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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
06MEXICO4534
2006-08-14 23:01:00
UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY
Embassy Mexico
Cable title:  

MEXICO'S "OTHER HALF"--THE VIEW FROM OAXACA (PART

Tags:   ECON  ELAB  PINR  PGOV  MX 
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						UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 MEXICO 004534 

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON ELAB PINR PGOV MX
SUBJECT: MEXICO'S "OTHER HALF"--THE VIEW FROM OAXACA (PART
ONE IN TWO PART SERIES)

REF: MEXICO 3962



1. (SBU) On August 1-4, poloff visited the state of Oaxaca in
order to learn more about the political and economic dynamics
of this region, often characterized as part of Mexico's poor
"other half." Academics, journalists, protesters, and
indigenous citizens described a state--until recently a PRI
stronghold--that is marginalized within Mexico, neglected by
the federal government, exploited by the wealthy, and
manipulated by state politicians. Our contacts concurred
that the election of a PRD-dominated state congress reflects
more anger towards the governor and disillusionment with the
PRI and PAN than deep-felt loyalty to the PRD. Support for
Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) is driven by this
disillusionment and by AMLO's identification with indigenous
groups and promises to help the disadvantaged. This is the
first of a two-part series. End summary.

Political discontent


--------------------------





2. (SBU) The volatile situation in Oaxaca City, where
thousands of teachers have linked with civil society
organizations and radical groups to demand better wages and
the overthrow of the discredited governor, Ulises Ruiz,
offers a glimpse of this region's broader political,
economic, and social challenges (see septel). Although there
are significant differences between and within the Oaxacan
capital and coastal regions, which normally benefit from high
levels of tourism, and rural indigenous communities, which
are impoverished and subject to high rates of migration,
Oaxacans share common experience living in Mexico's second
poorest state which, until the most recent elections, has
been dominated by the PRI.



3. (SBU) Poloff's interlocutors explained that Oaxacans
generally feel resentful toward their state political leaders
and let down by the federal government. The PRI years ago
lost support among the majority of this population, but was
able to remain in power through its grip on political
institutions. Its bruising defeat in the state election
parallels the PRI's historic losses at the federal level.
The PAN has never had a strong foothold in Oaxaca and is
perceived by many here as disinterested in this region. On
July 2, many Oaxacans voted for the PRD as part of a
collective "vote of punishment" against the PRI and PAN.

Anger towards the PRI governor


--------------------------





4. (SBU) Oaxaca's PRI governors have left a legacy of
corruption, repression, and ineffectiveness. Resentment
towards the present governor is strongest in Oaxaca City,
especially following his decision to use force against the
striking teachers and their sympathizers on June 14 (reftel).

The various groups, apparently including radical elements,
that have since come together to form a statewide protest are
bound by the common objective of overthrowing Ruiz, and feel
the only way to get him to step down is through
non-institutional means. However, these groups appear to
represent no broader movement that links their objectives
with AMLO's national electoral challenge.



5. (SBU) Poloff's discussions with people outside the capital
revealed greater ambivalence about the governor, since many
rural Oaxacans have grown accustomed to expecting little from
their state government. When indigenous communities engage
in politics, their focus is usually local and based on custom
rather than party politics. State politics are followed to
the extent that governors have power over funding and
political influence over the municipalities. The general
impression in rural areas is that the governor takes money
for himself and PRI political campaigns, leaving little to
develop the economy.

Disappointment with the PAN


--------------------------





6. (SBU) At the federal level, many Oaxacans put their hopes
in the Fox administration for a promise of change they
believe never materialized. The president's perceived lack
of concern for the southern and especially indigenous areas
of Mexico has led to widespread disillusionment and a sense
that the PRI and PAN have by design and through incompetence

MEXICO 00004534 002 OF 003


neglected Mexico's poorest regions. Although Fox's
"oportunidades" poverty-reduction program has helped some
families in Oaxaca, it has not made a sufficient difference
in combating poverty to alter the widespread view that the
PAN doesn't care enough about the poor. "Calderon promises
jobs for us, but so did President Fox. After six years of
waiting without results, we are ready for a change," a
Mixteca man told poloff.



7. (SBU) The PAN was also hurt by a notion among many here
that President Fox should have supported Oaxaca's protesters
when the governor used force against them, or at least
ordered an investigation into the state's actions. That Fox
responded by saying it was an internal matter in which the
federal government would not get involved may have cost the
PAN votes. Although supporters of the Fox administration say
the president respected state sovereignty by not intervening,
numerous protestors felt it was the federal government's
responsibility to protect them against what they viewed as
state repression.



8. (SBU) The people with whom poloff spoke believe that
neither the PRI nor PAN has formulated a convincing economic
development strategy for the south. Disadvantaged citizens
assess that since Fox didn't help them, Calderon would not
either. This calculation is buttressed by a perception that
the PAN takes its cues from Mexico's northern industrialized
states and privileged classes. Their explanation for the
perceived neglect of Mexico's south is an underlying racism
against indigenous people and their way of life. "We are a
menace to the government, which would rather focus on the
rich half of Mexico and forget we exist," a Zapotec student
told poloff in a comment emblematic of the discontent.

Support for the PRD and AMLO


--------------------------





9. (SBU) Support for the PRD remains shallow in Oaxaca. The
academic dean of Oaxaca's Benito Juarez Autonomous University
told poloff that the PRD has not had time to develop a
widespread following, has lacked strong leaders, and has
little track record of effectiveness in Oaxaca. Furthermore,
most rural communities are disinterested in party politics.
The people's attention is directed not at the PRD but at
Lopez Obrador, whose charisma, promises to attack poverty,
identification with Mexico's indigenous and disadvantaged
populations, and social programs from his time as mayor of
Mexico City, have resonated with much of the state.



10. (SBU) Most Oaxacans believe AMLO would pay more attention
to them than would the other presidential candidates.
"During the campaign, AMLO staged impressive visits to the
south, while Calderon talked to us through the television," a
teacher in Oaxaca City's central square told poloff. In the
same square where the current protest continues, a Mixteca
woman talked about the significance of AMLO's campaign
phrase, "the indigenous are Mexico's most intimate truth,"
which she told poloff resonated in the hearts of many
indigenous people. She added that she didn't recall any of
the other candidates mentioning the indigenous during the
presidential campaign (Note: although other candidates did
refer to Mexico's indigenous people during the campaign, it
was less frequent and less recognized than AMLO's references.
It should be noted that early in his career, AMLO spent
several years as the head of the Indigenous Institute of
Tabasco, during which time he lived in indigenous villages,
burnishing his credentials as an indigenous rights activist.
End note).

AMLO will save our identity


--------------------------





11. (SBU) Numerous Oaxacans have the impression that among
the presidential candidates AMLO would be the most likely to
safeguard Oaxaca's traditional way of life, especially that
of indigenous communities. Globalization is a concept that
remains new, frightening, and confusing in rural areas, and
AMLO has played on people's fears. Many of the poor,
especially farmers, are resentful about the way Mexico has
been opened to the outside world and believe that
globalization contributes to their economic underdevelopment
and isolation. They are also inclined to believe AMLO's
accusations of an elections fraud in which the political
establishment has been rigged against them.

MEXICO 00004534 003 OF 003





12. (SBU) Within intellectual circles, there's also a
conviction that Oaxaca's rich indigenous and colonial
heritage needs to be protected from a threatening
"Americanization." Acclaimed Oaxacan artist Francisco
Toledo, who led a protest against the opening of a McDonald's
restaurant in the state capital, is an influential voice of
concern. The PAN has been stereotyped as not being
sufficiently interested in culture, while the PRD has tried
to garner an image as custodian of Mexico's indigenous
cultural patrimony.



13. (SBU) Responding to a question about whether AMLO's
proposed development strategies seem economically viable, the
academic dean of Oaxaca's university quietly said "no." His
assessment is an educated view not shared by many in rural
areas, who have put their faith in AMLO's economic promises.
At the same time, the dean-himself an AMLO
supporter-characterized Obrador as the people's best chance
for a better future, because Mexico's other political leaders
have "largely forgotten them."

Some disagree with AMLO's approach


--------------------------





14. (SBU) Not all Oaxacans favor the PRD or AMLO, and there
are important vestiges of support for the PRI and PAN within
Oaxaca City and some of the state's wealthier communities.
There are plenty who view the PRD's track record as limited
and lacking inspiration, sharing the same tendencies toward
authoritarianism and corruption as the other political
parties. Although AMLO asked his followers to stage sit-ins
in front of Oaxaca's 11 electoral districts, this happened in
only three. According to Oaxaca University's academic dean,
not more than a couple dozen buses went from Oaxaca to Mexico
City in support of Obrador's recent demonstrations. "Most
Oaxacans are sympathetic towards AMLO, but there's no
connection between the teachers protest and AMLO's electoral
challenge," he commented. There's a sense among some
right-leaning members of the elite that AMLO is playing with
fire by calling for nationwide protests and that neither he
nor anyone else may be able to control the forces he is
trying to unleash. "If the country becomes ungovernable, as
Oaxaca is becoming," asked one political observer, "who will
save Mexico?"


Visit Mexico City's Classified Web Site at
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/wha/mexicocity

BASSETT