In the fall of 2008 while in the city of Oaxaca, I walked with David Venegas in the plaza in front of the Santo Domingo Cathedral, a massive four-block church and former monastery whose construction first began in 1572. We were returning from the courthouse nearby, where Venegas had to report every 15 days. A prominent member of the Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca (APPO) and the anti-authoritarian group Oaxacan Voices Building Autonomy and Freedom (VOCAL), Venegas was arrested, beaten and tortured in April 2007, held for eleven months on charges of “possession with intent to distribute cocaine and heroin, sedition, conspiracy, arson, attacks on transit routes, rebellion, crimes against civil servants, dangerous attacks, and resisting arrest,” and eventually conditionally released. Until he was found innocent in April 2009, one of those conditions was his semi-monthly presentation at the courthouse. As with any trip he made in public, Venegas had at least one person accompany him to provide some security against being arrested or disappeared.
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.
As the teachers’ strike in Mexico continued into the start of the school year, the last Insumisión column noted the tense situation developing, particularly in Oaxaca, with the break down of negotiations between the teachers union and the government and the arrival of hundreds of more federal forces to the state. While there was a show of force by the Oaxaca state government before dawn on Sunday, September 11, the feared widespread repression did not occur. Instead, the struggle against the neoliberal educational reform and structural reforms in general has lost some of its consistency and coherency as various state sections of the National Coordinator of Education Workers (CNTE) take different approaches following the start of the school year.
Initially, the CNTE seemed to be holding to its stance that the strike would continue until the educational reform was repealed. When classes were to start on August 22, teachers in Oaxaca, Chiapas, Guerrero, Michoacán and parts of Mexico City remained on strike. Instead of classrooms opening, mass marches and blockades inaugurated the school year in Chiapas and Oaxaca. Teachers installed 25 highway blockades in Oaxaca that they held for 48 hours, except in Nochixtlán, which lasted for four days. In Chiapas, teachers blockaded four entry points into the state capital of Tuxtla Gutiérrez for two days, not allowing trucks belonging to transnational corporations to pass.
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.
It has been more than a week since the massacre of June 19, perpetrated by the Mexican state, who gave the order to the Federal Police to retake control of this state. There is still no justice. The toll continues to climb, 12 deaths recorded so far, dozens disappeared and at least 100 wounded by firearms. On top of dealing with the aftermath of the deaths, now the relatives of the dead and wounded are being threatened so they don’t take any legal action. This was reported by lawyers advising the families.
“There is fear because there have already been threats directed towards the families and the prisoners who were arrested. They even arrested twenty people who were in the municipal cemetery digging a grave to bury a family member who passed away on June 18 due to causes unrelated to this situation. They tortured them during transport and they were held in the state police barracks for more than two days and in the end they released them and told them to go, that nothing had happened. Things are not so simple,” said Mariana Arrellanes, a lawyer with Section 22 (of the teachers union) in Oaxaca.
In the context of the most recent acts of repression and violence that have arisen in the country, as different anarchist collectives and individuals we have decided to show solidarity by going into the streets and carrying out various actions in the different parts of the country that are suffering the brunt of the state, and resisted with the people.
In a statement released on Friday, June 17, the Zapatistas posed the following questions regarding the ongoing national teachers’ strike in Mexico:
They have beaten them, gassed them, imprisoned them, threatened them, fired them unjustly, slandered them, and declared a de facto state-of-siege in Mexico City. What’s next? Will they disappear them? Will they murder them? Seriously? The ‘education’ reform will be born upon the blood and cadavers of the teachers?
On Sunday, June 19, the state answered these questions with an emphatic “Yes”. The response came in the form of machine-gun fire from Federal Police directed at teachers and residents defending a highway blockade in Nochixtlán, a town in the southern state of Oaxaca and roughly 80 kilometers northwest of the capital city of that state, also called Oaxaca.
Our rage cannot be contained by police bullets, by the State’s jails, by the media’s lies. Our dead will not be forgotten, their combative spirit has spread so that we may take justice into our hands.
Nochixtlán and Oaxaca resisted as the Isthmus region has resisted, demonstrating to the powerful that we don’t fear them, that we will confront them, we will defeat them; in the cold Mixteca the frontline has not been neglected. In spite of the pain that invades the people, they know the worst way to remember those who died in battle is to abandon the war.