In Oaxaca, the Show Goes On
Teachers Union Section 22, with APPO Support, Prepares for its Annual Strike
By Nancy Davies
Commentary from Oaxaca
April 25, 2007
A Mexican film company is shooting a movie here in Oaxaca. On Alcalá, the pedestrian street, cameras, booms, and lighting shift around to create each scene. The backdrop moves. Someone from the film crew painted on a granite wall an advertisement for “El Circo,” to create ambience.
Damn, this feels like an allegory. Each time the lights (Noticias newspaper) flash onto another fragment –here goes a young man running; he’s waving a girl’s pink sweater – I ask myself what does this mean, what part of the story-line are we seeing, is he a good guy or a bad guy? He’s got nice buns. I stand on the corner admiring the backside of this young fellow as he dashes across the street and I wonder what the hell is going on.
This week’s Noticias (how many times have I extrapolated a news report?) began with two human rights forums, official and popular. The popular tribunal convicted Ulises Ruiz (URO) of crimes against humanity and demanded the release of the forty or so prisoners still held. Both forums declared that the government violates human rights. Both referred to the most recent arrest cum torture episode, on April 14, of David Venegas a university student. Most significant for the future is the popular tribunal’s call to indict URO, something that could happen only if the PRI (the Institutional Revolutionary Party) wipes out in the August elections.
The tribunal, constituted during the second Forum for Human Rights in Oaxaca a couple of months ago, referred to the “atrocities ordered by Ruiz Ortiz,” which characterize a government of “ignominy and unheard of barbarism” carried out “in complicity with collaborators, deputies, judges, and police forces.”
Thus for the moment Oaxaca events roll as predictably as a car chase scene. First the government snatches an APPO (Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca) person. The victim eventually shows up in prison, having been tortured. Noticias covers the story. The APPO marches. The governor puts out the riot police to prevent access to the zócalo or Santo Domingo. The march goes elsewhere. Noticias covers the story: photos of marchers.
Segue to Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador. The “legitimate” president is touring Oaxaca advising the PRD (the Democratic Revolution Party to which he belongs) to clean up its act, fraud being the worst plague in Mexico’s political history. It’s a good message, if it works. A new political party has formed, geared toward women and youth. It’s called Partido Alternativa Social Democrática y Campesina (PASC). It is included in a coalition of the PRD, Convergencia and other smaller parties who will try for the “punishment vote” in August.
A new APPO convened on behalf of twenty towns in the Sierra Sur, with all the demands of the central APPO plus their own local ones.
Now, let’s cut to the forthcoming chase: Section 22 of the teachers union has decided that on May 1 (Labor Day in the world outside the USA) the teachers will march to the zócalo. How that confrontation will play out I have no idea. Tueday’s Noticias ran the previews of coming attractions – an article saying that the municipal and state police will be firmly entrenched behind barricades at the entrances. A May Day march to the zócalo would be the first direct challenge to the governor since the November crackdown. Oaxaca Center on Labor Day has traditionally hosted all the labor unions marching with bands, displays of gymnastics on flatbed trucks, flags, politicians, and students.
The students and graduates, in a bulletin published by the Socialist party, call for a mobilization with the APPO. They declare, in part, that fewer than 20 percent of the graduates of higher education find work related to their professional studies. Instead they end up in telemarketing, private classes, administrative work, as vendors, taxi drivers, waiters, and with other similar jobs. Others choose to emigrate. About 250 thousand young people with high school or higher educations are unemployed.
The bulletin goes on to assert that the problem is the government, which instead of investing resources in education, health, social security, infrastructure, culture, science and technology, spends those monies in paying interest on the debt, in bank rescues and for other corrupt businesses, as well as the highest salaries and pensions for bureaucrats, on arms, police and military. The big student march will take place in Mexico City.
At the same time a teacher work stoppage will take place in Huatulco on the Oaxaca southern coast. They are preparing a strike for two days, largely in protest against the decimation of social security. With the new law, President Felipe Calderón and the Congress eliminated across the board benefits in the pension system of government workers (that includes teachers, who are federal employees), known as the ISSSTE. Those in this system no longer can count on a life pension based on their work history. Now, pensions will be individual and determined exclusively by the savings that the employee put aside during his employment. Furthermore, the government rose the age at which pensions can be withdrawn, effective in ten years: 58 for women and 60 for men. Privatization will go forward by the government, for health care.
The teachers will stop work for the first and second of May as part of the national civil strike called for by the Coordinating Committee of the National Education Workers (CNTE). The secretary of Section 22 of SNTE, Ezequiel Rosales Carreño, informed the press that the work suspension was approved in an assembly carried out Saturday night, April 21, in Santa María Huatulco. Besides leaving 1,300,000 Oaxaca students without classes, the teachers will parade in the streets and block the highways. They will also close the offices of the ISSSTE, with the backing of the APPO. Rosales Carreño doesn’t discount the possibility of an indefinite strike if the government doesn’t attend to the teachers’ demands.
We are in fact coming up on the annual May teachers-strike time, and this year will be, in the words of the archbishop of Antequera-Oaxaca, José Luis Chávez Botello, “very lamentable” if the teachers succeed in doing what they did last year. The most lamentable, in my opinion, is that there is now a contra-union, Section 59, supported by the governor and officially recognized. Furthermore, the secretary of Section 22 of SNTE, Enrique Rueda Pacheco, is legally still in office, since Section 22 refused to accept his resignation without an accounting. That makes for legal complications which URO will undoubtedly take advantage of.
Meanwhile, Section 22 continues to demand the resignation or ouster of URO, so there will be a march in Oaxaca on May 15: Teachers’ Day. On June 14, the first anniversary of the attack on the teachers’ encampment, a mobilization will mark the anniversary. The (acting) Section 22 secretary stated that any negotiation will be done with the federal Secretary of Government, because the governor is no longer recognized. The possibility of a general strike remains, since there is no solution for the demands for re-zonification of salaries.
For the students, as future workers, the struggle is important, so they will add themselves to the strike on May 2, holding conferences, meetings, and discussions in schools. They plan to carry out marches and block highways with the assistance of the APPO.
And as a final note, the eighteen-year-old son of the American Consul was robbed and stabbed in his side. Surgery was required; he will probably be okay. Mark Leyes, the consul for the United States for several years, said that it could have happened to anyone. (The boy holds dual citizenship.) Leyes stated, “There were no threats, no message for the media, just three young guys dressed in black who attacked him, beat him up and fled.”
Last week the United States State Department renewed its warning about visiting Oaxaca because of the climate of violence caused by the political–social conflict. Leyes denied that the assault on his son had anything to do with the political-social conflict. Just a common crime, like many others. The disco is called El Circo. To my recollection it recently was cited in Noticias for its lack of police supervision and the ongoing presence of drug dealers and prostitutes.
I was told that the movie is about musicians, and is entitled “The Magnificent Seven.”
Click here for more Narco News coverage of Mexico
Lea Ud. el Artículo en Español
Narco News is funded by your contributions to The Fund for Authentic Journalism.
Please make journalism like this possible by going to The Fund's web site
and making a contribution today.
- The Fund for Authentic Journalism
For more Narco News, click here.