"United, Oaxaca Will Recover"
The Editor of the Noticias Newspaper, Ismael San Martin
Gabino Cue, Governor of Oaxaca
Noticias, November 30, 2010
A few hours before his inauguration as Governor of Oaxaca, the first non-PRI Governor in 81 years, Gabino Cue spoke calmly and confidently about his responsibilities to the nearly four million people of Oaxaca, "We have enormous challenges facing us especially given the conditions created by previous administrations but the people are with us, we know what must be done and we intend to do it together."
"Tell us about your first post-election contacts with people and organizations. Who did you call?"
"Our first calls were made to establish institutional relations with the federal government, the nation's congress, certain international organizations, the development bank and selected productive sectors. Those conversations and related assurances now provide Oaxaca with a budget of historic proportions enabling us to deal seriously with the enormous problems faced by the people of Oaxaca in relation to security, economic development and education.
"In Washington we contacted the office of the Secretary of State, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank to establish the basis for future relationships."
In the offices and hallways of Oaxaca's governmental offices a mood of excited anticipation and activity marks the scene as those working for Cue and those who hope to work for him move quickly back and forth. Among his sudden allies are those who never supported the man but now in search of work are quick to pledge their everlasting allegiance thereby affirming the old saying,"defeat is an orphan but victory has many parents".
I asked the Governor, "What's your main preoccupation at this moment?"
"More than a preoccupation is an occupation, a work requiring us to organize and lead an alliance of oppositional forces as it now turns to the great work of planning and implementing a new participative democracy in Oaxaca.
"A stable administrative structure must be created that enables us to confront the issues most important to the new government: the social issues, the economic issues and the participative democracy issues. The great challenge and the one occupying us today is the formation of a cabinet that combines and unifies those who have been part of our coalition with citizens who may not have participated in our work in the past but who have important experience and skills needed to move our work forward. That's what we're working on at the moment but as of tomorrow (the day of Cue's inauguration as Governor) our focus will be on the firm direction of a government that responds to the people's immediate and long term expectations of us."
"Of all the issues that confront your government, which are the most delicate?"
"It's difficult to say at this point because the outgoing government has, unfortunately, been unwilling to provide us with the information we need to understand and assess the situation we're inheriting. So it won't be until we're installed as the legal government that we'll have access to the files necessary to understand our present situation---not only in regard to the resources available but also in regard to the debts and legal obligations created by the Ruiz government, the works begun but not completed, the investigations initiated but not finished and so forth.
"So the first few weeks of our administration we'll be dedicated to a full review and diagnosis of what the last government left behind it followed by a full report to the people on the exact condition of the state at the end of Ruiz' administration. It is from there that we move forward."
"But how can you govern with so little information, with so many unknowns?"
"We have to accept what the last government leaves behind and start a new one. We have to start with what exists and go from there. We have a clear plan for getting the information we need and we've made it very clear that the delivery of information from the old government to the new one does in no way free the old government from legal responsibility for its actions. Members of a government do not work for a governor but for the state and are required to continue in their jobs until we accept their resignations. We're going to very clear about who is delivering what to us regarding the last administration and in the first days of our government we're going to learn a great deal about what's been going on."
"Is the debt incurred by the last government a great problem?"
"Debt itself is not bad when the money borrowed is used to create long term productivity and thereby benefit the people under conditions that allow the debts to be paid. But the limited information we have about the debts of the last government suggest that the great majority of its debts were for work of an administrative nature so we're very concerned that we'll be burdened with both the principal and the service of that debt. But at this point we just don't know what the last government has done that obligates our government to pay their bills. It's certain that those debts will siphon money away from social programs we intend to create to serve the people."
"What will be the basic focus, the basic program of your government?"
"Regarding social and economic programs, we'll align our programs with those of the federal government and judge their effectiveness not in terms of cement poured and bricks laid but in terms of the effect they have on the lives of people. We'll track social indicators and know how we're doing over the next six year period in the generation of employment with new investments in highways, water works, reforestation and the development and recognition of Oaxaca as the green state not only because of its biodiversity but for its capacity to generate clean energy.
"The programs I mentioned are among those related to our economic and social agenda. In relation to our commitment to democracy, we'll soon present plans for new forms of power sharing with the people of the state as part of the political reform we intend to initiate."
"And your work in areas of strife and social turbulence?"
"Oaxaca's alive, wide awake and will always manifest its concerns. There are more than 300 agrarian conflicts in the state today, 13 of them considered highly dangerous and many sensitive, problematic areas: the prisons, the Trique region, organized crime. Such conflicts have and will continue to happen. Our intention is to anticipate them, act to resolve them and reduce the level of violence."
"You're aware that people want to know exactly how the government spends its money?"
"Of course. It's very clear to me because that's one of the reasons they voted for me. The people want transparency in government, the honest use of their resources and no impunity for those who misuse positions of power. Transparency is a priority of this administration that will be fulfilled: information regarding this government's activity will always be shared with the people. For example, this government's web page will carry regular reports on its activity and key public functionaries will make their assets known publicly."
"What about the marches and protests? There's a strong negative reaction to them."
"The first thing to say is that the constitution insures the peoples' rights to demonstrate and assert itself. At the same time the people have a right to free transit. The government cannot be expected to resolve every problem and each citizen and each organization has a responsibility to analyze social problems and work toward a solution in a responsible way. The government clearly has a role to play in the establishment of a new social equilibrium but all citizens and social organizations must also play their part and contribute to the resolution of community problems."
"Another concern of the citizens is the government's expenditure of money on bodyguards for functionaries who don't really need them."
"I'm aware of the concern and believe the police should serve the society and certain public officials whose work creates a dangerous situation for them but except for those persons, employees who want bodyguards should pay for them. Personally, during my time in various positions and especially in my years in the Senate of the Republic, I paid for those who provided me security services."
"To deal with the problems left by the Ruiz' government, I assume some drastic measures may be required. You're going to be honest with the people about what you discover?"
"Certainly. In a democratic government it's our responsibility to tell the people the truth. To that end we'll improve communications as well as working relations with the media and the people. When we're clear on the condition of things left for us by the last government, we'll share that information with the public and will continue doing so in the years ahead."
"Without hesitation or fear?"
"Our government will be guided by neither fears nor revenge but neither do we believe in impunity. If irregularities are discovered that damage the state or the society then the constitution and the laws of the state must and will be respected and enforced."
"And there'll be no need to reproduce or imitate the style of the departing government?"
"Everyone has his own way, his own style. We're going to keep the good that exists not only in public politics but in the people who have worked within government for years. What we're not going to keep are the excesses of power that have been apparent. In the land of Juarez, the government should be austere, steady, serious about the immense responsibilities given it. We'll make every effort to stay close to the people so they know what their government's doing in their name and observe that their elected leaders are acting with transparency, honor, humility and those who are unprepared or unwilling to act in such a way will have no part in my government."
"And your own behavior?"
"I will make no decision without first learning what the people believe to be correct regarding an issue. Decisions should not be made from a distant desk but always in relationship to the people. In all important decisions, we'll use various means to consult, take the pulse, learn the thoughts of citizens. In these ways we'll affirm the wisdom of the communal
decision making of the indigenous people. The great strength of Oaxaca is in the tradition of decision making in communal assemblies. The people of Oaxaca have now chosen me as their representative but that in no way means I can or should act in some way above or apart from the people. On the contrary, learning from the people, taking their pulse will always be my way before making a decision.
"Do you have fears of failing in your work as governor?"
"Not really. When a person acts in good faith, when his passion is to serve the people, when staying close to the people is his usual behavior then I don't believe he'll fail. What certainly can happen is that certain expectations have to be reduced or moderated and the people may come to believe that a certain leader's actions have been insufficient to the task at hand. For that reason it's all the more important to stay close to the people and be very clear about what is and what's not possible."
"What about poverty?"
"My government will not, cannot, erradicate poverty in Oaxaca in the few years we serve. The problem is structural and far too complex to resolve in that time. But, yes, this government can and will establish the bases to reduce poverty, reduce the number of poor, reduce maternal deaths and provide the improved nutrition and vaccinations necessary to reduce disease.
"On my first day in office I'll present a series of initiatives designed to bring about the necessary transformation of Oaxaca from the authoritarian government of the past to a democratic one, a change that will foster a new, creative collaboration between existing political and social powers."
"But how are you going to avoid authoritarianism and the abuse of power?"
"By providing an example. I'm not an authoritarian person myself and have not abused my power in the various public and political positions I've held. One of a leader's responsibilities is to act in an austere and democratic manner without authoritarianism. I think that's the way all public functionaries should act and if they can't, they have no place in my administration. The participation of citizens is extremely important to me so we need new information channels which enable citizens to report instances of official authoritarianism so we can take action against those so charged."
"Everyone believes you were robbed of the governor's position in the election of 2004. How did that affect you?"
"Well, you can imagine. In spite of the conviction that the election had been fraudulent, I accepted the result. Or, better said, I accepted the court's decision in the matter but I never stopped working to gain the confidence of the people. It was a formative experience for me, one that helped me deal with loss, think through my responsibilities and move ahead."
"Various commentators believe you'll be in position to run for President of the country in 2018."
"I appreciate their confidence but now's not the time."
"They speak of your ethics, your fortitude. Those are primary values for you?"
"My passion for the next six years is to serve the people of Oaxaca and I can't be, won't be distracted by thoughts and interests unrelated to my responsibilities in this historic moment."
"Gabino, life flies quickly by. Political life especially. What do you hope the people will say of you?"
"I hope they'll say Gabino wasn't a fraud. Gabino did everything he could with the tools given him to establish the bases for a better Oaxaca. He spoke the truth as he knew it, he acted faithfully to create a democracy and he established the reforms necessary to achieve that goal. I also hope they'll say Gabino didn't lock himself up in his office but stayed close to the people and improved their lives."
And now Gabino Cue like Homer of Ithaca, beset by hazards and dangers, takes the tiller in firm hands and though the waters are filled with sharks, moves steadily forward. Tomorrow, December 1, 2010, the voyage begins.