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People vs the Neoliberals in Oaxaca

Reading “The People Decide”, the account by Nancy Davies about last year’s APPO occupation of Oaxaca. I can’t help but think about what it would’ve been like to live here during the occupation. Certainly exciting, certainly inspiring, definitely dangerous, and definitely inconvenient.

Lots of the shops were closed, sometimes the banks, the roads.

I only know of two expats who were hurt: the Indy journalist Brad Will who died, and our Snowman, who was shot in the shoulder. And they weren’t attacked by APPO. They were attacked by the Federales or State police.

I haven’t finished the book yet, but I know how it ends. The Federales arrested hundreds of the movement’s leaders, disappeared many many people, killed tens of people, tortured others… they continue to torture and hold people today.

One of the movement’s leaders–German Mendoza Nube–is a paraplegic. He was made into a paraplegic by the government. They tortured him in the 80s. The Federales kidnapped him last year, took him right from his wheelchair.

I don’t yet know what the “tipping point” action was that ended the occupation. I assume it was a critical mass of arrests and exertion of force.

Last year’s short-term goal of APPO was to make Oaxaca “ungovernable” by the illegitimate governor, Ulises Ruiz Ortiz. APPO occupied government buildings, closed roads. It wasn’t only a teachers’ strike. It is a movement to change the government of Oaxaca, to uproot the corrupt PRI-run state infrastructure and replace it with genuine democratic institutions. APPO’s decision making scheme is carried out by popular assemblies composed of village elders, etc.

The PRI is corrupt. It totally panders to neoliberal interests. It takes the assets of the people and sells them off to corporations at the expense of the people. You know; it’s the global story.

The Oaxacan situation was exacerbated by NAFTA. Many small farmers, “campesinos”, are out of work because of “free” trade. The US subsizes its food imports to Mexico, and the campesinos cannot compete with the low food costs from the US. So most of the small farms have gone under. Many campesinos end up as illegal immigrants to the US. Entire villages are missing their young people as well. They must find work in the US to survive.

Many campesinos are indigenous, which makes them more legitimate immigrants than the people who live there now, the descendants of European invaders. Who are we to restrict borders.

It’s really not fair to say we have “free trade” when we don’t allow people who we victimize with free trade to compete in our labor markets.

And this “free trade” hurts most people both sides of the border. It only helps those at the tippy top who skim the flow of money, the anachronistic neo gilded age elites.

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