Sunday, November 12, 2006

BOOK REVIEW: The Forging of the American Empire (Part 1) 

A few months ago, I was wandering around Civic Center Plaza in San Francisco after a march (about the war in Lebanon, I believe), and I perused the tables of various booksellers. One caught my interest because of its eclectic selection. My eyes were drawn to a book written by Sidney Lens in 1971: The Forging of the American Empire. Having never encountered it before, I paged through it, and reluctantly decided to buy it.

To date, I have only read about a third of it, but decided to post about it, anyway, as it is a delight. If this book is any indication, Lens was one of those rarities, someone capable of presenting complex historical research and analysis in a conversational form that is easily understood. Unlike many writers, he had a voice, and it is a friendly one that engages and captivates.

His fascination with American history as an intimate political and social phenomenon beyond the confines of theory shines throughout. There is a free will associated with the large cast of characters, whether Tecumseh, Jefferson or Tyler, among others, an individuality that persists as they participate in the narrative, and, in a deterministic age defined by The Clash of Fundamentalisms, there is a nostalgic charm to it.

While he walks us through the paces of the political decisions of the leaders of the day, Lens rarely loses sight of the collective social dimension that, in some instances, dictated them, or, in others, lead to unanticipated consequences and outcomes. For example, in regard to the War of 1812, he describes the imperial motivations for it, and initial public enthusiasm, but then reveals the unwillingness of many Americans to subsequently fight it, an unwillingness taken to the extreme of refusing to finance it, or even come to the assistance of forces under attack by the British. He emphasizes something that is often marginalized in the popular consciousness of this period: the extent to which fears over possible succession by various parts of the country at different times constrained the expansionist impulse, even before the slavery question became so contentious.

Similarly, the distinction between war, conquest and property theft was slippery, socially, more so than politically, as Lens highlights the role of filibustering, attempts by the hardy, the restless, and the lawless to establish private empires of their own in relatively unoccupied regions (translation: predominately Native American areas under the nominal control of Mexico). Filibustering played a prominent role in the acquisition of West Florida (the coastal regions of Alabama, Mississippi and most of the current Florida panhandle), East Florida, as well as, of course, Texas. Filibustering was an endeavor that the federal government lacked the capacity to suppress, even if it had been inclined to do so. Cormac McCarthy's great novel, Blood Meridian, is a harrowing account of a variation of this activity, the killing of Native Americans living on land under contract for white settlement.

All of this, however, would limit the significance of the book to the realm of history, even if we acknowledge that Lens' possessed an acute understanding of how it is shaped by politicians, the populace and economic developments. But there are additional aspects that deserve our attention today. First, and most importantly, Lens exposed the myth that the United States did not display imperial aspirations, and act upon the, until much later, say, 1898, with the Spanish American War. It is important, because there remains a belief to this day that the US was originally a republic devoid of territorial ambitions. It was, in other words, an idealized place where farmers, merchants and shippers sought commerce with much of the rest of the world despite the obstruction of foreign mercantilist powers. Echoes of it can be found among libertarians, Gore Vidal and even Chalmers Johnson. Lens emphasizes that many prominent political figures openly expressed, since the country's inception, the urgency of obtaining large territories to the north, south and west, by war, if necessary.

Indeed, by Lens' account, Alexander Hamilton could be accurately described as both the country's first neoconservative and first neoliberal. Neoconservative, because, like the contemporary ones, he distrusted the masses, promoted the creation of an executive branch with powers analoguous to monarchy and possessed a fondness for intrigues, military force and territorial expansion. He tried, unsuccessfully, to provoke a war with France in the 1790s so as to seize the Floridas, Louisiana, and conceivably, most of Central and South America. Meglomaniacal grandiosity, it appears, did not originate with the participants in the Project for a New American Century.

Hamilton also simultaneously possessed neoliberal qualities as well. He funded the national debt as Secretary of the Treasury, and, here, we observe the beginnings of a system whereby debt interest serves the dual purpose of promoting the primitive accumulation of capital, by redistributing income from laborers to financiers through taxation required to make bond payments, contributing to the outbreak of the Fries Rebellion in 1796, and, quite predictably, rendering these same laborers more economically vulnerable and constricting the ability of the government to assist them. He also, according to Lens, extolled the virtues of child labor, much like transnationals traverse the globe today, looking for the most impoverished places to obtain a docile workforce, including children, to manufacture and assembly their products.

Second, Lens provides a brief, fascinating account of the Barbary States conflict, one that foreshadows the methods of future US involvement in the nearby Middle East. Discontented with the rapidly escalating costs of paying tribute to the rulers of these North African states to ensure safe passage for maritime shipping, President Jefferson found himself in a conflict with them, which could not be won militarily. Jefferson then, rather reluctantly, supported what we would now call a covert operation, an effort to remove the Pasha of Tripoli and replace him with his brother. The ragtag force succeeded, but Jefferson accepted the Pasha's favorable settlement offer, apparently because of the possibility that the Pasha might kill 300 captured American prisoners.

Today, the most striking aspect of the story is the practicality displayed in reaching this settlement, and avoiding a potentially more violent, calamitous conflict. At that time, it was not necessary that the Pasha govern according to the prescriptions of US advisors, purchase weapons for US arm manufacturers and privatize his economy for the benefit of Wall Street brokerages and transnational corporations. The unmolested passage of American ships along his coastline was enough. By the end of the 20th Century, the US could no longer achieve its far more intrusive objectives through such indirect means, resulting in the application of direct military force, with disasterous consequences in Iraq.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Workers shut down Coca-Cola in Venezuela 

From Green Left Weekly:

“We’re showing the world that no multinational company can just come here to humiliate Venezuelan employees”, Nixon Lopez, a Venezuelan workers’ leader, told BBC News on October 24. Lopez was referring to the actions of over 10,000 former employees at the Coca-Cola Femsa bottling company, the second-largest soft drink bottling company in the world.

The workers began blockading all 75 plants and warehouses on October 23, shutting down operations across Venezuela. They were demanding that Coca-Cola pay them up to US$2.3 million they say they are owed in pension payments. Current workers also joined the dispute over plans for further redundancies, according to an October 23 article by Steve Mather.

via Politics in the Zeros

"What triumphed on Tuesday was not the Rahm Emanuel platform but something far closer to what Ralph Nader spoke for in 2000 and 2004." 

I'm afraid Cockburn is probably right:

What triumphed on Tuesday was not the Rahm Emanuel platform but something far closer to what Ralph Nader spoke for in 2000 and 2004.

The furthest the national Democrats have wanted to go on the war has been to attack its management. Not the principled position of Cut and Run as urged by Jack Murtha just over a year ago. Not Howard Dean's "stabilize" message on Wednesday morning. What may well happen now is what we satirically predicted at the statrt of the week: a bipartisan consensus by the national leadership of both parties around the McCain position, calling for fresh troops and better manangement of the war. This is what Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and Joe Biden all endorse. What's need now is a de facto alliance between the antiwar Democrats bolstered by Tuesday's results, and the antiwar Republicans led by Chuck Hagel who no longer have to be beholden to the neocons and who have no desire to go the way of Santorum or Burns. Hagel-Edwards in 2008! (We mean Liz Edwards of course.)

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

A Time to Gather Stones Together 

Good old Billmon...

1. The words of the decider, son of George, king in Washington:

2. To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven.

3. A time to lie and a time to tell half truths, a time to stonewall and a time to cut losses,

4. A time to air 30-second attack ads and a time to reach out in a spirit of bipartisan cooperation,

5. A time to stand behind an incompetent cabinet secretary and a time to offer a sacrificial head to thine enemies in order to dominate the news cycle.

Politics of politics, sayeth the decider. All is politics. Amen.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

An Election Night Note 

UPDATE: Justin Raimondo over at has a similar perspective, and cautions against being too optimistic:

This election provides the antiwar movement with some reason for optimism, but we shouldn't put our trust in politicians. Once they are in office, they tend to forget the reasons the voters put them there. Unless we hold their feet to the fire, they'll get comfortable in their new Washington offices, and will soon accommodate themselves to the ruling bipartisan foreign policy consensus, which is that we are in Iraq (and the Middle East) in a big way for the long haul, and there isn't much anyone can do about it. Now is the time to put the pressure on: where are those long-promised investigations into who lied us into war? The Democrats, most of them, claim they were tricked into voting for the war resolution, yet there has been a distinct lack of interest on their part in finding out how this occurred. Was the intelligence about Iraq's alleged "weapons of mass destruction" faked – and, if so, by whom? What role did Vice President Dick Cheney's office play in the propaganda campaign that eventually succeeded in roping in most of the Democrats? What about those blatant forgeries that were somehow injected into the president's State of the Union address, the infamous "16 words" that turned out to have been quite wrong? Not to mention the machinations of Ahmed Chalabi, Iranian agent and the neocons' favorite to replace Saddam Hussein's – surely his shenanigans, conducted at taxpayers' expense, cry out for a congressional investigation.

INITIAL POST: As I write this, it is clear that the Democrats will have a majority in the House of Representatives, a substantial one, and it is now probable the three remaining Senate races, Missouri, Montana and Virginia, will also go their way, giving them a razor thin majority in the Senate as well. Discontent with the war in Iraq, and the President's style of leadership, has provided them with a victory that is psychologically more powerful than the numbers themselves. Even if the Republicans retain the Senate by prevailing in Virginia, they do so with the knowledge that the country has repudiated them and their President. Much like the Labour Party in Britain, they can only face the future with trepidation.

The most significant development in this election is the decline of religious right coalition that emerged in 1978, subsequently elected three Presidents and dominated this country's political discourse over the last 10 years. As Steve Gilliard recognized over at the News Blog, an AP exit poll discovered that one-third of evangelicals voted for the Democrats. In 2004, three quarters of evangelicals voted Republican. One perceives the initial cracks in the ice that may foreshadow the end of religious right dominance in American politics, and it is the war in Iraq that is threatening to permanent shatter it. Evangelicals have been strong supporters of the war, but that support has dramatically diminished. Beyond the over 2800 dead, the shock of wounded Americans returning home from Iraq, day by day, many with serious, permanent injuries, now over 20,000 total, appears to be having a profound effect upon a constituency previously known for its avid support for the conflict.

Paradoxically, the electorate has rejected the war in Iraq, having awakened from feverish imperial dreams that became nightmares, even as the victorious Democrats merely demand a 'smarter policy', and frequently attempt to envelop opposition to the occupation in the protective garb of other purported security threats in Iran and North Korea. In other words, they risk creating a justification for withdrawing from Iraq that accidentally empowers the President to launch even more catastrophic wars elsewhere. Consistent with the aftermath of the Korean and Vietnam Wars, Americans have little appetite for new military adventures, but the elites persist in chattering about the transformation of the doctrine of preemptive war into informal imperial practices, derived from past experience, that present the allure of less risk for Americans: regime change through covert operations, use of so-called 'special forces', housed in secure bases, from where they can venture out into the countries around them, usually Middle Eastern and Central Asian, and, of course, the tried and true methods of economic coercion.

None of it has any plausible relationship to the world today, as all of these instruments have atrophied, and it will be the unhappy lot of the Democrats to attempt to mediate between the pragmatic insight of the American public and the grandiose attachment to empire among the governing elite in academia, fianance, media, government, and, most of all, the security services. All of them derive influence and a sense of self-importance through the expansion of the empire facilitated by the pretext of the war on terror, and it will be extremely difficult to persuade them to disassociate themselves from it. To date, there is no reason to believe that the Democrats understand the enormity of the challenge, arrogantly believing as they do that, because of their superficial internationalism, they are more suitable for imperial administration, especially as it relates to gently persuading satellites to conform to our wishes, as if the fact that Nancy Pelosi hails from San Francisco and John Kerry speaks French will encourage other countries to participate in the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan.

The cold, hard facts are that the US urgently needs to find a way to get out of Iraq and Afghanistan, create a working relationship with the Iranians and develop the means for removing troops from East Asia by encouraging the Japanese, the Chinese and the Koreans, North and South, to resolve their own problems, instead of inflaming them. The US no longer has the will or the resources to seek to impose its will upon others, indeed, so many others, all over the world. Americans do not want their children to die for it, and the country lacks the financial capability to sustain it. If the Democrats fail to accept this changed landscape, and develop a political discourse to accomplish the dismantling much of this country's global military presence, the same anti-establishment sentiment that wiped out the Republican majority in the House (and, perhaps, the Senate) will soon destroy them, more rapidly than they could ever imagine.

Monday, November 06, 2006


Looks like Ortega has won clean without a runoff. Anyway, Latin American press sources are reporting the story this way. Most bigtime US sources are still saying he "appears to be leading" or is approaching "almost certain victory". Bloomberg, however, has called it for Ortega: (from here)

Daniel Ortega, the Sandinista guerrilla leader who ran Nicaragua in the 1980s, regained power by winning the Central American country's presidential election, an early count of the votes showed.

Ortega, making his third bid to return to office since being voted out in 1990, had 40 percent of yesterday's vote with 40 percent of ballots counted, La Prensa newspaper said, citing the electoral tribunal. Ortega can win election in the first round by taking 40 percent of the vote or getting 35 percent and beating the second-place candidate by at least 5 percentage points. Calls to the tribunal by Bloomberg weren't answered.

I don't know much about modern day Ortega. I know he's moderated his image and has now replaced the out-and-out Marxism in his public speeches with Catholic populism, but I don't know if he will be more like a Lula or more like a Chavez.

Of course, from the White House's point of view, it doesn't really matter -- Ortega could come out in favor of the full neoliberal program, print Milton Friedman's picture on the Nicaraguan dollar, and the Bushies would still sling the full treatment at him just because it makes them look like idiots that a cold war icon was just elected president of a country that is "two days' march from Texas", to quote Chomsky quoting Reagan.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Chavez as Dr. Evil 

Simbaud reports the Democrats are about to win big because Hugo Chavez secretly controls every voting machine in America. Here's the Miami Herald:

Federal officials are investigating whether Smartmatic, owner of Oakland, Calif.-based Sequoia Voting Systems, is secretly controlled by Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, according to two people familiar with the probe. [ ... ]

Concerns about Smartmatic are keen on the eve of the Nov. 7 election, given fears that someone with unauthorized access to the electronic system could create electoral chaos. Some critics believe that if the Venezuelan government is involved, Smartmatic could be a ''Trojan horse'' designed to advance Chavez's anti-American agenda.

God, you can't make this stuff up...

Oh, mercy, mercy ... 

Richard Perle comes out against the invasion of Iraq:

Perle goes so far as to say that, if he had his time over, he would not have advocated an invasion of Iraq: "I think if I had been delphic, and had seen where we are today, and people had said, 'Should we go into Iraq?,' I think now I probably would have said, 'No, let's consider other strategies for dealing with the thing that concerns us most, which is Saddam supplying weapons of mass destruction to terrorists.' … I don't say that because I no longer believe that Saddam had the capability to produce weapons of mass destruction, or that he was not in contact with terrorists. I believe those two premises were both correct. Could we have managed that threat by means other than a direct military intervention? Well, maybe we could have."

(from Vanity Fair)

Also Tom Tomorrow mentions in his post about the above that there's a piece in the NYT Sunday Magazine in which Chalabi tries to blame everything on Wolfowitz -- has anyone seen this?

Friday, November 03, 2006

Insurgent Body Counts 

What is the criteria by which the US military determines whether it has killed Iraqi insurgents? Seymour Hersh provided some insight the other day, during an appearance at McGill University in Montreal:

During his hour-and-a-half lecture – part of the launch of an interdisciplinary media and communications studies program called Media@McGill – Hersh described video footage depicting U.S. atrocities in Iraq, which he had viewed, but not yet published a story about.

He described one video in which American soldiers massacre a group of people playing soccer.

“Three U.S. armed vehicles, eight soldiers in each, are driving through a village, passing candy out to kids,” he began. “Suddenly the first vehicle explodes, and there are soldiers screaming. Sixteen soldiers come out of the other vehicles, and they do what they’re told to do, which is look for running people.”

“Never mind that the bomb was detonated by remote control,” Hersh continued. “[The soldiers] open up fire; [the] cameras show it was a soccer game.”

“About ten minutes later, [the soldiers] begin dragging bodies together, and they drop weapons there. It was reported as 20 or 30 insurgents killed that day,” he said.

Hersh errs, however, by describing the episode as one of indiscriminate random violence. There is, in fact, a purpose to it. It inflicts collective punishment, no matter how crude and inexact, upon the populace in the vicinity of insurgent activity. It is based upon the bizarre notion that insurgent activity can be discouraged through violent retaliatory attacks upon non-combatants.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Dispatches from Oaxaca 

Yesterday, I posted an interview of a Oaxaca activist by Ron Jacobs. Now, it is increasing evident that the government has not reestablished control, despite calling upon the military to suppress the movement:

Thousands of protesters hurling Molotov cocktails forced riot police officers with tear gas and water cannons to retreat on Thursday, as clashes intensified here in this popular tourist city.

At least eight people were injured in the violence, including a newspaper photographer who was hit by fireworks launched from the grounds of Oaxaca State’s university, a center of the protests. More than a dozen people have died in the conflict.

The federal police, who took over downtown Oaxaca last weekend, were pushed back by hundreds of protesters guarding the entrance to the university.

The riot police had the upper hand at first, when reinforcements arrived in armored trucks and helicopters, spraying water cannons and firing tear gas canisters.

But as they pushed through barricades of burned vehicles, the activists, who have blockaded the city for five months and demand that Gov. Ulises Ruiz step down, threw gasoline bombs at them. Local residents joined the demonstrators.

Greg Burger of Narco News has provided a more detailed account:

As helicopters, tanks, and scores of armed federal police approached the University campus, “la doctora,” the now famous host of radio APPO, urged the citizens of Oaxaca to rush to the scene to aid in the defense of the campus and particularly, of the radio station.

Scores of neighbors and students reportedly surround the PFP troops. Simultaneously, APPO supporters in Mexico City marched from the hunger strikers’ encampment near the Senate to the offices of the PFP to demand a retreat from the campus.

Mexican law prohibits the incursion of law enforcement into autonomous universities, unless requested by the university rector. The rector of the Benito Juarez University categorically rejects the presence of the PFP and did not give his approval to the agency to enter the campus.

Although it is unclear whether or not the retreat will be followed by a return to the scene tonight, one thing is quite clear at this moment; the APPO has dealt an important blow to the PFP and has proven that they are indeed capable of defeating the invading army.

The assault also marked an increase in the brutality of the PFP’s methods; at least 40 protesters were injured, according to radio universidad. Another “innovative” technique by the PFP today was the use of a staining agent mixed into the water shot by tanks at demonstrators. The staining agent presumably marks protesters for subsequent arrest.

There are additional reports of more prisoners being flown off into custody in helicopters, and also word of tear gas having been shot directly into private homes in the vicinity of the University.

George Salzman, also affiliated with Narco News, personally witnessed the intensity of the conflict:

The battle raged on University Avenue while I was there. University Avenue is a north-south four-lane road a little over a half-mile long that runs from the Periferal highway junction at the north, the Cinco Senores intersection, to the Plaza del Valley junction at the south. University City occupies a roughly square block a little more than 1/4 mile on each side. This is the main campus of the Benito Juarez Autonomous University of Oaxaca (UABJO in its Spanish initials), located about 1.1 miles southeast of the Zócalo. This area is supposedly “autonomous” in the strict sense that the university authorities have exclusive control over the area. Police, military, federal authorities, state officials, and so on are, in principle, not allowed to enter the grounds unless explicitly invited by the Rector of the university. It is located on the east side of University Avenue, about a block or two south of the intersection.

This morning we heard that the PFP was going to invade the university on the grounds that there were reported to be firearms there. That’s a typical pretext the police use. It’s easy enough to get some corrupt state official or PRI-affiliated thug (PRI is the Institutional Revolutionary Party, in its Spanish initials) to file a denunciation that firearms or other illegal possessions are in a particular location. Radio Universidad was calling for citizens to come to protect the university, with a great sense of urgency. A friend dropped me off a few blocks from the Cinco Senores intersection, which was blocked on all sides by the PFP. As usual, I was able to circle the blocked intersection on a few side streets and soon was “inside” University Avenue in a mass of people, most facing north towards the lines of shield-equipped PFP troops.

Many in the dense crowd were busy photographing and videotaping the then-still-peaceful confrontation, several of them perched atop a burned-out VW-bug. Some people on a raised platform with a loudspeaker were telling the troops that they were the same as the protesters and shouldn’t have been sent to Oaxaca. The PFP lines stood inert, as trained. Several older women in the crowd, right at the front, not more than a foot or two from the plastic shields facing them, forcefully told the troops right in front of them that they are citizens, without arms, capable of running their own lives, and the PFP should leave Oaxaca.

By about 11:30 I started south. After the first barricade, which was north of university property, students were passing pieces of split wood through the barred fence from the university grounds to others on the street side with shopping carts. They use the wood for fires at the barricades. Suddenly an alert spread that an attack was imminent at the south end of University Avenue, and people streamed past me, leaving, I supposed, a smaller crowd at the north intersection. The shopping carts barreled by, along with people with cameras, many folks adjusting their bandannas getting ready for tear gas. Apparently the PFP, who had been massed at the Plaza del Valle end of the road, began advancing in a solid front. Then fireworks began. From the distance I saw clouds of smoke and/or gas and the wobbly arched paths of the home-made rockets launched towards the police, which left a trace of white smoke as they streaked across the space between the protesters and the PFP forces.

When one of the projectiles hit the ground and burst into flame in front of the first line of troops a wave of adrenaline swept the protesters, many of whom ran forward and hurled rocks at the police. I’ve written a lot about the teachers and APPO maintaining a militant but non-violent struggle, which I remain convinced is correct. But this was a different matter: this was people trying to protect their own turf from being invaded by lethally-armed forces, and there’s no way the attempted defense could be described as non-violent. Had the police been ordered to shoot, it could have been a massacre. All that can be said is that the imbalance of power was incomparably in favor of the police; had it been used, it would have been overwhelming.

Most of the defenders were younger men. But not all. Their major weapon was a stream of rocks. I think that in addition to their homemade incendiary rockets they may also have had some molotov cocktails. As the police shot tear gas canisters and began a slow step-by-step advance, I headed back a ways and entered the university athletic fields, located on the west side of the avenue behind a fence, and then came forward again, close to but separated from the exchange. Not, however, separated from the tear gas. People were taking large rocks and smashing them against other rocks on the ground to break them up into sizes suitable for hurling a considerable distance. Their courage and determination not to yield to the PFP was incredible. I’ve never seen anything close to it before.

And, finally, Radio Universidad has provided a translated, curt chronology of events. A brief sample:

13:47 Judicial state police, dressed in grey, entered into the Institute of Communication Sciences of the university of Oaxaca

13:46 Another person detained at the Noria Avenue at the entrance to the Five Señores intersection

13:41 Felix Jiménez Fabián a carpenter's assistant, was detained and was visibly beaten. 2 helicopters are dropping tear-gas, trying to take out the Radio Universidad antenna. There is a house on fire set by the police attacks. David Jarramillo, photographer from the Universal, was wounded, in the police attacks.

13:38 A dramatic report from a woman on the Radio Universidad in Oaxaca, who explains how the judicial state police (Policia ministariales) attacked people in the streets- the helicopters flying above dropping tear-gas bombs. Two helicopters are dropping concution grenades.

Perhaps, this is the sort of unrest that one associates with Mexico every 5 to 10 years. But this seems much more serious.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006


Events in Oaxaca have loomed just over the horizon, obscured by the Mexican election, hard to understand, covered elliptically by Narco News, with a dizzying array of articles about specific aspects of the struggle that, much like the struggle itself, defy the imposition of intellectual notions of linear narrative. Oaxaca, as reported by Narco News requires the concentration associated with the most demanding film and literature, which is to most emphatically say that one should still make the attempt.

Ron Jacobs has published an excellent e-mail interview that provides valuable context from the personal perspective of one of the participants:

When I lived in Washington state, some of my closest friends were from the Mexican state of Oaxaca. I have kept in touch with a few of them and they have kept me in touch with the rebellion unfolding in the streets of Oaxaca the past few months. After the escalation of the situation there on October 27, 2006, when paramilitary forces shot and killed four people (including Indymedia journalist Brad Will), I spoke with my friends David Abeles and Hilaria Cruz who helped me contact some of their people in Oaxaca city. Given the circumstances currently existing in the area and the uncertainty of the immediate future because of the military and police presence there, I felt that the best way to get firsthand information out to the wider world would be to conduct an email interview. The first interview is below. I hope to have another one ready in the next couple days.

Ron: Hey Tomas. Thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions. Would you be willing to introduce yourself?

Tomas: Hi, I would like to salute all the readers of this electronic journal. My name is Tomas Cruz, I am a native from a community in Oaxaca in the highlands. I was forced by the economic situation to migrate to the States. Fortunately I gained an education at the Evergreen State College. I also went the University of Texas for a graduate degree in Latin American studies.

Ron: So, you've been in Oaxaca during the entire uprising? Can you tell us the sequence of events as you see them up to now?

Tomas: I am a Oaxacan native with graduate training at the University of Texas at Austin. I have been involved in diverse NGOs working for the communities in Oaxaca up until the time of the Oaxacan uprising.

What we are seeing in Oaxaca is a breakdown of political system that is completely corrupt and deliberately abuses its citizens at will, using the legitimacy of the state to impose a government that only uses power to advance a personal agenda and that of a very small political oligarchy. Since the start of the present government it was characterized by repression of political leaders, immediately killing them and imposing its repressive mode of government.

The result of the events which are occurring as we speak began with an every year demonstration by the teacher´s syndicate. In the 14th of June, the state police attacked the teachers which were at the zocalo in a permanent demonstration.

The response from the citizenry was immediate, hundreds of people joined the teachers strike and saw an opportunity to stop the continued abuses from the government.

I can only describe what is occurring as catharsis of the population, especially of the immense poor population of the city, which survive.

After the attack by the state and the immense response from the population the most remarkable event in the politics of the movement has been the formation of a popular assembly of the pueblos of Oaxaca also known as APPO.

The APPO organizations have been capable of resisting all the attacks from the state government, from spots attacking the protesters as a bunch of radicals to the death squads sent to kill people that were protesting at night.

The response from the APPO was to develop barricades to stop the death squads. This resulted in a historical and animated political culture, with also a strong popular support.

In the recent days, the violence escalated in one single day in which the international reporter died at the hands of the mercenaries payed by the governor.

Yesterday, there was an intervention from the federal police after the multiple deaths and probably also after the international pressure after the death of one international reporter. The federal police killed at least 4 people and raped one woman in the intervention. The response from the APPO is to maintain the protest until the governor resigns and the political system is reformed.

Ron: What groups were involved that you know of? Also, I imagine that many people were unaffiliated. What were their reasons for joining, in your estimate?

Tomas: This movement is composed of the poorest section of the population. Old housewives which think of this as a parallel to the revolution of 1910 and are ready to resist for years, beggars which are tired of the abuses by the police, or simply sympathize with the movement because they see no hope and future in their lives. Mechanics, civil servants, citizens from the neighboring neighborhoods which have had their municipal presidents imposed on them. Citizens from the poorest sections of the city.

Ron: From my understanding, PRI and its allies were responsible for the shootings that killed several people on October 27th. Is PRI the only party responsible for the situation in Oaxaca or are other political parties also responsible?

Tomas: No, the PRI is seeing its last days and with it, it has resorted to the only thing that they know, violence.

Ron: You're in Oaxaca right now. What the hell is going on?

Tomas: Hell is rising in Oaxaca, the force of the government against teachers, students, housewives, mechanics, peasants. The whole city and the whole state is filled with federal police, local police, military.

Ron: How are the spirits of those in the rebellion? Where do they get their food and water?

Tomas: There is ample popular support for this uprising which results in a steady flow of donations from communities and lay citizens that donate at different points. Mainly this has been coordinated by using radio stations. At this point theres is one station left which is being broadcast through the internet at you can listen to what is going on as we speak, (those that can speak Spanish)

The radio broadcasters which have little experience but a huge heart receive the needs of the people on the barricades as to what is needed. Yesterday for example they organized the installation of medical aid stations because the red cross got instructions from the governor and its director not to attend the flurry of people that were shot at by the governor's police.

Ron: Do you think there is a potential for armed conflict (beyond that seen already--which seems mostly to originate from the forces of the state)?

Tomas: Hmm, if the state continues on its support of a political figure which has lost completely popular support, especially from the poor, then we will see an escalate on violence. because the demands of the people after decades and some argue centuries have been unattended. Honestly I think that this would continue in the same degree, as peaceful opposition and hopefully we would see a more democratic state. Only if the government continues on its escalate of violence we would see a critical cyclical point in Mexico´s history.

If the federal forces are able to quash the rebellion, what kind of repression do you think will follow? Indeed, based on past experiences, after the media leaves the region, what do you foresee happening to the movement, its participants and supporters, and the region in general?

I think that the violence is going to be targeted at the organizers and the leaders of the movement.

Ron: In the greater scheme of things, how would you relate this to other struggles occurring in the Americas? What relationship do you see the demands of the protestors have, if any, to the anti-imperialist/anti-global capitalism movements in this hemisphere and around the world?

Tomas: This rebellion reminds me of Bolivia, because of its indigenous component. As in Bolivia, once the indigenous population determines that it needs to be overturned, we see that they gain a determination that has caused governments to fall. In the case of Oaxaca, the most likely scenario is that the governor is going to be overthrown. What we are seeing also is a political scenario that changes everyday. The news today is that the political parties at the national level are all calling for the governor to resign.

If the movement maintains the level and determination that we are seeing, then we have this movement playing an important role in the national politics and possibly a shift in the neoliberal government of Mexico.

Ron: Anything more to add?

Tomas: I was in the scene five minutes before the reporter from indymedia was killed. I remember hearing the shots, people running all over the place, unarmed mechanics, housewives. There was a woman there, I do not know if she was a teacher, I only remember her words " This is our moment, we cant go on living like this, it is enough. I went to school barefooted and It makes me cry to see what happens here. Our only future is the border with the United States, I makes me sad to see our young finish a University Degree only to work as taxi drivers. This is our moment, we can't let them continue to oppress us.

To follow events in Oaxaca, visit and Narco News.

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