Anonymity and clandestinity,
trust and distrust

by G.S.  <george.salzman@umb.edu>
9 January 2007

this page is at http://site.www.umb.edu/faculty/salzman_g/Strate/2007-01-09.htm

      Yesterday was another emotionally tumultous day for Nancy and me. The day before, 7 January, Al Giordano, publisher of the Narco News Bulletin, received an accusatory e-mail from Rebeca Romero with specific focus on Nancy’s writing.[1] Rebeca Romero is a pseudo-journalist whose trashy distortions have regularly been offered up by the Associated Press (AP) to help hide from the American people the truth of the fascist governments’ attempts — those of Oaxaca State, Mexico, and, I should add, the U.S. (which is backing them to the hilt) — to crush the popular uprising in Oaxaca. Al as usual was champing at the bit – eager to charge ahead – to impale Romero’s lies. Nancy was unhappy at the prospect of more publicity. She and I, others in the Oaxaca Study Action Group (OSAG) [2] and the group itself had recently come under attack [3] from a clandestine website allied with the Oaxaca governor’s PRI faction.[4]

Truth always exists and is unique. Its essence is reality.[5]

      Often it is not easy to know what is true – what is real, and what is false – i.e. only a simulation intended to deceive us. In some situations it may not be possible, with limited information, to know the truth – the reality with absolute certainty. But that doesn't mean the truth is not unique, merely that there isn't enough information. It is fashionable in some circles to speak of different narratives,[6] for example in so-called conflictive situations.[7] The dispute in the United States between ‘creationists’ and scientists is an example. The dispute between the Israeli government’s account of events and that of Palestinians in their tortured situation is another. In both examples the contradictory narratives represent opposing social interests. It is always false to say that two contradictory narratives represent two ‘truths’. In each example, each contradictory narrative is a view that one of the two groups in the conflict either believes, or wishes to believe, is the truth. The murder of the American photo-journalist William Bradley Roland (hereafter Brad Will) in the Oaxaca colonia Santa Lucia del Camino on 27 October 2006 provides another example.

      The AP article by Rebeca Romero questioning who murdered Brad Will, to which Al Giordano refers in [1], uses the supposed lack of absolute certainty to suggest that the killers might have been part of the popular opposition to the state government. From what I have seen and read, and everything I know about this conflict, her suggestion flies in the face of all the evidence. Romero’s ‘narrative’, suggests an almost certainly false account of reality. She wrote to Al, in part, “I can’t say who are the authors of the crime because I don’t know”. In my opinion that is a lie.[8] I think she knows damn well who murdered Brad and who was, as they say, the ‘intellectual author’ of the crime, to attribute intellect to someone for whom it is in short supply.

Anonymous and other attacks on OSAG and its participants

      I‘ve reported earlier [9] what I know about the first three attacks:
1. an anonymous attack that resulted in OSAG being banned from the Oaxaca Lending Library (OLL) on 18 September 2006; then
2. an anonymous attack, leading to OSAG being banned from the Welty Institute on 27 or 28 November 2006; and then
3. on 30 November by a demand, on a suspect website, for the arrest, prosecution and deportation of ten individuals who had participated in OSAG, alleging (falsely) that we had violated Mexican law.
Now 2007 starts with yet another attack,
4. that of 7 January by Rebeca Romero, introduced and discussed above.

      Her action, couched as a desire to defend herself as a legitimate journalist, might have been expected. We have exposed her consistent distortions of the ‘news’ in favor of the fascist governments involved in suppressing the popular uprising. In her introduction to her letter to Giordano, and in the letter itself, she goes far beyond her clumsy attempt to safeguard her claimed intellectual and professional integrity. In doing so, I believe she was trying to terrorize us [10] in the hope that we will be frightened into becoming silent. However, I do not believe it likely that easily recognizable, identifiable peaceful white Americans living in Oaxaca and writing about what we know is going on here are in any real danger of being deliberately physically attacked by state agents.[12] The only plausible threat, it seems to me, is that of deportation, which pales by comparison to what Oaxaqueños accused of supporting the popular struggle face.

      Rebeca Romero says in her public letter to Al Giordano, “If you need to contact me I will happily respond with courtesy and we will sit down so that you can listen to my version.” However, she provided no contact information. Her website, although identified as being hers, has neither her e-mail address nor any other information that would enable someone to telephone or write her. This suggests that she is disingenuous in speaking of her readiness to meet and talk. I invite her to send me contact information, because I am clearly one of the “Foreign Activists” about whom she wrote, and at whom she levelled her implied threats.

      At least I know that Rebeca Romero is a real person, because of her notoriety. The other internet attack of which I’m aware is on a website supposedly belonging to an individual. However, the site provides no information about ‘him’ (it’s a masculine name). So I don’t know whether the name is that of a real person or not. ‘His’ attack is focussed mainly on me. ‘He’ claims to have information showing that Bradley Will came to Oaxaca on the invitation of OSAG, which ‘he’ says I direct, according to ‘his’ claimed sources within OSAG. ‘He’ also claims OSAG is fully identified as part of the international strategy that the APPO utilizes. “OSAG is recognized as one of the groups tied to Felipe Martínez Soriano and to Flavio Sosa.” ‘His’ website appears to be a straight URO-affiliated PRI operation, as was the so-called Radio Ciudadano, which operated clandestinely, calling for acts of violence against APPO supporters and sympathizers. Threats are an integral part of the dirty war, designed to terrorize the fascists’ opponents.

Trust and distrust among OSAG participants

      When on 31 December I became aware of the 30 November demand for my arrest, prosecution and deportation, I was initially quite troubled. After a few days thinking about it, I decided the best course then was probably to ignore it, for the reasons given in my earlier note, “Anonymity, a cloak for cowardice and treachery in Oaxaca”.[13] However, now with Rebeca Romero’s attack of 7 January, it seems to me that the effort to crush the ‘counter-propaganda’ work of OSAG is ongoing. Whoever is responsible for attack 3, that of 30 November, mistakenly took me to be ‘the director’ of OSAG and claimed that the Attorney General of the Republic had already investigated my supposed relationship with guerilla groups in Mexico. Romero’s attack, 4, on OSAG redirected my attention back to attack 3, because of some overlap in their charges. This led me to consider a similarity between accusations in 3 and those hurled at me by one of the participants in the OSAG Yahoo discussion groups listserv, someone who, I would have thought, ought to know me better.

      Charly Herlihy , who also calls himself Oaxaca Charly, is, like Rebeca Romero, a real person. On 25 August soon after I posted a comment to the OSAG list [14] Charly posted a note confirming my viewpoint.[15] We exchanged several friendly e-mails that day and the next. As far as I know he never attended an OSAG meeting, at least during the time I was in Oaxaca. Then, almost two months later, on 19 October, I suddenly got a disturbing e-mail from him. I responded the following day with a sharply written note, correcting something he had asserted, and reiterating that I’d like to meet him. He responded the same day, apologizing for what he said was his misunderstanding, and ending with “See you soon, cuidate bien [take care, in the familiar form]” It felt friendly, and I wrote back the same day, thanking him for his last note and reiterating that I was looking forward to meeting him.

      Charly said he was going to be in Oaxaca the following week [that of 22-28 Oct]. I expected him to contact me in a few days, but he did not. We did not meet until a month after his 20 October “see you soon” note, a few days before the 25 November attack by the PFP. We were at the corner of Matamoros and García Vigil, observing a somewhat hostile confrontation of the PFP and protestors. Thinking to open a conversation, I asked Charly, whose OSAG postings showed him to be quite knowledgeable, what he knew about the situation. I was taken aback, and furious, when he angrily shot back that I was the last person to whom he’d tell anything. He said I didn’t give a damn who got killed or deported, and accused me of being a liar, saying I selectively took things out of context. He said I had shown a friend of his a private e-mail to me, apparently forgetting that I had previously told him that was not so and that when we met I would give him a copy of the actual item, unrelated to him, that I had offered his friend.[16]

What can I infer from that hostile, accusatory outburst?

      Until then I was unaware of Herlihy’s extreme animosity towards me, apparently because of what he then believed was my callous disregard for other persons’ lives and wellbeing and my unscrupulous disregard for truth. From his OSAG postings I had thought he and I held similar views of the conflict, sympathetic to the popular struggle and condemnatory of the Ulises state government. I still believe this is most likely true. Why had the guardedly but friendly anticipation of meeting face to face that we both expressed on 20 October changed so drastically in the four-and-a-half weeks since then?

      In his four weeks in Oaxaca until our face-to-face encounter he must, I think, have been told things that caused him to feel repelled by me. Why? And by whom? And why had he not made an effort, or at least an adequate effort, to determine the truth? Unlike the four previous attacks, each of which was planned in advance, and which were aimed at the OSAG group and some individuals, Charly’s outburst was spontaneous and strictly focussed on me. It does not seem as though his disgust was inspired by OSAG but by me personally, although after posting to the list many times, from 8 August until 26 November, he suddenly stopped; his final post was on the day after the full state of siege began. If his interest in the social struggle here was genuine, which his participation in OSAG seemed to show, why did he stop sharing his thoughts and insights just then, a few days after our angry face-to-face encounter?

      The coincidence between 1) the angry accusations Charly flung at me, 2) the lies in the anonymous letters that apparently triggered OSAG’s ejection, first from the OLL, then 3) from the Welty Institute, 4) those in the clandestine website and 5) most recently in Rebeca Romero’s letter to Giordano strongly suggests they all originated from the same source or sources. The goal of whoever has been orchestrating the spread of lies and slanders against the OSAG, its participants, the Narco News Journal, Indymedia groups, and perhaps other internet communications efforts is clearly to silence efforts to publicize the truth about the conflict in Oaxaca to which we are witnesses.

International solidarity with the people of Oaxaca

      The first, and possibly the most important need of the incipient revolution in Oaxaca is for people in the rest of the world to know what has been happening and why it is a profoundly significant development. Despite the severe repression by the federal government that began 29 October 2006, and by the State of Oaxaca, I believe the people of Oaxaca, and Mexico, will not allow themselves to be terrorized into submission. I believe they will not abandon their struggle. Our task – those of us who have international contacts – can be to help get accurate information out and to share our understanding. Widespread dissemination of honest information is both crucially needed and greatly lacking; misinformation is abundant.

      For information in English good sources are
1. the Oaxaca Study Action Group Yahoo group listserv at
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/oaxacastudyactiongroup/ ,
2. the Narco News Journal website at
http://www.narconews.com/en.html and
3. the Mexico Solidarity Network weekly summary and analysis at
http://www.mexicosolidarity.org .

      Those of you who read Spanish can best follow the dramatic day to day manifestations of the determined people in Oaxaca in opposition to the limited but fierce acts of state terrorism in:
1. the daily Oaxaca newspaper Noticias, Voz y Imagen de Oaxaca, at
http://www.noticias-oax.com.mx/index.php and
2. the daily national newspaper La Jornada, at
http://www.jornada.unam.mx/ .

      Nancy Davies’ reports and commentaries appear primarily on the indispensable Narco News website. Her attempts to stay abreast of day-to-day (and even minute-to-minute) developments, and her exchanges with participants in the OSAG discussion listserv are frequently posted to that listserv. A book of her dispatches to Narco News will be published in March 2007.

NOTES

[1] Rebeca Romero’s accusations and Al Giordano’s response are at http://www.narconews.com/Issue44/article2492.html .

[2] OSAG is a Yahoo discussion listserv which describes itself as –
    in English – “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”
    y en español como – “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”
      The messages on the OSAG website are open to everyone, at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/oaxacastudyactiongroup/ . To receive them by e-mail, to post messages or to have access to other documents posted on the site, it’s necessary to first subscribe, which is trivial. Just write to oaxacastudyactiongroup-subscribe@yahoogroups.com and follow the instructions.

[3] The earlier threat from the anonymous clandestine website is discussed at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/oaxacastudyactiongroup/message/2213 . The URL for the anonymous clandestine website is http://www.puntoyaparteinforma.com.mx/465689.html .

[4] PRI is the acronym, in Spanish, of the Institutional Revolutionary Party.

[5] What I mean by this is simply that the physical universe exists. Thus, for example, as you read this you are a living human being, a part of the physical universe. That is reality. To deny it would be to deny the truth, which is that you are alive. Whether denied or not, that truth exists and is unique. Its essence is the reality of your being alive at this time.

[6] So-called ‘post-modernism’, the notion itself a logical contradiction, touted by some self-anointed intellectual avant guard, provided an example of the nonsense of two contradictory but supposedly equally valid ‘narratives’. As Barbara Epstein wrote, “Alan Sokal’s hoax, his article “Transgressing the Boundaries: Toward a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity,” a parady of the amalgam of postmodernism, cultural studies, and identity politics that holds sway in some sectors of the academy, has provoked heated emotions.” (Z Magazine October 1996, p.57)

[7] Conflictive situation. Even the muted terminology, ‘conflictive situation’, serves to dull the senses and to suggest that a conflict is legitimate, i.e. one in which both parties have legitimate interests. There are departments in American universities in which advanced studies in ‘conflict resolution’ are offered. Among the many inquiries I get from people asking how they might help oaxaqueños in their struggle was one seeking contacts so that he might get a grant to come here and use his advanced academic training in ‘conflict resolution’. The term tends to diffuse and replace the fire in the gut we ought to feel at the outrages of the governments with a detached, ‘neutral’ academic pseudo-analysis of reality. When used this way, it’s not just bullshit; it serves the interests of the aggressors.

[8] On whether Romero lied. One of the best-informed video-journalists I know who is familiar with Oaxaca is Jill Irene Freidberg <freij@speakeasy.net> . She wrote,
      “Articles by Rebecca Romero are best left unread. Not a single journalist I met while working in Oaxaca (over 40 individuals, some working for very mainstream outlets, others more independent) has a shred of respect for her, and many of them suspect she isn't a journalist at all. How she got the gig as AP correspondent in Oaxaca is beyond me.
      “Also, close friends of mine who write for different national newspapers in Mexico told me exactly how much money they were offered by the Ulises government to “change their tune” in their reporting. All of them refused the money. I'm guessing Rebecca Romero did not.
      “Anyway, I don't bother to read what she writes. And I don't think her writing helps this list in terms of informing folks of the situation in Oaxaca.”
Freidberg’s comment first appeared at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/oaxacastudyactiongroup/message/966 .

[9] Banning from OLL and the Welty Institute Library. A summary of those events is at http://site.www.umb.edu/faculty/salzman_g/Strate/2007-01-02.htm . Links to earlier detailed accounts of the events at the OLL are provided. I have not attempted to give an equally thorough account of the events at the Welty Institute.

[10] Rebeca Romero’s attempt to terrorize OSAG participants. The grounds for my belief consist of the following, all quotes from her communications to Alberto Giordano of Nasrco News: Mindful that her introductory note and letter were intended for both the participants of OSAG and her government contacts, she titles her note, “Foreign Activists?”
      She then warns us, “I give them a heads up that today the engineer Joaquín Rodríguez Palacios returns to the Secrretary General of Government in his same post and in the afternoon will take possession of the job.” She’s letting us know that he will be in charge of the same state government thugs, both uniformed and disguised as ‘civilians’ who rode around in caravans of cars without license plates, some police vehicles and some apparently stolen, according to the federal preventive police,[11] shooting at protesters during the nights of terror. She’s warning us to beware.
      Then she says, supposedly to other journalists who she hopes will read her statements on her website, “In Oaxaca there is a group of foreign activists that . . . work as reporters and come into Mexico on tourist visas.  . . . A reporter named Nancy Davies says that I am corrupt and that I am on the payroll of Ulises Ruiz, . . .
      There is a blog that this group that presumes to conduct independent journalism created in which they say they . . . will burn the hotel where I stay or they will hang me from a lamp.”
      Then, in a strangely constructed sentence, she says, “All that doesn’t wish to say that the project doesn’t have valuable contributions, but its confusion between activism and journalism brings it to dangerous positions, . . .
      In her (public) letter to Giordano, she says, “[Y]ou have created a lynch-mob climate against me, such that blogs have been opened where they threaten to kill me or cut me up into pieces, to go to the hotel where I stay and burn me or hang me from the lamp.  . . . I am sending copies [of this e-mail] to the authorities and also to my colleagues so that they understand the lynch mob climate that you have provoked. To work as foreign journalists in Mexico you must be accredited by a series of requirements by the Presidency of the Republic. I hope that your migratory status allows you to do the independent journalism that you promote.“

[11] On state police using stolen vehicles. Noticias, 9 December 2006, reported on a supposedly surprise PFP raid on State Police. Headlined, The PFP Disarms Ulises Police, it said in part, “En una acción sorpresiva, la PFP aseguró ayer 341 armas de la Procuraduría General de Justicia de Oaxaca. En el operativo, elementos de la AFI detuvieron a cinco personas y resguardaron tres vehículos, algunos de éstos con reporte de robo.” My translation: “In a surprise action the PFP yesterday seized 341 firearms of the Procuraduría General of Justice of Oaxaca. In the operation, agents of the Federal Investigative Agency (AFI in its Spanish initials) arrested five persons and seized three vehicles, some of them reported stolen.”

[12] On real danger to white Americans. This obviously does not apply to those like Brad Will or other journalists who situate themselves at a site of active physical conflict where their presence is seen as a threat to the state’s ability to lie successfully about the actual events. Journalists (meaning unembedded journalists) are increasingly directly targeted by military forces everywhere in the world.

[13] Anonymity, a cloak for cowardice and treachery in Oaxaca, at http://site.www.umb.edu/faculty/salzman_g/Strate/2007-01-02.htm .

[14] My comment to the OSAG list is at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/oaxacastudyactiongroup/messages/340

[15] Charly’s comment to the OSAG list is at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/oaxacastudyactiongroup/messages/344

[16] The actual item, a copy of which I had offered to a friend of Charly. The item, reproduced here in full, is unrelated to Herlihy and makes no mention of him.


Subject: Re: Re: RE:Re: Library Safety
From: David C Myler <oaxmyler@gmail.com>
Date: Mon, 18 Sep 2006 20:33:02 -0500
To: Alias aka <alias_aka@latinmail.com>, George Salzman <george.salzman@umb.edu>, Davies, Nancy nmsdavies@yahoo.com>

Dear OSAG ---
Bill Pumphrey and I pass on the following correspondence to you, including a message from Mark Leyes, Oaxaca US Consular Agent. In consultation with Library Board members, we must respectfully ask OSAG to discontinue meetings at the Library, including the meeting you have scheduled for this Wed., 20 Sept. We pass this decision on to you now so that you will have an opportunity to find another venue for your meeting should you so desire.
David Myler
Board member and Library Manager

On 9/18/06, Alias aka <alias_aka@latinmail.com> wrote:

Dear Mr. Pumphrey,

What follows is an opinion from Mark Leyes US Consular Agent in Oaxaca.
I consider it highly important that the Library membership be aware of what it says!

There is an OSAG meeting planned for Wednesday Sept. 20. It is contrary to the best interests of the Library to allow OSAG to hold any future meetings, presentations or events on the Library premises. That must include the meeting of Sept. 20.

I will be awaiting news this evening of your decision to curtail all OSAG activity at the Library. I will be available to check for your email after eight this evening.
If your decision is for the Library to continue hosting the OSAG meetings I will have no alternative but to forward Mark's opinion to the general Library membership which may then make an informed decision on what action to take.

Again please excuse my anonymity but I wish to avoid any personal consequences.

Thank you,
Anonymous

What follows is Mark's opinion and our recent correspondence.

***********
Alias, i agree that the library COULD suddenly find itself embroiled in more than it wants or suspects. In any case, the authorities here, if and when they act, will likely do so in a very summary and all-inclusive fashion I have no way of knowing whether they would be interested in making finer distinctions about exactly who is responsible and for exactly what. I no longer belong to the library but i would be concerned if i were an officer there, or a member worried about seeing the place closed down in the middle of some kind of misunderstanding. please, i am NOT predicting this, but at the same time neither i nor anyone else could guarantee you the contrary, either.
mark leyes

----- Original Message -----
From: Alias aka <alias_aka@latinmail.com>
To: Mark A. Leyes <conagent@prodigy.net.mx>
Sent: Monday, September 18, 2006 1:33 PM
Subject: RE:Re: Library Safety

Dear Mark,

Thanks so much for your reply, but what I really want to know is if there is any risk for non-OSAG library members being on the Library premises? Is there any chance the state government (using either uniformed or non-uniformed officers) could target the OSAG group at the library, thereby endangering others present on the premises? I think that engaging in what appears to be subversive activity (supplying clandestine radios to anti-government forces) is much more serious than taking part in a parade or demonstration and could result in a prison sentence before deportation.

Thanks again,
Anonymous

Dear Alias, I received the information you sent and I thank you for it. However, consular agents, or state department foreign service officers in general, are not allowed to investigate, denounce or prosecute our fellow citizens here, nor are we allowed to have an active role in their defense, if they should suddenly find themselves in trouble. Mexican law is quite clear in that it forbids foreigners to participate in 'political activities'. The local authorities are who decided what is political and what is not, and it is at their discretion that people are spoken to, detained, deported, etc. They have been extremely tolerant at times, and then again they have on occasion been very strict in their interpretation and in their response. When I say 'strict', I refer to summary justice: they (can and will) detain you and deport you within 24 hours, with no recourse to appeal or due process. I am sure that the American citizens who are here as guests of the MX. govt. understand what they are doing and have simmply decided to act out on their own and at their own risk. I understand that the 'warning' appeared in the library newspaper. Feel free to contact me for this or any other reason. - Mark Leyes, Oaxaca, MX.

----- Original Message -----
From: Alias aka <alias_aka@latinmail.com>
To: Mark A. Leyes <conagent@prodigy.net.mx>
Sent: Friday, September 15, 2006 4:39 PM
Subject: Library Safety

Dear Mark,

At the end of this letter is an extract of an article written by George Salzman. It outlines how much of the violence in recent months has focused on communication media, primarily for the control of radio and television stations.

Mr.Salzman is a self-described anarchist/communist. He is an extreme left-wing activist here in Oaxaca and is an active supporter of the APPO.

Mr.Salzman and Oaxaca Library director Tonee Melo founded the Oaxaca Study Action Group (OSAG). Library director Alvaro Ricardez is also a member of the group. The OSAG is in full support of the APPO and discusses ways it can help the APPO in carrying out its goals and is now providing active physical support including financial donations. The group has been existence for eight months and holds weekly meetings hosted by the Oaxaca Lending Library.

On Wednesday September 13 the invited speaker at the OSAG meeting was Stephen Dunifer. The title of the presentation was "Project TUPA (Transmitters uniting the peoples of the Americas) and Community Radio"

--
Dávid Myler de Oaxaca


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

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