Mexico: Support for Families of Victims Pours in Following Massacre in Nochixtlan, Oaxaca

Support has come in from across Mexico’s social movements and civil society for the victims following the latest state repression against Oaxaca’s teachers and their supporters on June 19, 2016. That day, federal police opened fire on protesting teachers and supporters in Nochixtlan, Oaxaca, leaving 9 dead and well over 170 injured.


Support has come in from across Mexico’s social movements and civil society for the victims following the latest state repression against Oaxaca’s teachers and their supporters on June 19, 2016. That day, federal police opened fire on protesting teachers and supporters in Nochixtlan, Oaxaca, leaving 9 dead and well over 170 injured. 

This support includes direct aid from the National Coordinator of Education Workers (CNTE), Mexico’s dissident teachers union that is especially active in the southern states of Michoacán, Guerrero, Oaxaca, Chiapas, Veracruz, and Tabasco. On July 2 this direct support for the victims continued, with nearly 50 teachers from Oaxaca’s Section 22 of the CNTE set out with food, medicine, and water from Oaxaca’s capital Nochixtlan, which suffered from the violence. This was just the latest of nearly 14 of such caravans that have been organized by the teachers.

Other caravans have traveled from all parts of Mexico since the massacre carried out by Mexican Federal Police.

“We all feel like brothers in this struggle,” said German Salinas, the representative of delegation 1-159 of the Periphery Sector of Oaxaca’s Section 22 of the CNTE. “We’ve organized support for the families of those who have fallen, or were injured since they are not currently able to provide and sustain their families. Some still have the bullets from June 19 still inside them. In whatever form we can we need to be in solidarity with them and their families.”

Support also came from the Zapatista Army of National Liberation of Chiapas (EZLN), which delivered nearly 3 tons of food supplies for the teachers of CNTE. This continues a long relationship of support between the Zapatistas and the teachers of CNTE in Chiapas. 

Members of Mexico’s dissident teachers unions, which are organized within the CNTE, have a long history of fighting for social justice within the country that goes back to the formation of the dissident branch of the National Teachers Union (SNTE) in the 1980. The current response to the state violence continues this legacy. 

The outpour of solidarity for the community of Nochixtlan following this tragedy has surprised residents of the quiet town, which sits an hour north of the capital city of Oaxaca Juarez. 

“All this is for the families members of the injured and for the family members that were killed,” said Miné, a member of Section 22 in Nochixtlan, as she shares the classroom in the primary school that has been transformed into the popular dispensary. Inside the classroom rows and rows of food, oil, sugar, coffee, toiletries, line the room where months before a teacher like her was giving classes to the children of Nochixtlan. 

“We are also using these supplies to make the food for the parents that are coming to help out in the dispensary, as well for the comrades at the barricades,” she adds.

The distribution center also provides medical attention for those that were injured during the massacre. But it has proven difficult to know exactly how many people were injured that day. According to witnesses, the injured were denied medical attention in the hospitals and municipality. Furthermore, the fear of repression has made it more difficult to know exactly how many people were injured during the shooting on June 19. 

“There is a fear of repression,” said Marian, who is administering the distribution center. “This has complicated providing support for all the victims.”

Support for the families of the injured and the dead began arriving almost immediately after news of the massacre reached social media. 

“There was a lot of support that arrived following the violent eviction that occurred on June 19,” said Adel, a member of Section 22 of CNTE that works with the distribution center. ““We never imagined that we would receive such support. And it hasn’t just come from the union, it has also come from communities, organizations, and from civil society.”

The support from Section 22 for the victims of the massacre reflects the deep interconnection between Oaxaca’s teachers and with the communities where they work. 

But despite the show of national and international solidarity, Nochixtlan has remained under a state of heightened tension and fear since June 19.

“There is an environment of sadness,” said Adel.

Despite the fear, the community members still maintain the barricades along the federal highway. And they’ve stated that they would continue, alongside the teachers, their struggle against Mexico’s neoliberal reforms.“Two weeks after this ugly repression, they didn’t come to to dialogue or come to utilize the protocols; they came to attack us directly,” said Mary. “The government has claimed that nothing happened.

They’ve claimed that they sent the military because there are narcos or there are guerillas or because there are robberies. But Nochixtlan has always been a peaceful place. There are no robberies, or vandalism.”

She adds, “There has not been a favorable response. They’ve broken the dialogue. They have stated there is nothing. And all the while our people are suffering.”

Since the massacre other regions have also thrown up barricades along the major highways in solidarity with the teachers and residents of Nochixtlan. On June 27, teachers and supporters in Chiapas blocked the Pan-American Highway in Tuxtla Gutierrez, stating that it would remain in place until the government opened a dialogue with striking teachers.

Since 2013, the teachers associated with Oaxaca’s Section 22 have struggled alongside teachers from Guerrero, Michoacán, Chiapas, and Tabasco against the neoliberal structural reforms of Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto. The teachers present the only unified challenge to the reforms. The reforms were passed in February 2013.

The teachers have held hundreds of protests, and a number of occupations of the Zocalo in Mexico City, as well as in the Oaxaca in protest of structural reforms, which would strip the union of any ability to collectively bargain, impose a system of evaluation on teachers that would held every 4 years – putting teachers in a precarious labor situation – and opening the door to privatization.

Since May 15, 2016, the teachers have maintained the latest encampment in the Zocalo and the surrounding blocks of the city of Oaxaca.

Currently, the teachers face the threat of eviction from their encampment, as reportedly, the Ministry of the Interior has mobilized 4,000 elements of the Federal Police to carry out operations against the teachers In Oaxaca, Michoacán, Guerrero, and Chiapas. This has added to the sense of fear and uncertainty.

Section 22 of the CNTE has faced other state repression prior to the massacre in Nochixtan. Several leaders of the union were imprisoned on false charges between April and June. On May 19, Mexican Education Minister fired 3,000 teachers from Oaxaca, Guerrero, and Michoacán when they did not work for 3 days in 2016 during days of protest. This was an unprecedented firing, which is considered to be blowback for the resistance to the education reforms.

The teachers have also faced a growing campaign of forced disappearance. Currently, at least 23 people have been disappeared.

The teachers have maintained their resistance to the reforms, and demanded that they would be able to implement their own autonomous education system in the southern Mexican state.

The Plan for the Transformation of Oaxacan Educational system, or PTEO, was originally begun in 2004 in order to construct an education system that reflected Oaxaca’s diverse population. Teachers have argued that with the passing of the reforms, the educational system in Oaxaca would leave out the indigenous populations who don’t speak Spanish as their primary language. They’ve presented the PTEO as an alternative, and would provide the indigenous communities a representation within the State’s education curriculum. 

Some of the Names That Appear in This Article Have Been Changed to Protect their Identities

Jeff Abbott is an independent journalist currently based out of Guatemala. He has covered human rights and social movements in Central America and Mexico. His work has appeared at VICE News, Truthout, the North American Congress on Latin America, and Upside Down World. Follow him on twitter @palabrasdeabajo