<i>"The Name of Our Country is América" - Simon Bolivar</i> The Narco News Bulletin<br><small>Reporting on the War on Drugs and Democracy from Latin America
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The Communications War in Oaxaca

Governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz Has Lost the Media War


By Nancy Davies
Commentary from Oaxaca

November 7, 2006

The governor of Oaxaca, Ulises Ruiz Ortiz (URO) and his PRI cronies are struggling to prevent accurate information from getting out to the public. And Narco News is doing its best to make all the information known to readers around the globe. It’s long past the days when URO could say, “No pasa nada,” nothing is going on. Now he says, “There’s only one small area blockaded.” And, “this is a minority group,” disregarding the daily reports of confrontations and blockades in every region of the state.


Illustration: D.R. 2006 Latuff
In fact, the broadcast controlled by the PRI forces opposed to the popular assembly movement one (ironically, it is an unlicensed pirate station), mentioned Narco News by name. The call-in format, in imitation of the movement’s Radio Universidad format, encourages people – “citizens” – to call in with their denunciations and comments. One program was dominated by a person who complained that Narco News was… getting out the news. The same certain citizens call in daily with complaints about how the Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca (Asamblea Popular de Pueblos de Oaxaca, APPO) is blocking traffic and inconveniencing them in a dozen ways, including canceling months of the school year and impeding garbage collection.

The ongoing television and radio battle included the capture of radio stations by the popular assembly movement, the creation of barricades, the loss of teachers and students’ stations, various recaptures, the taking and subsequent loss of the sole Oaxaca television station, Channel Nine, by a group of women “cacerolas” from the APPO – a media saga that continues until today.

The current situation is that one radio station in support of the APPO, Radio Universidad, remains on the air – or rather, came back on the air after being attacked on July 22 by the thugs hired by the governor. Once back on the air, however, it faced two attempts to silence it. One was a physical attack, by the Federal Preventative Police on November 2, now known as the Battle of Oaxaca, when the populace came out to the defend the autonomous university in a seven hour struggle against tear gas, chemical water and armed police. The population, with their weapons of rocks and physical bravura, repelled them.

Silencing the radio has not succeeded by force: neither the invasion of the facilities of the university nor shooting up the antenna on the Fortin Hill. That worked once to silence the station, but somehow the students rebuilt. Another attack came on November 4. This recent attack succeeded in making a hole, presently being repaired by technicians as was done before. However, the range of the transmission has been harmed; it no longer reaches the entire city.

When the invasion of the university failed, the PRI supporters launched yet another campaign of static interference on the weakened radio signal. That type of noise was previously used against the other radio stations when they were in APPO hands. Now it’s being used on Radio Universidad. The movement depends on the radio for calls for help (such as when the university was under attack), for summons to the barricades, for announcing rallies, meetings, and marches –in short, for the communications necessary to maintain the struggle. Once again on Monday morning the alarm went out.

The backup however, is that Noticias La Voz de Oaxaca also broadcasts news on a sympathetic commercial radio station, every afternoon.

URO, five months ago, once and for all lost the newspaper war initiated by his predecessor José Murat, who attempted to crudely squash Noticias in a conflict that originally had more to do with private hostility between moneyed men, than political interests. Murat arranged a series of attacks, such as a trumped up worker strike by people who didn’t work at Noticias, and a raid on the storage facilities of the newspapers. Then URO, who succeeded Murat, took over with a shootout at the new newspaper office– the old one is still occupied by “strikers,” a situation which has now dragged on for a couple of years with no legal resolution, because it is not in the interest of URO to permit a resolution. He also is said to have arranged the second raid on the newspaper’s storage facility.

Making an enemy of a newspaper publisher is not the most clever thing to do, and sure enough, Noticias, not formerly especially prone to support social movements, is now the best friend of the Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca (Asamblea Popular de Pueblos de Oaxaca APPO). It reports consistently accurate information – which place URO at a disadvantage.

Furthermore, Noticias is selling out papers because thousands of teachers want to read about themselves and see their actions in photos. URO has done his news nemesis a great financial favor.

Directly following the attack on the teachers’ encampment on June 14, a new paper was born: Toucan, which relies on photo journalism with blazing pictures of the attack, the counterattack, the dozens of marches and various assassinations, including that of Bradley Will. Every photo stands as an homage to the popular assembly movement.

Best of all, La Jornada, the prestigious populist newspaper of Mexico City, runs constant coverage, using electronic bulletins that show up on La Jornada Internet site during the night. The news, if not without bias, is factually accurate, unlike the mainstream papers both in Mexico and the United States, which feature misleading and false reports such as those given by the Associated Press.

In addition, camera and video brigades, of foreign and national journalists, have arrived in force. Everything gets shown, leaving the PRI and URO with no place to hide. Local movement people carry cameras and when an attack is threatened Radio Universidad sends out a call for everybody to come with video cameras and still cameras, to document what is happening –as they did with the June 14 attack on the zocalo. Each helicopter overhead shows up in a photo. URO’s ability to lie about who has the weapons and who shot whom, has been destroyed. Every video and every still, furthermore, finds its way onto the internet, the international news, the national news, the local news –all the way down to the streets where the videos play on screens perched on boxes on the sidewalk, for every passerby to see.

By Monday, the day after the Sixth Megamarch, the videos were being shown along the Andador Turistica, the once-proud pedestrian blocks for shopping and expensive purchases, which extends from Santo Domingo church to the zocalo. The movement videos are updated with every march and every battle, but the old favorite is the government attack of June 14.

The pedestrian area, now occupied by about three thousand movement teachers and supporters, flaunts street art, wall paintings, graffiti, and even sand carpets traditional for the Day of the Dead. Banners and slogans adorn the front of every shop, and the Santo Domingo plaza displays a group of ghosts, in honor of the murdered movement people, with a huge pistol streaming red (ribbon) blood, and URO’s name. URO usually is referred to as an assassin.

If you like music, that’s available too: Hundreds of home-produced CDs carry the music of this movement, and people’s struggles of past years, including everything from teacher strikes to Peruvian worker strikes. The old songs include Casas de Carton (Houses of cardboard), “De Donde Son?” Where are they from? The barricades; and Venceremos (“We will win” ). The newer songs recount as ballads the attack on the teachers in the zocalo, and “Estamos hartos,” we’re fed up with this governor. Oaxaca musicians just keep on writing and singing them. A seemingly endless outpouring of creativity and organization displays the movement at its best, and denigrates URO, a despised man who cannot govern.

URO has lost the media war, and polls now show that even his own PRI party wants him out.

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