Q&A: Crisis in Oaxaca

From: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/6102018.stm

Oct 31, 2006

The Mexican state of Oaxaca has seen five months of protests against Governor Ulises Ruiz. Here we look at the background to the conflict which has claimed at least six lives.

What are the origins of the crisis?

On 1 May 2006, teachers in Oaxaca handed in a document listing their grievances and demands. They then went on strike, saying they had received no answer from the local authorities.

The crisis reached a new level on 14 June, when local police tried to remove the protesters who had, since 22 May been occupying the centre of the city. Some 750 police officers took part in the operation. Media reports at the time said at least four people had died in the clashes - a claim denied by the local authorities.

What do the teachers want?

They are demanding better pay, as well as a series of measures to help poorer pupils, including: breakfasts for schoolchildren, scholarships, uniforms, shoes, medical services and textbooks. The teachers are also demanding the resignation of the Oaxaca Governor, Ulises Ruiz.

Are other groups supporting the teachers?

Yes. The teachers' movement is backed by an umbrella group known as the Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca (Appo), formed on 17 June by 365 grassroots organisations including unions, indigenous and peasant groups and women's movements.

The protest movement has also received the backing of Zapatista rebel leader Subcomandante Marcos and former left-wing presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.

What form has the Appo's protest taken?

The Appo describes its movement as one of "peaceful and civil resistance". The demonstrators have occupied a number of radio stations, public buildings and erected barricades in the areas they control.

The movement has held five mass protest marches. The last one attracted about 900,000 people, according to the organisers.

Why are they seeking the removal of the governor?

The Appo says the Mr Ruiz's resignation is a key condition for any negotiated solution to the conflict.

The teachers say he has not met their demands and blame him for the violence on 14 June. Protesters accuse him of corruption and repressive tactics against dissenters.

How many people have been affected by the teachers' strike?

An estimated 1.3 million students - from 14,000 schools - have not been able to attend classes since May.

Last week, teachers voted to return to class, but their union said certain conditions needed to be met before that could happen.

What is the federal government doing about the crisis?

On Monday 30 October, senators unanimously approved a resolution calling on Mr Ruiz to "consider resigning from office to help restore law and order", a call that was rejected by the Oaxaca governor.

After resisting calls to send federal forces to Oaxaca, President Vicente Fox's finally did so on 28 October. Security forces retook the centre of the city at the weekend, but the violence has continued and the protesters have regrouped.