On Tuesday, September 19, a powerful earthquake struck central Mexico. With a magnitude of 7.1 on the Richter scale and the epicenter just south of the city of Puebla, it has caused numerous deaths and widespread damage in Mexico City and the neighboring states of Puebla, Morelos and the State of Mexico, along with reports of loss of life and structural damage as far south and west as the states of Oaxaca and Guerrero.
Dozens of buildings collapsed in Mexico City alone and at the time of this writing at least 230 people have been reported as killed. The earthquake occurred just hours after a national earthquake drill and commemoration of the 32nd anniversary of the 1985 quake in which more than 10,000 people were killed. The 1985 tragedy is a seminal moment in modern Mexican history not only for the massive devastation caused but also due to the negligence, corruption and opportunism which marked the government’s response, especially when contrasted with the tremendous mobilization and solidarity of civil society in successfully self-organizing rescue efforts in the face of the state’s abdication of responsibility.
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Initially, the CNTE seemed to be holding to its stance that the strike would continue until the educational reform was repealed.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.