|English | Español||January 19, 2017 | Issue #43|
PFP Occupation of Oaxaca Reveals Growing Polarization Within the Populace
A “March for Peace” in Support of Embattled Governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz Exposes the Existence of a Deep Seated Economic and Social Divide
By James Daria
Photos: D.R. 2006 James Daria
The march left the “fountain of the seven regions” in the north of the city at eleven o’clock in the morning. Labeled as a so-called “march for peace,” the protesters, dressed in white, chanted slogans in support of the governor and against the magisterial and popular movement. These protesters welcomed the entrance of the Federal Preventive Police (PFP) as a step in restoring law and order in a city which, according to them, has been kidnapped by violent and radical groups.
The march for peace was organized by supporters of the governor and his political party, the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). The announcement of the event was widely disseminated through Ruiz’s very own pirate radio station, Citizen Radio (99.1 FM), an attempt to use the opposition movement’s own tactics against them. Many prominent local families and politicians loyal to the party could be identified among the marchers. The march arrived at El Llano Park and where a meeting was held in support of the governor. The crowd chanted slogans very similar to those common among the opposition. “Ulises don’t give up, the people will rise up” and, “APPO get out” were some common phrases. Support for the corporate mass media was also expressed as one protester carried a sign that claimed that only TV Azteca tells truth.
While the majority of the marchers disbanded at Llano Park, many continued on to the Zócalo where the Federal Preventive Police welcomed them with opened arms. Until today, the PFP maintained a tight cordon of riot police approximately a two block distance from the central plaza. Today, however, the police did not wear their protective clothing or carry their shields and clubs. The people were free to walk into the square and chat freely with the police, seemingly part of a kind of public relations campaign on behalf of the police to assure that they are in Oaxaca to restore order and cleanliness to the city. They have done an impressive job of cleaning up the city center since the occupation of the Zócalo by federal forces. The normal graffiti covered walls have been cleaned or painted over and the tents and stalls of both protest groups and vendors have been torn down and disposed of. On the south side of the Zócalo a family of poor street vendors was trying to recollect the remnants of their booth which unfortunately was found crushed by a burnt out car, a result of when the police dismantled the barricades that had surrounded the square.
One of the most important aspects of the social conflict in Oaxaca is the war of ideas and how to disseminate them to the masses. The corporate media normally shows a bias in favor of the government and business leaders. While radio has become the major means of communication for the popular movement, the start of a clandestine radio station by the Oaxacan government is a clear example of the current battle of information in the city. The printed press is no exception, as it is divided into two major daily newspapers. El Imparcial is clearly biased towards the PRI and the Oaxacan government, where as Noticias is clearly biased towards the center-left Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) and the social movements represented by the teachers union and the APPO. The war of information is not just about disseminating the truth, but also about influencing the hearts and minds of the populace. Hatred and distrust is being sowed among the populace and has lead to a situation in which no one can trust one another. The role of the media in spreading lies, rumors and disinformation on both sides of the political spectrum has much to do with this.
While the battle for the streets of Oaxaca quietly simmers and physical confrontation is minimized, the struggle for the identity of Oaxacan people still remains in this highly stratified society. The existence of a widespread popular social movement against a supposedly corrupt and brutal political regime can be either demonized or romanticized depending on the perspective of the individual. However, the polarization and confrontation that exists between the citizens themselves cannot be denied. The social conflict in Oaxaca has already seen numerous deaths, and the further polarization of Oaxacan, and possibly national, society could spill over into a situation similar to a civil war if the deep seated problems underlying the conflict are not only confronted, but solved. The presence of the Federal Preventive Police has brought a semblance of law and order to Oaxaca, but has done nothing to address the roots of the social unrest which is still simmering, and seems likely to explode all the time.
- The Fund for Authentic Journalism