July 17, 2007
Protests in the Mexican state of Oaxaca have turned violent again, after several months of relative calm. As before, police used tear gas to quell the disturbance, and the protesters burned several vehicles. This is taking place during the "Guelaguetza festival, which celebrates indigenous music, food and crafts..." See BBC. It all began with a strike by teachers in May 2006, turning into politically-motivated effort to force Governor Ulises Ruiz to resign. The violence peaked in late October , after which the police retreated.
It is a terrible tragedy that the beautiful tourist city of Oaxaca -- with its precious colonial architecture, pre-Columbian archeological wonders, and superb bird-watching opportunities -- has been devasted because of political disagreements.
Last Wednesday the Panamanian Congress ratified a free trade agreement with the United States, in the face of protests by farmers and others who have enjoyed economic protection. Interestingly, the left-leaning President Martin Torrijos and his Democratic Revolutionary Party have played a constructive pro-trade role in Panama. See CNN.com. It's almost the same situation as in Costa Rica and Honduras, where Manuel Zelaya and the Liberal Party have adopted a forward-looking attitude on global integration. Now the question is whether the Democrats in the U.S. Congress will ratify the treaty. It's time for pro-NAFTA Bill Clinton to step up to the plate and urge his fellow Democrats to do the right thing.