May 22nd, 2008 by Alan: A 21 day series of strikes and occupations by the radical Sección 22 in Oaxaca of the Mexican teachers’ union Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores en la Educación kicked off in earnest on Tuesday. As of Thursday, the strike appears to be spreading – with popular support, solidarity and an increasing volume of activity.
The teachers’ strike has various demands, although it’s mostly calling for the freedom for all political prisoners, an end to the arrest orders and ongoing intimidation by the judicial authorities against the movement, new elections within the SNTE, and the handing over of all Oaxacan schools controlled by the pro-government Sección 59.
Sección 22 was instrumental in the 2006 revolt in Oaxaca, where they saw their strike betrayed by the SNTE national leadership in alliance with the Oaxacan state governor, one Ulises Ruíz Ortíz. Sección 59 was established by the priísta SNTE leader, Elba Ester Gordillo, as a rival local to Sección 22 in Oaxaca, and its members were promptly sent back to work as a means of breaking the strike.
However this time round, there seems to be increasing evidence of the strike’s spread into a generalised movement within Oaxaca. On Tuesday, a building belonging to PEMEX (Petróleos Mexicanos – the state petrol monolopy which is on the verge of being privatised) was blockaded, while on Thursday various neighbourhood organisations within the city assisted in the occupation of a Centro de Atención Múltiple, the state institution charged with educating special needs children, which is controlled by Sección 59.
A host of other state and municipal offices have been shut down by blockades, with the aid of various other groups and a tactic of “plantones rotativos” (rotating encampments), as well as part of the Zócalo (the main city square, the centre of the 2006 movement). On Tuesday, a tollbooth on the Oaxaca-Puebla highway was “liberated”, with motorists being granted free passage. The last couple of days have also seen the return of activity under the umbrella term of the APPO (Asamblea Popular de los Pueblos de Oaxaca – the Popular Assembly of Oaxacan Peoples), although it’s unclear as to which faction of the many that claim its true heritage is using the term.
Equally uncertain is the future and potential of this renaissance. Supposedly, the Sección 22 strike will end on 10 June, yet if the movement (if it can be termed thus at this early juncture) continues to expand and spread beyond the remit of their labour-based demands, surely it can’t be neatly wrapped up within a predetermined timeframe. SNTE members have also struck in solidarity in Michoacán (north of Oaxaca state up the Pacific coastline) and municipal officials in Chiapas are desperately attempting to avert on the job action there by teachers.
More menacingly, with the scars and trauma of the repression of the 2006 movement still so raw, one has to wonder how much fight Oaxacans have within them. Already, the beleaguered and fantastically incompetent Ulises is attempting to bring Sección 22 to the negotiating table within the next few days. Also, traders around the Centro Histórico of the city are organising against any sort of political activity in the area, in defense of their businesses. It seems almost certain that the reactionary forces of business and government will regroup with their lackeys in Sección 59 in order to respond to the headway made here. Libcom will keep you updated.