Thursday, June 15, 2006

Bloody day in Oaxaca, Mexico: Update

The teachers have pulled out of the zócalo. They made the decision to leave yesterday evening and pulled out throughout the early hours of the night. City workers spent the rest of the night cleaning up the disaster area and are still thusly engaged. I am chafing at the bit to get downtown to review and photograph the aftermath but it is simply too dangerous.

The teachers' union decided to leave after meeting with a federal negotiator sent personally by president Vicente Fox. His words to the teachers, as reported to me, were quite blunt. The government would no longer meet with or negotiate with the teachers so long as they remained in possession of the city of Oaxaca. He told them that, if they stayed, one of two things were guaranteed to happen and maybe both. The teachers could remain in the city center until they rotted or starved and/or until the president declared them to be insurrectionists and sent armed federal troops to dislodge them (armed with real guns that fire bullets -- see previous post about how well the police weren't armed yesterday).

The teachers' union officials discussed this and agreed to give up the city. They began to move out and went east to Boulevard Vasconcelos/Universidad. One of the things you have to get used to here is that names of streets and boulevards change seemingly every 5 blocks so I'm not sure whether it's Vasconcelos or Universidad. In any event, they climbed over the fences and gates of two large government schools, eventually breaking open the gates so they would have someplace to sleep last night. They had lost almost all of their camping gear in the two street battles yesterday and must have spent a very uncomfortable night. It rained a bit throughout the night which surely compounded their misery.

They have now regrouped and are marching towards the downtown again. What happens when they get there, if they get there, remains to be seen. I believe that both sides are anxious to sit down and get something settled here. The teachers because they are in sorry shape. They have little or no food, water, bathroom facilities, tents, sleeping bags or blankets. Almost all was lost in the battles for the control of the city yesterday. And it is beginning to drizzle off and on.

For its part, the government knows that tens of thousands of the teachers' supporters will begin arriving in the city tomorrow and Saturday from the states of Chiapas, Puebla, Tlaxcala, Mexico, Vera Cruz and probably others as well. And those arrivees will be not only angry and spoiling for another confrontation but also confident. That would be the cost of the government's failure to retake the city yesterday. If 10-15,000 teachers could defeat the government's forces yesterday, 100-200,000 will surely not be intimidated. This could still get really nasty.

I'm sending the wife and kids to Puebla for the weekend, providing the highways are open. My children attend a private academy which has been closed for two days due to concerns for the safety of the children and their parents who have to ferry them across the city to the school. It will probably be closed tomorrow also. The boys started hopping up and down to go to Burger King for breakfast. They went, I passed.

I'll post later on current developments as they unfold.

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