30 June 2007

Oaxaca, Revisited

So there's a little more on the Oaxaca teachers strike and social uprising of 2006. Click here to review my first post about the subject.

Reports I've read are spotty as to what exactly went on during the months of stalemate that hovered over the besieged city center. I can't tell if the majority of teachers stayed in the city or returned to their homes while the cause was taken up by political activists. Labor Notes reported that the teachers ended their sit-in on July 5, after 44 days, but that doesn't add up with information gleaned in even a cursory Google search on the protests. There was a dispute within the teachers union in October after the head of the union declared the strike over without presenting it to the teachers for a vote. The vote came later, finally, but with mixed results.

Several people were killed over the course of the summer, usually in confrontations with groups of armed men in plain clothes identified by local reporters as police, though I have not been able to confirm that they were indeed police. there appears to be skepticism about the likelihood the men were actually police officers. In only a few instances, people were killed in what appears to be targeted fashion.

From NarcoNews:

Indigenous elementary school teacher Pánfilo Hernández was murdered tonight with three gunshot wounds to the abdomen as he was leaving a neighborhood meeting of the Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca (APPO in its Spanish initials), in the El Pozo neighborhood of the city’s Jardín section.

I'm not sure how the standoffs progressed during this period, but the landscape changed radically on October 27, 2006 when Bradley Roland Will, an American journalist working with Indymedia, was killed during a clash between protesters and armed groups (sometimes called "paramilitaries"). At this point outgoing president Vicente Fox ordered federal troops to Oaxaca to disperse protesters and put an end to the rebellion.

And that pretty much sums it up what I've learned about the strike. This may be unresolved, as it seems the rebellion was quashed without answering the demands of the people. If teachers' salaries went up I haven't found reference to it, and if classroom conditions are any better I'd be shocked. Ulises Ruiz Ortiz is still governor of Oaxaca. One of his secretaries recently issued an apology on behalf of the state government, though Ruiz Ortiz has made no such statements himself.

I should make a note here that Oaxaca is a city know for its cultural pageantry and peaceful mien. While politically charged, it is not unsafe.