It all happened too fast but in the end the National Coordinator of Education Workers (CNTE) union lost what was meant to be the mother of all battles on several fronts.
Last Thursday night the teachers were ordered to vacate main thoroughfare Bucareli Street where they were occupying four blocks in their “indefinite” protest at the Interior Secretariat.
Upon refusing to budge, a combined contingent of over one thousand federal police and Mexico City anti-riot forces were sent to Bucareli to move them by force. The order from both Mexico City and Interior Secretariat authorities was clear: Bucareli Street had to be cleared by dawn on Friday.
Upon seeing the decisiveness of the police to use force if necessary to evict about 2,000 protesting teachers, they opted to move their protest elsewhere. First they moved to the nearby Revolution Monument and finally ended up setting up their tent city on Santo Domingo Plaza downtown Mexico City, right across the street from the Education Secretariat building.
That did not suit the authorities either and they were evicted Friday night and sent home to their states in Chiapas, Oaxaca, Guerrero and Michoacán in buses paid for by the federal government.
Mexico City government secretary Patricia Mercado explained that the protesting teachers had become a veritable nuisance and that they would not be allowed to hold any sit-in demonstrations either at the Revolution Moment, at the Zócalo, Santo Domingo or any other street with heavy traffic.
For many years, past CNTE demonstrators had “strangled” Mexico City traffic particularly staging sit-in indefinite demonstrations on Bucareli Street. Patricia Mercado warned them this would not be allowed anymore.
Plus, she added, and this was crucial to their defeat, “The CNTE union does not have social support in Mexico City and with the environmental contingency we’re undergoing, we cannot accept an indefinite sit-in demonstration.”
Of course Patricia Mercado is a politician and she was mild in saying that the CNTE does not have “social support.” The fact is that after pestering Mexico City for many years, city residents have come to hate them regardless of their cause.
That was one lost battle.
The other lost battle was the frontal onslaught launched against some of the teachers by Secretary of Education Aurelio Nuño, who garnered information in the above mentioned four states and in tandem with the local Education Secretariats decided to fire 3,360 teachers who had missed three days of work for being at the protests in Mexico City.
The dismissal notes were immediately sent by mail to all the affected teachers. In Chilpancingo, state capital of Guerrero, an angry mob of teachers took the post office by assault and forced the employees to hand over the dismissal notices. They then went on to the main square and burnt them. Of course, robbing mail is a federal crime, and it remains to be seen how the federal government will act against the teachers involved in this mob affair.
A surprise notice announced by Aurelio Nuño was that he had appealed to retired teachers to fill up classes for the dismissed teachers. There was a response of 26,000 teachers to work temporarily while the replacements came.
This is important to mention because CNTE leaders had said that if dismissed the teachers could not be immediately replaced. They were proven wrong on this front too.
It must be stated clearly that Mexico City federal and state governments have acted in accordance to the law and that in the two physical evictions from Bucareli Street and Santo Domingo Plaza the protesters did not provoke the police and there was no violence.
It remains to be seen if this is the end of the CNTE conflict. But the teachers who followed their leaders and lost their jobs will definitely go into unemployment row, and that’s very bad news for them and their families.
And there will be no fence mending, as the federal authorities through the Interior and Education secretariats have made it clear that they will take no more insubordination.
What’s next? It remains to be seen but that’s the turn things took for the CNTE union over the weekend.