Tensions Rise Following Violent Oaxaca Protest

By Editor June 23, 2016 10:17

OAXACA, MEXICO – JUNE 19: Smoke and flames rise over a vehicle during the clashes between striking teachers and police in Oaxaca, Mexico on June 19, 2016. (Photo by Manuel Velasquez/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

By: Lorin McLain

Violence continues to roil the state of Oaxaca in Mexico’s rural south due to the conflict between unionized teachers and law enforcement. Tension exploded on Sunday when state and federal policemen swooped into the town of Nochixtlan, where an estimated 800 members and sympathizers of the National Coordinator of Education Workers setup a highway blockade. Local media reported eight dead, more than a hundred injured, and the local police station set on fire. The injured included civilians and police officers. The Mexican National Commission of Human Rights reported a local journalist working for the “El Sur del Istom” newspaper among those dead.

Teachers across Mexico are protesting national education reforms that change the way they’re evaluated. Violence erupted not long after authorities arrested several union leaders. The day after the standoff exploded, union officials tweeted “Education is the only weapon, those of the government are instruments of death and oppression.”

The “Yucatan Times” on Wednesday reported traffic is still disrupted from the blockade on the major highway that leads traffic from the neighboring state of Puebla to the state capital Oaxaca de Juarez. The paper reported lines of trailers stalled by burned out carcasses of cars, trucks, and busses, and debris piled on the side of the road. Dozens of protestors are said to still be keeping watch at the overpass where the confrontation took place. Anti-government slogans line the walls and demonstrators have restocked crates with supplies to make molotov cocktails if police return to disperse them.

Protestors and the Mexican government are trading blame on who incited the violence. Authorities have changed their version of events. Mexico’s interior secretary said police weren’t carrying guns, however, the federal police chief later admitted officers were armed. Oaxaca Governor Gabino Cue said in a press conference that policemen strictly followed protocol and force was used “rationally.” Protestors told Fox News Latino that police were shooting at them without provocation; and one reported being pushed to the ground and robbed by policemen. Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto has promised an investigation.

Mexican officials say dialogue with the union is becoming very difficult after the violence. The union says the new rules that allow the government to fire teachers who fail mandatory tests are unfair to teachers in rural areas where schools have fewer resources. The government says the tests are necessary to improve the quality of education nationwide. Meanwhile, the violence permeates daily life throughout the region. State oil company Pemex issued a statement Friday saying road blockages could cause a shortage of gasoline, diesel and jet fuel.


By Editor June 23, 2016 10:17

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