Saturday, 27 August 2016 22:29

Oaxacan Community Speaks

Written by Mary Gill and Pat Denevan
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Mary Gill and Pat Denevan 

Editor: After many years in mission in Oaxaca, Mexico, four former Maryknoll Lay Missioners, Mary Gill and Pat Denevan remain in Oaxaca, and Kathy and Phil Dahl-Bredine spend part of the year there. They all wrote in recent newsletters of the conflicts in Oaxaca. Mary and Pat provided this August 17th update.

Ninety-four days have passed since the teachers in Oaxaca began large-scale protests against the federal government’s “reform” of the educational system. The protesters in Nochixtlán (a city north of Oaxaca City) blocked a main highway to Oaxaca, which caused a huge traffic problem. The Federal Police came to forcibly remove the protesters, resulting in 11 persons being killed (in two locations). This action received international attention and strengthened the resolve of the protesters. The opposition to the Education Reform now includes not only the teachers but the parents of the school children. In Nochixtlán, the local town authorities, along with the rest of the Mixteca Region, have joined the protests and have led marches to the Zócalo in Mexico City. Protests are also happening in 22 other Mexican states.

The Federal government has finally agreed to a dialogue with the CNTE, the national organization of teachers, in an apparent concession to make some modifications to the Reform. So far the talks have been in secret, and the teachers are skeptical about the process. The blockade in Nochixtlán has been removed, but other blockades, marches, and protests continue throughout the country. 

The teachers don’t want to stop their demonstrations in order to keep the pressure on the government until they see some meaningful changes in the Reform. Several leaders have been released from prison. This social unrest has caused economic harm to mostly international businesses, such as Wal-Mart, which has threatened to leave Oaxaca… please do! Of course these blockades and marches are inconvenient, but people who are conscious of what is at stake deal with them in good humor. We need to keep in mind that the government is run behind the scenes by Carlos Salinas de Gotari, who trashed the Mexican economy in the 90s and is at it again. 

While the overall situation is relatively quiet in Oaxaca today, the struggle continues. We don’t know what will happen next, but the teachers are committed to nonviolent protests, and our prayer is that nonviolence will prevail and bloodshed will be avoided.

The Reform package of laws the Federal government passed include reforms not only to education, but also to the health care system, the electrical system, (CFE), the petroleum industry, (PEMEX), land rights, water rights, and taxation of small businesses. There is widespread opposition to these other “reforms” as well, since they were instituted without consultation of the people and will ultimately lead to privatization of these services and resources. 

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