from Oaxaca Lending Library: anonymous accusations lead to ouster
by G.S. <firstname.lastname@example.org>
20-28 September 2006
this page is at http://site.www.umb.edu/faculty/salzman_g/Strate/2006-09-28.htm
this page is at http://site.www.umb.edu/faculty/salzman_g/Strate/2006-09-28.htm
In a sordid series of events, the Manager and the Board Chairman of the Oaxaca Lending Library (OLL) threw the Oaxaca Study-Action Group (OSAG) out of the Library. After meeting there weekly since the end of 2005, and being welcome, these two brave Board members suddenly withdrew the welcome the night before Stephen Dunifer of Project TUPA  and Free Radio Berkeley was to give a previously scheduled public presentation on community radio. Their abrupt action followed receipt of an anonymous e-mail accusing four members of OSAG, including two who are Board members of OLL, and the group itself, of illegal activities that were endangering the library.  The Oaxaca U.S. Consular Agent was also involved, in a highly questionable role.
During the brief time of the conflict, 12 to 28 Sept 2006 it became evident that the small clique running the OLL refused to make known to its membership the basis for their action by distributiong the documents that allegedly justified their action. Instead they spread the slanderous allegations of the anonymous e-mails by word of mouth, as though the allegations were factually true, and relied on gossip to carry the smear further afield. A request by a member of the library to decide on whether to expell OSAG by a vote of the membership was ignored, as were several requests by me that they distribute my statement, “Request for basic honesty at the Oaxaca Lending Library”.
The culmination came at an “informal” Board meeting on 20 Sept at which – this is the Alice in Wonderland aspect of the entire business – Hannah Gant and I, two OSAG participants, were “guest attendees”, cordially invited to be present at OSAG’s expulsion. Although this meeting of the clique judged itself competent to definitively bar OSAG meetings, it was unable to make a formal decision to inform the OLL membership by distributing the document, ‘Request for basic honesty . . .’, which it left for the so-called regular Board Meeting the final Thursday of the month, 28 September. The Manager told me, after the regular meeting, that they decided not to distribute the document, but to post a note on the OLL website  announcing that OSAG was barred and that further information could be obtained by contacting me. My expectation is that they will give minimal exposure, in a brief note posted in the least-likely-to-be-seen-location for a very short time, in order to try to keep most of the membership uninformed. Today (29 Sept) nothing on this matter is posted; still nothing by 3 Oct.
Mexican law prohibits foreigners from engaging in political activities. On occasion individuals have been deported, on the grounds that they violated that prohibition. An anonymous letter from a (non-existent, so far as we know) “Linda Anderson” to the OLL Manager on 12 September claimed that four participants in OSAG, three of whom are not Mexican nationals, were acting illegally, adding, “I am sure the government of Mexico will not be too pleased with such activity and the good folks at Migra [the Immigration Service] will not be left unaware.”  Subsequently there were other anonymous e-mails, the net effect being that OSAG was banned from meeting at the library.
The truth is that the movement in Oaxaca,  although a complicated coalition made up of many strands of thought, is primarily a massive effort to achieve social changes by non-violent, militant challenges to the ruling political and economic power structure. Misrepresentation of the actual situation here by the Oaxaca State government, the Federal government, the United States and Canadian governments, and by the overwhelming proportion of the corporate media of these entities is the chief reason why the truth is largely buried. Buried under a flood of false and misleading propaganda and outright lies.
The group OSAG began at the end of 2005, fully four and a half months before Oaxaca State Education Workers initiated their strike on 15 May 2006. Its description, on its Yahoo discussion Groups website , is:
The Oaxaca Study Action Group (OSAG) is an 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, se llama OSAG. Lo que ES OSAG: 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 ningn gobierno ni partido político.
OSAG is open to all who wish to participate. There is no formal structure. At the weekly meetings in Oaxaca, which are always publicly announced, whoever attends is welcome to take part. For attendance, there is no “membership”, no fees, nor any other requirements except the obvious one of being in Oaxaca and deciding to attend a particular meeting. Participation is completely fluid. Most activity occurs via the Yahoo discussion Groups website, where the first message was on 15 July, indicating mid-July as the time that the website was initiated (I was in the U.S. at that time, when people here set it up).
OSAG’s function has been, and continues to be, providing a reliable source of information about current events in Oaxaca. The material in this posting is primarily to serve as a record of some of the events surrounding OSAG’s expulsion from the OLL, allegedly because of illegal activities that could subject some of us to deportation. If a move should occur to deport Nancy and/or me from Mexico, which I don't anticipate, this information will be publicly available.
Most of what follows is a quite detailed account of what I experienced on Wednesday 20 Sept, part of my "Adventures in Wonderland". These ‘adventures’ actually began a day or so earlier, on Monday night, 18 Sept. with an e-mail from David Myler, an abrupt action announcing that OSAG would not be welcome to hold its usual Wednesday afternoon meeting at the Oaxaca Lending Library. It will likely not interest most of you, so you might want to just skip from this "double bar" to the one close to the end.
The Monday night 18 Sept e-mail from David Myler  was bizarre in light of his message the previous Thursday, namely
Subject: Attend Meeting
From: David C Myler <email@example.com>
Date: Thu, 14 Sep 2006 15:34:08 -0500
To: Davies, Nancy <firstname.lastname@example.org>, George Salzman <email@example.com>
Dear OSAG (courtesy of George and/or Nancy) ---
I would appreciate permission to have a few minutes of your time at the next OSAG meeting. I would begin my sharing by apologizing to OSAG for the unfortunate events of the last few days caused primarily by decisions made by me.
Also, in a separate email, I am passing on another missive sent by the mysterious Linda Anderson.
I do hope to have your indulgence of my presence at the next meeting.
to which I responded,
Subject: Re: Attend Meeting
From: George Salzman
Date: Thu, 14 Sep 2006 21:08:29 -0500
To: David C Myler
Oaxaca, Thursday, 14 September 2006
I personally would be glad to not only welcome you to the meeting but to learn your concerns, if any, about the Library and/or OSAG. I hope the people at the meeting will share that sentiment so that we may hear from you directly in person.
Although I don't intend to give further publicity to "Linda Anderson" (if "she" is a single individual and a woman), I want you to know that "she" sent a mysterious note to me last evening, which I will ignore, along with anything further "she" sends me. I believe "she" is acting as a deliberate provocateur, spreading speculations and lies about several of us involved in OSAG. Whether "she" is simply ignorant, somewhat paranoid, or acting on behalf of some agency that retained her for the malignant purpose of destroying the OLL and/or OSAG I don't know. But as we all know, OSAG is totally open, with nothing to hide. Her attribution of illegal acts to any of the members of OSAG and/or the group are unworthy of a response. When I got the first note you forwarded to me my immediate thought was that "she" was attempting to play the kind of disgusting role made famous by that sleezy lawyer, Roy Cohn, who worked for the equally sleezy junior representative from Wisconsin, Joseph McCarthy on the House Un-American Activities Committee. To my knowledge "she" has no standing, we don't even know "her" identity, and I believe the best thing would be to ignore "her", i.e deny "her" the publicity "she" seems to be grasping for. I checked the Oaxaca telephone directory, but did not find "her" listed. Tonee told me (I think it was night before last) that he had dropped by the Library and that "she" was not a member.
With best wishes,
The "Wonderland" quality of his announcment, that the scheduled Wednesday meeting (the one at which he said he "would begin [his] sharing by apologizing to OSAG") was not to be at OLL, was only the beginning of the Adventure. After posting my message with David's letter on the OSAG Yahoo site, one of the OLL members, Diana Ricci, wrote to David and CC'd me, on Tuesday afternoon, as follows:
From: Diana Ricci <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Tue, 19 Sep 2006 14:10:37 -0500
To: Oaxaca Lending Library <email@example.com>
CC: George Salzman <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: David Myler, Manager
(Fascism -- a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader; forcible suppression of opposition).
I start with the above dictionary definition because when I heard about the fracas over OSAG and the Library, that is the word that immediately came to mind. It was my response a week ago when a planned meeting was cancelled the day it was to be held because, if the grapevine news reached me correctly, one nasty and anonymous letter was received by the library objecting to the meeting.
I've been a target of anonymous letters like that and, although not from a situation involved in Mexican politics, they arose from my work with the library. The similarity was that one person in disagreement due to their own psychological frustrations couldn't make their opposition known with an honest discussion, so they resorted to threats. And they got away with it because of scared or egotistical (I'm the boss) 'hired hands.'
There is both right and wrong in the current situation. That is, I see nothing wrong for the library to host intellectual discussions on any subject. That is more politically correct than having a coffee shop where they sell coffee and bagels, not in their constitution, nor even by a vote of their membership. On the other hand, getting involved in Mexican politics is wrong for any individual or group of ex-pats living here.
The way to deal with that as it affects meeting in library space, is in my estimation the way I would have hoped to deal with disagreements over the past 10 years dealing with the various internal frays of the library. That way is democratically. I have been a member of the library for the 16 years I have resided in Oaxaca. I have never had an opportunity to vote on any issues other than elections or annual kinds of bookkeeping stuff. For example, I even asked for a vote by the members before the library moved to their present location. No luck. I was on the board when the AA was told they could no longer meet in the library by the president. He didn't even refund their money. Nary a vote, not even by the elected board. Both of which I mention after the fact to emphasize that the library has a problem with democracy. Too bad.
My point is -- let's vote. Does our membership have deeper meaning than borrowing a book or buying a cup of coffee? Does one person have more influence than a majority of us. Are all pro and con members willing to show their faces openly? Can diplomacy and an understanding with organizations using the library work? As a member, I vote to let's find out.
Signed, Diana Ricci
I wrote back to Diana and CC'd David with the following message:
Subject: Re: democracy
From: George Salzman <email@example.com>
Date: Wed, 20 Sep 2006 06:39:44 -0500
To: Diana Ricci <firstname.lastname@example.org>
CC: David C Myler <email@example.com>
Oaxaca, Wednesday 20 September 2006
Thank you for having written to David Myler. The more I learn the dirtier this gets. I telephoned David Monday night to ask whether he had confirmed that the statements attributed to Mark Leyes in the anonymous letter had indeed been those of the Consular agent. He had not. He had simply acted to "cancel" the welcome OSAG had previously had to hold its regular meetings at the library, on the basis of that letter. He said he had no idea who the author(s) was/were. I told him I was going to go to the Consular office the next day to talk with Mark, which I did.
I wrote a letter to David with two attachments (at the end of this note), asking that he distribute it to the entire OLL membership in the interest of honesty. All I got from him in return was a note on Tuesday morning, saying
I have confirmed that Mark Leyes did indeed write that email.
Very sincerely, and with best wishes,
Good morning, George ---
I was by then convinced, from my own experience with him and from Diana Ricci's account, that David was in all likelihood unwilling to distribute my 19 Sept letter to the OLL membership, as I had requested more than once, and as he had consistently ignored. I was preparing the file titled "Request for basic honesty at the Oaxaca Lending Library", which is now at http://site.www.umb.edu/faculty/salzman_g/Strate/2006-09-19.htm . I intended to make copies, take them to the library and distribute them, and have copies for the attendees at the OSAG meeting. Otherwise I'd have headed for the library immediately. Nancy, less hot-under-the-collar than I was (though not by much) went to see David to see if a "diplomatic" solution could be found.
Her approach was quite straightforward. She did not challenge the right of a private institution to make its rules. She pointed out that OSAG was essentially a Yahoo discussion group, that local participants in OSAG included OLL members and several Board members, and said that if local participants of OSAG were to be excluded from meeting at OLL we wanted a written document signed by the Board Members stating the grounds on which individuals and/or groups were not allowed on the premises. David was noncommital, saying there was a Board meeting at 4 that very afternoon. To her question whether she should attend, he said no.
When Nancy told me that, I was determined to show up at the Board meeting with the handouts I was preparing, fully expecting they would try to bar me, and ready to argue that the meetings were supposedly open. In fact, when challenged, I would point out that I had attended the prior meeting, 24 August, at which the Consular agent, Mark Leyes, said that participation in Mexican politics by foreigners was not permitted, but that reading, writing and discussing, regardless of the subject under consideration was not contrary to Mexican law. So I trudged down to the library, got there by about 4:10, and went through the Looking Glass.
In the patio at a large table (not where Board meetings are held) sat David Myler hosting a group of perhaps six or seven other gringos, passing the time of day affably in each other's relaxed presence, some glancing, as the conversation moved from tidbit to tidbit, at one or another article in the day's Miami Herald, the International Herald Tribune, or in similar English language sources of truth. As I approached the library entrance, visible from the patio table, I expected hostility from David, following my furious outburst at him some hours earlier. Surprise No.1, he was cordiality personified. Hello George, with a large officious smile. I was thrown off guard, and after first greeting a long-time friend of Nancy's and mine, I responded positively to David's beckoning me to join the gringo table. As David introduced me to them, they did not seem to be aware of what an evil person I was, and were friendly enough.
One of them remarked his surprise that without any sign of police presence in recent weeks, there seemed to be no change in the crime rate. Another that the Traffic police had shown up within the past couple of days in his neighborhood and that traffic was moving reasonably. A third, who lives in the San Felipe del Agua barrio, said traffic police had been in his area all the time, and doing a good job. They noted that repaving work in Llano Park, initiated under URO, the governor, was continuing day after day, and wondered who was paying the many workmen involved. I offered the information that work on the upper part of Escalera del Fortin, a giant stone staircase that goes up from Calle Crespo to the plaza at the entrance of the Guelaguetza Stadium, was now proceeding, after having been blocked for weeks by APPO, and that the workmen were being paid as usual through the state bureaucracy. I see it every day that I make my climb to the summit of Cerro Fortin.
In one way or another, money seemed to be at the focal point of the conversation. One man was involved in the service of very wealthy private art collections, collections with works worth millions. He reminded us that there have been a number of unsolved thefts of astronomically-valued art works. Insurance against such thefts is naturally not cheap. He was responsible for obtaining insurance for one of those private collections, and succeeded, by a method I did not follow, in getting the price down a great deal. The figure of $46,000 for insurance remains in my mind, though I don't know if it was for a particular picture or for a number of them. Then the matter of expert appraisers, who could detect forgeries, came up. And the "ridiculous" prices paid, e.g. at Sotheby's and Christie's auctions. Japanese collectors willing to pay $3 million for Van Gogh's "Sunflowers". He told us that these auctions were largely pre-arranged. The auctioneer knew who was interested, and who had the deepest pockets. The number of people in the market to bid was very small. Naturally the theft of the art works was on his mind, but if ever the thefts behind the amassing of such wealth in private hands crossed his mind, he did not mention it. Nancy, who had been at the same library patio some hours earlier, told me of several folks discussing the cost, $25, for a dog's haircut in Oaxaca.
After about twenty minutes with the group of gringos, David announced that it was time to go ahead with the Board meeting, which was to be in an inside room. Surprise No.2, David invited me to come to the meeting, assuring me there was nothing secret. And, he suggested I get my friend (Hannah Gant, with whom I had quietly exchanged a few words during part of the past twenty minutes, and who had then gone off to read), who was also welcome at the Board meeting. When I sat at the back of the room David urged me to sit at the table, saying I would probably be speaking, Surprise No.3.
I later learned this was an "informal" Board Meeting, which I suppose means the OLL members were not informed and thus unable to attend, which is supposed to be their right, a further effort by David and other Board members to keep the membership in the dark regarding the OLL Board-OSAG conflict. The meeting began with a show of cordiality, David asking me to speak about OSAG, as though their minds had not yet been made up. I told a bit of the history. After a short time the Queen of Hearts, being played by Jane Robison, burst out, shouting "Off with his head!" David attempted to quiet her temporarily so I could continue, but this big aggressive hotel owner in her florid indigenous dress was primed to lead the charge, and after a short time again burst out in her disgusting manner. Though not a Board Member she obviously considers herself a heavyweight in the small circle that rules OLL. She shouted, as though they were facts, the lies and slanders in the anonymous letters. She wanted no more OSAG meetings in the library. The others present, though mostly without being obnoxious, also made it clear that they accepted the views in the anonymous letters, and that OSAG was not welcome. One held up the specter of the government closing the library and confiscating all the books. Another said my sincerity was not in doubt. If I had a martyr complex that was my affair. One wished me luck, but not in their library. To my objection that the OLL membership had not been informed, that the accusatory letters had not been distributed, Board Member Shannon Hogan replied that the membership voted for the Board and entrusted them to make decisions for them. David said the Board would consider, at its regular monthly meeting this Thursday (28 Sept) whether to distribute the material to the full membership.
As for my insistance on an apology for the slander and lies circulated to the Board by David (as he had stated was his intention when he asked to attend the OSAG meeting), they simply laughed at me, asking, How can we apologize for anonymous letters that we didn't write? We don't even know who wrote them. That, they asserted, was my problem, not theirs. Thus, they felt perfectly comfortable using that filth as the basis for getting rid of OSAG, though it had been done without knowing whether the statements were true. In fact, as mentioned above, David had acted without knowing whether the parts attributed to the U.S. Consular Agent Mark Leyes were indeed his or not. None of this troubled these logically impared people. All they wanted was to be rid of us, and any excuse would do.
Then came Surprise No.4. When I said it really didn't matter to me where OSAG meetings were held, they loudly sighed in collective relief at having won the contest to rid themselves of us, and immediately their hostility evaporated. That's all we want, meet somewhere else, and they rushed to assure me, and each other, most of them, that they were liberals, in sympathy with my views about social wrongs. The Queen of Hearts went so far as to say we would be welcome to hold OSAG meetings at her house, an offer I angrily rejected, loudly saying I didn't want to go to her house. She said that in the U.S. she had demonstrated against the war on Iraq (or maybe it was the Vietnam War, I don't recall), but really, she was "on the same side of the barricades." No end of miracles in Wonderland. They were all pleased at the outcome, and at having regained their liberal self esteem. The meeting ended on this self-satisfied note.
A few minutes later I went out to the sidewalk to question Jane Robison about her offer to have OSAG meet at her house. Her first response was to affirm the offer. I asked her if she wouldn't be concerned about a possible attack by government operatives (the supposed fear motivating the Board members), but she scoffed at that possibility. Then she retreated, saying she would have to talk about it with her husband, Thornton Robison. I'm not holding my breath in the meantime.
The final episode of that high-adrenaline day also occurred at the same spot just outside the library. One of the attendees at the informal Board meeting, an ignorant repulsive drunk named Charles Gray, was pitifully trying to taunt me, shouting Go burn a bus!, Go paint grafitti!, things of the caliber of Go back to Cuba, you America-hater! And was threatening to punch me. One of that cohort of had-beens gently pushed him away and urged him to calm down, later explaining to me that Chuck had been a jazz drummer and, you know, like most of them, he had a problem with alcohol.
Epilogue. A few minutes later the whole group had dispersed. By then it was getting close to 5:30, the time scheduled for the OSAG meeting, and folks began to arrive, uncertain what would happen. We went back into the same room the Board had only recently left, and held our meeting. No one bothered us. But of course we made other plans for the future.
On the morning of 19 Sept I met in the U.S. Consular office with the Consular agent, Mark Leyes. In our meeting of over 45 minutes, during which he did well over half the talking, he acknowledged that the material attributed to him (contained in ) was indeed his, but repeatedly asserted that he was extremely disturbed by the publication of his private opinions regarding the possibility of action by the Mexican government (opinions with which I agree) were made public by someone so concerned about privacy that the correspondent had remained anonymous. And that his private views were used unscrupuously to make it appear that the library acted against OSAG on grounds provided by the Consular agent. He claimed to be (I at that time thought honestly) very disturbed by that misuse, and said his first impulse had been to ignore the anonymous e-mail, which he said he regretted not having done.
The one part of his 'personal' statement to ‘anonymous’ with which I disagree is his assertion, "nor are we [consular agents, or state department foreign service officers in general] allowed to have an active role in their [American citizens] defense, if they should suddenly find themselves in trouble." He did not refer to this in defending what he had written, which he said he would stand by publicly. As for the next to last sentence in that paragraph, "I understand that the 'warning' appeared in the library newspaper", what it refers to is his statement at the 24 August OLL Board meeting that taking part in demonstrations or marches regarding Mexican politics was definitely illegal. In the OLL website, at http://www.oaxlibrary.com/ , Bill Pumphrey had in his "10 Centavos Worth..." column, "Mark Leyes, the U.S. Consular Agent in Oaxaca, met with the Board recently. He said at that time he did not see any reason why foreigners should leave Oaxaca. He urged foreigners to keep a low profile, stay inside at night, and avoid any visible, direct participation in Mexican politics such as the marches. Foreigners have been deported for participating in protest parades."
Near the conclusion of our meeting, the Consular agent suggested that I might want to speak with a certain Maria de la Soledad Baltazar Segura, a lawyer who is "Delegate" at the Oaxaca office of the Immigration Service. He gave me to understand that she is in a high position at that office (maybe the top position) and has gained a reputation for being extremely knowledgeable and entirely accessible. According to Leyes, she is an expert on Mexican law. When I was talking with him, he struck me as entirely reasonable, and I thought Well, maybe it would be a good idea. I told him I'd think about it, though I knew very well that I had not violated Mexican law by any participation in Mexican politics. Now, knowing more about Mark Leyes then at that time, my inclination is to do nothing.
In addition to the anonymous e-mails referred to in this note, for which links are provided, there are a few others, one to Mark Leyes on 15 September 2006 that he gave me a copy of at our meeting, and a few more, which I got as e-mails. I might make them part of the public record in the future if it seems worthwhile.
—G.S., 5 October 2006
 Project TUPA (Transmitters Uniting the Peoples of the Americas) of Free Radio Berkeley has as its purpose “to empower indigenous, campesino and barrio communities in the Americas with the tools, technology, knowledge and skills to build and maintain their own community broadcast stations. Project TUPA is a non-profit project under the fiscal sponsorship of Global Exchange in San Francisco, California.” http://www.radiotupa.org/
 Anonymous e-mail alleging illegal activities. Details, including the e-mail, are in my posting, “The Oaxaca Lending Library and the Oaxaca study-Action Group: Harrassment by cowerdly anonymous Americans”, at http://site.www.umb.edu/faculty/salzman_g/Strate/2006-09-18.htm .
 Request for basic honesty at the Oaxaca Lending Library, http://site.www.umb.edu/faculty/salzman_g/Strate/2006-09-19.htm .
 The anonymous letter with the implicit threat is in the posting at http://site.www.umb.edu/faculty/salzman_g/Strate/2006-09-18.htm .
 Anonymous e-mails. One such e-mail, of 18 September, which includes material by the U.S. Consular Agent in Oaxaca, is in the posting at http://site.www.umb.edu/faculty/salzman_g/Strate/2006-09-19.htm .
 The movement in Oaxaca. A background article, titled “Incipient Revolution in Oaxaca”, that traces the events here is at http://site.www.umb.edu/faculty/salzman_g/Strate/2006-08-29.htm .
 The OSAG Yahoo website is at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/oaxacastudyactiongroup/ .
 David's Monday night, 18 Sept. message, came only four days after the gushing flow of "effusive cordiality" on the 14th. It is included in my 19 Sept posting, "Request for basic honesty at the Oaxaca Lending Library",. I also reported that message from David on Tuesday morning in a note to the OSAG Yahoo site (message #621).
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