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In Mexico City police attack peaceful teachers protesting new Mexico education bill
OSCAR LEÓN, TRNN PRODUCER: On Friday, September 13, a force of an estimated 3,000 anti riot police cleared El Zócalo Plaza in downtown Mexico City.
CROWD: Solutions, solutions. We don’t want repression.
A public place that tens of thousands of teachers had occupied for five months now, opposing an “Educative Reform” allowed, and among other things it would impose nationally standardized evaluations of teachers that would lead to their automatic firing if they receive negative ratings.
JESUS SANTOS, TEACHER AT EL ZÓCALO: Our struggle has been a peaceful one. If we have affected anybody in any way, we sincerely apologize, but you have to understand that our struggle will propel us to the future. We are fighting for our society and its rights, but above all, for an education that is free for everyone.
PROTESTER: State officials hoard all the money, and Carlos Slim is the richest man in the world, while you teachers make 8,000 pesos ($608) a month, even less than that! There is too much inequality in Mexico. We cannot allow it.
PROTESTER: Tell me why the authorities haven’t showed up right here and faced us, faced us here! No! I tell you why: now they are comfortably hiding in their offices, so they can keep stealing our money and our lands! We wont allow that!
LEÓN: La Jornada newspaper reported 32 arrested and an unknown number of injured teachers, according to their report. On Thursday, the federal government emitted an ultimatum to all those occupying El Zócalo, warning them all to leave the next day. And on Friday before sunrise, the teachers held a general assembly to discuss whether they will leave or stay and resist. For more than ten hours they debated. A small group vowed to resist as much as they could.
In just a matter of minutes most of the teachers cleared the occupation, while some prepared some barricades on the plaza to face the thousands of cops surrounding them on all sides. According to La Jornada, around noon the police asked all the surrounding business and offices to evacuate and close their doors. Soon after that, a perimeter was established to prevent people going in and out of the area.
Around 4 p.m. the federal government gave a last warning, and some of the remaining teachers left the plaza facing imminent threat. Others armed themselves and faced the riot police.
Thousands of riot cops marched towards El Zócalo. Small groups of teachers with rocks and sticks attempted to resist, but it was an asymmetrical battle and in a matter of minutes the police had seized control of the national monument in the center of the city.
Once in control of the plaza, following a script that has become familiar to many cities in the world, the riot police tore the occupation camp down and arrested those who dare resist the government and its policies, even if they are teachers.
Since assuming power, Enrique Peña Nieto had faced opposition from many different sectors, which he has met with a heavy hand, criminalizing unions and student groups, all of which have faced police brutality and arbitrary detentions. Amnesty International reported the detention and violation of human rights of a number of independent journalists. AI called the Mexican government to respect the freedom of the press.
Some of the detainees are charged with “disrupting public peace” and even “attacks to the nation”. Beatings and inhumane treatment were reported by detained teachers and journalists.
In Xalapa, Veracruz, near the Caribbean coast, Sin Embargo, an independent newspaper, reported that police armed with electric knives evicted 300 teachers who had occupied Plaza Lerdo. There was an unreported number of injured and detained.
And on Saturday 14th, some teachers and their families blocked the ports to demand the liberation of their colleagues and relatives. They too were met with police force.
Enrique Peña Nieto has rejected the calls to negotiate with the teachers, refusing any talks with those who, according to him, “broke the law”.
The Mexican president has promised the reform will not privatize education but will only modernize it.
IVONE ACUÑA, SOCIOLOGIST: Mexican educational reform is a very complex issue, because it has to deal not only with technical issues but mainly political problems, technical issues like improving the students’ level. It is also necessary to train the teachers. There is the problem with the evaluation test for teachers, which is being resisted by them. There is a problem to get funding for schools and to improve the teachers’ pay.
LEÓN: After five months of strike, the teachers have not been able to gain a concrete political victory.
In an article by Revolución Tres Punto Cero, they note that only 24 hours after the eviction and a night of work by a battalion of janitors, El Zócalo looks like nothing just happened. After being evicted, the strikers struggled to regroup and count their wounded and missing members. However, they later established a new base in a monument dedicated to the Mexican Revolution. In a historic irony, after evicting the teachers from all around the country, city workers now started to construct balconies and stages to celebrate Mexico’s Independence Day.
Reporting for The Real News, this is Oscar León.
DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.