By Nancy Davies
Students involved in the SAS week of action in February, which highlighted the struggles of Mexican workers in Oaxaca, will be interested to hear that the movement has begun to revive. On 21 February, Section 22 of the National Education Workers Union (SNTE) took over the government offices in the city of Oaxaca, along with thirty-two other offices statewide. The Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca (APPO) movement has regrouped.
The former secretary of Section 22 of SNTE, Enrique Rueda Pacheco, who is regarded as a sell-out, has been removed and no longer has a major input into union decisions.
Section 22’s strength has rebounded despite the fracture caused by the collaboration of Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz and national SNTE president (PRI member) Elba Esther Gordillo, who had split off Section 59 of SNTE, a group of between 2,000-4,000 teachers out of the 70,000 Section 22 membership. Ruiz has been holding 200 schools, locking out the Section 22 teachers, who were on strike for more than five months. The substitute teachers, along with parents in sympathy with the governor, refused to permit Section 22 teachers to return to their classrooms.
The struggle since 25 November has been violent, with state police coming into classes to arrest teachers who are APPO supporters and with the two union factions coming to blows outside schools in some areas. In the suburb of Viguera, round-the-clock guards patrol to forestall invasion, capture or shooting of residents.
The federal government’s department negotiated a pause in the struggle but did not honour its promise to hand back the schools to Section 22. In retaliation, about 7,000 members of Section 22 — not classroom teachers — aided by members and sympathisers of the APPO carried out a takeover of the thirty-two state offices following the decision of the APPO state council.
This reconnection of the APPO and the education workers’ union brings back much of the lost strength of the APPO. A ninth megamarch on 4 February demonstrated that APPO is recovering from the brutal attack by police and the hunt-down of APPO supporters.
The tenth megamarch took place on 8 March, International Women’s Day, to demand the freeing of the political prisoners.
From now until the August 5 Oaxaca state elections, and then on to the October 7 municipal elections, Ruiz will try to maintain an appearance of normalcy.
The APPO decided to not run any candidates and to maintain its own position as an independent entity. It voted in its state assembly that those who want to run for office, for whatever party, must resign positions they hold on the APPO state council.