We have, in the past, covered the murderous situation for journalists in Mexico, a subject close to the scribe’s heart both because he loves that marvelous country and must go there and report on occasion ("Power and Impunity, "April, 13, 2005).
Needless to say, things are not improving.
An American reporter was killed on Friday down in Oaxaca; the last state before Guatemala.
Things have been tense there for a while. Local progressives, largely Indians belonging to something called the Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca (APPO), have been running a general strike in an effort to oust the governor there and doing a pretty good job of it.
The governor's name is Ulises Ruiz and he’s a member of the old and decrepit Partido Revolucionario Institucional. The conflict dates back to the summer and often fed off the electoral crisis in Mexico that highwayscribery wrote so much about over the past few months.
Now, 36-year old Brad Will has been slain, caught in the crossfire, or maybe not.
Will worked for Indymedia and we are sorry to hear of his passing, because he was out there covering these things, these narratives, these marginal stories that need to be heard for desperate situations to ever have a chance of changing.
The lame duck president Vicente Fox has sent troops down to restore order.
The reporter’s murder has not, to date, merited much attention, but Mexico’s far-ish and lefty-ish “La Jornada” ran an article about his life and death.
Here’s his death, as written by Luis Hernandez Navarro:
“He was covering the attack of pistoleros in the pay of Ulises Ruiz against barricades erected in the neighborhood of Calicanto. A sheriff, a security chief and two policemen fired shots at those opposed to the governor of the state. They also fired upon Brad who was filming the aggression from behind a group of youths. He did not expose himself, but they had him in their sites and he fell, struck by two 9mm bullets.”
Will worked on the fringe. That’s what Indymedia is; a network of independent journalists (pooled misfits) trying to get stories out there that the mainstream press ignores, much the way they’re ignoring Brad’s story now.
What might the response have been if the Will killed had been George instead of Brad?
Hernandez wrote of how Brad Will was, “an example of a new generation of transnational information advocates incubated in the battle of Seattle during World Trade Organization meetings there in 1999. We’re talking about journalists who labor outside the large media consortiums, using the most modern information techniques for tools.
“His journalistic work was impeccable. So much so that he became an irritant to power. The images he captured of aggression against a popular movement recorded the faces of the assassins. His last work, ‘Death in Oaxaca,’ is a dramatic testimony to the murder of Alejandro Garcia Hernandez, an APPO activist.”
So, Will was what you’d call a troublemaker; a guy who thought the way things are done, could be done better, and who then used the art of news coverage to make his universal points about violence, oppression, and fraud.
He was not just a film maker. He was involved in the launching of New York’s “Steal this Radio” pirate outlet, composed music, and permitted his democratic urge to move him about the world. A volunteer.
“On Sunday, Oct. 29,” Hernandez concluded, “in the middle of a police offensive against the popular movement, in between teargas and gendarmes beating citizens resisting the repression of their bodies, hundreds of humble Oaxacans visited his casket to pay their last respects. Crying women blessed and kissed his coffin in thanks for his commitment and his honesty. Brad will live on in the memory of one the largest revolts in contemporary Mexican history.”
On a lighter note, but in the spirit of Oaxaca, the highway scribe and Omar Torrez recorded new musical passages from "Vedette" that can be heard simply by visiting Gloriella's My Space Page. It takes about 10 seconds to load. It's called "Chairwoman of the Animal Welfare Committee" and recounts Vedette's important political moment in the uprising at Cueva del Rio. The prose are a pastiche of animal liberation fantasy and Spanish Civil War symbolism (say that five times fast). The musical piece is Omar's lively "Ode to Paco" [as in "de Lucia"].