Thousands of protesters blocked main roads and cut off access to the airport in the tourist city of Acapulco as angry teachers and their supporters cried out against an education reform by President Enrique Peña Nieto that would centralize teachers’ salaries instead of continuing payment at the state level.
The reform, claim protesters, allowed huge amounts of money to fall into the hands of people who were not even connected to the education community, according to Tracy Wilkinson of the Los Angeles Times. The protest became violent when police attempted to use force to break up the crowds, which were threatening to disrupt the Mexican tourism. Over 100 participants were arrested and a 65-year-old retired teacher, Claudio Castillo Peña, died from trauma to the head. Fellow protesters said he was beaten to death by the police.
The confrontation followed violence that included a bus being driven into a crowd of police and demonstrators. Manuel Salvador Rosas, a member of the teachers union, said that event caused excessive force to be unleashed, but the Interior Ministry said the demonstrators were the instigators. The tourism-driven city has been experiencing a decline in international visitors because the state of Guerrero, where Acapulco is located, has one of the highest homicide rates in the country. Mexican tourism increases and declines according to the surges of violence in Acapulco.
Following the Acapulco violence, the National Coordinator of Education Workers (CNTE) announced that it would be escalating its tactics and declared that it was on maximum alert. The union added that it was preparing its members for civil disobedience and rebellion, reports Telesur. An official with Guerrero State Coordinator of Education Workers (CETEG) said that 12 protesters were still missing and four female teachers had been raped the night of what he called “the repression.”
Telesur reports that confidence in the Mexican justice system has decreased since 43 students were “kidnapped.” Relatives claim the state was involved in their disappearance. Mexico’s attorney general declared the case closed and claimed all 43 were confirmed dead. The Daily Mail’s Julian Robinson writes that many of the demonstrators were members of two radical unions (CNTE and CETEG) protesting the 43 students’ disappearance on September 26 of last year.
International Business Times reports that approximately 94,000 workers from the CETEG and other public workers in Mexico had not received their pay.
EuroNews writes that the teachers were demanding better working conditions and justice for the students who had disappeared. The site says the anger of the crowd was connected to the 43 students and “the climate of alleged corruption and complicity between police, politicians and gangsters many blame for their deaths.”
“It was a legitimate response to protect those taking part in the protest. If that bus hadn’t been controlled, there would have been more injuries both to policemen and even teachers,” said Interior Ministry Commissioner Cabrera Castro.
The teachers and many others in Mexico say the local police force in Guerrero province conspired with drug gangs in the case of the students who disappeared and were probably murdered. The teachers and students had been fighting against police corruption before they were kidnapped.