UPDATE 3: Scroll down or click here to updates as of 2pm Oaxaca time on July 3.
UPDATE 2: Scroll down or click here to see updates as of 1am Oaxaca time on June 24.
UPDATE: Scroll down or click here to see updates as of 2am Oaxaca time on June 21.
The looming federal police attack on the people and striking teachers of Oaxaca, Mexico has begun. There are reports of between six and eight demonstrators killed Sunday morning at the teachers-peoples highway blockade in Nochixtlán, northwest of the city of Oaxaca. The eight dead that the movement is confirming are Oscar Aguilar Ramírez, 25, Andrés Sanabria García, 23, Anselmo Cruz Aquino, 33, Yalit Jiménez Santiago, 28, Oscar Nicolás Santiago, Omar González Santiago, 22, Antonio Perez García, and Jesús Cadena Sánchez, 19. They were shot and killed when police opened fire with live ammunition on the blockade. At least 45 others have been hospitalized with injuries, the majority gunshot wounds, and 22 have been disappeared.
This piece will focus on currently developing events. For information on what led to this situation, please see the following articles:
- The first two weeks of the teachers strike (May 15-30)
- The beginning of the repression in Oaxaca (June 11-14)
- What the teachers are protesting (from 2013, but the same issues remain)
- State violence as governance in Mexico
After four hours of clashes, the police broke through the blockade in Nochixtlán. The highway blockade had been in place since June 12, and was successful in preventing hundreds of federal police from entering the city of Oaxaca. Here’s a video of the epic police traffic jam created by the blockade.
State and federal police also attacked the blockade at Hacienda Blanca. There was a livestreamer on the scene using Periscope. Police fired tear gas from the ground and helicopters, including into the school that had been converted into a medical center. Armed police in civilian clothes were also taking up positions.
Hacienda Blanca was another blockade preventing federal forces from entering the city of Oaxaca. On June 15, a bus filled with riot gear tried to drive through the blockade and the people guarding it. The bus was stopped and the riot gear removed and set on fire.
The expectation is that upon breaking the highway blockades ringing the city of Oaxaca, federal forces will carry out an assault on the city in the coming hours, as they have already entered parts of the outlying neighborhoods of the city. Blocked from reaching the city by land, for days now the federal police have been flying planes full of cops into airports in Oaxaca city, Huatulco (on the coast) and Ciudad Ixtepec (in the Isthmus). There are numerous reports of power cuts in many areas of the city, as well as a curfew being imposed. Public transit has been suspended and will be tomorrow as well.
For the past week, as the people of Oaxaca responded to the latest police attack and commemorated ten years since the June 14, 2006 uprising that led to the five-month long Oaxaca Commune, dozens of blockades and barricades have been constructed around the state. In the Isthmus of Tehuantepec alone, the teachers union (CNTE) reports controlling 37 major highway intersections, of which the police have removed eight. As police rain tear gas down from helicopters, protesters have responded by shooting fireworks at the attackers.
To protest the attacks in Oaxaca, thousands marched on Televisa (the major private, pro-government TV channel in Mexico) and throughout the week, thousands of teachers have been arriving from Chiapas, Michoacán and elsewhere to reinforce the encampment in the capital.
UPDATE on June 21, 2am Oaxaca time
The feared attack on the city center of Oaxaca did not occur on Sunday night or Monday. Instead, at least 40,000 people marched in the city against Sunday’s police violence, and those killed at the Nochixtlán blockade were laid to rest amidst chants of “The struggle continues!” and “You haven’t died, comrade! Your death will be avenged!”
81 civil society groups issued a “humanitarian alert due to the armed State attack on a civilian population” while the CNTE claimed ten dead from Sunday’s police violence, nine at the blockade in Nochixtlán and one during clashes at Viguera (graphic video). A journalist was also shot and killed near the blockade in Juchitán under circumstances that remain unclear.
More information on the police attack on Nochixtlán has come out, such as the fact that police took over the regional hospital and only allowed their people to be treated, turning away all others. Wounded demonstrators were treated in a church and school, likely resulting in further loss of life.
Monday morning also saw a student takeover of the Benito Juárez Autonomous University of Oaxaca (UABJO), the main state university. This included the seizing of the radio station Radio Universidad. Calls to help hold the station against possible attack continued early Tuesday morning. The station played a major role in the 2006 uprising, and was the broadcast home of renowned Doctora Escopeta (Dr. Shotgun) and site of the November 2 Day of the Dead victory, when the people successfully repelled a federal police attack.
In Chiapas, teachers and residents set up numerous blockades, including of the Pan-American Highway, in the state capital of Tuxtla Gutiérrez. While in Mexico City, police arrested nine people, including journalists, during a Oaxaca solidarity action. Police threatened the women with rape and sexually assaulted them during the arrests. All were released by Monday evening.
At Santo Domingo in the city of Oaxaca, a “cultural barricade” was organized by prominent Oaxacan artists, who also released a statement against state repression. The Oaxaca State Minister of Indigenous Affairs resigned his post in protest of the state violence. Monday night saw 3,000 people take part in a silent, candlelit march to honor those who fell on Sunday.
The Zapatistas released their second statement in four days on the teachers strike. The first one, from June 17, presciently asked, “Will they murder them? Seriously? The “education” reform will be born upon the blood and cadavers of the teachers?” And the second, issued on Monday with the National Indigenous Congress, stated, “We call on our peoples and civil society in general to stand with the teachers who resist at this moment, to see us in them…We invite all the peoples from the fields and the cities to be aware and in solidarity with the teachers’ struggle, to organize ourselves autonomously to be informed and alert in the face of the storm falling on us all.”
Of Sunday’s dead, Governor Gabino Cué pointed out that “not one is a teacher” and that those participating in the blockades, “a minority are teachers.” In his eyes, this is likely meant to delegitimize what is currently happening. In reality, it points to the growing generalized resistance in Oaxaca.
UPDATE on June 24, 1am Oaxaca time
If Enrique Peña Nieto and Gabino Cué imagined that massacring demonstrators in Nochixtlán would crush the growing uprising in Oaxaca, they sorely miscalculated. As the dead were honored, the wounded tended to, and the disappeared sought after, the rage and indignation grew. The media outlet Desinformémonos reports that in the three days after the massacre it alone had received more than 2,000 emails regarding over 500 acts of solidarity around Mexico and the world.
More information and footage from Nochixtlán continues to emerge, such as the one below that captured the moment when federal police began to open fire on those defending the blockade.
Regeneración Radio offered the latest figures in the aftermath of the attack. 11 killed, 27 arrested, 7 disappeared and 45 wounded, 37 by live ammunition. In addition, Azarel Galán Mendoza, an 18-year-old mechanic, was killed when police opened fire at Viguera, on the outskirts of the city of Oaxaca, bringing Sunday’s death toll to 12.
On Wednesday, June 22, the 27 arrested at Nochixtlán were released and began recounting the physical and psychological torture they were subjected to while being held incommunicado for 18 hours. The seven disappeared remain unaccounted for.
In a clear act of appeasement, the federal government suddenly decided that negotiations with the teachers was a great idea. Aurelio Nuño, the Minister of Public Education, who was criticized for his two-day silence following the Nochixtlán massacre, claimed that he had never rejected dialogue, that he was guided by the law and the constitution, and that the massacre and the Educational Reform were entirely separate issues.
Nuño was notably absent from the union’s meeting with Interior Minister Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong on Wednesday. The end result of that meeting was more meetings, with the next one happening on Monday. The federal government insists on only discussing how to calm the situation in Oaxaca, while the union insists that the only way forward is repeal of the Educational Reform. In the meantime, the CNTE says it will continue to mobilize as if nothing has changed.
Also on Wednesday, the Oaxaca state Labor Minister resigned in protest and doctors and healthcare workers from around Mexico went on a one-day strike that was planned before the most recent state violence. Many strikers expressed solidarity with the teachers and made links between the privatization of healthcare with the privatization of education, as well as the state’s criminalization of both professions.
Not everyone is happy about the fact that the CNTE and the government are sitting down for talks, as this statement from Oaxaca makes clear:
Our rage cannot be contained by police bullets, by the State’s jails, by the media’s lies. The blood of our dead cannot be negotiated with for reform. The battle against the State should happen on all fronts. We will not give up, we have learned that repression should not provoke fear, to the contrary it should nourish our highest ideal: freedom.
It remains an open question of what will happen with the mobilized populace, whose anger reaches far beyond matters of educational reform, when the teachers and government come to an agreement regarding the more limited scope of the issues they are discussing.
Meanwhile, the barricades and blockades remain, including in Nochixtlán. Universities around Mexico City have gone on one-day strikes in solidarity. Soldiers are getting run out of public events in Veracruz. Residents are fighting back against corrupt politicians in Quintana Roo. Teachers and supporters in Chiapas are continuing to mobilize in huge numbers. Anti-authoritarians are blocking a major thoroughfare in Mexico City.
Lastly, the Zapatistas channeled Sansa Stark to send a message to Aurelio Nuño:
Your words will disappear.
Your house will disappear.
Your name will disappear.
All memory of you will disappear.
UPDATE on July 3, 2pm Oaxaca time
In the past ten days since the last update to this piece, the conflict remains simmering in Oaxaca and increasingly in Chiapas. There have been no major state attacks like that which occurred in Nochixtlán. However, given recent government statements, that may change very quickly. In the meantime, each side has been using the tools at their disposal to best lay the groundwork for the seemingly inevitable escalation.
For its part, the state has been utilizing its propaganda arm – the corporate media – in an attempt to manufacture a crisis requiring state intervention. In Oaxaca, commercial radio stations are continuously airing spots against the teachers, without mention of who is behind them.
Similarly, the national and local media have gone on full blast claiming that the Oaxacan economy is collapsing and there are shortages of food, gasoline and other items due to the highway blockades maintained by the teachers and the people. Carlos Loret de Mola, a “journalist” and “economist” notified his 6.6 million Twitter followers that a single egg now costs more than $2 in Oaxaca. Which can mildly be described as a complete lie.
To drive the point home, the federal government has begun sending military planes supposedly full of supplies to Oaxaca to replenish government-run stores. Yet the first plane landed in Puerto Escondido to replenish stores in an area where “there are no blockades.”
Fortunately, independent media is on the case and did what the mainstream media seemed unable to do: go to the central market with a video camera. What they found? Plenty of food and cynicism.
It is true that there are some shortages due to the blockades, however. These would be in the corporate supermarkets like Chedraui, Aurrera, and Soriana. The 29 blockades in Oaxaca and nine blockades in Chiapas are blocking their trucks from passing, due to the fact that they are carrying the products of transnational corporations. Section 7 of the CNTE in Chiapas made clear that “our war is against the state, not the people.” As such, they allow privately owned cars, ambulances, gas tankers, and public transit to pass through their blockades. The only vehicles not allowed through are those belonging to the police and military or transnational corporations.
With negotiations between the CNTE and the Interior Ministry going nowhere fast, Interior Minister Osorio Chong stated on June 28, after a meeting with business owners, that order would be restored in Oaxaca “within days.” On July 1, Chong said that “time had run out” and that the government would act “shortly” against the blockades.
The CNTE replied that the movement “does not give up, does not forgive, does not forget, and will not surrender to the threats of murderers.” They announced an intensification of mobilizations and blockades in six states and Mexico City. In Chiapas, word spread that the police would attack the blockades at 4:30am on July 2. The attack did not transpire, but the people were prepared, defiantly stating ahead of time, “We’re ready for them. We’re not leaving.” Signs point to another round of intense state repression in the coming days, with possible coordinated attacks in Mexico City, Oaxaca and Chiapas in an attempt to crush the teachers and the popular mobilization that has sprung up around them.
Seemingly out of spite, the government, in collusion with Santander Bank, shut down the account being used by the CNTE to receive donations for the survivors and the families of the victims of the state massacre in Nochixtlán. What happened to the 17,000 pesos in the account at the time of its closure is unknown.
Yet even with their control over the police, military, media and banks, the state has not been able to stop the growing wave of solidarity.
Forty-five municipal and agrarian authorities in Oaxaca have condemned Chong’s threats. 490 organizations signed a joint statement demanding an end to the repression. Teachers in Guatemala blockaded the international border with Mexico in support of the struggle. President Enrique Peña Nieto was greeted in Canada to shouts of “murderer!” And at all points in-between and east and west, mobilizations and expressions of support are continuously occurring.
Lastly, Salvador Olmos, an anarchist, musician, organizer and journalist with the community radio station Tuun Ñuu Savi was detained, run over, tortured and beaten to death by local police in Huajuapan, Oaxaca on June 26. Chava, as he was known, was spotted by police while spray-painting a wasteful monument remodeled with public funds. After their brutality, police left Chava on the sidewalk and called the paramedics, claiming they had found him that way. He died shortly thereafter.
A funeral was held for him with black flags flying high on June 27. On June 28, his compañerxs held a militant memorial at the site of his last act of resistance.
Good pieces that have come out in recent days:
- Nochixtlán: An Attack Denied by the Government
- México: In Oaxaca, Police Threatening the Relatives of those Killed by the Government
- Section 22 march blasts brutal repression in Oaxaca
- Mexico’s Classroom Wars
- State Terrorism and Education, the New Speculative Sector in the Stock Market
I will try to continue to provide updates here as I am able, as well as on Twitter. Please spread the word from wherever you are – let those resisting know you stand in solidarity with their struggle. And let those doing the oppressing, primarily President Enrique Peña Nieto, and Governor Gabino Cué of Oaxaca, that people are watching.