A years-long fight between the Mexican government and a powerful teachers union has turned deadly. Cries of “police brutality” are echoing across the southern state of Oaxaca after police opened fire on protesters, killing at least eight last week. But not everyone is convinced the union is the victim it claims to be. Critics say it is protesting education reforms to cover up favoritism and graft in its ranks.


The National Coordinator of Education Workers, or CNTE, says it is standing against union-busting measures and neoliberal reforms that impose unrealistic standards on teachers in rural and indigenous schools. Their strikes have kept millions of students out of school in recent years, frustrating some families. But as residents join the protests, now against police violence, public sentiment has turned in the teachers’ favor both in Mexico and outside the country. A rash of hashtags is spreading online, while teachers’ unions from New York to California raise their fists in solidarity with Mexico’s left-wing educators.


Mexican authorities have accused the powerful union of rampant corruption, using its members to influence politics and rewarding supporters with teaching jobs they are not qualified for. They recently arrested CNTE leaders on money laundering and other charges, triggering outrage among the ranks. Local officials say the protests turned violent after union members captured five police officers, burned vehicles and threw rocks and Molotov cocktails defending a roadblock they set up north of Oaxaca City.


Regardless of who fired the first shot, what is clear is the underlying frustration with poverty and inequality will make it difficult for the two sides to find common ground. 


On today's episode we speak to: 

Jennifer O'Donoghue @jennodjod
Research director, Mexicanos Primero

John Ackerman @JohnMAckerman 
Editor in Chief, Mexican Law Review

Vladimir Flores 
Independent journalist

Marco Fernández
Education researcher, Mexico Evalua

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