Some 300,000 teachers and their supporters marched though Oaxaca city in Mexico on Friday of last week. The mobilisation, which included people from across the country, was protesting at the repression of striking teachers and calling for the resignation of Oaxaca state governor Ulises Ruiz Ortíz.
Two days earlier Oaxaca city had witnessed the most brutal repression by the Oaxaca state government. Police poured into the centre of the city attacking men, women and children who were camped out in the streets around the main square, campaigning for fair pay for teachers. Allegedly four people were killed including two children. Unconfirmed reports say that five female teachers were raped while in police custody.
That night the city, which is a national tourist centre, was ominously quiet after police cleared the streets using tear gas, batons and guns. However the teachers refused to give up their fight and on Thursday teachers began arriving from all the states in Mexico to give their support and, incredibly they managed to reclaim the centre of Oaxaca. The atmosphere in the centre was buoyant and the teachers were determined, but there was a real expectation that there would be more repression from the police.
The strike is over fair pay and demands improvements in education. Teachers in the state of Oaxaca are paid less than those in almost any other state in Mexico and they have been camped out in the city centre for the past three weeks. They have been going on strike every year for the past 20 years, but representatives from the teachers' union say that this is the biggest strike so far.
The strike comes against a background of general disquiet in Mexico, with a general election approaching on 2 July. There is an enormous level of corruption in Mexico at all levels of government and in the judiciary. People are looking towards the left wing candidate Lopez Obrador and hoping for some kind of change. The Zapatistas have also been leading a very public and radical campaign for change over the last few months.
The teachers continue to have control of the city centre with streets cordoned off, makeshift hospitals and food distribution all under the control of the teachers union. Protesters are confident that they are winning and the police have kept a very low profile since Wednesday's attack. Another mass demonstration is planned for this week.
Any support would be gratefully received especially from teachers' unions.
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