Teachers’ march in Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Chiapas. Photo: @Colectivo del Periódico El Zenzontle.
Since May 15 last, dissident teachers adhering to the National Coordinator of Education Workers (CNTE) and several sections of the National Union of Education Workers (SNTE) began an indefinite national strike to reject educational reform. Since that date, there have been many mobilizations by the opposing teachers in several states of the Mexican Republic.
In Chiapas, after fifteen days of the protests, there have been actions in the 122 municipalities of the state, while the Federal and State Governments have still not established a negotiating table, arguing that there is no going back on educational reform. The most notable actions were taking over 90 city halls to demand channels of dialogue with the government and the departure of the federal state police, according to the CNTE; the attempt to block the road from Tuxtla Gutierrez to Angel Albino Corzo airport, in response to which federal and state police dispersed the protesters with tear gas; the expulsion of the Federal Police from Chiapa de Corzo by its inhabitants or marches in more than 30 municipalities in the state in solidarity with the teachers. Also, there are constant roadblocks, there were takeovers of radio stations and gas stations in Tuxtla by opponents to the reform and several instances of repression with the use of rubber bullets, tear gas and overflights by state and federal forces in the area of the teachers’ picket. On another note, six school directors and supervisors had their heads shaved and were publicly exposed with posters with their names and accusations of “traitors” or “charros” in Comitan de Dominguez. Chiapas Paralelo noted that members of groups such as the Popular Movement of Comitan (MPC), the Regional Democratic Front of Workers and Campesinos (FDROC) and the Emiliano Zapata Proletarian Organization (OPIEZ) were behind the events, motivated by the discovery of lists of teachers who are not joining the protests. One of the shaved teachers reported being pressured by the Ministry of Public Education (SEP) to report what is happening in the teachers’ strike: “we are being asked for documentation of colleagues who did not join the strike, who are not picketing.” 1,134 layoffs of teachers and non-teaching staff who participated in the strike have been announced.
In Oaxaca, thousands of parents and teachers participated in a mega-march to reject educational reform. It denounced the smear campaign that the State Public Education Institute of Oaxaca (IEEPO) is promoting against striking teachers. The SEP declared the teachers’ strike is not resonating among teachers, estimating that 97% continue to work, while the striking teachers assure that 90% of federal schools are closed. In that state, the teachers maintain a sit-in in the square of the capital, Oaxaca de Juarez, and also to demand a negotiating table with and the elected leaders, the release of 11 prisoners from the teachers’ movement and the cancellation of outstanding arrest warrants awaiting enforcement. There were also roadblocks, including land access to the state airport, removal of propaganda for the upcoming elections, and takeovers of offices and shopping centers. In that state, 3,360 teachers have been dismissed for not submitting to the teaching evaluation, and their reinstatement is demanded.
There have also been multiple actions in Guerrero. Thousands of people marched repeatedly in different municipalities in solidarity with the teachers, demanding the repeal of educational reform and to guarantee decent working conditions for teachers. In Chilpancingo the city hall was taken over by members of the CNTE and the Guerrero State Coordinator of Education Workers (CETEG), while the Sol Highway was blocked on several occasions. 500 injunctions against the layoffs announced by the SEP were filed, while the Guerrero Ministry of Education (SEG) began applying salary sanctions to the strikers. The prevention of teachers’ protests by government forces near the town Tres Palos where President Enrique Peña Nieto was conducting an event stood out.
There have been many expressions of support and solidarity with the teachers’ struggle. For its part, the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) published a statement signed by the Insurgent Sub-Commanders Moses and Galeano. In it they denounced that “the so-called ‘educational reform’ is not educational, it is labour”, which “claims to defend the constitution (educational reform), violating the constitution” and that the media do not show the reality of the situation but report that most of the teachers are working. The EZLN also stated that teachers are not demanding privileges but are fighting basic working conditions, to avoid“the aim of educational reform”, which, they believe, “is to privatize education.” They also denounced the criminalization of the teachers’ struggle, disapproving of teachers being labeled as “slackers” and denying that they “do not want to prepare.” According to reports from a “listener”,“people in the houses shout support for the teachers. And in the street they give them water, fruit. It’s obvious that they love the teachers who struggle.”