The blitzkrieg against the teachers

Oaxaca teachers block access to Pemex (the state-owned oil company) facility.

Oaxaca teachers block access to Pemex (the state-owned oil company) facility.

By: Luis Hernández Navarro

Pursued by the public ridicule provoked by El Chapo Guzmán’s escape, the uneven devaluation of the peso, the stagnant economy, the failure of the first oil round and the incessant violation of human rights, the government of Enrique Peña Nieto decided to spread a cloud of smoke over its misfortunes and move forward by giving a slap on the hand to the Oaxacan teachers.

As if the teachers were a threat to national security, the Los Pinos [1] blitzkrieg moved thousands of uniformed forces to Oaxaca: 4,000 federal police, three brigades of military police with 660 members each, besides the 4 thousand soldiers from the Military Zone.

And if that was not enough, they occupied public buildings and strategic infrastructures, flew helicopters over the state’s capital, illegally froze the bank accounts of the teachers’ union and of some of its leaders and hung the sword of Damocles (possible detention) over their heads.

On the way, they disappeared by decree, without any notification, the State Institute of Public Education of Oaxaca (Ieepo, its initials in Spanish) and unilaterally broke the promises that regulated labour and professional relations between the state government and the teachers.

The Ieepo is the equivalent of the secretariats of Education that exist in other states. It was created in 1992, during the government of Heladio Ramírez, within the framework of the signing of the National Agreement for the Modernization of Basic and Normal [2] Education (Anmeb), impelled by then President Carlos Salinas in order to try to resolve the problems of gigantic growth and bureaucracy in the Secretariat of Public Education (SEP).

Despite the fact that the Section 22 teachers opposed the federalization of teaching, they accepted the institute’s formation as a decentralized body. On October 28, 1992, they signed the principal memorandum. It is false that it (Section 22) has taken power over the institution. The governor has always designated the institute’s director and its board of directors. The teachers chose some of the mid-level directors, using academic and professional criteria.

Los Pinos presents the disappearance of the old Ieepo as the measure that would allow the state government to recover the stewardship of education. This is false. It has already lost it to the hands of the federal government. In fact, the new body abrogates the federalization of education and inserts its leadership group into the SEP. On the way, it incorporates into its leadership people as well informed in educational issues as the secretaries general of Government, Health, Finances, Administration, Social Development, Cultures and Arts, Controllership and Transparency.

Ironically for the education reform, the director of the new Ieepo is the same person who has been at the front of the old Ieepo since October 2014: Moisés Robles Cruz. Trained as a lawyer, a member of the group close to ex-governor Diódoro Carrasco –with whom he collaborated as coordinator of Documentation and Management Control of the office when he was Secretary of Governance–, the man now responsible for basic and normal public instruction in Oaxaca is ignorant of the world of pedagogy.

Rather than heading up teaching, his career makes him more suited to being the chief of police: he was an agent of the Public Ministry in the Oaxaca State Attorney General of Justice and, afterwards, director general of Legal Issues for the Federal Police, in the times of the ineffable Genaro García Luna.

According to the government’s media campaign, the representation of the leaders of Section 22 comes, not from the mandate of its bases, but rather from the alleged control that they have over the Ieepo. They have spread the idea that the strength of the National Coordinator of Education Workers (CNTE) depends exclusively on Oaxaca. And, on the way, they have made allusions to the fact that, following the current actions against the Oaxaqueños, protests in the rest of the country will stop.

But that is not going to happen. The blitzkrieg will not stop teacher discontent on a national scale. The current uneasiness of the teachers is not limited to the CNTE, nor is the strength of the Coordinator (CNTE) constrained to Oaxaca, although its most consolidated contingent is there. It is false that the legitimacy of the leadership of Section 22’s education workers depends on their influence on the Ieepo.

The democratic movement in the state emerged in May 1980. Between 1980 and 1992 –the date on which the Ieepo was formed– it acted on the state and national political scene with much vigour and capacity to convoke. It did so despite the fact that, at different times, it did not have formal representation, because, between 1985 and 1989, Carlos Jonguitud was opposed to the realization of its congress. The union did not have one cent of union dues for moving. And, despite that, it continued acting and was a headache for the governors. Having or not having Institutional support was not an impediment to its protest.

The current leadership of the union in Oaxaca is transitory; in fact, all of them have been ever since the first democratic committee was named in 1982. No representative is re-elected. At the end of their period in union office, they return to their school. Throughout the 35 years of life that the movement has had, it has formed hundreds of leaders. Putting some of them in prison can be a misfortune, but it doesn’t decapitate the organization.

Oaxacan teachers have a political culture of struggle many decades long. It was nourished in part and developed through centuries of resistance from the indigenous communities. Its actual behaviour has little to do with the caricature that power has made of the movement. It knows how to advance and recede, to pressure and to negotiate intelligently.

The police and the Army are now in Oaxaca. How much time will they be able to stay in the state? It is holiday season. Are they going to send a gendarme to each one of the schools when classes resume? The government has a lot of fronts to attend to. It cannot concentrate forces there indefinitely. This movement has had 35 years of life, and has survived everything they have wanted to do to it. The party is not over.

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Translator’s Notes

[1] Los Pinos (The Pines) is Mexico’s presidential residence, like the White House is in the United States.

[2] A “normal” in Mexico means a rural teachers college, like Ayotzinapa.

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Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada

Translation: Chiapas Support Committee

Friday, July 24, 2015

En español: http://www.jornada.unam.mx/2015/07/24/opinion/007a1pol

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