On June 19, Mexican police intervened to clear a road blockade in the town of Nochixtlan. The brutal repression left 6 people dead and dozens of others injured, at least 21 were arrested. The blockade had been organised by teachers with the support of the local communities in order to prevent Federal Police from reaching the capital of Oaxaca where striking teachers have organised an encampment.
This is the latest instance of brutal repression by the Mexican government of Peña Nieto against the months long movement of teachers against an education counter reform. On Friday, June 17, thousands of police officers formed a human wall which prevented a teachers’ demonstration from reaching the centre of Mexico City, where their camp had already been brutally evicted days earlier.
Thousands of teachers have been sacked from their jobs for refusing the pass tests which are part of the education “reform”, hundreds have been arrested including many of the leaders of the democratic teachers’ union, CNTE. Amongst those detained are 15 leaders of the union, including the general secretaries of section 22 representing Oaxaca and section 18 in Michoacán, who are being held in high security jails.
The democratic wing of the teachers’ union is the majority in the union in the states of Chiapas, Guerrero, Michoacán and Oaxaca, as well as in Mexico City. The CNTE, which was set up in 1979 to struggle against the bureaucratic pro-government corrupt leaders of the SNTE union, has the support of teacher activists across the country. In these rural regions it controls, the teachers are also the backbone of the many of the social movements.
The education “reform” is a key part of the strategy of Peña Nieto’s government for two reasons: one, its implementation would effectively destroy education as a right to be guaranteed by the state, opening up the door to privatisation; two, because the reform is also aimed at destroying the power of the militant CNTE union. In this respect it fits in the government strategy of “opening up” the country’s oil industry to foreign and private investment, the attacks against the IPN Polytechnic University, and the smashing of the militant electricians union SME.
The reason why the government has singled out Oaxaca CNTE section 22 is the role it played in the 2006 uprising in Oaxaca which solidified its links with the local communities, many of them indigenous. The memory of the months-long Oaxaca commune ten years ago has not been erased (see here)
What we witnessed on June 19 at Nochixtlan were scenes of civil war. On the one side the local community, armed with sticks and stones, set up barricades blockading the main Puebla-Oaxaca highway to prevent the arrival of the forces of repression to the capital of the state. They had blockaded the road for a week. On the other hand Federal Police used all means at their disposal to remove them: tear gas, rubber bullets, helicopters and, according to local eyewitnesses, also live ammunition.
The clashes went on for more than 7 hours. Meanwhile, the police prevented ambulances from reaching the site and when the local community managed to get some of their wounded to the local hospital, the police prevented them from being treated.
Those killed are: Yalid Jiménez Santiago, 29, from Santa María Apazco, in Nochixtlán. He had responded to a call to reinforce the barricades when the Federal Police shot his van. Oscar Nicolás Santiago, from Las Flores Tilantongo, 21, peasant, was wounded by gun shot from the Federal Police. He was taken to the hospital but refused care as they were treating only police officers. He bled to death. Andrés Aguilar Sanabria. 23, was an indigenous teacher. Anselmo Cruz Aquino, from Santiago Amatlán, killed from a bullet wound. Antonio Pérez García, high school student. Jesús Cadena Sánchez Meza, 19, student.
On the same day, the police attacked another road blockade in Salina Cruz, Oaxaca where teachers and their supporters had established a barricade closing down the Chiapas - Oaxaca highway.
Initially the police denied that their officers had been carrying fire arms, but later changed their version, alleging that “unknown” people started firing “at both demonstrators and police” and this is what prompted the “arrival of armed police officers” to the scene.
The movement of the teachers has widespread support, not only in the regions where they are stronger but across the whole country. The rural labourers in the San Quintin Valley, in Baja California, on struggle for decent wages and against harassment by the bosses, have also come out in support of the Oaxaca teachers. In fact, many of these super-exploited labourers are migrant workers originally from Oaxaca.
A national march in support of the movement of the teachers has been called in Mexico City on Sunday, with the support of Morena leader Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador.
What we see in Mexico is a government which is decided to carry out a program of cuts and counter-reforms using any amount of violence and repression necessary to push it through. The government however, is extremely discredited and has had to face a series of mass movements, including the movement for justice for the 43 Ayotzinapa students forcibly disappeared nearly two years ago.
The main problem with the different movements which have taken place have been their isolation and fragmented character. There is an urgent need to unify all the different struggles into one single powerful movement to roll back all the attacks and to bring down the government.
We call on the broadest international solidarity and support for the struggle of the Mexican teachers. Down with repression! For the immediate release of all detained union leaders! Unity in struggle! Down with the murderous Peña Nieto regime!