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James Whelan, who lives in Mexico, is "impatient" with those who refuse to see what is going on in the National University of Mexico (UNAM). I go further in my condemnation of them and of the mass of Americans who are ignorant of or totally indifferent to these developments in Mexico, so close to home. I am highly critical of the conditions in which the Latin American masses live, but I do not trust these revolutionaries who would simply wreck the country. The problem exists in other Latin American countries. James Whelan's analysis is long, but it deserves the space we are giving it. He says:
"Ninety percent of the 150,181 members of the university community who participated in the Jan. 20 poll organized by the Presidency of the university voted for a prompt return to classes. Unlike the spurious "poll" conducted two days earlier by the General Strike Council, this one was done professionally, the identities of those voting verified, and the results openly and publicly tallied. (The huelgista poll was open to anyone and everyone, including children, on the grounds that "the university belongs to everyone." Odd, coming from an organization which has behaved for the past nine months as if it belonged exclusively to them.)
On Sunday, the day following the poll, the distinguished historian and writer Enrique Krauze re-traced the route of the latest of the strikers' noisy marches, this one along the Periferico, in the area of San Angel. He found the usual graffiti -- hosannas to Che Guevara, the Zapatistas, and the "revolution." But he also found what he described as three "jewels" plastered on walls along the line of march.
The first of them: "Shove democracy up your (censored, orifice)." The second: "We march along the Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso, as in the defunct Peruvian Murder, Inc.) of Marxism, Leninism, Maoism." Comments Krauze: "Although various of their assemblies have wrapped themselves in the effigy of Stalin -- that drunken 'papa' who murdered a mere 50 million of his fellow citizens -- their specific heroes are 'President' Gonzalo -- maximum leader of Sendero Luminoso, that great organization which hung dissident peasants -- and Mao Tse Tung, the great leader who surpassed Stalin in the number of fellow citizens he exterminated."
The third he describes as "the most worrisome:" "We will have to kill all of them..." One would underestimate that threat at his own peril: The "huelgistas" -- whose top leadership includes a number of thirty-year-old and over "students" *-- have demonstrated repeatedly their vocation for violence, vandalism and criminality..
Taken together, the three slogans mirror faithfully the true nature of this "movement." As Sergio Sarmiento -- in my opinion, the sanest national columnist in the country -- wrote a while back: "At six months of the outbreak of the UNAM strike, it is crystal clear that the movement has nothing at all to do with educational budgets nor even with education...(As with the EZLN rebellion), "what is at stake here is a much more ambitious movement, aimed at destroying the liberal democratic system..."
And, speaking of budgets, he points out that the UNAM budget works out to 37 thousand pesos per year, per student. As part of the Government's general appeasement of the huelgistas, the new budget includes a 16.3 % increase in the subsidy for UNAM, to which the Chamber of Deputies is looking at adding a 10 % "bonus." State universities in the rest of the country will have to make do with a 13.5 % increase. And the per-student subsidy in those universities averages 10 thousand pesos.
At UNAM, the (long since-abandoned) proposal was to increase student from 20 cents to 689 pesos per semester (or roughly US two cents to US 74 dollars-- but ONLY for students who met a means test; poor students would continue to pay nothing). For purposes of comparison, at the country's fourth-largest State university -- Sinaloa -- fees were raised in 1988 from 136 pesos to 480 pesos. At Sinaloa, administrative expenses amount to six percent of its budget (the national average is 12 percent). At UNAM, 25 %.
At Sinaloa, academic levels -- by a variety of measurements-- have climbed steadily in recent years, at UNAM, they have declined steadily. There hasn't been a student strike at Sinaloa in eight years. (In years past, Sinaloa was a hotbed of radicals -- led in the Seventies by a group called "The Sick Ones" (los enfermos). They were the forerunners of the ultras who have bullied their way into control of the UNAM.
The huelgistas, among other things, professed to be concerned about the level of funding for their institution. Oh, yeah? Their strike has cost UNAM most than five billion pesos. As for excellence, two of the demands of the huelgistas are a return to an automatic admissions policy, and elimination of standardized testing.
No, no dear hearts, it's not about education -- it's about raw power, the power of a tiny minority to impose its despotic will not only on the university, but also on the nation itself. (Zedillo capitulated to the strikers a long time ago, and, in this election year, so, too, has every major political party).
* Top leader Mario Benitez Chavez, aged 38, who has been "studying" at the UNAM since -- 1976; Or, Alejandro Echevarria Zarco, 30, (El Mosh, long-time counter-culture acid rock singer, specialist in leading violent protests, a "student" since 1986); David Navarette, 35, in a harangue at a rally following the Thursday vote, "we prefer to see the streets run with blood before giving in to the authorities...", etc. "
My comment: It is doubtful if the once respected UNAM, now closed for nearly a year, will ever recover. The subsidiary campus at Nacaulpam has been wrecked. I think James Whelan is too critical of President Zedillo, whom I admire. He knows that a display of force would provide a pretext for violence. I am reminded of Madrid's beautiful University City, which as wrecked in the Civil War when it was a battle ground between Franco and the Republicans. I was there. Marx was wrong. History can repeat itself as tragedy.
Ronald Hilton - 1/24/00