Thursday, August 29, 2013

Teachers' union calls for nationwide strike, while officials lose patience and warn they're ready to use force

Yet another test for the tricolor regime - this one administered by those who don't want to be tested

*Updated Sept. 1 - CNTE calls for "national insurgency"*
Guadalajara -
Members of a powerful school teachers' union which has held Mexico City hostage for almost two weeks have called for a nationwide strike if the government does not yield to their labor demands.

The Coordinadora Nacional de los Trabajadores de la Educación (CNTE) wants Mexico's congress to repeal recently enacted federal laws intended to improve teacher quality. The laws require primary and secondary level educators to submit to periodic competency and preparedness evaluations according to national, rather than regional or local, standards. They are based upon amendments to Mexico's federal constitution which were approved months ago by the country's multiparty national assembly, and by a majority of the state legislatures. PRI government shows no resolve against thug teachers.

Mexico's senate and house of deputies have been busy in recent weeks debating and adopting legislation and administrative regulations designed to implement the constitutional amendments, which has infuriated CNTE members. They all but shut down the congress last week, forcing it to temporarily move its seat to offices miles away. About 20,000 striking teachers demonstrated in the nation's capital, some engaging in acts of violence. Business owners claim they have suffered severe losses due to closed streets and the disruption of normal commerce. Even Mexico City's international airport was affected last Friday, as thousands of domestic travelers were unable to make their flights.

A Mexico City chamber of commerce official said CNTE's protest has cost local business about 500 million pesos, or over $38 million dollars.

Yesterday CNTE said the protests will continue indefinitely, with another major march scheduled for Sunday, Sept. 1. Union leaders called on other labor organizations to join them in a nationwide strike.

Meanwhile, at least a million students remain out of school in the southwestern state of Oaxaca, where CNTE is a powerful and popular political force. Teacher strikes close 13,000 classrooms.

President Enrique Peña Nieto spoke out yesterday on the protests, and his words further enraged teachers.

"We're now in the process of implementing the educational principles which are embedded in our sacred constitution, and let me tell you something," Peña Nieto said to the press in brief remarks. "We're not going to yield, we're not going to back down, we're firm in our intent to carry out the constitutional mandate of developing laws which will guarantee quality education for all Mexicans."

In response the union accused Peña Nieto, as well as secretary of government Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong and education secretary Emilio Chuayffet (right in photo), of "obstinance" and having oídos sordos - deaf ears.

But leaders from all of Mexico's major political parties are expressing increasing frustration with CNTE tactics. A senator who belongs to the center right National Action Party said, "we want the law to be obeyed; if it isn't, let force be used." The national chair of the far left Democratic Revolution Party said striking teachers are violating the rights of others in the Federal District.

Sen. Manlio Fabio Beltrones, perhaps the most influential congressional leader in Peña Nieto's own center left Institutional Revolutionary Party, warned the union about its planned march this weekend. "Nobody has the right to impede the congress from going about its work. Nobody has the right to interfere with the exercise of executive, legislative or judicial power," he said. "If anybody tries to stop us again, we will openly solicit help from both the federal and local (Federal District) governments."

Even Mexico City's Human Rights Commission yesterday said the use of appropriate force against CNTE protesters would be legitimate.

The Federal District's secretary of government warned that local authorities will respond vigorously if circumstances so warrant. "The limit will be any form of aggression against a citizen," he noted.

In a nationally broadcast television interview this morning, Oaxaca governor Gabino Cué Monteagudo said the teachers are "good people, but they're sending the wrong message" to the public. Cué, who must walk a narrow line since many CNTE members are his constituents, urged teachers to return to class by Monday, Sept. 2. He warned that if they do not, they will not receive their fist two weeks pay - days which none of them have worked - and would risk forfeiting special bonus checks to which they are entitled.

In an interview footnote, governor Cué did not exclude the possibility that some CNTE members have links to local insurrectionists who are behind heavily armed citizen police forces in the region. Those units are generally prohibited by state and federal law. Civilian militias soar.

However the situation unfolds, as Enrique Peña Nieto prepares to deliver his first state of the nation address since taking office Dec. 1, his Institutional Revolutionary Party administration faces problems on multiple fronts - and of credibility. Mexican press: PRI government is lying about drug war deaths.

Sept. 1 - CNTE members marched today in Mexico City, albeit on a smaller scale than anticipated. But the union has called for a "national insurgency" on Wednesday, Sept. 3, since the congress has refused to repeal the constitutionally based education reforms they oppose.

Aug. 31 - Oaxaca freezes pay of striking teachers
Aug. 30 - Oaxaca education at the mercy of omnipotent syndicate

Apr. 11 - Is Mexico a failed state?
Aug. 21 - Peña advierte a maestros que no se negociarán leyes secundarias

© 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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