Last Sunday’s bloody fray in Nochixtlán, just north of Oaxaca City, is a clear example that indeed the National Coordinator of Education Workers (CNTE) union has kept their word and that their stance against the federal government is, as we said last week, a “declaration of war.”
The rift was between the federal police and several thousand CNTE teachers, who had blockaded the Oaxaca-Mexico City federal road as a protest for the jailing of several of their leaders on charges of money laundering and aggravated theft of federal money.
The protesters contend that Education Secretary Aurelio Nuño has orchestrated a repression against all the CNTE leaders, hence their virulent protests blockading traffic-heavy federal roads and paralyzing travelers from getting to their destination.
Federal Police Chief Enrique Galindo commented Monday that what was a common road blockade suddenly became “an ambush” on the federals who were fired upon from people hiding in the nearly 3,000-strong crowd.
No doubt this fray that left six-civilians dead from knife and bullet wounds is really the first serious warning to the federal government that the fun has just started and that all the radical guerrilla warfare groups CNTE has been subsidizing over the years may start coming into the open very soon if they did not already.
Thus far Monday, the identity of the shooters from the CNTE group remained unknown and Chief Medina says that they shot both at their own and the police.
What is a fact is that CNTE is proving in the state of Oaxaca to be a numerous organization with plenty of support from the local population, something the federal government denies in public. But the size and power of these demonstrations are unquestionable.
Also unquestionable is that by now the disgruntled teachers are trekking the road to mass suicide at the hands of police, which has been tolerant but not for much longer. Armed confrontation would seem inevitable from now on, particularly if Education Secretary Aurelio Nuño continues to apply the law — throw the book I’d say — and put leaders in jail on corruption and theft charges.
What the nation now is contending with is an unbridgeable ideological rift, particularly because the federal government, in the form of the Education and Interior secretariats, has closed the gate at negotiating with “these dudes” as they implement President Enrique Peña Nieto’s sweeping Education Reform.
The issue at question from the part of CNTE is the way the teacher evaluations are being carried out. In the problem states of Michoacán, Guerrero, Oaxaca and Chiapas the native indigenous population is the majority and speaks many different dialects, which makes teaching difficult. The Education Secretariat applies the same test to all teachers nationwide and CNTE members contend that they should be subject to a clause of exception given the nature of their multilingualism, as well as poverty stricken pupils.
Reality at this point, even with a “declaration of war,” is that the federal government has not applied repression tactics, per se. Opening up a road to continue public service is not repression as such but common police work. That’s what police are there for, to permit free transit.
But at this point in the conflict it has taken a different dimension, and in the view of all critics, Education Secretary Aurelio Nuño has chosen the way of confrontation to solve the problem.
Only the CNTE state unions have proven to be hardened road blockade warriors now willing to take risks that go beyond peaceful demonstrations.
Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) Deputy Cecilia Soto says “the CNTE’s tactics give me measles” but also that it is unquestionable that the path followed by Education Secretary Nuño is one of repression.
“The myopic path Secretary Aurelio Nuño has picked can only set the prairie on fire …and the prairie is ripe dry.”
The problem is the CNTE teachers are not going to let up.