Tension in Mexico City
Mexico City, 29th November 2006. The signs of discontent are visible all over the city. Graffiti on public buildings, banners from monuments, camps in the main plazas. And the police are hanging out in gangs everywhere.
Last weekend Obrador, the leader of the leftist party PRN, who allegedly lost the Mexican presidential election this July by only 0.58% of the votes, had himself, with the support of hundred thousands, inaugurated as president in an unofficial ceremony. Meanwhile, Calderón, the candidate of the rightist party PAN, will be officially inaugurated this coming Sunday when the outgoing president from the same party, Vicente Fox, steps down.
While the debates over electoral politics have been intense, they have not managed to overshadow the other important event in Mexico this year - the Oaxaca uprising. Rather the two have come together. The protests in the state of Oaxaca are intensifying, and the APPO, the organisation driving the movement, are planning to march to the capital to stage a mass protest during this weekend's inauguration.
Given how tangible the tension in the capital is this week, it can be expected that the coming weekend will be explosive.
In the main public space of Mexico City, El Zócalo, the shadow of an enormous flag pole falls on a weather beaten camp of tents. Draped with banners that are beginning to fray after several months on display, the canvas and the plastic shelter tables covered in leaflets, dvds, books and collages of photographs. Obrador's face appears on posters everywhere, along with that word: Oaxaca. Although the two issues are separate, one a fraudulent presidential election, the other an indigenous uprising and an attempt to oust the state of Oaxaca's governor, they share common roots - anger and frustration with continual oppression and corruption.
In other parts of the city graffiti sprawled over walls, and posters and stickers left on lamp-posts, act as a permanent reminder of the very public support of the centre-left presidential candidate and the Oaxaca uprising. Not far from the grand Palacio de Bellas Artes the usual street stalls selling 'traditional' tourist souvenirs are now also covered in hand-written signs proclaiming their solidarity with the APPO. Alongside of them are more tents - a camp that seems to have been standing for some time. Here, as in El Zócalo, there are hand painted banners and posters, leaflets and up to date information about the marches and manifestation.
And there are certainly many of them - every other day it seems there is an action or a march happening somewhere in the capital, not to mention those occurring in Oaxaca itself. Those involved are not just young students or the middle classes, but a cross section of Mexico City. Those who voted for Obrador are vocal in their indignation and frustration at what it being called a stolen election. And the anger of the people who have been repressed and oppressed for nearly 500 years is not new. But as the issue of the election merges with that of the Oaxaca uprising, it draws together middle-class liberals from Mexico City and Indigenous Oaxacans, who are for once marching together.
Right now politics is all anyone can talk about. The tension in the air is palpable. The police presence throughout the city is immense, with gangs of them on every street corner, hanging around every public space. Today they seem relaxed and more than a little bored. But they are still carrying riot shields and guns.
Perhaps nothing will happen this weekend. Perhaps the liberal middle class who are concerned about the stolen election, but ultimately are looking for nothing major to change, will give up after the official hand-over of presidential power. Perhaps the world will continue to ignore what is happening in Oaxaca, like it has ignored the struggles of Indigenous Peoples and all those who fight back against exploitation, so many times before.
We will soon find out.
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