GREETINGS FROM THE MINI-APPLE

We’re on vacation. Diana is in California attending to routine medical matters, and I am traveling for a few weeks. Right now, I’m in Minneapolis. The articles I have prepared, below, come from the testimony of “sources” in Oaxaca, and materials that appeared on the Internet. The pictures come from May Day 2003. I took them with Diana’s old digital camera (she just got a newer, smaller, faster one with a higher resolution).

For over 20 years, the May Day parade, held on the Sunday nearest May first, has been organized and decorated by the Heart of the Beast Mask and Puppet Theater, a community based school and theater which is housed in a porno theater that the neighborhood picketed and closed down.

The neighborhood through which the pageant marched has a high number of Mexicans, both immigrant and citizen, with a large contingent of Oaxaquenos. The park where we ended up has, in recent years, been reclaimed from the gangs and narcos that controlled it, through the efforts of the neighbors.

SPRING WEATHER IN OAXACA

The old home town is not a very nice place to be right now. Several forest fires are burning in the mountains, and the ash is blowing into town to add itself to the dirt and grit being lifted from the parched fields by the wind. Temperatures of 40 degrees Celsius (appr. 100 Fahrenheit) are making it slow going. The drought which has persisted for the last few years, combined with the extra water needed to soak the fires, has resulted in very low levels in the reservoirs. This in turn has caused the water district to distribute on a more infrequent basis. If you can, postpone your vacation until June.

OFF-YEAR ELECTION BRINGS OUT GOVERNOR MURAT’S CHARITABLE INSTINCTS

In a big front page splash, the newspaper El Imparcial announced that under the current Governor, Oaxacans are receiving the largest infusion of government and private funding in history, which will bring in twice the amount of money spent on “social services” in this year alone, than his predecessor, Diodoro Carrasco, spent in his entire six years in office.

Remembering my daddy’s favorite adage, “figures don’t lie, but liars figure”, I am taking this startling statistic with a large dose of sodium chloride. For example, included in the “social services” segment is private investment by local bus monopolies TUCDOSA and Choferes del Sur in new buses and regional transportation depots, and a new headquarters for the State Transit Police. Certainly, all this is socially useful – people need better, cleaner, more efficient ways to get around, and more regulation of hectic traffic and licensing – but it is far from what I would consider part of the social services network.

Also cited was construction of new college campuses and medical clinics.

This increase in private investment is primarily due to the increasingly secure business climate in Oaxaca, according to the guv. In the last three years, he said, Oaxaca went from the 26th most secure state (out of 32) to the top three. I have always felt completely safe on the streets of Oaxaca, but did not know how unsafe the other Oaxacans found it. I had noticed the proliferation of police, in various uniforms from the peaceful tourism police to the feared police “specials”. Whether the decrease in violent crime is due to them, or to an increasing reluctance to report crime, or some combination thereof, is beyond my analytical ability.

SPEAKING OF BUSES

A few days ago, there was a head-on crash between two buses on the highway that runs from Nochixtlan to Pinotepa Nacional in the early morning hours. A FPSA second class bus heading for Oaxaca crossed the center line and smashed into an ADO-GL luxury bus coming from Mexico City. Fortunately, only eight people were injured seriously, and only half of them had to remain very long in hospital.

Just another bus crash would not necessarily be very interesting, but disclosures by ADO caught my eye. Seems that ADO – the far and away most major carrier of first class passengers south of Mexico City – carries no insurance to cover injuries to passengers on its bus. Not to worry, says ADO. They will pay for all hospital and doctor bills resulting from all crashes, finding it cheaper and more efficient to self-insure. They have contracts with various doctors and hospitals. For example, these victims were taken to the nearest hospital, and then quickly transferred out to the Reforma clinic in the city of Oaxaca; others remained in nearby Nochixtlan.

The article did not mention whether FPSA was similarly self-insured…

OPPOSITION TO GLOBALIZATION MEETS IN CHIAPAS

A weeklong meeting of 600 delegates from 26 countries in our hemisphere ended recently in Chiapas. Promising to make the convocation an annual event, the delegates to the Hemispheric Encounter to Oppose Militarization drew clear connections between what they see as increasing militarization of the U.S. and the hemisphere, and the push to approve the Free Trade Act of the Americas, meant to be the expanded successor to the controversial North American Free Trade Agreement, known in Mexico by the Spanish initials TLC.

U.S. militarization in the hemisphere can only be understood as part of a plan to economically annex the countries of the region, says Juan Domingo Roque from Argentina. The policy, he said, is promoted primarily by the World Trade Organization.

Brazilian Maria Luiza Mendoca represents “Cries of the Excluded”, an organization that concentrates on the marginalization of the poor as a consequence of globalization. She says that for her, the struggle is against “the usual practices: violence, machismo, external political interference in internal affairs, and the global politics of the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank”.

Quoted in the daily newspaper “La Jornada”, Ecuadorian delegate Esperanza Martinez declared that there is no peace where there is petroleum, and that the U.S. will go to any lengths necessary to get control of it. Chiapas, she points out, has the largest on-shore reserves of petroleum in Mexico, thereby making it fitting that the conference be held there.

Mexican Nobel laureate and poet Carlos Montemayor, speaking about solutions to the problem, said “in our days, and in our times, we will make our own promise… Every generation has to establish its own dignity and its own peace. The dignity and the struggle of our grandparents and our ancestors – those who made revolutions, and those who pacified them – will not pass down to us automatically.”

FOX BITES A U.S.-SUPPLIED BULLET

This week, in speeches before U.S. legislators and at press conferences, Luiz Derbez, President Fox’s new foreign minister, took another step down the road to subservience.

In spite of overwhelming public support for reform of U.S. immigration laws as they affect Mexicans in general, and a large amnesty – and resulting option for citizenship – for Mexicans already in the U.S. illegally, Derbez officially put the issue on the back burner. Instead, he agreed to commit more Mexican troops to the effort to interdict illegal border crossers, and declared that “the war against terrorism” is the number one priority for Mexico vis a vis its relations with the U.S.

Prediction: the PRI will make lots of political hay out of this one, portraying Fox as an appeaser. There is a long-suffering nationalist backlash just waiting to happen. Unless the PRI really blows it, they will be back in the saddle in 2006.