Mexico: teacher strikes continue

Teachers in the central Mexican state of Morelos, on strike since Aug. 13, escalated their tactics on Sept. 22 by blocking access to state government offices in Cuernavaca, the state capital. Gov. Marco Antonio Adame Castillo, of the governing center-right National Action Party (PAN), responded by asking the federal government for 400 anti-riot agents from the Federal Preventive Police (PFP). Some 20,000 Morelos teachers have been trying to force Adame Castillo to cancel the state’s participation in the Alliance for Quality Education (ACE), a national plan supported by Mexican president Felipe Calderón Hinojosa and National Union of Education Workers (SNTE) head Elba Esther Gordillo. The teachers are members of Section 19 of the SNTE.

On Sept. 23, about 6,000 Morelos strikers joined thousands of teachers from other states for a march in the nearby Federal District (DF, Mexico City); the protest was sponsored by the Education Workers Coordinating Committee (CNTE), a rank-and-file caucus in the SNTE. Some 200 teachers from the DF, members of SNTE Section 9, caught the authorities off guard by occupying the headquarters of the federal government’s Public Education Secretariat (SEP); they succeeded in blocking access for eight hours before being removed. On Sept. 24 Morelos teachers blocked four lanes of the Autopista del Sol turnpike and two lanes of the Mexico City-Cuernavaca highway, along with Cuernavaca’s three main avenues: Morelos, Plan de Ayala and Emiliano Zapata. The blockades ended under pressure from motorists.

Also on Sept. 24, the Morelos Democratic Teachers Movement, which represents the strikers, began talks with state and federal officials. But negotiations remained at an impasse as of Sept. 27. The state government claimed 6,000 of the strikers were planning to return to the classroom on Sept. 29, while anger against the strike appeared to be growing among parents.

Teachers have also protested the ACE in other states. Some 13,000 teachers held escalating strikes for a month in Quintana Roo; on Sept. 22 they suspended their strike for 90 days, returning to work in exchange for some concessions from the state government.

In Puebla at least 5,000 teachers from SNTE Sections 23 and 51 protested for three hours on Sept. 23, calling the ACE a plan to privatize education. About 3,000 teachers marched in Guanajuato on the same day; their chants included: “She’s not Mickey Mouse, she’s not Topo Gigio [an Italian puppet mouse], she’s that rat Gordillo.” Some 900 teachers and parents marched in Tijuana, Baja California Norte; 500 teachers held a brief strike in Durango; Guerrero teachers walked out of the classroom and blocked state offices in Chilpancingo, the state capital.

Protests continued on Sept. 25 with a march by 15,000 Guerrero teachers and a four-hour occupation of SNTE Section 4’s offices in Campeche by 300 dissident teachers. In Oaxaca, where a strike by SNTE Section 22 set off a popular uprising in 2006, some 70,000 teachers marched, declaring support for the Morelos teachers and rejecting President Calderon’s economic program and any privatization of Mexico’s oil monopoly, Petroleos Mexicanos (PEMEX). (La Jornada, Sept. 23, 24, 25, 27, 28)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Oct. 1

See our last posts on Mexico and the labor struggle.