20 February 2007

Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca: A camp in Protest

La APPO is a recently formed political organization that claims to breed social resistance to neoliberalism and authoritarianism. They fight for the "rescue/recovery" (the exact sentence reads "La resistencia social crece por muchos rincones del país en contra del neoliberalismo, el autoritarismo y el rescate de la democracia popular". The word rescate is translated to rescue and/or recovery) of democracy. Considering that the PRI was in power for 70 years (a time often referred to as The Perfect Dictatorship because elections were openly and "freely" held every 6 years, PRI always won and no electoral fraud could ever be concretely proven due to the party's extensive authoritarian control) before Fox was elected in 2000 under PAN. It seems hard to believe that APPO believes there is anything to recover democracy from.

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This group has marched from Oaxaca to Mexico city (in order to see video of this march, click Galeria Multimedia and then click the video called Marcha Caravana) to camp out in Mexico City. That was in July; today the camp is about half the original size, and the people who remain consist mostly of street vendors and professors who give information for a small donation (we bought a copy of the caravan march for 20 pesos). We took with us a copy of their National Pact for the Popular Sovereignty and the Vigilance of the Constitution and of course armed ourselves with several questions regarding it.

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First we were interested to know what they thought Mexico's economic status would be without neoliberalism. To this the professor inconcretely suggested that Mexico could belong to the First World had they no dependencies on the international community. I'm not sure how I feel about this statement and so I won't comment further.

Many leftists in this country are convinced that they are still living under an authoritarian regime. At home we might call these people extremists because let's face it, Democrats are very conservative in every country but the US. Many from the PRD (the extreme leftist party) consider the new government (PAN) to be the same government that's governed for over 70 years so naturally we asked what APPO's definition of authoritarianism is. The answer was predictable.

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It seemed important to know where APPO vendors buy their raw products in order to make purses, scarves, bracelets etc. We often forget that even those groups that are in stark moral contrast with neoliberalism have no true, simple alternative. These vendors must buy their good from large, often international companies; their food products come from Walmart, not the Farmer's Market. So it seems to me quite naive to say that neoliberalism is murdering any economy. Even the street markets sell clothing that bare the name of the company (often times stolen or second-hand....but either way, someone bought it and by buying it again, and you have and privilege of paying to advertise for the company) you believe is blurring your clear path to economic sovereignty.

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The responses we received were very rehearsed and political. This is not to say that I don't believe much of what I have read and heard about APPO or neoliberalism or economic sovereignty but rather to say that something new needs to be done to combat it. My research is not going to change the fact that Mexico houses 10 of the world's riches people and many, many million more of the world's poorest. We need to first learn the rules of the game before we can play it because no professor in the APPO camp will convince the government to change their economic strategy, cut ties with the world and please, for God's sake stop stealing money from the citizenry. No mega march or caravan march will change the minds of the people who matter, those in office. Something new and effective needs to be developed. A completely new government needs to be in place, a new police force, we need to breed new ideas so that our children can begin to construct clear-minded alternatives. Right now, no one is clear of mind.


Grampa said...

Hi Ashley, I'm glad you asked that question of the professor. Someday when I see you again, I will tell you a fascinating story surrounding a comment that a jewelry dealer made when I was in Michoacan' making a film on Faustino Pena, and his pottery making, in 1972. Long ago, but nothing changes. I hope you are well. Love, Grampa

TheAutumnKnight said...

complete independence from the international community = 1st world ; wow that's pretty radical but i think i sorta see what he says. that one free-trade tariff (or lack there of?) for north america really does favor the U.S. in the long run doenst it, while putting mexico in sort of a economic niche ~_~ but then again what do i know lol

happy birthdday btw hope ur havin fun