Jails replace schools in the mountain region of guerrero

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The Me’Phaa Peoples’ Regional Development Council of the Bathaa Dialect demands an end to the repressive tactics undertaken by the government in an attempt to quash their movement seeking to guarantee educational and linguistic rights.
Chilpancingo, Guerrero, June 27th – The Me Phaa Peoples’ Regional Development Council of the Bathaa Dialect, consisting of 28 communities of the Metlatónoc, Atlamajalcingo del Monte and Tlapa municipalities of the Mountain region of Guerrero have declared their mutual condemnation of the discriminatory and repressive tactics employed by government aimed at their leaders and communal authorities. The Council demands an end to the government’s campaign of persecution and harassment against their movement to defend their inalienable right to a free and culturally appropriate education.
In November of 2006, before the educational authorities’ and the state government’s null and void response to the Council’s request seeking a resolution to the ongoing problem concerning recognition of the Bathaa dialect in their educational curriculums, the Council demanded that the authorities honor their previously signed agreements wherein they committed to hiring preschool, kindergarten and primary school teachers competent in Bathaa to teach the school-age children of their communities who for years have lacked a sufficient amount of teachers able to teach the dialect. Rather then honoring their agreements, the authorities have begun an aggressive campaign seeking to criminalize this movement. To date, more then 30 arrest warrants have been issued against leaders of the Bathaa movement, many have been repeatedly arrested, face court dates for fabricated charges and have had their bail set in upwards of 50,000 pesos.
The state government, far from beginning to resolve any of the underlying social problems faced by the Me Phaa communities has once again turned to repression and criminalization, tactics commonly employed to quash indigenous movements. The only act the Bathaa movement is guilty of is demanding the recognition of their inalienable rights to education and development as established in the Mexican constitution and various international treaties. At the heart of this conflict lies the fact that the Me’Phaa region is one of the poorest in the country, according to a recent report on human development in Mexico by the United Nations Development Program, the conditions in the Ma Phaa region are comparable to the most extreme levels of poverty as found in Africa.
It must not be forgotten that in 2006, the Bathaa Council signed 6 agreements with representatives of the Guerrero Department of Education including the Sub-Secretary of Basic Education and the Secretary of Education as well as with the Secretary of Government himself, Armando Chavarría Barrera. In these agreements the authorities agreed to send 47 teachers to the Ma Phaa communities before the end of October, 2006. 8 months have passed since then and there are still are not nearly enough teachers to meet the communities’ real demand. Presently there are 9 monolingual teachers and 7 bilingual teachers; this represents only 30 percent of the amount of teachers required to teach the children of these communities. As a result of this, rather then waiting the situation out many parents have opted to take their children with them to work in the agricultural camps in the North. The state government, which has failed to live up to its obligations has sent monolingual teachers that don’t meet the necessary linguistic and cultural profile or in other cases has sent no teachers at all. Furthermore, the monolingual teachers’ presence completely undermines the communities’ demand to preserve their language and cultural identity.
Rather then sending teachers the government has sent police, who on two separate occasions have arrested Candido Felix Santiago, a representative of the Bathaa movement. This intimidatory measure by the Mexican government sought to pressure the indigenous communities into renouncing their demands for development in their villages. In the place of schools the government has responded with arrest warrants and imprisonment. It is of no consequence to the government that the Me’Phaa children continue to suffer from discriminatory treatment due to the simple fact that they come from the Mountain region of Guerrero.
Faced with this grave injustice, the Me’Phaa communities were forced to mobilize themselves as no alternative were left for them. They had no other means by which to demand their rights from the educational authorities who are far from recognizing the dangerous implications of their response. Rather then honoring their constitution which guarantees the right to education, the authorities have turned to repressive measures which do nothing to solve any of the underlying problems and on the contrary undermine the communities’ demand that the government fulfill its obligations.
Despite its use of repressive police action, we the Me’Phaa communities want the state government to know that our organization will continue fighting for the fulfillment of our legitimate demands, we’ve called upon the authorities to communicate, to build bridges of dialogue in order to find a peaceful solution. If the government fails to meet its obligations, we will continue demonstrating against them, our fundamental right pursuant to the Mexican constitution.
For The Me’Phaa Peoples’ Regional Development Council of the Bathaa Dialect
From the Atlamajalcingo del Monte municipality of : the communities of Zilacayotitlan, Santa Cruz, Benito Juarez, El Rosario, Huehuetepec, Col Juquila, Alvaro Obregón, Piedra Blanca and Chinameca.
From the Metlatónoc municipality: the communities of San Juan Puerto Montaña, San Mateo, San Antonio, Francisco I. Madero, Juanacatlán y San Marcos de los Nopales.
From the Tlapa municipality: the communities of San Miguel Zapotitlán, Santa Maria Tonaya, Col. San Isidro Labrador, Barrio de Guadalupe, Lindavista, San Pedro Acatlán, Llano de Santa Cruz, Juquila, Las Pilas, Rio Azul, Col. de Guadalupe, Santa Cruz y Agua Dulce.

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