On Sunday, June 19, 2016, members of Oaxaca’s Sección 22 teachers union and hundreds of students, parents, and community members who had come out in support of the teachers, were attacked by federal police while guarding a roadblock in the town of Asunción Nochixtlán. During the confrontation, police fired tear gas, used helicopters, blocked access to the local hospital in order to prevent wounded protesters from receiving treatment, and shot at the crowd with high-caliber automatic rifles. The final toll was 11 dead and hundreds injured.
Support for the teachers has been strong: France’s Eiffel tower was lit with the colors of Mexico’s flag and rallies were hosted in several U.S. cities as well as in Argentina, Germany, Japan, Chile, and across Mexico. In Canada there were rallies in a number of cities, including, in Vancouver, outside the Mexican Consulate and the Art Gallery.
Thanks to the immense show of support, Mexico’s federal government was forced to the negotiating table after three years of refusing to listen to the teachers’ demands. In their meeting with Minister of Education Aurelio Nuño and Secretary of the Interior Miguel Angel Osorio Chong the position of the teachers was unequivocal: they asked for the abrogation of the 2013 educational reform – pushed through by the government in the face of widespread social protest – and demanded the punishment of those responsible for the attacks in Nochixtlan.
Teachers are one of many sectors fighting against rampant corruption, violence, and impunity in Mexico. For example, on June 26th people mobilized to mark the passing of 21 months since 43 students were disappeared in Iguala, Guerrero, by the police, and on June 23rd thousands of doctors, nurses and healthcare workers marched in 19 states against the gutting of the public healthcare system. More broadly, Mexicans across the country are speaking out against a situation in which civil-society leaders and journalists are routinely harassed, arrested, and even murdered.
While the situation across the country is grim, international solidarity has shown its power to create brief windows for Mexicans to catch their breath, recover strength, and keep pushing for justice. This is why it’s important to keep active and incorporate an international perspective into our organizing at home.
Gil Aguilar is a member of Alliance Against Displacement and CIPO-Vancouver. See cipovan.org to stay informed about state violence in Mexico, and find ways to get involved.