La Lucha Sigue
Today, leaders of Oaxaca’s striking teachers meet in an assembly to consider their collective response to the state’s latest offer in their combined contract/political dispute. According to their spokespeople, they might decide to end their “plantón,” or occupation of the city center, known as the “zócalo,” where they’ve been camped out for weeks. On the other hand, they might decide to continue to plantón, and perhaps call for a boycott of the July 4 election. They are calling for improvements in salaries for beginning teachers and more support for schools, but also pressing demands such as the release of political prisoners.
Last week’s Assembly of the People of Oaxaca, convened by the teachers but joined by representatives of allied social movements, focused on developing a call for more substantive change than anything which might follow an election. They are calling for community-based, direct democracy, inspired by the wisdom of indigenous traditions, according to the manifesto which came out of the Assembly.
But that doesn’t mean they are ignoring the upcoming election, which pits Eviel Magaño of the ruling PRI party, against Gabino Cue, representing a curious alliance of the right-wing PAN and the leftish PRD. Eviel is the chosen successor to Ulisses Ruiz Torres, commonly known as “Ulisses” or “URO,” who is widely considered corrupt and responsible for dozens of extra-judicial killings and assaults against political opponents, including the violent attacks against the teachers union in 2006.
While the social movements fall short of endorsing Gabino Cue, who does represent the PAN party of Mexican President Calderon, they do call on citizens to use their votes to punish the PRI for its crimes. Moreover, they are emphasizing the importance of a fraud-free election, which would be a change from recent Oaxacan history.
The “Manifesto of the Assembly of the People of Oaxaca” also claims that violence has increased in the period leading up to the election. While I don’t have a sufficiently long or detailed view of local conditions, news of recent days has included the kidnapping and torture of a local activist, Victor Sanchez, who fortunately was freed after 48 hours, and a conflict in the nearby community of San Jose Progreso, where a clash between local officials and a movement resisting the opening of a Canadian-owned silver and gold mine left two officials dead and 9 activists imprisoned. (See Nancy Davies’s article for details.) The siege of San Juan Copala continues, 2 weeks after the second humanitarian caravan was turned back.
My Spanish is getting good enough to understand some of the chants at rallies, such as “la lucha sigue, sigue,” the struggle continues.