Amid Oaxaca Protests, Diego Luna, Demian Bichir & More Demand An End to State Violence

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After months of protests by the Síndicato Nacional de Trabajadoes de la Educación (SNTE) and the Coordinadora Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación (CNTE), things hit critical mass on June 19 when officers and protesters violently clashed in Nochixtlán. Some of the demonstrators’ methods – including shaving the heads of those who refused to join CNTE and SNTE in their fight against education reform – have earned the ire of the community. However, the government trying to erase what’s actually happening in Oaxaca has only served to make the public angrier and vindicated in their suspicions of Mexico’s leaders.

“Before, we weren’t supporting either side,” Karen Hernández Casares, 15, told the New York Times. “But we can’t stand by and allow government repression. Everything has changed now.”

Initially, interior secretary Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong said police didn’t have weapons, but pictures and videos refuted that. According to Fox News Latino, the official account of what occurred on June 19 has changed multiple times, but citizen journalists have closely documented what’s happening in hopes of holding the government accountable. As tensions mount, the people of Nochixtlán continue to fight. They kicked off this week by demanding justice for the at least 13 killed during the clash.

There’s been an outpouring of support across the world as well. Desinformémonos has posted images of people challenging the Mexican government in places like Chile, Spain, France, Costa Rica, and all around Mexico. And most recently, a group of celebrities released a video expressing disappointment with the Mexican government. Diego Luna, Kate Del Castillo, Demian Bichir, and others tell their leaders to stop murdering their own people. And while, the video focuses solely on the violence perpetrated by the state, Bichir also tells the government that incidents like the 2006 disturbios de Atenco – where police violently repressed protestors before raiding the town of San Salvador Atenco – shouldn’t keep happening. Two people were killed and many more suffered sexual assault. At the time, Enrique Peña Nieto served as the governor of the Estado the Mexico, which means he called the orders in Atenco.

June 19 is also not the first time police have confronted Oaxacan teachers. In 2006, teachers led a seven-month series of protests. 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. The conflict didn’t end until December 2006 when police stormed the barricades.

This time around, educators are opposing the education reform proposal introduced when EPN assumed the presidency. According to The Nation, the reform aims to end the teachers schools that have helped those who come from lower-income families become educators. Instead of graduating from these schools, teachers would just need to earn a college degree in any subject and pass a test – a method that would shut out many people from this career. And according to Lucero Navarette, a teacher from Chihuahua, the exam doesn’t accurately test what actually happens in the classroom. “The results can depend on many factors and the personal circumstances each one of us live through…” she said. “Many don’t get the result they deserve, because the job they actually do at school is very different from what comes out in the test.”

Teachers get three chances to pass the test, with some time for training in between each try. If they fail three times, then they will lose their teaching job and be assigned an administrative one. But for many, the tests have a clear agenda. “The exams have one intention,” teacher Gabriel López told the NYT. “They seek to fire teachers. They don’t seek to improve the quality of education.”