Public school teachers in the Mexican state of Oaxaca mobilized today as part of ongoing labor negotiations and to commemorate the anniversary of a police action that sparked a popular uprising 4 years ago today.
(sound: barricade bottle rockets and chants)
The day of action kicked off at 4am local time with chants, bottle rockets, and barricades around the central plaza of Oaxaca City. While this has become an annual occurrence here, this year’s protests come just 3 weeks ahead of the elections to replace the governor the 2006 movement tried to oust.
During a pre-dawn rally in the central plaza, union representative Jose Alfredo Martinez, stopped short of calling for a punishment vote against the ruling party, but said the teachers’ union must continue to demand accountability for the political murders committed during the 2006 conflict.
Jose Alfredo Martinez: “We have to push for the political trial and imprisonment of the assassin of the people of Oaxaca. And we have to tell our rank and file membership regardless of whoever wins the state gubernatorial race, if we teachers of Oaxaca can’t deliver on our list of demands, the absence of accountible government will continue.”
(sound: mega-march chants)
The mega-march called by the teachers union today was miles long and drew at least 100,000 people. Due to its strength, the teachers’ union has the support of many of the state’s social and activist organizations. But the movement also has its critics.
An estimated 1.4 million schoolchildren miss class whenever the teachers mobilize en masse. Another common complaint is the vehicular chaos provoked by the frequent marches and blockades. Businesses in the downtown area often report losses whenever the teachers set up protest encampments in the central square.
Mr. Fernando, who runs a small sandwich stall in the center of the plaza says that his sales have declined by 30 percent since the protest encampment began 2 weeks ago. He just wants both sides to reach an agreement so he can recover economically.
Mr. Fernando: “We ask the authorities and the government to resolve this quickly. This always ends in an arrangement, but it always comes after they’ve been here awhile and they get tired or after the government says ‘fine, we’ll give you this much’ and they pick up their things and leave. So, why not do all this beforehand without dragging this all out and waiting for each side to wear down before negotiating?”
But negotiations between the teachers’ union and the state and federal government have stagnated. The teachers have announced they will triple the size of their protest encampment in the city center as of Tuesday morning.