Simmering student unrest hits Mexico City

September 15, 2000

Against a background of waving tricolours, chanted slogans, revolutionary songs by students from the national school of music and placards calling for free love and a free public university, students from seven faculties at Mexico City's state Universidad Nacional Aut"noma de Mexico have warned their rector that the war against the university authorities will continue.

Packed into the philosophy faculty's Che Guevara lecture theatre, more than 1,000 students protested at their rector's request for a 10 per cent increase in funding, from 10,686 million pesos (Pounds 816 million) to 12,100 million Mexican pesos.

Rector Juan Ram"n de la Fuente has said that the additional money is necessary to consolidate growth and keep up with inflation. The university, which was last year crippled by a lengthy student strike over tuition fees, had received 23,000 applications for 5,300 places and needed to expand.

But the students, who are demanding their rector's immediate resignation, claim to have unearthed his plans to court, among others, president-elect Vicente Fox, a former Coca-Cola executive who takes office in December, and use the extra money to buy political and commercial backing for personal gain. The time was ripe for attack, the students said, since the rector and his followers had not yet obtained full political backing and were vulnerable.

The students also pledged to block any attempt by the university to implement reforms approved in 1997 and threatened a repetition of their last major demonstration in February when 745 students were rounded up by military police during campus riots and arrested on charges of violence, theft and breach of the peace.

Professor de la Fuente has, meanwhile, ordered a regular overnight guard to be placed on the faculty building to counter the students' planned agenda of meetings at the Che Guevara theatre.

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