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News > Latin America

Mexico Teacher Protests Gain Steam as Hundreds Set to be Fired

  • Protesters from the CNTE teachers’ union march against President Enrique Pena Nieto's education reform  in Mexico City, July 6, 2016.

    Protesters from the CNTE teachers’ union march against President Enrique Pena Nieto's education reform in Mexico City, July 6, 2016. | Photo: Reuters

Published 11 July 2016

Union leaders say government is bargaining in bad faith, continuing to roll out neoliberal school reforms even while negotiating with CNTE to scale them back.

Deepening neoliberal education reforms, Mexican government officials plan to fire or lay off more than 350 teachers in the southern state of Guerrero, even as they prepare to continue negotiations Monday with striking parents, teacher and activists in the state of Oaxaca who have been protesting similar school reforms for weeks.

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Leaders of the country´s national teachers union, known by the Spanish acronymn, CNTE, have called for another massive demonstration Monday afternoon, marching from the presidential palace in Mexico City to the Interior Ministry, where union negotiators will meet for a fourth time with government education officials. At issue are the neoliberal education reforms implemented in 2013 by President Enrique Peña Nieto. The CNTE contends that the measures, which greatly expand the testing of teachers, have failed to improve student education, and demand an overhaul to the national classroom model.

The three previous meetings between the union and Interior Minister Osorio Chong have failed to bear meaningful results, and CNTE officilals say that concrete steps need to be taken to break the impasse.

But the government seems to be taking steps in the opposite direction. According to the Mexican daily La Jornada, education officials resumed rolling out their neoliberal agenda over the weekend — after a brief hiatus to ensure peaceful local elections last month — annoucing a new wave of over 500 mandatory teacher performance evaluations in Guerrero, one of the states where the CNTE’s presence is strongest.

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Teachers contend that the evaluations are punitive, and some have boycotted the move. Government officials say that they will now fire 220 teachers in Guerrero for missing their reviewss as far back as seven months ago, while another 123 are scheduled to be laid off for missing classes while striking. Dozens more face tens of thousands of dollars in salary deductions for failing to show up for class.

Education Minister Aurelio Nuño has refused to meet with striking teachers unless they agree to contested reforms beforehand, and Saturday, some 2,500 teachers took to the streets in support of the national struggle to demand Nuño resign.

Meanwhile, the CNTE has also joined in solidarity with the families of the 43 Ayotzinapa students disappeared in Iguala, Guerrero in 2014, continuing to press authorities for an independent and thorough investigation into the murders. Human rights reports suggest that local police stopped the bus transporting the students to a rally to commemorate the student causalties of a 1968 massacre in Mexico City, and parents, activists and teachers accuse the government of writing its own “historical truth” of Ayotzinapa.

More than 100 CNTE members rallied with Ayotzinapa families in front of the Attorney General’s office in Mexico City Monday as the movement launched a “new stage” that is focused on peaceful protest rather than government meetings that have produced few results. Ayotzinapa representatives have repeatedly slammed authorities for failing to follow through on promises made behind closed doors.

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The Ayotzinapa protesters accused an attorney in the Attorney General’s office, Tomas Zeron, of manipulating evidence in the case to support the government’s claims that the 43 students were burned in the garbage dump in Cocula after they were kidnapped by local police and handed over to the gang Guerreros Unidos. International experts from the Argentina, Austria, and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights have provided evidence that refutes the garbage dump theory and places federal law enforcement officials at the actual crime scene. The families demand that Zeron be removed from office.

After the Ayotzinapa action, the CNTE is scheduled to march in Mexico City at 4:00 p.m. local time in support of the dialogue process, ahead of the scheduled 5:00 p.m. meeting with at the Interior Ministry. Another CNTE march, this time on the Senate in Mexico City, is planned for Wednesday at 10:00 a.m. local time.

Meanwhile, blockades in Oaxaca are also ongoing, with the support of the Zapatista movement providing several tons of food and supplies in the wake of a violent confrontation last month which left 6 civilians dead. Human rights defenders slammed the government for excessive use of force, arbitrary arrests, and extrajudicial killings during protests in Nochixtlan.

The CNTE has linked their efforts to the nationwide effort to repeal neoliberal reforms rather than to the narrow interests of local unions.

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