EPR USED AS PRETEXT FOR MASSIVE REPRESSION IN SOUTHERN MEXICO:

Since the June 28 anniversary of the massacre of a group of peaceful camposinos on their way to a demonstration against clear-cut logging of virgin forest in Guerrero, the Popular Revolutionary Army (EPR) has attacked various police and army installations with astonishing effect. The attacks have occurred in most of the southern states, but have been concentrated in Guerrero, Oaxaca, and the state of Mexico.

In Oaxaca, there have been three major incidents in the last two weeks. Two have occurred on the main highway from Oaxaca city to Guatemala via Tehuantepec, near the city of Tlocalula. The other was in the area around Ocotlan. The second attack near Tlocalula happened in broad daylight, a definite departure from the usual pattern. In no case were any guerrillas killed or captured. In two cases, heavy casualties were taken by the units of state judicial police who were the targets of the EPR attack.

Unable to identify the EPR members (there have been a few dead ones identified, but no live ones), the government of Deodoro Carrasco Altamirano, governer of Oaxaca, has chosen to attack the “presumed base” of the EPR among the peasantry. Whole villages have been put under occupation, and peasant leaders are being rounded up and subjected to beatings and torture. This strategy is meant both a “get tough” stance telling the people that such behavior will not be tolerated, and as an oppportunistic neutralizing of popular opposition and demands for better treatment by the peasantry. It remains to be seen whether or not it will be effective.

Until a few days ago, the side of the zocalo across from the government house was occupied by a hundred or so citizens of Loxicha, a municipio (a “township” area, including several small villages). When the town accountant was identified as one of the EPR killed in the attack on the police in Huatulco, the army and state judiciales came in and started arresting village leaders, destroying houses, and otherwise punishing the villagers whom, they insisted, must have known — it being such a small place — that their neighbors were up to no good. Afraid for their lives, they came to Oaxaca to be visible, and so less likely to be mistreated. They brought their goats and chickens with them. A few days ago, the entire encampment just disappeared in the night. No announcement was made, and no explanation offered.

Loxicha, incidentally, had a unique history: some time ago, they had decided to form their own civil militia, and served notice that they did not want the armed patrols of the state to come in. Those patrols, they said, just robbed and beat innocent householders and never functioned as protectors. All state aid had long ago been cut off in retaliation.

Meanwhile, roundups of leaders of peasant organizations continue under the “presumed EPR” excuse. Jounalists who have been covering the situation have also been harrassed by plainclothes police. Some have been called in for questioning, and some followed. One was kidnapped and held for several hours, and threatened with torture and death before being released.

WHILE TOURIST CANCELLATIONS ARE REACHING EPIDEMIC PROPORTIONS, IT’S STILL SAFE TO COME DOWN:

During Day of The Dead, the Hotel Señorial had over 60 cancellations because of travel agent advisories to stay away. Nonetheless, those who did come had a wonderful time and there were no incidents. The EPR appears to be sticking to its promise to attack only police and military targets.

On the other hand, a little more circumspection is probably warranted. For example, a student in my Orientation to Oaxaca class was at the ruins of Yagul and decided to walk from there to Tlacachuaya, a few miles down the road. He got to the town center about 1 pm and left about a half an hour later, by bus. When the bus got to the main road, it was flooded with troops, fanning out into the fields. The EPR had attacked a police patrol, in a classic drive-by shooting, just after he had passed the spot 30 minutes before. There was lots of gunfire, although no-one was hit. Nonetheless, a few minutes’ difference certainly might have affected how he experienced his visit.

PUERTO ESCONDIDO UPDATE: MORE TOURISTS, MORE EXPATS, MORE OUTLAWS

In a runup to the big International Surfing Contest taking place at the end of this month, P.E. will host a big sportfishing contest this weekend. With first and second prizes a new car in both the sailfish and dorado categories, some of the “biggies” are bringing their fishing yachts and their big wallets to town for a few days of fun and profit.

Meanwhile, a couple of gringos have opened a new language school, teaching both English and Spanish. Located on the steps up from Perez Gasca to the church, the school occupies the first two floors and they live on the top floor. Also opened, a new nightclub in the old disco behind the port captain’s office along the cliff walkway. The new gringo owners promise live music and lots of ambiance.

On the other end (Zicatela beach), Art and Harry’s is up for sale. The Canadian couple who have owned it for ever are burned out and want to cash out. Even further along, at Rockaway, Rocky the owner is back after a four and a half year fight to reclaim his property from a gang of local officials who expropriated it illegally. He is rumored to be broke, and looking for a partner: the place has been stripped.

Reports of armed robbery along the cliff walk have some local residents spooked. Hopefully, the local police will start patrolling more regularly.

CHARITY IS ALIVE AND WELL IN OAXACA:

Last month, two institutions close to the hearts of many expats in this area were the focus of attention and financial reward: the English Language Circulating Library, and Pina Palmera.

The Clubhouse for most of us gringos, and an important cross cultural resource for bilingual Mexicans, the Library provides us with reading material, reliable mail service, and a great gossip pit. This year, two of our members decided to raise funds by holding a rummage sale — the first one in many years. Being an inveterate know-it-all, I intrepidly predicted a net of $50 to $100 usd. To indicate to you who may be new to this newsletter my powers of prognostication: we raised a thousand dollars. First annual? You bet!

Pina Palmera, located on the beach at Zipolite, near Puerto Angel, offers services and support for children and adults who are physically “disadvantaged”. There are scores of residents and outpatients using the facilities of Pina Palmera every day. Teams of workers go out to nearby villages to raise local consciousness about relating to the lame, blind, and otherwise different members of their community. The work they do is prodigious, especially considering the little bit of money they get to do it with. We held a dinner and auction for Pina Palmera. Susana Trilling, local cooking guru, created a cajun repast, assisted by volunteer cooks and waitstaff (almost all local Mexicanos), and fed over 150 people. Rodolfo and Arnulfo Morales (no relation) donated artworks for auction as did many others. There were doorprizes (I got a bottle of brandy). Pina Palmera got a check for $3,000 dollars.

Both these events occurred at the Casa Colonial, a posada owned by gringos without whose hard work and generosity it just wouldn’t have happened. Both events were attended about equally by Mexicans and gringos, who were about equally generous.