DISSIDENT LABOR PRODUCES STRONG SHOWING IN MAY DAY DEMOS:

As the trumpeted “two million” attendees failed to materialize on May Day, dwindling to only “hundreds of thousands” according to most newspapers, the non-PRI unionists of the Independent labor movement sent a rocket to the traditionally pro-boss CTM.

Bussed in from all over the country, and paid the traditional 250 pesos for their trouble, the PRIistas marched to the Z¢calo, listened to their leaders and President Zedillo, and were gone by 10:00 a.m. The dissidents took three hours to march past, according to one source, and no-one paid them to be there. Even though they are said to represent “only” 1.5 million workers, compared to the CTM’s 5.5 million, they apparently fielded at least as many marchers.

FINALLY, OUR GOV’T PUSHES FOR NAFTA LABOR REFORM IN MEXICO:

Embarrassed by reports of assassinations of organizers and immediate dismissal of independent union members in the Maquiladora corridor below our southern border, and unable to remain quiet in the face of reports that a duly organized and elected union at one plant in Baja was declared illegal by the governor of that state, the U.S. Department of Labor could not avoid a long-delayed filing with the NAFTA labor commission charging Mexico with violating the NAFTA accords.

The reaction of the Mexican government was both swift and predictable. The Mexican ministry of labor and the foreign minister issued statements deploring the interference of the US in the internal affairs of Mexico.

THE RED, WHITE AND GREEN STILL WAVES FOR THE PRI:

In a country where nationalism has been raised to the level of hysteria (what did that guy say about patriotism being the last refuge of scoundrels?), and where an estimated 40% of the rural poor are functionally illiterate, symbols – particularly the national colors – take on a great deal of significance. The symbol of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) is a case in point.

The PRI has, for the nearly seventy years of its existence, used the colors of the national flag as its own – as why should they not, since for almost all that time, they were, for all intents and purposes, the State. Lately though, as more and more of them end up in jail or in exile, and fewer and fewer of them stay bought, the ranks of the opposition are growing. The opposition now controls the national Chamber of Deputies, several governorships, and the administration of Mexico City.

On the first of May, the deputies passed a resolution calling for the PRI to change its colors. Using the national colors as their own gives them an unfair advantage, say the dissidents. The PRD’s are yellow and black; the PAN’s blue and white.

No way, the PRI cried. We have the majority in the Senate, and we are going to keep what we have. And they certainly shall, as long as they can. In spite of their rhetoric to the contrary, they too understand the advantage of doing so.

The interesting thing about this, from my point of view, is how far the opposition have come in the last ten years. Before 1988 (before the PRD), a chamber in which the PRI were in the minority was unthinkable.

STATE DEPARTMENT GETS IT WRONG AGAIN:

In the face of all the violent crime going on in MexCity and a few other places in the country, the State Department advisory issued on April 30 seems downright silly. US citizens are urged to use “caution” in the capital, but “extreme caution” in Chiapas. This in spite of the fact that NO-ONE who wasn’t actively engaged with the Zapatistas has been reported harmed in Chiapas recently, and the biggest danger appears to be forcible deportation by the immigration authorities.

NEW HOTEL IN ZIPOLITE IS GETTING RAVE REVIEWS:

Travelers returning from the coast say that the Brisas Marina , a new three story hotel right down on the beach in Zipolite, owned by Dan Weiner, a gringo from the US, is a fine place. Constructed with a concrete frame fleshed out with wooden walls and appointments, it features about a dozen rooms with bath, and approximately the same number without. One friend who stayed there said he paid about 100 pesos for a double with bath. For more info, their fax/phone is (958) 43070.

WORLD ATTENTION FOCUSING MORE STRONGLY ON CHIAPAS:

On about the third of this month, a group of 134 Italian leftists, many of whom are members of the Italian parliament, and including the chair of the committee charged with reporting on and reporting to the European Union the mood and desires of their country, arrived in Mexico. They came in on FM-3 visas, with the understanding that they were here as human rights observers and fact finders.

On about the 5th, the Interior Ministry informed them that there were certain villages, among which were specifically named Tierra y Libertad and Venustiano Carranza, recently dismantled by the Zedillo government because they had declared themselves “autonomous” that were off limits. On the sixth, their buses rolled up to a roadblock outside Taniperlas, a village on the road to Venustiano Carranza, where they were informed by Migraci¢n authorities that only five of their number would be allowed to pass “for security reasons”. The delegates got off their buses, and walked around the vehicles which were blocking the road. Their spokesperson declared the whole business absurd, since they had already spent time in “rebel held” villages and found them safe and hospitable.

When asked why they were so adamant about seeing those particular villages, he replied that rumors abounded that there were up to 120 women being held as hostages in their houses by PRI elements, and that they were determined to see for themselves.

The government said that this action was regarded as a provocation, and that immediate mass expulsion could result. In fact, they were allowed to complete their stay, but then barred for life from returning to Mexico.

On the 7th, a group of Canadian parliamentarians announced that they are also planning to come down and have a look see. The government said that they would be free to travel without restriction. So far, their visit has been uneventful.

On the 8th, the Immigration authorities announced a new set of qualifications for foreign observers, designed, they said, to prevent the sort of incident that the Italians provoked. Among the new rules is that applicants must have acted as observers in the past, and that a copy of the report issued as a result of that observation must be submitted with the application.

WE ARE NOT IMMUNE TO EL NIÑO:

This has been a terrible Spring, weather-wise. The rain is late, the skies are gray with dust and particulates, everyone is sneezing and it’s been too hot for too long. One day last week it rained for five minutes, and for the next two days thereafter the sky was clear, the air fresh, and everyone’s spirits soared. We wait, and watch, and pray for rain.