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domingo, julio 23, 2006

Mexico Week In Review: 07.17-07.23


Published since 1994, 'Mexico Week In Review' is a service of the
Committee of Indigenous Solidarity (CIS). CIS is a Washington, D.C.
based activist group committed to the ongoing struggles of Indigenous
peoples in the Americas. CIS is actively supporting the struggles
of the Indigenous peoples of Mexico while simultaneously combating
related structures of oppression within our own communities.

To view newsletter archives, visit:

"Para Todos, Todo; Para Nosotros Nada"


The governor of Mexico's Oaxaca state said that he was suspending an
internationally popular cultural festival because of fears that
thousands of striking teachers will threaten tourists. The
Guelaguetza, a weeklong event celebrating the music, art and food of
local Indian cultures, dates back to 1700. It draws more than 20,000
people each year. "I made the decision to reschedule the Guelaguetza
to avoid the risk of tourist aggression by radical groups," Gov.
Ulises Ruiz said over state radio and television.

Hotels in Oaxaca city, a colorful state capital popular with both
Mexican and foreign tourists about 325 miles southeast of Mexico
City, planned to offer alternative recreation plans to guests who
came to attend the festival, government officials said.

The teacher's union has taken over parts of the city's central plaza
and last weekend blocked the entrances to popular hotels as part of a
protest launched on May 22. About 70,000 public school teachers are
taking part in the strike. Most of the state's 1.3 million grade- and
high-school students are on summer vacation. The teachers are
demanding salary increases totaling about $125 million, but the
government has said it doesn't have the money. State officials have
offered the teachers less than one-tenth that amount in pay raises.

Catholic Archbishop Jose Luis Chavez has called on both sides to find
a solution, but acknowledged that chances for quickly resolving the
situation are slim. "Social peace in Oaxaca is in danger because of
the refusal to negotiate from both sides," Chavez said.

Source: Associated Press: 07/17


U.S. lawmakers grappled with whether to build a fence along hundreds
of miles on the nation's southern border, weighing combating illegal
immigration against a costly barrier that alone might not stop
migrants. Layered fencing stands on about 75 miles of the 2,000-mile
U.S.-Mexico border, mostly in cities like San Diego, El Paso, Texas,
and Nogales, Ariz. In an election year fixated on illegal immigration
and border security, Congress is considering proposals to put fencing
on up to 850 miles on the border, costing billions of dollars.

"San Diego was a no-man's land when we built that fence," Rep.
Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., told a House panel examining border barriers
as a way to stem illegal immigration. He said immigrant gang-related
murders, drug traffic and human smuggling have dropped dramatically
since a fence just south of the city was built in 1996. "The fence
did work," Hunter said. But Rep. Silvestre Reyes, D-Texas, a former
top U.S. Border Patrol official, said fencing could cost as much as
$2.2 billion and might not be effective in all areas. "There are, in
my opinion, no one-size-fits-all solutions for border security,"
Reyes said. "I think it wastes money. I think it's not a good
investment of taxpayer dollars."

The Border Patrol last year arrested 1.2 million illegal immigrants
who crossed into the United States at the Mexican border. But agents
estimate that two or three migrants go undeterred for every one who
is stopped. Border Patrol senior associate chief Kevin Stevens said
fences have stopped, or at least slowed, illegal migrants. But he
questioned whether fencing would be effective where there are natural
barriers, like mountains or deserts. He wouldn't talk about specific
plans to extend the fence to any length. "Can you look the American
people in the eye and say this is needed? And that it's the most
practical use of taxpayer dollars?" asked Rep. Elijah E. Cummings,
D-Md. "We need an appropriate mix," Stevens answered. "It's not about
fencing. It's not about Border Patrol agents. It's not about
technology. It's about all of those things."

Critics said little will stop illegal immigration while jobs are so
readily available for migrants. The Homeland Security Department
recently began cracking down on employers who hire immigrants -- many
of whom work for cheaper wages and with fewer benefits. But the Bush
administration is pushing Congress to approve a temporary worker
program that would let illegal immigrants have some legal status.
Conservative Republicans, particularly in the House, largely oppose
such a program, which they view as giving amnesty to criminals. An
estimated 12 million illegal immigrants already live in the United

"As long as illegal immigrants can readily obtain employment in the
United States, neither barriers nor increased staffing will
discourage millions of impoverished people from crossing our borders
annually," said T.J. Bonner, president of the National Border Patrol
Council, a labor union that represents about 10,500 U.S. Border
Patrol agents.

Source: Associated Press: 07/20


By John Ross

The day before Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO), the peppery left
leader who insists he is the winner of the July 2 election here,
summoned over a million Mexicans to the great Zocalo plaza to lay out
plans for civil resistance to prevent right-winger Felipe Calderon
from stealing the presidency, this reporter marched down from
neighboring Morelos state with a group of weather-beaten campesinos
the color of the earth. Saul Franco and his companeros farmed plots
in the village of Anenecuilco, the hometown of revolutionary Emiliano
Zapata who gave his life to defend the community's land from the big
hacienda owners. "It is our obligation to fix this fraud and kick
the rich out of power," Saul explained. "If Zapata was still alive he
would be with us today" the 52 year-old farmer insisted, echoing the
sentiment on the hand-lettered cardboard sign he carried.

But although Saul and his companions admired and supported Lopez
Obrador, they were not so happy with AMLO's party, the Party of the
Democratic Revolution or PRD. "We had a PRD mayor and things went
badly and we lost the next time around," remembered Pedro, Saul's
cousin. Indeed, many PRD candidates are just made-over members of
the once-ruling (71 years) Institutional Revolutionary Party or PRI
that have climbed on Lopez Obrador's coattails to win public office.
In 57 per cent of all elections the PRD has won, the party has
subsequently failed to win reelection.

Yet the farmers drew a clear distinction between AMLO's "Party of the
Aztec Sun" and Lopez Obrador himself. "Andres Manuel will never
surrender. He is decided. He will never double-cross us or sell us
out." Saul was adamant. It is that aura of dedication and
combativeness and the belief that, in contrast with other leaders
that have risen from the Mexican left, that AMLO cannot be bought or
co-opted, that helped draw 1.1 million (police estimates) or 1.5
million (PRD estimates) Mexicans to the Zocalo, the political heart
of the nation, July 16. The numbers of those in attendance - the line
of march extended for 13 kilometers and moved continuously for five
hours - are integral to AMLO's notion that these are historic moments
for Mexico and only by impressing this understanding upon the seven
judge electoral tribunal (TRIFE) that must decide who won the
fiercely-contested July 2 election, will the panel order the opening
of all 130,000 ballot boxes and allow a vote by vote recount.

Lopez Obrador is convinced that he has won the presidency of Mexico
from his right-wing rival Felipe Calderon of the National Action
(PAN) Party who was awarded a 243,000-vote margin by the Federal
Electoral Institute (IFE) on the basis of what now appear to be
manipulated computer tallies. The July 16 outpouring may not have
been the largest political demonstration in Mexican history. In April
2005, AMLO himself put 1.2 million citizens into the streets of
Mexico City to protest efforts by President Vicente Fox, a PANista
like Calderon, to exclude him from the ballot. But what is most
important in this numbers game is not how many were turned out at
each event but the exponential growth of the gatherings. Back in
2005, AMLO called a rally in the Zocalo that drew 325,000 supporters.
Two weeks later, he tripled the size of the turnout, forcing Fox to
drop his scheme to prevent Lopez Obrador from running for president.

Six days after the July 2 election, AMLO summoned a half million to
an "informative assembly" in the vast Tiennemens-sized plaza and once
again, if the PRD figures are to be accepted, tripled participation
last Sunday. He is now calling for a third "informative assembly"
July 30 which, given the statistical trend, should settle the
question of which is the largest mass demonstration in Mexican
political history. The PAN and its now-ex-candidate Calderon consider
these enormous numbers to be "irrelevant." That's how PAN secretary
Cesar Nava labeled them. What AMLO's enemies - Fox, Calderon, the
PAN, the now dilapidated PRI, the Catholic Church, the Media,
Mexico's avaricious business class, and the Bushites in Washington -
do not get yet is that every time they level a blow at the scrappy
"Peje" (for Pejelagarto, a gar-like fish from the swamps of AMLO's
native Tabasco) his popularity grows by leaps and bounds. The
perception that, despite the vicious attacks of his opponents, he
will never sell out is Lopez Obrador's strongest suit - and he is
always at the peak of his game when leading massive street protests.

Two weeks after the election that Felipe Calderon continues to claim
he won, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is the pivotal figure in Mexican
politics, dominating public discourse and even the media, which has
so brutally excoriated and excluded him for years. Meanwhile, the
PANista spends his days accepting congratulations from the world's
most prominent right-wingers including George Bush, an electoral
pickpocket who is popularly thought to have stolen the U.S.
presidency in 2000 and 2004, and Bush's Senate majority leader Bill
Frist, in addition to Bush poodle Tony Blair and Spain's former
Francisco Franco clone prime minister Jose Maria Aznar. Calderon also
enjoys the approbation of such U.S. right-wingers as Fox News
commentator Dick Morris (a campaign consultant), the Miami Herald's
decrepid Latin America "expert" Andres Oppenheimer, and Ginger
Thompson, the Condoleezza Rice of the New York Times whose estimates
of crowd sizes missed the mark by a million marchers July 16.
Virtually every radio and television outlet in Mexico has endorsed
Calderon's purported victory. Televisa, the largest communication
conglomerate in Latin America, which dominates the Mexican dial,
refused to provide live coverage of the July 16 rally.

Although Felipe Calderon has announced his intentions of touring
Mexico to thank voters for his disputed "triumph", insiders report
that the PAN brain trust has strongly advised against it, fearing
that such a tour could trigger violent confrontations with AMLO
supporters. At this point, 16 days after the election, it is
difficult to imagine how Calderon could govern Mexico if the TRIFE
denies a recount and accepts the IFE numbers. A Calderon presidency
would inherit a country divided in half geographically between north
and south. Both the PAN and the PRD won 16 states a piece although
AMLO's turf contains 54 per cent of the population and most of
Mexico's 70 million poor - an angry majority that will refuse to
accept the legitimacy of a Calderon presidency for the next six
years. Faced with a similar situation after he stole the 1988
election from leftist Cuauhtemoc Cardenas, Carlos Salinas had to call
out the army.

Lopez Obrador has encouraged his supporters to reinforce encampments
outside the nation's 300 electoral districts to prevent the IFE from
tampering with ballot boxes while the judges sort through the 53,000
allegations of polling place violations filed by AMLO's legal team -
the PRD charges that the IFE has already violated 40 per cent of the
boxes in a ploy to match ballot totals to its highly dubious computer
count. The leftist's call for peaceful mass civil resistance is
bound to keep this nation's teeth on edge until a judicial
determination is reached in respect to a recount. A new president
must be designated by September 6. Although tensions are running
high, the country has been remarkably violence free since July 2 but
s decision by the tribunal to uphold the IFE results could well be
the point of combustion. Even should a recount be ordered who will
do the counting given the vehement distrust of the Federal Electoral
Institute by AMLO's supporters is a potential flashpoint for trouble.
Historically, when the electoral option has been canceled as a means
of social change by vote fraud, the armed option gains adherents in

Despite AMLO's talents at exciting mass resistance and the number of
times he can fill the Zocalo to bursting, the only numbers that
really count are those inside the nation's 130,000 ballot boxes. Will
the justices satisfy Lopez Obrador's demand for a vote-by-vote
recount? All seven judges are in their final year on the TRIFE bench
and at least three members are candidates to move up to the Supreme
Court in the next administration. In the past, the judges, who
decide by majority opinion, have been quite independent of political
pressures, ordering annulments and recounts in two gubernatorial
elections and in whole electoral districts - but have never done so
in a presidential election. Forcing that historical precedent is
what Lopez Obrador's call for mass mobilizations is all about.

If AMLO's foes are counting on a long, drawn-out legal tussle that
will discourage the faithful and eventually reduce his support to a
handful of diehard losers, they have grievously miscalculated the
energy and breadth of the leftist's crusade to clean up the 2006
election. This past weekend, as this senior citizen trudged the
highway down from Zapata country to the big city, two police officers
lounging outside the highway tollbooths gently patted me on the back
and urged me on. "Animo!" they encouraged, "keep up the spirit!"
When even the cops are in solidarity with Lopez Obrador's fight for
electoral justice, the writing is on the wall for Calderon and his
right-wing confederates. Indeed, the wall of the old stone convent
around the corner from my rooms here in the old quarter says it quite

Source: CounterPunch: 07/20

The above articles were originally published and copyrighted by the
listed sources. These articles are offered for educational purposes
which CIS maintains is 'fair use' of copyrighted material as
provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law.

end: Mexico Week In Review: 07.17-07.23

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