Oaxacan Teachers Fighting Education Refom - A History of Repression in Mexico

In Mexico the story of Oaxacan teachers protesting is not an incident, but rather a history of repression, explains Marco Jimenez. Last month a violent clash left an unconfirmed number of protesters dead and hundreds more injured. The ongoing fight for the free education of Mexico's poorest children is a battle that many have given their lives for as they attempt to halt education reforms that would effectively shutdown the much needed rural school system.

Protesters in plaza in solidarity with Mexican teachersProtesters in San Miguel in solidarity with Mexican teachers.

It is June 19, 2016.

The place is Nochixtlan, Oaxaca, on the road Oaxaca-México.   

What occurred is still to be verified, there are several reports, many injured, some disappeared and the number of confirmed dead shifts from 9 to 12 depending on the news outlet, with hundreds injured. The teachers unions from the Coordinadora Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación (CNTE) are protesting both the incarceration of its leaders, and the imposed education reforms by the cabinet of President Enrique Peña Nieto.

Military forces both federal and state in the region deny that they had weapons at the time of the protest, deny also that an armed squadron was sent after. It is said that the police were shot at by a criminal element among the crowd that began looting local shops. This criminal element is yet to be named or identified, it coincides with many other clashes with the police where peaceful protests have been infiltrated by police forces to agitate and justify the repression that follows.

No news has been given of the many missing people – 22 at most, government blackouts are speculations to the rest of the world but a reality to the Oaxacan people, this is recounted by TeleSUR. The teachers have been targets of the state for years; the violent clashes are marked by civilian deaths. A mother recounts how her son was shot as he tried to help the wounded.

In a country known for its impunity, the answer to dialogue is repression, and silence. The news does not cover the protesters perspectives, television itself is a state run operation since the 1960’s reign of President Gustavo Diaz Ordaz and then interior secretary Luis Echeverria who in collusion with Emilio Escarraga President of Telesistema, the forerunner to Televisa, which did not air the protests of the State massacre of students in Tlatelolco in 1968.

The teachers from rural areas of the country see the invasion of the State in their affairs under a guise of an “evaluation.” The disputed educational reforms would effectively defund the operations of the schools – ending the care and education of Mexico’s poorest children. The so-called reform has little to do with the actual education of children – it is rather a transfer of power out of the hands of teachers unions. The focus of the reforms is explained as preparing teachers, but leaves out the many needs the schools as a whole have. They have ailing systemic problems, and on top of that it would leave parents to continue to supply and maintain the schools themselves.

The government’s true purpose with this reform is to unbind itself of its responsibility of providing free and comprehensive education to indigenous communities that is relevant to them.

Protesters with sign "we are all Oaxaca"Protesters in San Miguel march in solidarity with Oaxacan teachers.P

This is an issue that affects Mexico at its core. Rural communities were given the opportunity of education by a revolutionary president after the revolt of 1910. It was president Lázaro Cárdenas, who saw the need to educate Mexico’s indigenous and rural communities. The normal schools are part of this tradition, President Cárdenas was indigenous and moved through the ranks of government. These communities are made up of peasant farmers, villagers that need to be educated and trained for a changing world, his socialist views had great influence in creating a nation aware of its feudal past, of famers and landowners, peasant and plantation. 

The normal school’s curriculum at times is critical of the repressive practices of the State, and these events that took place that have left an uncertain number dead leave no doubt in that validity.

It is the same problem that was fought during the 60s, the same cause that led many to become part of a rebel army, known loosely as Cabañistas formerly known as BCA (Brigada Campesina de Ajusticiaminento del Partido de los Pobres).

It is a largely suppressed history that makes one cringe, Lucio Cabañas Barrientos, school teacher of a public school in Guerrero (the neighboring state of Oaxaca) held a meeting where security forces shot and killed many in a similar demonstration. He had been marked long before that meeting for agitating and demanding the rights of the poor. He started a political party for the poor Partido de los Pobres (PDLP) that sought to fill the needs of poor villagers and farmers.

In the end Lucio was murdered in an ambush after he became a rebel of the State, the massacre of civilians in Guerrero was said to be perpetrated by third party groups, it left the state marked by many disappeared. It is a story that close families can recall only in private conversations. This tale of violent agitation and instigation is not recounted with the description of the tactics of infiltrators, police who among the demonstrations are known to incite the violence, who are caught on camera being protected and move into the ranks of the security forces as they beat and shoot demonstrators.

What the State has decreed in defunding public schools is not a product of dialogue but of the political class’ move to a neoliberal economy. One that makes them the coffers of foreign funded trade and manufacturing, where they are the recipients of this capital, whose wages are known to be excessive and who have been caught in the scandal of the fiscal paradises revealed implicating many in the Panama Papers.

Let this be known as a mark of Mexican officials, because even Mexican politicians don’t want to pay their dues to the nation that makes the public pay for their ill-conceived notions of a republic. No one thinks through what Mexican second rate news declares, the teachers are and have been targets for a long time now, and now with the revelation of Mayor Abarca’s order to attack and disappear a group of normal students in Ayotzinapa, Guerrero on Septermber 26, 2014 it is clear what the method is.

This collusion of the police with the cartels and their repressive tactics, if not documented to the world would have gone unnoticed. The State’s involvement with criminal elements has been a fact for a long time, and it is the marriage of Abarca and his wife’s connection to that element that finally proved its bond. (Forty-three students are yet to be found, forensic analysis of remains found of said students is inconclusive.)

There are many sources that confirm the government black out, Anonymous responded with video taken at the time. There are images of police looting stores and the gunfire is seen from the police lines. The Associated Press, CNN and many other news sources do not cover this in detail. 

The teachers unions, whose leaders have been accused of corruption, demand the understanding of the communities they are part of in Oaxaca, a state with a large indigenous population. President Peña Nieto declares his mission to dialogue but his dialogue is a one-way conversation: accept the reforms, or else.

Photos by Quynh-Mai Nguyen

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This article is part of the categories: Arts & Culture  / Community  / Economy  / Education  / Law & Justice  / Politics 
This article is part of the tags: 43 Students  / Ayotzinapa  / CNTE  / Guerrero  / Media blackout  / Neoliberalism  / Nochixtlan  / Normal Schools  / Oaxaca  / Oaxaca Teachers  / Rural Education  / State Repression 

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