Monday, December 1, 2008

WNU #968: Chilean Government Workers Get Raise

Weekly News Update on the Americas
Issue #968, November 30, 2008

1. Chile: Public Employees Win 10% Raise
2. Mexico: Teachers Win Some, Lose Some
3. Venezuela: 3 Unionists Murdered
4. Links to alternative sources on: Chile, Paraguay, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, El Salvador, Mexico

ISSN#: 1084-922X. Weekly News Update on the Americas covers news from Latin America and the Caribbean, compiled and written from a progressive perspective. It has been published weekly by the Nicaragua Solidarity Network of Greater New York since 1990. For a subscription, write to It is archived at

*1. Chile: Public Employees Win 10% Raise
The 15 unions representing Chile's government workers agreed on the night of Nov. 20 to end their four-day-old strike after the Senate approved a 10.4% raise earlier that day. The unions had demanded a 14.5% pay increase, arguing that the annual inflation rate had risen to 9.9% in October. Arturo Martínez, president of the Unified Workers Confederation (CUT), acknowledged that the raise "[m]aybe isn't all we hoped for." He noted that the settlement was between President Michelle Bachelet and the Congress, not the government and the unions, but said the salary increase was the result of the unionists' mobilizations, and "today it's possible to celebrate; the workers have triumphed."

Some 400,000 government workers had observed a two-day strike on Nov. 11 and 12. When Bachelet's government refused to offer more than 6.5%, the unions decided to call an open-ended strike starting Nov. 17 [see Update #967]. Public schools, customs offices, municipal governments, tax offices, public hospitals and clinics, and the judicial system were shut down. Garbage piled up on the streets, and exports were delayed, at a loss to the country of about $165 million a day. On Nov. 20 some 10,000 doctors joined the strike.

The increase will raise the average government worker's pay next July 1 from 144,000 to 159,000 pesos a month (from $290.90 to $321.21). The workers will also get a one-time bonus--$156 for the best-paid workers but $312 for the others. The total increase will cost the government $1.648 billion a year. President Bachelet asked Congress to exclude top officials from the increase, but the legislators, who will be covered by the increase, said the exclusion would be unconstitutional. Bachelet promised to look for legal mechanisms to exempt the president and cabinet ministers from the raise. "I'm an adherent of the position that those of us who are in a relatively more privileged situation than others are the ones who should tighten our belts the most," she said. (TeleSUR 11/21/08; La Jornada (Mexico) 11/21/08 from correspondent and unidentified wire services)

*2. Mexico: Teachers Win Some, Lose Some
As protests by teachers continued in several southern and central Mexican states, on Nov. 28 the State Institute of Public Education of Oaxaca (IEEPO) announced plans to work with Section 22 of the National Education Workers Union (SNTE) to produce an alternative to the government's new Alliance for Quality Education (ACE). The alternative program will be carried out "in accordance with the characteristics of the state," IEEPO director Abel Trejo González said. This is first time a state government has distanced itself from the ACE, which is promoted by Mexican president Felipe Calderón Hinojosa and SNTE national president Elba Esther Gordillo Morales. Teachers have protested against the ACE since August, calling it an opening to privatization [see Update #864]. A strike by Section 22 set off a major uprising in 2006 that paralyzed much of the state for five months. (Mexico Solidarity Network Weekly News and Analysis, 11/30/08; La Jornada 11/29/08)

Also on Nov. 28, teachers in Guerrero, to the west of Oaxaca, ended a job action against the ACE that began on Sept. 1. Negotiations had settled about 80% of the strike issues, with the state accepting the payment of salaries to some 500 teachers who participated in the movement; the automatic granting of 700 teaching positions to graduates of the state's nine teachers colleges; an agreement not to reform the Social Security law for the state's public employees; and continuation of the custom of allowing teachers to propose their replacements when they retire. At noon on Nov. 28, the teachers ended an 88-day encampment in front of the government building in Chilpancingo. About 10,000 teachers then marched through the streets under banners depicting the teachers Lucio Cabañas Barrientos and Genaro Vázquez Rojas, who led an armed rebellion in the 1970s; the marchers thanked the population for its "tolerance, support and collaboration" during the strike. (LJ 11/29/08)

The day before, on Nov. 27, hundreds of teachers college students clashed with police agents near Morelia, Michoacán. Starting at about 7:30am, students at the Vasco de Quiroga Teachers College took over 21 buses to transport protesters the 22km to Morelia for an afternoon demonstration. About 300 police agents were waiting for them on the Pátzcuaro-Morelia highway. When the 500 students refused to leave the buses, the agents attacked with tear gas while a helicopter launched tear gas grenades from above. The students fought back, and in the end there were dozens of injured people on both sides; 133 protesters were arrested, two police vehicles were set on fire, and two police agents were detained by the students. The state released 130 of the detained students on Nov. 29; all were women, and many came from other states. Nine male students were charged with robbery, injury, riot and privation of a police agent's freedom. One agent had been released the evening of Nov. 27; the students released the other on Nov. 29 at the Vasco de Quiroga college, along with firearms they'd taken from the police. (LJ 11/28/08, 11/30/08)

The protest movement started with teachers in the state of Morelos, south of Mexico, who went on strike in August. They returned to the classrooms on Nov. 6 after 80 days. Spokesperson Lili Ibarra said the teachers were "motivated by our responsibility to the children and the school community" and were still determined not to allow the ACE to take effect in the state's 1,750 schools. They warned that they would no longer allow the sale of health insurance, products of transnational corporations and cola drinks in the schools; they would permit the distribution of nutritious foods and Mexican products. (Excélsior (Mexico) 11/6/08)

*3. Venezuela: 3 Unionists Murdered
Three leftist Venezuelan unionists were shot dead the night of Nov. 27 in the city of Cagua, southwest of Caracas in Aragua state, just days after two of them ran unsuccessfully in Nov. 23 state and municipal elections. In what appeared to be a planned assassination, one or two armed men on a motorbike gunned the unionists down as they were leaving a nightclub. The victims were Richard Gallardo, president of the Aragua branch of the National Workers Union (UNT), the main leftist labor confederation; Carlos Requena, a UNT national coordinator; and Luis Hernández, the general secretary of the union at Pepsi Cola de Venezuela's plant in Villa de Cura in southern Aragua.

The three men were also leaders in the Left Socialist Unity party (USI). Gallardo had been the USI candidate for deputy from Zamora municipality to the Aragua legislature, while Hernández ran for major of Zamora on the USI ticket, losing to Aldo Lovera from the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), the party of President Hugo Chávez Frías. Some media noted that Hernández had planned to file a challenge on Nov. 28 to the voting results in the mayoral race. But pro-Chávez media, the USI and UNT spokesperson Orlando Chirinos stressed that on Nov. 27 Gallardo, Requena and Hernández had been participating with activities with 400 workers at the Alpina food processing plant who said they had been attacked by state police. Aragua's current governor is Didalco Bolivar, an opponent of Chávez; the PSUV won the state back with the election of Aragua Mario Isea on Nov. 23.

Supporters of the murdered unionists protested on Nov. 28, forcing stores to close in Villa de Cura. Unionists and the USI have called for an investigation by the national government. Some people have pointed out that Alpina is owned by Colombians and that political assassinations in Colombia often involve similar attacks by killers on motorbikes. (USI press release 11/28/08 via Aporrea; Prensa Latina 11/28/08; El Universal (Venezuela) 11/28/08; El Nacional (Venezuela) 11/29/08; 11/29/08)

*4. Links to alternative sources on: Chile, Paraguay, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, El Salvador, Mexico

Chile: Women Trade Unionists Find their Own Voices

Paraguay: Mixed Results for Lugo's First 100 Days

Bolivia: terrorism charges for autonomy leader?

Peru: Garcia blames Mexican cartels for Sendero violence

Peru: Praying for Justice

Ecuador Seeks Non-payment of Illegitimate Foreign Debt

The Walk of Our Word: Colombia Will Walk the Minga!

What Next for the Popular and Indigenous Minga in Colombia?

CIA Coverup Followed Another Spy Flight Mystery in Colombia

Colombia signs free trade agreement with Canada

Venezuelan opposition contracting Israeli mercenaries?

Medvedev, Chavez meet on eve of naval maneuvers

Elections: Geopolitical Nadir for Chavez and His Movement?

Venezuela Elections Pose Big Test

Chavez Supporters Win 17 out of 23 Venezuelan States, but Lose 3 Most Populous

Radio Venezuela En Vivo: Election Updates and Analysis

Suit Filed Against Salvadoran Ex-President Cristiani and 14 Former Soldiers for 1989 Jesuit Massacre

Mexico: Calderon warns Obama on NAFTA revision

Mexico: Ciudad Juarez violence escalates

Free the Atenco 13!

Puerto Rico Teachers' Union Trounces SEIU

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