Mexico: teachers start new strike against ‘reform’

Some 2.3 million students in the Mexican states of Oaxaca and Michoacán missed classes on Aug. 19, the first day of the 2013-14 school year, as thousands of teachers in the two states started an open-ended strike in the latest protest against US-style changes to the education system. The job action kicked off a week of demonstrations focusing on an Aug. 21-23 extraordinary session of the Congress that was to consider legislation proposed by Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto to make teacher evaluations mandatory. The protest movement was led by the National Education Workers Coordinating Committee (CNTE), a large dissident group in the National Education Workers Union (SNTE), with the support of several SNTE regional sections, including Oaxaca’s Section 22 and Michoacán’s Section 18.

Chanting “Urgent, urgent, evaluate the president,” thousands of teachers gathered in Mexico City by Aug. 21 and proceeded to block off the buildings used by the two chambers of the Congress. Forced to meet at the Banamex Convention Center, some 18 km from the San Lázaro Legislative Palace, the Chamber of Deputies voted on Aug. 21 to postpone the vote on the evaluation law to another session. However, Congress passed two of three secondary laws, infuriating the protesters. On Aug. 23 some 7,000 teachers from Oaxaca blocked off a main access road to the Mexico City International Airport for 11 hours; passengers and flight crews had to get to the airport by foot.

The protesters finally lifted the blockade that evening, after the CNTE held four hours of negotiations with Governance Secretary Miguel Angel Osorio Chong and congressional leaders; the teachers refused to meet with Public Education Secretary Emilio Chuayffet Chemor, whose resignation they have demanded. The two sides agreed to continue talks starting on Aug. 26. The teachers ended their blockades of the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies on Aug. 24, moving their banners and tents to the capital’s main plaza, the Zócalo, where CNTE members have maintained a protest encampment since May. Despite the agreement to continue the dialogue, CNTE leaders said in a press conference on the evening of Aug. 23 that they had no confidence in the federal government’s good faith. (La Jornada, Mexico, Aug. 20, Aug. 22Aug. 22Aug. 24Aug. 24,Aug. 25)

On Aug. 24 teachers from SNTE Section 7 in the southeastern state of Chiapas announced that they would go on strike on Aug. 28. Alberto Mirón Vázquez, part of the leadership of the section’s Democratic Block, predicted that from 75% to 80% of the state’s 55,000 education workers would observe the strike, which could leave some 1.325 million students without classes. (LJ, Aug. 25)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, August 25.