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U.S. journalist killed in Oaxaca… state police believed responsible.

27 October 2006

The Reuters-AP post below does not make this clear:

OAXACA, Mexico (Reuters) – Gunmen opened fire on protesters in Mexico’s colonial city of Oaxaca on Friday, killing a U.S. journalist and wounding several people at road blocks set up by leftists pushing to topple a state governor.Will Bradley Roland, a cameraman working with Indymedia New York, was shot in the chest and died before reaching the hospital, the independent news group said on its Web site.

Emergency services said the journalist died after being shot in the torso in one of two shootouts in the city.

Nine people, mostly protesters, have been killed in a conflict that began in Oaxaca state five months ago, when striking teachers and leftist activists occupied much of the state capital, a popular tourist destination.

Red Cross officials said several people were wounded in the shootings on Friday.

A Reuters photographer said protesters came under fire near barricades on the edge of the city, famous for its colonial architecture, thriving arts scene and indigenous culture.

This week, striking teachers voted to return to classes but many protesters say they will not back down until state Gov. Ulises Ruiz is ousted.

Critics accuse Ruiz of corruption and repressive tactics against dissenters, whose roadblocks have driven tourism from the city and hurt business.

President Vicente Fox has vowed to end the conflict before he leaves office on December 1. but negotiations to find a peaceful way out have so far failed.

A Milenio reporter, Oswaldo Ramírez, was also wounded. Milenio is NOT a leftist paper… if anything, it’s considered independent conservative. Milenio reports that the shots came from supporters of Ulises Ruiz, or from the State Police.

Jornada quotes APPO spokesman Flavio Sosa, as calling for immediate Federal intervention after the attack. The reporters were filming APPO barricades in the City, and were allegedly attacked by gunmen working for the PRI-ista alcade. “We only have stones against their firearms,” Sosa was quoted as saying.

While the “usual suspects” on the right are trying to spin this as more evidence of “anarchy,” a sensible Oxacan resident points out that in the last 5 months, with no functional police department, there have been very few deaths. The AP shows the death toll at 9, but by my count, there have been only 4 (including Will Roland) tied to the protests — and only one death can be possibly laid to APPO supporters.

Another Oaxacan points out that “porros” (not football fan clubs, but bands of either plainclothes police or hired thugs in the pay of the authorities) have been active, and are acting as “agentes provacateurs.” Most Oaxacans remain calm, and … as everyone who lives there has told me… this was no where near any tourist activities.

And, this is terrible to say, but I though of “Under Fire,” the 1983 Hollywood film about foreign jorunalists in the Nicaraguan Civil War. The film gives the impression that the murder of a U.S. journalist by government forces, witnessed — and photographed by a U.S. journalist, is what ended the Somoza dictatorship. As the foreign reporters are watching the newscast about the shooting… and the collapse of the dictatorship, a Nicaraguan woman says, “Thirty years of civil war for what? Maybe we should have shot a gringo years ago.”

I don’t know. Oaxaca was Benito Juarez’ hometown… and Benito’s great contribution to world affairs was the very simple idea that countries should stay out of each other’s business, unless they are asked. The U.S. has no reason, or rationale, to be involved here. On the other hand, we are supposedly supporting democracy in places like Ukraine or Lebanon… or — according to some — Iraq. But, when our next-door neighbors are demanding democracy, we ignore it, preferring to see it as an affront to our right to be tourists, to see a colorful, dirt-poor state.

I happen to think democracy is important… and we should pay attention when the people rebel against incompetent, corrupt, and dubiously elected leaders, such as Ulises Ruiz… Perhaps that’s too close to home. I just wish it wasn’t necessary to have “one of ours” die before we get the message.

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