The Truth Behind The Oaxaca Protests
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Politics and Activism

The Truth Behind The Oaxaca Protests

What you need to know before talking about Oaxaca.

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The Truth Behind The Oaxaca Protests
CNN

There are several important facts to know about the Oaxaca protests before you can understand them. This article started out as an analysis of the conflict, but the more research I did, the more it became clear that finding an unbiased source to help with research would be difficult. As always, BBC offered a decently balanced, factual approach to reporting the progression of the riots. Other sources like The Washington Post reported the story very differently. The story referred to CNTE, the teacher's union at the center of the protests, as radical and violent. The Washington Post details the violent measures used by the protesters, such as lighting cars on fire and throwing rocks. The protests turned more violent, leaving between six and 10 people dead after riot police got involved.

Currently, officials and prominent members of CNTE are negotiating in Mexico City. However, CNTE has been told that negotiations can not continue unless the teachers in Mexico, who have been on strike since the arrest of CNTE leader Ruben Nunez, end their strike and return to teaching.

This article is meant to cover some of the history surrounding the riots as well as dispel some of the uninformed opinions that have been circulating.

The riots began on June 11 after the arrest of Ruben Nunez, the leader of the CNTE branch centered in Oaxaca. According to Telesur, a Mexican news source, members of CNTE have condemned his arrest as a "fascist" raid and consider Nunez a political prisoner. Nunez was arrested for money laundering, though other members of the union consider these rumors untrue and an excuse to take Nunez into custody so that he is unable to further the goals of CNTE.

Ruben’s arrest took place the day after teachers from the CNTE occupied the headquarters of the Oaxaca State Institute for Public Education as part of a strike protesting the education reforms introduced by President Enrique Pena Nieto. The reforms introduced an aptitude test for teachers that would determine whether or not they were allowed to continue or begin teaching in the public school system. Some applauded the plan, saying that it was simply a case of teachers being held to a higher standard and the plan would improve the education standard as a whole. However, most critics of the plan believe that it does not accurately measure teaching ability and will lead to mass layoffs. Ruben has been a strong advocate for retracting the plan as well as implementing better pay for teachers. Ruben’s arrest set off another round of protests, beginning with road blocks and eventually leading to violence being reported. For most people, the violence was the first time they heard anything of the protests.

Although articles like The Washington Post piece mentioned above focus on the violent methods used by protesters, there are two important pieces of information that the article fails to acknowledge; not all of the protesters are members of CTNE, and known members of CTNE have condemned the violence used and have mourned the deaths of the protesters at the hands of the riot police. One member stated on Twitter, “Education is the only weapon we have of the people, those of the government are death and repression. Who is the criminal?"

It is the above tweet, featured in a CNN article about the protests, that I had in mind when writing this article. In situations like this, it is impossible to find an unbiased perspective. While America has been squabbling about gun control, enjoying Donald Trump's idiotic tweets about Scotland, or who the best of the worst presidential candidate is, Oaxaca is in serious trouble. These protests are reminiscent of a 2006 riot which nearly toppled the state government. It is my personal opinion that unless honest negotiations take place, peace will be difficult to achieve. Unless the voices of the teachers are heard, problems will continue to arise.

I personally don't condone violence. It upsets me that people died because of police brutality. I don't like that unreported numbers of people were likely injured by the protesters. In short, it is a mess, and there is no clear right or wrong. Like with any controversial story, news sources will take one side or the other, which is how clear opinions form based on skewed facts. My goal in this article was to avoid that. Teachers in Oaxaca deserve to have their story told in a way that doesn't paint them as angry. There is legitimacy behind these protests and it is important for people to understand that before spouting off an opinion based on facts that have been skewed and twisted.

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