The only good news out of Sunday’s battle between teachers and federal police officials at Nochixtlán, which left 10 people dead and nearly 100 injured, is that Interior Secretary Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong will meet Wednesday to establish a “dialogue table” with the National Coordinator of Education Workers (CNTE) union’s secondary leaders.
For months now Secretary Osorio Chong had refused to talk to CNTE leaders on the grounds that implementing the Education Reform was a done deal and any disagreement with it was unacceptable because it was a constitutionally chartered mandate.
In terms of Mexican politics, the fact that the negotiations are with the Interior and not the Education Secretary Aurelio Nuño has great meaning. For between-the-political-lines readers, it only means that Nuño has failed miserably at solving a problem.
Secretary Nuño and his Public Education Secretariat (SEP) Planning Undersecretary Otto Granados opted for a hard line against the CNTE teachers, several of whom they have already sent to jail on the grounds of money laundering of public funds.
Nuño and Granados wagered on the old saying that once the serpent is beheaded, the body is dead. They were wrong, and the jailing of top leader Rubén Nuñez, who’s now “formally imprisoned,” only served as the spark that set off the flames Sunday at Nochixtlán.
For some time Secretary Aurelio Nuño has also been badmouthing the leaders of the CNTE as crooks who only want to keep the canons they had when they controlled the Oaxaca State Public Education budget. He repeatedly accused them of being corrupt and of disobeying the official orders to go back to classes.
This is not to accuse Secretary Nuño of being a liar. The CNTE union has become over the years the target of hatred by Mexico City people, and definitely of the Oaxaca state tourism industries because of their belligerent pro-communist attitude. They have also started controversy for for their absolute lack of respect shown once and again with traffic blockades — like Sunday’s at Nochixtlán — to state their case.
The general opinion, however, agrees that imposing a hardline by Nuño’s SEP was not the way to go, and the results evident.
On Sunday’s events at Nochixtlán, President Enrique Peña Nieto had ordered the Attorney General to step into the investigation and check out the presence of “outside groups” who are said to have shot both at civilians and the federal police from within the ranks of the CNTE demonstrators.
The truth is that if Attorney General Arely Gómez’s investigators are sent in, they have a mess to clear up as demonstrators claim that it was the federal police who did the shooting.
Yet there is evidence that many of the demonstrators were armed, as after the clash with the feds they went out on a looting rampage in several stores. Photo journalist Eligio Ramos Zárate was gunned down and killed by a looter for taking photos of the Oxxo convenience store ransacking. In short, there is evidence that there were armed people among the CNTE demonstrators.
But Associated Press and Cuartoscuro photographers also have very clear pictures of uniformed federal policemen firing both a .40 handgun and an M16 rifle.
The latter contradicts federal police Commander in Chief Ernesto Galindo who originally claimed the police were unarmed and victims of “an ambush.” Later, to everyone’s concern, chief Galindo changed his version and admitted that “afterwards” an armed group came into the fray, but the photographers say the policemen exchanged fire with those shooting from within the crowd.
To make a long story short, President Enrique Peña Nieto has a mess of a problem in his hands and the only way out of it is negotiating, again, with the stubborn CNTE teachers who even when beheaded, continue to fight.
But CNTE is willing to talk, and in their press release Tuesday they announced a direct meeting with Interior Secretary Osorio Chong.
“CNTE reiterates its disposition to working with the federal government in finding solutions to the proposals we’ve reiteratively stated before. From the official side, we expect a frank and serious posture.”
Maybe there’s light at the end of this dark tunnel, maybe!