<i>"The Name of Our Country is América" - Simon Bolivar</i> The Narco News Bulletin<br><small>Reporting on the War on Drugs and Democracy from Latin America
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Stand-off Continues as Oaxaca Teachers’ Strike enters Fourth Week

Teachers Soliciting Signatures to Impeach Governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz in a Struggle Between Civil Society and the PRI


By Nancy Davies
The Other Journalism with the Other Campaign in Oaxaca

June 12, 2006

The strike by Section 22 of the Síndicato Nacionál Trajabadores Educativas (SNTE), the teachers’ union, enters its fourth week in a stand-off that seems no closer to resolution. SNTE Section 22 vows to increase pressure on Ulises Ruiz Ortega (URO) by continuing the invasions or blockades of government property such as PEMEX distribution terminals, the Chamber of Deputies, the state attorney general’s office, the collection tollbooth of Huitzo on the Oaxaca-Mexico highway, the Institute of State Public Education for Oaxaca, the Secretary of Finances’ office, and the so-called public works such as the renovation of Llano Park and the Fountain of Seven Regions, and the widening of Fortin Road.

Furthermore, teachers are now soliciting citizen signatures to depose URO as governor of the state. At the corner of Independencia and Porfirio Díaz streets on Sunday, June 11, two young teachers and a professor were requesting passersby to sign on.


Photo: D.R. 2006 George Salzman
During the second Section 22 mega-march of June 7, 100,000 marchers hollered, “Ruiz is going to fall! Ruiz is going to fall!” The marchers carried signs depicting the governor URO as a snake, a rat, a pig, or a donkey. On the front upper face of the main entrance of the former Government Palace (renovated as a museum) an enormous canvas has been suspended, colored with spray paint, and depicting URO with his pants down sitting on one side of a toilet bowl (Fox is on the other) expelling the whole rottenness that smothers the state of Oaxaca.

The June 7 mega-march ended at the recently renovated Plaza de la Danza, where the crowd staged a mock trial. At the end, the crowd voted to impeach him. “The testimony and documents presented against the present governor are unquestionable, and for those facts he is found guilty of serious violations of the federal and local constitutions for which the political judgment in terms of article 110 of the federal constitution is against Ulises Ruiz”.

He’s out! “Ya cayó, ya cayó, Ulises ya cayó, ya cayó, ya cayó, Ulises ya cayó”, screamed everyone present.

“He is also found guilty of heading a government which is authoritarian, violent, and repressive of social movements. “ More shouting and thumbs down gestures.

URO responded by withdrawing his offer of 60 million pesos for the requested salary re-organization and, starting May 29, withholding salaries for the teachers that have not been present at their jobs.

The Section 22 has asked the Federal Education Secretariat to mediate, although thus far there has been no response. Nor is there any sign of the Federal Preventive Police which URO supposedly summoned from Mexico DF.

Meanwhile the National Action Party (PAN), whose presidential candidate is Calderón, demanded sanctions against URO for violating the Pact of Neutrality prior to the July 2 presidential election. Voting signs go up and are ripped down daily. PRIistas (supporters of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI) are not only digging up or casting down the Cultural Patrimony sites to rake in a percentage of the public funds to donate to Madrazo, but they are going town to town giving advance goodies for votes. Somebody told me the entire population of one town received free washing machines – the atmosphere is that condemnatory. Regardless of fact or rumor, the people are voicing their hatred of URO.

“Ulises Ruiz lives in Mexico, so why should he care about Oaxaca?” Gloria Rosales Castro told me. She is the wife of one of the teachers, visiting her husband Sunday June 11, in the Zócalo with their three children. Gloria remarked on how difficult the lack of water, bathrooms and cooking facilities are for the teachers sleeping in the camp.

Since the strike is so lengthy, the teachers are also asking citizens to bring food, like rice beans, and oil, to show their solidarity.

“Ruiz wants to privatize education”, Gloria averred. “He gives nothing to the poor communities where the children go to school in shacks, and the parents have to pay for books, supplies and even furniture.” The encampment has effectively killed all the recent plantings URO put out to beautify the renovated zocalo, and she called out a caution to her kids who were jumping around in the dirt. “He doesn’t care about Oaxaca. He steals, he spends money on useless things, and doesn’t take care of necessities or poverty.” Oaxaca is one of the poorest states, second only to Chiapas.

Section 22 strikers are supported by the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), by groups from the Isthmus such as UCIZONI; by 83 municipal presidents who happen to be teachers; by the Triqui Movement (MULT), which supports the Zapatistas Other Campaign and whose members carried their machetes first into the state legislature, and then to the state police base where supposedly the Federal Preventive Police were stationed; by adherents to the National Unit Against Neoliberalism (PUNCN); and by the Front of Democratic Unions and Organizations of Oaxaca (FSODO), which strung up the banner across the front of the Museum of Diversity, known before the recent renovations as the Government Palace. The Crespo Street residents, knocked around recently by the police when they tried to enter the city offices last week, have enrolled as supporters, and so have the families living on Fortin Hill. Although the construction work to widen the Fortin Hill Road had absolutely nothing to do with it (according to government officials), a giant crevice abruptly opened up in the side of the hill, causing the dislocation of residents of 80 homes.

Section 22 teachers ripped out all the recently installed parking meters in the historic center as they claim that URO has taken over public space for private purposes.

In a press conference, which he offered after officiating at the Sunday mass in the Cathedral, the bishop of the Catholic Church in Oaxaca said that the marches indicate a serious problem of social health because behind them there are injustices, illegality, corruption and also politicization. He highlighted that the injustices, the illegality, the corruption and the impunity will never be defeated, neither with force nor by violence, but only with the honesty, the justice and the truth. The government reiteration of a desire to dialogue seems to be sheer rhetoric, but the church is on the side of the people.

What is really going on?

URO is a friend of Madrazo: Fact. The PRI is a dying institution: Fact. The PAN and the PRD are both against the PRI: Fact. The largest segment of the population (the not-rich, not neoliberal) resent and fear URO: Fact. The presidential election is only two weeks away: Fact. The PRI is named by the public, the striking teachers, and the newspapers as responsible for ongoing assassinations out in the small towns: Fact. The modern offices of Noticias, the daily paper shut down by URO with a fake workers’ strike, are still occupied after a year with no resolution in view, and Noticias, publishing from a new site, doesn’t forget it. If they can say something bad about URO, they do.

Scattered among the teachers’ tents on the newly paved Zócalo walkways, the vendor stalls of clothes, CDs, jewelry, food and even rugs resemble the Christmas fairs of the past – before URO banned them. The previously empty restaurants facing the Zócalo seem to have finally decided to take advantage of the presence of the teachers. Some of these places, with the excitement of the World Cup soccer games on every TV, try to attract them, as well as the scarce visitors who remain in the city, with offers of beers, snacks and cheap cakes. At the store where liquors and beer are sold, a signboard announces the sale of six beers for 50 pesos ($4.50 dollars).

How is Oaxaca to survive another 20 days? And after the election, then what will happen?

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The Narco News Bulletin: Reporting on the Drug War and Democracy from Latin America