Oaxaca, Mexico – Mexican authorities investigated Monday for accusations of responsibility in weekend clashes that left eight people dead and more than 100 wounded amid teachers’ protests against the government’s education reform in the restive southern state of Oaxaca.
Thousands of people led by radical CNTE teachers union marched on Monday to denounce as a “massacre” the deaths that left the protest on Sunday. The union alleges police infiltrated the protest.
Federal Police Chief Enrique Galindo, speaking on local Radio Formula, said that he attributes the clashes to unidentified “radical groups” since not many teachers were involved in the violence. Nevertheless, the CNTE teachers union denied Galindo’ allegations and claimed that authorities are responsible.
The clashes followed months of protests for control of public education in Oaxaca. The union rejects President Enrique Pena Nieto’s attempt to underpass an educational reform that would require educators to undergo performance evaluations.
According to officers, eight people died in Asuncion Nochixtlan for being ambushed by an unidentified armed group after police removed barricades set up by teachers.
Eight dead and more than 100 wounded in Oaxaca’s weekend clash
According to Galindo, police officers were initially moved to reopen the highway around seven a.m. after it had been blocked by protesters’ blockade in Asuncion Nochixtlan.
But later he ordered armed police to move in after some officers were “ambushed” by 2,000 unidentified “radical” protesters, some of them armed with gasoline bombs and powerful fireworks, Galindo added. None of the armed demonstrators were teachers, he said.
“The police obligation is to protect the population,” he remarked.
More than 100 people were wounded before police pulled back, Galindo said, adding that “staying in Nochixtlan would have brought more serious consequences.”
Seven civilians, who were not teachers, died of bullet wounds, said Oaxaca state prosecutor Joaquin Carrillo said late Monday in a news conference. Another person died of injuries caused by handling one of the powerful fireworks that protesters used against police officers.
“Lines of investigation are being built,” Carrillo added. “Nothing will be ruled out.” He added.
Galindo showed photos of a police helicopter hit by bullets. Three federal police officers were still being held in Nochixtlan, he said.
Prosecutors will receive officers statements as part of the investigation to determine “who started or didn’t start (firing),” Galindo said.
Galindo said 53 civilians and at least 55 police agents were injured, including 8 for being shot. More than 20 people have been arrested.
In response to the video filmed by The Associated Press that shows on officer firing a gun several times, Galindo said he did not know if police had shot any of the fatal gunshots.
The CNE wants officer Galindo’s removal from power
Thousands teacher marched Monday in Oaxaca city chanting “Murderers!”. 20 people were missing according to the CNTE. The union also claims that police infiltrators killed educators and members of the union.
“This movement is not going to stop,” said union member Juan Garcia.
On Monday, more than 100 demonstrators maintained the roadblock, in Nochixtlan.
Protesters ask for negotiation regarding the educational reform imposed by the federal government. The union says that teachers that have refused to be evaluated have been fired. The radical teachers’ union in Oaxaca says the government should take into account the local conditions in the heavily native state.
Beyond education, a confrontation that includes poverty and inequality
According to Professor Lynn Stephen, director of the Center for Latino/a and Latin American Studies at the University of Oregon says he suspect that this confrontation is about more than education reform.
“It’s about something much more profound: the poverty and growing inequality in the country, and the impunity.” He adds
In his book “We Are the Face of Oaxaca: Testimony and Social Movements,” that includes interviews with the members of the teachers union. According to Los Angeles time, in the impoverished southern region of Oaxaca, teachers not only are asked to boost test scores and improve reading comprehension but also they have to provide shelter and food for their students. Also, teachers must build the schools where they work and then get the furniture needed to fill their classrooms. Students go to school barefoot, with health problems and learn native languages before Spanish.
However for Francisco Gil Villegas, a professor at the College of Mexico in Mexico City, the counterpart says that the union movement is just playing the victim to mask widespread corruption within their ranks. The tests mean a threat to those teachers who have never had training in teaching and wouldn’t be able to pass the tests.
“Those political movements paid with political favors, giving jobs to people who were just not qualified at all to be teachers,” Gil Villegas said. “They are violent political protesters, many of them.”
With Ruben Nuñez, secretary general of Oaxaca’s branch of the CNTE, being arrested June 12 for money laundering, and the election of a new governor who supports Peña Nieto’s education reforms, this have brought up tensions between teacher and authorities, Gil Villegas said.
Source: Los Angeles Times