Back to Index

Student Strike`

     Observing the student strike in Mexico City, David Crow was at first sympathetic to it. He has been forced to revise his assessment. He writes:
     The tide of popular support has turned in favor of National University of Mexico's Dean Francisco Barnés de Castro, as strike leaders are letting near total victory slip through their hands. Two weeks ago, rumors floated about that the Interior Secretariat was calling for Barnés's resignation; yesterday, Barnés headed a triumphal, well attended counter-demonstration calling for an end to the strike.
     Student leadership has radicalized dramatically, alienating moderates who opposed the fee increase but want to get back to classes. The Leftist Block has completely appropriated leadership of the strike, taking advantage of other student groups' disorganization and inertia within the student community at large. Appealing to an obsolete Marxist fundamentalism, the strikers have refused to accept Barnés's concessions and hope instead to extend the strike to other universities and build ties with workers and peasants (a Maoist touch). Barnés had at first agreed to modify the new regulations to make fees voluntary; he then met the strikers' main demand by abolishing the regulations altogether. Barnés has now acceeded to virtually all of the strikers' demands, except holding a Congress to "refound" the university and, of course, tendering his own resignation. Student radicals seem hell-bent on unconditional surrender, without leaving Barnés any kind of graceful exit. But the tactic appears to be backfiring as the Dean regroups his forces.
     Foes of Mexico City mayor Cuauhtemoc Cárdenas are attempting to capitalize upon the strike to discredit him and the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), asserting that his government's permisiveness tolerates traffic disrupting demonstrations and vandalism. Cárdenas has disavowed responsibility for the situation, correctly pointing out that administering the university is a federal government task, and promised not to use force to break the strike. Indeed, to do so (in my opinion) would be a grave mistake: shades of 1968, Díaz Ordaz and then-mayor Alfonso Corona del Rosal.
     The PRD has sympathized with the student movement, although it denies providing direct aid. Indeed, some of its prominent members were strikers in 1987, when former Dean Jorge Madrazo Cuéllar (now Attorney General) attempted to raise fees as part of a comprehensive campaign to improve the quality of education. Most notably, current Mexico City PRD President Carlos Imaz was involved in the 1987 movement. (Historical footnote: both Imaz and Barnés are first generation sons of exiled Spanish Republicans.)
     The PRD has also attempted to persuade radical student leadership to relent, but to no avail. The PRD is truly between Scylla and Charybdis: radical leftist for its detractors in the press, too "bourgeois" for the students.
     My comment: We are sending this out unabridged because Americans have little idea of how Latin American students are being manipulated. Student violence is compounded with a crime wave on campuses. Another large Latin American campus, that of Sao Paulo, is going through similar chaos. The strikes are destabilizing Latin American countries.

Ronald Hilton - 06/30/99