First and foremost, Oaxaca is safe.
It is May and the annual tradition for the threat of a teacher’s union strike repeats itself. Those of us who love Oaxaca remember this time in 2006 when the governor (a PRI conservative representing the party in power with a lock-hold on the state for over 80 years) sent in troops to quell the traditionally peaceful demonstration and all hell broke loose, lasting for six months.
The news coming out of Oaxaca now is localized to the mountainous Triqui villages where there are human rights abuses and as recently as April 28, people have been shot by paramilitary squads. Victims have been targeted because they are activists trying to change the system. This is far from the city center, though, it is important to keep a pulse on what goes on as elections approach. You have to know the political, social, cultural and historical undercurrents in order to make a judgment about whether Oaxaca is “safe.” The power struggle is between the PAN party (represented by the president of Mexico) and the PRI, and the paramilitary gangs that represent the oppressive governor.
All this being said, it is important not to be alarmist or to change your travel plans. Oaxaca city and its environs are safe. I want to state this emphatically. Oaxaca is safe.
What My Friends in Oaxaca Say …
There is no trace in Oaxaca city about the events in the Triqui region, not even in the national media. For a lot of people from Oaxaca, unfortunately, these events have become “common” so there is no follow up by the local government. There are local activists who are concern about the event, but are not able to do much.
The fights in the Triqui region of Oaxaca have been happening for a long time. Historically, this region was one indigenous community without political parties. Then, since the political parties started to take control of the community the division started. Now there are two Triqui regions: Alta y Baja (upper and lower or south).
There is no tension in the city, no fights or demonstrations. The elections are close, so we presume the government is doing “$$everything $$” it can to keep things calm until the elections.
Bottom line, if you are a tourist interested in visiting the nice attractions of Oaxaca , you will not have a single problem, unless you ride on a bus from the city for six hours to get to the Triqui region.