Three social movements that have represented the hopes of Mexican people for autonomy and justice in recent years have been the CNTE teaching union, the Zapatistas, and the community police forces of the CRAC-PC. Strongest in the southern states of Oaxaca, Chiapas, and Guerrero respectively, these groups have raised their voices recently in response to the kidnapping and suspected murder of 43 student teachers from Ayotzinapa, Guerrero. The significance of their support is that it represents one of the first occasions in which all three groups have simultaneously rallied around the same issue. Consequently, their unity could well be the trigger for a more organised resistance to the everyday crimes of the Mexican State – widely blamed for its involvement or complicity with the disappearance of the students of Ayotzinapa.
As the oldest of the aforementioned groups to be formed, the Coordinadora Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación (CNTE) has fought for the democratisation of Mexico’s main teaching union – the SNTE – since 1979. More recently, it has fought against the privatisation of education and in favour of an education system run by education professionals rather than self-interested government officials.
On October 8th, members of Guerrero’s Section 14 of the CNTE called for a strike in response to the disappearance of the students from Ayotzinapa. They also occupied the square in front of the state’s government buildings in Chilpancingo. Around ten thousand people, meanwhile, including university students, teachers, peasant groups, and community police forces, marched through the streets of the city.
In Oaxaca, meanwhile, teachers from Section 22 of the CNTE blocked a number of roads in their own state in solidarity with their counterparts in Guerrero. On October 29th, they began their own 72-hour strike, with 70 thousands affiliated teachers being called to amass in their own towns to demand the return of the disappeared students from Ayotzinapa.
On November 15th, thousands of members of the CNTE held a “Popular Court” in the centre of Mexico City, at which they demanded the resignation of President Peña Nieto for “high treason”, citing the “multiple violations of human rights” committed so far during his time in office. They also called for criminal proceedings against the secretary of Public Education (Emilio Chuayffet), the leader of the SNTE teaching union (Juan Díaz de la Torre), and the governors of Puebla, Guerrero, and the State of Mexico. They cited the 39th article of the Mexican Constitution, which insists that “the People have the inalienable right at all times to alter or modify their form of government”.
Omar García, meanwhile, who survived the attack on Ayotzinapa’s students, spoke on behalf of the family members of his fellow students, claiming that Sebastián de la Rosa Peláez, leader of the PRD’s “Nueva izquierda” current in Guerrero, headed the “political arm that justifies extrajudicial executions in the state”. He also blamed the PRD for “turning its eyes away” from what was going on in Guerrero, emphasising that former governor Ángel Aguirre (along with President Peña Nieto) “guaranteed impunity by protecting politicians who could be involved”. For the parents of the missing students, any apology from the PRD would not be accepted. “How can we forgive the accomplices?” García asked.
On October 22nd, the National Indigenous Congress (CNI) and the EZLN released a joint statement on Ayotzinapa. They claimed that the 43 students were “kidnapped and disappeared by the Bad Governments” and that, “as long as this country is governed by criminals, …those who strengthen their political and social conscience by exercising and defending education will be murdered and disappeared, and those, like the Yaqui Tribe, who defend water for their ancient and heroic people, will be imprisoned”. While the State has “tried to minimize the criminal repression of the student compañeros as if they were just a few more victims of delinquent crime”, the statement read, “those of us who have suffered many kinds of repression know that that the delinquents are in the political parties… and in the halls of government”.
The people who struggle against the “dangerous mafias” that make up the Mexican State, however, “know that something terrible… is happening in this country: a war against all”. They, who “see and suffer [it] in its totality”, can therefore empathise with others affected by the same conflict. The “Narco State”, meanwhile, “uses terror in order to manufacture [the] pain and fear” which it uses to govern and “try to disappear our conscience”. Throughout the country, the statement insisted, “repression against the people, the extraction of natural resources, and the destruction of territories… are operated by the Narco State, without scruples”, but people’s “pain and rage has been transformed into dignity and rebellion”. With their commitment to fight against “extermination”, they demand the “dismantling of the entire State structure that sustains organized crime”.
On November 15th, a convoy of Ayotzinapa family members met with the EZLN and the Committee of Good Government of the Oventic Caracol in Chiapas. In the private meeting, Omar García “stressed that what happened in Ayotzinapa is not an isolated incident”. Forced disappearances, he insisted, are “a mechanism that the Mexican state has used to silence and contain social movements” for many years. A representative of the seventh section of the SNTE, Manuel de Jesus Mendoza Vazquez, meanwhile, “called for actions of “civil insurgency” in support of the Ayotzinapa students” and “for a boycott of the official November 20 parade to commemorate the Mexican Revolution”.
According to one student, it was the family members who had sought out the Zapatista comrades, being aware of “their political position and way of working”. They insisted that the Zapatistas had emphasised they “do not aim to lead anyone”. The EZLN simply expressed to the family members its “total disposition” to help them, and suggested that they meet with “those of us who have suffered forced disappearances and extrajudicial assassinations”. The reason for this suggestion was that “these are the people who can understand us and accompany us in our pain and our struggle”. They are the ones, the Zapatistas said, who “can articulate a movement… with all of the social organisations which wish to show their solidarity”. And this seemed like precisely the plan of the Ayotzinapa delegation – to travel through the southern states of Mexico to meet “with organisations and individuals from civil society”.
In early October, the new president of the PRD (Carlos Navarrete) apologised for the fact that the Ayotzinapa case had happened under the watch of PRD politicians Ángel Aguirre and José Luis Abarca. He said the PRD had not been “careful enough”, trying to distance his party from Abarca (who had “permitted, or even directed, the co-optation of the municipal police by organised criminals”) by insisting he had been accepted as an “external candidate”. PRD member René Bejarano, meanwhile, suggested Attorney General Jesús Murillo Karam and Secretary of the Interior Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong (both members of the governing PRI) knew about the links between Abarca and organised crime. The fact that Abarca’s wife had even been “at the top of a list of possible PRD national advisers” before Ayotzinapa, however, suggests that the party’s attempts to absolve itself of responsibility are somewhat cynical.
As a result of the apparent government involvement or complicity with the repression of progressive social activists, members of the citizens’ police force called Unión de Pueblos y Organizaciones de Guerrero (UPOEG) began to search for the disappeared students for themselves in early October. Meanwhile, on October 15th, a Popular National Assembly (ANP) was formally established at the teacher training school of Ayotzinapa – dedicated to ensuring the return of the students and that those responsible be brought to justice. Fifty-three social and student organisations joined the ANP, including both local groups and national organisations like the CNTE, the “Federación de Estudiantes Campesinos Socialistas de México” (FECSM), the “Sindicato Mexicano de Electricistas” (SME), the “Comité 68 Pro Libertades Democráticas”, the “Movimiento por la Paz con Justicia y Dignidad”, and the “Frente de Pueblos en Defensa de la Tierra (Atenco)”.
A number of unions were also involved in forming the ANP, as was the Consejo de Ejidos y Comunidades Opositoras a la Presa ‘La Parota’ (CECOP), which has itself suffered repression at the hands of government forces. The UPOEG was also present, along with the Consejo Regional de Autoridades Comunitarias-Policía Comunitaria (CRAC-PC). On November 5th, Proceso reported on how members of the ANP, along with striking students and teachers, blocked a number of roads in Guerrero with the support of community police forces – all as part of an international day in solidarity with the disappeared students of Ayotzinapa.
The following day, the CRAC-PC met to commemorate its 19th anniversary. The community police forces emphasised that their forthcoming actions would depend on the agreements made in the ANP (now consisting of “over 70 organisations”). CRAC-PC spokesman Marcelo Gómez Nazario affirmed that the groups would be prepared to act accordingly if government complicity or involvement were to be proven in the case of Ayotzinapa. He was confident in asserting that the justice of the CRAC-PC was much “better than the judicial system that the State has”. The replacement of Ángel Aguirre as governor, the ANP asserted in a communique, was not enough, and “the immediate disappearance of the three powers of the State in Guerrero” would be necessary. Only the establishment of “an Honourable Government of Workers and Peasants”, he insisted, would be the “only real solution for the current problems”.
Gómez asserted that the CRAC-PC did not recognise interim governor Rogelio Ortega, and also criticised the UPOEG’s exploitation of the case of Ayotzinapa in an attempt to wipe their involvement in detaining community police members (like Nestora Salgado) from popular memory. He therefore emphasised the CRAC-PC’s independence from the UPOEG, and his group’s commitment to “defending territory and opposing the dispossession and displacement of the population which will be affected by the privatisation of ejidos”.
The CRAC-PC further demanded the liberation of imprisoned community police member Gonzalo Molina González and the CRAC-PC members detained in Olinalá over a year ago. Meanwhile, educational workers took control of the Federal Palace of Acapulco and the City of Justice in Chilpancingo. Other members of the ANP, including the CECOP, FECSM, and a number of ejido members, also took part in the actions.
The increasingly coordinated actions of social movements (as a response to government involvement and complicity in repression of social activism) are a positive sign for Mexico. While individual cases of resistance have been inspirational, only popular organisation will be able to push both organised criminals and their allies in government out of citizens’ lives. The fact that the key organisations involved (like the CNTE, the Zapatistas, and the CRAC-PC) are opposed to neoliberalism, meanwhile, is no coincidence. Capitalism has been the driving force behind privatisation of natural resources and the resulting dispossession. The corrupt and exploitative system which props it up has led to the repression of social activists who hope to save their communities from destruction. And the ensuing desperation has driven some in deprived areas to join the ranks of criminal organisations in the attempt to make a living they would find it hard to make in legal employment.
However, the desperate situation that many people in the country suffer has also led progressive groups to stand up and organise themselves. There are indeed differences in political philosophies, but horrific events like those in Ayotzinapa help to remind campaigners that their main objectives are the same. They want to get rid of the Bad Government. They want lives full of freedom and dignity. And they know that popular, directly democratic rule is necessary in order to achieve these things.
And the more they unite, the more chance their dreams have of becoming reality.
 https://ososabiouk.wordpress.com/2014/10/09/the-political-murders-of-ayotzinapa-the-solidarity-march-in-mexico-city/, https://ososabiouk.wordpress.com/2014/10/23/22nd-october-march-for-ayotzinapa-in-mexico-city/, and https://ososabiouk.wordpress.com/2014/11/09/mexico-levels-of-dignified-rage/
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