In Mexico City, there are thousands of teachers standing up to the government. Around Mexico, there are hundreds of thousands. And the amount of support for them and opposition to the government is growing day by day.
Yesterday, I met a group of teachers from the CNTE. I asked what they would like to emphasise to an international audience. They wanted to make it clear that they are fighting for their working rights and to maintain a free and independent education system.
Many come from Oaxaca, a largely indigenous state in the south of Mexico, and have camped out in Mexico for up to a month, in spite of the few resources they may have. Their humility and will power is impressive, and they have exposed the authoritarian nature of Peña Nieto and his government.
The main TV channels, Televisa and TV Azteca, have shown a very biased view of the protests, focussing on tiny groups of violent protestors (not related to the CNTE) and calling the teachers lazy delinquents who are disrupting the lives of normal citizens of Mexico City. Now, personally, I don’t believe a ‘lazy delinquent’ would be prepared to stay in the streets of a large, often unknown, city far away from home, for days and weeks, in an attempt to change something that the government had already decided to do. In fact, I would call them brave, committed, and revolutionary.
Despite the press propaganda against the teachers, support for them has grown, with Mexico seeing how the government has chosen to treat them, and there is a real movement gaining momentum. An ever-stronger resistance to the neoliberal reforms proposed by Peña Nieto and his ‘Pact for Mexico’ is emerging. The teachers have managed to get small changes in the education legislation thanks to their protests, and the time may be approaching for them to put the fight on hold and regroup.
Nonetheless, the fight is just beginning, and the importance of what these teachers have done will be seen in the months to come.