Massive rally in Mexico City condemns massacre of Oaxaca teachers
By Rafael Azul
28 June 2016
One week following the police massacre of teachers and their supporters in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca, and with many of the CNTE teachers union leaders in jail, people all across Mexico continue to express their anger in waves of demonstrations, occupations and interruptions of highway traffic.
On Sunday, hundreds of thousands marched along Mexico City’s main boulevard, the Paseo de La Reforma, in a “march of silence” that had been called by Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, the bourgeois nationalist, former Mexico City mayor (2000-2005) who now heads the Morena Party (Movimiento de Reconstrucción Nacional).
The enormous demonstration was composed of students, teachers and workers. It extended for many blocks ending at the Angel for Independence monument. At the same time, in parallel with the Morena rally, hundreds rallied at the “Anti Monument,” erected in April 2015 for the Ayotzinapa 43, the 43 teaching students who disappeared are believed to have been massacred in Guerrero state in September 2014.
In both acts, demands linking the massacre in the Oaxacan village of Nochixtlán with the 43 disappeared students were present on many banners, along with calls for the resignation of Mexico’s president, Enrique Peña Nieto.
In his speech, the Morena leader compared the current regime, headed by President Peña Nieto’s Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI)—of which Lopez Obredor was himself a former leading member—with that of Porfirio Diaz, overthrown by the Mexican Revolution (1910-1917). According to Lopez Obrador, the Peña Nieto administration is neo- porfirista, neo-liberal, and dictatorial. He accused the administration of giving away communal resources (a reference, in part, to the privatization of oil and state-owned utilities).
“The greatest of irrationality,” declared Lopez Obrador, “is to use fraud and violence to further economic policies and a regime of corruption that are rejected by the people, which is dictatorship.”
That “face of dictatorship,” said Lopez Obrador, “was what appeared with the terror in Nochixtlán. That is why we are here to call on the government: Refrain, authoritarian regime! Refrain, government hawks!, We will not allow dictatorship and authoritarianism in México!”
Lest anyone think that Lopez Obrador intended to make himself out as Peña Nieto’s Madero —the man whose opposition to Porfirio Diaz triggered the civil war in 1910—his rhetorical denunciation of the current government was quickly followed by the request that the government of President Peña Nieto reform itself. He proposed that it make use of the last two years left in its six-year mandate to undertake cosmetic measures aimed at staving off a social revolution.
In particular, he is demanding that Peña Nieto fire those responsible for the Noxhixtlán massacre, namely his chief of staff, Osorio Chong, and that he appoint a cabinet of national reconciliation to ensure a smooth democratic transition to the 2018 elections. As he was speaking, many in his massive audience were chanting for the removal of Education Secretary Agustín Nuño and of Peña Nieto himself. Many of the banners demanded the president’s ouster.
“It is necessary today to overthrow the Pact for Mexico Regime and its hangers-on, as Porfirio Díaz was overthrown, but without violence, through the revolution in people’s minds that has already begun,” Lopez Obrador declared.
The Pact for Mexico was an agreement between the three main bourgeois political parties that paved the way for so-called reforms to privatize energy, public utilities and education in Mexico. The PRD (Democratic Revolutionary Party), which Lopez Obrador formerly led, was one of the pact’s signatories.
Lopez Obrador’s movement represents a section of the national bourgeoisie, and it reflects both its timidity with respect to US imperialism and its fear of the Mexican working class. He seemed to implore the CNTE teachers to continue to engage in dialogue with the government “to resolve your demands and to avoid repression and violence,” suggesting perhaps that the June 19 massacre was in part the teachers’ own fault. At other times, he implored Peña Nieto himself to “avoid a reckless collapse, ruinous and prejudicial for all.”
Negotiations with CNTE leaders, which have been taking place on and off for several years, have restarted and now appear to hinge more on how to “find a place at the table” for the CNTE and its bureaucracy, rather than on any genuine defense of education or the rights of teachers.
Other than calling for a greater input on education reform by the CNTE, CNTE bureaucrats so far have been rather vague about what the results of these negotiations should be. A report on the march that appeared in the Mexico City daily La Reforma quoted a letter from a CNTE leader that was read at the Morena rally: “Our struggle is that of all Mexicans,” said the letter by CNTE leader Rubén Núñez, “unity and defense of what is ours is our banner.”
It is not known if Peña Nieto, currently on a state visit to Canada, heard Lopez Obrador’s appeal. However, he emphatically made clear once more that his administration in its negotiations with the CNTE leaders has no intention of abandoning the education reform measures that are at the center of the dispute.
In a pro-forma statement dripping with cynicism issued on Monday from Canada, the Mexican president declared that his government “lamented the differences on education reform, deeply lamented that something had happened during which, lamentably, human lives were lost.” Peña Nieto further asserted that this is not the first incident in which the state had used force to maintain “social order and social peace.” He added, “Very lamentably this led to the Oaxaca events; this will result in an investigation and in the punishment of those that are responsible.”
The probability that a credible investigation will take place is nil. On the same day Peña Nieto made his statement, the Mexican courts issued their decision not to release army files to the press and human rights groups on the Tlatlaya massacre of June 2014, in which the army summarily executed 22 civilians and altered the scene of the crime to make it look like a shoot-out with a drug gang.
Two months later, the 43 students from Ayotzinapa were forcibly kidnapped with the involvement of the army and the federal police; it is expected that no one will be held accountable.
Demonstrations in support of the CNTE teachers took place over the weekend across Mexico. There were also protests and rallies at Mexican consulates throughout the world, in Los Angeles, Chicago, Buenos Aires, Madrid, Berlin, and many other cities.
The Oaxaca massacre and the eruption of class struggle in Mexico
25 June 2016
On Sunday, June 19, a force of heavily-armed Mexican federal police fired automatic weapons into a crowd of 500 striking teachers and their supporters blocking a highway in the impoverished town of Nochixtlán in the southern state of Oaxaca, killing at least thirteen and wounding dozens more.
The massacre reveals the brutal lengths to which the Mexican ruling class will go to impose its attacks on Mexican workers. Opposition will not be brooked.
Those who lost their lives, mostly young people, were protesting in defense of public education. Teachers across Mexico, most forcefully in Mexico’s deeply impoverished southwest, have demonstrated against efforts by President Enrique Peña Nieto to privatize education and impose authoritarian methods of testing and hiring teachers.
In the wake of last Sunday’s massacre, a groundswell of opposition has emerged nationally against state repression and right-wing “reforms,” part of Peña Nieto’s “Pact for Mexico,” aimed at slashing social services. Thousands of workers, youth and peasants attended funeral processions for the dead in Nochixtlán. Residents have since rebuilt the barricades taken down in the police operation.
On Wednesday, 200,000 doctors and nurses struck in sympathy with the teachers and against attempts to privatize the federal social security and health systems. Students at major Mexican universities boycotted classes this week to protest Sunday’s attack and ongoing efforts by the government to impose higher education costs.
Parents of the 43 Ayotzinapa student teachers “disappeared” by the Mexican government in September 2014 continue to tour the country in protest, after the Peña Nieto administration shut down the only independent investigation of the attack.
Through the Pact for Mexico, the Mexican oligarchy, backed by US imperialism, seeks to implement a massive transfer of wealth from the Mexican working class to the banks and corporations.
The US ambassador to Mexico, Roberta Jacobson, met with Peña Nieto the day after the attack in Oaxaca to express support for his reforms. After a perfunctory and insincere expression of regret over the slaughter in Nochixtlán, Jacobson emphasized that the “opportunities for bilateral cooperation have never been better” between the US and Mexico, and that “only through alliances on education can we succeed in training the Twenty-First Century labor force.”
It is likely that the federal police who opened fire in Nochixtlán were US-trained officers using weapons provided by the Obama administration. Through the Merida Initiative, the US has spent over $2.3 billion arming and training Mexico's police and armed forces since 2008, providing them with deadly weapons, drones, surveillance equipment and airplanes.
In addition, the US Northern Command has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on separate training programs that, unlike under the Merida Initiative, are not subject to any human rights withholding provisions. Nearly 5,000 Mexican police and military personnel were trained at US military bases in 2015 alone.
The educational reforms of the Pact for Mexico have their origins in similar programs being implemented in the United States and around the world. In cities such as Detroit and Chicago, the Obama administration has worked closely with the trade unions to impose pension and wage cuts, school closures and antidemocratic testing policies on millions of teachers.
The resurgence of class struggle and, in particular, the struggle of teachers, is not only a Mexican, but rather an international phenomenon. In Detroit, thousands of teachers staged “sickouts” to protest the dilapidated condition of the city’s schools. Similar strikes and protests have taken place in Chicago, Los Angeles, Seattle and Atlanta. A strike wave of teachers and professors has swept across five Brazilian states in recent weeks, as opposition grows to counter-reforms undertaken by Interim President Michel Temer.
The Mexican ruling class has responded to the growth of social opposition and the reemergence of the class struggle not only by employing state violence. As a backup, it has also brought to the forefront various self-proclaimed “left” or even “socialist” groups in an attempt to disarm social protests and prevent working-class opposition from taking an independent, revolutionary form.
Key is the role of former Mexico City mayor and ex-Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) presidential candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who now heads the National Regeneration Movement (MORENA) party. He founded this new party in 2014 after splitting with the supposedly “left” PRD. López Obrador, who will run for president in 2018, pledges to “transform Mexico through the electoral process.”
In the wake of this week's signs of a broadening movement of strikes and protests, López Obrador posted a video calling for a national protest march for Sunday, June 26 against the “political mafia” and “hypocritical conservatives.” In the video, López Obrador says the demonstration will be directed against corruption and will pose the question: “Why not choose humanism? Why not search for reconciliation and peace?” As for the teachers’ work stoppage, he calls for a “dialogue” with a state that has ruled out compromise.
MORENA is being groomed to play a similar role as SYRIZA in Greece and Podemos in Spain. The party won a majority of seats in the Mexico City Constituent Assembly in the June 5 elections. It is being widely hailed as Mexico's foremost “broad left” party after the collapse in support for the PRD. The latter has been thoroughly exposed as a right-wing party by its vote for the Pact for Mexico, its role in carrying out and covering up the Ayotzinapa massacre, and its electoral alliances with the right-wing National Action Party (PAN).
Like its counterparts in Greece and Spain, MORENA is a nationalist, pro-capitalist, anti-socialist party. Its radical phraseology is designed to tie the Mexican working class to the blood-soaked Mexican state. If brought to power, MORENA will play the same role as SYRIZA in Greece. It will enforce the Pact of Mexico in conjunction with US imperialism, and, if necessary, respond to opposition in the working class with violence and repression.
The Mexican working class cannot solve the severe problems plaguing Mexican society by tying itself to bourgeois parties such as MORENA and proceeding on a nationalist basis. It can do so only in a united revolutionary struggle with its class brothers and sisters worldwide, including in the United States.