Mexico: unionists block Congress over budget

About 15,000 protesters from independent unions, campesino organizations and other grassroots groups blocked access to the Chamber of Deputies in Mexico City on Nov. 12 and 13 to demand a reduction of allocations for the security forces in next year’s budget and an increase in the allocations for social development.

Two large marches converged on the San Lázaro Legislative Palace around noon on Nov. 12, taking congressional guards and the Federal District (DF, Mexico City) police by surprise. A column of protesters from the National Education Workers Coordinating Committee (CNTE), the main rank-and-file caucus in the huge National Education Workers Union (SNTE), confronted the guards and police agents outside the building. After some shoving and pushing, the outnumbered security group withdrew and the demonstrators started a sit-in around the building.

Most of the protesters agreed to lift the siege on Nov. 13. Jorge Cázares Torres, general secretary of SNTE Section 16 (Guadalajara), told the demonstrators that their “pressure” had succeeded in limiting a plan to reduce the education budget; Chamber of Deputies president Jorge Carlos RamĂ­rez MarĂ­n said the political parties had agreed to restore 6.7 billion pesos (about $542 million) to the education budget. MartĂ­n Esparza, general secretary of the Mexican Electrical Workers Union (SME), told his members that legislative deputies from all but one of the political parties had agreed to meet on Nov. 16 to discuss changes to the law governing electric utilities and the possible creation of a new electric company for central Mexico; only the center-right National Action Party (PAN) of Mexican president Felipe CalderĂłn Hinojosa wasn’t participating. The SME’s 44,000 employed members were laid off in October 2009 when CalderĂłn abruptly liquidated their employer, the state-owned Central Light and Power Company (LFC). (La Jornada, Mexico, Nov. 13, Nov. 14)

Students protest narco-militarization
In other news, some 200 students marched at the main campus of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) in Mexico City the evening of Nov. 9 to express solidarity with students in Ciudad Juárez in the northern state of Chihuahua and to protest the federal government’s “war on drugs.” Federal police shot and seriously injured Autonomous University of Ciudad Juárez (UACJ) student JosĂ© DarĂ­o Alvarez OrrantĂ­a during a protest near the campus the evening of Oct. 29.

Earlier in the day UNAM students and SME members marched in downtown Mexico City around the same issues, with slogans such as: “If they do it to one, they do it to all” and “No to the militarization of Ciudad Juárez.” Students also marched in Durango, capital of the northern state of Durango, to protest the violence there. Joined by teachers, students from the Technological Institute of Durango (ITD) called for peace in Durango and demanded clarification of the Oct. 25 murder of JosĂ© Alberto Pardo Saucedo, an ITD student and the son of an ITD teacher. (LJ, Nov. 10; Milenio, Mexico, Nov. 9)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Nov. 14.

See our last posts on Mexico and the labor struggle.