About 45,000 Oaxaca teachers, on strike for more than three weeks, resisted a brutal attempt by state police to dislodge them from a fifty square block sector of downtown Oaxaca City. Hundreds of officers entered the city from two directions at 4:30am on Wednesday, firing tear gas and beating teachers with truncheons. Police managed to dislodge the teachers for several hours, but by 7:00am, with officials badly outnumbered and running low on tear gas, teachers re-occupied the center of town.
More than 90 teachers were injured, about a dozen seriously, during the brutal attack, but it appears that initial claims of two to six deaths have not been confirmed. Two days later, the teacher union organized a 300,000-strong demonstration that included families of students, other unions, campesinos, indigenous communities, and members of civil society. It was the largest demonstration in the history of Oaxaca, and the third mega-march called by teachers in recent weeks. Simultaneously, teachers closed highways throughout the state and shut down government offices in dozens of communities.
After the May 4 police action, the Fox administration’s Interior Secretary took over negotiations with the teachers’ union, which began on Thursday morning in Oaxaca City. In addition to wage increases, teachers called for the removal of Governor Ulises Ruiz. Ruiz participated in the first day of negotiations, and quickly reached agreement with the teachers on four points, including immediate release of protestors who were arrested on June 14. But when Ruiz failed to abide by three of the four initial agreements, teachers broke off talks with State officials.
On Saturday, teachers proposed five points for direct negotiation with the Interior Secretary, including wage increases, the removal of Ruiz, and the demands of health care workers who recently joined the teachers’ movement. Federal authorities refused to consider the removal of Ruiz, but they may be forced to change positions given the almost universal disapproval of the Governor. Even business leaders supported the march on Friday, handing out water and applauding as teachers passed. Teachers are threatening to disrupt presidential elections on July 2, a threat that must be taken seriously by federal authorities since most of the voting booths are set up in schools occupied by teachers. Given the overwhelming support for teachers in Oaxaca, the Fox administration may be forced to seek the dismissal of Ruiz in order to salvage some level of legitimacy for presidential elections. The Other Campaign and activists from Atenco joined the teachers’ struggle this week.
This article was originally published and distributed by the Mexico Solidarity Network