Foto/AP Luis Alberto Cruz Hernández
In the midst of a deadly war on drugs, the latest victims of the Mexican government’s ruthlessness are not the perpetrators of violent institutional or social crime, but rather a teacher’s union mobilizing for greater rights and greater respect for their dedication to a deteriorating national public educational system. Aurelio Nuño Mayer, Mexico’s Secretary of Public Education, is supporting the brutal repression of the unionized teachers opposing the educational reform inconsiderate of their demands and underfunded conditions. In the absence of a constructive dialogue, elements of the federal military are having their excessive militarization photographed and displayed to the world concerned with their safety and pursuit for just teaching accessibility and conditions.
As the Coordinadora Nacional de Trabajadores de Educación (CNTE), Latin America’s largest teacher union, confront President Enrique Peña Nieto’s intention to privatize the public education system, the world must recognize the unequal treatment the teacher’s, threatened by the conditionalities of this reform, are enduring. And not just in the obvious terms of resources in comparison with the private educational system, but in possessing the identity of a teaching laborer. Mexico represses teachers that organize themselves against the government’s educational disparities, not the organized crime in collusion with the systems of governance failing to provide citizen security.
The repression unionized teachers are facing across the states of Mexico is being illuminated by courageous community members and journalists risking their lives documenting the brutality of the federal security forces renowned for their gross human right violations record. However, it was a simple, yet extremely political meme (which I can no longer find) that revealed the deplorable nature of the country’s ruling regime. On one side of the cynically humorous image, is a narcolord, visually under arrest, but physically untouched by the very elements of security his drug trafficking organizations infiltrates. The other side of this same image shows a unionized teacher bleeding and being forcibly dragged by police forces intensifying the criminalization of these educational vanguards.
These teachers are not risking themselves being arrested or killed to be proven of how different they are treated by police. Their intention is to prove to their own population and the world that standing up for your right to teach in a non-neoliberal manner is a bigger crime than trafficking heroin under government surveillance in contemporary Mexico. In states like Tabasco and Michoacán, the raging state-sponsored violence are efforts to silence the opposition to the neoliberalization of Mexico’s governmental sectors. In states like Oaxaca, this is simply the return of the form of governmental impunity that detained, displaced, and killed teachers back in 2006.
Shortly after the establishment of the country’s modern constitution, escuela normales (rural teaching colleges) were created for the rural poor and public education was developed to be free to the country’s constituents. Unfortunately, as Mexico sought more foreign capital and a larger place in the international economy, the quality of public education became less prioritized. In the following two decades, the country’s brink of default, pesos crisis, signing of NAFTA, and declaration of the war on drugs did not assist any grassroots effort to pressure the state to invest more into public education in non-urbanized areas. That’s why in late May of 2006, the resistance formed by CNTE Sección 22 in Oaxaca against Governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz’s violent order of dispersal shook the country. Today, we are seeing the same members of this resistant and organized teacher front, communities like Nochixtlan, rise against the state’s armed forces. Their methods of federal highway blockades, burning federal police installations, and throwing rocks at riot police should not be antagonized, but rather influence Mexicans and global citizens to stand in solidarity.
Mexico’s revolutionary history recognizes the role teachers have in the development of a generation determined to defend social justice. That is why this so-called educational reform is nothing but progressive rhetoric disguising the dismissal of urban to rural educational disparities and the dismissal of underfunded and under-resourced teachers. A series of evaluation tests are being recommended by this new reform, claiming they are in need of understanding what areas need to be developed. The testimonies of these teaching laborers, however, will argue that the goal of this initiative is to replace experienced teachers and organized laborers with a new generation of teachers that doesn’t understand the contributions this union has made to the teaching profession and that will be subjected by the government ideology. The CNTE will not deny the fact that Mexico is in need of an educational reform. What the protest chants in these mobilizations are demanding is not only greater institutional and financial support for improving labor and schooling conditions, but their own national government to be subject to evaluation by the people and the teachers helping raise future generations of their citizenry.
Mexico’s war on drugs allowed the country to become a recipient of financial aid from the United States. It’s the very flow of weapons coming north of the border that is militarizing the capacities of Mexico’s security forces to repress any opposition towards its agenda of neoliberal development. The same armed forces deployed to fight against cartels and resist the bribery of organized crime are now criminalizing and ravaging communities where unionized teachers have decided to resist. It’s not the narcotraficantes launching an offensive against teachers, it’s President Enrique Peña Nieto and Interior Minister Miguel Osorio Chong’s governance encouraging and tolerating this wave of state violence. It’s these armed force elements that disappeared the forty-three normalistas from Ayotzinapa and continue to enjoy their impunity from being interviewed by independent human right commissions. The forces that killed six people in Oaxaca in the last couple of days cannot go unpunished.
The country’s National Security Commission reported early this morning on the 21 federal and state police wounded, but not the six deaths and injured protesters that suffered this abuse of power. The world cannot allow this government to succeed in minimizing the significance of these teachers struggle. The militarization of these forces should not be preventing these teachers from returning to their classrooms. What should be considered organized crime is the ruling regime’s effort to silence those demanding their right to simply teach and profess the knowledge needed to understand the inequalities created by their own government.
FREE RUBEN NUÑEZ, FREE FRANCISCO VILLALOBOS, LA CNTE VIVE!
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