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DATE=1/20/2000 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT TITLE=STRIKE REFERENDUM (L-ONLY) NUMBER=2-258273 BYLINE=GREG FLAKUS DATELINE=MEXICO CITY CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: In Mexico, thousands of people are voting in a referendum on the strike that has closed the National Autonomous University of Mexico, known as UNAM [oo- nahm], since April. As V-O-A's Greg Flakus reports from Mexico City, authorities hope a positive vote will bring the nine-month-old conflict to an end, but radical student leaders show no sign of giving in. TEXT: University officials, faculty members and students went to polling places all across Mexico City and in some other parts of the country as well on Thursday. They are providing their responses to two questions on the referendum ballot. One asks if those casting votes support the latest official proposal to end the strike, and the other asks if they think the strike should now end. One of the first to appear at a polling station was UNAM Rector Juan Ramon de la Fuente. /// DE LA FUENTE ACT (SPANISH) /// He said that he hoped for a big turn out from the university community to support his proposal so that the conflict could be resolved and the first steps could be taken to reform the university. The proposal Mr. de la Fuente put forth earlier this month meets almost every demand of the striking students, including the demand that a special university congress be created to set the future direction of the institution. But strike leaders rejected the proposal anyway, because not all demands were met. As the months have passed, more moderate members of the strike committee have either abandoned the cause or been expelled. The strike council is now totally under the control of a hardcore Marxist group known as the "ultras." Their stated agenda goes well beyond university issues. Last month, they staged a violent protest against free trade and economic globalization in front of the U-S embassy that resulted in several injuries, thousands of dollars in property damage and 98 arrests. One medical student who voted in the referendum said she hopes the now tarnished image of the university can be restored. /// WOMAN STUDENT (SPANISH) /// She said the strike has damaged what had been one of the best medical schools in the Americas and that she hopes she and other students can now restore some of the prestige that has been lost. /// OPT // A good percentage of the more than 260 thousand UNAM students registered for classes last year in spite of the strike and attended classes in various off-campus locations in defiance of the militants. "Ultra" mobs tried to disrupt some of the classes, but were unable to stop most of them. The city government, controlled by the leftist Party of the Democratic Revolution, at first gave tacit approval to the strike. City police were ordered not to intervene even when strikers attacked other students in areas far from the UNAM campus. But in more recent weeks the ultras have lost support from more traditional leftist sectors. /// END OPT /// The strikers attempted to carry out their own referendum on Tuesday and Wednesday, but even by their own count, they received only about 150 thousand votes, far short of the two million they had said they would seek. (Signed). Neb/gf/gm 20-Jan-2000 19:05 PM EDT (21-Jan-2000 0005 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .

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