Mexico’s Teacher Protests Spread Northward

Protests against the Mexican government’s controversial education reforms have now spread northward to the central city of Puebla, where teachers have decried police crackdowns on demonstrations in the nation’s south.

Hundreds of members of the education unions CNTE and the larger SNTE, independent teacher organisations, and their supporters rallied in central Puebla on Friday to show solidarity with demonstrators in the southern states of Oaxaca and Chiapas.

“We must denounce the terrorist threat of the Pena (Nieto) government!” read a statement distributed by local SNTE members. It’s unclear whether the statement was endorsed by SNTE leaders.

Education workers and activists have accused President Enrique Pena Nieto’s government of presiding over violent crackdowns on protesting teachers in Oaxaca and Chiapas. Last month, nine people were killed in Oaxaca under disputed circumstances. Mexican authorities have claimed police haven’t used live ammunition against protesters, though activists have circulated unverified photographs on social media they claim prove police gunned down demonstrators.

This is a war,” teacher and protester German Mendoza told Reuters earlier this week in Oaxaca. “We are going to keep mobilising our communities, our families, and social organisations … toward the repeal of the education reform,” he said. The nationwide reforms require teachers to submit to mandatory evaluations every three years. Failure to pass can result in dismissal. The reforms have shaken Mexico’s education sector, where traditionally teachers enjoyed relatively strong protections against dismissal. While the government has argued the reforms will root out incompetent teachers, protesters say the evaluations themselves are poorly designed and don’t match up with regional curriculums.

Although the government has agreed to hold negotiations with teachers, protesters in Puebla said the reforms are part of broader efforts to impose neoliberalism on every sector of Mexican society.

Friday’s protest drew the support of dozens of anti-capitalist groups, including anarchist and socialist organisations.

More protests are planned over the weekend.

DSF’s Two Cents

The spread of protests to the normally quiet city of Puebla is yet another sign the demonstrations in the southern states have touched a nerve across the country. A growing segment of Mexican society is tired of the brand of neoliberalism endorsed by Pena Nieto and others. Huge wealth inequality has left many Mexicans disenchanted and deeply cynical about the government. This was illustrated during state elections earlier this year, when the ruling party, the PRI suffered a brutal defeat, despite over 70% of eligible voters not even bothering to cast a ballot. Today, Mexico is a country rife with political dissatisfaction. For many protesters, it seems that the education reforms have become emblematic of everything wrong with the establishment. For them, this is a story of neoliberalism being imposed from the top down, and enforced with violent repression. It’s no wonder protesters are frustrated.

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