November 3, 2006
The Mexican government's belated effort to pacify the city of Oaxaca has backfired badly thus far. After six hours of fighting with protesters earlier today, federal police retreated from the gates of the Autonomous University of Oaxaca. The protesters had taken refuge there after being dislodged by police from the main plaza, taking advantage of Mexico's custom by which police are not permitted to enter university grounds without permission from the rector. See CNN.com and El Universal. During today's street battle, a newspaper photographer was wounded by a large bottle rocket loaded with nails. So much for the protesters' claims of being unarmed. Talk about vicious tactics... Now that they are safely ensconced in a sanctuary and have drawn wide attention to their revolt, there is a serious likelihood that the protesters will maintain a base of resistance for the indefinite future, casting a pall over the inaugration ceremonies on December 1. "The whole world is watching."
The divisions in Mexico revealed by the virtual tie election results and the accusations of vote fraud by the leftist PRD means that President-elect Calderon (of the conservative PAN) will have his hands tied in trying to reach a peaceful settlement with the rebels in Oaxaca. The Congress of Mexico recently passed a resolution urging Oaxaca Governor Ulises Ruiz to resign, but he refused. He belongs to the PRI, which used to dominate Mexico. He seems to be putting his own interests over the best interests of the country.
At CNN.com, Aneesh Raman wrote an unusually detailed background story on Daniel Ortega, the once- and likely next president of Nicaragua. The main rival candidates are Eduardo Montealegre, a banker who went to Harvard, and Edmundo Jarquin, an economist. Ortega is definitely talking out of both sides of his mouth, wooing poor voters with angry, populist rhetoric one minute (he "will bury savage capitalism") and sounding more serious the next. Most people think he is getting major funding from Hugo Chavez. About 70 percent of Nicaraguans sharply oppose Ortega, fearing he will ruin the burgeoning economy and eco-tourist trade. Surprisingly, however, a candidate only needs 40 percent to be elected in the first round in Nicaragua, and if the second-place candidate is more than five percent behind, then 35 percent is enough.