It often seems easy to draw parallels and links between disparate social and political events or movements characterizing today’s Mexico. Now some two and a half decades old, the neo-liberalist regime of economic restructuring, deregulation, rampant privatization, and slashes to an already skeletal social safety net has seen the same kind of negative, destructive fallout throughout the country: small-scale subsistence farmers from Chiapas to Chihuahua are suffering the effects of drastic cuts to subsidies and other forms of state assistance, and rural communities everywhere are experiencing a serious seepage of their inhabitants (especially young men) to work in northern states or in the United States; unchecked environmental pollution, illicit exploitation of ecological reserves and forests, and the introduction of genetically modified maize to native supplies all threaten delicate local and regional ecological balances; in both urban and rural locales Mexicans are seeing an increasing militarization of their communities in the hollow names of either "drug enforcement" or "public security"; and the costs of basic staples of everyday life—housing, gas, tortillas, and so on—climb steadily upwards. And the list continues.
The pervasive uncertainty and instability have also brought municipal, state, and federal political leaders into new kinds of interdependency as they must adapt to crises that arise continually in a political landscape where formerly relatively solid lines of affiliation and loyalty are today blurry and constantly shifting. In response to this situation, it is hardly surprising that popular forms of protest throughout the country share similar languages of opposition, and invoke many of the same causes and characters as being at the root of their respective mobilizations.
Nevertheless, despite these commonalities, an emphasis on parallels and links can sometimes be too facile or even obscure the dynamics, for example, of a social or political movement like the Popular Assembly of Oaxacan Peoples or APPO. In this light, it is important not to lose sight of the specifics of this movement—the particular circumstances of the rise of the APPO in Oaxaca, its definite shaping by the nature of culture, society, and politics in that state, and the unique nature of its agenda, and its protestive activities and philosophies. It is also important to note that the APPO and its evolution emerged out of a not entirely predictable set of circumstances that saw political contexts at both state and federal levels conspiring and (re)acting together in the triggering of the movement and the shaping of its subsequent development.
For right from the emergence of the movement in response to severe state-authored repression against a teachers’ strike in mid-June, 2006, the APPO’s character was eminently plural and "popular." Participants encompassed not only the established political activists and civil society organizations (left-wing political parties, human rights organizations), but also a wide spectrum of Oaxacans—students, housewives, street kids, members of other unions and of CEBs (comunidades eclesiales de base), office workers, anarchists, youth gang members (chavos banda), artists, university professors and other academics, gay rights and environmental activists, etc.—some of whom had never been politically active in such an overtly confrontational way.
Thus, one of the most prominent characteristics of the 2006 uprising, which shook Oaxacan society to its very foundations, was—and still is—its lack of coherence. That is to say, contrary to what may have been its appearance at certain junctures, the APPO was never, ever one thing. For example, it was not "just" a teachers’ movement, along with random others who appended themselves to it in the heat of the moment. Nor was it simply an upsurge of leftist radicals—though it was often painted as such in the media. Rather the APPO embraced, both in the diversity of its participants and the breadth of its social and political agenda (as this developed), far more. And the APPO was continually morphing, as a "movement in movement" responding to an environment of particular volatility, uncertainty, and flux.1
This discussion is concerned with local and federal or national relationships in the formation of the APPO, as a point of entry to examining fundamental issues and tensions affecting Mexico today. As I will show, such relationships and interactions reflect a disturbing trend in Mexico’s political climate which has seen a consolidation of unusually autonomous power at state and local levels and a rising criminalization of social opposition, in which the manipulation of the media, and police, army, and now, increasingly, private security forces are performing a more central role. The situation implies a disquieting uncertainty regarding on the one hand, the future expansion of civil spaces of social mobilization and protest, and, on the other, the institutional sanctioning and normalization of repression and impunity.
Certainly, there was a deep local history that had gradually planted the seeds of the explosive background to the emergence of the movement. In this history’s most recent layer, Ulises Ruiz Ortiz (or URO, as he came to be infamously known), candidate of the PRI (Institutional Revolution Party, which had led Mexico for over 70 years), had been elected in August of 2004, in a show of what was pervasively viewed as flagrant electoral fraud. Ruiz Ortiz’s governorship of the state was characterized by shocking shows of systematic corruption (especially brazen financial mismanagement), human rights violations, political repression, and violence.
Shortly before the teachers’ strike, in the interests of ingratiating himself to PRI presidential candidate Roberto Madrazo (whose campaign he had financed to the tune of millions of dollars, purportedly diverted from the Oaxaca state budget), Ruiz Ortiz had gone to Mexico City to stand by his mentor’s side. He left in command in Oaxaca his young general secretary of governance, Jorge Franco Vargas (also popularly known as "El Chucky," due to his supposed resemblance to the terrible doll of Hollywood horror film fame). It was apparently Franco Vargas who ordered the violent ouster of the teachers from around the central Oaxaca City zócalo, yet Ruiz’s negligence that had made it possible.
Other aspects of the arrogant governance of Ruiz deepened the bitterness of all classes of Oaxacan citizenry and precipitated the first (pre-APPO) popular calls for the governor’s resignation. Armed with plans for a neo-liberal "modernization" of Oaxaca, from the earliest days of his tenure as governor and aided by a cluster of fellow technocrats (from the Northern state of Monterrey, where he had studied), URO set about actualizing his agenda, partly through overtly repressive tactics.
This corruptive repression, or repressive corruption, took three main forms: First, the elimination of the customary "bread, or the stick" (pan o palo) means by which the government negotiated with representatives of various popular organizations and sectors, and whereby these were able to gain some concessions or material support from the government;2 second, the criminalization of the lucha social or social struggle, as demonstrated by the intimidation, arbitrary arrest and imprisonment, and even assassination of a series of indigenous leaders and other social activists whom previous governors had resented but tolerated;3 and finally, the remodeling, with no prior popular consultation, of various public monuments, spaces, and parks. The tearing up of the Oaxaca city zócalo in particular, the heart of what the United Nations declared in 1987 as historical patrimony, infuriated many, including the city elite.
While all this popular indignation was building in Oaxaca, important developments at the federal political level added more grist to the protestive mill. These were of course events of the stormy political climate in Mexico that led up to and followed the hotly contested presidential and legislative elections on July 2, 2006.
These elections saw the candidate of the For the Good of All Coalition, led by the center-left-wing Party of the Democratic Revolution (Partido de la Revolución Democratica or PRD), Andrés Manuel López Obrador (or AMLO, who had led the polls for several years), defeated, according to many, fraudulently, by right-wing PAN (Partido de Acción Nacional or National Action Party) candidate, Felipe Calderón.4 Afterward, the anger of López Obrador’s supporters spilled over into protests that saw thousands of demonstrators effectively monopolizing a 12 square mile encampment right in the center of Mexico City, demanding a vote by vote ("voto por voto") recount of the electoral results.5 After weeks of demonstrations and pressure from opposition parties, t he Electoral Tribunal of the Judicial Power of the Federation (TEJPF aka TRIFE) finally agreed to do a vote re-count from a tiny proportion of voting booths. Yet the entire process took months, and the final declaration of the Federal Electoral Tribunal (TRIFE) was not made public until September 2006—nearly three months later.
"Effective Suffrage," Mexico, DF, July, 2006.
One of the effects of the contested presidential elections and the very messy aftermath of the post-electoral conflict was that Mexicans throughout the country lost confidence in institutions such as the Federal Electoral Institute (IFE) (which had been created in 1990 with great pronouncements of its indexing the deepening of Mexico’s democratic culture), and the Federal Electoral Tribunal (TRIFE). This pervasive loss of faith was significant—and, surely, lamentable—in that these are precisely the public, supposedly neutral institutions guarded with the fairness and cleanliness of the electoral process. And when these failed in the eyes of many to live up to their promises, what more could people pin their hopes to?
So it should be remembered that, from the point of view especially of Oaxacans, another effect of the 2006 federal election fiasco was that by this time there was a shadow of fraud hovering over both state and federal levels of government. And in the absence of consensus to vindicate their right to govern, both state and federal governments evidently have felt compelled to establish their dominance through other means—namely, the use of force.
Certainly adding fuel to the fire in this tense climate were the examples of terrible state-sponsored repression that had taken place just a few months earlier in 2006 elsewhere in the country. Chief among these of course were toward the end of April, bloody police repression against striking steelworkers in the town of Lázaro Cardenas, Michoacán,6 and at the beginning of May, similar violence against market vendors and their supporters in San Salvador Atenco, a town just northeast of Mexico City.7 These events, among others, had brought national (and international) attention to what some regarded as an intensifying display of authoritarian impunity. The case of San Salvador Atenco in particular had two apparent objectives: First, to take some air out of the tires of the Zapatistas’ Otra Campaña (The Other Campaign),8 headed by Subcomandante Marcos—which had been occupying a lot of attention on the national political stage; and second, to demonstrate that the PAN indeed had the "mano dura" (heavy hand) that some of Fox’s critics had insisted were necessary for Mexico’s future national leader and government.9
Thus, all these factors and events converged to make for a fairly volatile social and political atmosphere, both at the national level and locally in Oaxaca. This meant that in 2006 although the teachers in Oaxaca had been striking annually for the previous 26 years, the political and social context in 2006 that produced the emergence of the APPO, was particularly fraught: hotly contested presidential elections combined with harsh repression going on at both state and national levels, and strong and well-organized oppositional social mobilizations throughout the country (as represented by The Other Campaign), made for an especially explosive set of circumstances.
The conflict in Oaxaca worked to expose the sharp contradictions and weaknesses of all components and levels of the Mexican political system, which looked clearly (yet again) to be in a state of crisis. It threw into serious doubt, amongst other things, the impression that the historic shift in ruling political parties that took place in 2000 (with National Action Party Vicente Fox’s victory) had ushered in fundamental transformation to Mexico’s configurations and concentrations of power. Yes, the ruling parties had changed, but the traditional political culture, including its archaic moda operandi and system "rules," remained pretty much the same—authoritarian and eminently corrupt.
The change in ruling party that had taken place in 2000 sped up the disintegration of the strong centralism that existed previously, whereby the government could remove or install governors pretty much at will, and thereby could offset the strength of state-level power and autonomy. After 2000 however we saw the disappearance of the usual channels and means by which federal-state relations were formerly controlled in Mexico’s PRI-dominated, one-party "democracy." This change ironically ended up strengthening so-called "peripheral powers" in individual states—especially through the financing by state governors of caciquazgos (power networks of local bosses or caciques).
Thus in states like Oaxaca, political life continues to be controlled by the usual vertical, clientelistic relations, and quite hard-line authoritarian leaders—and the state has certainly seen a whole series of them. But the recent set, exemplified by URO or by his right-hand lackey and now state president of the PRI, Franco "Chucky" Vargas, are arguably even more bold in the way they operate, in their flaunting of impunity. This situation qualifies Oaxaca as a perfect example of the authoritarian enclaves existing in Mexico which political scientists have referred to as "subnational authoritarianisms"—an elegant term for the kind of crude gangster politics that now rule in Oaxaca.10
"Assassin on the Loose"; graffiti showing Ulises Ruiz in camouflage, Oaxaca city center, August 2006.
The attitude of the federal government before the Oaxacan crisis showed an alarming but certainly not unusual lack of concern for the basic dignity—safety, security, well-being—of the citizens of so-called peripheral states in the South like Oaxaca, in addition to demonstrating a clear lack of concern over the social ills—the poverty, racism, the simple lack of opportunity—which arguably motivated the movement in the first place.11
Thus the evolution, and indeed the very fate, of the APPO movement were very much marked by the federal political situation:
Before Election Day on July 2, 2006, neither the federal government nor the individual political parties at federal or state level showed themselves willing to intervene to solve the confrontation, especially through military intervention, since the political costs would be too high. And in Oaxaca, the July elections were in effect a kind of litmus test for the state government. As things turned out, the PRI saw one of its worst defeats ever in history: in what was popularly viewed as a "voto de castigo" (punishment vote) against the PRI, candidates of the PRD party triumphed in nine out of the state’s 11 delegations.
After July 2, the post-electoral conflict boiling at the federal level was the focus of the national political agenda. This meant that what was happening in Oaxaca was sent to the back burner—or was even viewed by the PRI as having been stirred up by López Obrador’s supporters (Coalición por el Bien de Todos—PRD-PT-Convergencia12). The federal government kept insisting that the conflict in Oaxaca was only a local matter, and that it was not their responsibility to address the situation.
However, once the federal election controversy was resolved (at least in official eyes) by the Federal Electoral Tribunal, the issue of the removal of Ruiz—the principal demand of the APPO movement—became the bargaining chip in a crude horse trade. That is, the PRI agreed to ratify the legitimacy of incoming president-elect Calderón by promising to not obstruct his formal installation into power ("toma de protesta") on Dec. 1. In return, the PAN had to agree to arrange the passing of a resolution in the federal senate not to oust Ruiz. Thus, in an arrangement finessed by Santiago Creel (coordinator of PAN senators), and Carlos Abascal Carranza (then Fox’s secretary of governance), on Oct. 19, the Federal Senate officially recognized that there was a situation of instability and ingovernability in Oaxaca. But instead of declaring a dissolution of powers, it only exhorted Ruiz to abandon the governorship—an absurd wrist-slapping statement akin to a teacher telling a proven schoolyard bully that he should really think about stopping to be so mean to his fellows. Nor did the Chamber of Deputies at the Oaxaca state level ever produce any strong resolution against URO. And Fox and his PAN executive, true to character, had only stuck to legal formalisms, Secretary of Governance Abascal insisting in a famous remark that "the president of the republic neither removes nor installs governors."13
The PRI-PAN alliance has raised its head more than once at critical moments in Mexico’s history: among these are the repression of the rail workers’ strike in 1959, the student movement of 1968, the neoliberal reforms in 1982, the 1988 voting fraud, the signing of NAFTA, the low intensity war in Chiapas since 1994, and the refusal to allow a total vote recount in the 2006 election.14 It stems from the PAN’s foundation in 1939 as the political long arm of the Catholic Church hierarchy and of Mexican conservatives. In the current context of "democratic transition" the PRI-PAN interdependency has become even more entrenched. On this particular occasion, this pact was absolutely decisive in sealing URO’s—and the APPO’s—fate.
Finally, the worsening of violence in Oaxaca that took place a week later on Oct. 27, 2006, which saw many injured and four dead, including U.S. Indymedia reporter Brad Will, finally pushed the federal government (President Fox and his secretary of governance, Abascal) to make the ominous and, by many APPO participants, much-dreaded decision to send in the Federal Preventive Police or PFP. And as is well-known, the arrival of the PFP to Oaxaca marked the beginning of another stage, perhaps the worst, of harsh and quite open state-sponsored repression, including a long string of arbitrary arrests, disappearances, rapes, torture, etc.15
Any consideration of crucial local-national collusions and complicities in the 2006 social movement in Oaxaca cannot ignore the tremendous impact of the media, both in the role as manipulator of information, and as a tool of resistance. Even before the APPO appeared on the scene, intimidation and other forms of repression against more independent, anti-State media sources had been the order of the day under Ruiz. Indeed, in November 2004, on the very day he assumed the governorship, Ruiz engineered a takeover of the buildings of the Oaxacan daily Noticias, one of the only newspapers that dared criticize the governor. Such repression recurred in July 2005 when the same building was assaulted, and workers who happened to be inside at the time were basically held hostage, unable to leave for weeks, while vendors of the newspaper experienced harassment and intimidation by the state police. With such a record it was not surprising why the media became a crucial ideological battleground during 2006, and came to play such a salient logistic and symbolic role during the movement.
As was the case with the coverage of the confrontation between police and demonstrators in San Salvador Atenco, corporate mainstream media reports (by the two national television networks, Televisa and TV Azteca) on the Oaxacan events and the APPO movement showed an open bias, downplaying the extent of the violence and electing instead to focus on the apparently anarchic "radicalism" of the resisters.16 Such problems were rehearsed locally in Oaxaca, where commercial (yet State-funded) radio stations repeated similar, pro-government distortions of the teachers’ strike and then of the APPO itself. As the movement endured, the bias of the corporate media in reportage turned into an all-out, concerted media assault, as newscasters regularly tagged APPistas as "vandals," "anarchists," and "urban guerrillas." Such labels were part of a concerted campaign to legitimate the use of force deployed against the protesters.
Ulises Ruiz was already very aware of the importance of the radio station of the teachers’ union, Radio Plantón, which disseminated information on the developments of the strike and open criticisms of state policies. And, during the repression on June 14, Radio Plantón became one of the government’s first targets: police destroyed the radio transmission equipment, and arrested teachers who were still on the air. Just hours later, a group of students from the Autonomous University Benito Juárez de Oaxaca (UABJO) occupied the public University radio station (Radio Universidad), turning it over to Radio Plantón broadcasters. Adopting the name Radio de la Verdad (Truth Radio, later known simply as Radio-APPO) they became one of the most central and consistent voices of the movement, and symbolic of APPO’s spreading to enfold other popular sectors in the oppositional struggle.
The movement quickly realized the power of radio as a tool in mobilizing its supporters quickly and warning of impending attacks or movement of paramilitary convoys and other aggressors, but also as a venue for the expression of usually suppressed ideas and voices. On Aug. 1, 2006, the deep frustration and anger of some women with the slander campaign against the teachers’ strike and APPO waged especially by the "public," government-controlled radio, and television station Channel 9 moved them to take over its buildings. The station was renamed "Radio Cacerola" ("Radio Saucepan," for the pots and pans the women banged as they marched to the station before assuming control). Three weeks later, the radio station’s transmitters and antennae were destroyed by government-dispatched paramilitaries, an aggression that prompted the APPO to take over 12 commercial radio stations, from which they began broadcasting across Oaxaca State. As with Radio de la Verdad/ APPORadio and Radio (and TV) Cacerola, these APPO-run stations busily broadcast "alternative" content (films on the Cuban revolution, revolutionary anthems from Chile, etc.) that contrasted sharply with mainstream commercial programming, and gave voice to Oaxacans—progressive Catholics, women, street kids, and so on—not normally heard from. The radio stations thus became the focal point of resistance in direct and indirect confrontation with the authorities, and symbols of the spirit of autonomy and freedom of expression.
The APPO succeeded in holding onto the newly captured radio stations for just a few days before police and paramilitary bodies retook them, after firing against the barricades that protected the renegade radio stations and killing a civilian who occupied one.17 Such attacks by the infamous "caravanas de muerte" (caravans of death) quickly spawned the construction of barricades across the city, a move that signified a sharpening of the confrontation between APPistas and the government. Radio Universidad, the last bastion of APPO media strength, was finally captured by police in November.
Beyond Oaxaca too, the transmissions of Radio APPO, and videos produced by Mexican and non-Mexican journalists, were viewed by audiences across Mexico and internationally and bore important testimony of the reigning chaos, and the brutality deployed by the police and army against Oaxacan citizens. Such transmissions testified also to the awesome ease with which social movements, or those that oppose them, can spread images or information instantaneously and throughout the world—and thus to the potency of the Internet as a political tool in the globalized world.
In the ambiguous and often dangerous context of the movement, independent journalism was a particularly risky venture. The death of Indymedia photojournalist, Bradley Will, who was killed in Oaxaca on Oct. 27, 2006 while he covered a skirmish between APPO activists and paramilitaries in a neighborhood on the edge of the city, is a case in point.18 And yet the 2006 Oaxacan social movement demonstrated to protesters how the control of media sources, or the power to simply transmit an image via the internet, are crucial resources of autonomy and social opposition—a fact not overlooked by authorities at all levels.
So what is happening in Oaxaca now, almost two years after the movement? The formerly ubiquitous graffiti and signs of protest covering the city have long been destroyed or painted over. To all appearances, Oaxaca is back to normal. Yet a slight scratching at the surface shows that this is not the case. Economically speaking, tourism has recovered to some measure, but some hotels and restaurants remain closed, and those that are open have not recovered the same level of activity as before 2006. Some Oaxacans who migrated elsewhere (in Mexico, or to the United States) during the movement—waiters in restaurants, artisans from indigenous towns—remain there.
More profoundly, in the wake of the crisis of government at all levels described earlier, the demonstrated brutality and ineptitude with which authorities dealt with opposition have eroded even further people’s faith in the monopoly of the government over the use of force, and people’s respect for authority more generally. And this demoralization has been reflected in the electoral process: in the Oaxacan elections in August of 2007, the PRI emerged victorious as almost 80% of Oaxacans abstained from voting.
In Oaxaca, there is also pervasive fear. The state government is keeping people quiet through a strategy of intimidation. This has taken the form of a ubiquitous presence of highly armed police bodies, visibly moving through the city on open-backed trucks, or else hanging off the helicopters that may be heard making conspicuously low flyovers, for no apparent reason. Such armed vigilance is justified by a crisis in public security, symptomized by the drive-by assassinations of police chiefs (three in the past four months), and a rash of kidnappings (mostly of wealthy businessmen) that have taken place over the last six months or so.19
Yet a primary source of the fear, especially that of those who participated actively in the movement, is the fact that so many of the terrible crimes committed during 2006—the 23 killings, hundreds wounded, disappeared, jailed, etc.—have gone unpunished. As mentioned earlier, several human rights activists or leaders of indigenous or other popular organizations—and our colleague Raúl Gatíca of CIPO-RFM is a case in point—have been forced into exile in the United States, Canada, and beyond. Among those who have remained this has bred a continual sense of insecurity or even paranoia, impeding their capacity to continue their efforts free from concern for their personal safety and that of their families.
And what of the APPO itself? As a visible social actor it still exists, and continues to participate in marches of the teachers that periodically take place. Its apparent ranks have been much reduced, and its agenda has become focused on seeking the freedom of political prisoners. And yet the APPO considered as that wide diversity of Oaxacans who participated in some way in the 2006 struggle—by taking part in the mega-marches, by holding vigil in the nightly barricades, by cooking for those who remained in the encampment in the Oaxaca city zócalo, by giving testimony of the struggle on the APPO-occupied radio stations, by taking part in APPO-organized discussions and debates on alternative governance, or in other manners large and small—that APPO, though largely invisible, is still very much alive. Thus, the deep problems that arguably motivated the movement—the cruel corruption of URO and his government, but more profoundly, the rampant injustice and poverty of the vast majority of the inhabitants of this resource-rich yet socially and economically polarized state—remain unresolved. Oaxacans who had invested so much in the social struggle of 2006—some of them who risked, and lost, their jobs, family members, or even their own lives—have learned the hard way that the un-armed, pacifist route of massive civil disobedience does not work. And yet without a profound political transformation, Marcos Leyva, ex-APPO councillor and director of a local NGO, commented to me ominously, Oaxaca will see "a very serious social explosion." That is a certainty—the only question then is when.
- See Norget (2008).
- A style of rule coined by Porfirio Diaz—Oaxaca native and Mexican President (1876-1880 and 1884-1911)—that signified one could either accept what was given willingly, or face severe consequences.
- Over the first few years of URO’s administration, those arrested included members of CIPO, the Coordinadora Oaxaqueña Magonista Popular Antineoliberal (COMPA), the Comité de Defensa de los Derechos del Pueblo (CODEP), and the Movimiento Ciudadano Juquileño (MCJ). The governor even attempted to arrest Gabino Cue, his political opponent in the race for the governorship. During 2006 other leaders and human rights workers fled Oaxaca, and are presently in exile in the United States and Canada.
- After a few confusing days of uncertainty, the IFE finally gave the victory to Calderón, by a sliver margin of .5% of the total vote count.
- It should also be noted that the July 2, 2006 election results in Oaxaca were an exception to the customary PRI dominance within the state: in what was popularly viewed as a "voto de castigo" (punishment vote) against the PRI, candidates of the PRD party triumphed in nine out of the state’s 11 delegations.
- On April 20, 2006, police moved to remove striking workers from the SICARTSA steel mill in Lázaro Cárdenas, Michoacán. In the heated confrontation, two workers were killed, another crushed to death, and over 40 other workers were wounded, mostly by gunshots.
- On May 3, violence was set off when police blocked a group of 60 flower vendors from selling at the local market in the town of Texcoco, in Mexico State. When police used violence and arrest against resisters, the flower vendors sought support from their neighbors San Salvador Atenco, well known for their resistance to the development of an airport on their land in 2002. The Atenco residents blocked the highway to Texcoco near their town, and police were called in to remove them. Confrontations were very violent, resulting in two protesters dead, police taken hostage by demonstrators, dozens badly hurt, and more than 40 women raped or otherwise sexually abused.
- The Other Campaign, which grew out of activity of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN), is a national grassroots movement that attempts to bring together Mexicans to struggle against the government’s current (yet historically entrenched) program of unfettered capitalism and to design a program for social and democratic transformation outside of the formal political process.
- Esther Martínez, 2007:96.
- Edward L. Gibson, Santiago del Estero.
- Along with Chiapas, its neighbor to the South, Oaxaca is also a state of acute poverty and marginalization. The National Council of Population (Consejo Nacional de Población or CONAPO) puts Oaxaca in third place nationally (after Chiapas and Guerrero, in that order), in levels of marginalization (Indices de Marginación, CONAPO 2005.) Per capita incomes in Oaxaca are less than half of the national average (Oaxaca has the second-lowest national per capita income, after Chiapas); state statistics are likewise comparably high for death by curable disease, infant mortality, illiteracy, unemployment, and lack of access to potable water, electricity, or well-maintained roads. Using these indices, residents of 76% of Oaxaca’s 570 municipalities have been classified as existing in a condition of "high" or "very high" marginalization.
- Convergencia por la Democracia was established as a "national political grouping" in 1997 and achieved registered party status in 1999. In the 2000 general election, Convergencia participated as part of the "Alliance for Mexico" (Alianza por México), led by presidential candidate Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas Solórzano. In the 2006 general election, Convergence joined the PRD and PT to create the Alliance for the Good of All coalition, whose presidential candidate was Andrés Manuel López Obrador.
- "La Secretaría de Gobernación o el Presidente de la República ni quita ni pone gobernadores. Los gobernadores son electos por la voluntad mayoritaria de los estados y entonces ese tema no está en la mesa" (Sept. 25, 2006).
- In fact, Recondo argues that instead of reflecting an atavistic continuation of age-old authoritarianism in Oaxaca, the political crisis in the state is an indication of a new logic of governance arising at the end of PRI hegemony, and a "’cohabitation’ between various levels of government to oppositional partisan memberships." (Recondo 2007:74, author’s translation). That is, since especially Vicente Fox’s victory in 2000 and the dethroning of the PRI at the federal level, political parties have been forced to negotiate new ways of sharing power.
- According to the National Commission of Human Rights ( CNDH), as of the end of November 2006, there were 31 disappeared, and 203 detained (143 of these detainees were taken to Nayarit, the rest to Matamoros and Tamaulipas) (Dec. 18, 2006 report). Many of the prisoners reported being both physically and psychologically tortured.
- Televisa and TV Azteca became a "duopoly" in April 2006 with the controversial "Ley Televisa," or Federal Law of Radio and Television. This law effectively grants control of the digital frequency spectrum (constitutionally, a good belonging to the government of Mexico)—a change that threatens the viability of smaller independent radio and television stations.
- Lorenzo San Pablo Cervantes, a 51-year-old architect, present in the radio station when it was attacked, was shot to death.
- In 2007 Paris-based watchdog group, Reporters Without Borders (RSF), named Mexico the most dangerous country for journalists in the Americas, just below Iraq. In 2006, nine were killed and three went missing. "Violence in Mexico: A Dangerous Trade," The Economist, Oct. 25, 2007.
- Local Oaxaca city newspapers have stated there are 60 more or less unreported kidnappings in the past six months. Yet others charge that the extent of these is a fabrication.