Tens of thousands of Mexican teachers in several states went on strike or took to the streets March 14-16 in three days of “Action in Defense of Education.” In addition to local demands, the actions were focused on opposition to a proposed “national evaluation” exam that the teachers consider a step towards privatizing public education, and rejection of the 23-year leadership of Elba Esther Gordillo Morales in the National Education Workers Union (SNTE), Latin America’s largest teachers’ union. The actions were called by the union’s main rank-and-file caucus, the National Education Workers Coordinating Committee (CNTE), with the support of some state sections of the SNTE.
On March 14 the 70,000 teachers in SNTE Section 22 in Oaxaca state stayed out of the classroom to demand the return of teacher Carlos René Román Salazar, who disappeared one year before, on March 14, 2011. The day’s events included a march by thousands of teachers in Oaxaca city. Some 40,000 teachers went on strike in the southeastern state of Chiapas in support of the national demands, with about 20,000 of them marching in Tuxtla Gutiérrez, the state capital. Teachers also walked out in Guerrero.
On March 15 the actions moved to the Federal District (DF, Mexico City), where the organizers said 60,000 teachers from Oaxaca, Michoacán, Guerrero, Chiapas, Morelos and other states marched to the central plaza, the Zócalo, and set up tarps and tents in preparation for a sit-in of at least 24 hours. According to the federal Public Education Secretariat (SEP), a strike by teachers in Section 9, the DF branch of the SNTE, closed 42 of the city’s schools and was partially observed in another 251; the teachers said they had shut down 1,000 schools.
Contingents from different states held protests and tied up traffic in various locations around Mexico City on March 16, including the Attorney General’s Office (PGR), the stock exchange (Bolsa Mexicana de Valores, BMV), the US embassy and the Angel of Independence. During the day the CNTE leadership negotiated with the SEP, which agreed to participate in a forum being held in the Senate during the coming week to discuss the universal evaluation test. CNTE leaders admitted that the SEP’s concession was “limited, ” but they agreed not to continue the protests and the Zócalo sit-in after March 16. (La Jornada, Mexico, March 15, March 16, March 17)
From Weekly News Update on the Americas, March 18.