Desperate Oaxaca Seeks Change in 2010
An Alliance of all Other Political Parties Might Defeat the PRI
By Nancy Davies
Commentary from Oaxaca
September 30, 2009
When last we heard from Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO), he was trekking through the usos y costumbres municipalities of Oaxaca, about 400 of them PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party) controlled by caciques threatening to shoot him. AMLO was kissing babies. With him were two senators from Oaxaca: Gabino Cue and Salmon Jarra. Photo-op of AMLO: he stands in front of a statue Ricardo Flores Magón, anarchist hero of pre-revolutionary Oaxaca, who died in Leavenworth prison courtesy of the USA.
In Act Two we learn that pre-election maneuvering, for the 2010 election for Governor of Oaxaca, his risen like a hot air balloon. What’s going on? Cue, of the Convergencia party who was robbed of his governorship win by Ulises Ruiz’s vote counting, is probably the candidate. He is endorsed by AMLO. While AMLO states his moral repugnance to a coalition involving the National Action Party (PAN), possibly because it stole his presidential win, he leads the movement for the transformation of Mexico and its institutions. At nine months out from the Oaxaca election for governor AMLO invites the citizens to vote on July 14 for a governor “of good and honest feelings”, no mention of a coalition, but Cue stands beside him.
The population of Oaxaca has been screwed by the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) for so long — more than 70 years — that even the dullest mind has sharpened. Corruption pervades every aspect of government. The governor controls all the branches, commissions, courts, licenses, transportation, etc. Poor rural people cast votes in return for food and supplies, the income for Oaxaca —90% of it sent directly from the federal government— vanishes with nary a trace, and the state’s level of income-producing development is last among the 31 Mexican states — or it was, until the current recession in which Oaxaca rose to second from the bottom, not because of more income, but because the state above it on the list collapsed. The Oaxaca PRI has achieved economic, judicial, political and social catastrophe. The population wants a change, “a transition to democracy”, which in other words means ousting the sole party ever to hold power in this state.
One way to do that is revolution. Few favor that option. So an alternative lies in how to wrest political control from the Oaxaca PRI. As politicians as well as citizens grow desperate, every ideological difference has been placed on hold while the wheeler-dealers sit down like lions with lambs to chat with civil society and one another.
The National Council of the PRD (that’s the Democratic Revolutionary Party, AMLO’s party, which now ignores him) includes in its electoral strategy for 2010-2012 a possible alliance with the National Action Party (PAN) in Oaxaca, Puebla and Veracruz, and/or with the PRI in Tlaxcala. Call it “Alliance Madness”, because parties with nothing in common (well, corruption) are determined to get the PRI out, or as the PRD stated in its national council meeting, “win the governorship with a Broad Opposition Front.” No details forthcoming, but it’s early. Strategic objectives is the key phrase, with hopefully some citizen-input platform.
The alliance between the PAN and the PRD in Oaxaca has summoned all the PRI demons from hell screaming in chorus. Those two parties (plus the smaller parties including Convergencia, Workers Party, Green Party and Communist Party), wildly opposite in ideologies, oppose Governor Ulises Ruiz, (URO) who will designate his chosen heir. Breaking the PRI becomes urgent because probably URO’s choice will be a man commonly referred to as “the diabolical doll, el Chucky”. In addition, the PAN-PRD alliance as a strategy has awakened national party leaders to the possibility of halting power of the PRI in 2010 in the ten states which will elect governors. That in turn will diminish the staging ground for launching a PRI presidential return to power in 2012.
The PRI is favored in the majority of those ten states including the two now governed by the PAN, Tlaxcala and Aguascalientes, because no matter what the polls claim, President Felipe Calderon’s party has not saved the economy. Mexico is hurting. Therefore, the alliance in Oaxaca, ignoring the moral objection of AMLO, proceeds. No party alone can wrest political control from the PRI. The Oaxaca alliance seems necessary even if, on the national level, it is another mad game because nationally the PAN depends on the PRI for support in the Mexican congress.
However, one can look at Oaxaca as the laboratory for how to form an alliance which can be replicated in other states with the goal of avoiding being squashed by PRI machinery. Their machine is truly omnipresent and omni-powerful; AMLO claims that former president and crook Carlos Salinas de Gortari has returned to Mexico to run the PRI’s return to presidential power. The “feudal gentlemen of the PRI” as an ex-PAN leader named them, control Mexico, except for a golden crown.
Citizen Forum for the Transition to Democracy
D.R. 2009 – Nancy Davies
Now we inquire, regarding Oaxaca, whatever became of civil society? Welcome to the Citizen Forum for the Transition to Democracy. Forums (Foro Ciudadano Por la Transición Democrática de Oaxaca) began in September in the city, and were sparsely attended; by the time I went almost 200 others participated. It was the fourth one, held the evening of Monday September 21. These forums may serve as alternatives for civil society members who don’t march or blockade. They can participate by offering opinions and ideas. What actually happens, is preparation not for democracy (although we hope for it) but for the required pre-election political alliances, not easy to swallow.
Indeed, I had trouble swallowing it. Many honorable people whom I trust, such as Victor Raul Martinez Vasquez, and Eduardo Bautista, both from the Autonomous University Benito Juarez de Oaxaca, and civil organizations such as EDUCA, CAMPO, LIMEDH, Consortium for Parliamentary Dialogue and certain others, have publicly championed the idea that alliance is the only route open for Oaxaca. They are breaking ground gently, but doing it.
This forum was called “Economy and sustainable development”. Ruben Mujica, the economist, presented some interesting information: for example, nothing economically has changed in Oaxaca during the past thirty years; the federal government consistently provides 90% of the state’s income. The issue of water may be not about water but a problem of inadequate and failing infrastructure. Young men leave the state for lack of employment, food production receives little or no assistance, no industrial capacity exists (we were told that Queretaro has 14 industrial parks, Oaxaca has one, half empty); education does not prepare youngsters for modern technologies; environmental laws go unenforced, remittances have been used to support families but not for productive investment.
The former candidates for senate present were Luis Ugartechea Begné (PAN); and Maurilio Mayoral García (PRD) who sat in the audience. Othón Cuevas (current PRD delegate) also sat in the audience, and he’s another man I have thought of as being decent, despite his political post.
CAMPO leader Eduardo Torres, seated on the panel, made no specific proposals. To summarize all the statements: we need development. Citizens were given time to speak from the floor. No indigenous people were present, and to my eye, no campesinos. It was an urban exercise in coalition building, in the very urban setting of the Law School’s Paranínfo Auditorium.
Other forums: Social Well-being, Monday September 28; Gender and Women’s Rights, Monday October 5; Indian Peoples and Intercultural behaviors, October 11 up in the Sierra Norte in Guelatao; and Strengthening the Public Treasury in Municipalities and Hamlets. According to Marcos Leyva of EDUCA, future forums will take place out of the city, where different local organizations must be convinced. Leyva indicated they are not yet speaking of proposals for specific projects beyond a constitutional revision, but they are presenting the absolute need for an alliance to beat the PRI. As Eduardo Bautista said, “Understanding the alliance in this way is important, because we are not talking about changing one group for another, but raising the collective consciousness to the idea that it is possible to mount an opposition to whatever government. It’s necessary, in a state stunned by historic abuses and outrages which authorities have made `normal´ in daily life.” He added that ideological disagreements are clear, for example, abortion was just made illegal in Oaxaca because of the PAN-PRI right-wing. Eventual proposals will include citizen ideas.
What about the teachers from Section 22 of the National Union of Education Workers (SNTE)? They hold a key. I think less so in the case of the APPO. The teachers showed their clout in the election of 2006 by calling for the “punishment vote”, when the PRI lost nine of eleven federal seats. Since his election as Secretary General of Section 22 one year ago, Azael Santiago Chepi has promised to respond to both teacher and social concerns. On September 26 , 2008 in the Oaxaca zócalo he stated, “Today the bases have placed me at this crisis point to make real their aspirations, which are also mine.” Along with difficult blockades and strikes, Section 22 also sends out information brigades to many towns, such as San Jose del Progreso where Canadian mining threatens to disrupt the environment. Also, 22 has managed to obtain freedom for some political prisoners, has paid legal fees to keep others out of jail, and has managed to achieve the ousting from power of authorities implicated in the August 2009 shooting of a teacher in San Pedro Jicayán. According to reporter Veronica Villalvazo writing for Noticias, the government has not (up until now) managed to corrupt Section 22 leadership. For the past three years the demand has held to get URO out : “the objective of this struggle is to repudiate the government of Ulises Ruiz, there are not and won’t be traitorous deals with the government of the state…”, said Chepi.
It is possible that PRI members of the medium range — not the big chiefs — will abandon URO’s repugnant choice to succeed him, and at the same time let go of PRI monolithic authoritarianism. It would be hard to find another candidate more repugnant than El Chucky, the one responsible for the attack of June 14, 2006, and probably the death squads which followed. Meanwhile, on the street I ran into Emeterio Marino Cruz, the teacher bashed nearly to death by cops in July 2007. I asked him about the teachers’ position toward a PAN alliance. He smiled and nodded.
 Chihuahua, Sinaloa, Durango,Tamaulipas, Veracruz, Puebla, Oaxaca, Aguascalientes, Tlaxcala and Zacatecas
 By permitting so much in-fighting, plus the opportunism of Flavio Sosa, much credibility has been forfeited
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