Train blockades present test for Mexico’s leftist president

February 8, 2019 GMT

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Railroad blockades by radical teachers in Mexico are testing leftist President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s promise not to use force against protesters.

Since taking office Dec. 1, Lopez Obrador has said he would handle all protests with negotiation. But the obstinacy of the teachers — who set up protest camps on railways in January to demand back pay — has exhausted the president’s patience.

The teachers in the western state of Michoacan received their pay and freed some rail lines last week. But on Friday, they again blocked a key line leading to the Pacific coast port of Lazaro Cardenas.


Lopez Obrador has now taken the unusual step of asking the country’s National Human Rights Commission to recommend measures for ending the stoppage. His administration has also filed an appeal to the commission, saying the blockade violated people’s rights.

According to Ferromex, one of the railways affected, the 25-day protest has left over 2,000 containers stranded in freight patios.

In addition, it has caused some plants to temporarily shut down due to interrupted shipments of steel, cement and raw materials; forced automakers to ship vehicles out by truck rather than rail; and delayed hundreds of loads of often spoiled grain.

Lopez Obrador has ruled out asking police to intervene, saying that “we are not repressive.”

But he wondered out loud if the Michoacan teachers’ union was working for enemies of his administration.

“It is strange, I would almost say suspicious, that these things did not happen when the conservatives were in power, and as soon as we arrived, they want to confront us,” he said. “Now is the time for people to stand up and take off their masks.”

“There are groups that are leftist and who have never been on the side of our movement,” Lopez Obrador said, an apparent reference to radical teachers and leftist Zapatista rebels in southern Chiapas state.