Angel Neri described the unique education given students at the Raul Isidro Burgos School in Ayotzinapa, Guerrero, in his speech at CFT Convention. The school takes students from rural farming communities, trains them as teachers, and then encourages them to return to work in schools in the poorest, most remote communities in Mexico. This has earned the school the enmity of corrupt and violent elements of Mexican society.

Neri was one of the few who survived when local police attacked students as they prepared to go to a national march in Mexico City last fall. Three were murdered outright, and 43 disappeared.

“A concern was born in me to know more,” he told delegates. “As long as there is poverty, the Ayotzinapa school and the others like it will continue, and we will defend them.”

For the past two months, Neri traveled up the West Coast of the United States with another student and the parents of two who are still missing. Two more caravans traveled through the Midwest and up the East Coast.

Dean Murakami, CFT vice president and president of the Los Rios College Federation of Teachers, helped organize their visit to the Convention. “Their message resonated with our delegates,” he explains. “Privatization, underfunding, immigration and the decimation of unions are our issues too. For the last several years we have been growing our relationship with unions and teachers in Mexico so we can support each other across the border.”

The Convention passed Resolution 28 urging the U.S. Congress to hold hearings about the situation, and to stop providing arms to the Mexican police, who were responsible for the attack on the Ayotzinapa students.

In a letter to the Trinational Coalition to Defend Education representing the United States, Mexico and Canada, CFT President Josh Pechthalt wrote, “We rise up in solidarity to demand answers, to demand justice, and to demand the return of a true public education system.”

The four students and parents spoke on campuses throughout California. Teachers and students organized marches and demonstrations to protest the disappearances, and raised thousands of dollars to provide support for the struggling students and their bereaved parents.

— By David Bacon, CFT Reporter