Catching up:

This edition is a catch-all, dealing with various issues and news items, and housekeeping notices.  No pictures, but not to worry, there will be plenty of those as the year evolves…

The “frequently asked questions” section [ ] has been updated.  I’ve added such things as auto insurance information and some news about the new visa cards and stickers that the migración plans to issue starting on May 1; and updated other items such as the cost of rent.

As well, the “glossary” has undergone a serious update.  This in response to reader complaints that it is sometimes difficult to figure out what I’m talking about when I name a name but don’t explain who or what that is.  Starting with the next Newsletter, I will resume attaching links to names of individuals and institutions where appropriate.  Clicking on the link will take the reader to an expanded description. As time goes on, I will add entries.

I’m working on the page where I list links to information about other destinations in Mexico as well as resources for information on Oaxaca [ ]; and updating the book/cd page [ ].  They should be done in about a week.

All eyes are on July:

Here in Oaxaca, several schemes for getting elected will be tested.  At the top of the list is the race for Governor, where two “coalitions” have been formed.  On the one side (the right?) the PRI and their paid-for lackeys the PVM (who dare to advertise themselves as “ecologists”, “green” in their case standing for money) are running Eviel Pérez Magaña, a toady of current governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz (URO).  Eviel is from the Tuxtepéc area, making him a vecino (neighbor) of URO’s, and all the government positions he has ever held, he got as gifts from URO.

On the other side is Gabino Cué, whose Convergencia party (center-right) has joined with the PRD and the PT (Party of Labor) and – most uncomfortably for all concerned – the PAN (the right-wing party of current President Calderón).  Gabino probably won the last time he ran (against URO) only to have it stolen in the counting booth.

Many – myself included – subscribe to the theory that this election is a sort of stalking horse for the 2012 presidential election, where, unless a coalition of everyone else can be organized and activated, the PRI and their all-but-named candidate Enrique Peña Nieto, currently the governor of Mexico state, will win an easy victory, probably sweeping a long list of PRIista governors, and legislators along with him.

My own prediction is that it won’t work: that trying to get a PANista to vote for a (left-center) PRDista and vice-versa is like herding cats.  Still, it ought to produce some interesting theater along the way…

The PRI is meanwhile plotting its own plots, one of which is to mobilize many of the so-called “radical left” groups to tell everyone to stay home; that there isn’t a nickels worth of difference between Gabino and Eviel.  The “peasant organization” Antorcha Campesina (after decades of taking PRI money and doing the PRI’s bidding in the campo (countryside)) has suddenly (and without much of an explanation) announced that it has divorced itself from the PRI; and is preaching “don’t bother to waste your time voting, they’re all a bunch of buddies from the permanent political over-class”.  So has the Communist party, with their ubiquitous posters of Marx, Engels, Lenin and “uncle Joe” Stalin.  They are the same bunch that tried unsuccessfully to take over the APPO in 2006, ending by fracturing it; and rumors of PRI payoffs always run strong.

To a mind that has a certain affinity for conspiracy theories, the analysis is pretty clear: since the PRI has a guaranteed base of votes that always turns out, the more anti-PRI votes that stay home the more likely it is that the PRI will win.

As to the race for mayor, it appears that all three major parties (PRI, PRD, and PAN) will be running a woman.  I’ll be following this one more closely in the coming months…

Turn up the alert level:

Lately, we have been hearing more about street robberies in Oaxaca.  Purse snatchings, knife-point robberies, etc.  Mostly they seem be victimizing tourists (as opposed to long-term expats) , and the bulk of those are, apparently, young tourists.  These do not appear to be random targets of opportunity, as the robbers lie in wait near hotels and hostels.  One caveat: I have not personally talked to any victims; only to friends of victims; so I have no idea how many precautions they did or did not take.  However, some are from University of Chicago, so one would think their radar is pretty good…

One ex-pat of decades here in Oaxaca recently received a phone call stating “we have xxx and will kill her unless you pay $$$ into this bank account within the next half hour”.  Turns out that xxx had never been in captivity; that it was a telephone scam.  This particular crime wave is normally visited upon local folks, not ex-pats, and the general belief is that she got hit on because she was thought to be a Mexican.

These crimes take a little more organizing.  Telephone numbers have to be obtained as well as knowledge about the victims: name of a friend or relative, some indication that the victim has the wherewithal to pay up, etc.

The Zetas are coming:

The Zetas are ex-special forces soldiers who have defected to sell their services to organized crime as enforcers.  Some have since defected from the gangs to form their own crime syndicates.  They are the most feared of the violent gangs.  Some crimes attributed to them are actually performed by free-lancers who mimic their style, dress, and armament.

Recently, the U.S. Department of State issued yet another travel warning for Mexico.  This one included Oaxaca.  As we have predicted for some time, Oaxaca state is now in the spotlight of the organized crime syndicates looking for new territories to conquer.

On a quiet night in a town near the borders of Oaxaca, Puebla, and Veracruz states, a convoy of “Hummers” variously estimated at six to twelve vehicles, containing from 30 to 70 heavily armed, camouflaged men in ski masks, pulled up to a house and proceeded to slaughter every man, woman and child within.  The house belonged to a notorious organized criminal said to be the head of a gang that makes its living by stealing gasoline from pipelines owned by the State monopoly PEMEX.  When they were done, they got back in their vehicles and drove out to his “rancho”, just out of town, where they repeated the scenario.  Altogether, eight people lost their lives, some of whom were family members and some of whom were local and state policemen acting as protection for the capo.

As the cavalcade drove back out of town, having accomplished its mission, they were challenged by a local police patrol, all of whom were killed.  National police, called in in the aftermath, have no suspects…

Earlier that night, a police patrol traveling down the road between Suchilquitongo and Huitzo in the municipio of Etla, about 20 miles from Oaxaca city, stopped to investigate
a couple of pickups parked about 20 yards off the road, and were subjected to heavy arms fire.  All seven cops were wounded.

Conclusion:  Oaxaca has gone from being as safe as Podunk (where nothing ever happens) to being safer than Des Moines or Fresno.  We can no longer be as smug as we used to be.  Still, when we’re asked, we say “c’mon down… just pay more attention”.

A little factoid to contemplate:

According to government statistics, inflation has increased by 50% since Calderón took office in 2006, while the purchasing power of those who receive the minimum daily wage has fallen by 62%.  Any wonder crime is up?

Coming up:

We’re working on a photo essay on our house and life style; and a longish article on who (some of) our friends are, with photos.