A tense strike and occupation at the Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana (UAM) in the southeast of Mexico City entered its 31st day March 2—despite the picket line being attacked by hostile students. Students—themselves divided by pro-strike and anti-strike factions—have also interrupted negotiations between union leaders and the university authorities. The most recent round of negotiations was abandoned Feb. 28, when there were clashes following the forced entrance of a group of students into the meeting room, supposedly attempting to submit a document about the strike to the UAM secretary general.
The strike by the Sindicato Independiente de Trabajadores de la UAM (SITUAM) began Feb. 1, with workers listing 11 demands, the most important of which being a 35% pay raise. SITUAM leaders and the UAM rectorship have periodically conducted negotiations during the strike; however an agreement between the two seems like a distant possibility, with the university especially reluctant to accept the demanded pay raise.
SITUAM condemned the Feb. 28 intrusion by the Iztapalapa Student Assembly (AEI—Iztapalapa being the location of the main UAM campus), but AEI blamed the security guards around the building for the violent scenes. AEI supports the strike, although SITUAM disavowed their action.
The Mexican state and university authorities have previously encouraged and organized anti-strike student goons (known as “porros”) to attack strikers and commit anti-social and violent acts on campus as a means of discrediting them. In the 1999-2000 student strike at Latin America’s biggest university—the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM), near the UAM in southern Mexico City—students occupying one campus awoke to see students and lecturers manning farm machinery declaring their intention to evict the strikers. It was later revealed that these students were actually in the pay of UNAM authorities.
Some political commentators have used the UAM strike as a means of reiterating their arguments against public education. UAM is one of a handful of “autonomous” Mexican public universities, offering free education (aside from a token enrolment payment) to every Mexican student who passes their entrance examinations. Workers at the Universidad Autónoma del Estado de Hidalgo (UAEH) also went on strike over pay Feb. 29, and January saw strikes by autonomous universities in Veracruz and Durango, as well as a host of strikes in private universities around the country. (Libcom.org, March 2)
See our last post on Mexico.