Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Update on Oaxaca Teachers' Strike


After a 14-hour debate that extended into the early morning hours on
Sunday, Section 22 of the National Union of Education Workers (SNTE)
rejected the results of a consultation carried out Thursday and Friday on
their possible return to classes after a five-month strike. A second
vote is scheduled for Monday and Tuesday of next week. Enrique Rueda,
president of Section 22 and closely affiliated with the traditional
charro union structure, pushed hard for the vote even after at least five
previous ballots declared teachers would continue their strike until
Governor Ulises Ruiz is removed from office. Rueda has been an unpopular
figure in Oaxaca City after negotiating with federal officials behind
closed doors for the past week and then announcing teachers would return
to class three days before the vote. Leaders of the SNTE rejected the
results of the consultation after Rueda annulled thousands of votes that
weren't consistent with the "format." Rueda fled from the teachers' hotel
shortly after the vote, protected by bodyguards, after thousands of
residents and teachers called him a traitor. The results reflect a
divided union. Officials reported that 25,692 teachers voted to return
to classes no later than October 30 while 17,482 rejected the 17-point
plan negotiated recently by Rueda and Interior Secretary Carlos Abascal
that included an immediate return to classes. Another 12,129 teachers
rejected the Abascal plan and voted to return to class five days after
Ulises Ruiz is removed as governor, and these are the votes that were
annulled by Rueda. Abascal's plan does not contemplate the removal of

The strike began on May 22 and includes some 70,000 teachers responsible
for 1.3 million students. Initially the demands focused on increased
salaries, but when Governor Ruiz tried to put down the strike with police
violence, teachers joined with more than 200 community organizations to
form the APPO. The principle demand of the united organizations is the
removal of Ruiz. Negotiations last week with Interior Secretary Abascal
never addressed this key issue.

Violence continued in Oaxaca City. Panfilo Hernandez, a popular
indigenous teacher, was assassinated on Wednesday as a left an APPO
meeting in Oaxaca City, becoming the third teacher to die from
paramilitary violence organized by the governor. Early Sunday morning,
the APPO reported shots fired at a barricade in the center of the city,
though no injuries were reported. And also on Sunday morning, at least
nine shots were fired at the home of Francisco Toledo, Oaxaca's most
famous living artist.

On Thursday, the Senate rejected a finding of “disappeared powers” in
Oaxaca by 74 to 31, with the PRI, PAN and Green Party voting to maintain
Governor Ruiz in power, though Senators also found that the state is
currently "ungovernable." In negotiations last week in Mexico City,
Interior Secretary Carlos Abascal left the final decision on Ruiz in the
hands of the Senate. In anticipation of the vote, on Monday Abascal
criticized Ruiz: "the local authority does not have the capacity to
control peace, order and security. That's why we are in this situation."
Yet the leadership of Abascal's own party rejected a finding that would
have removed the Oaxaca governor. The Senate decision rekindled a
politically damaged Ruiz, who renewed his call for the use of federal
forces to dislodge protestors from the historic center of Oaxaca City,
which has been virtually closed for the past five months. With teachers
apparently prepared to maintain their strike and with the APPO firm in
their commitment to remove Ruiz, federal authorities are under increasing
pressure from the business community and the PRI to use force. The
Federal Preventative Police and the army are reportedly prepared to move
at any time. The PAN finds itself in a complicated political position.
President-elect Felipe Calderon is anxious to resolve the situation
before assuming the presidency on December 1. His campaign revolved
largely around law and order issues and he repeatedly called for the
"mano dura" in speeches, a strong indication that he supports the use of
force in Oaxaca. He is also anxious to preserve the PRI-PAN alliance
that brought him to power in a fraudulent election, yet the PAN does not
want to assume political responsibility for a local situation created
largely by a corrupt PRI governor. With Abascal's negotiations ending in
failure and with no ther federal initiatives on the immediate agenda, the
use of force becomes more probably every day. Ruiz has well-armed
paramilitary groups ready to move in Oaxaca, and he will likely try to
murder APPO leadership under cover of a federal police action. But the
APPO is not backing down. On Sunday, the leadership called for a
mega-demonstration and a national meeting to evaluate the performance of
all state governors. There is no shortage of official corruption at the
state level throughout Mexico, and presumably those governors who don't
meet popular approval would be targeted for removal, which could quickly
extend the Oaxaca actions to a national level.


Subcomandante Marcos called on the Other Campaign to support protests in
Oaxaca led by the APPO and striking teachers: "The people of Oaxaca have
given the rest of the country a heroic and organizational example. And
Oaxaca will find in the Other Campaign a movement that gives
unconditional support, without looking for political advantage. If
[authorities] mess with the Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca and
with Oaxaca, they mess with the Other Campaign and the EZLN." Marcos
clarified the position of the Other Campaign during remarks in Mexicali,
part of a national tour of Mexico that will end in Mexico City on
November 30.


OCTOBER 16-22, 2006

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