The Context of Corruption; A Backdrop of Oppression

THERE IS A CONTEXT AND A BACKGROUND and a larger picture to many of today’s events that those in power would not have us access. They forcefeed us fistfuls of pseudo-truth shards and a flurry of information-flakes; just enough to fetch the fear and loathing to the surface of our minds but not enough for us to see the larger pieces come together. While we are focusing on Keeping the Alienz Out, there is great unjustice to the South, and a great unrest growing. The people in Mexico are acutely in touch with the same shapes of injustice we know here in the U.S.A., except in many cases they are engaging them in a very direct manner. Those corrupt forces they wage a very righteous war with are in league with many that have power over us, as well. Those who misuse that power. And none of these forces want us to understand the interplay, nor to slow down long enough to speak to each other, collect our information, or remember the power of so very many people, undivided.

This post is lengthy, and contains a lot of links and background, though it is not complete (There is so much more context that should really be added to this: NAFTA, GMO corn, the privitazation of ejidos, the EZLN, but it can’t be a book!). Understandably, you may not have time or energy or focus for all of it at once. And I hope you find it interesting enough to hold on to and take time later, if need be.

More and more news of Mexico will come to us here in the States, but as it gets through, it is inevitably well stripped and spun and anti-contextualized. I have taken this time not only to pass along the knowledge of recent explosions (sabotage) of some of Mexico’s gas lines, but have surrounded the event with some context, as I know that the regular readers of Feministe may not focus as heavily on Mexico as I do, and have less background as it is than my regular readership. I also present related information in order to empower a reader to think on it on their own, if they care to. Because “background” doesn’t mean “definite answers.” I don’t know exactly what the next move is going to be, nor what the last one meant. But what is happening is surely riveting, and clearly important.

THE LAST TIME EXPLOSIONS ROCKED MEXICO, they were, with little doubt, a tactic used against the Mexican people. The bombings, oddly arranged so as to minimize damage, were blamed on the Oaxacan Peoples Popular Assembly (APPO), and were aimed at eroding their momentum and support in resisting the police occupation of Oaxaca. It was a terribly cynical and violent (and transparent) way to steal back the news cycle, which would otherwise have been filled with news of megamarches in support the ouster of the corrupt Ulises Ortiz Ruiz.

Now, there is more violence. Five explosions in gas pipelines central Mexico have been reported by PEMEX, Mexico’s oil monopoly, in the last week. PEMEX originally (as recently as yesterday) claimed that three of the blasts were due to “a reduction of the pipeline pressure that caused an implosion.”

Mexico, Jul 10 (Prensa Latina) The Mexican Oil Enterprise (PEMEX) reported a gas pipeline explosion today in the central American state of Queretaro, forcing authorities to evacuate hundreds of families from two neighbouring communities. […]

This is the fifth incident of this type in less than a week and PEMEX has shut down gas supply while several teams of the public sector were trying to control the flames over 100 meters high.

Three other similar explosions took place in Guanajuato state last week because of a reduction of the pipeline pressure that caused an implosion.

Prensa Latina, English Version, July 10, 2007

That was PEMEX, yesterday. Today, the Mexican government is reporting that the blasts are, and have been, acts of sabotage by groups acting for the very same reasons that the Oaxaca megamarches took place.

The group that has (allegedly) claimed responsibility for (all five of) the blasts is El Ejército Popular Revolucionario, or the Popular Revolutionary Army (EPR), and according to their released statement (via XP), they will not stop their “surgical harassment actions” until Mexican President Felipe Calderon (FeCal) and the governor of the state of Oaxaca, Ulises Ortiz Ruiz, release two “political prisoners” being held by the government since their May 2006 arrests.

Not everyone is convinced of the EPR’s culpability or of the validity of the claims posted on a website that “serves as a clearinghouse for bulletins from armed groups” [abc news]; a group the New York Times classifies as “long dormant,” and abc news as “a tiny group that has largely been inactive in recent years.” An editorial in El, Aquí no cabe la violencia (Here, the Violence Does Not Fit) advises keeping an open mind and investigation until the truth can be ascertained:

Tampoco podemos ser ingenuos ni descartar a priori otras líneas de investigación, desde el sabotaje interno hasta quienes desde el exterior desearían afectar el suministro de energéticos a Estados Unidos. Es correcta, entonces, la posición inicial de las autoridades competentes de mantener abierto el expediente, a pesar del comunicado del EPR.”

Neither can we be naive, nor discard a priori other lines of investigation into the internal sabotage until [we know] who from the outside would wish to affect the supply of energy to the USA. It is correct, then, the initial position taken by the competent authorities, to keep the files open, despite the statement [of responsibility] offered by the EPR. ” [Nezua translation]

Aquí no cabe la violencia, 11 de Julio, 2007

Wait until you see where those lines of thought are leading. But maybe you’ve already guessed. I’ll come back to this.

So, all claims of pressure-loss and implosions forgotten, the Mexican government and the statement allegedly released by the EPR frame these explosions as retaliation by the APPO for the violence visited upon the striking teachers during the 2006 Oaxaca police and Federal crackdowns, which came in response to Oaxaqueños rising up and rejecting the corrupt rule of Ulises Ruiz Ortiz.

The New York Times intends to further erase any lingering doubt about the origin of the three blasts that had originally been announced by PEMEX as accidents, and imply—by means of paragraph juxtaposition—that the explositions were, in fact, a result of Mexican citizens protesting the recent decision by Mexico to allow foreign interests to invest in Mexico’s petroleum resources:

Last week, Mr. López Obrador called for mass protests if Congress approves Mr. Calderón’s bill to allow some private investment in the state oil monopoly for the purposes of exploration.

The oil monopoly, Pemex, said there had been three large explosions at natural gas pipelines in Guanajuato recently, one Tuesday morning and two along a second pipeline last Thursday. No one was injured in either explosion, though they caused large fires and forced the evacuation of thousands of people from nearby villages.

Mexico Increases Pipeline Security After Recent Rebel Bomb Attacks, July 11, 2007

ABC also connects these explosions to the APPO and the striking teachers in Oaxaca, but goes one further, and smoothly connects them to “guerilla groups in Columbia”:

The rebel statement said ‘three combined squads of urban and rural units … have carried out surgical harassment actions by placing eight explosive packs on the Pemex pipelines.’ Posted on a Web site that serves as a clearinghouse for bulletins from armed groups, the statement demanded the release of two men detained in southern Oaxaca state in May, and others it identified as ‘political prisoners.’

The city was seized by leftist groups for five months in 2006 before federal police broke up barricades and protest camps in October and arrested dozens.

While guerrilla groups in Colombia have regularly attacked energy facilities, the tactic hasn’t been used much in Mexico until now.”

Mexico Confirms Attacks on Pipelines, July 11, 2007

Time for some needed contextualization.

“The city was seized by leftist groups.” See how artfully the U.S.A. “News” outlets spin the very concept of Power to the People—striking teachers (Teachers Union Section 22—mostly women—who were fighting for better working conditions and wages!) facing off armed police and Federal Forces (who had tear gas and helicopters and riot gear) with sticks and crude barricades and vast stores of corazón (a resistance that is not yet to fade away so easily). How easily the “Fourth Estate” of this democratic republic turns teachers bravely facing corruption and violence into some type of violent takeover by guerrilla groups. The APPO? The APPO were formed in reaction to the police intrusion and abuse of the peaceful protestors. And why did they terrify the State so much? Why do our own “News” outlets reduce them to “leftist groups”?

Because they are dangerous.

In the light of [the corrupt governor situation and raid on striking teachers], and the impression that the state government was repressive and had become effectively powerless in governing, the APPO was created and convened for the first time on June 17, 2006. It declared itself the de facto governing body of Oaxaca. […] It encouraged all Oaxacans to organize popular assemblies at every level: neighborhoods, street blocks, unions, and towns. The APPO took the slogan that it was a “movement of the bases, not of leaders” and asserted the need for common civilians to organize and work beyond the scope of elected officials.


Dangerous to a certain power structure. Or a certain dynamic of power.

Union busting? Undercounting protest numbers? Attaching the notion of “filthy invaders” to massive May Day parade numbers too large to undercount? Keeping a wall of ignorance and hate up between large masses of citizens, or different races of people? Anti-net-neutrality? All these things are about control of truth. They are specific anti-democracy, anti-knowledge, anti-Power to the People, anti-freedom devices.

The New York Times discusses, in their writeup of the explosions, the “backdrop” amid which this violence occurs. If you follow Mexican politics regularly, and through U.S.A. news outlets, you’ll see that word a lot. It’s a way of saying “unrelated related.” It’s a way of avoiding commenting on the obvious connections.

The Times mentions President Calderón’s (FeCal’s) support for the corrupt Ulises early in his own presidency, calling the move that solidified suspicions of FeCal’s presidency as installation-rather-than-election, a “crackdown on protestors”:

Mr. Calderón’s crackdown on left-wing protesters in Oaxaca last fall also contributed to the alienation of those on the far left of the political spectrum. Several of the protest leaders were jailed pending trials and have not been released.”

Mexico Increases Pipeline Security After Recent Rebel Bomb Attacks, July 11, 2007

For clarity’s sake, let’s briefly recall a few details of a life that has been touched by this so-called “alienation”:

A second woman, fuming because her car has been blocked by an illegally parked Nissan, screams at a speeding motorcycle cop to rescue her but the officer only laughs and zooms off to ferret out APPO subversion. ‘Pinche policias!’ she snarls, ‘they only work for the killer Ulisis.’ The irate compañera explains that a cousin disappeared last June 14 when the governor dispatched hundreds of police to push the striking teachers out of the plaza and concussion grenades rained down on the demonstrators from low-flying helicopters.

‘He never came home. He’s dead. I just want his bones now’ she mourns.

Counter punch, via Aztlán Electronic News

art by Lindsay Hebberd Ah yes. Alienation and Crackdown. Such dance-y words for State Violence, Oppression, Murder, and Corruption.

The New York Times also mentions the unrest that still throbs like a wounded heart just under the skin of Mexico’s movement, due to the way in which FeCal gained his power—the same way one of his heros, George W Bush, did, incidentally. It’s getting popular these days. It’s called Theft and Obfuscation and Using the wheels of bureacracy and people’s fear of instability to steal elections.

The attacks come against a backdrop of acute political polarization in Mexico stemming from last year’s presidential elections. Election officials say Mr. Calderón narrowly won that race, but his leftist opponent, Andrés Manuel López Obrador [AMLO], has never conceded defeat.”

Mexico Increases Pipeline Security After Recent Rebel Bomb Attacks, July 11, 2007

There’s the word! All the violence occurs amidst a “backdrop” of corruption—of “alleged” corruption, that is. Kidnappings occur in relation to a “backdrop” of “cries of Fraude.” Torture and murder occurs against a “backdrop” of teachers and their familias refusing to back down to corrupt government. Yes all just a “backdrop” of various crooked plots and oppressive actions by the State…but no connectedness, no cause and effect. No Big Picture. You don’t need a Big Picture when you can just drape a bloody backdrop over everything.

Amigo Richard at the Mex Files is not quite ready to go along with the official story.

[G]iven that there have been manufactured “terrorist” acts in the past to justify police crackdowns on dissent (last year’s bombing of the PRI headquarters in Mexico City, a dubious bank bombing — carefully designed to minimize damage — in Tlanapantla, Morelos following a stolen municipal election in 2005 — and an earlier bombing blamed on the Zapatistas — this one blowing up a trash can in front of a bank at 3 in the morning — again in Mexico City), I’d want more information before I draw any conclusions.

PEMEX, AMLO and ERP… it’s a blast, The Mex Files

Of course, some voices are already working in the ubiquitous and all-powerful Al Qaeda angle. You didn’t think it would take long, did you?

Pudiera, asimismo, tratarse de un problema que trascienda nuestras fronteras. En febrero pasado, La voz de la Guerra Santa, un sitio en internet de Al-Qaeda, hizo un llamado para “atacar intereses petroleros en todas las regiones que sirven a EU, no sólo en Medio Oriente”, y se refirió en específico a México..”

img This could also be a problem that goes beyond our own borders. Last February, The Voice of the Holy War, an Al Qaeda website made a call for “attacking the petroleum interests in all the regions that serve the EU, not only the Middle East.” [Nezua translation]

Aquí no cabe la violencia, 11 de Julio, 2007

That’s the “line of thought” I mentioned earlier—that Al Qaeda is erecting its explosive caliphate of Holy IED from Mexico to the UK to Iraq, just like certain judicially-installed nonelected officials always dreamed. Blowing up Mexican natural gas lines and writing passionate (Spanish) statements demanding the release of APPO members. And…unable to make it across the border to the USA. Don’t be surprised if this little fearnugget gets caught between the chattering teeth of the Bush cultists, however ludicrous it might be. We know, sadly, that there is a faction of deranged US citizens who long, finally, to lump Iraqis and Mexicans together and just get it over with already so the Hate ‘N Fear can all be rolled into one, nice, fat cigar that can be smoked and stoked and thrown on the smoldering remains of Bush’s imploding quagmire bonfire Freedum pyre.

Others, like Blogotitlan, wonder if it’s simply a coincidence that these explosions happen so closely after Mexico’s decision to open Mexican petroleum assets to foreign investment.

As amigo XP puts it:

What makes EPR[‘s] statement interesting, they said the bombings were the signal of the beginning of its campaign against the interests of “the oligarchy and of this illegitimate government.” The word “illegitimate” echoes presidential contender Andres Manuel López Obrador [AMLO], who lost the 2006 election to Calderon by less than 0.6 percentage point, and uses the same term for the current administration. After leading two months of post-election street protests culminating in a self- inauguration, López Obrador continues his claim to be the rightful head of state.

Earlier this month, more than 300,000 people filled the giant Zocalo plaza in downtown Mexico City for the third National Democratic Convention (CND) called by López Obrador.

The Natives Are Getting Restless Down In Mexico,

And what did AMLO (Mexico’s “Al Gore,” in essence) tell the mass of hundreds of thousands of gente who were gathered to hear his message?

‘Zero negotiation. I repeat, zero negotiation with those who carry out policies against the people,’ said López Obrador. He said he will mobilize the masses should Calderón attempt to privatize the oil industry or open it to foreign investment.”

Hundreds of thousands rally in Mexico City – Keeping the struggle in the streets, Party for Socialism and Liberation

So, who knows exactly what is going on? A lot of backdrop out there. And a lot of spin in between. No single news source can be trusted, a network of sources one can use to compare reveals some of the basest moves immediately. Again, I go to the “overlap”, that fractal-icious shape that reoccurs and reconfigures itself over so many behaviors/processes. The portable Venn Diagram. Like when I ask for directions and ask two or three people the same thing to compare!

I haven’t been following Mexican politics all that long. Less than a year, though close. Maybe a year. I’m no expert by any means. Just starting to get a feel for things. But it is dramatic and sometimes scary. And yet, very hopeful. Of course, I feel tied to Mexico for (I hope) very obvious reasons. But I think following the story of Mexico’s situation is important for us for a few reasons.

In the place we call “Mexico” is right now gripped with much turbulence and oppression and beautiful resistance (I italicized “hundreds of thousands of people” for a reason), and all so close to us. This chaotic map below intends to show—over and over again, via arrowmania—the short distance between these explosions/massive Federal invasions and police presences/major historical events, and a major city in the U.S.A.

From San Antonio, TX to Oaxaca is about the distance between Miami and New York. From San Antonio, TX to Querétaro is about the same distance between Portland, OR and San Francisco, CA. This isn’t a country around the world. It’s right next to us. We even go to the land of Alienz on vacation. That yellow line on the map above doesn’t even exist. Yet, most US citizens remain unaware of most, if not all, of what is happening in Mexico. And how very closely it is related to us and our fate. How integral. Like a partner dancing in the shadow, reacting and acting in concert or in conflict with our moves.

The USA papers and “News” sources like to remind us of violence in Mexico at every turn. Violence, gangs, drugs. Old story. And like the ubiquity of the black and latino male visage ala “WANTED” mugshot appearing eternally in city newspapers near you, this barrage of factoids telling of violence and crime and contextless danger is preached to us, of course, for very specific reasons.

Is the drive against the Spanish language larger than just elements of White America fearing a cultural makeover? Is it on some level in place to prevent communication between Them and U.S.? I say it is, in part. I say that the towering wall of ignorance erected between us and our close neighbor (and really, we overlap, when you consider familias and lineage on both sides, hello!) has been built as symbotic to many U.S.A. desires and agendas. But we need to compare notes, us and Mexican citizens. Even with the limited amount I can pay attention to both “worlds,” it is clear that the crooks in both cases greatly benefit from our not comparing notes. Greatly. And this is true, of all nations and ourselves. Whereas we normally have lived on the notes our own media has handed us, that day is over. We’ve seen evidence of this in the Photoshop™ wars spawned from the Israel/Palestinian conflict recently, the psyops and psyops accusations that stirred as much fever as the news of the falling bombs themselves did.

The boundaries are falling. Around the world, information and means of communication and media are springing up. The wall of ignorance is crumbling. The divisions are falling, and those who would contain us to live off of our negative emtions and fuel and coin feed us fear and propaganda to make us afraid of the falling boundaries, as well. THEY want it both ways. THEY want to knock down boundaries between money and any place in the world and themselves, but to keep the walls up around information and truth and knowledge of various peoples. They want us to be enemies with other populations. They want us to OTHER them. This division grows increasingly clear: this line between those who would exploit, use, fear and harm those without power, and those without (apparent) power.

But we do have power. Power to read our news sources utterly skeptically, and to test them against other sources, and to report our own. Power to speak to each other to determine truth. Power to say your oppression does not exactly look like mine, but we are both being used. And we are both being lied to.And the lies are just the same. And I want to be part of your freedom.

And, not least in importance, we have the power in numbers. Oh, in great numbers. I say this because I feel that this is a needed reminder at times. I feel those people with the most power concentrated in the smallest amounts do not tell us the truth, and they do not mean us well.

Around the world, the violence rages on. Our weapons and protections now are knowledge, truth, each other.

Crossposted at The Unapologetic Mexican

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19 comments for “The Context of Corruption; A Backdrop of Oppression

  1. RC
    July 11, 2007 at 7:52 pm

    I will be rereading this one a few times and also waiting for some more on further developments.
    These are my favorite posts, like up to the minute Eduardo Galeano Hughes.
    If you have never read this trilogy, it has plenty of backdrops, baby. Thanks for a great post.
    I patched this from the unapologeticmexican site.

  2. July 11, 2007 at 8:25 pm

    This is such an amazing article. I’m really started to get interested in Oaxaca and the efforts to fight corruption and oppression the revolutionary groups are making. Thanks so much for writing this.

  3. Melissa M.
    July 11, 2007 at 8:43 pm

    Nezua, thanks for addressing this. I generally read La Jornada for my Mexican news, but I have yet to find a reliable English language source. The U.S. media has been so willing to consider Mexico a “rehabilitated democracy” since the 2000 elections that U.S. news sources tend to overlook abuses by the government in favor of the nebulous moniker of “corruption.”

  4. July 11, 2007 at 8:56 pm

    Thanks, Melissa M., the pleasure is all mine.

    Yes…they sure do take advantage of that language barrier, don’t they?

  5. July 11, 2007 at 10:51 pm

    louisa, i’m glad you’re finding reasons to pay attention to mexico in this way. i agree that it is inspiring. thanks for your comment.

  6. July 11, 2007 at 11:02 pm

    Excellent post, Nez. I am, as you suggested, a little too tired after reading it to say much else, but I just wanted to give some positive feedback.

  7. lizvelrene
    July 12, 2007 at 8:30 am

    It blows my mind to really observe that map and realize how close these events are, and yet, the only place I’ve heard anything about Oaxaca is in blogs and only a handful at that.

    Context is huge here. I’m totally lost even trying to follow the events in Mexico because I have no historical background at all, not the way I do for Europe or Asia. Same for the rest of Central America and South America. And yet this is where much of the important work is being done, at this moment, by people not so different from myself. I think Nezua is right that there is a reason for this, that as long as those are great vague spots on the map with no cultural or historical footing for us we have no way to connect with our contemporaries and share “notes” and resources. The internet is a means to break down those borders but only as long as we’re seeking each other out across the divide.

    I’m sure I’ll be referring back to this post in the future.. great work.

  8. July 12, 2007 at 10:02 am

    thanks jeffaclitus.

    Lizvelrene, I hear you! It’s really amazing that we can know so little about areas so close. It really highlights how selective our “News” sources are, not to mention our own focus, very often. I’m glad my “Arrows Gone Wild” diagram worked in that way. The Feministe readership, I think, would appreciate much of the work being done by the mujeres, the women, in Mexico during so much of these struggles. I definitely suggest keeping an eye on things.

    Thanks very much for the words.

  9. July 12, 2007 at 10:29 am

    It’s absolutely necessary and important to make posts like these and use the internet and blogs for what they’re good for — spreading information, getting the word out, around the totally ridiculous self-censorship of the mainstream media. The only way I ever hear about what’s going on in Oaxaca and Querétaro and elsewhere is through forwarded e-mails and occasionally on websites — so thank you. This is important work, communication work, and the spread of knowledge is vital for freedom. (Not the Bush administration kind of freedom — real liberty.)

  10. July 12, 2007 at 10:55 am

    Thanks for the reinforcement, Holly. I fully agree with your thoughts on this.

  11. midwestern transport
    July 12, 2007 at 11:21 am

    nezua, i really dig this post. i can’t read all of it at once (curse you, work!) but i’m gonna keep coming back to it.

  12. srl
    July 12, 2007 at 11:33 am

    Nezua, thanks for this post. I’ve recently realized how difficult it is for US-raised, English-only people to get good, detailed, no-US-spin-applied news about the Spanish-speaking world. Recently, I’ve started reading El Planeta in preference to the local English-only free papers, and it’s made a significant difference in how I see things.

    I didn’t start learning Spanish until I was almost 30, and I think that simple linguistic isolation (encouraged by the US school systems) is part of why most Americans outside of heavily-Latino areas don’t know a single true thing about Mexico or the rest of the Americas.

  13. July 12, 2007 at 12:35 pm

    midwestern transport, i join you in cursing work! GrrrRRr!

    thank you. i’m glad to hear it.

  14. July 12, 2007 at 12:44 pm

    yeah, that’s what i think, srl. i hear you…reading spanish news compared to our news of the same events is really eye-opening. ESPECIALLY when you put it all together with our social/political events. again, the context….

  15. Nymphalidae
    July 12, 2007 at 1:43 pm

    The only place I learned any history or read any of the literature of Central/South America was in Spanish class.

    The other day in guild chat in World of Warcraft one of the Quebequois was like “How much do you Americans know about Canada anyway?” and I realized that I don’t know anything about Canada. Canada is at most 5 or 6 hours away from where I grew up. And we didn’t learn any Canadian history in school.

  16. RC
    July 13, 2007 at 12:52 pm

    Stating the obvious, most of the South and Central American Daily Press is available on line for free. Of course it is in Spanish, but as others here have noted, the perspective is entirely different, and for regular US mainstream press readers who are used to weak commentary and laissez faire opinions, the experience of reading the editorials from south of the US will be shocking.

  17. pokerbutt
    July 13, 2007 at 1:19 pm

    This is an excellent article.

    I’ve always been interested in Mexican politics and history, since I was an exchange student (Mexico City). This was a while ago, but even then as a teenager, I was shocked at how different things were when I was there as opposed to all the crap you learn in the U.S. I was there when de la Madrid took over and there were lots of winds of change then it seemed like.

    Still it is amazingly difficult to put together the news and context as you point out (even when one does understand Spanish). Someone referred to the El Planeta above, I’ll have to start looking at that.

    Oh, yes, and add your own blog to my rss feeds! Thanks again…

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