INDEPENDENT NEWS

Cablegate: National Teachers' Union Says Government Actions

Published: Wed 8 Nov 2006 08:08 PM
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FM AMEMBASSY MEXICO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4131
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INFO RUEHXC/ALL US CONSULATES IN MEXICO COLLECTIVE
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UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 MEXICO 006391
SIPDIS
SIPDIS
DEPT FOR DRL/AWH AND ILSCR, WHA/MEX AND PPC, USDOL FOR ILAB
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ELAB ECON PGOV CASC KDEM PINR MX
SUBJECT: NATIONAL TEACHERS' UNION SAYS GOVERNMENT ACTIONS
FURTHER COMPLICATES SITUATION IN OAXACA
REF: (A) MEXICO 6128 (B) MEXICO 5982
1. Summary: The National TeachersQ, Union (SNTE) sharply
criticized the GOM for negotiating directly with the striking
teachers in Oaxaca. In SNTEQ,s view these negotiations,
which bypass the national union, will only prolong OaxacaQ,s
civil unrest and could potentially spread the problem to
other parts of Mexico. SNTE also claims the negotiations once
again change the civil unrest from a labor problem back into
a political problem. Given the recent events in Oaxaca, (i.e.
the introduction of federal forces, rioting in the center of
the stateQ,s capital and the death of a US Citizen reporter)
the GOM undoubtedly believed that it could not afford to
ignore any opportunity that might ultimately resolve the long
running civil unrest. This latest development, and the
obvious annoyance of the SNTE, makes it all the more likely
that OaxacaQ,s political/labor crisis will not be resolved
before the December 1st, inauguration of MexicoQ,s incoming
presidential administration. End Summary.
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Labor Crisis or Political Crisis
--------------------------------
2. For some five plus months Mexican federal and state
authorities have been unable to find a satisfactory
resolution to the civil unrest in the southeastern state of
Oaxaca. The unrest there, which begun as a rather
unremarkable teachersQ, strike for higher wages, transformed
itself into an increasingly complicated problem when
excessive use of force by the stateQ,s governor prompted a
number of civil society groups to join the protesting
teachers on the barricades under the umbrella of the Oaxaca
PeopleQ,s Popular Assembly (APPO). The teachers and APPO
ultimately called for the resignation of OaxacaQ,s governor
as a condition for ending the civil unrest thus transforming
what had been a labor problem into a political crisis.
3. As the crisis continued the teachers and APPO refused to
deal with the state authorities; it consequently fell to
MexicoQ,s federal government to try and resolve the
situation. One of the teachersQ, original demands was that
Oaxaca be Q for salary purposes. Mexico is divided
into a three education zones and the zone in which they work
determines teachersQ, salaries. Oaxaca -Q) one of MexicoQ,s
poorest states -- is in a zone where the salaries are
comparatively low. As a part of its efforts to resolve the
situation in Oaxaca the federal government, specifically the
Secretariats of Government (Interior) and Public Education,
SIPDIS
offered to rezone Oaxaca. The striking teachers rejected the
offer as too little too late since the offer did not include
the governorQ,s resignation.
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SNTE To The Rescue
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4. When federal authorities failed to reach an agreement
with the protestors in Oaxaca they changed their approach.
Rather than continue the unproductive talks with the striking
teachers and APPO, federal authorities turned instead to the
national leadership of the SNTE and union leader, Elba Ester
Gordillo. In turning to the national union the GOM made them
an offer they could not refuse (REF B). The proposal of the
federal government was an offer of $41.67 billon pesos
(approximately USDOL 3.8 billion) over a six-year period to
Q all of Mexico. The rezoning of all of Mexico
would mean guaranteed salary increases for teachers
nationwide for the entire period of the new presidential
administration scheduled to take office on December 1, 2006.
5. With the offer of national rezoning in hand, the SNTE
indicated that it would be able to persuade the striking
teachers to return to their classroom. Once the teachers
were separated from APPO it was assumed the civil unrest
would wind down. SNTE expected to be the hero of the day
with the nation for solving a seemingly intractable problem
and with its members for winning a pay raise for teachers
nationwide. It didn't happen.
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The Unrest Continues and the GOM Again Changes Track
--------------------------------------------- -------
6. Despite the claim by SNTE that it could persuade the
striking teachers to return to work, they soon discovered
that money was no longer the only issue. At least 50,000 of
MEXICO 00006391 002 OF 002
the 70,000 striking teachers refused to give up on the demand
that OaxacaQ,s governor resign and the unrest continued.
Moreover, the Oaxaca state section of the SNTE tends to be
far more radicalized than the national union and does not
fall in line behind the national union leadership. With the
clock running out before the December 1 change of
presidential administrations, the outgoing government of
President Vicente Fox finally decided that time had come to
use federal force once three people, including a UCS
reporter, were killed in clashes between APPO and state
authorities.
7. After a six-hour battle, the 4000 plus federal police
sent into OaxacaQ,s capital would ultimately reclaim the
capital cityQ,s streets and impose order (Ref A). However,
at least eight protestors were hurt in the rioting.
Moreover, although the striking teachers have agreed to
return to class, press reports indicate that they still had
significant (moral) support for APPO and its demand that the
governor of Oaxaca resign. As it became clear that SNTE
could not fully deliver the teachers, and in the wake of the
escalated violence, the GOM again tried talking to the
protestors.
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SNTE Left Out of The Loop
-------------------------
8. At this point it is not clear exactly when the GOM
resumed direct contact with the Oaxaca teachers. For the most
part the talks with the teachers had been rather low key.
The talks were so low key that they did not include any
representative from SNTE. The national union was not happy
about being left out of the GOMQ,s talks with the Oaxaca
teachers and publicly expressed its displeasure.
9. On November 5 the SNTE issued a 14-point communiquQ to
express its displeasure over the direct talks between the GOM
and the Oaxaca. The communiquQ sharply criticized federal
authorities for bypassing the national union and engaging in
Q negotiationsQ8. For all practical purposes SNTE
described the talks as illegal, claiming they were taking
place outside the norms of MexicoQ,s labor laws. Moreover,
the SNTE specifically accused Secretary of Government Carlos
Abascal Carranza and Public Education Secretary Reyes Tamez
Guerra of engaging in activities that would prolong the
unrest in Oaxaca and that could very possibly spread the
crisis to other parts of Mexico. SNTE also repeatedly
underscored that, under Mexican law, only the national union
could negotiate labor issues on behalf of teachers. Thus far
there has been no public GOM reaction to the SNTE communiquQ.
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Comment
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10. Given the recent in upsurge in violence in Oaxaca, it is
not surprising that the GOM decided to negotiate directly
with the striking teachers. At this point, federal
authorities undoubtedly believed that they could not afford
to ignore any opportunity that might ultimately resolve the
long running civil unrest. The national unionQ,s response to
the direct GOM/Oaxaca teachers negotiations was perhaps a bit
strong, but not particularly surprising when viewed in
context. When the SNTE agreed to the rezoning of all of
Mexico (and obtained the GOMQ,s promise of substantial
funds), it received considerable media attention. SNTEQ,s
national leader, Esther Gordillo went to great lengths to
appear as if she and the national union would be saving the
day for the GOM in Oaxaca. When the GOM left SNTE out of the
loop in its talks with the Oaxaca teachers, it undercut the
national unionQ,s very public claims that it could solve the
civil unrest in Oaxaca as a labor problem instead of as a
political problem. This latest development, and the obvious
annoyance of the SNTE, increase the likelihood that OaxacaQ,s
political/labor crisis will not be resolved before the
December 1, inauguration of MexicoQ,s incoming presidential
administration
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