Mexico: police repress teachers’ strike in Morelos

Several large operations by federal and local Mexican police from Oct. 7 to Oct. 9 broke up protests by striking teachers and their supporters in Morelos state, south of Mexico City, leaving dozens of people detained or injured. Morelos teachers have been on strike since Aug. 13 to protest the Alliance for Quality Education (ACE), a national plan promoted by Mexican president Felipe Calderón Hinojosa and national teachers union head Elba Esther Gordillo Morales.

On Oct. 7 about 70 Morelos police agents used tear gas and nightsticks to break up a protest by some 200 teachers and residents of the Tres Marias community who were blocking a highway as part of a statewide day of actions. About 20 people were injured, and several were detained. Meanwhile, about 700 protesters blocked the nearby Mexico City-Cuernavaca highway for seven hours. Although the state police were reinforced with 400 agents from the Federal Preventive Police (PFP), officials decided to end the blockade through negotiations: the protesters finally left when officials agreed to release the detained activists. (La Jornada, Oct. 8)

On Oct. 8 some 1,000 PFP agents and state police broke up a roadblock that residents and parents had maintained since Oct. 13 on the Cuautla-Puebla highway at the community of Amayuca near the border with Puebla state; the protesters were members of a local group called the Union of Towns in the Eastern Zone. The police operation included six helicopters, from which agents launched tear gas grenades at the crowd. The protesters held out for one hour, sometimes attacking the agents with rocks, clubs, fireworks and molotov cocktails. A total of 49 people were arrested and 20 were injured; cars were damaged and a tractor trailer was set on fire. The agents pursued the protesters into Amayuca, where they carried out house-to-house searches, beating protesters as they arrested them. (LJ, Oct. 9)

Also on Oct. 8, police tried to end a road blockade on the Cuautla-Jojutla highway at Xoxocotla, Puente de Ixtla municipality, in the south of the state; residents had been blocking the road since Sept. 29. The operation failed to dislodge the protesters, who captured four agents but released them later. The police returned in the early morning of Oct. 9, but left when they didn’t find any protesters; in this operation the PFP agents and state police were backed up by hundreds of soldiers in armored vehicles and Hummer trucks. The protesters resumed the blockade later in the morning. In the afternoon an operation of some 2,000 security forces finally broke up the protest after a two-hour battle which left 10 people injured, 16 protesters arrested and several cars damaged. (LJ, Oct. 10)

Negotiations were continuing between the teachers and officials as of Oct. 10, but the state had suspended payment to the striking teachers and started hiring replacement workers. Officials said they were “working every day” so that the situation wouldn’t escalate to the sort of uprising sparked by a teachers strike in neighboring Oaxaca in 2006. (LJ, Oct. 11)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Oct. 12, 2008

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