The Mexican internet is flipping out over photographs of a young protester chopping off the hair of a group of elderly teachers for refusing to join a strike against the government’s education reform in the southern state of Chiapas.
To some the images are reminiscent of post-WWII scenes when angry mobs in liberated France shaved the heads of women accused of sleeping with the Nazis.
The hair-chopping stunt is being blamed on Mexico’s National Coordinator of Education Workers (CNTE), a teachers’ union that’s been calling for nationwide strikes since President Enrique Peña Nieto signed his education reform into law in 2013. The reform challenges the power of union leaders and demands that teachers be evaluated on their performance meeting education standards.
Last month Mexico's education minister announced that more than 1,000 teachers in Chiapas will be fired for missing work more than three consecutive days.
The CNTE has enjoyed support from some of the leading voices of Mexico’s left, but their most recent protest in Chiapas has left many Mexicans disgusted with the public humiliation of the teachers. In addition to having their hair cut off, some of the so-called “traitors” were forced to march barefoot.
Mexico’s Secretariat of Public Education (SEP) has reportedly fired the protesting teachers involved in the stunt, and a spokesperson for the CNTE has tried to distance the organization from the scandal by saying that the public shaming was carried out by “infiltrators.”
Nevertheless, the images are clearly hurting the union's case against the government in the court of public opinion.
"Outrageous. In Comitan, Chiapas teachers' heads are shaved… Because they refused to strike and wanted to go teach class."
"These cowardly aggressions from the CNTE against teachers who do work fill me with rage."
"We demand that local and federal authorities investigate and punish the harassment against teachers in Chiapas."
"What type of idiot can support these criminals that humiliate all of Mexico's teachers?"