Resurgence in Left Politics in Mexico Following Oaxaca Teachers Strike Massacre
Law professor John Ackerman says the Morena Party is trying to mobilize social movements into a political force that has already brought hundreds of thousands to the streets
SHARMINI PERIES, TRNN: It’s the Real News Network. I’m Sharmini Peries coming to you from Baltimore.
As the heads of state of the United States, Mexico, and Canada meet in Ottawa, Mexico’s president, Pena Nieto, continues to come under fire at home for the repression of protests that began in Oaxaca last week and is continuing across the country today. Last week, federal police killed about nine protesters, and the violent nature of the repression of those protests continued today. Negotiations between the government of Pena Nieto and the striking teachers union ended with no agreement, except that the shooting of the protesters would be investigated. The teachers’ main demand, though, is that they want the government to reverse the controversial education regulations that had been introduced, but that issue has not yet been addressed.
With us to discuss the latest development in Mexico and its relation to the so-called Three Amigos summit in Ottawa is John Ackerman. John is a professor at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, UNAM, and editor in chief of the Mexican Law Review and a columnist with both La Jornada newspaper and Proceso magazine. So good to have you with us, John.
JOHN ACKERMAN: Good to be with you, as always, Sharmini.
PERIES: So, John, in an article that you had published in the Toronto Star this week ahead of Nieto’s visit, you clearly spelled out the direct responsibility that the president of Mexico has for the behavior of the authorities that were present at the strike. Therefore, the nine people that were killed. Is the world leaders meeting with him aware of this direct responsibility? Are they even going to mention it during the visit?
ACKERMAN: It’s really fascinating how the doublespeak of the international press, international press, of course, with the Real News excepted. All the government has to do–and this is not just in Mexico, but generally–all the Mexican government has to do is claim that somehow this was a, a conflict, a clash between two sides, and that was the cause for the deaths, and for the, you know, the New York Times, for Reuters, for all the international agencies to immediately pick that up. And that was the headline last Monday. CNN: Clash Between Teachers and Police Claim Nine Lives.
But thanks to, to God and thanks to internet we have other sources of information. And over the last two days the information has come out very clearly that this was a one-sided massacre by federal forces against teachers. And not only teachers. It’s very interesting, because only a few of the actually dead were teachers. Many of the wounded were. This was principally a teachers movement. But most of the other dead were community members who came out in support of their teachers. Now, this is very important because this speaks to the deaths of the connection between the teachers movement. It’s not just a union movement for higher salaries or specific union issues. This is a community effort in defense of this long tradition of, you know, critical education and the role of teachers within their communities, particularly in the southern part of Mexico.
So we’ll see whether, actually, Obama and Trudeau say anything about human rights in Mexico. It’s doubtful. But here we do have a smoking gun, because even in the Ayotzinapa case, for instance, in which the 43 students were disappeared, it was very clear the federal police and the military were very close to the area and perhaps even participated directly in the violation of the human rights and the disappearance of these kids. But this time we have direct evidence that these are federal police forces at the service of Enrique Pena Nieto, using American-made weapons, tear gas and rifles, to violently repress a teacher, a peaceful teachers protest.
So perhaps now they won’t say anything, but this should wake up, I hope it’ll wake up, at least some of the more conscious advisers to Trudeau and Obama, or in the respective legislatures, to really take a stop here and think about whether it makes sense to fund the Mexican military and security apparatus anymore.
PERIES: And this is particularly ironic because in a place like Canada, where if, for example, the RCMP were to open fire on teachers protesting in Ottawa, it would be headline news. And in this case, the president of Mexico, with the same responsibility, arriving in Ottawa [in this very little] shoutouts. But there was some shoutout, as some of the footage we have shows. What was that all about?
ACKERMAN: Yeah, well, this is very important. There are lots of Mexicans in Canada. There are lots of Canadians from civil society who are aware of what’s actually happening in Mexico. Government, we’ve pretty much given up on government solidarity with civil society in Mexico. Enrique Pena Nieto plays a key role in North American integration and defense in this increasingly complex world, as they say in their studies about this.
So Pena Nieto plays that role, and they’re not going to criticize him. But from society this is very important. And not only in Canada, as they were, I think you’re showing that footage about how there was a group of protesters who were shouting for five minutes straight, “Pena Nieto, you’re an assassin,” as he got out of his motorcade. And he heard that, and he was definitely, I don’t know I’ll say moved, but affected by that.
And that’s very important, for civil society to shout out, to really make Pena Nieto aware that internationally he is not completely living in a world of impunity. Internationally there’s been other shows of solidarity from Argentina, from Spain, and most important unions from Spain, from Podemos itself, and England and France, and throughout South America there’s been solidarity. We’re sort of reviving these international networks which really started to consolidate around the Ayotzinapa case of the 43 students. Which, by the way, are still missing. There is absolutely no progress on where these 43 students are after almost two years.
That’s why it’s so unbelievable that now the Pena Nieto administration will actually be able to get to the bottom of what happened in Nocixtlan and this massacre, first of all because the police are directly under their orders, and second of all, because they’ve shown to the international community and to the Mexican people that they are not interested in independent human rights investigations, but just one coverup after another.
And so this civil society solidarity once again is really the key point here, and it’s really important for people to visit us in Mexico. Come do factfinding missions, read about what’s actually happening in Mexico on the social networks. Please don’t get lost in this media spin which ends up protecting Pena Nieto simply because of the fact that he is a friend of the neoliberal foreign policy of Obama and Trudeau.
PERIES: And tell us more about the political resistance that’s going on in Mexico against the Pena Nieto government lack of response to the disappeared students, as well as these recent developments in terms of protests that the teachers have launched against neoliberal policies, education policies. But there’s more of a groundswell going on in Mexico. Tell us more about that.
ACKERMAN: Yeah. Well, this is the good news. Mexican civil society is very active. It always has been. And in this particular case of this massacre at Oaxaca and within the larger protests against the so-called education reforms, which are not education reforms, these are labor reforms designed to basically fire the most critical and experienced teachers.
But particularly with this massacre there’s been an incredible groundswell, as you mentioned, of protest and mobilizations. Just this last Sunday on the 26th of June, over 200,000 people filled, flowed to the streets of Mexico City. This was a march principally organized by the new opposition party, the [Morena] Party, the left-wing party. It’s sort of similar to Podemos, although I think it has a lot more potential and depth and strength than Podemos does. They brought out hundreds of thousands of people to the street on Sunday. The teachers union also participated in this and other marches, and also the Ayotzinapa parents were calling people to come out in the streets on this Sunday 26th.
So we had all downtown Mexico City [reforma], all the way down [the socalo] to [name inaud.] full of people who are very much aware of what’s actually going on. Now, the government, it’s very interesting. The media, for instance, claimed that there were only 17,000 people on the streets this Sunday, which was actually a ridiculous number which was given by the local police. These local police work for the local government, which is of the old left, the PRD, and who was very much interested, basically, in covering up this incredible insurgence of this new left-wing politics and this alliance that is developing.
This is the really new thing, politically. A real alliance, or at least a rapprochement between the social movements and this new party, where we’re really trying to construct in Mexico a movement party, a party movement called [Morena], along with the teachers and the social movements, which would be something similar to or at least have the same function as [Mas] in Bolivia, or the similar institutions and parties in Ecuador or Venezuela, or the [inaud.] in Brazil.
This is what we’ve been missing. Our left-wing parties have gotten very quickly bureaucratized, and they haven’t had their roots in social movements, and this is a great opportunity to change that and to actually change Mexico through that strategy as well.
PERIES: All right, John, looking forward to hearing more about the formation of this party, and good to have you with us today.
ACKERMAN: Wonderful as always, Sharmini. [Spanish].
PERIES: Saludo. Thank you for joining us on the Real News Network.
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