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The Federal District
David Crow, now at the University of Texas, was a student at the National University of Mexico (UNAM) and is sympathetic to the students. He writes:
One problem with the theory that the PRD is behind the strike is that the PRD is the party that has been hit the hardest by both public opinion and the students. Undoubtedly, the relationship between the PRD and the General Strike Council was initially one of sympathy, but to say that the party is hoping for a bloody confrontation to discredit the Zedillo administration simply isn't the case. Such a confrontation could only hurt the PRD.
The D.F. government really is between a rock and a hard place. Some sectors (including the notoriously anti-PRD media) are increasingly clamoring for public force to put an end to the situation while students accuse the PRD of being the establishment's henchmen. So the unenviable choice is being accused of not having ones "pants" (to say it the polite way) firmly on or incurring in another Massacre of Tlatelolco.
Also, it's not quite accurate to say that the D.F. is a state, or even a municipality. It is still subject to significant restraints vis-a-vis the federal government. For example, its budget and regulations are subject to approval of the Congress, and the president is authorized to name several key posts. This is not true of the other 31 "federal entities" that are full-fledged states. The issue is important because, whereas previous D.F. mayors were allowed to operate with huge budget deficits (which they bequeathed to the PRD), Cardenas financial maneuvering room was severely curtailed by the PRI-PAN gang in the Chamber of Deputies for the two years Cardenas was in office.
As for the strike, it's high time it ended. In the beginning, I sympathized with the students, given the undemocratic and cowardly manner in which the former administration imposed a host of regulations (including, but not limited to, the fee raises). Unfortunately, the "ultras" took complete control of the movement, displacing moderates inclined to negotiate, with the resulting stalemate. (Of course, no one speaks of the "ultras" on the government's side.) Ironically, had the students accepted the professors emeritus proposal last fall, they would have walked away with a stunning political victory. Now, there is a real possibility that the strike will end in violence.
My comment: I am puzzled by David's last statement. His message is dated February 4, and the violence, which has been going on for months, culminated in the bloody confrontation at Preparatory School No. 3, which occurred well before David wrote. I have no evidence that the previous university administration was "undemocratic and cowardly". The raise in the very modest fees was a pretext. The strikers demanded free admission to the university, which would have resulted in no standards, worthless diplomas, and hordes of people using them to demand jobs.
My impression is that the media have been balanced in their reporting, certainly in comparison with the manifesto forwarded by Ed Simmen. I simplified the account of the status of the Federal District because to go into details would have been irrelevant. I would not speak of the PRI-PAN "gang". The term could be better used of the PRD, but it is a loaded term.
Ronald Hilton - 2/4/00