OAXACA CITY: STUDENT ACTIVISM
No More Denied Students, No to Plan Juarez in Oaxaca29 Aug 2005 00:19 GMT
Today is August 19, 2005 and I am in Oaxaca City, one of the places most visited by tourists in my country. Since last night, the streets have been circled by police of all types; uniformed police, undercover police, military police, police with helmets, wooden batons and gases all to protect the governors from many states in Mexico who were meeting in Oaxaca City.
I was in the Carmen Plaza and I heard whistling and the chants were getting louder, “…education first for the children of the workers, education later for the children of the rich….” I quickly walked to encounter the march of students of the UABJO (Benito Juárez Autonomous University of Oaxaca), youth no older than 25 years that were walking in two lines, in the middle of the march was the students that were carrying large signs accusing the director of the university, Neri, of using Plan Juarez to decrease the quality of the education. Some of the main points of this plan are: privatize the education, increase the tuition, decrease the number of students, eliminate the students´ rights to elect their director, and other such cutbacks in overall quality of the education.
I walked with the students in the direction of the Zocalo (main plaza), and we stopped in front of a large old building where the governors had a meeting a few hours earlier. From one of the balconies, some people were observing us as if we were part of a circus. The youth yelled with all their courage, I started to get very mad, I wanted to kill this person that was always above us. A colleague announced that it was time to continue walking towards the Zocalo.
Approximately 20 police armed with batons, gas, and dogs prevented us from entering the main plaza, we looked for another entrance and we received the same line of police. In front of people from all over Mexico and tourists from around the world, a casket was light on fire that said “education” and two cardboard donkeys with the faces of the Governor, Ulises Ruiz and the director of UABJO, Neri. Here they explained that the governor of Oaxaca spent 700 million pesos (approx. 70 million dollars) on the “remodelization” of the historic center, meanwhile only 5 million pesos (approx. 500 thousand dollars) was spent for education; this was the pretext for denying more students at the university.
This year the number of students that wanted to enter the university was 11,000 and only 4,000 were accepted. In the past days the manifestations took-over the administration building of the university and the director refused to listen to the demands of the students, he accepted the dialogue but tried to intimidate the students with the force of the police, however the students were not frightened and continued the fight. Days later the director offered that 300 more students could enter the university, but they needed to take another exam to decide who was able to enter. It was another swindle because for the right to take the new exam, the students would have to pay another 400 pesos (approx. 40 dollars) to a corporation called CENEVAL (National Center of Evaluation for Superior Education, Civil Association).
At the end of the rally, the protestors walked together without provocation from the police to the School of Rights where the students met to reflect on the struggle for education and ensure that the movement continues to progress.
Days later I had the opportunity to speak with one of the people in the movement and he explained to me (and I agree with all of it) that this is all part of a plan by the government to prevent people from small indigenous communities from accessing education and continuing the exploitation of cheap labor; people that want to leave their country to look for “better living conditions” and this continues the exploitation.