Rural activism by normal school (teacher-training) students has once again become the target of armed repression by the Mexican state. On Wednesday, June 21, students from the Vasco de Quiroga Rural Normal School in Tiripetío, Michoacán, were brutally repressed by Special Operations Group police (GOES) who detained, beat and shot at the students. One student, Gael Solorio Cruz, was shot in the head and is reported as being in critical condition.
The students reported that “elements of the Michoacán Police entered the school buildings while fourth-year youths were carrying out team activities. As youth attempted to stop them, the police opened fire. One of their targets was a white van that the students used to move around the community, and as they fired, they wounded Gael in the head. He is now in critical condition.”
In a communique published in La Jornada newspaper, students claim that uniformed police entered the facilities of the teacher-training school 254 kilometers away from Morelia, firing all the while. “Comrades, we report that the Tiripetío students are being attacked at this very moment. A student named Gael Solorio seems to have been shot in the face, and they took him away, gravely injured…” They also reported that a student was beaten and detained while the community angrily looked on.
In a phone interview with La Jornada, a student who was present at the scene said they had protested by blocking rail lines to demand that the state government pay the scholarships they had promised for the months of May and June, at two thousand pesos per student.
At that moment, a group of state and federal police arrived, and the students decided to retreat peacefully toward the school building. Minutes later, at least 60 uniformed police arrived in a number of trucks, beating and detaining various students. From three to five students were reportedly disappeared.
In a press conference on June 23, students rejected the version of events put forward by the government to justify the repression. They clarified that at no point had they been blocking highways or burning buses. In fact, when the buses were being set on fire by unknown individuals, they were all attending to Gael Solorio, the seriously injured student, who they clarified had been shot in the head with live ammunition and not with a tear gas canister or rubber bullet as the government claimed.
The students requested solidarity from the public and the media to spread news of the oppression that they are being subjected to. Oaxacan teachers from Local 22, the dissident wing of the teachers’ union, have already denounced this aggression and demanded that president Enrique Peña Nieto stop the assault on normal school students.
The Mactumactzá Rural Normal School in Chiapas also denounced these violent acts in a communique, placing blame on all three levels of government “for the problems and injuries that may have a deep impact on our comrades.” They also demanded the immediate resignation of Michoacán Governor Silviano Aureoles Conejo, who they termed a terrorist, of Juan Bernardo Corono, the Secretary of Public Security, and Juan Carlos Arriera “for being the intellectual and material authors of the repression of the rural student movement in Michoacán.” They also demanded freedom for their detained comrades, and the payment of the resources that are owed to them.
Last week, Governor Aureoles stated: “After the beating they gave them over there in Aguascalientes, I hope they think it over a little.” This was after the Tiripetío students suffered police aggression in that state while they were preparing to go home after helping their comrades push their demands.
This isn’t an isolated case: Cynicism and repressive ill-will toward the normal school students and the teachers’ movement has been characteristic of Aureoles’ controversial administration. Moreover, we can add the brutal repression of the indigenous community of Arantepacua, where police murdered four inhabitants, including one student in his first year of high school.
The escalation of violence against social protests is evident in the harassment and repression of teacher-training students in Michoacán, Aguascalientes, or wherever they are based. On June 20 in Chiapas, teachers from Local 40 of the AED-CNTE teachers’ union were repressed, pursued, beaten, and detained by police from the “green” government headed by Manuel Velasco Coello. As this has made evident, the responses of the government toward social movements don’t change at all in places where a “leftist” government is institutionalized, or where “the ecologists” wield power.