Striking teachers try to disrupt Oaxaca festival
OAXACA – Striking teachers in the southern state of Oaxaca demanding the repeal of Mexico’s controversial 2013 education overhaul attempted to disrupt the traditional Guelaguetza festival on Monday Aug. 1.
From 7:30 a.m., members of Section 22 of the militant CNTE teachers union took over urban transport vehicles and blocked traffic at the three entrances to Cerro del Fortin hill, the highest point in Oaxaca city, the state capital.
The roadblocks forced visitors to go up to the Guelaguetza Auditorium by a stairway, strongly guarded by security forces, and along the streets, despite all the teachers demonstrating there.
The CNTE announced a boycott of the festival’s closure to demand the immediate release of its leaders and the cancelling of the arrest orders issued against members of the union.
It also demanded the resignation of federal Education Secretary Aurelio Nuño and of Oaxaca Gov. Gabino Cue, as well as the departure from the state of federal security forces.
A week ago, with his arrival at the first “Monday on the Hill,” Cue told the press that the authorities and the teachers had agreed to maintain a “responsible attitude” against the possible risk of a boycott.
A tourist from the northern Mexican city of Monterrey regretted Monday the difficulties he met with while trying to reach the auditorium, but hailed the security measures adopted by the authorities.
Meanwhile, in a statement to EFE, Leticia Gonzalez – a resident of Canada – criticized the security operation and supported the teachers’ right to protest, while a young Oaxaca resident slammed the teachers’ protest because it hurts tourism.
The 10,000-seat auditorium was mostly full.
The activities programmed for this second “Monday on the Hill” began after 10 a.m. despite the protests of teachers who have been on strike since mid-May to demand the repeal of the education reform.
CNTE Section 22 also planned to stage a march that will start out from the state capital’s historic center, and will commemorate the occupation of the studios of Oaxaca public television and radio, carried out by women in 2006.
It will also stage its own People’s Guelaguetza in the municipality of Asuncion Nochixtlan, where eight people were killed on June 19 when federal police opened fire on protesting teachers and their supporters.
Teachers affiliated with the CNTE, which has more than 200,000 members, have been on strike since mid-May to demand the repeal of the 2013 reform, which includes regular evaluations of teachers and ends longstanding union privileges.
The union, which is strongest in Oaxaca, Michoacan, Chiapas and Guerrero, Mexico’s poorest states, says the evaluations are punitive because they fail to take into account that schools in rural areas often lack electricity and even textbooks.
The violence in Nochixtlan prompted the federal government to agree to talks with the CNTE, but the discussions have not led to any progress in resolving the conflict.