Mexico: Teachers march, union attacked by paramilitary

July 24, 2016
"In Mexico education is not free... It costs life and liberty."

Teachers affiliated to the radical CNTE union took to the streets of Mexico City on July 19, as their leaders hold talks with authorities to discuss the education reform that has led to two months of mass protests across the country.

The march kicked off at the national trainee teachers' college in the heart of Mexico City. Protesters held banners opposing President Enrique Pena Nieto, who spearheaded the neoliberal reform in 2013.

The dialogue between the government and the striking teaches started last month. The government came under heavy scrutiny due to state repression of CNTE-led demonstrations in the Oaxacan town of Nochixtlan on June 19, resulting in the deaths of nine people in the town and 12 during the day.

The top official has been reticent to meet with the teachers and has stated several times that the reform will not be discussed, and will instead be “deepened.”

The CNTE leaders delivered a document outlining the points of the reform that they are demanding be modified, including the controversial evaluation tests.

Striking teachers say the evaluation tests do not effectively measure teaching skills, especially those needed in rural areas and among indigenous communities. They say the tests are instead an excuse to engage in mass layoffs and the privatisation of education.

The tests were imposed by the controversial reforms and were prescribed by international groups including the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the Inter-American Development Bank.

Meanwhile, on July 20 Mexican state and municipal police accompanied by paramilitaries and hooded individuals with guns forcefully evacuated a protest camp set up by striking teachers in the southern state of Chiapas.

The camp, the only one in the state, had been set up by members of civil society and teachers from the CNTE.

In a statement, the CNTE said that 10 trucks loaded with masked men came to the camp at highway San Cristobal-Tuxtla Gutierrez in Chiapas. About 100 protesters gathered there were forcibly dispersed. The CNTE was on high alert and reinstated its blockade soon after, according to student activist Omar Garcia.

There were reports that one or two teachers were killed in the clashes and that two were detained.

Cities across the country have witnessed constant demonstrations against the government's neoliberal agenda. Protests have taken place not only in relation to the education workers' fight, but also the social demands of Mexico's restive and largely indigenous rural regions, which have been waging efforts to stop projects such as large hydroelectric dams, wind farms and mining operations.

Social movement organisers have also called on the government to free all political prisoners, end “state terrorism” and stop the criminalisation of social protest.

[Compiled from TeleSUR English.]

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