Mexico: teachers make gains against “privatization” plans

As protests by teachers continued in several southern and central Mexican states, on Nov. 28 the State Institute of Public Education of Oaxaca (IEEPO) announced plans to work with Section 22 of the National Education Workers Union (SNTE) to produce an alternative to the government’s new Alliance for Quality Education (ACE). The alternative program will be carried out “in accordance with the characteristics of the state,” IEEPO director Abel Trejo Gonzalez said. This is first time a state government has distanced itself from the ACE, which is promoted by Mexican president Felipe Calderón Hinojosa and SNTE national president Elba Esther Gordillo Morales. Teachers have protested against the ACE since August, calling it an opening to privatization. A strike by Section 22 set off a major uprising in 2006 that paralyzed much of the state for five months. (Mexico Solidarity Network Weekly News and Analysis, Nov. 30; La Jornada, Nov. 29)

Also on Nov. 28, teachers in Guerrero, to the west of Oaxaca, ended a job action against the ACE that began on Sept. 1. Negotiations had settled about 80% of the strike issues, with the state accepting the payment of salaries to some 500 teachers who participated in the movement; the automatic granting of 700 teaching positions to graduates of the state’s nine teachers colleges; an agreement not to reform the Social Security law for the state’s public employees; and continuation of the custom of allowing teachers to propose their replacements when they retire. At noon on Nov. 28, the teachers ended an 88-day encampment in front of the government building in Chilpancingo. About 10,000 teachers then marched through the streets under banners depicting the teachers Lucio Cabañas Barrientos and Genaro Vázquez Rojas, who led an armed rebellion in the 1970s; the marchers thanked the population for its “tolerance, support and collaboration” during the strike. (LJ, Nov. 29)

The day before, on Nov. 27, hundreds of teachers college students clashed with police agents near Morelia, Michoacán. Starting at about 7:30 AM, students at the Vasco de Quiroga Teachers College took over 21 buses to transport protesters the 22 kilometers to Morelia for an afternoon demonstration. About 300 police agents were waiting for them on the Patzcuaro-Morelia highway. When the 500 students refused to leave the buses, the agents attacked with tear gas while a helicopter launched tear gas grenades from above. The students fought back, and in the end there were dozens of injured people on both sides; 133 protesters were arrested, two police vehicles were set on fire, and two police agents were detained by the students. The state released 130 of the detained students on Nov. 29; all were women, and many came from other states. Nine male students were charged with robbery, injury, riot and privation of a police agent’s freedom. One agent had been released the evening of Nov. 27; the students released the other on Nov. 29 at the Vasco de Quiroga college, along with firearms they’d taken from the police. (LJ, Nov. 28, 30)

The protest movement started with teachers in the state of Morelos, south of Mexico City, who went on strike in August. They returned to the classrooms on Nov. 6 after 80 days. Spokesperson Lili Ibarra said the teachers were “motivated by our responsibility to the children and the school community” and were still determined not to allow the ACE to take effect in the state’s 1,750 schools. They warned that they would no longer allow the sale of health insurance, products of transnational corporations and cola drinks in the schools; they would permit the distribution of nutritious foods and Mexican products. (Excelsior, Mexico, Nov. 16)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Nov. 30

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