Thousands of Mexican teachers opposed to planned education reforms have staged another demonstration this time to slam the deaths of six protesters amid weekend clashes with police.
Large crowds of teachers from the National Education Workers Coordinator (CNTE) union took to the streets in the southern city of Oaxaca de Juárez, Oaxaca State, on Monday to denounce what they called a “massacre.”
The participants held police forces responsible for the deaths, calling them “assassins.”
Some 15 demonstrators, wearing masks, also hurled fireworks and rocks at the police guarding a state education department building, prompting them to respond with tear gas.
On Sunday, six people lost their lives and 53 others were injured when a protest rally against planned education reforms turned violent in the city. Reports say some 55 police officers were also wounded in the incident.
Elsewhere, a journalist and his companion were gunned down on Sunday by unknown armed men after taking pictures of looting in the town of Juchitan in Oaxaca Province.
There are conflicting accounts of how the victims were killed. The infuriated teachers said riot police were behind the deaths, while police blamed “armed radicals” for the incident.
Protesters clash with Mexican police in Oaxaca on June 20, 2016. ©AFP
Enrique Galindo, the head of Mexico’s federal police, blamed “masked armed infiltrators” for much of the violence. He said the individuals, who were not affiliated to the CNTE, threw Molotov cocktails and fired at police and civilians.
Juan Garcia, a leader of the CNTE union in the Oaxaca region, acknowledged that some “infiltrators” started the violence on Sunday, but added that the police, in response, “fired without mercy.”
He also reported that at least 22 other people had gone missing in the Sunday clashes.
According to Oaxaca Province security Chief Jorge Alberto Ruiz, the death of the journalist and his companion were also “linked” to the unrest.
The demonstrators are angry at the government-proposed education reforms, which would require them to undergo mandatory evaluation testing.
They are also unhappy with the arrest of two union leaders on several charges, including money laundering, which the teachers believe are trumped up.
President Enrique Pena Nieto unveiled his education reform plans in 2013 as part of a set of 11 neo-liberal structural reforms implemented in his first 20 months in office.
Since then, teachers have been engaged in protest rallies, mostly in Mexico’s southeast states.
According to the controversial plan, evaluation exams play a seminal role in determining which applicants are most qualified to fill open positions in the public school system nationwide.
Moreover, the Education Ministry has vowed to dismiss educators that refuse to take the examinations. The reform plan further intends to eliminate the influence of unions on hiring decisions and end the reported practice in which teaching positions were either inherited or sold.
According to the critics of the plan, the proposed measure is only aimed at justifying mass lay-offs and does not effectively evaluate teaching skills.