Mexico: mass protests meet state of union address

Tens of thousands of Mexican workers, tradespeople, doctors and nurses, oil workers, telephone workers, miners, teachers, parents, students and campesinos demonstrated on Sept. 1 to protest the economic policies of President Felipe Calderón Hinojosa as he presented Congress with the annual state of the union report. Until two years ago, the president read the report to the two houses of Congress in an elaborate televised ceremony; the tradition ended in 2006 when opposition legislators kept then-president Vicente Fox Quesada from giving his last report. This year Governance Secretary Juan Camilo Mourino Terrazo simply handed a copy of the report to congressional leaders; the event took eight minutes.

In the Federal District (DF, Mexico City), protesters held some 15 different marches, rallies and sit-ins at different places and times, creating some of the biggest traffic problems in the capital in years. In the southern part of the city, 300 members of the Francisco Villa Popular Front took over tollbooths on the highway to Puebla at 7 AM and let traffic pass for free for two hours; others from the group did the same on the highway to Cuernavaca; the organization then tied up traffic for three hours with a march of 500 people through the city toward the Zocalo, the main plaza. Also in the southern part of the capital, employees of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) blocked the Insurgentes Sur boulevard. At other end of the DF a group of 200 members of the Popular Movement occupied five lanes of a highway at 8 AM to oppose Calderon’s energy policies and then marched to the Tlatelolco housing project. Flight attendants demonstrated in the city’s international airport, and at 4 PM thousands of unionists and campesinos held the biggest demonstration of the day—a march to the Zocalo from different parts of the downtown area to demand better living conditions.

Outside the capital, dissident teachers took over Education Secretariat and Social Security offices in various states; electricity workers leafleted; and telephone workers held a one-hour strike around the country. (Cronica de Hoy, Mexico City, Sept. 2; La Jornada, Sept. 2)

Teachers continued to hold protests and strikes to build opposition to the Alliance for Quality Education (ACE), a plan supported by President Calderón and National Union of Education Workers (SNTE) head Elba Esther Gordillo. On Sept. 2 teachers and students blocked the Guerrero state legislature building in Chilpancingo and set up an encampment in front of the governor’s office; teachers demonstrated in 11 cities in Campeche; and 100 teachers in Yucatan announced they were forming an independent union. (LJ, Sept. 3) On Sept. 3 hundreds of teachers from SNTE Section 19 in Morelos occupied tollbooths on the Mexico City-Cuernavaca highway, letting vehicles pass for free; Morelos teachers had been on strike since Aug. 13 to protest the ACE. (LJ, Sept. 4) Some 50,000 Morelos teachers and supporters marched in Cuernavaca on Sept. 5. (LJ, Sept. 6)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Sept. 7

See our last posts on Mexico and the labor struggle.