Sunday, August 25, 2013

PRI government shows no resolve against thug teachers

MGR's Opinion -
Striking union members take over Federal District, standing down Enrique Peña Nieto administration - but they should have been stopped

Guadalajara -
Mexican school teachers are the perennially discontent. Thousands are, anyway, especially those from the southwestern states of Oaxaca, Chiapas and Guerrero.

They and their arrogant unions are essentially fearless, because they know that neither the federal nor state governments will stand up to them even when they turn to violence, which is not uncommon.

Mexico's economy is contracting instead of expanding. Over three quarters of the unemployed hold university degrees. But a Mexican education, even an advanced one, is frequently not well respected. Most diplomas here do not translate into job opportunities, as any Mexican will readily acknowledge. That's part of the reason for this country's economic stagnation.

Teacher quality is at least partially to blame. Some are excellent, of course, and are committed to introducing the most advanced educational techniques into their classrooms. They are devoted to their young charges, many of whom live in a world of dire inescapable poverty, accompanied by the constant specter of drug war terror.

Others view teaching just as a means of generating steady income and prestaciones - employment benefits - not available to the masses who work in the informal, self-employment economy (60% of all Mexicans). This category includes those who have flat out bought their teaching certificates, and yet others who are woefully unqualified to set foot in a classroom, for lack of formal education or training.

When the new government took over last December, with multi-partisan support it quickly prepared and pushed through a series of educational reforms which will be embedded in Mexico's core law, the constitution. Constitutional amendments in this country are complicated, just as they are north of the border. First, both houses of the federal congress must approve them. Then they must be signed by the president. Finally, the proposals are sent out to the state legislatures of the nation's 32 separate jurisdictions, a majority of which must endorse them. It works more or less the same way in the U.S. No legislative measure is more inherently democratic than a constitutional amendment, anywhere.

The most important educational reform requires that all Mexican teachers be periodically evaluated for competency, preparedness and professionalism according to national, rather than local or regional, standards. If they don't pass their examination, they'll get additional training and the chance to take the test a second time. If they still don't pass, they won't be fired, just transferred from the classroom to an administrative position. The new regulations infuriated many who belong to the old boy network. Their reasons for resisting the government's modernization efforts will be obvious to any professional educator.

On Apr. 19 members of a powerful teachers' union, Coordinadora Estatal de Trabajadores de la Educación de Guerrero (CETEG), besieged the Guerrero state capital of Chilpancingo de los Bravo, demanding that local legislators "opt out" of the federal amendment, which of course they had no legal power to do. Striking teachers shut down the statehouse, forcing the Guerrero congress to temporarily transfer its seat to Acapulco, 55 miles away. Angry teachers besiege Guerrero capital.

A week later thousands of teachers - in some instances backed by civilian police forces and local militias - went on a rampage in Chilpancingo, attacking and ransacking the state headquarters of four of Mexico's major political parties, from the far left to the right. Guerrero on verge of civil meltdown, as teachers riot. The state government essentially did nothing in response.

Last Monday classes resumed all over Mexico. But in Oaxaca another teachers' union, Coordinadora Nacional de los Trabajadores de la Educación (CNTE), told members to stay home as it continues its fight against educational reforms. At least 70,000 did so, which forced the closing of 13,000 primary and secondary schools. More than a million kids are paying the price, and there is no end in sight. It's back to school in Mexico, but continued teacher strikes idle most Oaxaca students.

In the week which just ended, things got much worse. Thousands of CNTE members marched on and then occupied important sections of the Federal District (Mexico City). Both houses of congress - the Senate and the Cámara de Diputados - were forced out of their respective legislative chambers, and had to reconvene for a scheduled special session in office space quickly provided to them by a bank, several miles away. They were taken there in large buses, escorted by police and military personnel. Imagine the U.S. Congress being forced to abandon Capitol Hill by striking teachers (or anyone else), and then having to transfer operations across the Potomac to the Key Bridge Marriott.

On Tuesday evening thousands of teachers who have been camped out for a week in tents near San Lázaro, the center of the federal government, rioted. They erected barricades, burned vehicles, lobbed rocks at nearby businesses and openly engaged security forces, injuring 20 Federal Police officers in the process. By week's end they had laid siege to AICM - Mexico City's International Airport. Photos of the scene showed Mexican travelers arriving for outbound flights, forced to abandon their vehicles and walk blocks with luggage in hand. Aggressive protesters had blocked main airport access routes, and about 4,000 Mexicans missed their flights according to one news service.

By Friday even Mexico's always vocal leftist leaders were complaining enough was enough. School teachers and left wing parties, of which there are several in this country, are almost invariably political sweethearts, but this time the latter called for an end to demonstrations which have greatly disrupted the city for a week. CNTE bosses announced they're not leaving anytime soon, though. They'll try to reach federal legislators again on Monday, continuing their efforts to repeal the educational reforms. Demonstrators did withdraw from the capitol grounds this morning, calling Federal Police cabrónes - best translated as bastards, or motherfuckers - and warning them, "We're coming back on Sept. 1."

In the United States or any European capital, such obstreperous conduct surely would have been met with tear gas, water cannons and if necessary, with rubber bullets. So it should have been in Mexico City. The right to demonstrate does not supersede every citizen's right to safety and domestic order, least of all in the seat of the national government, where the legislature is charged with carrying out the peoples' business. The administration failed to protect the legal guarantees of all Mexicans - not just those of the dissident, and endlessly malcontent, teachers. It's simply afraid of them.

The real losers, of course, are Mexico's future. In Oaxaca and elsewhere, more than a million children are still waiting for the schoolhouse bell to ring. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has ranked Mexico 34 out of 36 countries evaluated for overall quality of the national education system.

"La violencia es mideo de las ideas de los demas y poca fe en las propias:
Violence is the fear of others' ideas, and it has little confidence in its own" - Antonio Fraguas Forges.

Sept. 29 - The "mafia CNTE"
Sept. 23 - The endless lies of AMLO
Sept. 22 - La CNTE: entre la revolución y los privilegios
Sept. 12 - Mexico City police, attacked yesterday by CNTE thugs: Hay que decirlo sin cobardía: los policías son las víctimas
Aug. 31 - Oaxaca freezes pay of striking teachers
Aug. 30 - Oaxaca education at the mercy of omnipotent syndicate
Aug. 29 - Teachers' union calls for nationwide strike, while officials warn they're ready to use force
Aug. 25 - Restore order without bloodshed (Poner orden sin derramar sangre).
Aug. 25 - Civilian militias soar, with citizen police now patrolling 50 counties in 13 Mexican states
Sept. 24, 2011 - The daily obscenities of Mexico
Aug. 27, 2011 - Mexico's continuing agony

© MGRR 2013. All rights reserved. This article may be cited or briefly quoted with proper attribution or a hyperlink, but not reproduced without permission.

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