Mexican authorities are investigating if dissident teachers were behind the public humiliation experienced by six teachers who were sheared and forced to march barefoot last Tuesday in the southern state of Chiapas for not joining the current strike.
Striking teachers are affiliated with the CNTE union and have been in an ongoing protest since 2013 against the education reform of President Enrique Peña Nieto. Two weeks ago they called for a national strike following the government’s refusal to negotiate the controversial law.
Education Minister Aurelio Nuño said it was “outrageous” that some teachers in Chiapas were forced to wear signs proclaiming themselves “traitors to the motherland,” among other messages. However, CNTE leaders have justified the actions by saying that 98 percent of the teachers in that state are on strike.
“I do not condemn it because what is happening is that the violence is not coming from us, it’s coming from the state,” said Manuel Mendoza, a CNTE leader, in an interview with a local radio station.
Minister Nuño has promised to find those guilty and said if they are teachers they will be suspended immediately. He added that there have been multiple reports of abuses and intimidation against the teachers and parents who do not sympathize with the militant union and had not turned up for classes.
The government says those non-striking teachers are affiliated with the Mexican National Educational Workers Union, or SNTE, which is the largest trade union in Latin America, with over 1.4 million members. CNTE has 200,000 members.
CNTE teachers, who are considered “radicals” by the government of Peña Nieto, reject the teacher evaluations called for in the education reform, which has led to mass layoffs. Dissidents maintain these tests do not really measure teaching skills and do not take into account the special knowledge needed to teach in rural areas and Indigenous communities.
Millions of children have been affected by the strike, mostly in the impoverished and violent southeast states of Oaxaca, Michoacan, Guerrero and Chiapas, considered strongholds of the dissidents.