Oaxaca Teachers Retake the Center of the State Capital, Waiting for Negotiations
The Day After a Failed Police Invasion, Strikers Seek Removal of Governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz
By Nancy Davies
The Other Journalism with the Other Campaign in Oaxaca
June 15, 2006
A raucous and exuberant crowd of teachers, some armed with metal poles or machetes, reoccupied the Zócalo today at noon. They were joined by students from the Benito Juárez Autonomous University of Oaxaca, the Technological Institute, and several high schools.
New plastic canopies were strung up while the students held forth in the center gazebo. Despite another helicopter circling overhead, nobody ran for cover. Instead, they all hollered “Ulises ya cayó, Ulises ya cayó,” — that is to say, Ulises is out. No new sleeping tents were available yet, but a teacher assured me they would be purchased and distributed if today’s negotiations fail.
The negotiator is coming down from Mexico City this afternoon. The teachers fear that he is not a top-rank official and will be unequal to Ulises Ruiz Ortega (URO), whom he does not know.
According to National Education Workers’ Union (SNTE in its Spanish initials) Section 22 member Nicandro Ruiz Silva, 70 to 80 percent of Oaxaca’s teachers are against URO, while others are supporters of Ruiz’ Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). Many teachers come from cities where supporting the PRI is part of the common heritage and means receiving aid in advance of every election. On the coast and the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, however, the towns are largely governed by the opposition Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), and teachers feel less pressure to support the government. In solidarity with the SNTE Section 22, teachers have taken over several towns’ municipal offices in that southern tier. Those towns include Salinas Cruz, Juchitán, Tuxtetepec and Pinotepa.
The teachers who oppose URO say that since PRI candidate Roberto Madrazo said he would “give the keys to Los Pinos (the Mexican presidential residence) to Ruiz” when he is elected president, they have feared a PRI return to national power. It is believed that Madrazo would appoint Ruiz to the position of Secretary of the Interior. Hence, if negotiations do not come to a successful conclusion, SNTE members Ruiz Silva believes that a boycott of voting will be another form of pressure on URO.
Nevertheless, he is cautiously optimistic that the third mega-march, which takes place on Friday, June 16, will bring the whole strike to a conclusion. One teacher’s wife, Gloria Rosales Castro, was less sanguine. She said she had just come from comforting a woman who was seeing off for burial the coffin of her friend killed Wednesday morning by the police.
Both Nicandro Ruiz Silva and Gloria Rosales Castro are completely sure that deaths occurred among the teachers, although Ruiz denies it. Ruiz controls the mainstream media, and also the government hospital where the injured were taken. The hospital refuses to give out information.
The teachers spent last night housed in various schools close to the Zócalo. They emerged this morning refreshed and ready to reoccupy. Meanwhile, the general public is assisting the teachers with food and beverages brought to nearby buildings. No shops or restaurants in the center area have reopened.