Zapatistas Reiterate Support for CNTE After Paramilitary Attack

(teleSUR) “If evicted, they will return. Time and time again. It turns out that down here, there is no fatigue,” read the letter.

Mexico’s Zapatistas stood behind the striking CNTE teachers whose blockade was attacked Wednesday by a masked group of paramilitaries who accompanied Mexican state and municipal police, calling the attack a “definitive disaster” in an open letter published Thursday.

Ten trucks loaded with a group of masked men came to the camp at highway San Cristóbal-Tuxtla Gutiérrez in Chiapas, where about a hundred protesters had gathered, forcefully evacuating the only camp that civil society and teachers of the National Coordinator of Education Workers, or CNTE, held in the state of Chiapas on Wednesday.

The group at first identified as Zapatistas, but locals knew otherwise, according to those quoted in the letter. The paramilitaries, who were members of the PRI-allied Ecologist Green Party, were paid, said the letter. They were protected by policemen, according to witnesses, and “were not, nor are, nor will ever be” Zapatistas.

In a statement to teleSUR, independent journalist Simon Sedillo noted that the open appearance of paramilitaries alongside civilian police forces in Mexico signals an “extremely alarming” development. Sedillo has documented how one of the key criteria for what constitutes paramilitary violence is the fact that it is meant to function in a manner that is deniable by state security agencies, government officials, and vested corporate or banking interests. Wednesday’s violence is only the latest in a long history of incidents where paramilitaries have been utilized against Indigenous people in the states of Chiapas, Oaxaca and Guerrero.

The Zapatistas have long endorsed the CNTE protests against neoliberal education reform, but Wednesday’s attack made them reiterate their promise to “continue to collect the food and necessities that have been denied them (the teachers) and continue to send them. Again and again.”

“We Zapatistas, will not send junk food to those who fight, but toasted non-GMO corn – not stolen, but rather made with the work of thousands of men and women who know that being Zapatista is not to hide one’s face, but to show their heart,” read the letter signed by Subcomandante Insurgente Moises and Subcomandante Insurgente Galeano.

The letter, dripping with contempt for the actors behind the attacks, also struck a rebellious tone, saying that repression would not stop the movement.

“As the brother Indigenous peoples did in Oaxaca, if evicted, they will return. Time and time again. It turns out that down here, there is no fatigue,” read the letter.

The letter by leading figures in the Zapatista movement pledged to continue to support the striking teachers and their supporters without dictating what steps the movement should take.

“The National Coordinator of Education Workers, as well as the movements of indigenous peoples, (and) neighborhoods that support the teachers, must understand that, whatever their decision, be it on the route, the destination, the steps and the company they keep, you will receive our respect and greeting,” said the Zapatistas.

Teachers affiliated with the CNTE have been protesting neoliberal education reforms implemented in 2013 by President Enrique Peña Nieto, and cities across the country have witnessed constant demonstrations against the government’s neoliberal agenda, not only in relation to the education workers’ fight but also the social demands of people in Mexico’s restive and primarily Indigenous rural regions, which have been waging efforts to halt extractivist projects such as large hydroelectric dams, wind farms and mining operations.

A crackdown by police, which left at least 12 people dead, drew worldwide condemnation. Talks between the union and the government have failed to produce a resolution.

This post originally ran on teleSUR.