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Striking Public Workers Shut Down Mexico City Roads - 2003-05-19


Striking public workers shut down many roadways and public areas in Mexico City Monday and they are threatening even bigger protests on Tuesday unless the city government agrees to their demands.

More than 10,000 marchers walked down some of the Mexican capital's main avenues Monday and then blocked off the entire central plaza, known as the Zocalo. Smaller groups of protesters blocked major intersections leading to the downtown area, effectively preventing thousands of tourists, shoppers, business workers and government officials from reaching the area.

Still, city government spokesmen say the strike has not caused a break in basic city services such as water delivery and garbage collection. The city's Secretary of Government, Alejandro Encinas, is calling on the strike leaders to resolve their disputes peacefully and to stop actions such as road blocks that are detrimental to the citizenry.

The leader of the public workers' union for Mexico City, Jose Medel, however says the protests are likely to grow bigger.

He says city workers started at various points in the morning and converged on the city center, where they expect to greet more striking workers on Tuesday. He says the marches and demonstrations will continue until there is an answer from city government officials.

The city office workers are demanding better pay, subsidies for food and sports activities, free access to public transportation and larger holiday bonuses. The union is also seeking more control over distribution of uniforms and programs through which workers obtain eye glasses.

So far Mexico City Mayor Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, has had little to say about the strike. The populist leader built his political career on leading such protests in the southern state of Tabasco, before coming to Mexico City several years ago to lead the leftist Party of the Democratic Revolution. He is considered a leading candidate for the 2006 presidential election and the current strike could present a stumbling block to his aspirations.

City officials are calling for dialogue, but they do not seem disposed to grant many concessions, especially since the city budget is already strained. Some of them have also suggested that the union leader, Mr. Medel, may be playing politics with this strike. Mr. Medel is a candidate for a deputy position in the city legislature for the Institutionl Revolutionary Party.

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