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Cablegate: Mexico's "Other Half"--The View From Oaxaca (Part

VZCZCXRO0171
RR RUEHCD RUEHGD RUEHHO RUEHMC RUEHNG RUEHNL RUEHRD RUEHRS RUEHTM
DE RUEHME #4535/01 2262315
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 142315Z AUG 06
FM AMEMBASSY MEXICO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 2683
INFO RUEHXC/ALL US CONSULATES IN MEXICO COLLECTIVE
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RHMFIUU/CDR USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL
RHMFIUU/CDR USNORTHCOM
RUEAHLA/DEPT OF HOMELAND SECURITY
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 MEXICO 004535

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON ELAB PINR PGOV MX
SUBJECT: MEXICO'S "OTHER HALF"--THE VIEW FROM OAXACA (PART
TWO IN TWO PART SERIES)

REF: MEXICO 3574

1. (SBU) Summary: Despite the end of PRI rule, Oaxaca still
lacks a viable economic development strategy and there is no
effective political leadership or coordinated social movement
to address Oaxaca's significant needs. The teachers' strike
reflects the old way of challenging the government under
authoritarian rule and offers little prospect of overcoming
Oaxaca's democratic and economic deficits. Conversations
with indigenous groups revealed a sense of disenfranchisement
and uncertainty about their futures. This is the second of a
two part series. End summary.

Lack of economic development
----------------------------

2. (SBU) One finds little evidence at the federal, state, or
municipal levels of promising visions for developing Oaxaca.
The political economy here is much more about how to manage
federal funds than how to grow the economy. According to
experts, the economy runs primarily on federal transfers,
remittances, tourism, and inefficient coffee production, and
exports its lack of productivity via migration. Only a small
percentage of Oaxacans are involved in the formal
economy--which centers on tourism--and even there wages are
low by Mexican standards. Educated Oaxacas have a difficult
time finding jobs. "Become a teacher or migrate" is how one
observer characterized the choice. Within the informal
economy, subsistence farming and traditional activities only
barely meet basic needs. The majority of villages lack
electricity, running water, paved roads, and adequate
healthcare and education. Roughly 75 percent of Oaxacans
live in extreme poverty, according to analysts.

3. (SBU) Inadequate federal and state funds, government
corruption, land disputes, and scarce infrastructure needed
to create jobs contribute heavily to the region's malaise.
Among most Oaxacans, the so-called "neo-liberal" economic
model is also blamed, considered biased to the north and
detrimental to this region's growth. While the northern
states have experienced significant economic growth since the
implementation of NAFTA, Mexico's south has stagnated and in
some cases real wages have declined. Reflecting the
frustration, graffiti along some streets of Oaxaca City reads
"no to neoliberalism." Protesters in the capital's city
square lament an economy in which they say only wealthy
Oaxacans and foreign tourists have access to the state's
resources.

Soaring migration
-----------------

4. (SBU) A Oaxacan migration scholar described a situation in
which economic development experienced as urbanization and
non-agricultural employment has devastated parts of rural
Oaxaca and led to migration levels that exceed 90 percent of
the population in some villages, turning them into near ghost
towns. He told poloff that most other Oaxacan villages have
experienced migration rates of at least 50 percent of their
inhabitants. People living in villages near Oaxaca City
explained to poloff that the capital's cancellation of the
Guelaguetza festival (celebrated in July) and associated
reduction in tourism, which is the major livelihood for many
surrounding communities, has caused a spike in migration this
year.

5. (SBU) Conversations with village leaders in the Mixteca
region revealed that social structures of entire communities
have been overturned as a result of migration. Without the
prospect of significant job creation, experts see few signs
that migration rates will slow anytime soon. Indigenous
communities attribute responsibility to government neglect of
the region and globalization. Although remittances have
helped individual families, the pooling of remittance
revenues that might allow communities to help themselves
develop economically appears uncommon.

A view from the indigenous communities
--------------------------------------

6. (SBU) Beyond recognizing their traditional cultures and
varying levels of poverty, it is difficult to generalize
about Oaxaca's indigenous populations. Oaxaca holds nearly a
quarter of the total number of municipalities in Mexico, more

MEXICO 00004535 002 OF 003


than any other state. Fifteen language groups and 56
dialects throughout eight major regions comprise a range of
ethnicities that lack solidarity. Identity is heavily shaped
by geography, with many non-migrants knowing only their
respective towns and vicinities. Communities closer to
Oaxaca City and the coastal tourist resorts tend to be more
prosperous and outward-leaning than those farther away, with
the most isolated villages often characterized by extreme
poverty. Many villages are run by their own set of cultural
norms known as "usos y costumbres" (uses and customs).

What these comunities want
--------------------------

7. (SBU) Despite profound differences between Oaxaca's
indigenous communities, they share certain aspirations. The
right to self-determination and autonomy is an overriding
theme. A Oaxaca-based sociologist pointed to the 1996
Chiapas-related San Andres Accords on Indigenous Rights and
Culture as an example of the kinds of rights Oaxacan
indigenous communities wish to see guaranteed. These
communities hope to choose their own ways of political,
social, and economic organization, including their distinct
forms of local government. They don't want their sons and
daughters to have to migrate in order to find jobs. They
also want their cultures and ways of life respected and
protected. "Above all, we want to live with dignity,"
asserted a Zopotec student.

8. (SBU) Just as they seek autonomy, many communities long
for greater representation in state and federal government.
Those who understand their constitutional rights seek full
access to justice and respect for their human rights.
Indigenous groups expect the government to provide them with
adequate levels of health, education, nourishment, and
housing. "But we are not looking for handouts; we just need
technical assistance," an indigenous woman told poloff,
lamenting the image of laziness she said many Mexicans hold
toward the indigenous.

9. (SBU) Finding a way out of extreme poverty is a constant
concern for the poorest villages, and development assistance
and more equal access to state resources seem for many to be
ready answers. "The history of Oaxaca's rural people is one
of being exploited by the state and federal governments" a
Huatulco-based scholar on indigenous groups told poloff.
Most indigenous community leaders believe it should be their
prerogative, not the government's, to determine the nature of
development projects, noting that the government seldom
considers their productive capabilities when designing
economic programs.

Clashing values?
----------------

10. (SBU) The political, social, and economic forms of
organization in these traditional communities can sometimes
clash with those of modern Mexico. These communities tend to
be patriarchal in their political organization and communal
in their economic organization, complicating their
incorporation into Mexico's increasingly democratic and
market-oriented society. One significant challenge is that
"usos y costumbres" often marginalize women and leave them
out of local political decision-making. A sociologist from
the state university told poloff that the world views among
indigenous people can differ tremendously from those of
Mexico's more Western-oriented citizens, with concepts such
as time, governance, and economic progress having vastly
different connotations. "The indigenous want better lives,
but most are not interested in being integrated into Mexico,"
she added.

11. (SBU) Comment: Oaxaca's political and economic situation
reflects the difficulty this part of the country is having
adapting to democratic politics and Mexico's opening to the
outside world. Globalization and economic liberalism are
largely misunderstood and distrusted, especially among the
poor, who sense they are on the losing end of these
phenomena. That the indigenous population feels disregarded
is perhaps less surprising than the lack of major development
programs being implemented by any level of government to help
them. A key stumbling block is figuring out how to safeguard
the indigenous ways of life when aspects of modern Mexico
seem at odds with certain political and economic traditions

MEXICO 00004535 003 OF 003


of these communities. So far, Mexico's political parties
have run away from this dilemma, allowing the south to fall
further behind economically while migration soars and the
country becomes increasingly polarized between north and
south, as evidenced by this year's election.

12. (SBU) Comment continued: Oaxaca's switch of allegiance
from the PRI to the PRD has been ongoing for years and is not
surprising given the PRI's mismanagement of the state. Few
educated Oaxacan observers believe that the PRD has a
convincing strategy for developing their state, but they also
see in AMLO a leader who would not abandon them in the way
they feel other Mexican leaders do. Oaxaca's history of
poverty and political corruption under the PRI has sapped
most citizens of their trust in state and federal
institutions, and they long for leadership that will confront
the challenges of this region seriously.


Visit Mexico City's Classified Web Site at
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/wha/mexicocity

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