Up until now, Enrique Peña Nieto hasn’t been able to make a public visit to the city of Oaxaca because too many people have come out against it. But last September 7th, the chief executive took advantage of the inauguration of the Cultural and Convention Center to make a brief surprise visit. His stated goal was to attract big investments from the 900 businessmen attending Mexico’s 24th Foreign Trade Conference. And in order to attract those investments, he planned to show that the rebel city has become a stable place, where all protests are under control and a state of law prevails.
Everything was ready. Along with the 1500 federal police troops and gendarmes assigned to put down resistance, an equal number of state and city police, riot cops and CTM shock troops took up their positions. The federal police had blocked public access to the Convention Center, while the presidential police had put restrictions on many local written and electronic news media. Avispa Midia called it a “state of siege”.
But far from inspiring the confidence of the entrepreneurs, things went all wrong for Peña. When they learned of his plans to be in the city, Oaxaca’s dissident teachers organized in Section 22 of the National Education Workers Trade Union (SNTE), called him a “persona non grata” and hung a huge banner outside their headquarters in Santa Lucía del Camino, directly across from the Convention Center that said “No forgiving, no forgetting. Peña Nieto you’re a killer. Oaxaca says go home”. And words painted on a wall said, “Killer Rat Peña Get Out! The teachers put out a call to their members and to people all over the city to come out and kick him out.
For hours, men, women, and above all, young people from the barrios and communities, used sticks, stones, slingshots, firecrackers and anything at hand against the heavily armed cops firing teargas. Around 25 people were arrested and at least 20 wounded, including 10 cops.
But what Peña Nieto surely never imagined was the firing of a homemade rocket that broke the glass of a helicopter of the presidential convoy when it was just about to land near the Convention Center. All he could do was condemn the attack from his Twitter account and from the podium during the inauguration. PRI governor Alejandro Murat also condemned “groups using violence today, even against the news media on board the helicopter of the President of Mexico.”
Peña arrived in Oaxaca directly from a meeting in China of the Ninth BRICS Summit, a group to which Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa all belong. There, he had met with Yi Huiman, Director of China’s Bank of Industry and Commerce.
In an article published in Desde Las Nubes, Daniel Arellano Chávez has this to say:
The economic interests of the Asian country directly affect the people of Oaxaca, given that the world’s largest iron deposit is scheduled to be exploited by the Xingxing Hanfang Mining Investment Co. Limited, with the extraction of 200 million tons of pure iron for ten years, in association with Altos Hornos de Mexico (AHMSA).
Peña Nieto had been a witness to the signing of the contract on a prior visit to Asia. According to exploration data, the deposit lies beneath dozens of towns in the Mixteca, Sierra Sur and Central Valleys of Oaxaca.
Although Chinese businesses have said they’ll “wait until the end of the term of the current administration to proceed with their investments in automotive, fuels, mining, construction and infrastructure areas,” their appetite for Mexican resources is as hearty as ever.
A little before midnight the same day, September 7th, an earthquake of 8.2 degrees on the Richter scale hit communities in Chiapas and on the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, particularly in Juchitán. A campaign is now underway in Oaxaca and Mexico City, among other places, to send supplies to the most heavily affected communities. And the storms continue.
This post is also available in: Spanish