On Tuesday, May 18, around 120 students from the Mactumactzá Rural Normal School blockaded the Chiapa de Corzo-San Cristóbal highway in Chiapas, Mexico. The students were protesting changes to the admissions process to the school that would disadvantage working class, rural and Indigenous students. Seen as an attempt to change the makeup of the student body or as a step towards closing the school (which has already been closed four times by the Mexican state), students took to the streets, along with others who joined in solidarity.
In response, Chiapas State Police brutally attacked the blockade, firing tear gas and beating students with batons. In total, 95 people were arrested, 74 women and 19 men, all but two of them students. All 95 were moved to the high-security prison of El Amate. During the course of the arrests and transfer, the women students were forced to strip naked and were sexually assaulted by police. All those arrested are facing charges of rioting with a gang enhancement, violent robbery, damages, and attacks on the public peace and the bodily and cultural integrity of the state.
Ayotzinapa, Guerrero, September 26, 2017. – Three years after the forced disappearance of our children, the Fathers and Mothers of the normalistas [teaching college students] remain standing, present in the heart of the homeland to affirm our struggle alongside the families impacted by the earthquake, who in the midst of disaster are also seeking their loved ones. Pain and indignation have united us and in this embrace of solidarity we face a government that does not pay attention to our demands. Since that terrible night of September 26, we have not relented against a government that keeps untouched a pact of impunity with the state perpetrators who colluded with organized crime. Our nights of insomnia and days of uncertainty have marked a new path in our lives; we are now a movement dedicated to fighting the battle to dismantle the historical truth devised by the PGR [Federal Attorney General’s Office] in order to find the whereabouts of our children.
As those of us in the U.S. come together to plan for the incoming Trump regime, hopefully we can find some inspiration and affinity with the ongoing resistance happening in Mexico. After this summer’s teachers’ strike and popular mobilizations collapsed, communities and organizations in Mexico have returned to the essential but none-too-glorious work of building community self-defense and organization to maintain their gains and prepare for the next uprising that will inevitably occur.
This edition looks at communities around Mexico creating and defending autonomy, taking matters into their own hands to provide for their security from the state, organized crime and corporations. There are also updates on prisoners, community media and Ayotzinapa. This will probably be the final Insumisión of 2016. Since starting in March, we’ve put out 14 of them and appreciate that people find them useful. In 2017, we are hoping to expand our Mexico coverage and part of that will be a trip I am planning to take in a couple of months to connect face-to-face with many of the organizations you read about in these columns and to produce exciting original content. To help make that happen, please contribute to and spread the word about our fundraiser for the trip.
Several significant events have unfolded during the past couple weeks in Mexico, from an end the teachers’ strike to the commemoration of major key dates for the resistance. As ever, the repression and impunity with which the Mexican state operates has continued unabated. There’s a lot to cover, so let’s jump right in.
Protests in Chilpancingo, Guerrero on September 25.
On September 26, 2014, students from the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers’ College in Ayotzinapa, Guerrero were traveling to Mexico City to participate in the annual mobilization marking the October 2, 1968 Tlatelolco massacre. They were intercepted by state forces in Iguala, Guerrero, where police opened fire, killing six – three students and three passersby. Forty-three other students were disappeared and to this day their location and fate remain unknown.
On Tuesday, September 20, after one year and nine months of proceedings, our compañero Luis Fernando Sotelo Zambrano was given a sentence of 33 years and five months in prison and a fine of 519,815.25 pesos, for the crimes of attacks on public thoroughfares, first-degree attacks on public order, and first-degree destruction of private property.
This sentence is in line with the Mexican state’s policies of repression and criminalization, starting with Mexico City Mayor Miguel Ángel Mancera, who sought to condemn our compañero without any evidence and to place a ridiculous and disproportionate sentence on him.
As the strike against educational reform by teachers belonging to the National Coordinator of Education Workers (CNTE) in Mexico enters its fourth month, the conflict between the people and the neoliberal narcostate seems poised to take another turn, a potentially violent one. The government is running out of tricks, leaving the likelihood it will return to its old standby, state violence, all the more likely.
When the strike first began on May 15, the government’s tactic was to ignore the teachers, refusing to talk to them. As that failed and support for the teachers grew, it tried brute force, leading to the Nochixtlán massacre on June 19, a day when twelve were killed. That repression caused national outrage and succeeded in turning a teachers’ movement into a popular one. The government then offered up negotiations as a fig leaf, yet meeting after meeting made clear that the state had no actual interest in negotiating anything. The school year started in Mexico on Monday, August 22, but teachers remain on strike and schools have not opened in Oaxaca, Chiapas, Guerrero, Michoacán and parts of Mexico City.
Next week, teachers in Mexico belonging to the National Coordinator of Education Workers (CNTE) will mark three months on strike. Three months without pay, of sleeping in encampments far from home, of funerals, arrests, disappearances, beatings, fear, uncertainty, and endless hours of marching. Yet the union has remained steadfast in its demand for the repeal of the educational reform and by doing so has created space for a much larger movement to emerge alongside it. What appeared at first as solidarity is increasingly moving toward coherent unity, as the people see their demands reflected in those of the teachers and vice versa. This mutual identification is rooted in an understanding that the forces responsible for creating the innumerable injustices occurring in Mexico can be traced back to neoliberal capitalism as deployed by a corrupt narcostate operating with impunity.
While events in Mexico haven’t been making headlines in the past couple of weeks, the struggle is still on. Along with mobilizing effective displays of its vitality, the movement has been using the decline in repression after the Nochixtlán massacre and the ongoing negotiations with the government to build sturdier foundations for the inevitable confrontations that lie ahead – be they during this phase of resistance or ones that will follow.
With the ongoing teachers’ strike that has morphed into a widespread rebellion, primarily in Oaxaca and Chiapas, we haven’t put together a more general roundup of resistance and repression in Mexico in some time. While that struggle is very much alive and well, the intensity with which it is unfolding has diminished some. This column will first take a look at the past three weeks of that conflict (if you need to get up to speed, check out this piece) and then cover some of the other recent events around the country.
The teachers belonging to the National Coordinator of Education Workers (CNTE) have now been on strike for more than two months. Since the massacre by federal and state forces in Nochixtlán, Oaxaca on June 19, in which eleven people were killed, the conflict has taken on an increasingly popular dimension. This has looked like direct actions, marches, material support and expressions of solidarity from across Mexico and beyond, in numbers far too large to recount individually.
As the violence and repression instigated, permitted and perpetrated by the Mexican State continues to grow, it can become overwhelming to summarize it in these pages in a way that does justice to the victims and survivors of state terror and impunity. Yet as the grim tallies multiply and impact more and more lives, so does the clarity that what the state offers even in its best moments is no solution at all, and from that point resistance flourishes. The sparks of refusal and defiance despite the odds ignite around the country, making meaning out of that which seems so senseless, breathing reclaimed life into a panorama of death. As América del Valle of Atenco said earlier this month, “Even with everything they did to us, we don’t come here today as martyrs. We don’t come to cry…We’ve come here to say NO!” Lxs insumxs. Let’s see what they’ve been up to over the past two weeks.
Happy May Day! Around Mexico today numerous marches will be held, primarily organized by the National Education Workers Union (SNTE) and its more radical tendency, the National Education Workers Coordinating Body (CNTE). A few of the demonstrations are listed on It’s Going Down’sroundup of May Day actions. These marches are usually large, as the teachers union requires their members to show up. That extra incentive probably isn’t needed this year, as the teachers are fed up with the state’s repression and attacks on public education. The CNTE has already announced an indefinite national strike for May 15, and as a warm- up held the largest march in its 37-year history in Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Chiapas on April 22. Stretching more than three miles with 100,000 participants, the march was in response to the repression faced by teachers there the week before. While the CNTE base has consistently demonstrated its militancy, the leadership remains stuck in the politics of respectability, as demonstrated during the April 22 march when they ordered that “no one should commit acts of vandalism and that anyone caught would be detained; that no one would be masked or cover their face.” The gap between the two seems likely only to widen as the union’s actions intensify.
When it comes to teachers and protests, fresh on everyone’s mind is Ayotzinapa. When it comes to a relentless dedication to preserving impunity at all costs, the Mexican state is quite impressive. This was on full display last week as the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI) sent by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (CIDH) released its final 600-page report in a four-hour press conference on April 24. The GIEI’s mandate was cut short by the CIDH following the Mexican government’s consistent harassment, subterfuge and non-cooperation. “The experts assured that the authorities have not followed key lines of investigation, evidence has been manipulated, obstructed and investigative work rejected, officials that would have participated in the disappearance protected, and alleged suspects tortured to obtain confessions that support the government’s version.” The details are too expansive to explore here, but the short version is that the GIEI found the students were under surveillance, the attack on them was recorded and coordinated among local and state police and the army, and that the head of the Criminal Investigations Agency (akin to the FBI in the US) had a personal role in manipulating evidence and illegally detaining and torturing someone who later “confessed” to involvement in the disappearance.