UNAM Students Defy Repression
Revolutionary Worker #1040, January 30, 2000
The following update on the struggle of the UNAM students in Mexico City is from activists who work with the Committee to Support the People's War in Peru (Mexico). The original Spanish text was received by the Committee to Support the Revolution in Peru in the U.S., which translated it into English. The students have been on strike for more than eight months against tuition increases and around other issues. On December 11, 600 UNAM strikers and others marched to the U.S. embassy to show support for the protests against the World Trade Organization in Seattle and for Mumia Abu-Jamal. The police attacked the protest and arrested many people.
We want to inform you about the latest developments in relation to the student strike. Our committee is spreading word of the revolutions in Peru and Nepal in the course of the strike, which we consider one of the most important struggles being waged in our country.
After the December 11 mobilization--which took up the slogans of the Seattle protest and in defense of Mumia--there was much debate in the movement about how to respond to the repression. Finally, it was decided that we had to go back to the yanqui embassy, since they were the ones that initially decided to charge the youth with "damaging private property" (although they later retracted this). Some in the movement said the youth provoked the repression. But this was refuted, and it's been made clear that the imperialists are the ones mainly responsible for the repression in the world. And it is this repression that provokes the resistance of the masses and just protests. Also, it was an achievement that the movement has come to know more about the case of Mumia and has begun to take up this cause.
The march on December 16 focused on the demand for freedom for the 93 who were arrested. It was necessary to struggle to organize a good protest in front of the embassy, going up against a tendency to depict the burning of the yanqui flag as a provocation (even to the point of slandering those who called for the burning as agent provocateurs). The Obrero Revolucionario/ Revolutionary Worker, with its reporting on the Battle of Seattle, has been very useful material. And we've brought out some of the testimony by people who participated in that battle, focusing in a correct way on the question of the revolutionary violence of the people. As one participant said, "A movement that wants to hold back what people feel against capitalism will not make genuine change."
The rally on the 16th in front of the embassy demonstrated the desire of the hundreds of masses who gathered there to see the arrogant imperialists defeated. As we said to many of the protesters, "Imperialism and reactionary governments very much fear that the struggles of the oppressed will become connected and will identify a common enemy." More than three stars and stripes went up in flames (often, the stars and stripes are substituted by skulls and bloody stripes). There were chants demanding that the U.S. get out of Mexico, Peru and the whole world. The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund were condemned. This is the kind of thing that the government and its yanqui godfathers are trying to suffocate, as they tried at the December 11 demonstration. They are also trying to continue their attacks on the valiant students who, with their strike, have put up a powerful obstacle to the U.S. and Mexican government's plans for privatization and forcing the people to submit to the crisis of the economic system.
As for the detained students, they are now free, but a lot of money had to be put up for bail. There is now a legal battle, headed up by Pilar Noriega, Lamberto Gonzalez, Enrique Gonzalez* and other democratic lawyers. It is only the PRD government of Mexico City that is continuing to press charges. They did back off from two of the three charges--damage to private property (a boot, a helmet and a radio) and injuries to some of their police. What remains is the charge of riot. This charge of riot is something that the legislators of Cardenas' party, the PRD, insisted on adding to the penal code. Article 131 of the code stipulates: "six months to seven years in prison and a fine of up to five thousand pesos ($500) for whoever makes use of a right, or claims to use that right, or seeks to avoid complying with a law, to gather tumultuously and disturb the public order by the use of violence against people or against things, or by threatening the authorities so that they are intimidated or obliged to make some decision..."
It is obvious that under these terms, any combative protest of the people would be considered a crime. According to this law, the people would no longer be allowed to demonstrate their just fury against oppression. And only those who limit themselves to verbal protests, and nothing more, will be considered "models" to follow. What the government wants is to make certain that the imperialist interests should not be touched, no matter what. As one of the striking students said, "Now it turns out that it is a crime to throw rocks at the gringo embassy, but it is not a crime to drop bombs on Iraq and kill thousands." There is also this point: Under the current circumstances, if they are able to find the student comrades guilty of this crime of riot, it will set a dangerous precedent.
(We have further investigated and have come to the conclusion that there were in fact those who infiltrated the movement and who launched some explosives against the guards at the embassy on December 11. The explosions were the signal and pretext for the repression and persecution against the youth. But as for the throwing of rocks at the embassy windows--and the rocks in fact broke no windows, since they are bullet-proof--yes, many of the students who opposed the attacks on the demonstrators in Seattle and on Mumia did throw rocks. They also launched skyrockets of the type that are set off in the fiestas of the people, which explode in the air and never hurt anyone. They also threw tomatoes and paint balloons. We are clarifying this point, because it is not right that some in the movement want to distance themselves from some of the forms of struggle of the masses--above all when it involves a protest against the yanquis. Also, we want to clarify because the bourgeois press seeks to contribute to misleading public opinion by saying that those who threw rocks were not students but "vandals.")
The lawyer compañeros are also under attack. On Sunday, January 2, some of them were beaten by unknown persons and the others received death threats. This reflects how desperate the reactionaries and the rulers are, that they cannot subdue the student movement. They are forging ahead with their attempts to clear the way for the elections next July. It is clear that the longer that this conflict lasts, the more difficult is the political landscape for the ruling classes.
The current objectives of the struggle are: to have all the charges dropped against the compañeros who were detained and processed; wage a broad campaign to eliminate the charge of riot; overturn the requirement for tuition that the university administration and the government want to impose in order to open the way for privatization of the UNAM; and convene a university congress. However, the developments and the position of the authorities make it appear improbable that they will abandon their requirements and change their attitude toward the students, much less accept a democratic congress in the heart of the university. The politics of the carrot and the stick continue--as does their plan to isolate the movement from the general population with their war of information in the mass media and their continuing repressive attacks. In the face of this, the youth have declared that they do not scare easily, and that they won't give up.
* These three lawyers have also participated in the delegations to Peru organized by the International Emergency Committee to Defend the Life of Abimael Guzmán (IEC)--RW
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