URGENT RELEASE: REPRESSION OF TEACHERS IN OAXACA

June 22, 2016

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URGENT RELEASE

San Cristóbal de Las Casas, Chiapas, México
June 21, 2016

REPRESSION OF TEACHERS IN OAXACA

On June 19, elements of the police in the state of Oaxaca violently repressed teachers and organized civil society in opposition of the education reform of the government of Enrique Peña Nieto. Such events caused the death of at least six people, the apprehension and/or disappearance of 22, and 45 left with gunshot wounds between Nochixtlán and Hacienda Blanca. Their medical attention was not guaranteed, to which the general population responded by building “attention centers” to serve and treat those wounded. In the last few days, planes of the Federal Police and the Gendarmerie have arrived to the capital of the state.

Such event is the most recent within the escalating context of the repressive violence in all of the entities where the teachers’ movement has manifested with the support of the civil society (Oaxaca, Tabasco, Chiapas, Michoacan, Guerrero, among others) in the last few weeks. All of these mobilizations have been in demand for a dialogue with the federal government about the reform, which has maintained a stern stance of not wanting to modify such reform, and has threatened with the immediate cessation of those on strike.

Background History:

In 2013, the federal government approved the education reform, included in the packet of reforms derived from the “Pact for Mexico” -an agreement between principal political parties planting the construction of a society with human rights and liberties, economic growth, security, justice, transparency, combat of corruption, and democratic governance-. Since its announcement from the President of the Republic, Enrique Peña Nieto, the education reform caused inconformity between the teachers. It was presented by the government as an improvement in the education system from the evaluation of teachers; aimed to promote the autonomy of the families of students in terms of maintenance of the schools in practice, involving the covering of expenses of school maintenance. It was interpreted by a wide sector of teachers as a labor reform -more so than educational content- that would permit selective dismissals and the beginning of the privatization of education in the country.

As a result, dissident teachers organized multiple protests in several states in search for a dialogue with the federal government for the repeal of the reform. Various of the mobilizations were repressed by police forces, causing the death of three teachers (one from Chiapas and two from Guerrero in 2015 and 2016).

Organizations of the civil society of Oaxaca denounced the “criminalization of teachers”, with examples such as “mass media campaigns of defamation”, or the detention of at least 75 people -among which are several leaders of the movement-, who find themselves “in a situation of political imprisonment”. The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention of the United Nations assessed that several of the arrests were directed against human rights defenders and they were carried out arbitrarily. Furthermore, some of those arrested were transported to high security prisons intended for severe federal crimes.

The civil society of Oaxaca rejected the dozens of arrest warrants issued to members of the Section 22 of the National Coordinator of Education Workers (CNTE, in its Spanish acronyms) -known for demanding the cancellation of the education reform and for being a prominent part of the Oaxacan social movement-, looking to “dismantle the movement”. Before this situation, various rapporteurs of the United Nations emitted “urgent phone calls to Mexican authorities” due to the human rights violations, mainly for arrests without warrants, nor search warrants, and for the use of torture.

Since May 15 of this year, the teachers in opposition declared a labor strike, closing a large part of schools, with percentages above 95% in the states of Chiapas and Oaxaca. Adding to the strike, teachers organized marches, blocked roads, held encampments and symbolic “sit-ins” of city councils and radio stations, among other actions, which have received growing support from the parents of the families of students, as well as the general population. The teachers currently maintain an encampment in the downtown center of the city of Oaxaca de Juárez, which is being guarded by barricades in the historic center of town and by road blockades of strategic points to prevent the entry of police forces.

The Civil Society of Oaxaca published an Urgent Action reporting a Humanitarian Alert issue “for State armed civilian attacks”. They requested the removal of governmental forces and repression against teachers and the general population, a space for dialogue, immediate medical attention, a stop to the criminalization of the teachers, the cancellation of the arrest warrants, the liberation of those detained, as well as the punishment of those responsible of the human rights violations.

As the International Service for Peace (SIPAZ), we are highly concerned due to the human rights violations in the context of the teachers’ mobilizations, which is why we invite you all to sign the Urgent Action from the Civil Society of Oaxaca in the web-page of the All Rights for All Network (Red TdT, in its Spanish acronym).

We also assess that the situation of high tension is not only present in Oaxaca, but in Chiapas as well, to which we invite the national and international society remain attentive and aware of the events in the state.

For more information:

AU: Sociedad Civil de Oaxaca emite Alerta Humanitaria por ataque armado del Estado a la población civil

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Chiapas: A teacher dies during protests against the educational performance evaluation

December 26, 2015

Movilización del magisterio por la muerte de un maestro.  Foto: @Quadratín Chiapas

Mobilization of teachers over the death of one of them by police.
Photo: @Quadratín Chiapas

David Gemayel Ruiz Estudillo, a teacher of 23 years of age who pertained to Section 22 of the National Union of Educational Workers (SNTE), died on 8 December after having been hit by a truck during a confrontation between dissident teachers in Chiapas and police forces. Both parties held the other responsible for the death of the teacher.

Since 7 December, the teachers in opposition to the performance evaluation that has been promoted by the educational reform have declared an indefinite strike. The evaluation was programmed for 12-13 December, though at the last moment the authorities delayed it until the eighth of December, in an attempt to inhibit mobilizations for boycott. In any case, teachers attempted to blockade access to the center for exams, to which teachers had been moved after having been assembled in military installations. At the center confrontations raged with the police, leaving one teacher dead, six arrested, and several others injured. During the second day of the test, on 9 December, the teachers protested in downtown Tuxtla Gutiérrez, where they kidnapped five police and appropriate hundreds of ammunition clips, gas bombs, body armor, shields, and helmets, among other items. After negotiating with federal authorities, the arrested teachers were exchanged for the police who had been held, as well as the stolen equipment. According to sources among the teachers, it is estimated that the State response involved between 10,000 and 15,000 police.

Following the positive evaluation made by the National Coordination of Educational Workers (CNTE) regarding the release of their arrested comrades and the boycott of the second part of the evaluation, they suspended the sit-in they had installed in the plaza and called for the reinstatement of the 50,000 teachers who had been on strike for three days. Despite this, one of the CNTE leaders, Pedro Gómez Bamaca, warned that “in Chiapas the labor reform will not pass,” and he announced his participation in the mobilization in Mexico City planned for 18 December. In this way, the CNTE communicated that it would not allow the return to work of the 2,300 teachers who did complete the exam.

The confrontations over the evaluation process in Chiapas has not been an aberration. Both the application of the exam as well as the larger educational reform have been rejected by many teachers and have involved high levels of militarization, with strong protests in Oaxaca, Guerrero, and Michoacán. It bears noting that David Gemayel Ruiz is the third teacher who has died in protests against the evaluation, following the death in February of Claudio Castillo Peña in Acapulco and the murder in March of Antonio Vivar Díaz in Tlapa de Comonfort, Guerrero.

For more information (in Spanish):

Maestros de Chiapas dan “tregua” y regresan a sus centros de trabajo (Chiapas Paralelo, 10 de diciembre de 2015)

Intercambian maestros a 5 policías por los 6 profesores detenidos (Chiapas Paralelo, 9 de diciembre de 2015)

Difunden video del enfrentamiento entre policías y maestros en Chiapas (La Jornada, 9 de diciembre de 2015)

Autoridades y maestros se acusan de provocar el fallecimiento de un docente (La Jornada, 9 de noviembre de 2015)

El asesinato de David Gemayel Ruiz (La Jornada, 8 de diciembre de 2015)

Reforma educativa cobra tercera víctima: Muere maestro durante protesta en Chiapas (Educa, 9 de diciembre de 2015)

SEP inicia evaluación bajo resguardo de la SEDENA y Policía Federal (Chiapas Paralelo, 8 de diciembre de 2015)

Maestros de Chiapas inician este lunes plantón indefinido y acciones para impedir la evaluación (Chiapas Paralelo, 7 de diciembre de 2015)

Federales arriban a Chiapas, CNTE prepara acciones de resistencia (Chiapas Paralelo, 7 de diciembre de 2015)

For more information from SIPAZ (in English):

Guerrero: Teachers in Acapulco successfully sabotage educational evaluation (26 December 2015)

Guerrero: Teacher from Acapulco dies after violent repression of a protest by the Federal Police (10 March 2015)

National: Thousands of teachers march against the educational reform (4 October 2013)