Mexico Education Secretary Aurelio Nuño has made a rift by filing a suit to order the arrest of two Oaxaca rebel union leaders who have declared war against President Enrique Peña Nieto’s Education Reform now under implementation.
Their jailing Sunday immediately placed Secretary Nuño walking on a tight political rope.
The leaders of Section 22 of the National Coordinator of Education Workers (CNTE) union Rubén Núñez and Francisco Villalobos were subject to two different charges. Núñez was accused of “money laundering” while Villalobos of “aggravated theft” both using union funds to swindle the money from the over 80,000 teachers that make up the CNTE’s Section 22.
As reported Monday, the government’s move immediately angered CNTE members, who are seemingly solidly behind their leaders, while the government opted to deny any “politicking” with the issue. Both Secretary Nuño as well as Interior Secretary Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong claimed that this was merely an action “in accordance with the law” and that politics had nothing to do with it.
Of course, nobody believes them. These two CNTE leaders have been a thorn in the administration’s foot for a long time now, and jailing may be one way to bring a solution to this now seemingly eternal squabble.
But the jailing of Núñez and Villalobos has prompted the reaction of twice former presidential candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) who has thrown the full weight of his National Regeneration Movement (Morena) political party behind the imprisoned union leaders and will join the about 4,000 teachers now protesting in Mexico City to continue the fight of the teachers against the Peña Nieto administration.
Immediately on Monday, Education Secretary Nuño launched an attack against AMLO questioning how a respectful politician who will probably be running for president again in 2018 can back “these criminals” now in jail.
Politics get complicated for Nuño as everyone knows that he is a hopeful for the Institutional Revolutionary Party’s (PRI) presidential candidacy nomination and for several months has been yearning for a public debate on education policies against AMLO, a challenge AMLO has not taken up.
Secretary Nuño also contends that the plaintiffs are staging their demonstrations only to recover the privileges they boasted prior to the Education Reform, when they directly operated the Oaxaca State Education Institute and had the right to hire and fire teachers and directly managed the funds issued by the Education Secretariat.
Also now participating in the fray is Mexico City Mayor Miguel Ángel Mancera, who has pleaded both with the Education Secretary — but mainly with the dissenting teachers — to take their problems back to their states of origin (mostly Tabasco, Chiapas, Oaxaca, Guerrero and Michoacán) and leave the beleaguered people of Mexico City to go about their business in peace.
Without a doubt Secretary Nuño’s bet with the jailing of Núñez and Villalobos is seen as a potentially smart political move to enhance his chances of getting the PRI nomination for president, but his move may backfire given the fact that CNTE attacks now backed by AMLO’s “hordes” will only escalate the conflict.
In Chiapas and Tabasco, CNTE members took the jailing of these two leaders — who don’t belong to their sections — as “a declaration of war.”
Many observers now say that both the Education and Interior secretaries, Nuño and Osorio Chong, could have stopped the oncoming problem by establishing dialogue to appease them, but both secretaries openly stated that they had nothing to talk about with the dissident teachers and that “the law is not negotiable.”
There are many people backing their stance, as many consider — yours truly included — that the teachers have gone overboard with their demonstrations and that the people, particularly Mexico City residents, don’t want them on their streets anymore. Given the lax laws on political demonstrations, authorities just can’t avoid or repress demonstrations. That is not an option … thus far.
But for now, Education Secretary Aurelio Nuño has clearly thrown his hat into the PRI’s presidential nomination “silent” fray. The outcome of this very political conflict — the imprisonments are seen as political, not legal — will be what surely makes him, or breaks him.
But for now, the Mexico City people and government are ready for more abuse from these disgruntled teachers, who only want President Peña Nieto to rescinds his Education Reform, which is not about to happen.