Building a Oaxaca information and
solidarity communication network

by G.S.  <george.salzman@umb.edu>

9 September 2006

this page is at http://site.www.umb.edu/faculty/salzman_g/Strate/2006-09-09.htm

    I returned from the U.S. to Oaxaca the night of 16 August 2006. Almost every day since then I've made my usual climb up to the top of Cerro Fortin, the nearby hill overlooking the city where the transmission tower for the powerful state Channel 9 TV and FM 96.9 radio station are located.

Photo caption. View of the state's transmission tower from the north. The state tower, which is in the center and closest, appears tallest but is not. Close behind it and to the right is TV Azteca's tower, and farther to the south and to the left is that of Televisa, the tallest of the three. Both corporate towers exceed in height that of the state. Pictured is the saddle in the road that runs along the crest of Cerro Fortin from the observatory and seismological station at the north peak to the planetarium and nature museum at the south peak. Photo, 2006-08-30, by G.S. No rights reserved.


    Usually it's late afternoon, still light, sun low in the sky over the foothills of the rugged Sierras to the south, fresh cooler air sweeping in from the northeast as I trudge up the access road. On Sunday night the 20th I arrived with a bag of piedras from Fernando and his mother Doña Estela's bakery on Calle Quetzalcoatl for the group of teachers securing the building with the transmission controls at the base of the tower. I found a jovial encampment. Men, women and a few children amusing themselves during their remaining half-hour or so while awaiting the replacement security group's arrival.

    Without a clue of the attack by state operatives to come six or so hours later, and confident that after the fiasco of his June 14th attack on the sleeping teachers in the center of the city the governor would not again try a heavy-handed assault, they joked, ate the piedras, asked (as usual here) where I came from and how I liked Oaxaca, lied about how good my Spanish was, and insisted on posing for a group picture just below the chain-link fence that protected the transmission installation.

     But by then the popular movement had been using the seized state TV and FM radio stations for (only one day shy of) three full weeks, filling the air waves throughout the state with programs critical of Governor Ulises Ruíz Ortíz and his government, of neo-liberalism, etc. A devastating (from the govenment's perspective) period of left-wing propaganda reaching far and wide. The unremitting "battle for the air waves" continues. Not only within Oaxaca but in the rest of Mexico and beyond. I see it as one of the most important parts of the struggle for true democracy. And I think we're beginning to win this information war. I sent the e-mail reproduced below to my entire distribution list as a further contribution — as part of my counter-propaganda effort to get the truth known beyond Mexico's borders.

Subject: Building a Oaxaca information and solidarity communication network
From: George Salzman <george.salzman@umb.edu>
Date: Saturday, 9 Sep 2006 04:16:59 -0500
To: undisclosed-recipients:

Friends,

      I have had a flood of mail which, in addition to comments, contains requests for information about
1) whether to continue earlier plans for a forthcoming visit,
2) how to help the popular movement here, and
3) the conflict situation in Oaxaca (and Mexico).
This note is an effort to respond to the three issues raised by correspondents.

1) I think there is no significant danger to tourists who come to visit Oaxaca, contrary to the travel warnings issued by the United States and Canadian governments. Some inconveniences perhaps, but no personal dangers. I have not experienced a moment of hostility from anyone, and I am clearly a gringo in the eyes of any native Oaxacan. Nor have I heard from any friends of hostility, threats, or even unfriendliness towards them as foreigners.

      There are several important reasons for not cancelling travel plans to visit Oaxaca.

      You can help the Popular Movement re-establish normal economic life here, which the Mexican Federal and Oaxaca state governments, aided by the U.S. and Canada, are trying to prevent in order to crush the rebellion. Oaxaca, an economically impoverished state, is heavily dependent on tourism to sustain its economy. Simply by visiting as a tourist, you can help the peaceful struggle of Oaxacans (and other Mexican citizens) to achieve true democracy.

      I believe the greatest threat to the people’s efforts is that the Federal government might use the Mexican military to smash the emerging popular government here. The presence of foreigners serves as a strong deterrent to help prevent a military attack on Oaxaca.

      If you visit, you will learn firsthand about what is happening and be in a position to help spread the truth when you return home. The Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca, the Asamblea Popular de los Pueblos de Oaxaca (APPO), is making an effort to resuscitate tourism as part of its program for a return to economic normalcy. Visiting Oaxaca at this time will offer you an opportunity to see a truly non-violent revolutionary effort by a large majority of Oaxacans to change their government, and to do it faced with the threat of a possible violent bloodbath by the federal government’s armed forces. I personally do not believe the Oaxaca State government is any longer a viable counterforce, having totally lost its legitimacy in the eyes of a large majority of its citizens.

2) The most direct help you can offer the popular struggle here is to participate in making the truth known, especially to Americans and Canadians, but also to Europeans. Obviously this requires initially that you become as informed as you can, primarily by seeking information not available from the corporate media, and then helping to publicize the reality that exists here, either individually or by joining or forming a group to carry out that work. Listed below are several possible information sources I recommend. Solidarity groups in the U.S. and Canada can also play an important part in supporting Oaxacans, and some already are. Such groups normally include educational work along with their other solidarity activities.

      In arguing for the importance of getting the truth known internationally, I’m guided by my conviction that it was the international awareness of the struggle of the Zapatistas that permitted them to survive. The Mexican government tried to annihilate them immediately after the uprising surfaced on January 1, 1994, when president Carlos Salinas de Gortari ordered the military to attack. Twelve days later he halted the attack because of the international ramifications it would have if pursued further. Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de Leon, in early 1995, shortly after he assumed the presidency, broke the year-long cease fire and ordered the military to attack, but he was forced to abruptly halt this attempt some days later, also because of international reactions. It was, I’m sure, the marvelous international communication network of the Zapatistas initially, and of the nexus of groups that soon developed in San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas, with their global internet news-dissemination capability, that kept the Mexican government at bay, and allowed the Zapatista movement to survive. Similar communications efforts in Oaxaca City can likewise help to deter the federal government from attacking the popular movement, and you can be a part of the network.

3) Locally we have a group that meets weekly, the Oaxaca Study-Action Group (OSAG). It is open to all who wish to participate, visitors, expatriates, and Oaxacans. If you visit we will welcome you to attend. But even if you are not here in person, you can participate through the discussion listserve we maintain, which is a source of up to the minute information. You can read it at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/oaxacastudyactiongroup/ . If you wish to subscribe to this open, unedited list, so that you can also post to it, write to oaxacastudyactiongroup-subscribe@yahoogroups.com . It is mostly in English, some in Spanish. OSAG describes itself as follows:


…[A]n international non-governmental network in solidarity with the communities of Oaxaca. OSAG's network communicates with thousands of people around the world, by using the internet and personal contacts. OSAG is a part of civil society, not affiliated with any government or political party.
El Grupo Estudio Acción de Oaxaca (OSAG) es una red internacional no-gobermental en solidaridad con las comunidades de Oaxaca. La red de OSAG comunica con miles de las personas alrededor del mundo, usando el internet y los contactos personales. OSAG es un parte de la sociedad civil, no afiliada con ningún gobierno ni partido político.

Other local sources of information:

      The Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca, la Asamblea Popular de los Pueblos de Oaxaca (APPO) maintains a website at http://codepappo.wordpress.com/codep/ titled APPO CODEP Regeneración Magisterial. It is rapidly on its way to becoming a primary documentary archive as well as containing much other information about the ongoing activities. Currently exclusively (or almost exclusively) in Spanish.
      The daily newspaper Noticias, Voz y Imagen de Oaxaca, published in Oaxaca City, is the largest circulation daily in the state, which both the previous governor, José Murat Casab and the current governor, Ulises Ruíz Ortíz (URO), both of the PRI party, tried to destroy because of its insistent reporting on their thoroughly corrupt and dictatorial administrations. It is at http://www.noticias-oax.com.mx/index.php . In Spanish.
      The Oaxaca Lending Library website recently initiated a page of first hand reports by Oaxaca residents. It does not endorse the viewpoints expressed, but offers them as a service intended primarily to its members and friends. http://www.oaxlibrary.com/Crisis.htm . Thus far these have been in English.
      A steady stream of articles on the now-almost-four-month-old conflict in Oaxaca, written mainly by people in the city, has been appearing in the Narco News Bulletin, at http://www.narconews.com/en.html . Mostly in English, but some also in Spanish.
      Since state operatives destroyed the major state-wide broadcast facilities of Channel 9 and FM 98.6 early on the morning of August 21, as described in my article “Incipient Revolution in Oaxaca” at http://site.www.umb.edu/faculty/salzman_g/Strate/2006-08-29.htm , and the popular movement countered by seizing ten radio stations later that day, the number of stations occupied and being used by APPO has varied. It is now about four. I will try to get specific information about them, and whether any of them can be heard on-line, for a subsequent report.

Non-local sources of information.

      I believe the best coverage is probably in the national daily newspaper published in Mexico City, La Jornada, which is available at http://www.jornada.unam.mx/ . In Spanish.

      I hope the information above will be useful. And I encourage you to take part in building the grassroots communications network. If you come to Oaxaca I would enjoy meeting you and sharing on a personal level some of what I've learned about this wonderful society.

With best wishes,
George


All comments and criticisms are welcome.    <george.salzman@umb.edu>

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