As Police Clash With Teachers in Oaxaca, Citizen Journalists Step Up to Challenge the Government

Lead Photo: AP Photo/Luis Alberto Cruz Hernandez
AP Photo/Luis Alberto Cruz Hernandez
Read more

It’s almost ten years to the day since the beginning of the conflicto magisterial de Oaxaca – a seven-month series of protests that began in May 22 when 40,000 members of the Síndicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación (SNTE) peacefully protested for better pay as well as measures to help the state’s poorer students. By June 14, something like 750 officers tried to remove the protesters from the center of the city, which resulted in the deaths of at least four, according to the BBC. Led by Elba Esther Gordillo, the conflict didn’t end until December 2006 when police stormed the barricades.

In 2016 – the group having gone big shifts with Gordillo in jail on charges of embezzlement – the SNTE continues protesting the mandatory testing of teachers introduced in the education reform proposal signed into law when Enrique Peña Nieto assumed the presidency. The SNTE is affiliated with another teachers union, the Coordinadora Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación (CNTE). Since October, seven union leaders have been arrested. “The leaders of Sección 22 are hostages of the federal government,” said former teacher Luis Hernández Navarro, according to The Nation. “Their detention is simultaneously a warning of what can happen to other teachers who continue to reject the [federal government’s] ‘education reform,’ and a payback to force the movement to demobilize.”

After weeks of the teachers blockading roads and cutting off access to Oaxaca, things hit critical mass on June 19 when officers and protesters violently clashed in Nochixtlán. At least six people died and 51 people were injured. At one point, the Mexican government released a statement saying that the federal police didn’t have any guns on them, according to The Guardian. “The attacks with guns came from people outside the blockades who fired on the population and federal police,” the statement read. However, footage shows at least one police officer firing his gun, though it’s not clear if he’s a federal or state agent.

By Monday, the CNTE released the names of 22 people who have been missing since Sunday. In an interview with teleSUR, the president of La Liga Mexicana de Derechos Humanos, Adrián Ramirez said it was cause for concern following the disappearance of the 43 students from an Ayotzinapa teachers college – a case that has yet to be solved.

As the government continues to release contradictory reports, independent outlets, like El Comienzo Periódico, and citizen journalists have been challenging their stories through videos and personal accounts. Politicos y Rateros es lo mismo published a video on Facebook, where a young man holds up a grenade that he said a helicopter dropped in his neighborhood. “It’s still hot,” he said. “Really, really hot. I can’t hold it with my hands.”

While Desinformémonos has a sizable following on Facebook, they are using their platform to give voice to those who don’t. By scouring social media, they are also showing glimpses of Oaxaca’s current reality. On Radio Universidad de Oaxaca, a group of students covered the incident from the ground. Their website has no set schedule, but you can tune in below: