Friday, June 16, 2006

Bloody day in Oaxaca, Mexico: Update II: Unbelievable!

The teachers agreed to leave the city's center on Thursday night after some stern warnings from the negotiator sent by President Fox. The city and state sent in cleanup crews who worked all night to d clean the debris left over from the street battle the night before.

Today (it's 11:30 PM here), there was a meeting scheduled for 10:15 AM at a northside hotel between the teachers and the state negotiating committee. The state's negotiators arrived and were ready but the teacher's committee didn't show until 11:45. That's because they were busy moving back downtown into the freshly spiffed up zócalo! This time, there are a lot more of them. I would estimate that there are now at least 25,000 - 50,000 striking teacheers camped out in the zócalo. I base that on the expansion of their territory that I can see. They seem to have taken over an additional 4 to 5 blocks in every direction and the entire area, some 60 city blocks, is simply packed with people.

They've been re-provisioned, they've got new awnings, tarps, tents and sleeping bags. Someone is feeding them money. I wonder who. My guess is that the PRD political party and its presidential candidate, Andres Manuel López Obrador, are bankrolling the teachers. The highest paid of these teachers might make $200 per week at the very most so you can easily determine that no individual teacher has much staying power. And the union can't have too much money because the dirt poor teachers are its only source of funds -- supposedly. The only way these people could possibly have enough money to walk off their jobs, travel across the state to the capitol city, camp out for what is now 25 days, lose almost all of their possessions in the street fight of Wednesday morning, and then return with fresh priovisions to continue the massive occupation of the downtown area is if they are getting a lot of money from somewhere.

The reason given by the teachers' union leader, Enrique Rueda Pacheco, for arriving 1 1/2 hours late for the negotiations was that Governor Ruiz was also present. The union refuses to negotiate with him. I guess he eventually left. The union and the government did agree in principle that, when the issues are finally resolved, the teachers will return to their classrooms and make up for the lost time so that the 1 million students who have been out if school for 3 weeks now will be able to complete the school year. In light of the agreement by the teachers to leave the city's center only lasting 24 hours before they broke their promise and returned, I don't hold out much hope that this agreement will be honored either.

The teacher's main demand now is that Governor Ruiz resign. They are also demanding that 5 members of his cabinet resign. They are so angry that it appears their salary demands have taken a back seat to their political demands. Governor Ruiz reiterated today that he would not resign. The teachers' oficials left the meeting today and joined about 100,000 marchers on the northwest side of the city and marched back downtown. The teachers are claiming 200,000 so we can about halve that. The goverment is claiming 50,000 so we can about double that. And we arrive at the nice round number of 100,000.

It would seem that we are right back where we started.

One note about yesterday. Three thousand police fought an eight hour battle in the streets with 10-15,000 teachers armed with rocks, bricks and clubs and only arrested 10! Those 10 were released as a gesture of "buena fé" (good faith). It has now come to light that there was actually a prisoner exchange. The teachers were holding 8 policemen hostage, including the number 2 man in the Policía Ministerial (formerly the Judicial Police), Margarito López.

Meanwhile, 24,000 preschool and primary school students have no classes in the state of Guerrero whils some 600 of their teachers head for Mexico City to march in support of the Oaxaca teachers and demand the resignation of the national teacher's union president, Elba Esther Gordillo. Sra. Gordillo has been nowhere to be found during this entire episode in Oaxaca.

In the state of Chiapas, 1.5 million students were out of school today while their teachers marched through that state capitol's streets (Tuxtla Gutierrez). No word yet on how long they plan to stay out of their classrooms.

I'm not at my computer so no photos today. I'll try to get some uploaded tomorrow.

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