Was the arrest of a teachers’ union rebel leader the real application of the law, or political revenge by the President Enrique Peña Nieto administration?
This was the question everyone had in mind this past weekend after the Attorney General’s Office (PGR) publicly announced Sunday the detention and jailing of the leader of Section 22 of the National Coordinator of Education Workers (CNTE) union, Rubén Núñez Ginés, who was immediately sent far from Mexico City to a top security Hermosillo penitentiary.
The charges against Núñez are almost word per word identical to the ones levied three years ago against Elba Esther Gordillo, former leader of the National Education Workers Union (SNTE) who received kickbacks from investments made by the union through financial institutions.
Unlike in the Gordillo case, however, she used federal government supplied money for personal gain, while Núñez, along with a group of other people who will be arrested soon, have been using it to finance marches, street and road blockades and a nearly permanent demonstration by CNTE teachers in Mexico City.
Sunday Assistant Attorney General Gilberto Higuera said that the arrest warrant for Núñez Ginés was issued on April 14 but that arrest was not immediately implemented because PGR lawyers wanted to secure their case and send the alleged culprit Núñez to jail for some time. Judge Jesús Díaz, who received the case in Hermosillo, said Núñez had no right to bail because the arrest warrant was issued after the new oral system trial law went into effect last Feb. 29. This may be a mere technicality, but it only shows that the Peña Nieto administration is throwing the book at this rabble rouser.
Immediately after the arrest of Rubén Núñez was made public the 4,000 strong contingent of protesters in Mexico City regrouped under new leadership — they suspected the arrest of the top Section 22 leaders was impending — and began doing what they do best: threaten the people of Mexico City with further street blockades, which started Monday and will continue next Friday, when they try to take over Mexico City International Airport facilities.
Also on Sunday, the leader of political party National Regeneration Movement (Morena) Andrés Manuel López Obrador said Morena was joining the fray against “the arbitrary arrest” by the Enrique Peña Nieto administration and immediately set up a defense committee for Nuñez, now on trial in Hermosillo, Sonora.
As a threat López Obrador announced that Morena would stage a support demonstration next Sunday, June 26, in which they will march from the Angel of Independence to the Zócalo, in what will surely be a show of strength against the Peña Nieto administration, as López Obrador boasts the power to put a million Morena supporters on the streets of Mexico City. He’s done it before.
A virulent reaction to the Núñez arrest also came from the states of Oaxaca and Tabasco. In Oaxaca, the CNTE union strengthened its stronghold siege of downtown Oaxaca City, badly hurting the tourist trade there. In Tabasco, the CNTE teachers are now blockading several roads and threatening to destroy bridges.
PGR’s Higuera also announced that investigations continue for the dealings of those now accused of corruption and taking kickbacks, as Núñez is only accused for grabbing 24 million pesos, but the entire CNTE group has allegedly swindled over 132 million pesos from union funds, which again, are paid for by the Public Education Secretariat (SEP) and is considered federal money.
Higuera, by the way, just read aloud the Attorney General’s communiqué on the arrest and refused taking questions from reporters.
Again, the number of questions unanswered and unexplained by the administration is probably reason for which council Higuera swiftly sneaked out of the PGR’s press conference room.
What is certain is that if Education Secretary Aurelio Nuño wanted to make a show of power through the jailing of CNTE leaders — worse public fund thefts have been carried out by public officials — the result is that the Education Secretary has already spiked a hornets’ nest, and his problem is that he has nowhere to run to.
CNTE’s naughty boys are after him, and they know that the best way to get him is by beleaguering the innocent people of Mexico City through their guerrilla warfare style street blockades.
Justice or revenge? It doesn’t matter. What was a protest movement against President Peña Nieto’s Education Reform may very soon turn very ugly.