Egipto, caída de la dictadura e irrupción de la clase obrera

Protest in Egypt Takes a Turn as Workers Go on Strike

By David D. Kirkpatrick (*)
New York Times, February 09, 2011

Striking museum workers outside the Supreme Council of Antiquities in Cairo.

Cairo.– As reports filtered in of strikes and unrest spreading to other parts of the city and the country, the government seemed to dig in deeper. Mr. Mubarak’s handpicked successor, Vice President Omar Suleiman, warned Tuesday that the only alternative to constitutional talks was a “coup” and added: “We don’t want to deal with Egyptian society with police tools.”

But the pressure on Mr. Mubarak’s government was intensifying, a day after the largest crowd of protesters in two weeks flooded Cairo’s streets and the United States delivered its most specific demands yet, urging swift steps toward democracy. Some of the protesters drew new inspiration from the emotional interview on Egypt’s most popular talk show with Wael Ghonim, the online political organizer who was detained for two weeks.

At dawn on Wednesday, the 16th day of the uprising, hundreds of pro–democracy demonstrators remained camped out at Parliament, where they had marched for the first time on Tuesday. There were reports of thousands demonstrating in several other cities around the country while protesters began to gather again in Tahrir Square, a few blocks from Parliament.

By midday, hundreds of workers from the Health Ministry, adjacent to Parliament and a few hundred yards from Tahrir Square, also took to the streets in a protest whose exact focus was not immediately clear, Interior Ministry officials said.

Violent clashes between opponents and supporters of Mr. Mubarak led to more than 70 injuries in recent days, according to a report by Al Ahram — the flagship government newspaper and a cornerstone of the Egyptian establishment — while government officials said the protests had spread to the previously quiet southern region of Upper Egypt.

In Port Said, a city of 600,000 at the mouth of the Suez Canal, protesters set fire to a government building and occupied the city’s central square. There were unconfirmed reports that police fired live rounds on protesters on Tuesday in El Kharga, 375 miles south of Cairo, resulting in several deaths. Protesters responded by burning police stations and other government buildings on Wednesday, according to wire reports.

On Tuesday, the officials said, thousands protested in the province of Wadi El Jedid. One person died and 61 were injured, including seven from gunfire by the authorities, the officials said. Television images also showed crowds gathering in Alexandria, Egypt’s second–largest city.

Before the reports of those clashes, Human Rights Watch reported that more than 300 people have been killed since Jan. 25.

Increasingly, the political clamor for Mr. Mubarak’s ouster seemed to be complemented by strikes in Cairo and elsewhere.

In the most potentially significant action, about 6,000 workers at five service companies owned by the Suez Canal Authority — a major component of the Egyptian economy — began a sit–in on Tuesday night. There was no immediate suggestion of disruptions to shipping in the canal, a vital international waterway leading from the Mediterranean to the Red Sea. But Egyptian officials said that total traffic declined by 1.6 percent in January, though it was up significantly from last year.

More than 2,000 textile workers and others in Suez demonstrated as well, Al Ahram reported, while in Luxor thousands hurt by the collapse of the tourist industry marched to demand government benefits. There was no immediate independent corroboration of the reports.

At one factory in the textile town of Mahalla, more than striking 1,500 workers blocked roads, continuing a long–running dispute with the owner. And more than 2,000 workers from the Sigma pharmaceutical company in the city of Quesna went on strike while some 5,000 unemployed youth stormed a government building in Aswan, demanding the dismissal of the governor.

For many foreign visitors to Egypt, Aswan is known as a starting point or destination for luxury cruises to and from Luxor on the Nile River. The government’s Ministry of Civil Aviation reported on Wednesday that flights to Egypt had dropped by 70 percent since the protests began.

In Cairo, sanitation workers demonstrated around their headquarters in Dokki.

* Reporting was contributed by Kareem Fahim, Anthony Shadid, Mona El–Naggar, Thanassis Cambanis and Liam Stack.

Labor Actions in Egypt Boost Protests

By Kareem Fahim and David D. Kirkpatrick (*)
New York Times, February 9, 2011

Cairo.– The protests at the newspaper, Al Ahram, by freelance reporters demanding better wages and more independence from the government, snarled one of the state’s most powerful propaganda tools and seemed to change its tone: On Wednesday, the front page, which had sought for days to play down the protests, called recent attacks by pro–Mubarak protesters on Tahrir Square an “offense to the whole nation.”

In the face of the unrest, the country’s foreign minister delivered stern warnings that seemed to reflect the government’s growing impatience with the protests.

Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit dismissed calls by Egyptian protesters and Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. to scrap the country’s emergency laws, which allow the authorities to detain people without charge.

“We have 17,000 prisoners loose in the streets out of jails that have been destroyed,” Mr. Aboul Gheit said during an interview with the NewsHour on PBS. “How can you ask me to sort of disband that emergency law while I’m in difficulty?”

The remarks about Mr. Biden reflected the complicated relationship between Mr. Mubarak’s government and the Obama administration, which had urged swift steps toward a political transition, then endorsed Mr. Mubarak’s remaining until the end of his term later this year. Since then, Mr. Biden has suggested that the United States still expects some immediate changes to be made.

On Wednesday, the White House press secretary, Robert Gibbs, responded to the Egyptian government’s claims that such changes were premature, saying, “What you see happening on the streets of Cairo is not all that surprising when you see the lack of steps that their government has taken to meet their concerns.”

That attempt to put some distance between the United States and Mr. Mubarak, though, was unlikely to impress the protesters, who say that the Obama administration, by continuing to back the president, also ignores their concerns.

By nightfall on Wednesday, more than 1,000 protesters prepared to sleep outside the Parliament building for a second night, a symbolic move that showed the opposition’s growing confidence as the protesters expanded the scope of their activism beyond Tahrir Square.

Reports from around the country of vigorous and sometimes violent protests also suggested a movement regaining steam.

Security officials said that 5 people died and more than 100 were injured during protests on Tuesday in El Kharga, 375 miles south of Cairo. Protesters responded Wednesday by burning police stations and other government buildings. In Asyut, protesters blocked a railway line. Television images showed crowds gathering again in Alexandria, Egypt’s second–largest city.

Even protests that were not directly against Mr. Mubarak centered on the types of government neglect that have driven the call for him to leave power.

Protesters in Port Said, a city of 600,000 at the mouth of the Suez Canal, set fire to a government building, saying local officials had ignored their requests for better housing. And in one of the most potentially significant labor actions, thousands of workers for the Suez Canal Authority continued a sit–in on Wednesday, though there were no immediate suggestions of disruptions of shipping in the canal, a vital international waterway.

The deaths of protesters in El Kharga were a reminder of Egypt’s unsettled security picture.

On Wednesday, Human Rights Watch reported that since Jan. 28, when troops took up positions in Egyptian cities, army officers and the military police had arbitrarily detained at least 119 people. In at least five cases, the group said, detainees said they had been tortured.

There were signs that the police, under the jurisdiction of the hated Ministry of Interior, were trying to remake their image. The authorities have announced in recent days that prosecutors are weighing charges against Habib el–Adly, recently removed as interior minister. The charges, including murder, are related to the killing of protesters by security officers during the unrest.

On Wednesday, some cellphone customers in Egypt received the equivalent of marketing messages from the new minister, Mahmoud Wagdy. One read, “From the Ministry of Interior: The police will do nothing but serve and protect the people.” Another said, “Starting today, we will only deal through truthfulness, honesty and rule of law.”

As Mr. Mubarak held on to power, influential groups and people seemed determined to distance themselves from his government’s legacy. Members of a prominent journalists’ association moved toward a no–confidence vote against their leader, Makram Mohamed Ahmed, a former Mubarak speechwriter, the daily Al Masry Al Youm reported on its English–language Web site.

And the recently appointed culture minister, Gaber Asfour, a literary critic, resigned Wednesday after pressure from his colleagues, according to Al Ahram.

Outside groups, meanwhile, continued to try to take advantage of the Egyptian uprising. In an online forum, a group in Iraq affiliated with Al Qaeda called on Egyptians to “wage violent jihad to topple the regime in Egypt," according to Khaled Hamza, the editor of the Web site of the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s largest opposition movement.

He bristled at the comments, saying the revolt in Egypt was nonviolent and included “all sects, trends and religions.”

“Egyptians are capable of solving their problem without intrusion, meddling and prying from foreign groups such as Al Qaeda and similar groups advocating the use of violence,” he said.

Increasingly, the political clamor for Mr. Mubarak’s ouster seemed to be complemented by strikes nationwide. While many strikes seemed to focus on specific grievances related to working conditions, labor leaders suggested they were energized by protests against Mr. Mubarak.

Rahma Refaat, a lawyer at the Center for Trade Union and Worker Services, said, “Most of those on strike say that we have discovered that the resources of our country have been stolen by the regime.”

The protest against the Suez Canal Authority began Tuesday night and was staged by about 6,000 workers. In Helwan, 6,000 workers at the Misr Helwan Spinning and Weaving Company went on strike, Ms. Refaat said.

More than 2,000 workers from the Sigma pharmaceutical company in Quesna began a strike while about 5,000 unemployed youths stormed a government building in Aswan, demanding the dismissal of the governor.

Postal workers protested in shifts, Ms. Refaat said. In Cairo, sanitation workers demonstrated outside their headquarters.

In Al Ahram’s lobby, journalists called their protest a microcosm of the Egyptian uprising, with young journalists leading demands for better working conditions and less biased coverage.

“Egypt before the 25th is different from Egypt after the 25th,” said Essam Saad, who does work for the newspaper, referring to Jan. 25, the first day of antigovernment protests. “What is happening now is going to clean up Al Ahram. This newspaper is supposed to be the newspaper of the people, not the newspaper of the regime and the government.”

* Liam Stack, Mona El–Naggar and Thanassis Cambanis contributed reporting fromairo, and Helene Cooper from Washington.