[Marxism] Calderon Serves Notice (WSJ)

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Wed Dec 6 08:52:21 MST 2006

Los Angeles Times and Prensa Latina reports on Oaxaca:

Fox leaves Mexico's 'dirty' past unsettled (L.A. Times)

December 6, 2006

Calderón Serves Notice
Mexican President Assumes
Law-and-Order Stance;
Pressure to Be Equitable
December 6, 2006; Page A5

MEXICO CITY -- Mexico's new president, Felipe Calderón, has been in
power for less than a week, but he has already served notice that
there is a new sheriff in town. That is no small thing in a country
with growing crime, political unrest and a violent drug war.

This week, federal police arrested the high-profile leader of a
protest movement that had laid siege to the colonial city of Oaxaca
for the past six months in an effort to oust the state's elected

The arrest of activist Flavio Sosa on charges of vandalism,
kidnapping and robbery marks a significant departure from the
administration of former President Vicente Fox, whose accommodating
style during the past six years initially kept the peace but
eventually emboldened interest groups ranging from peasant unions to
corporate chiefs to challenge the government.

Many Mexicans welcomed Mr. Calderón's firmer hand. But he will also
be under pressure to show that the law applies to everyone in Mexico.
Many of Mexico's wealthiest politicians have avoided prosecution
despite evidence of corruption, while businessmen suspected of
wrongdoing are also rarely held accountable.

"However understandable the arrest of a turgid protest leader, it is
already late for Mr. Calderón to arrest a member of the elite,"
Carlos Marín, a leading columnist, wrote yesterday in Mexico City's
Milenio newspaper.

Mr. Sosa's arrest drew comparisons to previous presidents before Mr.
Fox, leaders who often began their terms with spectacular arrests of
figures from the outgoing regime. In 1989, President Carlos Salinas
started his term with a bang by sending troops to arrest a corrupt
union boss. Mr. Salinas's successor, Ernesto Zedillo, had Mr.
Salinas's brother Raul arrested on murder and corruption charges.

A former energy minister, Mr. Calderón campaigned heavily on law and
order, a theme that became a topic of national debate after his
opponent in July's close presidential election, leftist Andrés Manuel
López Obrador, refused to concede defeat and took to the streets to
try to overturn the result.

Last Friday, Mr. Calderón faced down Mr. López Obrador's leftist
party by getting inaugurated in Congress, over efforts by the
opposition to block the ceremony. In his inaugural address, the
conservative pledged to make Mexico a nation that respects the law.
He offered tougher sentences for drug traffickers and other
criminals, promised a plan to clean up crooked police forces and gave
a pay increase to the military -- while he said he would cut pay for
the rest of the bureaucracy.

"Today criminals want to terrorize and immobilize society and the
government," Mr. Calderón said. "Let's put an end to the impunity."

It promises to be tough going. Violence between drug-trafficking
gangs has claimed some 1,700 lives so far this year. Petty crime is
up in many Mexican cities, and groups like labor unions regularly
block highways and ports to press their demands. Usually, the
government gives in, creating the incentive for more such actions.

The country's growing lawlessness became evident this year in Oaxaca,
one of Mexico's poorest states and a major tourist attraction for its
landscape, indigenous culture and food. What began as a teacher's
strike in the capital city in May turned into a free-for-all by a
collection of activist groups dubbed the Oaxaca People's Assembly,
who occupied the city, burned buses, carried out arbitrary arrests
and chased out the local police force. Clashes between police and
protesters have claimed at least nine lives.

Mr. Sosa, a 41-year-old veteran political organizer who moved from
one Oaxaca political party to another, regardless of ideology,
emerged as the face of the movement. A one-time migrant who worked as
a dishwasher in a New York diner, he said the intention was to
overthrow the state government and set up a "people's" government.
His hero: Bolivian President Evo Morales, who used street protests to
oust an elected president and who went on to win the presidency

Mr. Fox didn't intervene in the state for nearly five months, sending
in federal police in late October to try to restore calm in an
apparent effort to pave the way for Mr. Calderón's law-and-order
agenda. Last week, days before Mr. Calderón took power, federal
police started arresting activists who had clashed with police and
burned buildings in the city. Within days, most of the protesters
melted away, and by Mr. Calderón's inauguration, Oaxaca's streets
were largely free for the first time since May. Monday evening's
arrest of Mr. Sosa was another major blow to the Oaxaca movement.

But Mr. Calderón may need to widen his net to prove his mettle. Last
week, the attorney general for one of Mexico's biggest states, the
State of Mexico, shelved corruption charges against former Gov.
Arturo Montiel, from the country's former ruling monopoly, the
Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI. Official documents show
that during his six-year term in office, which ended last year, Mr.
Montiel earned nearly $1 million in wages and benefits. But Mexican
media estimate the governor bought luxury homes in Mexico and Europe
worth at least $8 million. The governor denies the charges.

While it is the state government's responsibility to bring charges,
analysts say Mr. Calderón could call for a special investigative
committee or get federal prosecutors to charge him with tax evasion.

In Oaxaca, too, political crimes and corruption are legendary and
rarely punished. During the 2004 campaign that brought current Gov.
Ulises Ruiz to power, Mexican newspapers published pictures of PRI
party activists beating to death an old man from a rival party.
Despite the pictures, no one has been convicted for the beating.

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