On Dec. 4 tens of thousands of laid-off Mexican electrical workers and their supporters again took to the streets of the capital to protest President Felipe Calderón Hinojosa’s sudden liquidation of the government-owned Central Light and Power Company (LFC) the night of Oct. 10. The center-right government claims it took the step because the company was inefficient and was losing money; opponents say the government is seeking to privatize the LFC and to break the powerful independent Mexican Electrical Workers Union (SME), which represented the company’s 44,000 active employees and some 23,000 retirees.
Accompanied by unionists from the National Education Workers Coordinating Committee (CNTE), the Autonomous National University of Mexico Workers Union (STUNAM) and other unions, along with students and activists from grassroots organizations, the electrical workers held marches on different avenues—Tlalpan, Insurgentes, Paseo de la Reforma and Zaragoza—ending in an eight-hour rally at the Monument of the Revolution. The protest was called the “taking of Mexico City” to commemorate the 95th anniversary of the entrance of revolutionary heroes Emiliano Zapata and Francisco Villa into the capital.
STUNAM leader Agustín Rodríguez told the protesters that they might need to “discuss a general strike,” but SME general secretary Martín Esparza indicated that the union and the government had resumed negotiations. He had met with governance undersecretary Gerónimo Gutiérrez, and the government had agreed to extend Social Security to all the laid-off workers for one year, Esparza said. The benefits, which in Mexico include healthcare, were to expire in a week for some 20,000 laid-off LFC workers who had refused to sign up for the government’s compensation package.
The SME has proposed a five-member team to mediate future talks with the government, including Autonomous National University of Mexico (UNAM) rector José Narro Robles, National Polytechnic Institute (IPN) director general Enrique Villa Rivera, and Congress members from the three largest political parties. (La Jornada, Dec. 5; La Luz Es del Pueblo blog, Dec. 5)
From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Dec. 6