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Brazil: Striking Teachers Face Police Repression
STRIKING TEACHERS in Cotia, Brazil have been brutally attacked by military police.
André Ferrari, Brazil
Some 1,500 teachers employed by the municipality of Cotia (near São Paulo, Brazil) have been on indefinite strike since Tuesday 1 October. Socialismo Revolucionario (SR - CWI, Brazil) members are playing a leading role in this developing struggle.
On 7 October a mass meeting of the teachers voted to continue the strike and undertook a mass demonstration to set up an encampment outside the city hall. This demo was attacked by cops who beat and arrested teachers.
THE STRIKE was triggered by the announcement of a small bonus payment. This one-off payment aims to offset the absence of a wage increase to track inflation over several years. The bonus was to vary from 60 to 120 Brazilian reals ($17 to $34).
But at the same time the mayor and city hall of Cotia has been cooking the books in relation to money it has received for the local education budget from federal funds.
The teachers are aware that the money was used elsewhere and so are angry about the humiliating amount of the bonus. They are demanding a real wage increase. A series of other issues were also included in their strike demands i.e. career plans, working conditions, lack of policing, etc.
On Tuesday, despite torrential rain, 300-400 municipal teachers went on a protest march from the municipal Office of Education to the city hall where the mayor's office negotiated with a commission of municipal teachers, Apeoesp (teachers' union in the state), school students' and parents.
The mayor's tactic was to wear down the movement by playing for time - in view of the difficulties for the march caused by heavy rain. The municipal secretaries of finances and government met with the commission and just talked around in circles. The education secretary (Marco, former-member of the Workers' Party (PT) right-wing in Apeoesp and now in the local government of the PSDB - the governing capitalist party - in Cotia) delayed his arrival.
Outside, police tried to disperse the marchers but the teachers didn't move. Unanimously they decided to continue the strike.
The following day around 500-600 teachers gathered in front of the city hall. About 90% of the schools were shut down by the strike and the movement had grown.
The negotiations were not reopened and the strike meeting decided to continue the strike.
A large march then set off toward the Raposo Tavares highway - this time we had a large sound truck hired by Apeoesp central office.
First one São Paulo-bound roadway lane of the Raposo highway was blocked, then one on the other side.
There were conflicts with the state police force, traffic police and the municipal Civil Guard with intimidation, taking names, demanding ID cards, shouting, negotiations, pushing and shoving. But the teachers did not retreat a single millimetre.
This is one of the state of São Paulo's busiest highways. Blocking it was like the tactic used by the Argentinean piqueteiros (national pickets).
The march ended at the local office of education and the teachers with a sound truck went to the neighbourhoods to explain the issues to the community.
Messages of support to: the Cotia branch of Apeosp at: firstname.lastname@example.org
In The Socialist 11 October 2002: