More government workers are taking to the streets in Veracruz to press demands that they be paid as the state’s financial crisis continues.
Health professionals, prison staff, police, teachers and other personnel on the state payroll are speaking up, going on strike, blocking highways and marching in protest.
Over 30,000 employees of the state’s health system, unionized and otherwise, went on strike on Tuesday, demanding the payment of their salaries and guarantees that the state will continue paying salaries along with year-end bonuses and other benefits.
Employees at the state’s 66 hospitals and 899 health centers, along with those at the 11 regional administrative offices and the several nursing homes and orphanages in the state, participated in the strike, including physicians, nurses, paramedics, custodians and administrative staff.
Over 340,000 scheduled medical procedures were cancelled as health facilities were staffed only by skeleton crews to care for emergency cases and already hospitalized patients.
Health workers put pressure on state authorities by paralyzing traffic with over 50 blockades and marches in the state’s main cities and highways, along with several administrative offices including the Finance Secretariat.
A representative of the National Health Worker’s Union said that over 150 million pesos (close to US $7.5 million) was owed to its affiliates and workers throughout the state.
Interim Governor Flavino Ríos asked health professionals to stop obstructing the Finance Secretariat building otherwise, “payments can’t be issued.”
While he acknowledged that the mid-November salaries were ready to be paid, Ríos admitted that his administration does not have enough funds to pay bonuses and benefits.
Unionized teachers continue their takeover of the premises of the Education Secretariat, demanding not only overdue salaries but also the payment of bonuses earned by those teachers with outstanding grades in their performance evaluations.
State police officers threatened to go on strike today if their salaries aren’t paid promptly.
Their bosses replied that the payment of November 15 salaries was “guaranteed,” and that the checks would be delivered “in the next few hours.”
There were also protests in the state’s penal system, where workers demanded the payment of unpaid salaries by protesting in the system’s central offices and at least five of the state’s 17 prisons.
The fugitive ex-governor Javier Duarte, who took a leave of absence last month, is widely blamed for the financial situation, and is also wanted for arrest in connection with corruption charges.
Today, a judge in Xalapa ordered Arturo Bermúdez Zurita, Duarte’s former Security Secretary, and another man jailed to await trial for influence peddling and abuse of authority.
In the streets of Veracruz yesterday, striking health workers called on Duarte to return the money he allegedly stole.
“Duarte ratero, regresa el dinero, porque el sector salud está primero,” went their chant. “Duarte, you thief, return the money because the health sector comes first.”