Peace & Politics In Oaxaca

After the political upheaval of 2006 and early 2007, Oaxacan society has gradually returned to what it was, only poorer. The local economy is so dependent on tourism and the sale of artisan goods that the absence of visitors resulted in almost universal impoverishment of the city and the surrounding valleys. The mood is darker, too. Everyone feels that the national government abandoned Oaxaca.

For the last couple of years the situation has been peaceful, and with visitors returning the economy has recovered somewhat. The political scarring, however, is only now beginning to heal. Among the locals I have found a diversity of opinion about who was to blame for the crisis, but almost everyone, regardless of their political philosophy, holds the past governor, Ulises Ruíz, culpable and would like to see him investigated for corruption. In July 2010, the state elected a new governor, Gabino Cué, a former mayor of Oaxaca City, and the candidate of the opposition alliance. Cué is uniquely fitted to be an alliance candidate for he is well known, lacks any strong party identification, and is thought to be more of a pragmatist than an ideologue. He assumed office on December 1 and immediately began making political gestures indicating an interest in social and political reform.

But in the month before Cue took office, a couple of social activists were assassinated, and a few days later, two thugs who worked for Ruíz's political party, the PRI, were killed. These last two were shot in broad daylight in front of the church of Santo Domingo, one of the prime tourist attractions in the city. It appears that they were executed by the drug gang known as the Zetas, who circulated a flyer explaining the killing as punishment for having extorted money and kidnapped people while claiming to be Zetas. The flyer maintained that normal people would have nothing to fear from the Zetas, and that only corrupt officials and their operatives were in danger.

Of course this adds another dimension to Oaxaca's political situation, but generally things are calm in the city. Petty theft is still prevalent, and lately there has been a rash of secuestros express -- kidnapping a person for what can be gotten from his or her at an ATM. But by and large, Oaxaca is a safe destination.

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