Mexico shootings of education dissidents spark public outrage
Megan Cornish
volume:  
volume 37
issue 4
August 2016
imagestuff

Protesters led by CNTE teachers face off against police who later opened fire in Nochixtlán, Oaxaca, on June 19, 2016. Photo: Reuters

The class struggle in Mexico is at a fever pitch. Teachers are on the front lines of a massive struggle against neoliberal devastation by privatizations, union busting and rape of the environment. Resistance spans the hemisphere from Mexico to Guatemala and Argentina.

Mexican educators have been fighting Pres. Enrique Peña Nieto’s anti-labor education reform ever since it was passed in 2013 — without notice or public comment. The law aims to break the union and dismantle teachers’ colleges, which train community leaders in poverty-stricken indigenous communities. It does nothing to improve Mexico’s severely underfunded schools.

This year, the federal government tried to begin standardized tests of teachers that have nothing to do with classroom performance, and replace union control over hiring. It also announced a measure allowing anyone with a college degree to be a teacher, a direct attack on teacher training schools. The National Coordinator of Education Workers (CNTE) is a dissident caucus within the corrupt, government-controlled national union. CNTE went on an indefinite strike in protest.

Many CNTE leaders have been arrested on trumped up charges. One of the first was Heriberto Magariño, a Zapotec member of the Partido Obrero Socialista (POS) and an elected CNTE leader of thousands in Oaxaca. But intimidation failed; the teachers went out on their promised strike in the states of Oaxaca, Michoacán, Guerrero and Chiapas on May 15, five days after Magariño’s arrest. The government retaliated by firing 3,360 teachers.

Murderous retaliation. As arrests continued, teachers and their supporters set up road blockades. On Sunday, June 19, state and federal police tried to remove protesters from the town of Nochixtlán, Oaxaca. When they refused, police fired on the crowd without warning. They killed 10 protesters, disappeared 20, seized at least 23 and seriously injured scores, including César Rivera, another indigenous POS member. Two of the dead were students, most were young.

The government claimed that police were fired on first, but video emerged on the internet showing shots only by police. The same day in the city of Juchitán, Oaxaca, journalist Elidio Ramos Zárate and another man were shot execution-style.

This state repression against protesters and journalists is eerily like the attacks on striking teachers and the indigenous movement in Oaxaca a decade ago. But this time, murders meant to stamp out the strike movement instead sparked further outrage and spread the teacher walkout.

Nonstop outrage. The next day, tens of thousands joined a March of Indignation in Oaxaca City. On both June 24 and 26 in Mexico City, more tens of thousands marched in defense of the CNTE. Protests were held in the state capitals of Morelos and Chiapas, and in nine towns and cities in Guerrero. On July 5, Mexico City teachers joined the strike.

International protests were held in Paris, New York City, Chicago, Phoenix and Tucson, Ariz., and Houston and McAllen, Texas. The California-based Binational Front of Indigenous Organizations had already issued a statement supporting the strike.

The U.S. is complicit in the Mexican government’s actions. It provides massive military funding under the Mérida Initiative. And it mapped out the revamping of education through the Washington think tank Partnership for Educational Revitalization in the Americas, funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development. That is why support from the USA is vital, especially from the labor movement.

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