Wednesday, November 15, 2006

June 24, 2006: Striking teachers in Mexico say they won't interfere with July 2 election

The leader of about 70,000 striking teachers in southern Oaxaca state said Friday they won't interfere with Mexico's July 2 presidential election, and promised to meet with a civic commission to try to resolve their pay demands.

The monthlong strike has left 1.3 million children in grade and high schools in Oaxaca without classes.

The strikers demanding increased pay have camped out in the arch-ringed main plaza in Oaxaca the capital of the state of the same name and have at times blockaded the offices of the electoral agency here.

Teachers's union leader Enrique Rueda Pacheco expressed hopes of ending the month-long protest before the vote.

"We are not going to boycott the elections," he said. "The conflict has to have an end date, either on the last hours of July 1, or the first hours of July 2."

Responding to the fear that the ongoing conflict could disrupt voting in Oaxaca, President Vicente Fox said there will be no "there will be a great election for everyone." During the elections, he added, "everything will go well, including the elections in Oaxaca."

The teachers have sprayed historic buildings with graffiti around the main plaza, and have demanded the resignation of the state's governor.

Damage to the city and its important tourism industry have led citizens' groups to demand an end to the conflict.

Federal officials have estimated the total cost of the salary increases being demanded at about $125 million. The government has said it doesn't have the money. Teachers are paid on a floating salary scale that hinges on such criteria as education, senority and assignment.

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