Who’s Rocking the Boat at the UNAM?
By RICARDO CASTILLO
The possibilities of a student strike shutdown at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) grow day-by-day. As of midday Wednesday, Feb. 5, there were at least 60,000 students in eight different preparatory schools not attending classes. The problem is that their rebellion does not seem to have a cause.
The situation actually began on Nov. 4, when mostly female (but also some male) students occupied the facility of the School of Philosophy and Literature. The reason they gave was to denounce violence against women, both at the school and the rest of the university. They also demanded the resignation of the school’s secretary general, Ricardo Alberto García Arteaga, who finally left the pos on Jan. 9 to appease the students and facilitate a return to classes. The students welcomed García Arteaga’s resignation, but thus far, they are still occupying the facility, and there are no classes.
The class stoppage, however, began to slowly snowball into several of the preparatory schools with the same cause, to draw attention to violence against women. Right now nine high school level preparatory facilities are on stoppage, with no plans to go back to classes in sight.
The schools were taken for the most part by small groups who have to contend with the majority of students who demand the schools be reopened. In one of the prep schools, some students tried to break into the facility, but the protesters – all dressed in black and wearing masks – threatened to torch the school.
Last Tuesday, Feb. 4, a group of unmasked students marched from La Bombilla Park – just blocks away from the UNAM – to the dean’s building to deliver a document stating their demands. But suddenly, another group of masked students took over the peaceful petition move and ravaged the dean’s office building, known in Spanish as “La Rectoría”.
They left the building charred and full of graffiti with the same call, “no to femicides” and “stop violence against women.”
Also, when the masked group was finished vandalizing, they all ran to the Philosophy and Literature School building.
On Wednesday, the one question asked by many newspapers editorials and columnists was: “Whose hand is rocking the cradle?”
Regarding the issue, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) simply said:
“I hope the problems at the UNAM get solved. There are no conditions of survival for a movement to paralyze the university. There are no motives for a movement without a cause to impede the operation of the UNAM. Of course, there are unhappy groups, which we have to be look after and talk to. But this is not a majority collective movement.”
AMLO questioned the performance of alleged students wearing masks, who, he said he suspects, are being manipulated by “a black hand.”
Notice the mention of a hand rocking the cradle and a black hand. The fact is that there is a lot of gossip going around as well about the unidentified hoodies occupying the School of Philosophy and Literature.
Hearsay has it that AMLO is promoting the “carpet movements” at the UNAM to destabilize recently reelected dean Enrique Graue and replace him with his buddy and law professor at the UNAM, John Mill Ackerman. One problem, Ackerman, because he was born in the United States, although he is a nationalized Mexican, is impeded from becoming dean.
Other stories are circling about Graue suggest that someone wants to see him deposed, just as the students managed to make the Philosophy and Literature School secretary general resign. Highly unlikely, because Graue was democratically elected and he will stay put for the rest of his four-year term to solve this problem.
And, again, although a valid plea, the stop violence against women rally holds some clout, but it is no reason to bring the nation’s top school to a halt. Not valid, not fair, but still, “the black hand” continues to operate in the dark.