October 1999 

Kidnappings and Thug Assaults Against
Student Strikers, Leftists

Mobilize Working-Class Action to Smash Terror Attacks on UNAM Strike!

The following urgent alert was issued on October 7 by the Grupo Internacionalista, section of the League for the Fourth International.

The Internationalist Group/League for the Fourth International is issuing this urgent protest to alert the working class and left internationally about the ominous escalation of state repression against the strike at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). 

The strike against the attempt to drive poor and working-class students out of Latin America’s largest university is still solid well into its sixth month. Having failed to wear down the strike, the capitalist state, its university authorities and their mouthpieces in the mass media are seeking to intimidate students into ending the UNAM occupation. On October 5, Alejandro Echevarría ("El Mosh"), the best-known leader of the wing of the strike movement denounced as  "ultras" in the bourgeois press, was seized by 15 goons, held for several hours, beaten and threatened with rape; a contact lens was broken in one of his eyes as a result. The same day, Humberto Herrera, a long-time trade-union member who is a supporter of the Grupo Espartaquista de México (section of the International Communist League), was seized by six men, held for several hours, beaten, threatened with death and had a gun put at the back of his head. The day before, armed men beat two strikers from UNAM’s School of Science, while students from the School of Philosophy were shot at by a roving band of thugs.

These outrages are a vicious attack on the entire workers movement! Thez are part of a pattern of provocations launched by the authorities in recent weeks against students, electrical workers threatened with privatization of the electrical industry, and Zapatista Indian insurgents facing massive military forces in southern Mexico. As we stressed in a leaflet calling a September 3 solidarity demonstration with the UNAM strike in New York City’s garment district, "it is the urgent duty of U.S. workers, students and all opponents of imperialism to mobilize in defense of their class brothers and sisters in Mexico."

Already in the early weeks of the strike, 17-year-old activist Juan Carlos Zárate was repeatedly kidnapped and slashed with a knife; a young woman activist from a UNAM-affiliated high school was raped. Repeated instances of police violence have included the August 4 attack by the granaderos (riot police), who beat and arrested over a hundred strikers. This brutal assault was ordered by the head of Mexico City’s municipal government, Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas, who is the candidate of the bourgeois-nationalist Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) for next year’s presidential elections. A couple of weeks later, squads of porros (professional goons) connected with President Ernesto Zedillo’s PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party), which has governed Mexico for the last seven decades, attacked UNAM strike lines with explosive devices.

As Mexico’s capitalist rulers grow increasingly impatient to end the strike, the repression and terror attacks are coming to a head. On October 6 a herd of porros, scabs and high-level university administrators seized the Acatlán campus of a UNAM-affiliated professional school while many strikers were away at a meeting of the Strike General Council (CGH) on the main campus. The assault was ostentatiously supported by the police, with patrol cars cruising the perimeter and police helicopters circling overhead. Upon learning of this provocation, hundreds of student strikers mobilized and streamed out of University City on buses heading to Acatlán where they defeated and dislodged the strikebreakers. 

Carlos Cisneros/La Jornada

UNAM strikers retake Acatlán campus from scabs and thugs.

Meanwhile, Congressional spokesmen of the rightist National Action Party (PAN) have demanded that the government seize the struck campus. Zedillo’s hand-picked PRI presidential candidate, Horacio Labastida, brazenly alleged that a guerrilla group active in the western state of Guerrero had stockpiled arms on campus. This absurd claim (which was then parroted by Labastida’s protégé, UNAM rector Francisco Barnés) is a transparent ploy to send in troops and riot police to break the strike, as many ruling-class hardliners are pushing for. The spectre of a new 1968 massacre, when the army slaughtered hundreds of students, is ever present in Mexico today. But also present and willing to fight are tens of thousands of workers, students and slum dwellers who have repeatedly taken to the streets to demonstrate their solidarity. Last weekend a huge demonstration of over 50,000 marched to Mexico City’s main square, the Zócalo, to commemorate the 2 October 1968 massacre and support the UNAM strike for free public higher education. The vital factor is the need for revolutionary proletarian leadership.

The workers movement must mobilize its power now in strike action and mass defense guards against this repression. Our comrades of the Grupo Internacionalista/México have played a key role in initiating workers defense guards for the UNAM strike as well as helping spark walkouts by workers at the Metropolitan University (UAM). Yesterday (October 6) students and workers at the UAM’s Xochimilco campus struck in solidarity with UNAM, along with students at the National Pedagogical University. Yet these are only first steps: it is urgently necessary that the STUNAM university workers union (whose contract expires at the end of October), together with the SME electrical workers union (which is facing the threat of mass layoffs through privatization), teachers and other major sectors of the labor movement join the UNAM students in a joint strike now

This must be part of an overall workers offensive to smash the capitalist assault on working people and the oppressed in Mexico and internationally. Our comrades have stressed the urgent need for a proletarian-internationalist program in fighting for the student strikers to take up the defense of black American death row prisoner and radical journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal. Key to this is to break from all forms of bourgeois politics, from the PRD and the popular front around Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas in Mexico (which includes the leaders both of the students and of the "independent" unions) to the Democrats and Republicans in the U.S., and to fight for the program of international socialist revolution, to build revolutionary workers parties as part of the reforging of Trotsky’s Fourth International.

 We call on all opponents of capitalist repression to protest the vicious state violence against UNAM strike and left activists in Mexico and to demonstrate active solidarity for the victory of the UNAM strike! 

Internationalist Group/League for the Fourth International
7 October 1999

To contact the Internationalist Group and the League for the Fourth International, send e-mail to: internationalistgroup@msn.com