Teachers and supporters march in Mexico City today. Teachers and supporters march in Mexico City today.

It’s day 24 of Oaxaca’s highway blockades

There were signs that tensions were easing but blockades continue

Tensions appear to have eased between federal authorities and the CNTE teachers’ union, reported the newspaper Milenio yesterday, but that might be the result of silence on both sides rather than any relaxation of their respective positions.

Initially, there were signs that that the union and its sympathizers were relenting somewhat to the government demand that the highway blockades in Oaxaca and Chiapas must come down before there is further dialogue.

Transport trucks were seen arriving in coastal communities, gas stations were pumping gas and there were deliveries being made by the courier firm DHL, one of the despised transnational companies whose vehicles the union has refused to allow through blockades.

But the most recent reports today indicate there are at least 13 blockades in place throughout Oaxaca, while in the state capital the union and its supporters blocked access to the Plaza del Valle, the Plaza Oaxaca and Macroplaza shopping centers, as well as Walmart, Home Depot, Sam’s and others.

Although consumers in many communities have had to deal with fuel and food shortages — and more recently a scarcity of CocaCola and Victoria beer —  the biggest loser is the tourist industry.

In the city of Oaxaca today, representatives of the 26-member association of inns and hostels said their members’ June occupancy rate was zero and that 95% of their reservations for the current period have been canceled, just two weeks before the city’s biggest event of the year, the Guelaguetza.

Their losses are estimated to date at 2.43 million pesos and half their employees have been laid off for lack of work.

Association president Ángel Lozano Vázquez said the situation is worse that it was in 2006, during another conflict between government and teachers.

Hotels in the city and on the coast are reporting occupany rates under 20% and large numbers of canceled reservations.

Today is the 24th day of highway blockades in Oaxaca.

Elsewhere in the country:

• Mexico City saw an intensification of CNTE mobilizations today: police reported at least 43 blockades and protests in different parts of the city after the union’s Section 9 declared it was on strike.

• The CNTE’s Section 18 in Michoacán occupied highway toll booths, allowing traffic to move but preventing tolls from being collected.

• Members of the Guerrero teachers’ union, CETEG, today seized the toll booth at La Venta, near Acapulco on the Autopista del Sol, allowing some traffic to proceed but were charging 50 pesos. At least 10 transport trucks and semi-trailers were detained. A march was also being planned on the same highway at Chilpancingo.

• Also in Guerrero, the state government said that teachers wanted on criminal charges for vandalism and other acts would not, for the moment, be pursued. Now is not the time, said Governor Héctor Astudillo, who said he did not wish to aggravate the situation. The state prosecutor described the move as “prudent.”

• There are 10 highway blockades in place in Chiapas, including three at international border crossings with Guatemala.

• Threats by CNTE leaders in Nuevo León that highways would be blocked and the Monterrey airport closed have not yet been carried out, but the state government warned against the moves. The Government Secretary said force would be used if necessary, and that “no one was above the law. Schools in various municipalities in the state were closed Friday after teachers declared a strike over the education reforms.

There were broad hints by the federal government last week that it would move to clear the blockades in Oaxaca and Chiapas, but nothing materialized, likely for fear of another violent confrontation such that which took place June 19 when police attempted to clear the blockade at Nochixtlán. At least eight people died.

Source: NVI Noticias (sp), Excélsior (sp), Expansión (sp), Reforma (sp)

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