here so far,” Abdul, a student of middle eastern cultural studies (but without family links to the Middle East), told me.

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There is no such thing as a puritanical revolution

Update 2: After receiving further advice, I replaced the word “puritan” with “puritanical”. Thanks!

Update: I received a mail pointing out that Catholicism and Puritanism do not have anything to do with one another. While that is true,and the comment made by Dehm might look odd especially to US American reader’s, it has to be understood in the context that there “Puritans” have no history in Germany and that catholics are generally seen as being more “hard core” Christians — “relative puritanical” you might say.

I remember how a few years ago, when Diether Dehm, at that time running for reelection of vice leader of the Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS), was speaking at the Solid summer camp and commented on the view many radicals have of how a socialist party should be – faultless right from the start: “There is this view, this puritanical view, among many on the left — and with that I don’t only mean among Catholics.” Everybody chuckled, and of course expected that this was nothing more of a excuse for him having been a member of the social democratic party before.

The crowd cheering on AMLO at the Zócalo in Mexico city on November 20th
The crowd cheering on AMLO at the Zócalo in Mexico city on November 20th

Well, and the same thing applies to revolutions or movements. Although I was aware of it before, I really got to see it here in Mexico. If you look at a lot of the US radical press (various indymedia sites), you-ll mostly find a celebration of the events in Oaxaca (anything the protesters have been doing), while the actions by the Party of Democratic Revolution (PRD) on a national scale are renounced as being reformist. The fact that many of the current PRD tops are former members of the Party of the Institutionalized Revolution (PRI), the party that ruled Mexico during the entire cold war, got an American socialist I met at the university to renounce it right to start with: “that tells you right there who the PRD is.” Another activist I met held that the EZLN (Zapatista) movement is anarchist, while the APPO (Oaxacan People’s Popular Assembly) has to be counted as socialist — because “they are a union.”

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Oaxaca — preparing for the battle

While there have not been any ongoing street fights between protesters and police the last days and with the exception of some assaults at Burger King restaurants heavily condemned by the APPO as well as an attack on a protester close to the university Monday morning, the situation in Oaxaca has been all but resolved.

A bus serving as a road block for the protesters.
A bus serving as a road block for the protesters.

While the federal police still sits in the Zócalo, the university is held by the students. No police can be seen anywhere else, so while the APPO does not take over radio stations and the like, it is clear that they are more in control of the situation than the police. And because both sides know that the protesters have won if only they keep at least part of the city until November 20th, when AMLO gains office as “legitimate president”, or even better December 1st, when Felipe Calderon takes office, to create hell for his period from the first day on by forcing him into responsibility for any action by military or federal police after that date.

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Oaxaca — city in unrest

On the afternoon of November 4th, the the bus traffic to Oaxaca city was opened, at least for a while. After finishing my six weeks of Spanish studies in Huehuetenango, I was in San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, and took the first bus here. At 6 in the the morning of the 5th, I have reached the Oaxaca bus station. My first impression is that the streets of Oaxaca are «clean». The Mexican federal police (PFP) hat removed most of the graffiti that had been covering most walls for the past months by painting over it – mostly with paint not matching the houses colors. In the morning the streets are empty as well; with the exception of a handful of tourists who obviously have not understood how serious the situation is.

No-one is going to remove these guys from their Zocalo!
No-one is going to remove these guys from their Zocalo!

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