August 21, 2006 [LINK]

Oaxacan teachers press demands

The public school teachers in Oaxaca who have been on strike for the last three months raised the stakes once again, taking control of 12 privately-owned radio stations. Just to make sure that no one thinks about sending their children to a private school instead, they broadcast a warning to parents not to take their children to school. (How in the world are teachers who act like that supposed to instill discipline in their students?) The takeover was in response to the wounding of one of the strikers by a gunshot. The fact that journalists who have reported negative things about the state government have been shot at raises the possibility that the teachers may have valid grievances. Gov. Ruiz belongs to the once-dominant Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). President Fox, of the National Action Party (PAN), has decided not to send in Federal police for the moment, saying it is a problem of the state of Oaxaca. According to,

"We're fed up with neoliberalism," one said, using a term for free-market economics. "We are fed up [sic] gringo ecotourism."

Oh, oh. What in the world did we do to offend them? We did notice a few Marxist protesters in the city plaza when we visited Oaxaca three years ago, but the situation has become much worse since then.

In the capital city, meanwhile, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador continues to escalate his rhetoric, warning of "ultimate consequences" if his demands are not met, and the streets remain clogged with camped-out protesters. On a brighter note, the state of Chiapas held an election on Sunday that is supposed to herald a new era of democracy. See El Universal (in English). That is where the Zapatista uprising began in January 1994, and the social discontent has evidently spilled across the border into the states of Oaxaca.

Peru negotiates free trade

In another sign that new president Alan Garcia is serious about pursuing pragmatic, market-based economic policies (unlike his first term), he has named Hernando de Soto to negotiate trade matters with the United States. De Soto is the author of The Other Path, which advocates -- among other things -- radical reduction of bureaucracy and tax burdens in Peru and other Third World countries. See La Republica.

Volcano in Ecuador

The Tungurahua volcano, south of Quito, has been spewing ash for the past several days, but many local residents are reluctant to leave their homes, in spite of evacuation orders. As in some parts of the United States (such as New Orleans), there is a strong distrust of the government among many poor people.