The ongoing conflict between teachers and the government of Mexico reached a boiling point Saturday night in the city of Oaxaca, with nearly 500 protesters violently evicted from a public square by at least a thousand police officers, La Jornada reported on Sunday.
Teachers belonging to the dissident CNTE union were occupying since the headquarters of the Oaxaca State Institute of Public Education, located in the historic center of the capital, as part of the general strike to protest the education reform.
Officers began firing tear gas to disperse the teachers, who responded by throwing stick and stones but were ultimately forced to leave the place. They then went to the main square of the city, where they began to built barricades to resist the police onslaught. Greatly outnumbered, they were then forced out of the square as well.
The violent night ended when teachers reportedly set fire to a bus, with riots following the detention of the CNTE’s leader in the state, Francisco Villalobos, who was sent to a federal prison on charges of aggravated robbery.
CNTE teachers, who are also occupying a public square in Mexico City, have said the detention of Villalobos is “a provocation by the government of Enrique Peña Nieto." Meanwhile supporters of the dissident leader in Oaxaca have denounced the arbitrary detention of at least seven union leaders as part of what they called “schematic government repression against teachers."
Peña Nieto unveiled an education reform in 2013 as part of a set of 11 neoliberal structural reforms implemented in his first 20 months of power. Since then teachers have been protesting, mostly in the violent southeast states of Oaxaca, Michoacan, Guerrero and Chiapas, where millions of children have been affected by the strikes.
The controversial law imposes teacher evaluations in order to determine which applicants will be chosen to fill open posts in the public school system nationwide. Critics say the testing only justifies mass layoffs and does not effectively measure teaching skills, like the special knowledge and demeanor needed to teach in rural areas and Indigenous communities.