The U.S. may have initiated the absurd propagandistic ploy of equating teachers with terrorists back when Bush’s Education Secretary, Reid Lyon, called the National Educators Association a terrorist organization. However, the Mexican state has taken it a step further, issuing arrest orders against Minervino Morán and Gonzalo Juárez, leaders of the Guerrero Teachers Union (Coordinadora Estatal de Trabajadores de la Educación en Guerrero, CETEG).
The arrest order was issued by Angel Aguirre Rivero, governor of the state of Guerrero, charging the two as instigators of the uprising of teachers who are opposing President Enrique Peña Nieto’s free market reform agenda. Aguirre has accused the two of being “vandals” and “delinquents,” and, more alarmingly, with being connected to the ERPI guerrilla movement, according to the WSWS.
The strike began in February as a protest against Nieto’s free market education reforms, including privatization of public schools, teacher evaluations based on student test scores and a restricting of union rights. In March, the Guerrero government seemed to have conceded to the teachers, signing an agreement with the CETEG that would have preserved free public education and “democratic” teacher evaluations, as well as agreeing to pay back wages lost during the strike.
When the government appeared to be going back on their word, the teachers resumed their protests. Joined by members of the union of public employees (Sindicato Único de Trabajadores Públicos, SUSPEG) and the United Front of Teaching Schools (Frente Único de Escuelas Normales, FUNPEG), the teachers blocked the highway connecting Acapulco with México City in early April. The subsequent police assault resulted in five arrests and three injured teachers.
The strikes shut down numerous schools—20%, according to the Aguirre administration, which threatened to replace teachers with scabs if they did not return immediately to work. On April 10, legislators met to discuss changes to the Guerrero Education Code. On April 24, according to the WSWS, the legislature rejected union demands, including its demand to be part of the teacher evaluation process. However, the legislature did agree to abolish student fees and keep public education free in Guerrero.
Meanwhile, at the same time legislators were meeting to discuss the changes, vandals attacked the headquarters of all the major parties in the city of Chilpancingo, according to the WSWS, while the police sat idly and did nothing, suggesting that the vandals may have been agents provocateur and not teachers or unionists, though CETEG President Moran suggested that militant factions of his union were involved. The Mexico City weekly Proceso magazine, reported that the vandals also attacked and insulted female reporters.
Regardless of whether the CETEG was behind the vandalism or the assaults, the union is clearly more militant than its counterparts in the U.S., as their highway blockade indicates. However, one should not confuse this militancy with any fundamental philosophical or strategic differences. The union leaders’ primary goals are to maintain their “seat at the table” with the legislators and their elevated status and pay as union bosses. They are not interested in any sort of radical reforms of the Mexican education system. For example, their demand for “democratic evaluations” is merely a call for CETEG to be a “partner” with the Aguirre administration, a vague plea that leaves open the use of student test scores and other arbitrary and unreliable metrics that could be used to punish or fire teachers vindictively, in response to their advocacy or union activities, or in order to cull higher paid veterans.
Likewise, the protests against the privatization of the Mexican education system, like those by their counterparts in the U.S. and elsewhere, never call into question the primary role of public education as a subsidy to the employers which provides them a sufficiently educated and obedient workforce and ample consumers for their goods and services. Whether or not the schools are privatized, the students are still treated as commodities and the teachers are still exploited workers. The main difference is that privatization weakens the size and power of the large national teachers unions and the job security of their leaders.