By Azam Ahmed and Kirk Semple / New York Times
The battle over education in Mexico has suddenly turned literal.
Violent protests have claimed the lives of at least nine people in little more than a week, littered the roads with the charred remains of cargo trucks, and tapped a deep vein of anger and mistrust toward the government.
After government forces clashed with demonstrators in the town of Nochixtlán last week, the protest movement appears to have gained steam, plunging President Enrique Peña Nieto’s signature education changes deeper into controversy.
In recent days, thousands of students in Oaxaca have joined their teachers in the streets for the first time to rail against the government, and many adults once ambivalent about the teachers’ cries of injustice have also taken up the cause.
The violence touched a raw nerve in Oaxaca, which, despite a thriving tourism industry, is one of the poorest and most volatile states in the country. The government’s response to the protests has amplified a belief that the education reforms are just the latest effort by Mexico City to marginalize the people here and deprive them of their rights and dignity.
In most of the country, the president’s push to revamp the schools has found broad acceptance. Government officials and supporters of the overhaul point out that the resistance has been almost entirely concentrated in four southern states, especially Oaxaca, and involves only a small fraction of the nation’s education employees.
It has long been one of the worst-performing public education systems of the world’s largest economic powers. According to a January 2015 report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Mexico’s academic achievement ranked last among the group’s 34 member states.